Category Archives: Apartheid

Breaking Through to the Hindu and other recent developments

I was a bit surprised to learn that The Hindu newspaper carried coverage of the American Studies Association boycott resolution in its pages. It hardly seemed like international news to me. But what was more surprising is that it came in the form of Zionist articles by American columnists David Brooks (New York Times) and Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post). Both articles repeat stale propaganda about Israel and the boycott movement, which if they had been even fact checked some of that could have been reduced. In any case, I wrote my own response to them, which was published in today’s paper, although it was edited so I’ll post the original version below:

In the print edition of The Hindu on 11 January 2014, a column by Charles Karauthammer appeared from the newswire about the American Studies Association’s (ASA) recent resolution to boycott Israel. As a member of the ASA for almost twenty years, and as the person who initiated this move towards boycott in the spring of 2005, I find it a bit odd that such an article (the second, actually, as The Hindu published a wire piece by David Brooks a couple of weeks ago arguing more or less the same point) would appear in the pages of an Indian newspaper given that the bone of contention is from quite an American point of view. Moreover, Indians know from experience what the power of boycott can do when fighting a foreign colonial power on one’s land.

Brooks and Krauthammer may offer readers many opinions, but there is very little grounded in facts, which a quick perusal of the ASA’s website would reveal. For example, Brooks, for example, thinks that the problem is only the Israeli occupation of the West Bank; curiously Gaza doesn’t come into his frame. Both writers paint a portrait of an Israel that looks like it’s a beautiful, democratic society with just a few minor flaws that need to be worked out. Let me offer your readers a different American viewpoint, and one that comes from an American Jew who has spent several years teaching at Palestinian universities in the West Bank cities of Jerusalem and Nablus; there I had a front-row seat to the myriad ways that Israel actively interfered with the lives of Palestinian scholars and students, making teaching, conducting research, or merely going to school next to impossible.

Any way one examines the conditions of Palestinians, including access to education, there are problems whether in the West Bank, Gaza, or Israel itself. Israel has a segregated school system (similar to the “separate but equal” system the U.S. created for African Americans) as detailed in a recent Human Rights Watch report. Israel routinely targets schools in its invasions of Palestine (and Lebanon); during its 2008 war against Gaza, Israel targeted a United Nations school and the Islamic University of Gaza. In the West Bank, where I spent most of my time, students were routinely kept from attending university and school because of the checkpoint and Jewish-only road system. Last summer the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report detailing the extent to which Palestinian children between the ages of twelve and seventeen are kidnapped from their homes at night, detained in military prisons where they are tortured, often until they agree to become informants on their family and community. If I had more space to write, I could produce a dissertation on the ways in which Palestinian youth are singled out by Israeli soldiers, abused, and prevented from pursuing their education.

Instead of exploring the reality of Palestinians, Krauthammer and Brooks deflect attention by either asking why Israel is “singled out” (answer: because as a state it singles itself out out as in its special relationship with the U.S., for which it is handsomely rewarded financially, militarily, and through UN vetoes). Those who pay taxes in the U.S. and who are part of the boycott movement do not want our tax dollars to continue funding these activities. In Israel, as in South Africa under its apartheid regime, universities are state-run and help produce the knowledge that undergirds the practices and policies that further the occupation and colonization of Palestinians.

But Brooks and Krauthammer would have it that the ASA operated out of either anti-Semitism or discrimination against Israeli scholars. In fact, the resolution, in keeping with the Palestinian call for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, calls for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions only. Neither the movement in Palestine nor the West nor in India targets any individual on the basis of religion, ethnicity, or nationality. In fact, the ASA resolution also acknowledges the fact that Israeli scholars are a part of this movement as well.

The false claim of “anti-Semitism” is often trotted out by Zionists—Christian and Jewish alike—who wish to remind their audience of violence perpetuated by Europeans against European Jews. But in the history of West Asia this charge is ironic given the fact that Arabs are far more Semitic than European Jews like me and given the fact that the people living under a brutal colonial regime are Palestinians, Syrians (in the Occupied Golan Heights), and Lebanese in the remaining five villages that Israel continues to illegally occupy.

Those of us active in the boycott movement around the globe do so out of a desire to see Palestinian people achieve justice meaning the right of return for Palestinian refugees and compensation as per UN Resolution 194. We believe that there shouldn’t be any nation with special status. We believe that when the UN makes a resolution all nations must abide by them not just countries bullied by the powers governing the Security Council and their allies.

Marcy Newman is an independent scholar and author of The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans and a founding member of the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

There have been some more terrific pieces about the boycott in the press in the last couple of weeks, including the Modern Language Association (MLA) resolution, which doesn’t go as far as the ASA, but at lest it is taking the correct steps in that direction.

First, here is a terrific action alert from Adalah New York for people who want to respond and support the ASA. There is also a petition to sign to support the ASA, but you must be a member. This is especially essential since yesterday Forbes had the audacity to publish an openly ad hominem attack by Richard Behar about several of my colleagues and friends in the ASA who have been working tirelessly over the last several years to make this resolution happen.

Steven Salaita has a brilliant piece in Electronic Intifada called “Ten Things We’ve Learned About Opposition to Academic Boycott,” which pretty much responds to Behar and whatever other Zionist hack wants to do to try to belittle our work. Also, USACBI posted a brilliant piece this week called “This is What an Academic Boycott Looks Like” for people who are sincerely interested in understanding our work. Also here is the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (InCACBI) statement of solidarity with the ASA.

Second, the U.S. Green Party issued a press release supporting the ASA’s resolution.

Then there are a couple of great pieces in university newspapers from Bowdoin, Syracuse, and Tufts. Bill Mullen did a radio interview about the resolution and Democracy Now! hosted a debate, although the choice of debaters isn’t great.

Meanwhile at the MLA annual meeting, another one of my former academic homes, a resolution was passed, although it focused on the lack of human rights and academic freedom. A petition is here for people who want to sign it (you don’t need to be a member to do so). Here are some articles covering the MLA resolution and what transpired at the various panels there:

Liz Schulman’s “Boycott Panel at MLA Draws Applause and Fearful Questions”

Alex Kane’s “MLA Delegates Pass Measure Against Israel Denying Entry to Academics”

Bruce Robbins’ “‘Common Sense Has Moved On’: Report from MLA Debate on Israel”

David Palumbo-Liu’s “Modern Language Association Prepared to Talk Seriously About Palestine”

Finally, in the midst of all this, Ariel “the butcher” Sharon died. But instead of publishing an article from an Indian point of view, once again The Hindu resorted to a Zionist writer, Ethan Bronner, from the news wire. Many people have torn this and other whitewashed obituaries to shreds already, but today The Hindu also published a terrific, contextually rich piece by Vijay Prashad that highlights the damaging work that Sharon did, along with the BJP, to erode a history of solidarity between Palestinians and Indians:

In 2003, Sharon became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit India. He had been invited by the BJP-led government to cement the newfound ties between India and Israel. At that time, The Hindu wrote, “New Delhi has sent out wrong signals by playing host to Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon at this particular juncture… Even if it was possible to set aside [Sharon’s] appalling personal history, his apparent distaste for a just and permanent settlement with the Palestinians cannot be ignored. Even moderate constituencies in Arab countries are convinced that Mr. Sharon was largely responsible for scuttling the Oslo process. The policies Israel has implemented under his stewardship have aggravated the violent confrontation with the Palestinians.” Nonetheless, the Bharatiya Janata Party and later the Congress endorsed Israeli policy by its new attachment to Tel Aviv. India quickly became the largest importer of Israeli arms, unwittingly helping the Israeli economy in its principal task — to pursue the occupation of the Palestinians.

Not all of India embraced its leaders’ camaraderie with Sharon. “Katil Sharon se yaari, sharam karo Atal Bihari [shame on you, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for befriending the murderous Sharon],” and similar slogans echoed across the country at Sharon’s death, despite the warm condolence message crafted by the Prime Minister’s Office. India’s government, which once led the Non-Aligned world to defend the rights of the Palestinians, is now reticent to be critical of Israel and allows itself to celebrate the life of a man whose day in court was postponed because of his Western allies.

For other excellent coverage, which doesn’t include much of Al Jazeera’s shameful, borderline hagiographic tributes, see these pieces:

Democracy Now!’s interviews with Rashid Khalidi, Noam Chomsky, and Avi Shlaim

As’ad AbuKhalil’s “Ariel Sharon: International War Criminal Remembered”

Jonathan Cook’s “The Legacy of Ariel ‘the bulldozer’ Sharon”

Max Blumenthal’s “How Ariel Sharon Shaped Israel’s Destiny”

Ahmed Moor’s “Ariel Sharon: The Architect of Terror”

David Samel’s “Bronner Whitewashes Sharon’s Atrocities”

Peter Hart’s “How the Big Papers Remember Ariel Sharon”

Support the American Studies Association #ASA2013 #BDS

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later. Zionists have come out in full force to attack the American Studies Association that courageously voted to support an academic boycott of Israel. In the past few days American-Zionist-cum-colonists like Martin Kramer have written articles like “Boycott. Me. Please.” Ali Abunmiah reported the source of this pressure:

Last week anti-Palestinian group StandWithUs, which works closely with the Israeli government, sent out an email blast calling on its followers to “Urge university presidents, donors and government to denounce the ASA and sever ties with the organization.”

The ASA has five thousand individual members along with 2,200 library and other institutional subscribers.

Under such pressure two universities, Brandeis University and Penn State Harrisburg,have canceled their institutional memberships of the ASA.

Some university presidents are allowing faculty to form their own opinions, although others are cracking down as institutions. But as would be expected, most American academic institutions are towing the political party line and distorting the issue by trying to pretend it’s about academic freedom when it’s not.

As a result of blurring the issue and starting some hysterical Zionist hasbara, it is necessary to show one’s support for the ASA now. To do so, please follow the following cues (though if you are interested in becoming a member don’t do it until January 1st if you want a full year’s membership for your fees):

Renew your membership in ASA, especially institutional members of the organization, and encourage other programs to become institutional members. (ONLY 83 schools are institutional members.)

To renew Institutional Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/institutional_membership_invitation/

To renew Individual Memberships: http://www.theasa.net/pages/membership_invitation/

Announce your support of the ASA and the right of the association to act according to the will of the membership. Academic freedom guarantees not only the individual right of faculty members to express their views, but also the autonomy of professional associations.

Support ASA-related activities.  The ASA remains at the forefront of critical scholarship in many areas crucial to the study and teaching of labor relations, race and ethnicity, gender and sexuality, popular culture and technology, political organizing and social movements. ASA scholars’ interdisciplinary work addresses US history, politics, and culture, both within and beyond its borders. Over the last two decades, American Studies has internationalized, responding to the global conditions of the present. And asRichard Falk, the international legal theorist, has noted: “The ASA outcome is part of a campaign to construct a new subjectivity surrounding the Israel/Palestine conflict. It is the sort of act that lends credibility to claims that a momentum is transforming the climate of opinion surrounding a conflict situation. Such a momentum is capable of breaking down a structure of oppression at any moment.

Defend the right of the ASA to develop independent political positions based on the scholarship and research of its members. The resolution is based on documented history of Israeli human rights abuse and violations of international law, which are acknowledged in the Israeli press and by scholars.  For example, Professor Henry Siegman, the well-known scholar of Mid-East politics and former National Director of the American Jewish Congress, has written in an article titled “There is no Bigotry in the Boycott,” (Haaretz Dec 20, 2013): “As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.”

Denounce the campaign of intimidation against the ASA.  The ASA is a small academic professional association, but because it dared to express criticism of Israel, powerful and well-funded academic and non-academic organizations have mounted a public campaign aimed at destroying the Association. These organizations falsely accuse the ASA membership of being anti-semitic, bent on the destruction of Israel.  But the goal of the boycott is to show solidarity with the beleaguered Palestinians, who have been subject to decades of occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Many Jewish members of ASA support the resolution. These include Eric Cheyfitz, who posted this comment to the ASA website: “I am a Jew with a daughter and three grandchildren who are citizens of Israel. I am a scholar of American Indian and Indigenous studies, who has in published word and action opposed settler colonialism wherever it exists, including of course the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.” Seehttp://www.theasa.net/from_the_editors/item/asa_members_vote_to_endorse_academic_boycott/

Write to your congressional and state representatives and urge them to do the following:

  • Defend the academic freedom of the ASA and its membership.  The campaign against the ASA as an organization and the attacks against the national leadership and harassment of individual members, some of whom are graduate students or junior faculty, is an assault on academic freedom in the US and violates the basic principle that the American education system should not be held hostage to foreign interests.
  • Ensure that ASA activities are not subject to discriminatory practices.  All university programs receive federal and/or state funding.  Government officials should not discriminate in the allocating of public funds simply because they disagree with the positions of a professional association.
  • Encourage and facilitate more critical discussions of the US-Israeli relationship.  See for example Sarah Roberts’s recently published essay in support of the boycott resolution.

For more information or to report intimidation:

Contact the ASA Activism and Community Caucus (asaactcaucus@gmail.com)

Some great new articles to read on the ASA boycott this week:

Noura Erakat, Alex Lubin, Steven Salaita, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, and Jasbir Puar’s “Substantive Erasures: Essays on Academic Boycott and the American Studies Association”

Samuel Nelson Gilbert’s “Calls to Boycott Israel Grow on U.S. Campuses”

Sarah Roberts’s “The Turning Tide: The ASA, Scholarly Responsibility and the Call for Academic Boycott of Israel”

Noura Erakat’s “Demanding Equality: Interview with Steven Salaita on the ASA Academic Boycott”

Omar Barghouti’s “Is BDS’ Campaign Against Israel Reaching a Turning Point?”

NSJP Statement of Thanks and Solidarity with the American Studies Association”

 

Thank you, American Studies Association #BDS #ASA2013

On 28 May 2006, I sent the following email to the American Studies Association ASA listserv:
Dear Colleagues
As many of you may be aware, there has been a Palestinian campaign for an academic boycott of Israel for a few years now. I would like to suggest that ASA support this boycott, which many Israeli professors support.
My concern about what it would mean for Israeli institutions to be included in such an organization stems from my own sense of how things are for my friends who teach at Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, and Al Quds University. By making a clear statement that supports Palestinian professors and institutions as an organization, I think, will send a vital message. For those who are interested, here is the precise text of the call to boycott, which you can find on Birzeit’s website:

We, Palestinian academics and intellectuals, call upon our colleagues in the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid, by applying the following:

1.Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions;

2.Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

3.Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

4.Exclude from the above actions against Israeli institutions any conscientious Israeli academics and intellectuals opposed to their stateÂ’s colonial and racist policies;

5.Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

6.Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

I hope that the American Studies Association will consider engaging with these issues, especially in light of the recent email from the AJS.

I’m sure I was not the first person to suggest such an act of solidarity in that forum. Regardless, the ASA listserv received a flurry of emails in response to mine. The majority of these emails were strongly against my proposal and several executive committee members threatened to quit the ASA if this boycott moved forward. My memory was that this correspondence began during the July war that year, but clearly it began a short while before. 

But not everyone was so closed off. Many people engaged with me privately and publicly and with others. Many of us organized to form panels about Palestine in relation to the U.S., educating our peers about the necessity of solidarity and about educating oneself on the subject. While I was still an academic I participated in these forums. Many of us went on to create the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) which persevered with respect to pushing the ASA to take a stand. 

And all that effort has paid off!

It’s been hard to watch from afar, but so wonderful to see that they achieved success and the after effect of it in academia and in the media. I don’t have the time to share all the details of this historic moment, but I will share links and quotes below for those who would like to read more and who feel inspired to take the ball and run with it in their organization. I never imagined this would be any kind of turning point in the BDS movement, but it certainly seems to be that way given the flood of press from around the world.

First, here is USACBI’s official statement:

December 16, 2013 – The  US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) congratulates the American Studies Association following today’s announcement that its membership has endorsed the Association’s participation in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. In an election that attracted 1252 voters, the largest number of participants in such a referendum in the history of the organization, 66.05 percent of voters endorsed the resolution, while 30.5 percent of voters voted no, and 3.43 percent abstained.

Nada Elia, professor and USACBI organizing committee member noted, “This is not only a victory for Palestinians.  It is a victory for all who believe in justice for an indigenous people who have faced ongoing dispossession. It is a victory for global justice, for academic freedom, for freedom of expression, for believing in the power of the people to bring about the much-needed changes that politicians refuse to consider. Through the grassroots organizing efforts of many, we are building a more just world.”

The original resolution, which the ASA Activism Caucus proposed a year ago, was discussed at the 2013 ASA convention in Washington D.C, and modified in response to ongoing discussions. In turn, the ASA National Council adopted it. The National Council opened the question to the entire membership to ensure that the adoption of the resolution adequately represented the association. During the voting process, many academics and groups demonstrated support for the adoption of the resolution through articles and statements, including the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, The Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors, and Students for Justice in Palestine – National and local chapters.

Sunaina Maira, ASA Activism Caucus member, added, “Today, we are grateful not just for the ASA membership’s decision to endorse BDS, but also for the process that the ASA National Council chose to adopt, as it created the space and time to learn about the conditions Palestinian students and academics face as a result of Israeli policies and to engage with the serious questions about our responsibilities and methods for bringing about change.”

In response to the Palestinian call for the international community to engage in and utilize the tactics of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, US-based academics and student organizers have brought critical discussions on Palestine, Israel and US complicity to campuses across the country through boycott and divestment resolutions.

This historic vote follows the Association of Asian American Studies endorsement of a boycott resolution in May and numerous student divestment resolution endorsed by student senates in California.

The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI)has organized to challenge growing ties between Israeli and US academic institutions and to challenge the Brand Israel project of normalizing Israel through cultural events.

Second, here is the ASA’s official statement about supporting the academic boycott of Israel:

Council Statement on the Academic Boycott of Israel

ASA National Council Votes Unanimously To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel

One year ago, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus of the American Studies Association (ASA) asked the Executive Committee (EC) to consider a resolution to honor the call from Palestinian civil society to support the academic boycott of Israel. The EC forwarded the resolution to the National Council. Following the deliberative procedures detailed below, the Council unanimously decided to issue a revised version of the resolution, which we now recommend to members of the ASA.  Please follow this link to read the resolution.

The Council voted for an academic boycott of Israeli institutions as an ethical stance, a form of material and symbolic action. It represents a principle of solidarity with scholars and students deprived of their academic freedom and an aspiration to enlarge that freedom for all, including Palestinians.

We believe that the ASA’s endorsement of a boycott is warranted given U.S. military and other support for Israel; Israel’s violation of international law and UN resolutions; the documented impact of the Israeli occupation on Palestinian scholars and students; the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights; and the support of such a resolution by many members of the ASA.

Our resolution understands boycott as limited to a refusal on the part of the Association in its official capacities to enter into formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions, or with scholars who are expressly serving as representatives or ambassadors of those institutions, or on behalf of the Israeli government, until Israel ceases to violate human rights and international law.

The resolution does not apply to individual Israeli scholars engaged in ordinary forms of academic exchange, including conference presentations, public lectures at campuses, or collaboration on research and publication. The Council also recognizes that individual members will act according to their convictions on these complex matters.

The ASA is a large organization that represents divergent opinions. Anticipating strong and potentially divided feelings on this question, the Council unanimously decided to ask ASA members to endorse the resolution by a vote.

Background on the Resolution

The resolution is the culmination of a long history of discussion and debate in the ASA. In 2006, in response to Israel’s attacks on Lebanon and Gaza, the ASA International Committee (IC), including a former ASA President, discussed the possibility of endorsing a boycott. In 2009, in the wake of Israel’s military assault on Gaza and in response to requests from ASA members, several bodies in the Association again took up the question of a boycott: the IC, the Program Committee for the 2009 convention, and the Executive Committee, which included the current ASA President. The consensus then was that members needed more opportunities to learn about and discuss the issues and so the Program Committee organized two featured panels: “Palestine in Crisis” and “Academic Freedom and the Right to Education: The Question of Palestine.” Scheduled in prime times on Friday and Saturday of the convention, the panels addressed the plight of Palestinian universities and academics and the profound pressures on teaching and research contexts in the U.S. and Palestine where education and intellectual freedom were under attack. The second panel focused in particular on the boycott movement.

In the wake of such discussions, the Academic and Community Activism Caucus (ACAC) met at the 2012 ASA convention to consider a resolution and gather signatures. This resolution was then submitted to the Executive Committee and, in December, posted on the Caucus’ page on the ASA web site. Information about the resolution was also included in the December 2012 ASA Newsletter distributed to all ASA members.

In March of 2013, the Program Committee for the 2013 ASA convention met and discussed ways to create opportunities at the meeting to discuss issues related to calls for boycott. The resulting program included 8 sessions on “Middle East American Studies,” with four focused specifically on United States/Israel/Palestine. At the same time the Ethnic Studies Committee organized two panels about settler colonialism that discussed the Israeli occupation of Palestine, while the ACAC organized a panel called “Boycott as a Non-Violent Strategy of Collective Dissent.”

In May 2013 the Executive Committee met and discussed the proposed resolution submitted by the ACAC at great length. It agreed that it would be in the best interest of the organization to solicit from the membership as many perspectives as possible on the proposed resolution to aid the National Council in its discussions and decision-making. With the past President and a prominent, senior member of the Association serving as moderators, it held an open session during the November National Convention at which the National Council was present to hear directly from the membership. Members were notified of the open discussion well in advance of the convention and it was highlighted as a featured event in both online and print versions of the program. Additionally, members who could not attend the session or the convention were encouraged to contact the EC directly via email, and many did so.  

The Saturday November 23rd open discussion was attended by approximately 745 ASA members. Members distributed information about the boycott in advance, and the hall was filled with leaflets representing different views. The moderators carefully and clearly articulated the different actions that could be taken and the process for deliberation. To guarantee an orderly and fair discussion members who wished to speak put their name in a box from which speakers were randomly selected. Speakers were limited to 2 minutes, providing the opportunity to hear from forty-four different speakers during the time allotted for the special session. The discussion was passionate but respectful.  Speakers included students, faculty, past Presidents, former members of the National Council, former and current members of the AQ editorial staff, American Studies department chairs, and an ASA member also representing the organization Jewish Voice for Peace. While different opinions were articulated, the overwhelming majority spoke in support of the ASA endorsing an academic boycott.

Remaining in session over the course of 8 days after the open session, Council members spoke and wrote from different perspectives, debated different possibilities, and critically yet generously engaged each other. The resulting resolution reflects, we think, the history and present state of conversations within the ASA, offering a principled position for the Association’s participation in the academic boycott of Israeli academic institutions while respecting the unique conditions and diverse positions of our membership on this issue.

In the last several decades, the ASA has welcomed scholarship that critically analyzes the U.S. state, its role domestically and abroad, and that reaches out beyond U.S. borders. Our commitment to cutting-edge and transnational scholarship has been accompanied by the comparative study of borders, migration, and citizenship. The ASA also has a history of critical engagement with the field of Native American and Indigenous studies that has increasingly come to shape and influence the field and the Association, and the Council acknowledged the force of Israeli and U.S. settler colonialism throughout our deliberations. Finally, the resolution is in keeping with the ASA’s continuing commitment to ethical research and the right of scholars to dissent and to take public positions.

The Council believes that the resolution is of particular significance to scholars of American Studies. Together, we endorse it, and recommend that ASA members endorse it as well.

The ASA National Council

Jennifer Devere Brody, Stanford University 
Ann Cvetkovich, University of Texas, Austin 
Jeremy Dean. University of Texas, Austin 
Lisa Duggan, New York University 
Avery Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara 
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University 
E. Patrick Johnson, Northwestern University 
J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University 
Marisol LeBrón, New York University 
Karen Leong, Arizona State University 
Sunaina Maira, University of California, Davis 
Martin F. Manalansan IV, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign 
Curtis Marez, University of California, San Diego 
Roya Rastegar, Bryn Mawr College 
Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle 
Juana María Rodríguez, University of California, Berkeley 
María Josefina Saldaña-Portillo, New York University 
Nikhil Pal Singh, New York University

Due to a family emergency, Juri Abe, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan, was not present for the National Council meeting where the resolution was passed. 

Follow the American Studies Association on Facebook

Here are a number of links that have come out about the resolution thus far:

Steven Salaita’s “Why the ASA’s Israel Boycott Won”

Alex Lubin’s “Breaking ‘America’s Last Taboo’”

Benjamin Doherty’s “In a Surprise Move, Opponent Votes to Endorse ASA’s Israel Boycott”

Philip Weiss’s “ASA’s Members Vote 2-1 for Academic Boycott of Israel”

Omar Barghouti’s “On Academic Freedom and the BDS Movement”

Alex Kane’s “American Studies Association National Council Endorses Boycott of Israel”

Lena Ibrahim’s “What Happened There Was Historic: A Report from the American Studies Association Boycott Debate”

Adam Horowitz’s “In Response to ASA Boycott Vote, Lawrence Summers Calls Boycotts ‘Abhorrent’ and then Calls for Boycott of ASA”

Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine’s “Students Support the American Studies Association Boycott Resolution”

Judith Butler’s “Academic Freedom and the ASA’s Boycott of Israel: A Response to Michelle Goldberg”

Native American and Indigenous Studies Association’s “Declaration of Support for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions”

Keith Feldman’s “Fragments from the Breach: On Anti-Racism, American Studies, and the Question of Palestine”

Philip Weiss’s “Butler: ASA Boycott Resolution Pressures Israeli and U.S. Institutions Supporting Occupation”

Alex Kane’s “Former Israeli Ambassador Calls for Legislation to Impose ‘Penalties’ on Promoters of Academic Boycott”

Harriet Sherwood’s “Major U.S. Academic Body Backs Boycott of Israeli Educational Institutions”

Nora Barrows-Friedman’s “Steven Saialta on How the ASA Boycott Vote Shifts the Rules for Engaging on Palestine”

Steven Salaita’s “Why Logical People Should Oppose the ASA Israel Boycott”

Eric Cheyfitz’s “Why I Support the Academic Boycott of Israel”

Toshio Meronek’s “Palestinian Activism Grows at U.S. Universities”

Eliza Collins’s “U.S. Professors Vote to Endorse Israeli Academic Boycott”

Elizabeth Redden’s “Backing the Israel Boycott”

Richard Pérez-Peña’s “Scholars’ Group to Disclose Result of Vote on an Academic Boycott of Israel”

Yousef Munayyer’s “Boycott a Sting to Israeli Apartheid”

Note to “The Hindu”: There is a Cultural Boycott of Israel.

As soon as I finished yesterday’s blog post, I returned home to unwind while reading the Sunday newspaper with a cup of tea. I turned to the culture pages first where I found an interview with Israeli filmmaker Amos Gitai who was apparently in India for the Kolkata International Film Festival. Apparently, the folks in Kolkata are not aware that there is a cultural boycott of Israel in India. This interview, by Anuj Kumar, as with all other articles about Israeli “culture,” treats Gitai as if he were a normal filmmaker from a normal country. Although Kumar gestures towards the Israeli colonization of Palestine by asking Gitai about hiring Palestinian actors, he seems to be completely oblivious to the conditions that Palestinians endure whether in the film industry or life.

Here are some reminders why the cultural boycott is necessary, first from Ben White:

Culture does not operate in some special, apolitical space – just like academic institutions in Israel are also not removed from complicity in systematic human rights abuses. As the Habima general manager put it, the invitation by The Globe is an “honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel in general”.

Furthermore, the Israeli government and advocacy groups are deliberately seeking to use culture as a means of ‘rebranding’ a country increasingly linked in the pubic imagination to its crimes against the Palestinians.

Likewise filmmaker Ken Loach expresses his support for the cultural boycott of Israel:

First of all you are a citizen, a human being. When you are confronted by such crimes you have to respond as a human being, regardless of if you are an artist, a VIP or whatever. First of all you have to respond and do what you can to bring this to people’s attention. A boycott is a tactic. It is effective against Israel because Israel presents itself as a cultural beacon. It is therefore very susceptible to cultural boycott. We should not have anything to do with projects that are supported by the State of Israel. Individuals are not concerned; we have to concentrate on the actions of the Israeli State. That is what we have to target. We target it because you cannot just stand by and watch people live their lives in refugee camps forever.

Finally, here is a succinct response by the national boycott committee in Palestine addressing those who would rather be independent than join the call to boycott:

Some artists argue that, instead of boycotting, they prefer to visit Israel and use the performance opportunity to express their views against Israeli injustices. This ostensibly noble idea is not only — unfortunately — too rare to be viewed as significant; it is ill conceived. Such a hypothetically courageous stance cannot possibly outdo or neutralize the far more substantial harm done due to these performances taking place, as Israel, with its formidable influence in mainstream Western media, cynically uses them to project a false image of normalcy that enables it to maintain its occupation and apartheid.  Ultimately, a conscientious artist is expected to heed the appeals of the oppressed as to what they really need from them in the struggle to end injustice and colonial oppression. This was true in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, too.

Comparing Malls

The first time I went to Ejipura and witnessed the displacement of the Dalit community by Maverick Holdings in collusion with the BBMP (Bangalore’s municipal authority), I couldn’t help compare the situation to what I have witnessed in Palestine. Recently UNRWA published a series of statistics on how Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes affects Palestinians (see a few of the charts below). Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.39 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.50 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-13 at 6.46.58 PMIn Palestine having Israelis bulldoze your home is quotidian.

It is rare to read news sources that monitor this, like al-Akhbar or Electronic Intifada, on any given day and not see news about home demolitions. It is a part of the ongoing nakba. Just this week al-Akhbar reported of two Palestinian homes being demolished in the West Bank. Here is a video of this most recent demolition. It looks quite similar to the demolitions taking place here in Bangalore.

Just as Palestinians steadfastly work toward their goal of returning home, and increasingly use boycott as a tactic to achieve this result, increasingly the residents of Ejipura are as well. In Ejipura this week there was a protest and there is a desire to boycott Garuda Mall as a strategy to achieve justice for the people so they may be granted the replacement homes they were promised by their government.

The root of the problem and the context differ, of course. In Palestine it is colonists uprooting indigenous people to steal land and build their colonies. Just this week 90 new homes have been approved for building in Jerusalem (for those who think that 50% of Jerusalem belongs to Jewish colonists this is what you call “East Jerusalem,” although for those who are anti-colonial Jerusalem has no dividing line). In 1948 Palestine the ongoing nakba continues as Israel continues to cleanse itself of Palestinians, especially in the Naqab (Negev) desert in the southern portion of the state.

But all of uprooting for the sake of a mall made me recall one of my dear friends’ villages, Malha, which is a neighborhood of Jerusalem. My friend is a refugee, although many of the original homes and a mosque (which seems to be used as a house by an Israeli Jewish colonist) remain. But on this land is also a large shopping mall.  Her uprooting was not for the creation of the mall, but its presence on her family’s land is disturbing nevertheless. Below are photographs I took of the mall as well as the beautiful, traditional stone Palestinian homes.

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It may not be the same cause or the same context, but uprooting and homelessness whether for a land grab or a shopping center is immoral and must be resisted via boycott or other means necessary to achieve justice.

Here are a few more recent articles on Ejipura:

Ejipura Demolition: Hundreds of Protestors Court Arrest

Photostory: Ejipura Bulldozed

Maverick’s Project in Bangalore: Il-legalizing the Poor

Of a City of Pieces and the Importance of the Larger Community

The Relativity of Gratitude

Violence Continues Against EWS Residents, Activists Say

G4S in India

 

 

 

So far I have seen three G4S offices in Bangalore alone. I have also seen their cars driving around the city. When I was in Darjeeling recently, I discovered that they also ran security for the Darjeeling zoo. They seem to operate as an ordinary security company, but they are anything but ordinary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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At present there is a campaign to vote for G4S as the worst company in the world. There are many reasons for this, but the main points of interest are related to G4S role in maintaining Israel’s colonization and occupation of Palestine, particularly its prisons, apartheid wall, and checkpoints. Writing for Electronic Intifada, Adri Nieuwhof explains their role:

The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”

G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not  “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”

In a follow up article, in part responding to G4S concerns about the claims made in the above-quoted article, Nieuwhof adds more details about G4S involvement in oppressing Palestinians for Israelis:

In the brochure, published by the Danish watchdog DanWatch, G4S describes the supply of a perimeter defense system for the walls around the Ofer prison compound and the installation of a central command room to monitor the entire Ofer compound. In addition, the company writes it also provided all the security systems in Ketziot prison and a central command room in Megiddo prison (G4S delivers technology to Israeli prisons,” DanWatch, 21 November 2010).

G4S boasts that the three prisons can detain 2,700-3,700 “security” prisoners — the majority of whom are Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip illegally transferred to detention centers within Israel’s internationally-recognized boundary. International humanitarian law forbids an occupying power from transferring prisoners outside of the occupied territory and the conditions in Israeli prisons do not meet international legal standards. Accordingly, G4S’s involvement in the Israel Prison Service apparatus abets violations of international law.

G4S’s promotional material contradicts its claim that it does not know where its X-ray machines and body scanners are used. Who Profits? — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — has also documented that G4S luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners are used at checkpoints in the occupied West Bank towns of Qalandiya, Bethlehem and Irtah. G4S also provided full body scanners to the Erez checkpoint at Gaza. Who Profits? told The Electronic Intifada that this information is published in G4S’s own website and brochures.

Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on  human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, highlighted G4S role in maintaining Israeli apartheid in his report on various corporations that profit off of Palestinian suffering.

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As a result of these findings, BDS activists have been working to target G4S in various ways. And in 2012 there were several success:

The British firm Good Energy announced that it would end its business relationship with G4S, the private security giant with a track record of complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses.

After sustained media attention and pressure from BDS activists, several Danish charities and a bank decided to end security service contracts with the British-Danish security company G4S for the company’s role in Israel’s occupation.

The University of Oslo in Norway announced it would drop its contract with private security company G4S in July 2013 over the company’s involvement with Israeli prisons and its providing of services and equipment to checkpoints, Israel’s wall in the West Bank, settlement and settlement businesses.

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One of my favorite actions targeting G4S last year was one done in London during the Israeli bombardment of Gaza.

Michael Deas’ report on the action in the above video offers inspiration to those wanting to take action based on others who have been fighting G4S:

Danish bank, several major Danish NGOs and a UK energy supplier have all dropped their links with G4S after pressure from campaigners. The EU declined to renew a contract with G4S following a campaign supported by members of the European Parliament. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway are campaigning for the university not to renew its contract with the security company when it expires in February 2014.

For those who want to read a detailed report about G4S role in Palestine, Who Profits published a report on the subject.

BDS is new in India, but it is growing especially among cultural workers and academics. I hope that it soon spreads to the economic sector, especially targeting multinational corporations like G4S.

Sounds of Deepawali, Sounds of Gaza

Last week was Deepawali or Diwali for short. A simplified explanation of the holiday is that is a festival of lights.  But one cannot have lights without sound especially given the fact that this holiday is celebrated with firecrackers and fireworks. If I had thought about it in advance, I would have recorded the sounds, especially as I experienced them on a brief auto rickshaw trip in which the driver had to dodge children lighting various explosives in the streets. Like a lot of sounds in Bangalore, especially traffic, they are constant and quite loud. And even government officials attempted to intervene in lessening the noise pollution. I let off a few firecrackers for the first time in my life in spite of my trepidation. But the sounds of Diwali–which lasted for three days–reminded me of other places and times.

The sound of fireworks and firecrackers sound just like bombs and gunfire to me. I can’t help it. The sounds are indistinguishable for me. So as much as I enjoyed the way they look when they are lit up, in the back of my mind it conjured up less pleasant memories of Palestine and Lebanon.

It is a week later, and although I’m miles away, the sounds of Israel’s latest bombardment of Gaza are the only sounds I am imagining even though I know that sound is far worse and, of course, has lethal effects. Rana Baker had the foresight to record some of those sounds  of what it is like in Gaza right now.

It seems like deja vu–as if it is 2008 again. Of course so much has changed since then, but then again so much has not, which Haidar Eid writes about lucidly, especially in light of the Arab uprisings. For those who are unaware of what happened and how it all began, Ali Abunimah has a timeline that clearly illustrates how Israel broke its truce with Gaza and began its latest escalation. You can also see Abunimah on Al Jazeera explaining this timeline to a rather ill-informed interviewer:

This new war is, in many ways, an ongoing one as anyone who monitors Palestine knows. Gaza, in particular, has been kept on a “diet,” as Sherene Seikaly points out in Jadaliyya. As before, too, the language coming from the Zionist regime spans the gamut from calling for a holocaust to “flattening” Gaza like Hiroshima. Even a local paper in Bangalore had a headline yesterday about Israel bombing Gaza back to the Middle Ages.

This time it is more difficult as I am so far away from Palestine. Although during the last war, even though I was in Nablus, I might as well have been in India given how far removed we were from the people with no ability to connect with them in any way other than phone calls and email. And the one protest I know of in India happened in Delhi today, miles away from Bangalore. But the media here, especially English language media, is focused on so many more local issues, many of which are equally disturbing and troubling. And the international media available here is anything but helpful, spewing as it does Israeli propaganda at every turn. And still my heart and my mind are occupied with Gaza hoping that the fruits of the Arab uprisings make a difference this time.

For those who wish to do something, as always, BDS is the way to go. The Boycott National Committee created a handy sheet about 5 ways you can effectively support Gaza through BDS.

Also see: the Guardian‘s interactive map on Gaza

Shahad Abusalama’s blog, which is keeping track of Palestinian casualties in Gaza

IMEMU’s fact sheet on Gaza and Israel’s policies towards Gaza

A Bit of Beirut in Bangalore

One of the first things I noticed driving around Bangalore is the way in which all the foreign-owned shops resemble those one would find in Hamra. In particular, the store Vero Modo/Jack Jones, since the time I first moved to Beirut in 2006, multiplied like rabbits along Hamra Street. It isn’t that bad here yet, but here is what one creative genius imagined Hamra Street might look like in the future if things continue at this pace. I hope it is not what is in store for Bangalore.

Below are more photographs of more foreign shops that one can find in Bangalore and in Beirut. Most were taken at high-end malls. The set of interior/night time shots were taken at a place called UB City, which used to be a brewery factory. But it was transformed into this luxury mall that reminds me of Solidere in Beirut a great deal. In some ways it is even worse in the sense that it is structurally inhibiting and challenging for people to just wander in and walk around. Thus, it keeps out people for whom the mall is out of their league. It also reminded me quite a bit of the malls in Las Vegas. Anyone wanting excellent context for the damage that Solidere caused to Beirut society should read Saree Makdisi’s article on the topic. I cannot find a similar kind of analysis of UB City or the gentrification of Bangalore. However, the article below hints at some context:

The current joke is that the only buildings to remain unscathed by the onslaught may be Vidhana Soudha, the building that houses the legislature, and UB City, a complex that is a hideous combination of the Empire State Building and Internet kitsch, built by a liquor baron….

The new IT prosperity has created a young, energetic, educated, and wealthy working class, transforming Bangalore into a consumer’s paradise of shopping malls and office complexes with glass-fronted exteriors. The insatiable demand for “good English” has renewed the anxiety that Kannada may die out in the city.

The scary part of what is written above is not only the bit about gentrification and the way it changes the urban landscape. (I’m reading Sarah Schulman’s brilliant The Gentrification of the Mind at present and offers interesting ways to connect the methods of gentrifying urban and mental landscapes.) I’ve been collecting photographs on Kannada architecture that shows how the outskirts of Bangalore have shifted from village to city; I’ll post those soon. But I am equally worried about the dangers of a people losing their language, especially to the imperial language of English. I saw an interesting film this past weekend that touches on some of these themes. The film, English Vinglish, features a protagonist who is ridiculed by her family for not knowing the English language. Here is a trailer:

My favorite scene in the above clip is when she goes to pick up her American visa and the American sitting behind the counter asks how she’ll survive in the U.S. without knowing English; the retort by his colleague is brilliant (at the end of the clip): “the same way you survive in our country without learning Hindi.”

One last piece of Bangalore that, unfortunately, resembles Beirut. It is the presence of G4S, which I saw this morning for the first time. Here is a bit about what G4S is and why there is a boycott campaign against them:

G4S is a British-Danish private security company that provides services and equipment to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, the Apartheid Wall and the Israeli police.

In 2007, G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems and other services for major Israeli prisons. G4S provides systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel. Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.

In Beirut I see G4S everywhere from the security at office buildings to friends’ apartments. Here is a bit about their role in Lebanon:

The scale of the work G4S do in Lebanon is unclear, with even Bawab saying he didn’t know exactly what they did in the country. But the head of a rival private security firm says they have “a couple of hundred guys” in the country, and it is not uncommon to see men in clothes with the company’s logo guarding private companies in Beirut’s Hamra.

Al-Akhbar discovered that the firm carried out a security review for the country’s preeminent university, the American University of Beirut. The 60-page confidential document details potential improvements that could be made to security and recommends that G4S operatives take over the running of the university’s security.

California Travels

For the past  couple of weeks I’ve been traveling across my home state of California. Because I was on the train between Berkeley and Los Angeles I had a lot of time to look out the window and think about the land I was traveling through. The first thoughts that entered my mind were about the indigenous peoples whose land was stolen in order to create all the settlements, military bases, universities, etc. One can begin learning about the history of indigenous California here.

I was also thinking about more recent history because I spent most of my train ride reading Mike Davis’ City of Quartz. After spending so much time studying the Arab World, I’m learning about the history of where I come from, Los Angeles, California. Davis’ book is amazing because it gives so much context to things I only heard about or partially understood growing up. I also watched Gregory Nava’s brilliant film El Norte again, which shows the challenges and the push factors compelling people to leave their land and labor in the U.S. (see trailer below). Apparently there is a new documentary called Harvest of Empire detailing these push factors. One thing is for sure, the economy here, and in most of the U.S. economy would not function without people willing to do all the difficult, dirty work that the majority of Americans are unwilling to do.

I thought a lot about the farm land and farmworkers I watched as my train passed by. This was, of course, not hard to do give how much agribusiness is in the heartland of California. It made me think of the Delano Grape Boycott organized by César Chávez throughout much of my childhood. It also made me think of the important ballot initiative in the upcoming election and California’s Proposition 37, which would require food producers to label all GMOs used in their products.

I traveled north for a book event at the Middle East Children’s Alliance, which turned out to be a terrific event. Lots of teachers showed up, which is what I hoped for. But also there were people from various periods of my life–friends from elementary school, from Boise, and various other periods and places in between.

Upon my return there was another hearing for the renewal of the Veolia contract with the Los Angeles city council. This time we spoke before the entire city council (although they seemed infinitely more interested in playing with their phones or reading the newspaper so I doubt they listened). In any case, they voted unanimously to renew the Veolia contract at the beginning of the meeting. We merely spoke to express our opposition to that vote. Prior to our speaking a woman involved in the Los Angeles sister city program was being honored. I had noticed, for the first time, on my walk to City Hall that there is a street sign (see above) indicating all of the sister cities connected to Los Angeles. One of them is Beirut. But another one is Eilat, an Israeli city in occupied Palestine. This is a city that only a month ago was protesting the inclusion of Sudanese children into their schools. Yet another example of the inherent racism of Zionism. While Los Angelenos seem to think it is a problem to fight racism and apartheid in Palestine, it seems that Quakers do not. Quakers not only voted to boycott Veolia, but Hewlitt Packard as well. There are audio reports about the Los Angeles vote and organizing around it which can be listened to here and here.

My second book event at the Levantine Center, with Mark Levine, Antony Loewenstein, and Saree Makdisi took place in Los Angeles at a church near UCLA.   This event was larger, but it included other people. In any case, the discussion was quite interesting on a number of levels, not the least of which were the Iranian Jews in the audience whose heads were so immersed in Zionist propaganda that one woman denied the existence of the murder of Mohammad al-Durra and the massacre in Jenin refugee camp–two events that I discuss in my book, actually. Of course, it sounded exactly like Nazi holocaust denial, which is what I said to the woman. The event was filmed so if it becomes available I will post it.

Los Angeles City Council Transportation Committee Votes to Stand with #Veolia and Israeli Apartheid #BDS

Today I entered the halls of city hall in Los Angeles, I think, for the first time. It is entirely possible I was there when I was young and cannot recall the memory. It’s funny to me because although I am a Los Angeleno, I came of age in Ohio and my activism really began there. I often go to protests and demonstrations when I’m home, but I’ve never gone to speak before city council here as I used to do in Cincinnati, for instance, when I was actively fighting against the homophobic Issue 3.

It felt a bit daunting, perhaps, because I know that this space where I signed up to speak was a place where my grandmother, Marian Gibbons, founder of Hollywood Heritage, spoke so many times before. In fact, as I sat there in the transportation committee’s meeting space, thinking about what I would say when I addressed them, I noticed a man whose face, and eventually, name I began to recognize. He spoke at my grandmother’s funeral. Tom LaBonge has been working in Los Angeles city politics for ages and he worked with my grandmother at some point, but I cannot recall exactly what they did together.

I decided that I’d try to speak to this relationship somehow instead of addressing the same old points about boycotting Veolia, the transportation company that Los Angeles is working to renew a contract with. Everyone else (there were 33 speakers asking to dump this contract and 5 speakers seeking to maintain it) addressed the usual points. I talked about my grandmother’s history as an activist preserving and resuscitating Hollywood, which inevitably provided me with an model for how to be an activist, albeit in a different context. But while my grandma saved and renovated historic landmarks, I fight for human rights–for Palestinians to not be exiled from their lands, for Palestinian homes to not be demolished, for Palestinians to be able to return to their land. At the end of the day just like my grandma fought destruction of something that was valuable to her, I support Palestinians in their effort to preserve their life, livelihood, and homes. Veolia, the French company I spoke against today, profits off the destruction of Palestinian homes and livelihoods by creating and maintaining a Jewish-only transportation system connecting Jewish-only colonies.

I may not have been the most persuasive speaker, but at least LaBonge addressed me in his closing remarks, indicating that perhaps he heard what I had to say. In general, it was quite a disappointing meeting. Most of the council members there were either flipping through paperwork (which may or may not be related to what were addressing today) or played on their cell phones. The one who acted like he was listening, Paul  Koretz, although this Jon Lovitz lookalike appeared constipated most of the time, made it expressly clear that he supports Israel. Although he stated this to the room, it was evident a bit before then because when 4 of the 5 Veolia supporters spoke (a team of people from the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles) he let all of them go over the 1 minute time limit without reminding them that they had gone over. Everyone else was interrupted and reminded of that fact.

The speakers (see Uprising radio above video for another example) who addressed the main arguments made some excellent points, especially about this city where I grew up. I’ve been a bit harsh and frustrated with my hometown of late because of the fascist policies the state and the city have been passing. But as a city, I was reminded today, that Los Angeles has often done the right thing. And this was a point that many people drove home today:

* In 1984 Los Angeles was one of the first major cities in the U.S. to divest from South Africa during the apartheid regime

* In 2008 and 2009 Los Angeles’ fire and police commissions terminated relationships with a program run by the Boy Scouts of America because of its explicit discriminatory policies against LGBTQ people

* In 2010 Los Angeles city council voted to boycott Arizona and any companies based there because of Arizona’s draconian anti-immigrant law SB 1070

Moreover, Los Angels city administrative code clearly prohibits the city from contracting with any company whose practices violate the city’s own non-discrimination policies.

But it seems that Los Angeles would want to uphold its moral stance and be consistent. When the question today came up about whether or not it is illegal for the state of California or the city of Los Angeles to boycott Israel, a couple of important response came up (not the least of which is the fact that Veolia is a French, not an Israeli company):

* Nothing in U.S. law or California law prohibits the city of Los Angeles from refusing to do business with Veolia because of its human rights violations in occupied Palestine. A boycott even against Israel or an Israeli company would only be prohibited under the Export Administration Act (EAA) if the specific boycott is initiated by foreign countries, specifically, the official government of a foreign country.

There are many other important points that are specific to Veolia’s violation of international law for its apartheid transportation system in occupied Palestine. Jewish Voice for Peace, which organized today’s protest along with Dump Veolia LA, has a fact sheet where they lay out more reasons why one should boycott Veolia. There is also an article on the Mondoweiss website that details more of these points by some of the people who spoke today.

In the end, we lost. They voted unanimously to continue its contract with Veolia. Unlike Stockholm, Melbourne, Bourdeaux, Dublin, Swansea and the Hague, Los Angeles seems to want to continue its relationship with Veolia in spite of its human rights violations. My grandma, although she had her battles with city hall to be sure, never had to face the seemingly insurmountable Zionist hold on American politics. It’s significantly easier to get Americans, especially in Los Angeles, to be sympathetic about preserving its recent cinematic past.

[UPDATE: Here is the Los Angeles Times report on our action.]

The last time I was in Palestine, in 2009, I took photographs in al Quds (Jerusalem) of the Veolia light rail project that was being built by dividing and destroying various aspects of Palestinian neighborhoods for the sake of the colonial transportation system. Here are some of those photographs: