BDS MUSICAL WALKING TOUR AGAINST APARTHEID

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On a sunny day, 100 New Yorkers marched through crowds of shoppers on Broadway in lower Manhattan today, chanting, singing and carrying signs calling for a boycott of Israel. The protesters stopped to sing boycott songs at Ricky’s, Best Buy, Crate and Barrel and Staples, stores that sell the Israeli settlement products Ahava and SodaStream, and at Israeli-owned businesses Aroma Espresso Bar and Max Brenner, both of which have ties to Israel’s military occupation.

The protest, organized by Adalah-NY and endorsed by a number of Palestine solidarity groups in New York, was one of many events held in New York City this year as part of the 10th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week. It came during a period when the growing power of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement targeting Israel has broken through to the mainstream public in the US, with substantial media attention, the US Secretary of State warning of its growth, and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu focusing his AIPAC speech on demonizing the movement for human rights, and mobilizing opposition to it.

Noting that the protest fell on International Women’s Day, Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY told the marchers, “Today we remember and honor all of the women, including Palestinian women, who are struggling for justice, for peace, for equality, for the right to live in dignity and for self-determination. And we call on people of conscience from around the world to carry out boycott and divestment initiatives against Israel until it respects the rights of Palestinians currently living under Israeli military occupation, as second-class citizens in Israel and as refugees, denied their right of return to their homes.”

The Rude Mechanical Orchestra, a New York-based radical marching band, provided musical accompaniment as the protesters sang popular songs with rewritten lyrics about products and businesses profiting from Israel’s apartheid regime. To the tune of We’re Not Gonna Take It, the marchers sang, “We’re not gonna buy, no we ain’t gonna buy it, we won’t buy apartheid any more.” Outside Ricky’s they sang, “Oh Ricky’s what a pity, you don’t understand, you’re selling dirty goods, cause Ahava’s stealing land.” As the protesters marched up Broadway amidst throngs out enjoying a sunny, warm respite from a long, cold winter, they chanted, “Shoppers take a stand, no excuse for stealing land;” and “They whitewash, we protest.  Boycott, sanction and divest.”

Outside Crate and Barrel, Sherry Wolf of Adalah-NY told the protesters, “By operating in a settlement, SodaStream directly sustains Israel’s illegal and discriminatory settlement policy. Also, far from being environmentally friendly, SodaStream contributes to pollution, as the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim dumps more than 1100 tons of waste daily into a landfill in occupied Palestinian territory.”

The protest was organized in support of the Palestinian-led, international BDS movement, a non-violent initiative to pressure Israel to respect Palestinian human rights that is modeled on the international movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa. Adalah-NY organized a similar musical walking tour in 2010.

For photos of the protest CLICK HERE

For the songbook and chants from the protest CLICK HERE

DON’T WAIT FOR NEXT YEAR IN JERUSALEM …. DIVEST FROM HEWLETT-PACKARD NOW!

In this video, members of the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) Rabbinical Council call for divestment from occupation profiteer Hewlett-Packard.

It is part of JVP’s “Hewlett-Packard: Harming Peace” campaign.

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In Passover message, rabbis call for divestment from Hewlett-Packard

THE BOYCOTT CAN BECOME ISRAEL’S ‘WAKE UP CALL’

Many Israelis are shielded from the occupation. To those soaking up the sun on a Tel Aviv beach or working in a hi-tech hub in Haifa, Gaza and the West Bank feel like another planet. The daily grind experienced by more than 4 million Palestinians living under military occupation just a few dozen miles away barely registers. A boycott – whether it’s the ending of academic links; the refusal of artists to perform; the divestment of international companies for reputational reasons; or a consumer rejecting Israeli produce in the supermarket – has the potential to jolt Israelis from this somnolence.

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A boycott can jolt Israelis from their somnolence on Palestine

In Tel Aviv or Haifa, the occupied territories are another planet. But if Israelis feel economic pain, they will demand change from within
By Harriet Sherwood IN
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TEL AVIV DAILY LIFE

‘To those soaking up the sun on a Tel Aviv beach or working in a hi-tech hub in Haifa, the daily grind experienced by more than 4 million Palestinians barely registers.’ Photograph: Eitan Hess-Ashkenazi/AP
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The Rolling Stones have confirmed they will play a gig in Tel Aviv in June as part of their 14 On Fire tour. Inevitably, they are already under pressure to cancel their appearance in “apartheid Israel” by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,a campaign that has had mixed success. The academic rock star Stephen Hawking and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters are firmly in the boycott camp, while the author Ian McEwan and the musician Alicia Keys have resisted pressure to pull appearances.

But there’s little doubt that the drive for a boycott of Israel in protest at its 47-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is gathering steam. The latest body to back a boycott is Riba, Britain’s leading architectural association, which last month called on the International Union of Architects to suspend Israeli membership on the grounds of “complicity in the construction of illegal settlements and other violations of international law”. The boycott movement was boosted earlier this year by publicity surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s endorsement of SodaStream. How many people before then even knew that SodaStream was based in Israel, let alone that its main manufacturing plant was in a West Bank settlement?

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, performed a similar service when he warned Israeli leaders of the consequences of a failure of current peace talks. “The risks are very high for Israel,” he said. “People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure.”

Kerry is right: more people are now talking about boycotting Israel than ever before. The issue is gaining traction even among US academic bodies, previously thought impervious due to the oft cited “unbreakable bond” between the two countries.

Israel is angered by the boycott calls, and alarmed at the movement’s momentum. The prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, recently launched an attack on Europe and its dark history. “I think the most eerie thing, the most disgraceful thing, is to have people on the soil of Europe talking about the boycott of Jews. In the past, antisemites boycotted Jewish businesses and today they call for the boycott of the Jewish state … the boycotters must be exposed for what they are. They’re classical antisemites in modern garb.”

This is a serious charge, and one that causes deep discomfort to many who want to bring pressure to bear on the Israeli government over its policies towards the Palestinians, but who also vigorously oppose antisemitism in any form. Opposing the occupation does not equate to antisemitism or a rejection of Jews’ right to, and need for, a homeland. The repeated accusation of antisemitism does not make it true, however frequently it is levelled by those who defend Israel unconditionally.

But this is not to say that there is unity within the boycott movement. Many draw a distinction between a settlement boycott – rejecting goods originating in Jewish colonies in the West Bank; cutting ties with settlement-based institutions; or demanding international companies divest from enterprises with links across the “green line” – and a boycott of Israel itself.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has made his position clear. “We do not support the boycott of Israel. But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements,” he said in December.

Critics of Israeli policies who oppose a boycott of Israel itself argue that ordinary citizens should not be penalised for the government’s actions; that dialogue with academic, business and cultural bodies is more productive than shunning them; and that the shameful history of boycotting Jews makes this option impossible to contemplate. But others – increasingly frustrated by Israel’s intransigence, the dismal prospects for the peace process, and the failure of the international community to back up critical words with meaningful actions – say that only when Israeli citizens and institutions feel the consequences of their government’s policies will they force change from within.

Many Israelis are shielded from the occupation. To those soaking up the sun on a Tel Aviv beach or working in a hi-tech hub in Haifa, Gaza and the West Bank feel like another planet. The daily grind experienced by more than 4 million Palestinians living under military occupation just a few dozen miles away barely registers. A boycott – whether it’s the ending of academic links; the refusal of artists to perform; the divestment of international companies for reputational reasons; or a consumer rejecting Israeli produce in the supermarket – has the potential to jolt Israelis from this somnolence.

Of course, there’s a risk of such pressure entrenching Israel’s stance. But Israel frequently proclaims itself to be the only true democracy in the Middle East. Should its citizens demand an end to policies that have brought them economic pain, isolation and global opprobrium, their government will surely be forced to take notice.

TWO OF THE LATEST BDS VICTORIES

King’s College students union backs boycott of Israel

Students’ union votes to support BDS campaign against ‘Israeli products, companies or institution’ that ‘profit for the violation of Palestinian rights.’

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King's College, London.

The entrance gate of King’s College in London. Photo by Dreamstime
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The King’s College London Student Union (KCLSU) passed amotion on Tuesday night to back the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli products, companies and institutions “that profit from or are implicated in, the violation of Palestinian rights.”

The motion, which passed by 348-252, says that a call for sanctions “is to ask the global community to recognise Israel’s violations of international law and to act accordingly as they do to other member states of the United Nations.”

The College’s Israel Society, comprising of “Jewish students and/or proud members of the wonderfully diverse King’s College London student community,” had earlier said it was “greatly disturbed by the thought that our university – let alone any university – dedicated to the pursuit of truth and knowledge, could be called on to ban cooperation with the universities and cultural groups of any other country.”

“We appreciate and admire the motion’s proposers desire to see a peaceful outcome to conflict in the Middle East,” they said, “but peace is not achieved by making Israel a pariah state – or destroying the Jewish state altogether.”

The King’s College London administration released a statement after the vote in which it distanced itself from the decision. “King’s College London does not support or engage in boycotts of academic institutions,” it said, adding the KCLSU is “constitutionally separate from, and independent of, King’s College London.”

Meanwhile, an Israel divestment resolution was narrowly passed a second time by the student government of Chicago’s Loyola University on Tuesday, while a similar resolution was defeated at the University of Michigan.

Source

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And the second victory ….

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Divestment wins again at Loyola, goes down fighting in Michigan

ANOTHER SODASTREAM SPOOF AD

Artists in Finland have produced this clever and funny one-minute spoof ad for SodaStream.

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“SodaScream – Bubble trouble,” as the ad is called, takes aim (pun intended!) at the company that manufactures fizzy-drink machines in the illegal Israeli colony of Maaleh Adumim in the occupied West Bank.

Earlier this year, Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson was at the center of a media storm over her endorsement deal with the company.

She later resigned from her position as global ambassador for the charity Oxfam, which declared that her deal with the occupation profiteer SodaStream was “incompatible” with her humanitarian role.

The video’s makers have set up a website – SodaScream.com that provides brief, clear explanations of why SodaStream’s activities are problematic and urges people to contact the company.

 

FROM

INTERNATIONAL BDS UPDATES

‘DON’T CRY FOR ME ARGENTINA’ …

… Be proud that BDS has reached your shores

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“Boycott is becoming an increasingly powerful and empowering way for ordinary people to support Palestinians in their struggle to end the occupation and Israel’s apartheid policies and for the right of Palestinian refugees to  return to their homes.” 

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$170m Argentina loss for Israeli water firm Mekorot as BDS spreads southward

 Written by Palestinian BDS National Committe

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In the latest success for the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, authorities in Buenos Aires have suspended a proposed $170m water treatment plant deal with Israeli state water firm Mekorot. The decision came after a campaign by local trade unions and human rights groups which connected Mekorot’s role in Israel’s theft of Palestinian water resources with evidence that the project did not meet Argentine standards and necessities.

Campaigners argued that Mekorot was attempting to export the discriminatory water policies it has developed against the Palestinian people to Argentina.

This victory largely contradicts Israeli claims, last expressed during Netanyahu’s speech at the AIPAC, that the global south, eager for Israeli technology, are uncontested growing markets.

Mekorot illegally appropriates Palestinian water, diverting it to illegal Israeli settlements and towns inside Israel, and imposes severe obstacles to Palestinians accessing their own water. Amnesty International has accused Israel of depriving Palestinians of their access to water “as a means of expulsion”. A French parliamentary report accused Israel of imposing a system of “water apartheid” in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Buenos Aires provincial government approved a drinking water plant project deal with a consortium led by Mekorot following a visit to Israel by state governor Daniel Scioli in 2011, but protests and lobbying have persuaded local authorities to suspend the project.

The large Dutch water utility Vitens suspended a cooperation agreement with Mekorot on the grounds that the relationship violated its “commitment to international law” in a high profile announcement in December.

“After investigating, we concluded that Mekorot came to Argentina with the intention to repeat what they are doing in Palestine. Water is a right for all and no company should be able to provide water in a discriminatory way,” said Adolfo, an engineer and a representative of the CTA/ ATE Hidráulica trade union in Buenos Aires that campaigned against the Mekorot plant.

“We fought in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, liberation and return and we won a battle not only against Israeli crimes against the Palestinian people but as well for the right to water here in Argentina,” said Tilda Rabi, president of the Federation of Palestinian-Argentinian Organisations.

Campaigners understand that the decision was made in December 2013 but were only able to verify the news on March 7.

Friends of the Earth Palestine and a range of BDS partners are calling for a week of action against Mekorot during the last week of March.

Campaigners are viewing the Buenos Aires decision as the latest sign that the international BDS movement is increasingly isolating Israel and having serious economic impacts on its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

On Thursday, students at the National University of Galway in Ireland voted to endorse BDS in a campus-wide ballot, following on from a similar referendum success for BDS activists at the University of Windsor in Canada. National and local student unions across Europe and North America have now voted to support BDS-related measures.

Israeli media reports attributed the recent withdrawal of two leading European construction firms from the bid to build seaports in Israel to boycott fears, and a third firm only agreed to go ahead with similar plans after being allowed to submit a bid under a different name.

It emerged last month that Luxembourg’s state pension fund has excluded nine Israeli banks and firms over their role in illegal Israeli settlements, following on from similar decisions in recent months by public pension funds in Norway and the Netherlands and Danske Bank, Denmark’s largest bank.

A recent solidarity conference organized by South African members of parliament and civil society groups issued the Cape Town Declaration endorsing BDS and accusing Israel of the crime of apartheid.

The Norwegian branch of the YMCA-YWCA movement recently announced its support for an economic boycott of Israel.

“Israel’s attempts to smear the BDS movement are failing; Israel is increasingly being isolated as people of conscience around the world take action to support Palestinian rights and as investors realize that there are serious economic and reputational risks associated with doing business with Israel,” said Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the largest Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the global BDS movement.

“Boycott is becoming an increasingly powerful and empowering way for ordinary people to support Palestinians in their struggle to end the occupation and Israel’s apartheid policies and for the right of Palestinian refugees to  return to their homes,” he added.

AN AFRO-AMERICAN RELIVES SEGREGATION ON A VISIT TO ISRAEL/PALESTINE

When I first visited Occupied Palestine, in 2011, there was something about the experience that seemed very familiar. It was not only the sense of the racist oppression the Palestinians were experiencing; it was something else. When I returned home I realized what it was.

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Traveling Through Palestine While Black: A Firsthand Look at a Slow-Moving Annexation

Witnessing a brutal occupation, where permanent insecurity and maximum humiliation are the norm.
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.*
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A Palestinian boy and Israeli soldier in front of the Israeli West Bank separation barrier.
Photo Credit: Justin McIntosh/Wikimedia Commons

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In the first several days after returning from Israel and Occupied Palestine, I dreamed of Palestine each night. It was never a pleasant dream. While I cannot remember the details, I was always left with a feeling of anxiety and insecurity. In that sense the dreams matched the realities of the Palestinians, be they citizens of Israel or residents of the Occupied Territories. It also corresponded to the emotions raised in a recent trip in which I participated.

Prison

It has become almost a cliché to speak of Gaza, the Palestinian territories on the Mediterranean controlled by Hamas and blockaded by Israel, as the largest open-air prison on the planet. Yet I am not sure I will any longer agree with the limits of that characterization. The Palestinians are all in prison. While Gaza may be a maximum security facility, the West Bank is nevertheless a prison. So little is actually controlled by Palestinians despite the formal notion of autonomy. Israeli military incursions can and do happen at any time convenient for the Israeli government and its military occupation. Palestinians are prohibited from using certain roads. The ominous and illegal separation wall, better known as the apartheid wall, spreads like a disease across the land, dividing the Palestinians not as much from the Israelis as from their own land.

For all of that, it is the sense of permanent insecurity and maximum humiliation that reinforces the feeling one gets of being in a prison. There are checkpoints at seemingly every turn; one is subjected to being stopped at any time. There is an attitude of arrogance and contempt on the part of most of the Israeli military personnel. With their submachine guns and their insistence on using Hebrew in communicating with the Arabic-speaking Palestinians, they invade the space of the indigenous population, always reminding them that there is no such thing as privacy in the Occupied Territories.

An African-American delegation

Within black America there has for decades been an amorphous constituency that, at a minimum, has been interested in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and in many cases has been supportive of Palestinians and their fight for national self-determination and democracy. Yet the issue of Palestine has rarely been one around which African Americans, in any great numbers, have organized and mobilized, or for that matter even spoken out.

It has nevertheless been the case that since the June 1967 Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors, there have been African Americans who have raised questions about the objectives of Israel in its occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of its own Palestinian minority. The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) offered an historic condemnation of Israel in the aftermath of the June 1967 war, resulting in SNCC losing a significant portion of its white support in the USA. The black radical movement, of which SNCC was part[during the course of the 1970s], frequently linked the cause of the Palestinians with the struggles against colonialism and white minority rule in Africa. And during the 1970s and 1980s, center-left political figures such as Rev. Jesse Jackson began pushing the US mainstream consensus around the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, insisting on the legitimacy of the demands of the Palestinian people.

The small African-American delegation of which I was a part of in many ways reflected this internationalist tradition. Though broadly speaking progressive, most of the members of the delegation were under 45 and had little background in the Palestinian liberation struggle. Comprised largely of artists, the members of the delegation were individuals cognizant of but not immersed in international issues at the level of organizing and mobilizing.

Almost universally, delegation members were unprepared for the in-your-face brutality of the Occupation. While it may seem melodramatic, the visit was potentially life-changing for each member of the delegation. The question is whether the overwhelming sense of the criminality of the Occupation will be suppressed inside each of us over time since such feelings compel one to ask several questions, not the least being, how can the USA be so complicit in this horror?

The Middle East’s One True Democracy?

It is clear that it is more than possible to visit Israel and have no sense of the apartheid system that operates both within its borders as well as in the Occupied Territories. Such visits happen all the time. It is not possible, however, to visit the Occupied Territories and walk away with such ignorance intact unless, perhaps, one goes directly from Jerusalem to a settlement in the dead of night and fails to leave the settlement’s confines.

Israel has been an explicit occupying power—by international standards—since the June 1967 war when it seized the West Bank from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Sinai from Egypt.1 Almost immediately after the commencement of the Occupation, Israel began to construct a system and program of settlements in the Occupied Territories. What too many people in the USA fail to understand—or do not wish to understand—is that settlements on occupied territory represent a violation of international law. Both Israel and Morocco (in the latter’s occupation of the Western Sahara) are explicitly in violation of international law through their respective colonization projects. The United Nations has been quite clear that Israel should stop settlements, but in large part due to the refusal of the United States to take a serious stand against this practice, Israel has snubbed its nose at the UN and at most of the rest of the world.2

The term “settlement” does not properly convey what one sees in the Occupied Territories. What strikes any first-time visitor is that the settlements can better be described as suburban communities, not unlike the communities of stucco-tiled homes that line the hills along the coast of southern California. The word settlements brings to mind tent cities or other impermanent housing arrangements with neither water nor sewer service out in the middle of nowhere. That is not what one sees in the West Bank.

Much as they did within Israel proper, the Israeli authorities have seized lands owned by Palestinians in order to create, in this case, settlements on the West Bank. This land has been seized in the name of security in some instances, and has been seized in other instances because the Palestinians have allegedly abandoned it. In still other cases, land has been seized because Israeli authorities have proclaimed an archeological find located in the territory inhabited by Palestinians, thus justifying land theft and the removal of Palestinians. There are a host of reasons that are offered, with desperate attempts to find justification within an alleged legal framework.

But here is where the trick unfolds. The Israeli authorities make and then enforce respect for the laws that they need in order to advance their own objectives. Even in situations such as Hebron where the Israeli court has agreed that certain territory should be returned to the Palestinians, the Israeli military refuses to comply and nothing has been done about it.3

The “settlements” begin with what look like camps. Indeed, some of them are called outposts if they’re originally built without explicit government approval. They seem innocuous at first, but what is striking is that they are each designed as part of a process of surrounding Palestinian cities. While, for instance, the city of Bethlehem is Palestinian, Israeli settlements have been established around Bethlehem which, in conjunction with the refusal of the Israeli authorities to allow Palestinian expansion, essentially chokes the city itself.

So, for a moment, think about a nice suburban community in the USA. Now, think about several such communities being located on hilltops surrounding a central community inhabited by a different ethnic group that is not allowed to partake in any of the resources of those suburban communities. In fact, residents of that central community are not permitted to use the same roads as the settlers and are not even guaranteed water. It was pointed out that one can tell the difference between Israeli settlements and Palestinian communities by who has water tanks on their roofs. Why? Because the settlers are guaranteed access to water pumped into their homes. Palestinians have to rely on water that is collected over time and stored in water tanks on their roofs.

The West Bank is divided into three zones: A, B and C. “A” are those zones under Palestinian control. “B” is under Palestinian administrative control, but the Israeli military has the final word. “C” is under Israeli military control. Sixty percent of the West Bank is classified as Zone C. These designations, which arose out of the fateful Oslo Peace Accords, have resulted in the interminable squeezing of the Palestinian population. There is no room for their expansion, they control no water and there is the ominous separation wall which disrespects international law by its very existence, cutting through the West Bank and cutting off entire communities from the land that they farm. As one Palestinian explained to me, the Palestinian experience is akin to the legendary Chinese water torture, with the drops of water falling on one’s forehead, slowly driving the person insane. In this case, each drop—each micro- and macro-aggression—is aimed at making the situation so intolerable for the Palestinians that they will abandon their homeland.

You Cannot Run Away From Race

Israel and the Occupied Territories exist within the framework of a particular and peculiar racial hierarchy. During the first three decades of its existence, the world was led to believe that race was not a factor in Israel, discounting, of course, the treatment of the Palestinians. With the appearance of the Israeli Black Panther movement in the early 1970s, all of that changed, and actually introduced complications.

The Israeli Black Panthers originated in the Mizrahi community, that is, Jews from the Middle East and North Africa. They emerged as a militant protest movement challenging an Israeli establishment that was dominated by Ashkenazis (Jews from Europe). Though the movement borrowed the name from the US-based Black Panther Party, in reality the movements had little in common other than addressing, to varying degrees, race. The Israeli Black Panthers were not a particularly left-wing formation and they were not at all sympathetic to the Palestinian people. Instead, they were a movement that challenged racial discrimination and privilege within the Jewish Israeli bloc, but in no way suggested that the very existence of an Israel that marginalized and oppressed Palestinians undermined any intentions or efforts to eradicate racial discrimination.

Thus, the Israeli racial hierarchy exists with the Ashkenazi Jews largely at the top; then the Mizrahi. At that point the hierarchy reformats given that outside of the Jewish Israeli bloc there are three very separate groups: the Palestinians, the Druze (an ethno-religious community), and most recently, African migrants.

There are many people who have been involved with the issue of Palestine who refrain from references to “race” when it comes to describing or analyzing the situation of the Palestinians. Instead, they focus on the “national” aspect of the oppression and the generalized denial of human rights. Yet in walking the streets of Occupied Palestine, and also in walking through Israel-proper, members of our African-American delegation could not escape the feeling that we had seen this before.

The United Nations definition of the “crime of apartheid” from 1973 reads in part: “Inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them.” This definition is of critical importance for several reasons, not the least being that it is not limited to the South African or even Southern African context. In other words, as far as the international community is concerned, “apartheid,” as a system, is a category of racist oppression that can exist outside of Southern Africa, though the term itself was coined in South Africa.

The stench of race and the racism perpetrated against the Palestinians is evident throughout Israel and the Occupied Territories, manifesting itself in various forms. The most obvious form surrounds the matter of the “right of return.” Jews, regardless of nationality, are guaranteed a home in Israel. Palestinians, irrespective of whether their families inhabited a piece of land for generations, are not guaranteed the right to return to their lands in Israel if the Israeli state has declared that they have abandoned the land. This is once again in contravention to United Nations resolutions and Geneva Conventions.

Palestinians, regardless of their country of residence, are subject to humiliating harassment when they attempt to enter or leave Israel. Palestinian citizens of Israel find themselves subject to full body searches at airports and other exit points, not to mention extensive interrogations.

As noted earlier, there are certain roads on which Palestinians are prohibited. This was a matter that our delegation directly experienced. The van we were using was authorized to travel on settler-only roads, but our Palestinian guide could only travel with special permission. Yet these “settler-only” roads often run under or through Palestinian land. The inability of Palestinians to use these roads means that travel between various points within the West Bank is nothing short of onerous. A trip that would normally take 30 minutes can end up taking 90 minutes or more.

An additional feature to “race” in Israel and the Occupied Territories is something that can perhaps be described as ecological racism. It concerns trees—specifically, pine trees. In the vicinity of many of the Israeli settlements one finds pine trees. They are very beautiful but there is a problem. These pine trees are not native to Israel/Palestine. They have been brought to the region by Europeans. The planting of these pine trees is as ecologically catastrophic as it is offensive to the Palestinians. There are pine trees that are native to the region, but the settlers have decided to ignore that reality and bring in alien vegetation that is harmful to the land and the water table.4 The settlers have made a practice of planting these European pine trees on the locations of Palestinian villages in the Occupied Territories that were destroyed in order to make way for the Israeli settlements.

In order to understand race, one must appreciate the notion of arbitrariness. Anyone who has directly experienced racism realizes that it is the insecurity and the notion that at any moment matters can be taken out of your hands that makes the racist oppression ever-present and very real. In the case of an African American in the USA, the idea that one can be stopped by the police when driving through a white neighborhood, or in a different scenario, shot and killed by a white homeowner if you happen to knock on his door, that emphasizes the perpetual vulnerability that one experiences.

This is very much the same with Palestinians. A former Israeli soldier, offering insight into the workings of the Occupation, noted that Israeli soldiers are trained and encouraged to engage in random, violent acts against the Palestinians, for example, through invading the homes of Palestinians for no apparent reason. The idea behind such psychological warfare is to keep the Palestinian people perpetually unstable and uneasy.

Violence perpetrated against Palestinians, particularly by settlers, is rarely punished by the Israeli state. Yet any violence by Palestinians against settlers earns the wrath of the settlers and the Israeli military. Again, despite the pretense of a system governed by laws, the Israeli domination of the Palestinians—whether in Israel or in the Occupied Territories—is outside the law. To borrow from the Dred Scott decision in the US, the Palestinians have few, if any rights, that Israelis are bound to respect. Though this is frequently covered in religious and semi-religious rhetoric, the basic fact remains that the Palestinians exist as a subordinate species as far as most Israelis are concerned.

This sense of violence surrounded our experience as a delegation. We never feared a terrorist attack or armed assault by Palestinians. Yet every day, it is fair to say, we approached our activities with caution vis-a-vis the Israelis. One never knew, from one moment to the next, whether we would be held and interrogated, or whether our Palestinian guide would at some point be whisked away from us for allegedly breaking any of the myriad restrictions imposed on the Palestinians by the Israeli establishment.

But the sense of violence was concrete in a different manner. At one point, in a tour of the South Hebron Hills, our van stopped and a guide, who happened to be a former Israeli soldier, had us outside while he was explaining the Israeli system of outposts and settlements. Several settlers drove by, slowly, watching us. In one case a settler, who as it turned out had been implicated in physical assaults on Palestinians, drove by twice, the second time stopping his vehicle immediately behind us where he just sat for several minutes, glowering. Although our Israeli guide was not particularly worried, our delegation, keenly aware of African-American history and black experience at the hands of white vigilantes, was less than sanguine about sitting out in the middle of nowhere. At the end of the day, we all knew that there existed scant (no) justice (system) in the Occupied Territories for people like us.

Race has taken on a newer form in Israel with the introduction of African migrants. There are actually two sets of African migrants. First, the Ethiopian Jews (Falasha), many of whom were brought to Israel in a mass retrieval. The Israeli establishment, irrespective of their rhetoric, has never been entirely comfortable with this population, and Israeli right-wing and semi-fascists are even less so. A recent incident whereby a Falasha, who is an elected member of the Knesset, was not allowed to donate blood highlights the point. Nevertheless, this segment of the population is considered, officially at least, to be legitimate. They are found in the Israel Defense Forces and elsewhere.

Separate and apart from the Falasha are the African migrants who have traveled to Israel as political refugees. Described by none other than Prime Minister Netanyahu as “infiltrators”—a term which I only recently learned had originally been coined to describe expelled Palestinians who crossed back into Israel—this population has grown over the last decade. A significant percentage of these migrants are from Eritrea and Sudan. Their likelihood of gaining citizenship or a legal status is slim to none. Yet, as with migrants in so many other parts of the world—including but not limited to the US—the Israeli economy finds such migrants quite useful as a productive and vulnerable workforce, even if the Israeli political Right wishes them expelled.

Walking through the streets of South Tel Aviv on a Saturday afternoon is a surreal experience. Our delegation saw a huge wedding party of East Africans. A park became the home for hundreds of African men, socializing or simply hanging out. This migrant population has become an unstable element in Israel. The political establishment has shown no interest in offering asylum—temporary or permanent—to these migrants, so many of whom have sought freedom from hunger, repression and war. Instead they have been locked up or are living lives in the shadows. In the recent past they have begun to organize and mobilize, insisting upon their human rights. In fact, our delegation spoke with Israeli supporters of the migrants who informed us that the loose organization of migrants wishes to take their case to the United Nations if the Israeli government continues to refuse to recognize their rights as legitimate refugees.

In the case of both the Palestinians and the African undocumented migrants there is a demographic concern that eats away at the Israeli political establishment. They are actually quite open about this concern. Contrary to the international notion of an ethnically pluralist democracy, the Israeli establishment believes that they, and they alone, have the right to an ethnically/religiously pure nation-state. However, they face four problems: the existence of Palestinian citizens of Israel who represent approximately 20% of the state of Israel and are growing; the Palestinians in the West Bank; a Palestinian Diaspora that insists upon its internationally recognized right to return to the land that they believed that they temporarily vacated in 1948, and later in 1967; and the undocumented Africans.

For the Israeli establishment the sum total of these problems is a demographic threat to Israel. Specifically, the Israeli establishment is deeply worried that they will quickly become another apartheid South Africa or white minority Rhodesia, wherein the Jewish population ends up constituting a minority and is swamped by non-Jews.5 Although publicly cast in religious terms, the problem really comes down to cold demographics, in that sense so very similar to the US Southwest in the period after the US war against Mexico and the white expansion into lands populated by Mexicans and those populated by Native Americans.

Since We Are Talking About Race…

There is another side to race in Israel and Palestine that gained the attention of our delegation: race within the Palestinian community.

Among Arabs, race is a very complicated matter that cannot be distilled down to skin tone or hair texture. The Arabic word that is frequently used for “blacks” is the same word that is used for “slaves” (Abeed or Abid). Yet, some who use that term—as in the case of Northern Sudanese—would be described as black in a US context.6 It is also worth noting that there has been struggle around the very usage of the term, much as there has been in the USA around terms such as “Oriental.”

One can get different signals from within both Arab and Muslim history regarding race. One of the most important people in Islamic history was an Ethiopian slave liberated by the Prophet Muhammad, named Bilal ibn Rabah. And certainly a “black” presence can be seen throughout the Arab world and Arab history, e.g., in the recent past, Egypt’s Nasser and Sadat. At the same time there was the Arab-run slave trade and in various parts of the Arab World biases against those seen or described as black.

Arabs who migrated to the USA (pre-1980) by and large developed a relationship with African Americans that was less than solidaristic. Arab/African American tensions in the US in part reflected the economic niche that many Arabs came to occupy, that is, store owners in African-American neighborhoods, and otherwise having little constructive contact. This was compounded by attempts by Arab immigrants to assimilate into white America, attempts which grew in complexity in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.

The problematic side to the relationship between Arabs and African Americans in the US contrasts with the emergence of a significant Muslim trend within black America and also with the attention that the Arab world received within progressive political circles in black America in the context of the anti-colonial struggles of the 20th century. For example, the Egyptian Revolution and the Algerian Revolution were discussed in African-American political movements and frequently served as points of inspiration. The favorable feeling toward the Arab world in much of black America was aided by the outstanding assistance that Arab nations, such as Egypt and Algeria, offered to anti-colonial struggles in other parts of Africa.

The Palestinian movement, as it moved to the Left and became more radical in its analysis and approach, also saw itself as aligned with other anti-colonial and national liberation movements. This included attention to the African-American people’s movement in the US. The Left within the Palestinian movement had an appreciation of the African-American struggle, but the global solidarity work of the Palestine Liberation Organization never matched that of South Africa’s African National Congress or Pan African Congress of Azania in terms of building a breadth of organized support.

Nevertheless, certainly by the time of the Oslo Accords (1993), the PLO/Palestinian Authority adopted a different and more insular view. Much like Ireland’s Sinn Fein, which in the aftermath of the cease fire in the north of Ireland slowly but surely abandoned many of the broader international relationships it had cultivated, the Palestinian Authority turned in on itself, ignoring many of its global supporters, and sadly, ignoring many from the global Palestinian Diaspora as well. As such, connections that seemed to have existed between the Palestinian movement and black America dried up.

Attention to the matter of racism among Arabs reemerged in the context of the civil war that took place in the Sudan (between the North and the South), and subsequently, the war in Darfur and the genocide that unfolded. As a result of the fact that so many countries of the Arab world united behind Sudanese President Al Bashir in both internal conflicts (claiming that the West was attempting to dismantle the Sudan), and ignored the plight of those who suffered at the hands of his and prior regimes, sensitivity to this issue has grown within segments of black America.

Our delegation was not immune to that sensitivity. Thus, it was fascinating to have begun the trip with a discussion with Afro-Palestinians. There is a lengthy African presence within and among the Palestinian people. While there are those who can trace their ancestry back 1,000 years, over the last 100 years migrants from various parts of Africa settled in Palestine (what is now Israel as well as the Occupied Territories) and were absorbed into the larger Palestinian community. This community sees itself as Palestinian and there has been much intermarriage with other segments of the Palestinian community. Yet, shades of color and the legacy of the Arab slave trade remain a component of the Arab reality, compounded by the impact of European colonialism and its modification of the ignominious color line.

The biases we occasionally encountered were not surprising, any more than unpleasant encounters between an Arab delegation and some African Americans, if the former were visiting the US. The critical matter that confronted us, as a delegation, was the attitude of leading elements of the Palestinian movement toward race both within and among the Palestinian people, but also vis-à-vis the Arab relationship within and toward the larger African world.7 It was here that we began a constructive dialogue that can be mutually beneficial. Among other things it reminded the African Americans that race does not play itself out identically around the world. Our experience with white supremacy in the US, for instance, is quite different from the rationale and operation of race among Arabs, a formerly colonized people. Our experience with white supremacy, however, shares a great deal in common with the Palestinian experience with Israeli apartheid in both the state of Israel and the Occupied Territories.

Time Running Out

When I first visited Occupied Palestine, in 2011, there was something about the experience that seemed very familiar. It was not only the sense of the racist oppression the Palestinians were experiencing; it was something else. When I returned home I realized what it was.

In 2005 I drove with my family from Los Angeles to Boulder, CO. We drove through a Navaho area. There was a sense of depression, if not despair, from the Navaho we encountered and the realization that this proud people had been relegated by a conqueror to less than perfect lands where they were to remain. Some Native Americans were not so “lucky.” They are only remembered by the names of some rivers and towns, having been annihilated in the process of the European expansion westward.

There was a moment in the early 19th century when the demographic balance of North America was not so unbalanced that it might have been possible for Native Americans to have constructed a different outcome. This was the principal focus of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, but there were others who also recognized the nature of the challenge. Unfortunately, by the time of the US war against Mexico, the balance was clearly against Native Americans. Immigrants from Europe were flooding into North America, and combined with technology (including military technology), the Native Americans were defeated and ultimately marginalized.

While Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. may have been correct in affirming that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice, this does not mean that every morally just struggle wins, at least in the short-term. There is something about timing, which is linked to organization and the extent of support any cause has within both a nation-state context and globally.

As our delegation rode through Israel and the Occupied Territories I could not help but wonder how much time remained for the Palestinians. I do not mean to suggest that they face physical annihilation, in the sense of extermination through mass executions.8 They do face the possibility of a different sort of annihilation. If their land continues to be seized; if they cannot build; if they remain cornered like rats in a maze; they will cease to exist. They will find themselves without their homeland, and much like Native Americans in North America, relocated to some other territory or simply dispersed onto the winds.

Much of the Israeli political establishment believes that Palestinians should be evicted and moved to Jordan. In that sense the Israeli strategy for a slow-moving annexation of the West Bank, as criminal as it is, is nevertheless quite understandable. They want to turn the conditions in the Occupied Territories, along with the conditions for Palestinian citizens of Israel, into something so inhospitable, that there is no choice but to move.

Our delegation certainly was moved to speak out against this abomination. Yet so much more is necessary. Insofar as the leadership of the Palestinian Authority is prepared to make serial and humiliating concessions to the demands of Israel and its US sponsors, the future of the Palestinians will resemble the reality of today’s Native American nations in North America. In the alternative, the extent to which the global community is moved to counter the current denial of Palestinian rights, appropriation of Palestinian lands, and displacement of Palestinian people—as occurred with regard to colonialism and white minority rule in Africa—is the extent to which Dr. King’s arc will bend toward justice.

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1 Some in the Palestinian movement have taken the position that the entire area of historic Palestine is occupied. They base this claim on the manner in which the United Nations divided up the then-British-controlled “Palestine Mandate” into Jewish zones and Arab zones (and Jerusalem as an international city) without the input or approval of any Arabs, not the least being the exclusion of the Palestinians themselves. In the text of this essay, however, the use of the term “occupied” makes reference to territories seized by Israel through the June 1967 war.

2 Morocco, in part due to its alliance with France and the US, has done much the same.

3 For more on the situation in Hebron, see: Allison Deger, “Palestinians in Hebron demand Israel ‘Open Shuhada Street’ and protest 20th anniversary of Ibrahimi Mosque massacre,” Feb. 24, 2014, mondoweiss.net/2014/02/palestinians-twentieth-anniversary.html. Additionally, see: Alternative Information Center, “Settler Aggression Against Palestinian Children in Hebron,” Institute for Middle East Understanding, April 14, 2011, at imeu.net/news/printer0020752.shtml.

4 It is interesting to note that European settlers did much the same thing in South Africa. The post-apartheid government began taking steps to remove the alien vegetation due to its impact on the environment.

5 A close examination of the current numbers, if one were to look at the Gaza, West Bank, and Palestinian citizens of Israel, points to the basis for the demographic unease within the Israeli establishment. This helps to explain the xenophobic tendencies within the right-wing of the Israeli establishment that would actually like to envision a wholesale population “swap.”

6 Look at a picture of Sudan President Al Bashir, for instance.

7 The wording of this challenge is complicated by many factors. “Arab” represents a culture and Arabic is a language. Arabs are themselves quite diverse. In fact, there is an overlap between Arabs and other ethnic groups in North Africa especially, e.g., the Berbers. Arabs are part of Africa (and Asia) and the broader African world, while at the same constituting their own Arab world. Neither is monolithic. The Maghreb, or the Arab world to the west of Egypt, includes various tribes and ethnicities as far west as the Western Sahara and Mauritania.

8 The Deir Yassin massacre is among the most well-known of the ethnic cleansings carried out against Palestinians between 1946-’49 at the hands of Zionist military units.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor and international writer and activist. He is a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com, and the co-author of Solidarity Divided.

 

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APPLES FALLING FAR FROM THE TREES AMONG EVANGELICAL ZIONISTS

Support for Israel is weakening among evangelical Christians, prompting a new struggle for the hearts and minds of younger members of America’s largest pro-Israel demographic group.

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Hopefully the Jewish Community will soon follow in their footsteps.

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Israel’s Grip on Evangelical Christians Loosens

Younger Generation Open to Palestinian Side of Conflict

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Israel’s Friends: Evangelical Christians from the U.S. participate in Sukkot festivities in Jerusalem.

GETTY IMAGES
Israel’s Friends: Evangelical Christians from the U.S. participate in Sukkot festivities in Jerusalem.

By Nathan Guttman FOR

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Support for Israel is weakening among evangelical Christians, prompting a new struggle for the hearts and minds of younger members of America’s largest pro-Israel demographic group.

While hard numbers are not available, evangelical leaders on both sides of the divide on Israel agree that members of the millennial generation do not share their parents’ passion for the Jewish state; many are seeking some form of evenhandedness when approaching the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“What is happening is that the hard line of Christian Zionists was not successfully passed forward to the next generation, because it was based on theological themes that are now being questioned by younger evangelicals,” said David Gushee, professor of Christian ethics and director of the Center for Theology and Public Life at Mercer University in Atlanta.

The grip of Christian Zionists over young evangelicals has been loosening for several years, according to observers within the community. But in recent weeks, the leading evangelical pro-Israel organization, Christians United for Israel, has set off alarm bells in articles and interviews decrying the inroads made by pro-Palestinian activists into the evangelical community. CUFI’s leaders are calling for a new strategy to block them.

“The only way of solving a problem is when people know about it,” said, CUFI’s executive director, David Brog, who has been leading the effort to win back millennial evangelicals. “This is the best way to rally our troops.”

Brog penned a lengthy article, published in the spring edition of Middle East Quarterly, in which he detailed what he views as a growing phenomenon and the reasons behind it. Titled “The End of Evangelical Support for Israel?” the article laments that “questioning Christian support for the Jewish state is fast becoming a key way for millennials to demonstrate Christian compassion and bona fides.” Brog argues that younger evangelicals are now “in play” and their support for Israel can no longer be taken for granted.

This conclusion is based primarily on gut feelings and anecdotal data. In June 2011, the Pew Research Center conducted a survey among evangelical leaders convened in Cape Town, South Africa, for the third Lausanne Congress of World Evangelization. The findings indicated lower support for Israel than previously believed. A majority of American evangelical leaders (49%) expressed neutrality when asked if they sympathize more with Israelis or with Palestinians. Thirty percent expressed support for Israelis, 13% for the Palestinians.

The survey polled only leaders who participated in this international conference and did not offer insight into the views of rank-and-file evangelicals. But it highlighted the fact that only a minority within the evangelical leadership today hold strong pro-Israel views when it comes to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and attendant conflict with the Palestinians.

Still, Christian Zionism is by far the largest organized voice on Middle East issues among evangelicals. CUFI, led by the Rev. John Hagee, founder of Cornerstone Church, in San Antonio, has 1.6 million registered supporters and a staff of 25 full-time employees. With an operating budget of more than $7 million, CUFI organizes dozens of pro-Israel events throughout the country and an annual Washington conference that brings together evangelical activists and politicians.

CUFI’s leaders are now trying to mobilize funders and supporters to confront the shift among younger members of their community. The challenge they face is made up of individuals, campus activists and professors, small organizations and even documentary films that depict Israel as encroaching on Christian freedom of faith in the Holy Land.

On university campuses, pro-Palestinian Christians have seen some success in the face of CUFI’s more established 120-chapter campus operation. Activists in Illinois’s Wheaton College, a leading Christian school, protested a planned CUFI event on campus in 2009; in Tulsa, Okla., Oral Roberts University has appointed a harsh critic of Israel to its board of trustees, and at Bethel University, in Minnesota, President Jay Barnes visited Israel and the Palestinian territories on a trip that changed participants’ views on the conflict. Barnes’s wife, Barbara Barnes, published a poem after the trip, in which she wrote: “Apartheid has become a way of life. I believe God mourns.”

American evangelicals sympathetic to the Palestinians are also bringing co-religionists to Israel and the West Bank for tours and conferences. This week, Bethlehem Bible College and the Bethlehem-based Holy Land Trust are hosting their third “Christ at the Checkpoint” conference. Speakers at the gathering, which presents a Palestinian perspective on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank for Christians, include Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, the Gaza physician who worked closely with both Arabs and Israeli Jews until his three daughters were killed in their home by Israeli tank fire during the 2008 Gaza military campaign; William Wilson, the president of Oral Roberts University.; and Gary Burge, a theology professor at Wheaton College and author of the book, “Whose Promise? What Christians Are Not Being Told About Israel and the Palestinians.”

The conference’s 12-point “manifesto” strongly condemns “all forms of violence” and warns against the “stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.” It also rejects “any exclusive claim to the land of the Bible in the name of God” and states that “racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.”

For some on Christian college campuses, the appeal of pro-Palestinian views may be part of a general trend among young evangelicals to question the conservative ways of their parents’ generation. Some students are pursuing a theological understanding of their religion that is more progressive on social issues. Polls conducted in recent years indicate that young white evangelicals are less conservative on issues of same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception. They are also less aligned with the Republican Party. This same trend of political diversification may be taking place on international issues.

CUFI’s concern, as voiced by Brog in his article, is about the younger generation of evangelical leaders; unlike such figures as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, they are not vocal about the issue of Israel. He describes the new generation of evangelical opinion makers as a “largely well-coiffed and fashionably dressed bunch dedicated to marketing Christianity to a skeptical generation by making it cool, compassionate, and less overtly political.”

One of the organizations gaining the most attention on this issue is the Telos Group, a Washington-based not-for-profit set up five years ago that describes itself as “pro-Israeli, pro-Palestinian, pro-American, and pro-peace.” In an interview on Glenn Beck’s “TheBlaze TV,” Brog singled out Telos, saying: “This is not your parents’ anti-Israel group. These guys are savvy, these guys are smart.”

Telos, which focuses a significant part of its work on faith communities, has to date taken 43 groups on tours of Israel and the Palestinian territories. President and co-founder Gregory Khalil said the group intentionally engages with a variety of Israelis and Palestinians on their trips. “I actually think David Brog could learn a lot about Israel if he would join one of our trips,” Khalil said, arguing that Brog mischaracterized the work of Telos.

But while the budding debate in the evangelical world over Israel is real, its proportions may be overstated. “We’re a tiny organization,” Khalil said of his group, which has only two staff members. Other publications and groups cited by CUFI as pro-Palestinian are also much smaller than CUFI’s own pro-Israel operation.

CUFI is not waiting for them to grow larger. In January, at a Jewish fundraising event,, the group presented its plan to take two groups a year of young evangelical opinion leaders to Israel. “We need to use the same tool to fight back,” CUFI declared in its pitch for Jewish donor support. The group is also launching speaking tours on campuses, and intends to invest in videos and social media activity that will monitor Christian influencers and “confront them when they cross the line.”

The glaring precedent that pro-Israel evangelicals cite to justify their approach is the path taken by the mainline Protestant churches. In the past, many were sympathetic to Israel, or at worst neutral. But some have since become a stronghold of pro-Palestinian views in the American Christian world. A few groups, such as the Presbyterians, have been leading the way in calls for divestment and boycott against Israel.

But Gushee argued that evangelicals are unlikely to take this path. The mainline Protestant churches today may be aggressively anti-Israel, he said, but the shift among evangelicals “is not from pro-Israel to anti-Israel, but from pro-Israel to a more balanced approach.”

BDS AND THE AMERICAN JEWISH COMMUNITY

The use of name-calling like “anti-Semites” and “delegtimizers” is problematic for a number of reasons, not only because its claims are untrue, but also because it takes the focus off the real issue at hand – whether and how Israel is, in fact, violating international law and basic human rights principles – and, instead, recklessly impugns the characters of those advocating for Israel to be held accountable.

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Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and the American Jewish Community

 Donna Nevel*

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Photo credit: Jewish Voice For Peace

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Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.

The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.

Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”

These attacks simply don’t address or grapple with the core aspirations or realities of BDS. As described by Hanan Ashrawi, executive committee member of the PLO, in a recent letter in the New York Times, BDS “does not target Jews, individually or collectively, and rejects all forms of bigotry and discrimination, including anti-Semitism.” She goes on to explain that “B.D.S. is, in fact, a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.”

The use of name-calling like “anti-Semites” and “delegtimizers” is problematic for a number of reasons, not only because its claims are untrue, but also because it takes the focus off the real issue at hand – whether and how Israel is, in fact, violating international law and basic human rights principles – and, instead, recklessly impugns the characters of those advocating for Israel to be held accountable.

Criticisms, even extremely harsh ones, of the Israeli state or calls to make a state democratic and adhere to equal rights for all its citizens are not anti-Semitic. Rather, anti-Semitism is about hatred of, and discrimination against the Jewish people, which is not anywhere to be found in the call for BDS, and these kinds of accusations also serve to trivialize the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism.

Most recently, the anti-BDS effort has moved to the legislative front. A bill, introduced in the New York State Assembly last month, would have trampled academic freedom and the right to support BDS in its quest to punish the ASA and deter any who might dare to emulate its endorsement of the academic boycott. Those supporting the bill were opposed by a broad coalition of education, civil rights, legal, academic, and Palestine solidarity organizations, as well as Jewish social justice groups. The bill was withdrawn, but a revised version has been introduced that is designed, like the original, to punish colleges that use public funds for activities related to groups that support boycotts of Israel, including mere attendance at their meetings.

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) worked closely with the sponsors of the New York bill.

Like the JCRC, rather than engaging in substantive debate about the issues raised in relation to BDS, the Israeli government and many Jewish communal organizations choose, instead, to try to discredit and derail the efforts of those supporting BDS.

For example, as recently reported by Ha’aretz, the Israeli Knesset is debating how to continue to counter BDS efforts across the globe, that is, “whether to launch an aggressive public campaign or operate through quieter, diplomatic channels.” It is also considering what the role of AIPAC might be in introducing anti-boycott legislation and how to best bolster military surveillance–which has significant funding behind it–against supporters of BDS.

American Jewish communal organizations have also expended massive resources and energy in their campaigns to demonize endorsers of BDS. The Israel Action Network (IAN)–which describes itself as “a strategic initiative of TheJewish Federations of North America, in partnership with the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), created to counter assaults made on Israel’s legitimacy”–has funded the anti-BDS effort to the tune of at least six million dollars over a three-year period.

The IAN website characterizes supporters of BDS as “delegitimizers”and says that, in order to gain support from “vulnerable targets,” which include “college campuses, churches, labor unions, and human rights organizations,” delegitimizers utilize Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) tactics, “the same tools used to isolate and vilify apartheid South Africa, Iran, or Nazi Germany. BDS activists, IAN continues, “present distortions, fabrications and misrepresentations of international law in an attempt to paint Israel with the same brush.”

In another example of name-calling without any substance, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) July 2013 report attacked Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), featuring ad hominem accusations (JVP “intentionally exploits Jewish culture”), rather than discussing JVP’s actual positions. (A JVP report on the ADL points out that the ADL not only targets JVP but is well-known for its long history of spying on Arabs and supporters of the Palestinian movement.)

On the charge of anti-Semitism, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, in its call to fight the BDS movement, urges it supporters to “learn the facts behind this hypocritical and anti-Semitic campaign,” and the ADL’s Abe Foxman echoed those same sentiments: “The BDS movement at its very core is anti-Semitic.” And most recently, in his speech to AIPAC, Prime Minister Netanyahu, after shamelessly drawing upon classic anti-Semitic imagery of Jews to speak of supporters of BDS, says: “So you see, attempts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel, the most threatened democracy on earth, are simply the latest chapter in the long and dark history of anti- Semitism.”

The demonization of BDS is not only the domain of the Israeli government and the mainstream Jewish community. The self-declared liberal J-Street, in its seemingly relentless quest to stay under the Jewish “tent,” has also jumped on the anti-BDS bandwagon, sometimes in partnership with the IAN, which (precisely because J Street is positioned as a peace group) proudly documents its relationship with J Street in fighting BDS. Discussing how J Street is gaining acceptance in the mainstream Jewish community, JCPA’s CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow points to “its role in pushing back against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement…”

Further, the refusal of both liberal land mainstream Jewish groups to discuss substantive issues around Israel’s actions or BDS also reveals itself in language that admonishes BDS as being “beyond the pale.” Recently, for example, asreported by the director of JVP in an op-ed in the Forward, the director of the JCRC of Greater Boston, who has a history of involvement in liberal organizations, explained that “any organization that supports BDS…doesn’t belong at the communal table. In fact, he was referring specifically to Jewish Voice for Peace. He evenarguedthat opening the public conversation to BDS is roughly akin to welcoming the Ku Klux Klan.”

This attempted silencing of those simply discussing BDS plays out even in seemingly minor local skirmishes. For example, last year, the liberal rabbi of a large New York City synagogue cancelled the synagogue’s facilities-usage contract with a group of Jews who, he feared, might, on his premises, discuss BDS. That, he said, would be “beyond the pale.”

These attacks against BDS appear to be an almost desperate reaction to the increasing successes of BDS, not only in the world at large, but also within the broader Jewish community itself. Respected members of the liberal Jewish community as well as a few liberal Zionist groups that were vehemently anti-BDS are now calling for boycotts against products made in the settlements and are engaging with the issue publicly. Further, the mission and vision of groups like Jews Say No and Jewish Voice for Peace – “a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights” – are resonating with increasing numbers of Jews who support BDS as a natural outgrowth of their commitments. And that movement is growing in partnership with the broader Palestinian-led movement for justice.

How should the rest of the Jewish community respond? Ad hominem attacks on BDS just will not do. It is time for BDS opponents to take a deep breath. Consider this: BDS is a principled response to Israel’s actions and behavior as an occupier. It is a profound call by Palestinians – and supporters world-wide–for justice. It is not BDS that should be opposed, but, rather, the very policies and practices that have made BDS necessary.

*Donna Nevel, a community psychologist and educator, is a long-time organizer for peace and justice in Israel/Palestine. She was a co-coordinator of the 1989 landmark Road to Peace Conference that brought PLO officials and Knesset members together to the US for the first time. More recently, she was a founding member of Jews Say No!, is a member of the board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and is on the coordinating committee of the Nakba Education Project, U.S.

Written FOR

URGENT APPEAL FROM MEDEA BENJAMIN AND CODEPINK

Medea welcomed home by loved ones at the airport in DC

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The remaining delegates waiting to go to Gaza, trapped in the Cairo airport.

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Send this letter to the Egyptian government with our demands

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Sign this petition to the Egypt Desk at the State Department

Just the other day I hopped on a plane to Egypt, eager to join the international delegation of 100 women headed to Gaza for International Women’s Day. Little did I know I would be stopped at the Cairo airport, detained, held overnight in a cell, then in the morning brutally assaulted by Egyptian authorities. They threw me to the ground, stomped on my back, handcuffed me so tightly they dislocated my shoulder, and then deported me to Turkey.

Now the Egyptian authorities are blocking most of the remaining delegates from entering Egypt and traveling to Gaza. It has been frustrating and disappointing for us, but we cannot forget that almost two million Palestinians remained trapped in Gaza while the Egyptian Rafah border remains closed or tightly controlled.

What happened to me was traumatizing, but is minor compared to what Egyptian activists are going through, including women. Thousands of peaceful Egyptian demonstrators have been killed or jailed by the Military Junta since the July 2013 military coup.

Here’s how you can take action:

Despite frantic calls to the US Embassy during my 17-hour ordeal, they NEVER even got in touch with me. It is appalling that not only did the US government fail to intervene when an American citizen was being beaten, but that our government continues to send billions of US taxpayer dollars in military aid to the illegitimate and abusive Egyptian government.

Sign this petition to Egypt Desk at the State Department, then call them (202-647-4680). Demand to know why they did not assist a peaceful US citizen who was being abused by the Egyptian authorities, and let them know you want an immediate end to US military aid to Egypt.

Thanks for all you do for peace and justice,
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODEPINK  

SUPPORTING APARTHEID IS TAX DEDUCTIBLE IN THE USA

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Contrary to its self-styled image as a charitable organization dedicated to planting trees in Israel, the JNF is instrumental in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the ongoing expropriation of land for the exclusive use of Jewish Israelis. The racial discrimination institutionalized by the JNF presents a major challenge to any effort to achieve a just peace in Israel-Palestine. A quasi-governmental organization, the JNF has charitable status in the United States, and consequently enjoys tax exemptions for its institutions and donors. This means, in effect, that the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing the confiscation of Palestinian land and the establishment of Jewish-only settlements that violate both international law and stated U.S. policy.
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Tax-deductible apartheid: JNF raises $60 million a year for racially-discriminatory land purchases
SusanLandau
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“STOP THE MISINFORMATION, AND THE JNF”

As part of this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week activates, spirited protesters from Philly BDS, Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and local allies greeted attendees as they arrived at the annual Jewish National Fund Fundraiser in Philadelphia, PA.

Within minutes of assembling in the freezing cold outside Del Frisco’s Restaurant in center city Philadelphia on Thursday, February 27th the Regional Director of the JNF, Marina Furman, came outside without a coat to “thank us” for our presence, saying that over the years since we have been protesting JNF fundraisers, the number of people attending the event has increased. Essentially, she explained that we are ‘good for business.’ We reassured her that as long as the JNF continued their role in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, we would continue to protest. A brief conversation ensued in which Marina challenged our claim that her organization was dispossessing the Bedouin in the Negev. She politely assured us that we were misinformed. She directed us to the JNF web site on which we would find photos of the cities the JNF was building for the Bedouin. Marina was almost convincing. She seemed earnest in her desire to believe the JNF was helping the Bedouin.

Contrary to its self-styled image as a charitable organization dedicated to planting trees in Israel, the JNF is instrumental in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and the ongoing expropriation of land for the exclusive use of Jewish Israelis. The racial discrimination institutionalized by the JNF presents a major challenge to any effort to achieve a just peace in Israel-Palestine. A quasi-governmental organization, the JNF has charitable status in the United States, and consequently enjoys tax exemptions for its institutions and donors. This means, in effect, that the U.S. taxpayer is subsidizing the confiscation of Palestinian land and the establishment of Jewish-only settlements that violate both international law and stated U.S. policy.

Philly BDS, Temple Students for Justice in Palestine, and their local allies participating in Thursday’s action urge the United States to revoke the charitable status of the JNF. Playing on the fundraiser’s “Madness Poker Tournament” theme, protesters held signs that said “Land Theft is Nor Charity” and chanted slogans such as “BULLDOZING HOMES, STEALING LAND, THESE ARE THE CARDS IN THE JNF’s HAND” to “JUST BEHIND THEIR POKER FACES, WE SEE ALL THE STOLEN PLACES.”

While attendees mostly refused postcards available that described the action, passers-by were eager for information and conversation. Memorable were the few that took the time to thank us for our presence and our action.

Written FOR

THE VIDEO AIPAC IS TRYING TO HIDE FROM YOU

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

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Isn’t it bad enough that AIPAC controls Congress? Now they want to control YouTube as well …

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Is AIPAC trying to stop you from seeing this video?

Submitted by Ali Abunimah
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YouTube shut down the account that posted the original video. A new copy of the video should has appeared online and is viewable above. CODEPINK tweeted the new instance of the video:

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See Tweets at SOURCE

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Original post

The anti-war campaign group CODEPINK says the powerful Israel lobby organizationAIPAC is threatening to sue it over this video clip, a satirical version of an AIPAC policy conference promotional video.

“On 25 February, an AIPAC [American Israel Public Affairs Committee] member called a CODEPINK staffer threatening legal action in response to a controversial video clip that he alleges was made by the peace group CODEPINK,” a CODEPINK press release states.

The video features real footage from AIPAC conferences interspersed with images of Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights, and voiceovers from supposed conference-goers.

One of the voices says “It’s exciting to see so many people together who understand that sometimes you have to violate other people’s human rights if you want to take their land.”

CODEPINK does not say if it made the video but the group’s co-founder Medea Benjamin commented:

It is absurd for AIPAC to threaten legal action over such an obviously satirical video. It is interesting that they are reacting so strongly to the clip, though. Perhaps it’s because the content is really an accurate reflection of AIPAC’s dangerous foreign policies. AIPAC does, in fact, advocate for bombing countries such as Iran and Syria; it fails to condemn Israel’s continued building of settlements and its human rights abuses against Palestinians; and it lobbies Congress to send billions of taxpayer dollars to Israel to continue the occupation of Palestine. … What are they trying to hide by silencing this video?”

CODEPINK spearheads annual protests at AIPAC’s policy conference. The Electronic Intifada sent an inquiry to AIPAC’s media office and this post will be updated if a response is received.

WHY IS ISRAEL SO AFRAID OF CRITICISM?

Robust democracies do not just tolerate criticism; they welcome it as a part of freedom of expression.

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Why does Israel feel threatened by humanitarian workers?

Anne Irfan *

Humanitarian workers habitually find themselves unwelcome, detained or turned back at Israeli-controlled border crossings. (Joe Goldberg)

The Israeli detention of and denial of entry Western activists, academics and humanitarian workers sympathetic to Palestinians has received particular attention in recent years, following the targeting of high-profile figures including Richard FalkNorman Finkelsteinand Noam Chomsky.

During the first week in February, I was on the receiving end of Israeli detention practices myself when I attempted to enter the occupied West Bank from neighboring Jordan via theAllenby Bridge border crossing.

Once on the Israeli-controlled side of the crossing, I was detained and interrogated for 12 hours before being denied entry and sent back to Amman. I have been given a five-year ban on entering Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli authorities also detained and interrogated my friend and fellow traveler, who had never previously visited the region.

For those who follow events and developments in Palestine, my experience will be unsurprising; stories of random and unexplained clampdowns are depressingly familiar.

The opacity, lack of due process and disregard for human rights that characterize Israeli detention practices also typify the occupation authorities’ actions in the West Bank (including occupied East Jerusalem) and Gaza.

If the Israeli government will openly flout countless UN resolutions, it is hardly going to care about a traveler’s right to privacy.

Nevertheless, the nature and manner in which I was detained and interrogated remain of value for what they reveal about the Israeli occupation and how it continues to operate in 2014.

Opacity

Most fundamentally, the Israeli detention of “undesirable” travelers provides a terrifying insight into the daily lives of millions of Palestinians, who go without the protections of a Western passport.

For all the fear and horror of my experience, I ultimately knew that the worst thing the Israeli authorities could do was detain and eventually deport me.

Palestinians have no such guarantee.

Moreover, during my detention and multiple interrogations I came face-to-face with the impunity and unaccountability of the system, maintained by way of total opacity.

On a superficial but symbolic note, all the Israeli occupation personnel wore badges with information in Hebrew only — a language which the majority of detainees and travelers through this crossing will not be able to read. We were given no information or explanations as to what was happening.

No recourse

When I was eventually informed that I had been denied entry, one reason given was “some information we found.” My request for further details was denied.

As anyone who has passed through a checkpoint in the West Bank will know, this impunity and arbitrariness is a central part of how the occupation works, and how it continues to exert power.

The time one has to wait, and whether or not one is allowed through, can all too often depend on the mood and character of whoever is on duty.

Entry can be denied with no reason and if this happens, there is no recourse.

My detention was also indicative of Israel’s increased targeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

I have previously volunteered in Bethlehem in a program organized by a British NGO; more recently I worked for the London-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

My interrogators questioned me about this work at length, fixating particularly on pushing me to provide the names and contact details of Palestinians I knew in the West Bank (disappointingly for the Israeli staff, I was unable to oblige as nearly all the Palestinians I know are in the diaspora).

They were also interested in my journalistic work, asking me about the articles I have previously written for The Electronic Intifada.

While I had thought that a state facing a supposedly serious security threat might have a better use for its resources than interrogating a London-based humanitarian worker, it was interesting to discover just how gravely any work with Palestinians is regarded.

Unsurprisingly, my current employment with a poverty-relief organization that operates in sub-Saharan Africa was of little interest.

Strategic clampdown

On a similar note, the detention of international humanitarian workers is part of a strategic clampdown on non-violent activism. It was clear from how I was treated that the border staff did not believe I posed a physical threat.

I was frisked but not strip-searched and my belongings only went through the normal security checks. Although I was detained, interrogated and watched, I was not closely physically guarded.

Most of the time I was able to walk around the “waiting room” and go to the bathrooms without a guard accompanying me. My friend, who was also interrogated, was not searched at all throughout the detention period.

After 12 hours the Israelis announced that she was allowed to enter, although she chose to return to Jordan too.

This treatment is inconsistent if the border staff genuinely believed that I might pose a physical threat. It would appear that the intellectual threat is of greater concern.

Insecurity

Finally, the behavior of the Israeli border staff towards Westerners of Arab descent can be seen as a microcosm of the broader disregard with which Israel now routinely treats its international relations.

As a UK citizen, I remember the controversy that hit the headlines four years ago when it emerged that members of Mossad had carried out assassinations in Dubai on British passports, using identities stolen from people traveling through Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv (“Britons queued at Ben Gurion airport as Israeli officials cloned passports,” The Guardian, 24 March 2010).

The incident sparked unprecedented fury, with the then foreign secretary David Miliband issuing a strongly-worded statement and expelling an Israeli diplomat from London (“Britain expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai passport row,” BBC News, 23 March 2010).

After this, the Foreign Office issued new guidelines advising Britons not to part with their passports when entering through Israeli-controlled frontiers (“Don’t hand passport to officials, FCO tells Britons travelling to Israel,” The Guardian, 24 March 2010).

Notwithstanding the diplomatic row with a supposed ally, identical policies continue to operate in Israel.

Despite the ostensible show of strength that is central to detention practices, what my experience has ultimately revealed is the insecurity that lies at the heart of the Israeli state.

Robust democracies do not just tolerate criticism; they welcome it as a part of freedom of expression.

We are all used to hearing that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” according to a whole range of definitions. For now at least, those definitions continue to be stretched to the point of being unrecognizable.

*Anne Irfan holds a masters degree in Middle Eastern history. She is based in London and works in international development.

 

Written FOR

ON THE UGLY SIDE OF THE WALL

Bill Fletcher Jr. – Traveling Through Palestine

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Bill

Bill Fletcher Jr.

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Last month, a small delegation of African American artists traveled through Israel and Palestine to get a firsthand look at the daily lives of Palestinians. What they saw shocked and angered them, and their eyewitness accounts are sure to spark debate here as heated as any confrontation in the Middle East. Bill Fletcher Jr., senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, led the delegation and shares his perspective on the region.

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On the Ugly Side of the Wall
By Bill Fletcher, Jr*

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2014-01-06 11.50.48

 

“It felt like being in a huge prison.” That was how I responded to questions I was asked after leading a delegation of African Americans on a visit to the occupied Palestinian territories this past January. Yes, there are other ways of describing the experience. The land is beautiful; the people are generous; and with every glance, one sees reminders of a history dating back thousands of years.

Yet the feeling one gets is of being imprisoned; of being vulnerable; of not knowing. This was what we felt as African American visitors to the Holy Land. The reality for Palestinians is far worse.

 

2014-01-06 11.38.14

 

At every turn, we never lost sight of the ignominious “separation wall”, as the Israeli government politely references it; the “apartheid wall”, as much of the rest of the world describes it. A wall with guard/sniper towers, running, not along the Green Line (the armistice line that was agreed upon in 1949), but through almost whatever terrain the Israelis choose. A wall that frequently separates Palestinian farmers from their own lands, making it next to impossible for them to consistently cultivate their crops.

My delegation and I found it both frightening and sadly familiar that the Palestinians have few rights that the Israeli authorities are bound to respect. Land has been seized—illegally—by the Israeli authorities, allegedly for security reasons, or sometimes, quite ironically, for archeological reasons! And it is never returned to the Palestinians; instead, it is turned over to Israeli settlers.

There are roads on which Palestinians cannot drive without special permission. We discovered this firsthand as we traveled with a Palestinian guide who needed a permit to use particular highways. But even with this permit, she had to exit our van at checkpoints and walk through, while our delegation was permitted to remain in our van during and after inspection.

 

2014-01-08 17.08.38-resize

 

In the mainstream media, we have frequently heard or read about Palestinian terrorism or military actions. Yet, in our brief experience, we felt no unease or fear when we interacted with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said regarding our interactions with Israeli soldiers. The young Israeli military men and women, frequently carrying automatic weapons, were quite full of themselves and felt no need to be polite to our delegation, let alone to the Palestinians. The Palestinians were treated with the sort of contempt one would expect to be experienced by a prison population.

Blink once, and you saw apartheid South Africa; blink twice, and you saw the Jim Crow South of the USA; blink three times, and you realized that you were not in the past, but in a very dangerous reality where an entire population is facing the prospect of perpetual marginalization and dispossession.

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*Bill Fletcher, Jr. is a racial justice, labor, and global justice activist and writer. He is a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of “‘They’re Bankrupting Us!’: And 20 Other Myths about Unions”. He recently traveled to Israel and Palestine with an African American fact-finding team. 

 

Source (including link to Talk Show)

MUST SEE VIDEO ~~ ACADEMIC BOYCOTT DAYS

Up in the mornin’ and out to school
Israel’s universities are the tool
Palestinian history, they give it a pass
Too busy with jobs for the army brass
Workin’ your fingers right down to the bone
To help control the occupied zone

Ring, ring goes the bell
Village kids are in the prison cell
Discrimination at Ben Gurion
Palestinian students almost unknown
Back in the classroom they cook the books
Apartheid don’t know how mean it looks

Soon as 2005 rolls around
They’re boycottin’ to bring apartheid down
You say they violate freedom of speech
But you don’t practice what you preach
Up to the corner and round the bend
Palestinian freedom is at an end

Set the campus on stolen land
This is where the seizure of Palestine’s planned
With the grants you love, you work for the boss
All day long Palestinians waitin’ to cross
Doin’ demographics at Haifu U
Better send some natives to Timbuktu

Hail hail brand Israel
Our prettier face must prevail
Long live hasbara
To fool the world is the holy grail
Look out, they’re callin’ us to account
Academic apartheid’s beyond the pale

ROGER WATERS KEEPS KNOCKING DOWN THE WALL

Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters has fiercely criticized Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson over her decision to endorse SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates a factory in an illegal colony in the occupied West Bank.

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Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters slams Scarlett Johansson over Israel

 Ali Abunimah
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Roger Waters performs The Wall Live in Barcelona, 2011.

Roger Waters performs The Wall Live in Barcelona, 2011. (Wikipedia)

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Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters has fiercely criticized Hollywood actress Scarlett Johanssonover her decision to endorse SodaStream, an Israeli company that operates a factory in an illegal colony in the occupied West Bank.

Waters writes that in his previous encounters with Johansson, the actress struck him as a “young woman of strength and integrity who believed in truth, human rights, and the law and love.”

Now, the rock legend says that Johansson’s decision to quit her role with the charity Oxfamin order to represent occupation profiteer SodaStream “is such an act of intellectual, political, and civil about face, that we, all those of us who care about the downtrodden, the oppressed, the occupied, the second class, will find it hard to rationalize.”

He has also written privately to Johansson and to musician Neil Young urging them to respect the Palestinian call for the cultural and economic boycott of Israel.

The Canadian-born Young faces growing calls to cancel a scheduled performance in Tel Aviv this summer.

Waters – who has been an outspoken supporter of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) – made the statements in a note he posted on his Facebook page.

Here’s Waters’ note in full:

In the past days I have written privately to Neil Young (once) and to Scarlett Johanson (a couple of times). Those letters will remain private.

Sadly, I have received no reply from either.

And so I write this note on my Facebook page somewhat in bewilderment.

Neil? I shall ponder all of this long and hard. We don’t really know each other, but, you were always one of my heroes, I am confused.

Scarlett? Ah, Scarlett. I met Scarlett a year or so ago, I think it was at a Cream reunion concert at MSG. She was then, as I recall, fiercely anti Neocon, passionately disgusted by Blackwater (Dick Cheney’s private army in Iraq), you could have been forgiven for thinking that here was a young woman of strength and integrity who believed in truth, human rights, and the law and love. I confess I was somewhat smitten. There’s no fool like an old fool. A few years down the line, Scarlett’s choice of SodaStream over Oxfam is such an act of intellectual, political, and civil about face, that we, all those of us who care about the downtrodden, the oppressed, the occupied, the second class, will find it hard to rationalize.

I would like to ask that younger Scarlett a question or two. Scarlett, just for one example, are you aware that the Israeli government has razed to the ground a Bedouin village in the Negev desert in Southern Israel 63 times, the last time being on the 26th of December 2013. This village is the home to Bedouin. The Bedouin are, of course, Israeli citizens with full rights of citizenship. Well, not quite full rights, because in “Democratic” Israel there are fifty laws that discriminate against non Jewish citizens.

I am not going to attempt to list, either those laws (they are on the statute book in the Knesset for all to research) or all the other grave human rights abuses of Israeli domestic and foreign policy. I would run out of space. But, to return to my friend Scarlett Johansson.

Scarlett, I have read your reposts and excuses, in them you claim that the Palestinian workers in the factory have equal pay, benefits and “Equal rights.” Really? Equal Rights? Do they?

Do they have the right to vote?

Do they have access to the roads?

Can they travel to their work place without waiting for hours to pass through the occupying forces control barriers?

Do they have clean drinking water?

Do they have sanitation?

Do they have citizenship?

Do they have the right not to have the standard issue kicking in their door in the middle of the night and taking their children away?

Do they have the right to appeal against arbitrary and indefinite imprisonment?

Do they have the right to re-occupy the property and homes they owned before 1948?

Do they have the right to an ordinary, decent human family life?

Do they have the right to self determination?

Do they have the right to continue to develop a cultural life that is ancient and profound?

If these questions put you in a quandary I can answer them for you. The answer is, NO, they do not.

The workers in The SodaStream Factory do not have any of these rights.

So, what are the “equal rights” of which you speak?

Scarlett, you are undeniably cute, but if you think SodaStream is building bridges towards peace you are also undeniably not paying attention.

Love
R.

Written FOR

ISRAEL CONCERNED ABOUT ITS IMAGE

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Simple solution …. end the occupation!

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Palestinians say they see the success of the BDS movement as proof that non-violence can achieve their goals. 

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Growing concern in Israel over BDS 

With calls to boycott Israel on the rise, media reports say Israel considers hiring PR company to polish image. ‘Israel is getting nervous far too late’, says head of Israeli organization that fights BDS

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After several years, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS) seems to be gaining strength. From a Norwegian sovereign wealth fund to a Danish bank, to Oxfam, to musician Roger Waters, each day brings new calls to boycottIsrael as a response to its continued construction in areas that Israel acquired in 1967.

In Europe, promoting BDS can be illegal. This week, Soda Stream, which has recently signed actress Scarlett Johansson as its promoter, won a case in a French court against a French organization seeking a boycott.

The court ruled that “the origin of the product” does not justify the call to boycott. Soda Stream is produced in a factory in Mishor Adumim, with some 500 Palestinian workers, as well as Israelis, in a post-67 area. Johansson came under intense pressure to drop the Soda Stream gig, but instead resigned as an ambassador for Oxfam, an organization that fights poverty around the world.

“The issue is very complicated,” a senior Israeli foreign ministry official told The Media Line. “The suit by Soda Stream would not even be accepted in a US court. What they did is totally forbidden under French law and totally acceptable under American law.”

The official claims that any pro-boycott actions are being labeled as BDS, which may be giving the movement more credit than it deserves. For example, several European supermarket chains have been calling for all produce from post-1967 areas to be labeled as such, but it is not a call to boycott these products.

In fact, Israel last month became the first non-European member of CERN, the Center of European Nuclear Research, and only the second country not from the European Union.

Yet there is a growing sense of uneasiness in Israel that BDS will spread. The Israeli cabinet is expected to discuss the issue for the first time next week. Media reports said that Israel was considering hiring a PR company to burnish its image.

“Israel is getting nervous far too late,” Gerald Steinberg, the head of NGO Monitor, an Israeli organization that fights BDS. “There was a tendency to say that we have to keep a low profile and that it will all go away. But I think Israel consistently underestimated the resources behind this.”

Palestinians say they see the success of the BDS movement as proof that non-violence can achieve their goals.

“I think it’s successful and it has a future here,” Ghassan Al-Khatib, a professor at Bir Zeit University and a former Palestinian government spokesman told The Media Line. “It’s picking up because all of the other peaceful options and non-peaceful options are not working. If there will be progress in peace talksthat will allow (Palestinians) to achieve basic rights it will weaken BDS.”

Steinberg says the BDS movement grew out of the Durban forum in 2001 which called to brand Israel as an “apartheid state.”

“The emphasis is on the complete international isolation of Israel,” he said. “It is not talking about Israel’s borders in 1967, but in 1948. BDS is a form of political warfare against the state of Israel. ”

In fact, most BDS activists support the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel, a demand that Israel has consistently rejected saying that Israel would lose its character as a Jewish state. The right of return is in fact one of the issues currently under discussion. Israeli press reports say the “framework” that US Secretary of State John Kerry is expected to offer will not include a “right of return” although it will include a call for a Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

So far, BDS has not had major financial repercussions for Israel, but if it spreads it could begin to hurt. Finance Minister Yair Lapidtold a security conference last week that Israel is dependent on exports, with 33 percent of its foreign trade conducted with Europe.

“Even a partial European boycott would be felt by every Israeli and the cost of living would go up,” Lapid said.

He warned that exports could drop by $5.7 billion dollars.

Last month at Davos, a group of 100 Israeli leading industrialists called on Netanyahu to make peace with the Palestinians to avoid the growing boycott of Israel. Palestinians say they see this call as one of the successes of the BDS movement.

“BDS is creating a constructive debate inside Israel for the first time,” Khatib said. “The US and Europe, Israel’s best friends, have been urging Israel to reconsider its settlement policy and stop construction. Now Israel seems to be paying a price for not listening to this advice.”

Khatib says he expects to see the BDS movement spread to more companies and will begin to take more of an economic toll.

Source 

A PALESTINIAN AND AN ISRAELI EXPLAIN WHY ISRAEL FEARS THE BOYCOTT

Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel? Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa? Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country.” ~Omar Barghouti 

“The answer is clear. On the very day that nonviolence becomes Palestine’s official policy, Israel’s violent occupation policy is over. The current hysteria over boycotts and sanctions testifies to this.” ~Avraham Burg 

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Why Israel Fears the Boycott
By OMAR BARGHOUTI
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JERUSALEM — IF Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempts to revive talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority fail because of Israel’s continuing construction of illegal settlements, the Israeli government is likely to face an international boycott “on steroids,” as Mr. Kerry warned last August.These days, Israel seems as terrified by the “exponential” growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region. Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry. But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.

The Israeli government’s view of B.D.S. as a strategic threat reveals its heightened anxiety at the movement’s recent spread into the mainstream. It also reflects the failure of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s well-endowed “Brand Israel” campaign, which reduces B.D.S. to an image problem and employs culture as a propaganda tool, sending well-known Israeli figures around the world to show Israel’s prettier face.

Begun in 2005 by the largest trade union federations and organizations in Palestinian society, B.D.S. calls for ending Israel’s 1967 occupation, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced and dispossessed in 1948.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?

Israel is deeply apprehensive about the increasing number of American Jews who vocally oppose its policies — especially those who are joining or leading B.D.S. campaigns. It also perceives as a profound threat the rising dissent among prominent Jewish figures who reject its tendency to speak on their behalf, challenge its claim to be the “national home” of all Jews, or raise the inherent conflict between its ethno-religious self-definition and its claim to democracy. What I. F. Stone prophetically wrote about Israel back in 1967, that it was “creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry” because of its “racial and exclusionist” ideal, is no longer beyond the pale.

Israel is also threatened by the effectiveness of the nonviolent strategies used by the B.D.S. movement, including its Israeli component, and by the negative impact they have had on Israel’s standing in world public opinion. As one Israeli military commander said in the context of suppressing Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.”

The landslide vote by the American Studies Association in December to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, coming on the heels of a similar decision by the Association for Asian-American Studies, among others, as well as divestment votes by several university student councils, proves that B.D.S. is no longer a taboo in the United States.

The movement’s economic impact is also becoming evident. The recent decision by the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest from the five largest Israeli banks because of their involvement in occupied Palestinian territory has sent shock waves through the Israeli establishment.

To underscore the “existential” danger that B.D.S. poses, Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. This unfounded allegation is intended to intimidate into silence those who criticize Israel and to conflate such criticism with anti-Jewish racism.

Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and “the Jews” are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia, say, because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.

The B.D.S. movement’s call for full equality in law and policies for the Palestinian citizens of Israel is particularly troubling for Israel because it raises questions about its self-definition as an exclusionary Jewish state. Israel considers any challenge to what even the Department of State has criticized as its system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens as an “existential threat,” partially because of the apartheid image that this challenge evokes.

Tellingly, the Supreme Court recently rejected an attempt by Israeli liberals to have their nationality or ethnicity listed simply as “Israeli” in the national population registry (which has categories like Jew, Arab, Druse, etc.). The court found that doing so would be a serious threat to Israel’s founding identity as a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

Israel remains the only country on earth that does not recognize its own nationality, as that would theoretically avail equal rights to all its citizens, undermining its “ethnocratic” identity. The claim that B.D.S., a nonviolent movement anchored in universal principles of human rights, aims to “destroy” Israel must be understood in this context.

Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel? Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa? Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country.

Likewise, only Israel’s unjust order is threatened by boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights activist and the author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.”

SOURCE

What’s wrong with BDS, after all?

Israel will be helpless when the discourse moves from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values.
By Avraham Burg
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Talk of sanctions has been filling the air lately. Israelis, as always, are certain that the whole world is against us (psycho-national nonsense that will be more broadly discussed here in the future), and that all the world’s overt and covert conspiracies are focused solely on us – out of hatred and anti-Semitism, of course.Few notice the wonderful paradox whereby official Israel, together with mobilized world Jewry, fights the scourge of sanctions by whining and screaming anti-Semitism, Holocaust and Jew-hatred in chorus. Yet in the very same breath these exact same people utilize any possible tool to advance and intensify the sanctions against Iran, as they did against Hamas until recently. And with useful diplomatic hypocrisy they make every effort not to hurt Syria’s Bashar Assad too much, or Egypt, or another few corrupt targets of Israel’s foreign policy.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining momentum and is approaching the turning point (rather slowly, it must be said) in which the civic action from below will meet the official policies of governments and parliaments from above, and sanctions against Israel will become a fait accompli. Israel’s finance minister is troubled by the economic consequences, while the American secretary of state is trying to protect us from international isolation. Research institutions are already mapping out their boycotts and sanctions while offering avenues for formulating appropriate Israeli policies. The media are also making their serious or frenzied contributions. Among all this talk, what is conspicuously missing is a real discussion of the ethical meaning of sanctions and their alternatives.

Personally I’m a man of dialogue and believe that a boycott – any boycott – is not a legitimate tool. When my prime minister leaves the room as the Iranian president is speaking, I can’t decide whether he’s an idiot or just being childish, but what’s clear is that he doesn’t represent me at all. I believe in peace and I have no doubt that proper (if pointed) dialogue with the Palestinians will in the end bring two achievements: peace, and the end to the boycotts, ostracism and isolation under discussion. It’s the same with the Iranians, and even with Danny Danon.

But those who don’t want peace, or who want it but don’t trust the partner, or who want and trust but don’t have the public courage to stand up to the enemies of peace among us, must ask themselves different questions altogether. It’s clear that there’s a connection between the diplomatic reality and its economic manifestations. It’s permissible – despite the evil and folly of that approach – to decide that it’s worth holding the occupied territories, if only because at this point the price of international isolation or the harm done to the pockets of Mr. and Mrs. Israeli is not so terrible. After all, in the end, national policy is a system of constantly balancing risks and rewards, and for now – they say – the risks are tolerable.

But everyone else – the political impotents or the merely indifferent – needs a different approach. Put yourselves for a minute in the Palestinians’ place and try to understand what Israel “allows them” and consider what you would do in their position. A violent Palestinian rebellion? No way! Totally out of the question, not least because it will be put down by a much more violent force. (It’s an undeniable fact that more innocent Palestinians have been killed by Israel than innocent Israelis killed by Palestinians). A diplomatic agreement? You’ve made Naftali Bennett’s rear end and Benjamin Netanyahu’s lost senses laugh. So then what? Nothing? Should they just say thank you and shut up? Would we remain silent and capitulate unconditionally if we were in their place?

Suddenly it turns out that the boycott movement is not just an annoying effort to hit Israelis in the pocket, but a bold and innovative attempt to achieve real diplomatic gains. And in the areas in which I firmly believe require dialogue and solutions: an end to the occupation, the destruction of the separation barrier, recognition of the rights and equality of Israel’s Palestinian citizens, and a solution to the refugee problem. It’s a local and international expression of a totally different type of Palestinian struggle, something new and not so familiar to us – nonviolent resistance. Is that also forbidden?

What emerges from all this is that of all the alternatives being suggested – as if anyone is asking us or has to care what we think – boycotts and sanctions are actually the most kosher. Silencing and repression are bad, and violence is worse. Compared to either method, nonviolent resistance and an unarmed popular uprising don’t sound so bad. The truth is that not all of their people are behind this (just like not all of our people support us), but the direction being outlined is clear, convincing and threatening. Deep down I’m convinced that the tough State of Israel has a response to any expression of force it may face. But it will remain helpless when confronted by a civil rebellion that moves the discourse from who’s stronger/tougher/more resilient to a discourse on rights and values. For this we have no answer.

What will the politicians and soldiers of the racist separation do on Hebron’s Shuhada Street, which is closed to Palestinians, if a thousand kids come with their bikes, soccer balls and cameras and ask to play on the street in front of their homes – a basic right of any normal child on any street in the world? What will be the response of the Sensible One if the parents of those children, along with hundreds or thousands of other people (me and my family among them) come to the wall of the Palestinian ghetto (known euphemistically as the separation barrier) and hold a vigil there before the international media, under clouds of tear gas, until it comes down?

The answer is clear. On the very day that nonviolence becomes Palestine’s official policy, Israel’s violent occupation policy is over. The current hysteria over boycotts and sanctions testifies to this.

Avraham Burg is former speaker of the Knesset.

SOURCE
H/T To Sam Bahour

INTERNATIONAL CARTOONISTS ENDORSE BOYCOTT OF SODASTREAM

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The letter comes as SodaStream increasingly is targeted by an international boycott due to the presence of its primary factory in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. The day before, headlines were made when actress Scarlett Johansson ended her seven-year relationship with the charity OxFam over disagreements stemming from her role as a paid spokesperson for SodaStream.
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CARTOONISTS TO DIRECTOR OF ANGOULEME FESTIVAL: DROP SODASTREAM
Over forty cartoonists protest sponsorship by Israeli settlement manufacturer
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FRIDAY, JANUARY 31, 2014– Over forty cartoonists and illustrators from a dozen countries around the world released an open letter today to Franck Bondoux, director of the International Festival of Comics at Angoulême, asking the festival to drop its relationship with the Israeli drink manufacturer SodaStream.
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Among those signing the letter were French cartoonists Siné, Baudoin, Carali, and Chimulus, Americans Joe Sacco, Eric Drooker, Ben Katchor, Peter Kuper, Matt Madden, Seth Tobocman and Sue Coe, as well as Palestinian cartoonist Mohammad Saba’aneh, Lebanese Mazen Kerbaj, Sudanese Khalid Albaih, Tunisian Willis From Tunis, Israeli Amitai Sandy, Brazilian Carlos Latuff,Spanish Elchicotriste, Italian Gianluca Costantini, and many more.
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The letter comes as SodaStream increasingly is targeted by an international boycott due to the presence of its primary factory in the Israeli settlement of Ma’ale Adumim. The day before, headlines were made when actress Scarlett Johansson ended her seven-year relationship with the charity OxFam over disagreements stemming from her role as a paid spokesperson for SodaStream.
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The Angoulême International Comics Festival is the largest in Europe, and the second-largest in the world. The announcement that it would be sponsored this year by SodaStream drew immediate condemnation from French activists.
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The full text of the letter and list of signatories follows:
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Lettre ouverte à / Open letter to:
           Monsieur Franck Bondoux
                 Direction du Festival international de la bande dessinée
                  71 rue Hergé
                  16000 Angoulême
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Nous, dessinatrices et dessinateurs de tous les pays, sommes surpris, déçus et en colère de découvrir que SodaStream est un sponsor officiel du Festival International de la Bande Dessinée d’Angoulême.
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Comme vous le savez sûrement, SodaStream est la cible d’un appel international au boycott, pour sa contribution à la colonisation de terres palestiniennes, avec son usine dans la colonie illégal de Ma’ale Adumim, son exploitation de travailleurs palestiniens, et son vol de ressources palestiniennes, en violation du droit international et des droits humains.
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Angoulême a joué un rôle important dans la prise en compte de la bande dessinée comme une forme d’art depuis 40 ans. Il serait triste que SodaStream profite de ce festival pour essayer d’effacer ses crimes.
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Nous vous demandons de couper tous les liens entre le Festival et cette entreprise honteuse.
Cordialement,
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We, cartoonists and illustrators from all countries, are surprised, disappointed and angry to find out that SodaStream is an official sponsor of the Angoulême International Comics Festival.
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As you must know, SodaStream is the target of an international boycott call for its contribution to the colonization of Palestinian land, due to its factory in the illegal settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, its exploitation of Palestinian workers, and its theft of Palestinian resources, in violation of international law and contravening international principles of human rights.
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Angoulême has had an important role in the appreciation of comics as an art form for over 40 years. It would be sad if SodaStream were able to use this event to whitewash their crimes.
We ask you to cut all ties between the Festival and this shameful company.
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Sincerely,
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Khalid Albaih (Sudan)
Leila Abdelrazaq (USA)
Avoine (France)
Edd Baldry (UK/France)
Edmond Baudoin (France)
Steve Brodner (USA)
Berth (France)
Susie Cagle (USA)
Jennifer Camper (USA)
Carali (France)
Chimulus (France)
Gianluca Costantini (Italy)
Jean-Luc Coudray (France)
Philippe Coudray (France)
Marguerite Dabaie (USA)
Eric Drooker (USA)
Elchicotriste (Spain)
Jenny Gonzalez-Blitz (USA)
Ethan Heitner (USA)
Paula Hewitt Amram (USA)
Hatem Imam (Lebanon)
Jiho (France)
Ben Katchor (USA)
Mazen Kerbaj (Lebanon)
Lolo Krokaga (France)
Nat Krokaga (France)
Peter Kuper (USA)
Carlos Latuff (Brazil)
Lasserpe (France)
Lerouge (France)
Matt Madden (USA/France)
Mric (France)
Barrack Rima (Lebanon/Belgium)
James Romberger (USA)
Puig Rosado (France)
Mohammad Saba’aneh (Palestine)
Joe Sacco (USA)
Malik Sajad (Kashmir)
Amitai Sandy (Israel)
Siné (France)
Seth Tobocman (USA)
Eli Valley (USA)
Willis From Tunis (Tunisie/France)
Jordan Worley (USA)
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Si vous êtes dessinateur et que vous voulez vous associer à cette lettre ouverte, merci d’écrire à:lettertoangouleme@gmail.com
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If you are a cartoonist and you want to endorse this open letter, please write to:lettertoangouleme@gmail.com

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