the backlash & the steadfast

you knew it was coming. it’s always sort of present for people in north america but i feel that it would be less so if more people were braver about speaking out. if more people were willing to take risks in their personal lives to help others who cannot in the same way. it is happening on several fronts. first, in the theatre with lying zionists twisting the truth–the thing they do best–in order to make sure that people think they are the only victim as per jeffrey goldberg about caryl churchill’s new play:

The playwright Caryl Churchill’s new anti-Jewish agitprop play, “Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza,” has opened in London. The details are over at Harry’s Place. Suffice it to say two things: One, this isn’t surprising, given the peculiar attitude of some of the English to the Jews. Two: Just because it’s not surprising doesn’t mean it’s not shocking. The mainstreaming of the worst anti-Jewish stereotypes — for instance, that Jews glory in the shedding of non-Jewish blood — is upon us.

if you want to see for yourself how a play that represents palestinians in a positive way gets twisted into anti-semitism you can download it here. of course this is not the first time new york theatre groups cracked down to censor art representing palestinians–even when it is not about palestinians directly. you can read the transcript on democracy now! about the play my name is rachel corrie being censored to get a sense of how this played out a few years ago.

the other casualty is joel kovel whose contract at bard college has been terminated because of his work to eradicate zionism. here is joel’s statement, in part, including what you can do to help at the bottom:

Bard has effectively crafted for itself an image as a bastion of progressive thought. Its efforts were crowned with being anointed in 2005 by the /Princeton Review /as the second-most progressive college in the United States, the journal adding that Bard “puts the ‘liberal’ in ‘liberal arts.'” But “liberal” thought evidently has its limits; and my work against Zionism has encountered these. A fundamental principle of mine is that the educator must criticize the injustices of the world, whether or not this involves him or her in conflict with the powers that be. The systematic failure of the academy to do so plays no small role in the perpetuation of injustice and state violence. In no sphere of political action does this principle apply more vigorously than with the question of Zionism; and in no country is this issue more strategically important than in the United States, given the fact that United States support is necessary for Israel’s behavior.

The worse this behavior, the more strenuous must be the suppression of criticism. I take the view, then, that Israeli human rights abuses are deeply engrained in a culture of impunity granted chiefly, though not exclusively, in the United States—which culture arises from suppression of debate and open inquiry within those institutions, such as colleges, whose social role it is to enlighten the public. Therefore, if the world stands outraged at Israeli aggression in Gaza, it should also be outraged at institutions in the United States that grant Israel impunity. In my view, Bard College is one such institution. It has suppressed critical engagement with Israel and Zionism, and therefore has enabled abuses such as have occurred and are occurring in Gaza. This notion is of course, not just descriptive of a place like Bard. It is also the context within which the critic of such a place and the Zionist ideology it enables becomes marginalized, and then removed.

For further information: www.codz.org; Joel Kovel, “Overcoming
Impunity,” /The Link/ Jan-March 2009 (www.ameu.org).

To write the Bard administration:

President Leon Botstein <president [at] bard.edu.

Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou

joel’s book is an important one and he needs to be supported. i wish i had the time to lend to him as i did with norman finkelstein when he faced the same sort of situation at depaul a few years ago. joel’s book overcoming zionism is a very important book that is influencing many people and getting them to move away from zionism.

and canadian professors are also facing censorship and repression due to their teaching, research, service related to palestine. yet one more way we can see how academic freedom is pretty much an outmoded idea and nonexistent, particularly in north america. unless you think praise of the terrorist state of israel with no mention of palestinians as a kind of mandate for faculty and students as academic freedom. there is now a petition and statement people may sign:

To sign the open letter send an e-mail to faculty [at] caiaweb.org

Defend Freedom of Speech

Open Letter to university community regarding Palestinian Rights and Canadian Universities

The last two years have seen increasing efforts to limit advocacy of Palestinian rights on Canadian universities, amounting to a pattern of the suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. These include:

* Statements from 19 university presidents in the summer of 2007 to foreclose debate on the academic boycott of Israel, citing “academic freedom”.

* Visits to Israel by eight university presidents in the summer of 2008, with no equivalent outreach to Palestinian institutions.

* Efforts to ban the use of the term “Israeli Apartheid” at McMaster University in February-March 2008, overturned only through a campaign of protest

* Discipline against students involved in peaceful protests for Palestinian rights at York University in March in 2008

* Attempted discipline against a faculty member who addressed a rally against Israeli Apartheid at York University in 2008

* A pattern of cancellation of room bookings for meetings concerning Palestinian rights at the University of Toronto and York University in 2008

* The use of security clearance requirements and fees to cover security costs to impede campus meetings about Palestinian rights

We the undersigned:

* Defend the right to freedom of speech about Palestine for all members of the university community, including freedom to use the term ‘apartheid’ to identify and debate certain policies associated with the state of Israel and the freedom to support, facilitate and participate freely in activities under the rubric of “Israeli apartheid week”

* Call for an end to the silencing of speech around Palestine, removing extraordinary requirements for security clearance and fees for security services

* Support increased ties to Palestinian institutions and scholars, and activities to support the right to education and academic freedom of Palestinians

israeli-apartheid-week-2009-poster

yes, it is apartheid week that time of the year when academics, universities, and zionists of every stripe work extra hard to crack down on those who are off the zionist message of cover ups and lies. and so it is not only faculty who are affected, it is also students in canada who are facing a similar battle:

Restrictions and harassment are experienced by pro-Palestinian activists on most Canadian campuses; this can take many different forms. At York University, for example, the latest tool of repression is the “Student Code of Conduct,” a draconian document that could potentially be used to ban any form of protest. At McMaster, it was in the form of a blanket ban on the use of the term “Israeli apartheid.” The University of Toronto (UofT) has seen a broad range of tactics being used against student organizers, but it seems that the administration has decided to focus its effort on combating pro-Palestinian activism through an old-new tool: denial of space for meeting and holding events.

Securing space for student activists at UofT has always been a hard task for student organizations. But it seems that the University has shifted its tactics from mounting bureaucratic obstacles and technical hurdles, to outright denial of the right to book space. UofT seems to have declared a full fledged war against its Palestinian and pro-Palestinian students. Most recently, this came in the form of denying room bookings for a conference planned by Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), a student group and action group of the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), in October 2008.

SAIA, along with student groups at York University and other campuses, had planned a student conference, entitled “Standing Against Apartheid: Building Cross-Campus Solidarity with Palestine,” for the first weekend of October 2008. The conference was meant to strengthen the student movement against Israeli apartheid, and to share strategies for the future, including planning the annual Israeli Apartheid Week.

margaret aziza pappano offers some analysis of the situation facing canadian professors and students alike:

While most academics would agree that a university should be a place where critical debate is fostered, what is academic freedom when the freedom to attend classes without being bombed isn’t even assured? Academic freedom falters it seems when it comes to Palestine, whether in the Middle East or in North America. Not only is there no realizable academic freedom for Palestinians, but also, even in North America, students and faculty raising critical viewpoints about Israel find themselves muffled, accused of anti-Semitism, threatened with disciplinary action, or, in the case of former Depaul University professor, Norman Finkelstein, out of a job entirely.

In Canada, the annual educational event known at “Israeli Apartheid week,” held on university campuses, has faced repeated attempts to suppress it. What justification can be found to block an event in which scholars and activists speak about the history of the region, with a focus on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, information that is taught in history and political science classes and available in books published by university presses? Yet, 125 University of Toronto faculty members signed a letter, published in the National Post, in which they “request[ed] that the administration stop this hateful and divisive event from returning to our University.”

More worrisome, however, is that the administration on some campuses has actually endeavoured to comply, a trend that should alarm anyone who cares about the integrity of their university. In February of last year, the McMaster University administration attempted to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid” by Student Union clubs on campus, including “activities promoted under the banner, ‘Israeli Apartheid Week.’” It was only after a concerted protest and huge rally that the administration backed down from what would likely have been an illegal action anyway.

This year’s event has been marked by a similar action at Carleton University. The Israeli Apartheid week poster was banned by the university’s Equity Services because of its graphic, a drawing of an Israeli bomb being dropped on a child, who is labeled “Gaza.” The SAIA (Students Against Israeli Apartheid) chapter was informed that the “image could be seen to incite others to infringe rights protected in the Ontario human rights code.” The interim Provost and Vice President of Carleton, Feridun Hamdullahpur, circulated a letter to the entire Carleton community in which he threatened indefinite expulsion for anyone contravening the code; although vaguely worded, the letter alludes to “harassment and intolerance which can take the form of inappropriately challenging or questioning a person’s race or beliefs.” One has to wonder how this stock anti-war graphic can be seen as “inappropriate,” unless Carleton is concerned to protect Israel’s image rather than the rights of its students to free expression.

York University and the University of Toronto have both witnessed similar attempts to harass students and faculty expressing advocacy for Palestinian rights.

for those who are wanting to organize apartheid week on their campuses here is a new trailer for this year’s activities:

in the united states, the new york university students aborted their campaign early and their most recent post on their blog reads, in part, as follows:

However, we also recognize that our occupation was not a full success. When we succeeded, we did so because the passion of our movement shone through the smoke and mirrors cast by the NYU administration. When we failed it was only because we underestimated the lengths NYU will go to in order to deter any real criticism of its policies.

The administration demonstrated their steadfast commitment to ignoring its students. Members of Take Back NYU! didn’t even see the face of NYU negotiator Lynne Brown until 26 hours into the occupation. Throughout, the administration only gave disingenuous offers of discussion without negotiation, which the students readily rejected. NYU’s refusal to negotiate contrasts sharply with good-faith negotiations made by other universities during similar occupations.

We believe that our occupation gave NYU the opportunity to become a leader among universities and to build our community around strong commitments to democracy, transparency and respect for human rights. Instead, NYU said ‘pass’ and chose to stick to its narrow interests at the expense of genuine discussion.

In the course of defending its secrets, NYU put students and its security guards at risk by encouraging the use of physical force to end a non-violent protest. NYPD officers used billy-clubs and mace against demonstrators outside the building. These acts of aggression have gone unmentioned and unquestioned in the course of NYU’s handling of the occupation.

This protest is just a beginning to what is to come. The action made national and international news, and showcased the real power of the new student movement sweeping the globe. Here in New York, a City Council member, Charles Barron, has publicly endorsed our campaign and shamed the University for its mishandling of student protest. Actions at universities around the city will continue in the weeks to come.

students at hampshire college are, of course, also facing pressure from the zionist police watchdogs, though are not bending to their will quite so easily as the students at nyu:

UNDER PRESSURE from pro-Israel apologists led by Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, administrators at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., issued a “statement of clarification” about the recent decision to divest from six corporations that profited from and supported Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.

But student activists aren’t going to quietly accept Hampshire’s shameful attempt to wriggle out of a decision the college should be proud of.

Members of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Hampshire announced in a February 12 press release that they had succeeded in pressuring Hampshire’s board of trustees to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Palestinians and their supporters around the world, including Noam Chomsky, Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire, Howard Zinn and former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, greeted the news with joy.

“This is a monumental and historic step in the struggle for Palestinian equality, self- determination and peace in the Holy Land by nonviolent means,” wrote Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a leader in the struggle against South African apartheid, in a message of support sent to members of Hampshire SJP.

“I see what these students have accomplished as a replica of the support of their college of our struggle against apartheid in South Africa,” he continued, in reference to Hampshire’s place of prestige as the first institution of higher education to divest from South Africa. “Hampshire College’s decision to divest should be a guiding example to all institutions of higher learning.”

But within hours of SJP’s announcement, the pro-Israel counteroffensive began. Dershowitz, a virulent supporter of Israel, called Matan Cohen and Brian Van Slyke, two members of SJP, to threaten an international campaign to divest from Hampshire College–a threat that carries some sting for Hampshire, which is a small institution with a history of financial difficulties.

Dershowitz is notorious for his relentless personal and professional attacks on those who speak out against Israel’s crimes. In 2007, for example, Norman Finkelstein, a renowned scholar and an outspoken critic of Israel’s policies, was denied tenure at DePaul University after Dershowitz put pressure on faculty and the administration.

perhaps if the nyu students followed the example of the students at hampshire or their colleagues on the other side of the atlantic ocean they would have seen what happens when you remain steadfast as was the case with strathclyde university:

GLASGOW, February 21 – Students at Strathclyde University won the vote on Thursday to cut the university’s ties with arms manufacturer BAE Systems which supplied components used by the Israeli military in the recent massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.

Students win majority support in historic AGM

The vote, which took place in relation to a motion submitted by a group of students to their Union’s General Meeting (AGM) – the student’s highest decision-making body – won with an overwhelming majority of the over 200 students who queued in the union’s corridors and stairs to participate in the event. Such a high student attendance had been unprecedented in any previous AGM, most of which failed in the past 10 years to even reach quorum.

Despite attempts by the Union’s administration to dilute the substance of the motion and have it voted upon by the conservative Student Representative Council (SRC) – who had already rejected a similar popular motion two years earlier given the uncomfortable position it placed the University vis-à-vis its corporate funders – the fervent group of passionate students were successful in galvanising sufficient support amongst their fellows to turn the motion into student policy.

Within just a couple of weeks from occupying the McCance Building – heart of the University’s administration – the original 60 students involved in the occupation have already gained the support of a sizable number of their fellow students.

Occupation encourages University to take action

With the national media reporting on the new wave of student activism, and with regular updates being posted on occupation.org, the official site centralising information about UK universities in occupation, the Strathclyde student group has been able to spread its message and influence far beyond the university’s walls.

Within hours of starting the peaceful occupation, messages of support were flowing in from students across the UK, and around the world, with some touching declarations of solidarity received directly from Palestinian students closely monitoring the students’ activities.

What followed was a series of exhausting negotiations between the students and the University’s Principle and Secretary to ensure that the occupation would deliver more than just a message of solidarity to the people of Palestine.

By the end of the second day of the occupation, the students achieved a remarkable victory when the Principle agreed to end with immediate effect the university’s purchasing contract with the water-supplying company Eden Springs – whose Israeli-owned parent company has been found to be operating commercial activities in breach of international law within the Occupied Territories.

Following the recent bombings of Palestinian universities by the Israeli army, the Principle also agreed to make 3 scholarships available to Palestinian students from Gaza, pledging to incite other Scottish universities to follow suit and possibly pull resources together for the creation of a Scottish-wide fund.

University denies major R&D funding from the arms industry

As part of the occupation, students also requested that the University cut its ties with the arms industry after discovering that major research contracts were underway between the university’s engineering department and BAE Systems – the UK’s largest arms manufacturer and supplier to the Israeli army of components used in the targeting systems of F-16 fighter-bombers responsible for the killing of Palestinian civilians, including children and women.

Data acquired through Freedom of Information (FoI) requests submitted to the University last year by Strathclyde student and prominent Scottish political figure Tommy Sheridan, revealed that BAE systems invested £7.8 million between 2000 and 2007 in joint research projects with the University’s engineering department. FoIs also revealed that several other companies involved in the arms trade, including BAe subsidiaries, had ties with the University’s research departments – with many of the contracts still under way.

Peter West, Secretary of the University, denied the allegations and confirmed only the existence of one contract between the University and BAE Systems for a total of £5000.

University is to look for alternative and ethical sources of funding

The students will now proceed with the submission of a series of FoIs to the university to verify the exact scale of current investments channelled into the University’s research labs by the arms industry.

Meanwhile, some engineering students at Strathclyde fear that the dissolution of the university’s ties with BAE Systems will impact negatively on the department and their career prospects.

In order to allay these fears, a number of their fellow engineering students supporting the occupation are now encouraging a debate within the department to look at possible alternative channels of funding from non-lethal industries, including green and civil technologies.

students at st. andrews university are now occupying their campus and i hope they can remain steadfast and remain committed to the ideals they set forth in their demands:

Specifically we demand that the university:

1) Immediately suspends and pledges not to renew its contract with Eden Springs, the Israeli water company which illegally steals water from the Golan Heights. It is not enough that this contract run out this year, it must be cancelled now.

2) Puts in place a review process with the aim of suspending all ties to organisations that are publicly known to supply the Israeli military. This would specifically include:

a) Cutting all ties to BAE Systems, which provides sub-systems/components for Israeli F-16 fighter aircraft. These ties would include BAE funding of research projects at St Andrews University, industrial placements at BAE Systems as part of degrees at the University, and the hosting of any representatives of BAE Systems as part of events at the University;

b) Cutting the University’s ties with the Systems Engineering for Autonomous Systems Defence Technology Centre (SEAS-DTC), a Ministry of Defence-funded organisation designed to foster collaboration between military industry and academia. Both BAE Systems and Smiths Group are members of this organisation; in addition to BAE’s links with Israel, Smiths Group also provides Israel’s military with F-16 components;

c) Cutting all ties to the British Government’s military apparatus. Britain has consistently provided Israel with arms and military equipment, and Israeli military officials have attested to the importance of the essential items provided by Britain. The University’s ties include military research projects conducted at St Andrews and funded by, among others, the Ministry of Defence and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory;

d) Establishing an ethics committee with the responsibility of ensuring that the University of St Andrews does not accept any income in the future from organisations linked to the Israeli military.

3) Sets up a scholarship program for Palestinian Students and commits to a minimum of 10 scholarships. This would send out an important symbolic message that we will not turn a blind eye to the Palestinian students who are unable to study because of the attacks on educational infrastructure and constant state of terror which prevents students from attending university.

4) Organizes a collection on campus, including a broadcasting of the DEC appeal, for aid for Gaza, makes available non-monetary aid such as course books, desks etc. and also establishes links with the Islamic University of Gaza in order to find out how it might aid with reconstruction.

5) Following the letter signed by fifty medical students, that Bute Medical School provides medical aid for Palestine in the form of medical equipment and drugs and through supporting organizations such as medical aid for Palestine (supported by Medsin).

in the consumer sector one thing which may be backlash was a story the other day that sounded promising: a coop supermarket boycotting israeli terrorist goods:

The 15,000 member food co-op in Park Slope is considering a ban on Israeli products because of the conflict in the Mideast. Officials there are now debating making an international statement after a member’s proposal to take a symbolic stand against Israel.

So far the co-op staff has identified just four products from Israel, but they say it’s possible there are others out of the 10,000 products offered at the co-op.

but apparently this story was too good to be true…:

For the record: The Park Slope Food Co-op is NOT considering a ban on Israeli-made or -grown products.

This myth, reported around the globe by the Jewish Forward and dozens of blogs that seem to regard the 16,000-member supermarket as some kind of anti-Israel committee rather than a great place for produce, evolved from a stray comment at an open meeting in January, when a Co-op member who identified herself only as Hima inquired about whether the Co-op sells Israeli products.

but there are still those who are keeping the pressure on in various ways, for instance those protesting the exhibition planned at a british museum of israeli terrorist “scientific achievements” as reported on press tv:

and egyptian workers are also organizing against jordanian complicity in their normalizing with israeli terrorists:

In an unprecedented action, the first following the recent Israeli war on Gaza, workers of an Egyptian Fertilizers Company in Suez protested on Saturday February 7th against the export of fertilizers to Israel.

The Fertilizers Egyptian Company is owned by Sawiris family, Naguib Sawiris ranks 62 in Forbes’ world’s richest list, while his father Onsi ranks 96 and his brother Nassif ranks 226, under the name Orascom construction company. Fertilizers Egyptian Company signed an agreement to export 1000 tons of phosphate fertilizer to Israel, at a rate of 100 tons per week. An estimated 800 Egyptians work at this factory.

Two days prior to the protest, workers were surprised by a request from the administration to process an order of unmarked bags that will be transferred by Jordanian trucks to an undisclosed location. As a result, about 100 workers went on strike and refused to process the order because they believed, rightly, that the cargo will travel to Israel.

When the company administration learned about the situation, they broke the strike by threatening the workers of dismissal and deducted 15 days of salary from all workers at the company.

In Egypt things are changing very fast, especially in the last three years, solidarity movements with Palestine and labour movements are taking more and more actions against the Egyptian regime in solidarity with Palestine and also for labour rights in Egypt.

it is worth looking at jeff handmaker’s recap of recent bds achievements in electronic intifada:

* A growing number of politicians in Europe and North America have put forward uncomfortable, probing questions to their governments and clearly want to do more. One example is the “Break the Silence” campaign within the Dutch Labor Party.

* Numerous letters and opinion pieces have been published by prominent figures in major national newspapers, including statement by prominent lawyers and professors published by The Sunday Times on 11 January 2009.

* The global “Derail Veolia” campaign has grown in leaps and bounds. An important success was the decision by the Stockholm municipality to cancel an agreement with Veolia Transport, on the basis of its involvement in the Jerusalem light-rail project, to the tune of several billion euros.

* There have been calls for international investigations of war crimes from the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the head of UNRWA (the UN agency for Palestine refugees) and the UN Secretary General as well as scores of high-profile international lawyers around the world.

* The European Parliament managed to halt negotiations on strengthening the trading relationship between the EU and Israel in the framework of the Association Agreement and there are new, emboldened efforts to try and get the Association Agreement suspended altogether.

* Countless demonstrations have taken place in villages, towns and cities around the world, from Cape Town to Swansea and from Stockholm to Montreal and they are attracting decent publicity. Where there has been no television crew present, activists have made effective use of online resources such as YouTube.

* In South Africa there was a major success when dockworkers affiliated with SATAWU and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) refused to unload a ship containing Israeli goods. The story made national headlines for several days.

* Academic boycott is taking hold in academic institutions around the world — students in particular have been leading the way on this, but academics also.

for those who want to keep up the pressure or start something new, now is the time to do it in keeping with calls coming from palestinian civil society:

In December 2008, Israel decided to mark the 60th anniversary of its existence the same way it had established itself — perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 23 days, Israel killed more than 1,300 and injured at least 5,000 Palestinians in Gaza. The irony of history is that Israel targeted those Palestinians — and their descendants — whom it had expelled from their homes and pushed into refugeehood in Gaza in 1948, whose land it has stolen, whom it has oppressed since 1967 by means of a brutal military occupation, and whom it had tried to starve into submission by means of a criminal blockade of food, fuel and electricity in the 18 months preceding the military assault. We cannot wait for Israel to zero in on its next objective. Palestine has today become the test of our indispensable morality and our common humanity.

We therefore call on all to unite our different capacities and struggles in a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel on 30 March 2009.

The mobilization coincides with the Palestinian Land Day, the annual commemoration of the 1976 Israeli massacre of Palestinians in the Galilee in struggle against massive land expropriation, and forms part of the Global Week of Action against the Crises and War from 28 March 28 to 4 April.

We urge the people and their organizations around the globe to mobilize in concrete and visible boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) actions to make this day a historic step in this new anti-apartheid movementand for the fulfilment of the rights and dignity of the people and the accountability of the powerful. In our 30 March BDS actions, we will particularly focus on:

* Boycotts and divestment from Israeli corporations and international corporations that sustain Israeli apartheid and occupation.

* Legal action to end Israel’s impunity and prosecute its war criminals through national court cases and international tribunals.

* Cancelling and blocking free trade and other preferential agreements with Israel and imposing an arms embargo as the first steps towards fully fledged sanctions against Israel.

The time for the world to fully adopt and implement the Palestinian call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions is now. This campaign has to become an urgent part of every struggle for justice and humanity, by adopting widespread action against Israeli products, companies, academic and cultural institutions, sports groups, international corporations supporting Israeli policies of racism, ethnic cleansing and military occupation and pressuring governments for sanctions. It must be sustained until Israel provides free access to Gaza, dismantles the Apartheid Wall and ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands; recognizes the right of the Arab Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.

diamonds are not this girl’s best friend

africa-diamonds-mapI don’t like diamonds. Or gem stones of any sort. I am reminded of this every day whenever I glance at my hand and see a diamond ring. I wear this only because it was my mother’s wedding ring and seeing it on my hand reminds me of when these rings were on her hand. Although I don’t need a visible reminder of her by way this ring or a photograph, it comforts me to think of her and to see her hand in/on mine when I wear this ring even as I wish there were no diamonds on it. It’s not just what they represent politically. I also don’t like ostentatious displays of wealth more generally. It always reminds me of what that money spent on a fancy car, outfit, house could otherwise be spent on: who could it have fed? How many others could it have housed?

The issue of diamonds–as well as so many other natural resources–is deeply connected to ongoing war and neocolonialism in places like Africa. If you connect the dots you can visibly see the relationship between diamonds (the theft of African natural resources), wars and conflicts in Africa, neocolonial control in the form of globalization, colonialism in Palestine, and the desperate need for a real boycott movement to work together in solidarity across these issues. For instance, in the past couple of weeks the Friends of the Congo and Adalah New York have worked to raise awareness and protest two seemingly separate issues: the war in the Congo and diamond trafficker/Israeli illegal settlement builder Lev Leviev. But in reality they are deeply connected and should be if a larger human rights, progressive, anti-racist movement is to be built.

The issue with Lev Leviev is three fold: his trafficking in blood diamonds, his continual financing of illegal settlements in Palestine, and his opening of a store in Dubai in spite of the fact that it is illegal for an Israeli business to function in the United Arab Emirates:

Adalah-NY has learned that the jewelry of Israeli billionaire and settlement-builder Lev Leviev will be on sale at this week’s gala opening of the luxury hotel Atlantis, The Palm in Dubai. Despite Leviev’s on-going construction of Israeli settlements and claims by United Arab Emirates officials that Leviev would receive no license to sell his jewelry there, the New York-based human rights coalition Adalah-NY has confirmed that Leviev’s jewelry will be on sale at the Atlantis branch of the Levant Jewelry chain on the fabled Palm Jumeirah island.

Adalah-NY has also heard from a Dubai source that Leviev will attend the grand opening events in person, but the group has been unable to corroborate this report. A press release on the Atlantis web site claims that the opening gala, set for November 20-21st, “will culminate in a giant fireworks display,” and that guests will include “prominent CEO’s, business leaders, politicians, actors and musicians and members of the Dubai Royal family.”

Adalah-NY has obtained photos of Leviev jewelry prominently displayed in the windows of the Levant store at the Atlantis, with Leviev’s name and logo prominently printed on display cases. Leviev’s jewelry and logo are featured at the Levant store at the Al Qasr Hotel. Leviev notes Dubai as a store location on the front of his Madison Avenue boutique in New York, and in recent Leviev ads in the New York Times.

Prior to an advocacy campaign by Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, Leviev had announced plans to open in Dubai two Leviev stores and sell his products in a third store in partnership with his local partner, Arif Ben-Khadra, who is of Palestinian-Moroccan origin. Subsequently, in an April 30 article in Dubai’s Gulf News, Ali Ebrahim, Deputy Director General for Executive Affairs in Dubai, said Leviev would not be able to do business in Dubai. “We are aware of these reports and have not granted a trade licence to any business of this name. If such an application does come to us we will deal with it accordingly,” said Ebrahim. Further, Ebrahim told the paper that Israeli citizens were not allowed to do business in Dubai, and that “precautionary measures” made sure of that. Ebrahim further implied Leviev would not be able to do business through a localpartner. “There are no loopholes,” he said. “We check backgrounds of businesses that apply.”

Leviev built his enormous fortune trading diamonds with Apartheid-era South Africa. His company mines diamonds in partnership with the repressive Angolan government. New York Magazine reported in 2007 that in Angola, “A security company contracted by Leviev was accused… of participating in practices of ‘humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.’” Also, according to the diamond industry watchdog Partnership Africa Canada, Angola and Leviev have failed to fully comply with the Kimberley Process.

In the West Bank, Leviev’s companies build Israeli-only settlements such as Ma’aleh Adumim, Mattityahu East and Zufim on stolen Palestinian land. According to Stop the Wall, Leviev is currently expanding Zufim settlement by 45 housing units on land owned by the village of Jayyous (see photo). Jayyous continues to hold non-violent protests against the confiscation of their land. All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law. UNICEF and Oxfam have both rejected support from Leviev due to his human rights violations, and the British government is under pressure to pull put of a deal to rent their new Tel Aviv Embassy from him.

Daniel Lang/Levitsky of Adalah-NY stated that “Dubai claimed that it has closed all the loopholes, but we have seen that to be glaringly false. Leviev jewelry will be prominently displayed and sold at a major hotel in Dubai. By allowing such a blatant contravention of its own laws, Dubai has made a mockery of its promise to boycott Leviev. The villagers of Jayyous and Bil’in, on whose stolen land Leviev’s settlements sit, will be saddened and outraged, as will be human rights advocates worldwide.”

The issue with the Congo is multiple though the campaign last month focused on the lack of media coverage and the war over Coltan, yet another natural Congolese resource that various western corporations exploit, which has in turn fomented this war:

The Congo is the greatest humanitarian crisis in the world today where nearly 6 million people have died since 1996, half of them children 5 yrs old or younger and hundreds of thousands of women have been raped all as a result of the scramble for Congo’s wealth. The United Nations said it is the deadliest conflict in the world since World War Two. However, hardly anything is said about it in the media. Can you imagine 45,000 people dying each month and hardly a peep from anyone in the age of the Internet? This is literally what has happened and continue to happen in the Congo. There is a media white-out about Congo and no worldwide resolution to end the conflict and carnage there.

There is a very exciting development among students throughout the globe. In October 2008, students from the US, Canada, England, Belgium, Germany, France, Brazil, Jamaica, Norway, Korea, Ghana, Mali, South Africa, Columbia, etc. etc will organize events (films, lectures, demonstrations, and more) on their respective campuses dealing with the Congo situation. We are calling it “Break the Silence” Congo Week where at least 100 countries and 1,000 university campuses will participate in a week of activities in solidarity with the students of the Congo.

The purpose of the Break the Silence Congo Week is to raise awareness about the devastating situation in the Congo and mobilize support on behalf of the people of the Congo.

The Cell OUT is an organized cell phone usage boycott from 12pm – 6pm on October 22nd to bring awareness of the Congo conflict over the natural resources. Coltan, used in many electronic devices has caused many Congolese people to be killed since 1996.

Why?

– Nearly 6 million people have died in the Congo since 1996 due to a scramble for Congo’s spectacular natural resources.

– Coltan is a key source of the conflict in the Congo. It is a mineral widely used in numerous electronic devices such as cell phones and game consoles (Microsoft X-Box and Sony Play Station) and is mined illegally in the Congo by rebel militia and foreign forces then sold to multinational corporations.

– The boycott is to bring awareness to the war in the Congo, which started in 1996 and continues to this day with 45,000 people dying each month till today. We would like to invite organizations on college campuses and in the community to support us in our endeavor to raise awareness about the atrocities taking place in the Congo.

The video below “Welcome to the Congo” by spoken word poet/hip hop artist Omekongo Dibinga shows that it is not just Coltan, however. It is diamonds, gold, and other natural resources that have led to this ongoing war and to the corporate media’s silence on the subject:

While all of these mineral resources and the continual raping of Africa by the West is a crime against humanity, I want to focus on diamonds here because I see the potential in a global solidarity/boycott campaign by linking the Zionist state and its complicity with the war, rape, and pillage that is ongoing in the Congo and bleeds into other parts of Africa as well. Here are some of those links between the Zionist state, it’s partner-in-crime the U.S., and their thirst for diamonds as it is connected to war in the Congo, Angola, and the region:

Artisanal diamond miners in Angola called artisanos or garimpeiros are forced into ‘illegal’ mining because Angola’s mining security companies push people off their own land. While agriculture and commerce in the region require the direct authorization of the Provincial Governor, not one artisano has been granted a license for diamond exploration or subsistence agriculture. The ‘legitimate’ government of Angola forces desperate people to resort to ‘illegal’ activities to survive but according to Rafael Marques, garimpeiros contribute more to the profits of some of the state diamond mining firms than big industrial operations.

Three private military companies (PMCs) have been targeting garimpeiros in Angola. The mercenary firms Alfa-5, Teleservices, and K&P Mineira defend Angola’s big name diamond firms like Sociedade de Desenvolvimento Mineiro (Sodiam), Sociedade Mineira de Cuango, and Sociedade Mineira Luminas. Human rights researcher Rafael Marques has recently documented more than 50 cases of PMCs arresting, beating and torturing garimpeiros. They stop garimpeiros from fishing in their rivers, growing their own food, or living traditional lives; they have forced sexual relations on family members, including same-sex rape and sodomy.

The PMCs operate behind Angola’s public diamond company, Endiama, and have exclusive rights to Angola’s diamonds. Endiama owns 99% of shares in Sodiam, which has a joint venture with Lazare Kaplan International (LKI) of the Israeli-American Maurice Tempelsman family.

Sodiam works with the Russo-Israeli Lev Leviev Group. Endiama owns part of Alfa-5, one of the PMCs that exploit and torture garimpeiros. Alfa-5 and K&P Mineira provide security for ASCORP—the Angola Selling Corporation—another Angolan monopoly.

One of ASCORP’s controlling investors, Lev Leviev, runs a global commercial empire that includes: Leviev Group of Companies; Lev Leviev Diamonds; Africa-Israel (commercial real estate in Prague and London); Gottex (swimwear) Company; 1,700 Fina gas stations in the Southwest U.S.; 173 7-Elevens in New Mexico and Texas; a 33% stake in Cross Israel Highway (Israel’s first toll road); and more. Leviev partner Arcady Gaydamak, an arms dealer, also reportedly works with Danny Yatom, a former MOSSAD (Israeli secret service) chief and security advisor to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Leviev is connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and to Sandline International, a U.K./South African mercenary firm operating in the war-torn areas of Eastern Congo and Uganda.

While participants in the Kimberley Process complained of the criminality of UNITA, the infamous rebels once supported by the CIA, but they gave the “legitimate” Dos Santos government a sparkling bill of health. Angola exemplifies the process whereby an international certification scheme enforced by the United Nations rubber stamps boxes of rough stones according to their ‘country of origin.’ Stamped ‘Angola’ the public is assured that these diamonds are now ‘conflict free,’ because these nations are members of the Kimberley certification.

The Kimberley Process was partially instituted through the work of Robert Rotberg at Harvard University. Maurice Tempelsman chairs the International Advisory Council at the Harvard AIDS Institute (HAI) of the School of Public Health. Rotberg and Tempelsman shared a panel at the Council on Foreign Relations with people like Walter Kansteiner, National Security under Bill Clinton and current director of a gold company involved in Congo’s bloody eastern zone.

Maurice Tempelsman was for decades the unofficial ambassador to Congo/Zaire; Dan Gertler has usurped that role. In 2000 Gertler was named Honorary Consul to the Congo. Beny Steinmetz may be the biggest De Beers “sightholder”. Africa Confidential called President Kabila’s 2003 visit to the Bush White House a “coup” for Gertler and Steinmetz. Gertler’s best friend is Brooklyn-born Chaim Leibowitz, a personal friend of Condoleeza Rice.

Tempelsman and Steinmetz bought diamonds from both sides during Angola’s thirty-year war. Israeli diamond tycoons Gertler and Leviev are reportedly jockeying for power with Isabel Dos Santos, the high-rolling diamond-studded daughter of the President of Angola.

The Israel Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv, which today brings Israel $13 billion annually in commerce, and is the country’s second-largest industry. Israel buys some 50% of the world’s rough diamonds, and the U.S. buys two-thirds of these.


Diamonds are Israel’s top export.
In 2005 figures, exports to the EU totaled $10.7 billion in 2004, including $2.5 billion in diamonds (23.3%); exports to the US totaled $14.2 billion in 2004, including $7.3 billion in diamonds (51.4%); exports to Asia totaled $7.1 billion in 2004, including $3.2 billion in diamonds (45.0%); exports to the rest of the world totaled $6.6 billion in 2004, including $800 million in diamonds (12.1%).

Dan Gertler’s grandfather, Moshe Schnitzer, is known in Israel as “Mr. Diamond,” founder of the Israel Diamond Exchange in Tel Aviv. Moshe Schnitzer’s son and Dan Gertler’s uncle is Shmuel Schnitzer, Vice-Chairman of the Belgian-based World Diamond Council—the entity that promotes the false image of “clean” or “conflict-free” diamonds.

In June 2002, as the Kimberley Process was unfolding, Daniel Horowitz, CEO of IDH Diamonds, gave a speech at the 3rd World Diamond Conference titled “Rough Diamonds in a Brave New World.” IDH works with Endiama, BHP-Billiton and De Beers, another of the big diamond cartels.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it would be irresponsible to circumvent the fact that it is highly problematic, if not unfeasible, to work out a system in order to control the flow of rough diamonds around the world,” Horowitz said. “The reality is that once diamonds are mined there is almost nothing one can do in order to prevent them from reaching the market. No certification scheme can truly be reliable, not only because war-torn areas are by definition disorganized, but mainly because it is intrinsically impossible to distinguish between good and bad diamonds. Misguiding traders and consumers with untrustworthy guarantees would inevitably be demystified over time. As opposed to this, it is critical to publicize that the mainstream diamond trade is legitimate. It needs to be said again and again that conflict diamonds are an irrelevant portion of world production. And as far as humanitarian issues are concerned, the added value the industry generates worldwide particularly benefits the developing world.”

Angola remains a war-torn country selling billions of dollars worth of diamonds annually. In the past four years the government of Angola has waged a permanent war against poor people, destroying thousands of homes and taking the land in mass forced evictions. People were beaten, tortured and arbitrarily arrested. At least 1000 people die in eastern Congo every day.

Millions of blood diamonds from past and current wars remain locked in the vaults of the Belgian, Russian, New York, London and Israeli diamond bourses to insure the artificially high, monopoly-fixed, prices of diamonds.

Rafael Marques outlined cases torture, brutalization and assassinations—cases of personal brutality he investigated—that characterize diamond mining by state firms in Angola today.

“Should one, after this brief explanation,” Marques asked, “say that the extraction of diamonds in Angola is OK? What the Kimberley Process, which was designed to drive blood diamonds out of the market, is doing is to rinse the blood from the gems, extracted in [Angola] and certify them as clean.”

What is even more disturbing is that the Zionist state will be leading the Kimberley Process, a process which it clearly circumvents as the article above makes clear:

Israel was elected deputy chairman of the Kimberley Process for the coming year by the Sixth Plenary of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, currently being attended in New Delhi, India, by more than 70 member countries. This means that Israel will become chairman of the KP in 2010. This development comes in the wake of the recent election of two Israeli Diamond Industry leaders—Avi Paz and Moti Ganz—as presidents of the World Federation of Diamond Boursesand International Diamond Manufacturers Association, respectively.

Of course, the Zionist state is expert at avoiding, disrespecting, and violating international law. We see that here in Palestine every day. But what is useful is for people to understand that Israelis export this practice in their economic, political, and military dealings with other states as well. Consider UN Resolution 1803 from 1962, which says in part,

1. The right of peoples and nations to permanent sovereignty over their natural wealth and resources must be exercised in the interest of their national development and of the well-being of the people of the State concerned.

2. The exploration, development and disposition of such resources, as well as the import of the foreign capital required for these purposes, should be in conformity with the rules and conditions which the peoples and nations freely consider to be necessary or desirable with regard to the authorization, restriction or prohibition of such activities.

3. In cases where authorization is granted, the capital imported and the earnings on that capital shall be governed by the terms thereof, by the national legislation in force, and by international law. The profits derived must be shared in the proportions freely agreed upon, in each case, between the investors and the recipient State, due care being taken to ensure that there is no impairment, for any reason, of that State’s sovereignty over its natural wealth and resources.

Those who care about the war in the Congo and neighboring states, the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Palestine should see these connections and find a way to work in solidarity. To build a significant boycott movement against these forms of colonialism. There is something lacking in this sort of solidarity, which Bill Fletcher makes clear in this tidbit of an talk on the relationship between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid. Activists interested in building a solid pro-Palestinian movement in the U.S. would do well to listen to Fletcher’s words and heed his advice: