on the limits of solidarity

last month two comrades in the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (bds)–omar barghouti and haidar eid–both of whom i respect a great deal–wrote a statement about the gaza freedom march asking them to adopt a statement of context that addressed palestinian needs and demands rather than impose an american idea of those needs and demands on palestinian people (i quoted it and wrote about it here). a few weeks ago haidar and omar released a new statement saying that the gaza freedom march organizers had adopted their statement and they are now requesting people to endorse the march (click here to endorse it):

Dear supporters of just peace and international law,

We are writing to invite you to endorse the Pledge of the Gaza Freedom March, a creative initiative with historic potential organized by the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. The March is aimed at mobilizing active and effective support from around the world for ending Israel’s illegal and immoral siege on Gaza, currently the most pressing of all Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights. To endorse the Pledge, please click here and enter your name — or your organization’s name — in the box provided at the bottom.

Also reproduced at the end of this letter, after the Pledge, is the organizers’ Statement of Context which provides the necessary Palestinian context of the siege, namely Israel’s occupation, its decades-old denial of UN-sanctioned Palestinian rights, and Palestinian civil resistance to that oppression.

The Gaza Freedom March has won the endorsement of a decisive majority in Palestinian civil society. Aside from the Islamic University of Gaza, Al-Aqsa University, and tens of local grassroots organizations, refugee advocacy groups, professional associations and NGOs in Gaza, the March was endorsed by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)*, a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and professional associaitions, including all the major trade union federations, the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) and the largest network representing Palestinian refugees. Ittijah, the Union of Arab Community-Based Associations, representing the most prominent Palestinian NGOs inside Israel, has also endorsed.

The March, planned for January 2010, to commemorate Israel’s illegal war of aggression against the 1.5 million Palestinians in occupied Gaza, is expected to draw many prominent figures and massive activist participation from across the world. The organizers have shown exceptional moral courage and a true sense of solidarity in drafting the Pledge and the Statement of Context. We salute them all for their principled and consistent commitment to applying international law and universal human rights to the plight of the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza. We deeply appreciate their solidarity with our struggle for freedom and our inalienable right to self determination.

Anchored solely in international law and universal human rights, the Gaza Freedom March appeals to international organizations and conscientious citizens with diverse political backgrounds on the basis of their common abhorrence of the immense injustice embodied in the atrocious siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip, the overwhelming majority of whom are refugees.

With massive participation of internationals, led by prominent leaders, alongside Palestinians in Gaza the world can no longer ignore its moral duty to end this criminal siege, and Israel can no longer count on its current impunity to last long. We strongly urge you to endorse the Pledge and to help secure more endorsements.

Haidar Eid (Gaza)
Omar Barghouti (Jerusalem)

* The BDS National Committee, BNC, consists of: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine (all major political parties); General Union of Palestinian Workers; Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions; General Union of Palestinian Women; Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO); Federation of Independent Trade Unions; Palestine Right of Return Coalition; Union of Palestinian Farmers; Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative (OPGAI); Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW); Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI); National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba; Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ); Coalition for Jerusalem; Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations; Palestinian Economic Monitor; Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps; among others …

Endorse the Gaza Freedom March! Sign the Pledge Below!

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., the European Union, and the rest of the international community are complicit.

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues. It is time for us to take action! On January 1, 2010, we will mark the New Year by marching alongside the Palestinian people of Gaza in a non-violent demonstration that breaches the illegal blockade.

Our purpose in this March is lifting the siege on Gaza. We demand that Israel end the blockade. We also call upon Egypt to open Gaza’s Rafah border. Palestinians must have freedom to travel for study, work, and much-needed medical treatment and to receive visitors from abroad.

As an international coalition we are not in a position to advocate a specific political solution to this conflict. Yet our faith in our common humanity leads us to call on all parties to respect and uphold international law and fundamental human rights to bring an end to the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories since 1967 and pursue a just and lasting peace.

The march can only succeed if it arouses the conscience of humanity.

Please join us.

The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza
For more information, please see the Statement of Context
For a list of endorsers, please click here.

STATEMENT OF CONTEXT

Amnesty International has called the Gaza blockade a “form of collective punishment of the entire population of Gaza, a flagrant violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” Human Rights Watch has called the blockade a “serious violation of international law.” The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Richard Falk, condemned Israel’s siege of Gaza as amounting to a “crime against humanity.”

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter has said the Palestinian people trapped in Gaza are being treated “like animals,” and has called for “ending of the siege of Gaza” that is depriving “one and a half million people of the necessities of life.”

One of the world’s leading authorities on Gaza, Sara Roy of Harvard University, has said that the consequence of the siege “is undeniably one of mass suffering, created largely by Israel, but with the active complicity of the international community, especially the U.S. and European Union.”

The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked.

The Palestinians of Gaza have exhorted the international community to move beyond words of condemnation.

Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

Upholding International Law

The illegal siege of Gaza is not happening in a vacuum. It is one of the many illegal acts committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories it occupied militarily in 1967.

The Wall and the settlements are illegal, according to the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

House demolitions and wanton destruction of farm lands are illegal.

The closures and curfews are illegal.

The roadblocks and checkpoints are illegal.

The detention and torture are illegal.

The occupation itself is illegal.

The truth is that if international law were enforced the occupation would end.

An end to the military occupation that began in 1967 is a major condition for establishing a just and lasting peace. For over six decades, the Palestinian people have been denied freedom and rights to self-determination and equality. The hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were forced out of their homes during Israel’s creation in 1947-48 are still denied the rights granted them by UN Resolution 194.

Sources of Inspiration

The Gaza Freedom March is inspired by decades of nonviolent Palestinian resistance from the mass popular uprising of the first Intifada to the West Bank villagers currently resisting the land grab of Israel’s annexationist wall.

It draws inspiration from the Gazans themselves, who formed a human chain from Rafah to Erez, tore down the border barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, and marched to the six checkpoints separating the occupied Gaza Strip from Israel.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the international volunteers who have stood by Palestinian farmers harvesting their crops, from the crews on the vessels who have challenged the Gaza blockade by sea, and from the drivers of the convoys who have delivered humanitarian aid to Gaza.

And it is inspired by Nelson Mandela who said: “I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. … I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

It heeds the words of Mahatma Gandhi, who called his movement Satyagraha-Hold on to the truth, and holds to the truth that Israel’s siege of Gaza is illegal and inhuman.

Gandhi said that the purpose of nonviolent action is to “quicken” the conscience of humankind. Through the Freedom March, humankind will not just deplore Israeli brutality but take action to stop it.

Palestinian civil society has followed in the footsteps of Mandela and Gandhi. Just as those two leaders called on international civil society to boycott the goods and institutions of their oppressors, Palestinian associations, trade unions, and mass movements have since 2005 been calling on all people of conscience to support a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law.

The Freedom March also draws inspiration from the civil rights movement in the United States.

If Israel devalues Palestinian life then internationals must both interpose their bodies to shield Palestinians from Israeli brutality and bear personal witness to the inhumanity that Palestinians daily confront.

If Israel defies international law then people of conscience must send non-violent marshals from around the world to enforce the law of the international community in Gaza. The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza will dispatch contingents from around the world to Gaza to mark the anniversary of Israel’s bloody 22-day assault on Gaza in December 2008 – January 2009.

The Freedom March takes no sides in internal Palestinian politics. It sides only with international law and the primacy of human rights.

The March is yet another link in the chain of non-violent resistance to Israel’s flagrant disregard of international law.

Citizens of the world are called upon to join ranks with Palestinians in the January 1st March to lift the inhumane siege of Gaza.

when the announcement for the march went out i wrote a critique of it, particularly about the racist way in which it seemed to be run (epitomized by the march’s first poster which featured no palestinians and just one white man–norman finkelstein). if you read that earlier post you will not be surprised to learn that with the gaza freedom march’s adoption of a palestinian platform–rather than an american platform pushed on palestinian people–finkelstein withdrew his support. here is what pulse media reported he said in response:

Norman Finkelstein’s withdrawal statement:

The original consensus of the International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza was that we would limit our statement to a pair of uncontroversial, basic and complementary principles that would have the broadest possible appeal: the march to break the siege would be nonviolent and anchored in international law.

I agreed with this approach and consequent statement and decided to remove myself from the steering committee in order to invest my full energies in mobilizing for the march. During the week beginning August 30, 2009 and in a matter of days an entirely new sectarian agenda dubbed “the political context” was foisted on those who originally signed on and worked tirelessly for three months.

Because it drags in contentious issues that—however precious to different constituencies—are wholly extraneous to the narrow but critical goal of breaking the siege this new agenda is gratuitously divisive and it is almost certain that it will drastically reduce the potential reach of our original appeal.

It should perhaps be stressed that the point of dispute was not whether one personally supported a particular Palestinian right or strategy to end the occupation. It was whether inclusion in the coalition’s statement of a particular right or strategy was necessary if it was both unrelated to the immediate objective of breaking the siege and dimmed the prospect of a truly mass demonstration.

In addition the tactics by which this new agenda was imposed do not bode well for the future of the coalition’s work and will likely move the coalition in an increasingly sectarian direction. I joined the coalition because I believed that an unprecedented opportunity now exists to mobilize a broad public whereby we could make a substantive and not just symbolic contribution towards breaking the illegal and immoral siege of Gaza and, accordingly, realize a genuine and not just token gesture of solidarity with the people of Gaza.

In its present political configuration I no longer believe the coalition can achieve such a goal. Because I would loathe getting bogged down in a petty and squalid public brawl I will not comment further on this matter unless the sequence of events climaxing in my decision to resign are misrepresented by interested parties.

However I would be remiss in my moral obligations were I not humbly to apologize to those who, either coaxed by me or encouraged by my participation, gave selflessly of themselves to make the march a historic event and now feel aggrieved at the abrupt turn of events. It can only be said in extenuation that I along with many others desperately fought to preserve the ecumenical vision that originally inspired the march but the obstacles thrown in our path ultimately proved insurmountable.

problems still remain with the new statement of context. it is far from perfect. it represents, however, a significant compromise, and, more importantly, acknowledges the necessity of abiding by palestinian civil society’s goals as guided by international law. three activists, gabriel ash, mich levy and sara kershnar, authored a very important critique of this new context in electronic intifada that is worth considering for activists invested in justice for palestinian refugees and for palestine more generally:

Changing course is never easy. It would have been far better had this discussion taken place before the call went out. That, however, is a lesson for the future. The compromise led a few of the organizers to leave in anger and recriminations. Some argued that the new context document is “sectarian” and will severely damage the potential of the march. While disputes are inevitable in every political endeavor, we call on all parties to cast aside differences and arguments, to respect the compromise and unite on our common objective, ending the siege of Gaza. What is important now is getting the best and most effective march possible.

We see the context document as a thoughtful attempt to bring together for this march those of us who support boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and the full objectives of Palestinian liberation — including the right of return and full and equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel — with those activists whose support for lifting the siege of Gaza is largely humanitarian. Contrary to misrepresentations, the context document does not require marchers to adhere to BDS. But as the march puts nonviolence on its banner and claims inspiration from nonviolent Palestinian resistance, it cannot, without being offensive, ignore the increasing presence and far-reaching international impact of BDS as a Palestinian campaign of nonviolent resistance that is endorsed by all factions, including Fatah and Hamas, as well as more than 100 civil society associations. The growing support for BDS among prominent Western figures and mainstream organizations belies the claim that the mere mention of it is divisive.

Nor does the document commit the marchers to support the Palestinian right of return. It does commit the marchers to recognize the Palestinian Nakba and the historical fact that the refugees’ right of return, recognized by UN resolution 194, has been denied. These refugees make up 75 percent of the population of Gaza and are the recipients of this march’s solidarity. To recognize this history does not compel one to agree to any specific resolution of the conflict. But refusing to recognize it denies the history of the Palestinian people, a denial that is inconsistent with any form of solidarity.

The new document’s only demand is the end of the siege of Gaza. There are no other demands. Nothing in it prevents activists committed to a “two-state solution” and a “Jewish state” from participating. We therefore strongly object to representing the new language as an attempt to limit the scope of the march. We take strong offense at the attempt to label the recognition of the concerns of Palestinian liberation within the context of a solidarity action as “sectarian.” We seriously doubt that the number of individuals willing to fly to Egypt and then march in Gaza, yet who refuse to recognize the history of Gaza, is very large.

We are also heartened by the addition of non-governmental partners in Gaza. As soon as the context statement was added, endorsements came from the University Teachers’ Association in Palestine, Palestinian Student’s Campaign, al-Aqsa University, Arab Cultural Forum-Gaza and al-Quds Bank for Culture and Information-Gaza. We are also encouraged by the addition of the International Solidarity Movement and support from members of the South African Palestine solidarity community. The elected government of Gaza has also endorsed the march and will now hopefully increase its assistance.

In supporting this compromise, we are mindful of the original aim of the organizers for large and “ecumenical” participation. We share that goal. However, our conversation would benefit from honesty about the meaning of “ecumenical.” It never means “everybody.” We don’t just want the maximum number of marchers; we want the maximum number that can be achieved without compromising the visions of the diverse organizers and solidarity groups participating in this particular project.

Where should the line be drawn? This is a difficult decision that haunts every political struggle and always requires deliberation, negotiation and compromise. It is misleading to frame the debate as one between those who want maximum participation and those motivated by ideology, in particular when this framing aims to delegitimize the concerns of Palestinian activists representing significant sections of Palestinian grassroots organizing. We all have political lines that we won’t cross. The lines drawn by those at the very heart of the struggle deserve our particular respect.

We now have a fair and inclusive basis for organizing the march, open to proponents of radically different political visions yet respectful of all, and in particular, respectful of Palestinian history and struggle. We must now all strive to make this march as big and as successful as possible.

but this march and is organizing, as well as the organizing around bds, has made me think a lot about what it means to act in solidarity with palestinians, or any group of people for that matter. i recently received an email from a dear friend who decided, after years of trying to persuade him, to join the academic boycott. he signed the statement, but he is still ambivalent about it as a tactic. why? because noam chomsky has not come out in support of it. and this makes me wonder a lot about why chomsky would be the one to defer to? chomsky, like norman finkelstein, are two scholars whose work i admire a great deal. their thinking and writing has influenced me tremendously over my the course of my life. but in the end there are too many barriers for me to fall in line with their thinking: particularly the fact that neither one has signed on to bds andthat neither one supports the right of return for palestinian refugees. here, for example, is chomsky speaking on the subject of sanctions in an interview with christopher j. lee:

Safundi: So you would apply “apartheid” to that broader situation?

Chomsky: I would call it a Bantustan settlement. It’s very close to that. The actions are taken with U.S. funding, crucially. U.S. diplomatic, military, and economic support are crucial. It cannot be done without that.

Safundi: And that is similar to U.S. support for South Africa during the apartheid period through the 1980s.

Chomsky: Yes. As I’m sure you know, the Reagan Administration-which is basically the current people in power, including people like Colin Powell-found ways to evade Congressional restrictions so that they continued to support the apartheid administration, almost until the end.

Safundi: Connected to that…

Chomsky: In the case of Israel, they don’t have to hide it because there are no sanctions.

Safundi: That’s my question. One of the important tactics against the apartheid government was the eventual use of sanctions. Do you see that as a possibility?

Chomsky: No. In fact I’ve been strongly against it in the case of Israel. For a number of reasons. For one thing, even in the case of South Africa, I think sanctions are a very questionable tactic. In the case of South Africa, I think they were [ultimately] legitimate because it was clear that the large majority of the population of South Africa was in favor of it.

Sanctions hurt the population. You don’t impose them unless the population is asking for them. That’s the moral issue. So, the first point in the case of Israel is that: Is the population asking for it? Well, obviously not.

But there is another point. The sanctions against South Africa were finally imposed after years, decades of organization and activism until it got to the point where people could understand why you would want to do it. So by the time sanctions were imposed, you had international corporations supporting them. You had mayors of cities getting arrested in support of them.

So calling for sanctions here, when the majority of the population doesn’t understand what you are doing, is tactically absurd-even if it were morally correct, which I don’t think it is.

The country against which the sanctions are being imposed is not calling for it.

Safundi: Palestinians aren’t calling for sanctions?

Chomsky: Well, the sanctions wouldn’t be imposed against the Palestinians, they would be imposed against Israel.

Safundi: Right…[And] Israelis aren’t calling for sanctions.

Chomsky: Furthermore, there is no need for it. We ought to call for sanctions against the United States! If the U.S. were to stop its massive support for this, it’s over. So, you don’t have to have sanctions on Israel. It’s like putting sanctions on Poland under the Russians because of what the Poles are doing. It doesn’t make sense. Here, we’re the Russians.

Israel will of course do whatever it can as long as the U.S. authorizes it. As soon as the U.S. tells it no, that’s the end. The power relations are very straight forward. It’s not pretty, but that’s the way the world works.

of course, chomsky has a point: in terms of bds the u.s. should be every bit the target. but not in lieu of the zionist entity, but rather in addition to it. but the fact that paestinians are calling for bds means that those of us who want to work in solidarity with palestinians should support that work. but the fact that some people think we should refer to two american jews on the matter of this is disturbing. would one defer to a slavemaster when abolishing slavery? would one defer to a nazi when fighting against concentration camps? would one defer to white southerners when resisting jim crow segregation in the u.s. south? i find this logic racist and deeply problematic. i’m not at all saying that the work of chomsky and finkstein is not important to read, to listen to, to consider. but i am asking people to consider the logic of looking to them as if they were the leaders of the palestinian people. if we’re looking for leaders we need not look beyond haidar eid and omar barghouti for starters. and there are thousands more where they came from.

on why coca cola should be boycotted (and no pepsi, etc. is not any better)

there was a great article about bds by sousan hammad in counterpunch last month, which begins with a great fanon quote and engages in an important analysis of the psychological complications involved when trying to educate palestinians about bds:

“An underdeveloped people must prove, by its fighting power, its ability to set itself up as a nation, and by the purity of every one of its acts, that it is, even to the smallest detail, the most lucid, the most self-controlled people.”

–Frantz Fanon, “A Dying Colonialism”

There is an echoing sentiment here in Ramallah that Israeli milk is more “tasteful” and “nutritious” than Palestinian milk. The same goes for wine, apples, dates, juice, and just about everything else…except for maybe olives. In fact, Palestinian shopkeepers even stock Israeli-made milk at the front of their store while Palestinian milk sits in a far-to-reach crate collecting dust in the corner.

Palestinians do this for two reasons: one is they truly believe their senses, the other, and possibly more understanding, is because selling Israeli products yield a much higher profit.

A recent study by the Swiss Development Center, an organization that aims to promote Palestinian products, found that Palestinians within the higher socioeconomic strata tend to buy more Israeli goods than those in the lower strata. In French colonial-Martinique, mothers would sing to their children in French instead of their native language because it was more “civilized” to speak the colonizer’s language.

Appropriating the colonialist brand seems to imply prestige – a product, perhaps, of the inferiority complex – but if you push this aside as a psychological epiphenomenon that is a result of colonialism and consider the economic dependency Palestinians are forced to live with, one way to overcome the subjugation of the colonialist-settler (thus racist and discriminatory) policies would be to boycott Israeli products. Besides forcing Palestinians to consume their own products, it would promote and develop a domestic industry and manufactured goods. If it takes a pyramid to list all the nutritional benefits of Palestinian produce, then onward with the label! Whatever it may be, the Palestinians must ascertain that they can have a functioning society without being indebted to Israel.

This is, essentially, what the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement is about. Using Apartheid South Africa as a model, a coalition of Palestinian groups felt compelled to combat Israel’s economic power over Palestine, and, in 2005 the BDS movement was created.

Besides placing political pressure on corporations to divest from Israel, BDS focuses strongly on its consumer boycott efforts, which according to the BDS website, is to put “pressure on companies whose exports are linked to some of the most evident aspects of the Israeli occupation and apartheid.”

One of the many campaigns of BDS is to target stores that sell Israeli products and persuade them to stop stocking them. While much of the campaign is based on Israel’s exports to the West, activists here in the West Bank also try to deter Palestinian shopkeepers from selling produce that is grown in Israeli settlements. (Again, these yield more profit for Palestinians.) It is highly unlikely, though, that Palestinians will collectively and instantaneously dump their Israeli products for Palestinian manufactured goods and produce because an activist tells them so. They want to know if there is proof of sustainability.

A BDS Victory

Enter the story of Veolia and the light rail.

In 1902, Theodore Herzl wrote in his book, Altneuland, that the future of Jerusalem would be made of “modern neighborhoods with electric lines, tree-lined boulevards” and that Jerusalem would become “a metropolis of the 20th century”.

Materialized a century later as the Jerusalem light rail project, the father of Zionism’s idea of an electric-lined-boulevard is halfway in construction. When, and if, completed, the light rail will conveniently accommodate Jewish-Israelis, connecting West Jerusalem to Jewish settlements. The light rail travels through Palestinian neighborhoods, but makes no stops and as one Israeli blogger put it “…all the windows have been reinforced to be resistant to stones and Molotov cocktails.”

But officials are now facing a major setback: In June, Ha’aretz reported that Veolia, a French transportation company that was to operate the light rail post-construction, abandoned the project because of the “political pressure” it was facing: a direct implication of the BDS “Derail Veolia and Alstom Campaign”.

Said an exultant Omar Barghouti, a BDS founding member:

“Veolia’s reported intention to withdraw from the illegal JLR project gives the BDS movement an important victory: success in applying concerted, intensive pressure on a company that is complicit in the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land, enough to compel it to withdraw from an illegal project. This may well usher in a new era of corporate accountability, whereby companies that are profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial and racist regime over the indigenous people of Palestine will start to pay a real price in profits and image for their collusion.”

The pressure from human rights activists and lawyers throughout Europe battered Veolia, costing it multiple contracts – a loss that amounted to more than $7 billion. From Stockholm to Bordeaux, companies dumped Veolia on account of its stake in a project that violates international law. Veolia, along with Alstom – the engineering enterprise behind the light rail – were taken to a French court by Association France-Palestine Solidarité along with attorneys from the PLO legal counsel. AFPS filed the complaint against Alstom and Veolia in 2007, arguing that the 8.3-mile project violates international law since East Jerusalem is not sovereign Israeli territory. “Our main argument is that the light rail project is intended to serve illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and thus it’s part of illegal settlement infrastructure and by being involved in project, the French companies are violating international law,” says Azem Bishara, an attorney with the Negotiation Support Unit in Ramallah.

When the Arab League organized a boycott of Israel after its colonization of Palestine in 1948, Arab countries refused to deal with Israel by boycotting their products, services and even refusing to allow Israelis into their country. Lebanon and Syria are the only countries that allegedly adhere to the boycott today, as they have yet to sign trade agreements with Israel. The Israeli Chamber of Commerce reported Israel was losing an average of 10 percent in export revenue per year when the boycott was in its prime. This spearheaded the fight by the American Jewish Committee to pressure Congress to pass an anti-boycott legislation. In 1977, then-President Jimmy Carter, who now advocates the window-dressing of Palestinian national independence, signed a law that would impose a fine on American companies that cooperated with the boycott.

It seems safe to assume that this legislative effort by AJC indicated that it, at least, believed the Arab League boycott was having some effect.

Although it was with similar calculations and campaigning that U.S. and European companies pulled out of South Africa over 20 years ago, how do we know companies like Veolia won’t be targeted by anti-boycott Israeli investors? Whether or not Veolia goes through with its withdrawal, the question remains: is it really a victory? And how can an effective boycott promote economic independence so that Palestinian milk will no longer have to be in the dustbin of stores? These are questions the boycott campaign has to confront.

one of the products that is not mentioned in the above article is coca cola, which many palestinians insist is palestinian because the owner of the franchise is palestinian (zahi khoury) and because they bottle it in al bireh, which i’ve written about before. coca cola is one of the most evil companies in the world for so many reasons. but i was delighted to discover a wonderful critique of sonallah ibrahim’s novel the committee. ever since i read his novel zaat i became enamored with his politics and his writing style. i have been dying to read this novel for a while now and finally got around to it this week. (my form of escapism and procrastination all rolled into one delightful novel.) the egyptian narrator of the novel, who is under investigation by an anonymous, foreign, non-Arabic speaking committee described as “consist[ing] entirely of officers, some of whom sometimes wear civilian clothes, or it consists of civilians, some of whom sometimes wear military uniforms,” (111) to whom he reveals the following:

Since its advent, Coca-Cola has been linked with the major trends of the age, sometimes sharing to a large extent in their formation. The American pharmacist Pemberton synthesized it in Atlanta, famous as the capital of Georgia, the birthplace of the American president Carter and of the notorious Ku Klux Klan. This was during 1886, the very year in which the famous Statue of Liberty, that symbol of the New World, was completed.

As for the bottle, it was one product of an American “war of liberation.” Having vanquished the Indians, the United States plunged into the Spanish-American War in Cuba, which ended in 1899, with the proclamation of “independence” for Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. An American soldier, who, coincidentally, had the same name as the great American philosopher of the preceding century, Benjamin Franklin, saw a bottle of a carbonated beverage made from banana syrup. On returning home, he obtained bottling rights for a new product. The bottle’s shape varied until it finally stabilized in the universally recognized form of “a girl with an hourglass figure.”

It may have been Coca-Cola that first shattered the traditional image of the ad, previously a mere description of a product. Thus it laid the cornerstone of that towering structure, that leading art of the age, namely, advertising. Certainly, it broke the long-standing illusion of a relationship between thirst and heat through the slogan: “Thirst knows no season.” It was ahead of its time in the use of radio and neon for advertisements. it sponsored television shows, produced films, and backed new international stars and idols such as actors, the Beatles, and the pioneers of rock and roll, the twist, and pop.

Coca-Cola went through two world wars and emerged from them victorious. It sold five billion bottles during the seven years of World War II. Then it slipped into Europe under the wing of the Marshall Plan, which backed the war-weakened European currencies by means of American products and loans.

It then took its place as a leading consumer product along with Ford cars, Parker pens, Ronson lighters, but still kept its finger on the pulse of today’s ever-changing world. With the advent of the great age of installment plans, and neighbor competing with neighbor for the newest model car with the largest trunk, capable of holding enough groceries to fill the largest fridge, Coca-Cola marketed the family-sized bottle, the “Maxi.”

When the United States cooperated in a new “war of liberation” in Korea, Coca-Cola created the tin can, in order to parachute Coke to the troops. The image of an American opening a can with his teeth has become a symbol of manhood and bravery. However, the can’s importance is not limited to this image or the way in which it displaced the bottle during the subsequent Vietnam War, but is outweighed by something more significant. It inaugurated the age of the “empty”: a container to be discarded after its contents have been consumed.

Without doubt, the success of Coca-Cola goes back primarily to the excellence of the organizational structure it pioneered: the pyramid. The original company comprises the tip, and the independent bottlers and distributors come below it, forming the base. At first, this unique structure enabled it to obtain the necessary financing to saturate the American market. Later, it helped the company avoid Roosevelt’s campaign against monopolies and finally allowed Coca-Cola to infiltrate the world. In opening world markets, the company relied on establishing independent franchises headed by well-known local capitalists in every country. This practice produced astounding results. Most strikingly, the American bottle came to symbolize indigenous nationalism. (19-22)

coca-cola is a metaphor for colonialism, corruption, and consumption in the novel. and he shows precisely how deviously coca-cola (like all foreign franchises of american products) works to make people think that it is somehow “indigenous” because the product is produced locally. even though that product always has to send proceeds home to the u.s., and then, of course, they send them directly back to the zionist entity for investment (see post i linked to earlier on this). ibrahim shows how coca-cola came to invade egypt later in the novel:

As you have learned, your honors, this bottle entered our country at the end of the ’40s and beginning of the ’50s under the aegis of the vast advertising campaign that facilitated its spread to even the most remote villages and hamlets. Coca-Cola became a household word.

After the revolution, Coca-Cola’s popularity soon began to wane. I found out that the Doctor, among other factors, was responsible. To wit, he tried to compete by using a local beverage destined to succeed only for a short while.

However, the crushing blow fell at the beginning of the ’60s, when the Arab governmental agencies boycotting Israel discovered that Coca-Cola had given the Israelis bottling rights. As a result, Coca-Cola was blacklisted and barred from Arab countries. The market was wide open for the Doctor. (73-74)

ibrahim’s narrator gets even more specific in his indictment of coca-cola towards the end of the novel:

Many obscure phenomena are linked to the evolution of this well-known beverage.

For example, I read of a far-reaching crusade launched in 1970 in the United States over the mis-treatment of a quarter million migrant workers on farms controlled by Coca-Cola. I mean farms, not factories. This crusade spread to television and from there to Congress. Senator Walter Mondale, at that time a member of the Committee for Migrant Workers, summoned the president of Coca-Cola to answer officially, before the United States Senate, the accusations leveled against Coca-Cola.

Not three years later, the president of Coca-Cola participated in selecting that same Mondale for membership in the Trilateral Commission I told you about in our first meeting. Then he selected him as vice president to President Carter.

At the same time as Coca-Cola was accused of the theft of a handful of dollars from its workers, we read that it dedicated vast sums for charitable and cultural works ranging from an entire university budget to an important prize for artistic and literary creativity. It also presented a huge grant to the Brooklyn Museum in 1977 to rescue Egyptian pharaonic antiquities from collapse.

Coca-Cola, according to statistics for 1978, distributes two hundred million bottles of soft drinks daily throughout the world, leaving tap water as its only rival. So, now we see it sponsoring projects for the desalinization of sea water, relying on the Aqua Chem Company that I bought a few years ago, in 1970 to be precise.

These contradictions confused me, so I did several studies on Coca-Cola. Its policy was to remain committed to the two basic principles set down by its great founders. The first principle was to make every participant in the Coca-Cola enterprise rich and happy. The second was to restrict its energies to creating a single commodity: the well-known bottle.

But the winds of change that blew in the early ’60s forced a choice between the principles. In order not to sacrifice the first, Coca-Cola preferred to diversify its products. It began by producing other types of carbonated beverages, then extended its interests to farming peanuts, coffee, and tea. It had extensive holdings int hat same state of Georgia where it was founded. its farms neighbored those of the American president Carter, which perhaps was behind its involvement in public affairs, both domestic and international, and thus its policy of diversification grew all out of proportion.

Obviously, this policy couldn’t help but be successful. In this regard, it is sufficient to mention the return of the familiar bottle to both China and Egypt through the initiative in both countries of brave patriots, who acted on their principles.

However, this success produced a strange phenomenon. With modern methods and lower production costs gained by relying on poorly paid migrant workers, Coca-Cola became the largest producer of fresh fruit in the Western world. But, sadly, it found itself forced to dump a large portion of the yield into the sea to keep the world market from collapsing.

There was no solution to this problem except to continue diversifying. Coca-Cola exploited its great assets and expertise in the field of agriculture by sponsoring many nutritional programs in underdeveloped countries, among them a project to farm legumes in Abou Dhabi, undertaken by its subsidiary, Aqua Chem. Likewise, it extensively researched the production of drinks rich in proteins and other nutrients, thereby compensating consumers for the surpluses it had been forced to dump in the ocean. (124-127)

there is so much more to the novel, but i especially love the extended commentary on the evil, insidious inner workings of coke. and, of course, which was one of the first companies to move into occupied iraq and occupied afghanistan? coca cola. here is an article on coca cola’s war profiteering in afghanistan from 2006:

Coca-Cola has returned to war-torn Afghanistan with a gleaming $25m factory, calling the country a ‘missing link’ in its international business.

Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai opened the 60,000sq-metre Coca-Cola bottling plant in capital city Kabul, more than a decade after civil war forced the soft drinks group out of the country.

It is a controversial and risky move for Coca-Cola at a time when violence directed against NATO forces in the country, including American soldiers, appears in danger of spiralling out of control.

Coca-Cola’s Kabul plant will be operated under franchise by local businessman Habib Gulzar, and is expected to focus on core carbonated soft drink brands such as Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite. Bottled water could be added in the future.

Selcuk Erden, president of Coca-Cola’s Southern Eurasia division, which will oversee Afghanistan, said: “Afghanistan was the missing link in our geography and we were following this country very carefully.”

The group said the country had the potential to be a strong emerging market for its drinks.

Critics have suggested Coca-Cola is not what Afghans really need right now.

Afghanistan is ranked as the fifth poorest country in the world by the United Nations. “The depth of poverty in Afghanistan is reflected consistently in all human development indicators, revealing a mosaic of a nation in need of sustained assistance,” a recent UN development report says.

and here is an article on coca cola’s war profiteering in iraq from the guardian by rory carroll:

Coca-Cola has returned to Iraq after an absence of nearly four decades, triggering a cola war in a lucrative but potentially hostile market.

Coke ended its 37-year exile last week by setting up a joint-venture bottling company to compete with Pepsi for 26 million consumers.

The upsides for Coke include a thirst-inducing climate and burgeoning Islamic conservatism which has banned beer and other alcoholic drinks in much of the country.

The downsides, besides Pepsi’s head start, are a raging insurgency and banditry which threaten supply routes, and a perception that Coca-Cola is linked to Israel and “American Zionists”.

Coke withdrew from Iraq in 1968 when the Arab League declared a boycott because of business ties to Israel, leaving Pepsi to dominate the Middle East market for soft drinks. The boycott ended in 1991, but sanctions and wars kept Coke out of Iraq.

After a trickle of Coca-Cola imports from neighbouring countries, the company is attempting a proper comeback by launching a joint venture with a Turkish company, Efes Invest, and its Iraqi partner HMBS, which will reportedly bottle the Coke in Dubai and distribute it across Iraq.

“A local bottling company will employ local people to do this,” a Coca-Cola spokesman said yesterday. “This happens in most of the 200 countries in which we operate around the world, despite the perception of us as an American company.”

The response in Baghdad yesterday was mixed. One drink wholesaler, Abbas Salih, said the initiative was doomed. “Coca-Cola does business with those who are shooting our brothers in Palestine,” he said. “How can we drink it?”

when i was searching for material on why coca cola is evil i stumbled upon this great article from 2004 that i had never found that encapsulates the numerous reasons why one should boycott coca cola by mohammed mesbahi, which is long, but well worth the read for its variety of issues (health, environmental, political, etc.):

Coca Cola was invented in the United States in 1886 as a medicine, rather than a drink, to stimulate the brain and the nervous system, from a mixture of coca leaves and kola nuts, sweetened with sugar, hence the name Coca Cola. It was not until 1893 that Coca Cola was sold and promoted as a drink. Gradually the cocaine was eliminated, but in order to maintain the stimulant effect caffeine was substituted.

Phosphoric acid (0.055%) is now added to increase the fizziness and zingy taste. This gives the drink a pH of 2.8, making it almost as acidic as lemon juice (pH 2.2), which is why more sugar has to be added in order for it to taste sweet. Weak acidic solutions will dissolve the calcium in teeth over a period of time and will also interfere with calcium metabolism. This is especially of concern to post-menopausal women, who are already have a tendency towards osteoporosis.

Stimulants and sugar are habit forming, and Coca Cola contains large quantities of both. It is now sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. Fructose is a simple carbohydrate.

Carbohydrates are divided into two broad categories:

simple carbohydrates,

e.g. glucose,

fructose (fruit sugar),

lactose (milk sugar),

sucrose (table sugar) etc.

complex carbohydrates,

e.g. starch

cellulose

High fructose corn syrup is produced by processing corn starch to yield glucose and then processing the glucose to produce a high proportion (80%) of fructose. This is not natural fructose, as found in fruit, since fruit usually contains 50% fructose, 50% glucose and is absorbed into the blood stream slowly, because the fruit also contains high levels of fibre. The fructose in high fructose corn syrup is absorbed into the body rapidly and transformed into glucose by the liver. There is currently some concern surrounding the consumption of high levels of fructose because it seems to interfere with copper metabolism and with the formation of collagen and elastin, essential components of the growing body.

When we eat (or drink) a high dose of sugar (sucrose, glucose or fructose) our blood glucose level rises suddenly, producing a feeling of elation. However high blood glucose levels also stimulate the pancreas to release insulin, which causes the glucose to be removed from the blood stream and converted into fat. This results in low blood sugar, low energy, irritability and low mood. At this point, we crave the feeling of elation associated with the sugar. This is why soft drinks are habit forming.

When, on the other hand, we eat complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes, bread, pasta, rice etc., the body breaks down these complex molecules gradually, over a period of several hours, into molecules of glucose. This glucose is released into the blood stream gradually, thus maintaining blood glucose at the level required by the body and brain for proper functioning.

Putting high quantities of sugar into drinks is an insidious way of introducing calories into people. People eating a chocolate bar are aware that they are consuming something fattening. People, especially children, consuming the same amount of calories in a drink are not. Regular consumption of drinks containing high levels of sugar lead to a gradual build up of stored fat and contribute to the rising levels of obesity in the West. Over-consumption of sugar causes over-stimulation of the pancreas. Over a period of many years, the pancreas loses its ability to produce adequate quantities of insulin. This leads to late-onset diabetes. Levels of late-onset diabetes have been rising steadily in the West over the past century.

Coca Cola, one of the world’s largest corporations, worth about ninety five billion dollars, owes much of its success to the massive marketing and advertising used to promote the product. It became a corporation early in the twentieth century and immediately began an aggressive advertising campaign throughout the US. The corporation used some advertising techniques of dubious morality, including funding the American Academy of Paediatric Dentistry and suppressing a World Health Organisation Report on healthy eating. The report stated that soft drink consumption contributed to obesity. But possibly the policy which caused the most public outrage was that of paying schools to sell Coca Cola in vending machines. The corporation realised that if they could sell Coca Cola to children, by the time they finished school they would become confirmed Coca Cola drinkers and would continue to buy the drink for the rest of their lives. This strategy was so successful that Coca Cola rapidly became the most popular drink in the US.

Long before the US market had become saturated, the corporation decided to target the next place with money to spend on drinks, i.e. Europe, where they now sell thirty percent of their product. Vending machines in schools soon became common place, despite opposition from concerned parents and teachers. Under-funded state schools found it difficult to refuse the money offered by Coca Cola.

The imposition of permanent advertising in schools, in the form of vending machines, certainly justifies a boycott, and indeed some schools have organised them, in protest against the Corporation’s monopoly of products sold in school vending machines. Groups at Universities in the US and the UK are also running boycotts in protest against Coke’s human rights abuses. Berkeley, New York University, Harvard, Yale, Rutgers, Macalister and University College Dublin all have ongoing boycotts.

Coca Cola has a history of human rights abuse. “It is a fact that the soft drinks giant from Atlanta, Georgia collaborated with the Nazi-regime throughout its reign from 1933 – 1945 and sold countless millions of bottled beverages to Hitler’s Germany.” From Coca-Cola Goes to War, Jones E and Ritzman F.

While the corporation, back in the USA, was promoting Coca Cola as a morale booster for the US troops, their German representative, Max Keith was sponsoring Nazi events, including the 1936 Olympics and situating advertisements close to Nazi leaders at rallies. Sales of Coke in Germany went from zero in 1929 to 4 million cases in 1939. Coke became the most popular drink in Germany and in 1944 the company sold 2 million cases. When the Nazis began their invasions of Italy, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Belgium and Norway Walter Oppenhof, Coca Cola’s German company lawyer, and Max Keith were employed by the Nazis’ Office of Enemy Property. They travelled with Nazi troops and were responsible for setting up Nazi Coca-Cola factories in expropriated soft drinks plants in countries occupied by the Nazis. They staffed these factories with kidnapped civilians. (See: http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/AM483_95/projects/coke/coke.html ).

But Coca Cola’s association with fascist regimes is not confined to world war history.

In the 1970s workers at Coca Cola bottling factories in Guatemala were killed, in the 1980s Coke supported the Apartheid system in South Africa and in the 1990s they supported the brutal Abacha regime in Nigeria.

Currently SINAL TRAINAL, the Colombian workers’ union is promoting a world wide boycott in order to raise awareness of the intimidation, torture, kidnapping, illegal detention and murder of workers in the Coca Cola bottling plants in Colombia.

On the other side of the world, in several South Indian states, including Kerala and Tamil Nadu, boycotts have been running for years, despite police repression, in protest against Coca Cola’s excessive water consumption, pollution of local wells and destruction of agriculture. The Corporation’s bottling factories have been pumping water from boreholes at such a rate that they have dried up the underground aquifers. They have also been distributing the sludge produced by the factory as fertilizer. It is true that this sludge does contain substances which fertilize the soil, but Exeter University analysed it for the Kerala Pollution Control Board and found that it contained dangerously high levels of toxic metals, including cadmium. These toxic metals leach into the ground water and are taken up by crops and therefore ingested by the local population. After the BBC aired a programme about this, Coca Cola was forced to stop dumping their toxic waste on the local population, but nothing was done to clean up the already polluted environment. The protest and boycott in India continue.

The Coca Cola Corporation owns four of the world’s most popular five soft drinks: Coca Cola, diet Coke, Fanta and Sprite.

Over the past five years, Coca Cola Corporation has realised that, as water resources dwindle worldwide, even more money can be made from selling bottled water. Their sales of water are growing exponentially. Brands include Bonaqua, Dasani (US) Kinley (India), Mount Franklin (Australia) Malvern (UK) and Ciel (Mexico), but soft drinks still account for 85% of their market (at the moment). They plan to expand massively in the bottled water market but most of their advertising will go into promotion of soft drinks. Soon Coca Cola, Pepsi and Nestle will be the three main corporations selling bottled water, an iniquitous market, often depriving people of their local source of spring water, and selling it back to them at unaffordable prices.

Max Keiser, investment activist, and Zak Goldsmith, editor of the Ecologist, have formed a partnership to target Coca Cola by bringing down the value of its shares. Keiser has developed a system for measuring a corporation’s vulnerability to a boycott. He calls it the Karmabanque (KbQ) Index. The KbQ index 2004 tracks the share price of high-performing but socially and environmentally irresponsible corporations, assuming their shares had been sold short on the 1 January 2004. A short sale is a bet that a trader makes that a company’s share price will fall. The further the company’s share price falls, the more money the trader makes. Selling short stocks hurts corporations because it deflates their share price. The KbQ rating determines where a company appears in the index, and combines the amount of dissent directed at a company and its boycott vulnerability ratio (BVR). A company’s BVR indicates how susceptible its stock price is to a consumer boycott. In order to work out a corporation’s vulnerability, its market capitalization should be divided by trailing annual sales. Currently, ExxonMobil’s BVR is close to $1, whereas Coca-Cola’s is closer to $5. In other words the Coca Cola Corporation is five times more vulnerable to a boycott than ExxonMobil.

Coca Cola’s appalling human rights record, combined with its high boycott vulnerability ratio make it the ideal target for a boycott. This is why Max Keiser and Zak Goldsmith have decided to launch a hedge fund, which will be used to buy Coca Cola shares. They will then sell the shares for less than they bought them for, which will bring down their value on the international stock market. They are relying on the continuing boycott of Coca Cola products to bring the share price down still further. They will then buy the shares at a lower price than they sold them for and sell them again for even less. All profits from this venture will be donated to the victims of Coca Cola in countries such as India and Colombia.

Max Keiser and Zak Goldsmith say that for every 1,000 new boycotters, they will increase the size of the hedge fund by £5000. Goldsmith’s Ecologist Magazine will publicize the boycott and audit, track and publish the results. Keiser recommends that pressure groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth should decide what to boycott according to their Boycott Vulnerability Ratio.

There has been a history of Coca Cola boycotts in many parts of the world. But this is the first time that an investor has become actively involved in a world wide Coca Cola boycott. Max Keiser and Zak Goldsmith deserve our support. There is every reason to hope that they will succeed in bringing down the market value of Coca Cola, but for that they need more people and organisations to join the boycott.

yes, boycott works.

a couple of weeks ago i posted about the campaign to write to amnesty international in order to get them to comply with the boycott and pull out their funding of a leonard cohen concert in the zionist entity. well, it worked. here is the official statement reporting this victory from the palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel:

Amnesty International has announced today that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert‘s proceeds. A number of media accounts had reported that Amnesty International was to manage or otherwise partner in a fund created from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel that would be used to benefit Israeli and Palestinian groups. Amnesty International’s announcement today followed an international outcry over the human rights organization’s reported involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert fund, and an earlier international call for Cohen to boycott apartheid Israel.

Omar Barghouti from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) commented, “We welcome Amnesty International’s withdrawal from this ill-conceived project which is clearly intended to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and human rights. By abandoning the Leonard Cohen project in Tel Aviv, Amnesty International has dealt Cohen and his public relations team a severe blow, denying them the cover of the organization’s prestige and respectability.”

A statement confirming Amnesty‘s withdrawal has now been posted on the Amnesty International website.

boycott, divestment, and sanctions is picking up steam in british unions as well as asa winstanley reported in electronic intifada a couple of weeks ago:

The international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has won several important victories in recent months. At this summer’s trade union conferences in Britain, BDS activists have made significant progress.

While the campaign has been building momentum in unions globally since the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, Israel’s winter invasion of Gaza has spurred several trade unions and union federations in Britain and Ireland to pass motions more explicitly in favor of BDS. Several are calling for BDS for the first time.

Tom Hickey, a member of the University and College Union’s (UCU) national executive committee, said, “The question of the moral rightness or wrongness [of BDS against Israel] has effectively already been decided.”

Although the Trade Union Congress (the British union federation) has not yet passed a BDS motion, affiliated unions have begun taking up the Palestinian call themselves. So far this summer, the public sector union PCS, the UCU and the Fire Brigades Union have all passed strong motions explicitly calling for a general policy of boycott of Israeli goods, divestment from Israeli companies and government sanctions against the state.

Unions such as public sector union UNISON, the National Union of Teachers, USDAW and the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have this summer passed softer motions calling for elements of BDS. These are usually calls for a boycott of settlement goods, or for the government to suspend arms sales to Israel. The CWU and others have condemned the infamous 13 January 2008 statement of the Israeli trade union federation in support of Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which read: “The Histadrut recognizes the urgent need for the State of Israel to operate against the command and control centers of the organizational terror network …”

In addition, a report has been circulating on the Internet that the rail workers’ union, the RMT, has reversed an earlier policy of “solidarity not boycott” and passed a motion in favor of some sort of BDS policy at their July Annual General Meeting. The official AGM report has yet to be released to the general public, but the RMT’s media office confirmed the report was probably accurate. However, they did not return calls for official confirmation in time for publication.

and folks in ann arbor are taking the bds campaign to their local city council making important arguments about americans funding apartheid in palestine (not to mention occupations and massacres in afghanistan, iraq, and pakistan) rather than using those funds to rebuild cities like detroit where a majority african americans live. palestine think tank posted a video of their city council hearing (and you can use this model to do the same at your municipal level):

Vodpod videos no longer available.

there is also good news about a british bank, blackrock, divesting from the africa-israel company (that has a horrific record of land theft as well as massacres in palestine as well as in africa, as the name indicates):

When the British Embassy in Tel Aviv was looking for new premises and was offered the opportunity of occupying a building owned by the investment company Africa-Israel Investments, the ambassador refrained. The reason was that the company was also responsible for settlements on the occupied West Bank. Africa-Israel Investments’ main owner is Israeli diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Now the UK bank BlackRock has followed in the footsteps of the ambassador.

The bank was for a while the second largest shareholder in the Israeli investment company. Africa-Israel Investments is, among other things, in on the construction of the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim (above). The construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian territory is in conflict with international law.

It was Norwatch who this past spring revealed BlackRock’s investments in the controversial company and how private investors in Norway could invest in the project by means of the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe.

This was possible through Norwegian insurance company Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon.

But after all 3 banks have taken action, the British bank has now announced its divestment from the Israeli company. This must have happened sometime between June and August, possibly as late as this week.

“We have received confirmation from BlackRock that Africa-Israel Investments no longer is part of their portfolio,” Johnny Anderson, Information Manager of Skandiabanken, confirmed to Norwatch. The confirmation of the divestment was sent to Skandiabanken the day before yesterday, on 18 August.

“The way I interpret the e-mail I have received, Africa-Israel is no longer to be found in any of BlackRock’s funds,” Anderson said.

The e-mail from BlackRock to Skandiabanken was sent after the Swedish-Norwegian bank had approached BlackRock with regard to the controversial Israel involvement. That is the first time that Skandiabanken had contacted BlackRock about the case. Also the bank Danica Pensjon end of last week contacted BlackRock about the matter, confirmed Geir Wik, Sales and Marketing Director of Danica Pensjon to Norwatch yesterday.

and the big surprise was to open my local newspaper the other morning, the los angeles times, where i found a prominent op-ed from a zionist terrorist colonist advocating the boycott of the zionist entity. the article is generally good, though this professor, neve gordon, still believes in zionism and his right to be a colonist on palestinian land. but given that he came this far, perhaps an acknowledgment that he does not have a right to land that once belonged to palestinians who are now refugees will be forthcoming. here is the op-ed:

Israeli newspapers this summer are filled with angry articles about the push for an international boycott of Israel. Films have been withdrawn from Israeli film festivals, Leonard Cohen is under fire around the world for his decision to perform in Tel Aviv, and Oxfam has severed ties with a celebrity spokesperson, a British actress who also endorses cosmetics produced in the occupied territories. Clearly, the campaign to use the kind of tactics that helped put an end to the practice of apartheid in South Africa is gaining many followers around the world.

Not surprisingly, many Israelis — even peaceniks — aren’t signing on. A global boycott can’t help but contain echoes of anti-Semitism. It also brings up questions of a double standard (why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights?) and the seemingly contradictory position of approving a boycott of one’s own nation.

It is indeed not a simple matter for me as an Israeli citizen to call on foreign governments, regional authorities, international social movements, faith-based organizations, unions and citizens to suspend cooperation with Israel. But today, as I watch my two boys playing in the yard, I am convinced that it is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.

I say this because Israel has reached a historic crossroads, and times of crisis call for dramatic measures. I say this as a Jew who has chosen to raise his children in Israel, who has been a member of the Israeli peace camp for almost 30 years and who is deeply anxious about the country’s future.

The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. For more than 42 years, Israel has controlled the land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean Sea. Within this region about 6 million Jews and close to 5 million Palestinians reside. Out of this population, 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. By sharp contrast, all Jews — whether they live in the occupied territories or in Israel — are citizens of the state of Israel.

The question that keeps me up at night, both as a parent and as a citizen, is how to ensure that my two children as well as the children of my Palestinian neighbors do not grow up in an apartheid regime.

There are only two moral ways of achieving this goal.

The first is the one-state solution: offering citizenship to all Palestinians and thus establishing a bi-national democracy within the entire area controlled by Israel. Given the demographics, this would amount to the demise of Israel as a Jewish state; for most Israeli Jews, it is anathema.

The second means of ending our apartheid is through the two-state solution, which entails Israel’s withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders (with possible one-for-one land swaps), the division of Jerusalem, and a recognition of the Palestinian right of return with the stipulation that only a limited number of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees would be allowed to return to Israel, while the rest can return to the new Palestinian state.

Geographically, the one-state solution appears much more feasible because Jews and Palestinians are already totally enmeshed; indeed, “on the ground,” the one-state solution (in an apartheid manifestation) is a reality.

Ideologically, the two-state solution is more realistic because fewer than 1% of Jews and only a minority of Palestinians support binationalism.

For now, despite the concrete difficulties, it makes more sense to alter the geographic realities than the ideological ones. If at some future date the two peoples decide to share a state, they can do so, but currently this is not something they want.

So if the two-state solution is the way to stop the apartheid state, then how does one achieve this goal?

I am convinced that outside pressure is the only answer. Over the last three decades, Jewish settlers in the occupied territories have dramatically increased their numbers. The myth of the united Jerusalem has led to the creation of an apartheid city where Palestinians aren’t citizens and lack basic services. The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost nonexistent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right.

It is therefore clear to me that the only way to counter the apartheid trend in Israel is through massive international pressure. The words and condemnations from the Obama administration and the European Union have yielded no results, not even a settlement freeze, let alone a decision to withdraw from the occupied territories.

I consequently have decided to support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that was launched by Palestinian activists in July 2005 and has since garnered widespread support around the globe. The objective is to ensure that Israel respects its obligations under international law and that Palestinians are granted the right to self-determination.

In Bilbao, Spain, in 2008, a coalition of organizations from all over the world formulated the 10-point Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign meant to pressure Israel in a “gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.” For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner. Along similar lines, artists who come to Israel in order to draw attention to the occupation are welcome, while those who just want to perform are not.

Nothing else has worked. Putting massive international pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians — my two boys included — does not grow up in an apartheid regime.

nevertheless his op-ed is getting quite a bit of airtime in the zionist entity’s media. thus, yet another sign of their fear of how much the boycott campaign is working. there was one article in today’s ha’aretz in which the education minister slammed gordon. and los angeles jews seem to be foaming at the mouth as this second article in ha’aretz today shows that they want to boycott a university in the zionist entity (a win-win situation! ) there was yet another article responding to gordon’s piece in a zionist rag called the jewish journal, which takes the threats even further: to boycott he arabs.

gordon’s ben gurion university is no different than any other university in the zionist entity that participates in the production of knowledge that enables the colonization of palestine. recently soas authored a report on the extent of tel aviv university’s collaboration in the savaging of gaza (if you follow the link you can download the entire study):

As part of Tel Aviv’s centenary celebration, the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London hosted a Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series from January to March 2009.

Taking place in the midst of Israel’s war on Gaza — which had already mobilized SOAS students to organize a number of activities in solidarity with Gaza, including the first student occupation in the UK — students and a number of lecturers expressed their opposition to the lecture series.

The student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing the lecture series’ attempt to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. The School’s Director, Professor Paul Webley, opposed the cancellation and defended the continuation of the lecture series by invoking a prerogative of freedom of speech and citing the pedagogic value of diversities of opinion. Conspicuously absent in the Director’s defense was any engagement with the nature and scope of TAU’s research portfolio.

In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. While the signatories of the briefing paper recognized the importance of freedom of speech, they were also keenly aware of the need to uphold the rights of the oppressed and expressed that no right reigns absolute over the fundamental right to life. It is precisely therefore that it is wholly untenable that partnerships with institutions facilitating, advocating and justifying ongoing war crimes can be legitimized with recourse to an ideal of academic freedom.

compare soas to harvard university’s invitation to a bona fide war criminal of the zionist entity last month as maryam monalisa gharavi and anat matar wrote in electronic intifada last month:

On 9 July Harvard University’s Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) invited Colonel Pnina Sharvit-Baruch, former Israeli military legal adviser, to their online Humanitarian Law and Policy Forum. The stated aim was to bring “objective” discussion to the principle of distinction in international humanitarian law, or what the forum organizers called “combat in civilian population centers and the failure of fighters to distinguish themselves from the civilian population.”

Although billed as a lecturer in the Law Faculty at Tel Aviv University — and therefore as a detached humanitarian law analyst — Colonel Sharvit-Baruch was in fact deeply involved in Israel’s three-week onslaught in Gaza in December and January, that counted its 1,505th victim found under rubble earlier this month. With the devastating operation condemned and mourned worldwide, many asked why a ranking member of an occupying army that flouts its legal obligations should herself receive safe havens at two major universities.

What troubled many of the 200 or so participants who “attended” the talk via a virtual chatroom was that Sharvit-Baruch was cut off from public or legal scrutiny as she relayed her PowerPoint presentation. Questions were posed by the moderators, sanitized of any critical content. Yet the indisputable fact is that the army for which Sharvit-Baruch worked has been accused by all major human rights organizations of committing war crimes in Gaza. Some wondered why Sharvit-Baruch was being given the opportunity to offer a carefully prepared presentation unchallenged in an academic setting, rather than giving testimony to a tribunal or inquiry such as that being conducted Judge Richard Goldstone, the South African jurist heading an independent fact-finding mission into human rights violations during Israel’s attack at the request of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Since the event organizers did not ask pointed questions about Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s actual role in Gaza, it is worth doing so here. As head of the International Law department (ILD) at the Israeli Military Advocate General’s office, Sharvit-Baruch is known for green-lighting the bombing of a police graduation ceremony in Gaza that killed dozens of civil policemen. This was no ordinary airstrike. It was premised on a legal sleight-of-hand: that even traffic cops in Gaza could be considered “legitimate targets” under international law. In a conversation with conscripts at a military prep academy in Israel, school director Danny Zamir noted, “I was terribly surprised by the enthusiasm surrounding the killing of the Gaza traffic police on the first day of the operation. They took out 180 traffic cops. As a pilot, I would have questioned that.”

Further, the Israeli army used heavy artillery and white phosphorus munitions in densely populated areas of Gaza, against the UNRWA’s headquarters and a UN school in Beit Lahiya. As reported by Judge Goldstone, Gazans trying to relay their civilian status were also hit. Even though the Israeli military tried several times to deny its use, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on white phosphorous use in Gaza quotes an unnamed Israeli official: “at least one month before [white phosphorus] was used a legal team had been consulted on the implications.” HRW found that “in violation of the laws of war, the [Israeli army] generally failed to take all feasible precautions to minimize civilian harm” and “used white phosphorus in an indiscriminate manner causing civilian death and injury.”

Such reckless disregard for the lives of civilians and pathological cover-ups of military operations are recognized by many Israelis within the system itself. According to one Israeli jurist speaking to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the ILD is considered “more militant than any other legal agency in Israel, and willing to adopt the most flexible interpretations of the law in order to justify the [Israel army’s] actions.” Although the ILD personnel “are now very proud of their influence upon the combat” in Gaza, human rights groups have stated that “residents weren’t advised then as to which places were safe, and the roads by which they fled were bombed and turned into death traps.”

One of the most indelible perspectives about Israel’s legal gymnastics to justify its actions comes from Colonel Sharvit-Baruch’s predecessor, Daniel Reisner. “What is being done today is a revision of international law,” Reisner has said, “and if you do something long enough, the world will accept it. All of international law is built on that an act which is forbidden today can become permissible, if enough states do it.” In expressing how the ILD moves forward by turning back the pages of legal jurisdiction, Reisner says, “We invented the doctrine of the preemptive pinpoint strike, we had to promote it, and in the beginning there were protrusions which made it difficult to fit it easily into the mold of legality. Eight years later, it’s in the middle of the realm of legitimacy.”

Sharvit-Baruch herself explained her vision of international law at a presentation for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs: “International law is developed according to practices. It changes based on what is happening in the field. These laws must be based on precedents, what already exists. There is flexibility in every law.” By this law of flexibility, the more aberrations of international law a state can legitimize, the more hoary actions it can continue to execute and justify.

Since the attack on Gaza, numerous testimonies of Israeli soldiers published in Israel, have corroborated the accounts of Palestinian witnesses and human rights organizations that serious war crimes were endemic.

Despite the blunt admissions of Israeli soldiers widely published in the Israeli press, it was clear from her calm presentation that Sharvit-Baruch and her cohort live in their own rhetorical universe where even language is assaulted. In the Colonel’s own terminology, non-existent vocabulary in international law such as “capacity builders” and “revolving doors” is coined to pass over accepted terms such as “civilians” and “non-combatants.” Like the US government’s “torture memo” authors — who in contrast to Israel’s were not uniformed ranking members of the army — the Israeli military attempted to reclassify a “civilian” in a manner making it easier to strip them of protections provided by international humanitarian law. “Architecture of words,” said one participant

Despite all this, by her own standards, Sharvit-Baruch and her team could not be faulted for their efficiency: in Gaza, banning all media from entering; assaulting the population with air missiles, sniper ground troops, and white phosphorus; condemning all criticism of military actions as contrary to state security; keeping a chin above the law; attaining a teaching position at Tel Aviv University and finally a prestigious opportunity to address Harvard students and faculty.

but in england they are far more advanced than the united states when it comes to responding to war crimes against palestinians. consider the new (albeit partial) arms embargo against the zionist entity as a penalty for its war crimes in gaza as ian black reported in the guardian:

Britain has revoked export licences for weapons on Israeli navy missile boats because of their use during the offensive against the Gaza Strip.

The licences apparently covered spare parts for guns on the Sa’ar 4.5 ships, which reportedly fired missiles and artillery shells into the Palestinian coastal territory during the three-week war, which started in late December.

Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, shrugged off what he called one of “many embargoes”. The foreign office in London insisted the rare move did not constitute an embargo but was the application of normal UK and EU export licensing criteria. Still, it linked the decision directly to Operation Cast Lead – the Israeli codename for the attacks – and described it as similar to action taken against Russia and Georgia after their conflict last year.

A spokesman for Amnesty International, citing the “weight of evidence” that Israel had committed war crimes in Gaza, said: “It’s a step forward but it doesn’t go nearly far enough.”

Israel’s defence ministry made no comment but Lieberman told state radio: “We’ve had many embargoes in the past. This shouldn’t bother us.”

Israel gets the bulk of its military requirements from the US, more than 95% according to some estimates. The UK accounts for less than 1% or about £30m worth of exports a year.

but there is also more bds activism emanating from the zionist entity itself, particularly in the queer community as the monthly review zine reported today:

Contrary to the mediated attempt to describe Israel as a force of liberation and progress, we see objecting to apartheid Israel as an act of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including LGBTQ Palestinians. LGBTQ Palestinians are not going to be “saved” by a so-called gay-friendly Zionist state. Organized LGBTQ Palestinians reject the myth of Israel as an “oasis of tolerance.”

We are disturbed by the cynical manipulation of these deaths to bolster support for the Israeli state and its violent policies. When Israeli politicians say that this is an unprecedented level of violence, and promise to create safety for LGBTQ people in Israel, they are using the promise of safety to hide the violence and domination that is foundational to the Israeli state. When Zionist groups emphasize the growing gay nightlife in Tel Aviv, they are using the illusion of safety to draw support and funding to Israel from liberal queer and Jewish people around the world. We reject these lies, as well as the manipulation of our communities for profit and to increase military and political support for Israel.

Just as we reject the lie that Zionism is premised on the safety of Jews, we reject the lie that Israel prioritizes and values the safety of LGBTQ citizens of Israel. The safety Israel claims to extend to LGBTQ people is false; we do not accept an illusion of safety for some at the expense of self determination for others. No matter who Zionism claims to save or value, nothing can justify the targeting, suppression and oppression of the Palestinian people.

We call on LGBTQ communities to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israeli violence. Putting words into action, we call on LGBTQ communities across the world to endorse the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with full international law, including an immediate end to the occupation and colonization of Palestine, a dismantling of the wall, an end to war crimes against the people of Gaza, and for the Palestinian Right of Return.

Specifically, we call on these communities to boycott international LGBTQ events held inside of Israel; to abstain from touring Israel as is marketed to LGBTQ people — with the exception of solidarity visits to Palestine; and to counter and boycott the promotion of Israeli LGBTQ tourism, and Israeli cultural and academic events in the countries in which we reside — unless they are in clear and undivided solidarity with Palestine. By these actions, we show a commitment to justice and humanity consistent with our outrage against this hateful and deadly attack that occurred in Tel Aviv.

This statement was drafted by members of the following organizations:

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid, Toronto
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

and

The following BDS activists from Israel:

Ayala Shani
Edo Medicks
Emily Schaeffer
Hamutal Erato
Leiser Peles
Liad Kantorowicz
Moran Livnat
Nitzan Aviv
Noa Abend
Rotem Biran
Roy Wagner
Segev (Lilach) Ben- David
Sonya Soloviov
Tal Shapira
Yossef/a Mekyton
Yossi Wolfson
Yotam Ben-David

these actions are all essential in promoting the reality that bds is the only thing that is breaking the zionist entity and that will continue to help it fall to its knees. faris giacaman’s brilliant piece in electronic intifada illustrates precisely why bds is the best mode of solidarity among activists who are against apartheid in palestine:

Upon finding out that I am Palestinian, many people I meet at college in the United States are eager to inform me of various activities that they have participated in that promote “coexistence” and “dialogue” between both sides of the “conflict,” no doubt expecting me to give a nod of approval. However, these efforts are harmful and undermine the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel — the only way of pressuring Israel to cease its violations of Palestinians’ rights.

When I was a high school student in Ramallah, one of the better known “people-to-people” initiatives, Seeds of Peace, often visited my school, asking students to join their program. Almost every year, they would send a few of my classmates to a summer camp in the US with a similar group of Israeli students. According to the Seeds of Peace website, at the camp they are taught “to develop empathy, respect, and confidence as well as leadership, communication and negotiation skills — all critical components that will facilitate peaceful coexistence for the next generation.” They paint quite a rosy picture, and most people in college are very surprised to hear that I think such activities are misguided at best, and immoral, at worst. Why on earth would I be against “coexistence,” they invariably ask?

During the last few years, there have been growing calls to bring to an end Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people through an international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). One of the commonly-held objections to the boycott is that it is counter-productive, and that “dialogue” and “fostering coexistence” is much more constructive than boycotts.

With the beginning of the Oslo accords in 1993, there has been an entire industry that works toward bringing Israelis and Palestinians together in these “dialogue” groups. The stated purpose of such groups is the creating of understanding between “both sides of the conflict,” in order to “build bridges” and “overcome barriers.” However, the assumption that such activities will help facilitate peace is not only incorrect, but is actually morally lacking.

The presumption that dialogue is needed in order to achieve peace completely ignores the historical context of the situation in Palestine. It assumes that both sides have committed, more or less, an equal amount of atrocities against one another, and are equally culpable for the wrongs that have been done. It is assumed that not one side is either completely right or completely wrong, but that both sides have legitimate claims that should be addressed, and certain blind spots that must be overcome. Therefore, both sides must listen to the “other” point of view, in order to foster understanding and communication, which would presumably lead to “coexistence” or “reconciliation.”

Such an approach is deemed “balanced” or “moderate,” as if that is a good thing. However, the reality on the ground is vastly different than the “moderate” view of this so-called “conflict.” Even the word “conflict” is misleading, because it implies a dispute between two symmetric parties. The reality is not so; it is not a case of simple misunderstanding or mutual hatred which stands in the way of peace. The context of the situation in Israel/Palestine is that of colonialism, apartheid and racism, a situation in which there is an oppressor and an oppressed, a colonizer and a colonized.

In cases of colonialism and apartheid, history shows that colonial regimes do not relinquish power without popular struggle and resistance, or direct international pressure. It is a particularly naive view to assume that persuasion and “talking” will convince an oppressive system to give up its power.

The apartheid regime in South Africa, for instance, was ended after years of struggle with the vital aid of an international campaign of sanctions, divestments and boycotts. If one had suggested to the oppressed South Africans living in bantustans to try and understand the other point of view (i.e. the point of view of South African white supremacists), people would have laughed at such a ridiculous notion. Similarly, during the Indian struggle for emancipation from British colonial rule, Mahatma Gandhi would not have been venerated as a fighter for justice had he renounced satyagraha — “holding firmly to the truth,” his term for his nonviolent resistance movement — and instead advocated for dialogue with the occupying British colonialists in order to understand their side of the story.

Now, it is true that some white South Africans stood in solidarity with the oppressed black South Africans, and participated in the struggle against apartheid. And there were, to be sure, some British dissenters to their government’s colonial policies. But those supporters explicitly stood alongside the oppressed with the clear objective of ending oppression, of fighting the injustices perpetrated by their governments and representatives. Any joint gathering of both parties, therefore, can only be morally sound when the citizens of the oppressive state stand in solidarity with the members of the oppressed group, not under the banner of “dialogue” for the purpose of “understanding the other side of the story.” Dialogue is only acceptable when done for the purpose of further understanding the plight of the oppressed, not under the framework of having “both sides heard.”

It has been argued, however, by the Palestinian proponents of these dialogue groups, that such activities may be used as a tool — not to promote so-called “understanding,” — but to actually win over Israelis to the Palestinian struggle for justice, by persuading them or “having them recognize our humanity.”

However, this assumption is also naive. Unfortunately, most Israelis have fallen victim to the propaganda that the Zionist establishment and its many outlets feed them from a young age. Moreover, it will require a huge, concerted effort to counter this propaganda through persuasion. For example, most Israelis will not be convinced that their government has reached a level of criminality that warrants a call for boycott. Even if they are logically convinced of the brutalities of Israeli oppression, it will most likely not be enough to rouse them into any form of action against it. This has been proven to be true time and again, evident in the abject failure of such dialogue groups to form any comprehensive anti-occupation movement ever since their inception with the Oslo process. In reality, nothing short of sustained pressure — not persuasion — will make Israelis realize that Palestinian rights have to be rectified. That is the logic of the BDS movement, which is entirely opposed to the false logic of dialogue.

Based on an unpublished 2002 report by the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, the San Francisco Chronicle reported last October that “between 1993 and 2000 [alone], Western governments and foundations spent between $20 million and $25 million on the dialogue groups.” A subsequent wide-scale survey of Palestinians who participated in the dialogue groups revealed that this great expenditure failed to produce “a single peace activist on either side.” This affirms the belief among Palestinians that the entire enterprise is a waste of time and money.

The survey also revealed that the Palestinian participants were not fully representative of their society. Many participants tended to be “children or friends of high-ranking Palestinian officials or economic elites. Only seven percent of participants were refugee camp residents, even though they make up 16 percent of the Palestinian population.” The survey also found that 91 percent of Palestinian participants no longer maintained ties with Israelis they met. In addition, 93 percent were not approached with follow-up camp activity, and only five percent agreed the whole ordeal helped “promote peace culture and dialogue between participants.”

Despite the resounding failure of these dialogue projects, money continues to be invested in them. As Omar Barghouti, one of the founding members of the BDS movement in Palestine, explained in The Electronic Intifada, “there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 … it became an industry — we call it the peace industry.”

This may be partly attributed to two factors. The dominant factor is the useful role such projects play in public relations. For example, the Seeds of Peace website boosts its legitimacy by featuring an impressive array of endorsements by popular politicians and authorities, such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, George Mitchell, Shimon Peres, George Bush, Colin Powell and Tony Blair, amongst others. The second factor is the need of certain Israeli “leftists” and “liberals” to feel as if they are doing something admirable to “question themselves,” while in reality they take no substantive stand against the crimes that their government commits in their name. The politicians and Western governments continue to fund such projects, thereby bolstering their images as supporters of “coexistence,” and the “liberal” Israeli participants can exonerate themselves of any guilt by participating in the noble act of “fostering peace.” A symbiotic relationship, of sorts.

The lack of results from such initiatives is not surprising, as the stated objectives of dialogue and “coexistence” groups do not include convincing Israelis to help Palestinians gain the respect of their inalienable rights. The minimum requirement of recognizing Israel’s inherently oppressive nature is absent in these dialogue groups. Rather, these organizations operate under the dubious assumption that the “conflict” is very complex and multifaceted, where there are “two sides to every story,” and each narrative has certain valid claims as well as biases.

As the authoritative call by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel makes plain, any joint Palestinian-Israeli activities — whether they be film screenings or summer camps — can only be acceptable when their stated objective is to end, protest, and/or raise awareness of the oppression of the Palestinians.

Any Israeli seeking to interact with Palestinians, with the clear objective of solidarity and helping them to end oppression, will be welcomed with open arms. Caution must be raised, however, when invitations are made to participate in a dialogue between “both sides” of the so-called “conflict.” Any call for a “balanced” discourse on this issue — where the motto “there are two sides to every story” is revered almost religiously — is intellectually and morally dishonest, and ignores the fact that, when it comes to cases of colonialism, apartheid, and oppression, there is no such thing as “balance.” The oppressor society, by and large, will not give up its privileges without pressure. This is why the BDS campaign is such an important instrument of change.

for those who feel inspired to carry on the bds campaign there is a new campaign to initiate. you can start with locating where wine from the zionist entity is sold, which is, of course, made from stolen grapes in from occupied palestine and syria:

Israel exports roughly $22 million dollars worth of wine a year, according to the Central Statistics Bureau.

Founded in 2002, the family-owned Pelter winery in the Golan Heights benefits from the cool climate and water-rich soil of the plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1981 – a move rejected by the United Nations.

Sam Pelter, whose son Tal founded the winery after extensive wine-making studies in Australia, says he combines Australian techniques and technology with Golan grapes. His wines sell at $18-$50 a bottle and are sold in the United States and Europe.

Some 18-20 percent of Israeli wine comes from the Golan, according to wine critic Rogov, though wines made on disputed land can sometimes invite controversy.

Last December, Syria protested to UN leaders that Israel had distributed Golan wine as year-end holiday gifts to UN staff. In 2006, Israel complained that Sweden was labelling Golan wines as coming from Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.

Israeli settlers also make wine on Arab land in the West Bank, sometimes drawing boycotts by peace activists.

Political sensitivities have not stopped Pelter’s wines making a splash abroad.

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:

it’s like watching a train wreck

Rumor after rumor, decision after decision: it’s like watching a train wreck. The latest news? That Hillary Rodham Clinton may be Obama’s Secretary of State. For a candidate who wanted change, for a candidate who ran on a platform that was purported to be anti-war–at least against the occupation of Iraq–this further signals Obama’s desire for the status quo. Moreover, her consistent attempts to deceive the American public on her stance on the Iraq war is equally troubling:

Indeed, in Thursday night’s debate, Senator Clinton claims that she voted to authorize war against Iraq in October 2002 because “we needed to put inspectors in.” However, this was also a lie, since Saddam Hussein had by that time already agreed for a return of the weapons inspectors. Furthermore, Senator Clinton voted against the substitute Levin amendment, which would have also granted President Bush authority to use force, but only if Iraq defied subsequent UN demands regarding the inspections process. Instead, Senator Clinton voted for the Republican-sponsored resolution to give President Bush the authority to invade Iraq at the time and circumstances of his own choosing regardless of whether inspectors returned. Indeed, unfettered large-scale weapons inspections had been going on in Iraq for nearly four months at the time the Bush administration launched the March 2003 invasion that Senator Clinton had voted to authorize.

This is part of a longstanding pattern of Senator Hillary Clinton misleading the American public about Iraq in order to justify her militaristic policies. It is important to remember that, back in October 2002, despite widespread and public skepticism expressed by arms control experts over the Bush administration’s claims that Iraq had somehow re-armed itself, Senator Clinton was insisting that Iraq’s possession of biological and chemical weapons was “not in doubt” and was “undisputed.” She also claimed, despite the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iraq’s nuclear program had been completely eliminated, that Iraq was “trying to develop nuclear weapons.”

Moreover, Clinton has proven herself to be someone who has contempt for international law:

If Senator Clinton believes the United States can unilaterally claim the right to invade Iraq because of that country’s violation of Security Council resolutions, other Council members could logically also claim the right to invade other states that are in material breach of UN Security Council resolutions, such as Israel, Morocco, Turkey, Armenia, Pakistan and India. Her insistence on the right of the United States to unilaterally invade foreign countries because of alleged violations of UN Security Council resolutions seriously undermines the principle of collective security and the authority of the United Nations and thereby opens the door to international anarchy.

International law is quite clear about when military force is allowed. In addition to the aforementioned case of UN Security Council authorization, the only other time the UN Charter allows a member state to use armed force is described in Article 51, which states that it is permissible for “individual or collective self-defense” against “armed attack…until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security.” Since none of these criteria were met, the U.S. invasion was clearly a violation of the UN Charter, as acknowledged by the UN Secretary General and the majority of member states. Clinton’s support for the war, therefore, demonstrates her belief that the United States should not be bound by its international legal obligations.

My problems with Clinton are also related to other deceptive work, particularly as it is related to Palestine. Since becoming Senator of New York, she has worked closely with Itamar Marcus, an Israeli American who is now an illegal settler in Efrat, an illegal Israeli settlement on a hill overlooking Deheishe refugee camp in Beit Lahem, an illegal settlement that continues to steal land from the neighboring village of Al Khader. Marcus has taught Clinton some of the key lessons in Zionism, which have served her well in Congress. First and foremost is always invert the truth to its opposite. So her claims on in collusion with Marcus and his slanderous organization, Palestinian Media Watch, are troubling because: 1) the claims she makes about Palestinian textbooks are false; 2) if she were to make those same claims about Israeli textbooks they would be true. Here is Clinton speaking on the subject at a press conference with Marcus in 2007:

A more accurate analysis of the textbooks and Hillary’s statements comes from Bethlehem University Education professor Sami Adwan:

She depended mainly on reports produced by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (CMIP), of which Itamar Marcus was the director. CMIP is a right-wing center that has offices in New York and Jerusalem and is well funded, though if you read the goals of the center one can easily be deceived that it is a peace-oriented center.

CMIP’s first report came out in 2000 which was based on analyzing the Jordanian and Egyptian school books that were used in Palestinian schools in West bank and Gaza Strip respectively since early 50s and were fully censored by Israeli Military Commanders in charge of Palestinian education since 1967. The Palestinian Authority by that time only published school books for grades one and six. Even so, CMIP’s baseless accusations and allegations were presented as if they are from the newly produced Palestinian school books. The first CMIP report was circulated all over the world causing serious problems for the Palestinian education system because many countries stopped funding the development of the Palestinians school books.

The report was criticized by many scholars like, Nathan Brown, IPICRI, Daniel Bar Tal, Nurit Peled El-Khanan and Ruth Firer and others. All disagreed with CMIP’s findings and found many mistakes in its translation, selective analysis, taking phrases out of context and drawing false conclusions.

Most of them concluded that Palestinian school books do not teach hate nor instigate violence, are free from stereotypes and praised them for being highly moderate, even though they were produced in extremely difficult situation-the Occupation. (See Akiva Eldar’s articles in Ha’aretz. )

Equally alarming have been reports about former Harvard University President Lawrence Summers as Treasury Secretary. Once again, so much for change:

Larry Summers, early front-runner to succeed Bush Treasury secretary Henry Paulson, was happy to be Enron’s eyes and ears at Treasury, according to a handwritten note to his pal Ken Lay you can find at OpenLeft.com. Summers famously remarked that third world countries were “underpolluted”. His solution to this “problem” is encouraging them to sell their share of “rights” to poison the planet’s oceans and air to wealthy western corporations through a system like the present futures and commodities exchanges. Both the outgoing Bush and the incoming Obama administrations are enthusiastic advocates of this “market-based” approach. So much for a Change We Can Breathe In.

Wild-eyed but unrealistic optimists insist that hacks like Summers and Emanuel are just the smartest guys around, and their policies are not Obama’s anyhow. But that fails the laugh test. There are plenty of smart political operators, and many equally brilliant economists who have called the mess right all along and would relish the chance to begin setting it right. Economists like Paul Krugman, Michael Hudson, or Paul Stiglitz, for instance. You don’t hire smart people for the new administration to do the opposite of what they built their careers doing. It defies common sense to expect anything else. Larry Summers will be looking out for his old friends and colleagues. Rahm Emanuel will be kneecapping advocates of single payer health care, opponents of the war, teachers, union members and anyone left of that rightward moving target they call “the center”.

You see, it is not change when the very economic crisis Obama purports to get us out of was created by those he wants around him on his economic team:

How bizarre it is to observe Obama playing the people’s crusader in the morning and colluding with his top economic advisers, Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers, in the afternoon. In February 1999, Rubin and Summers flanked Fed Chief Alan Greenspan on the cover of Time magazine, heralded as, “The Committee to Save the World.” Summers was then Secretary of the Treasury for Bill Clinton, having succeeded his mentor, Rubin, in that office. Together with Greenspan, the trio had in the previous year labored successfully to safeguard “derivatives,” the exotic “ticking time bomb” financial instruments, from federal regulation. Less than a decade later, unregulated derivatives would expand – like the Mother of All Bubbles – to notional values 10 to 15 times greater than the world’s total economic output. The global order would be brought to its knees, in a financial conflagration that has just begun to show its full dimensions and destructive potential. (See New York Times, October 9, “Taking Hard New Look at a Greenspan Legacy“)

So you might want to thank Obama’s main men on the economy, Rubin and Summers, for the current crisis. Be assured that this crew will deliver another catastrophe from their positions of influence, if Obama is elected.

Moreover, Summers was not only responsible for the financial mess we’re in, but he exported that mess to places like Mexico as well:

Summers, while serving as under secretary of the Treasury in 1995, engineered the destruction of Mexico’s economy by increasing interest rates to unmanageable levels—business and farm loans went from 11% to 56%, credit card rates from 7% to 61%, home loans from 5% to 75%, car loans from 7% to 91%. The result was massive human suffering and the forced migration of millions of economic refugees to the United States.

Although Wall Street banks profited handsomely, the impact of 1995 loan interest rate increases in Mexico was more than millions of people and businesses could handle. Thousands of farms and businesses, both large and small, went bankrupt. In 1995 alone over 12,000 of Mexico’s businesses filed for bankruptcy, and as economic activity came to a standstill and demand was cut, orders were canceled and plants operated at less than minimum levels. Idle capacity in many branches of the manufacturing sector increased to 70%. It became impossible for millions of workers to support their families by earning paychecks in their own country. Unable to earn enough to support their families, many of them migrated to the United States to find family wage work.

Finally, what do Hillary Clinton, Larry Summers, and Rahm Emanuel have in common? They are all Zionists to the core. While Zionism may not be related to the job in the Treasury (though with some $3 billion in aid going to the state of Israel every year, one may wish to argue this point), I think it is worth looking at what sort of role Summers played at Harvard. Judith Butler’s essay reveals some important key points in terms of how the Zionist police work to censor discussion at American universities by calling such discussion “anti-Semitism”:

When the president of Harvard University declared that to criticise Israel at this time and to call on universities to divest from Israel are ‘actions that are anti-semitic in their effect, if not their intent’, he introduced a distinction between effective and intentional anti-semitism that is controversial at best. The counter-charge has been that in making his statement, Summers has struck a blow against academic freedom, in effect, if not in intent. Although he insisted that he meant nothing censorious by his remarks, and that he is in favour of Israeli policy being ‘debated freely and civilly’, his words have had a chilling effect on political discourse. Among those actions which he called ‘effectively anti-semitic’ were European boycotts of Israel, anti-globalisation rallies at which criticisms of Israel were voiced, and fund-raising efforts for organisations of ‘questionable political provenance’. Of local concern to him, however, was a divestment petition drafted by MIT and Harvard faculty members who oppose Israel’s current occupation and its treatment of Palestinians. Summers asked why Israel was being ‘singled out . . . among all nations’ for a divestment campaign, suggesting that the singling out was evidence of anti-semitic intentions. And though he claimed that aspects of Israel’s ‘foreign and defence’ policy ‘can be and should be vigorously challenged’, it was unclear how such challenges could or would take place without being construed as anti-Israel, and why these policy issues, which include occupation, ought not to be vigorously challenged through a divestment campaign. It would seem that calling for divestment is something other than a legitimately ‘vigorous challenge’, but we are not given any criteria by which to adjudicate between vigorous challenges that should be articulated, and those which carry the ‘effective’ force of anti-semitism.

Summers is right to voice concern about rising anti-semitism, and every progressive person ought to challenge anti-semitism vigorously wherever it occurs. It seems, though, that historically we have now reached a position in which Jews cannot legitimately be understood always and only as presumptive victims. Sometimes we surely are, but sometimes we surely are not. No political ethics can start from the assumption that Jews monopolise the position of victim. ‘Victim’ is a quickly transposable term: it can shift from minute to minute, from the Jew killed by suicide bombers on a bus to the Palestinian child killed by Israeli gunfire. The public sphere needs to be one in which both kinds of violence are challenged insistently and in the name of justice.

If we think that to criticise Israeli violence, or to call for economic pressure to be put on the Israeli state to change its policies, is to be ‘effectively anti-semitic’, we will fail to voice our opposition for fear of being named as part of an anti-semitic enterprise. No label could be worse for a Jew, who knows that, ethically and politically, the position with which it would be unbearable to identify is that of the anti-semite. The ethical framework within which most progressive Jews operate takes the form of the following question: will we be silent (and thereby collaborate with illegitimately violent power), or will we make our voices heard (and be counted among those who did what they could to stop that violence), even if speaking poses a risk? The current Jewish critique of Israel is often portrayed as insensitive to Jewish suffering, past as well as present, yet its ethic is based on the experience of suffering, in order that suffering might stop.

Summers uses the ‘anti-semitic’ charge to quell public criticism of Israel, even as he explicitly distances himself from the overt operations of censorship. He writes, for instance, that ‘the only antidote to dangerous ideas is strong alternatives vigorously advocated.’ But how does one vigorously advocate the idea that the Israeli occupation is brutal and wrong, and Palestinian self-determination a necessary good, if the voicing of those views calls down the charge of anti-semitism?

One of the issues Butler raises, which is interesting, given that she wrote this essay five years ago, is the subject of divestment from the Zionist state, which thankfully is catching on. In a little-known about ballot initiative in that same city where Harvard is located and the one adjacent to it, was Question 4 led by the Somerville Divestment Project.

62 % of people voting in Somerville and 73 % of people voting in Cambridge casts YES votes on Question 4. Cambridge, MA is the home of leading colleges MIT and Harvard.

Here are the unofficial results for in each state representative district which represents a large fraction of the population of each city.

Unofficial results:
Somerville, MA: 62% of Voters for YES
YES 9100 NO: 5542

Cambridge, MA: 73 % of Voters for YES
YES 9637 NO: 3650

These results come after the pro-apartheid side attempted legal maneuvers to block the question from being on the ballot (failing in September), and over the opposition of mayor, all local elected officials in Somerville and a main newspaper in Somerville. The mayor of Somerville, two years ago, went on a trip to Israel sponsored by the pro-apartheid government of Israel.

In 2006, 45% of Somerville voters supported the Palestinian peoples’ Right of Return – a fundamental human right, despite the opposition from the pro-apartheid governor, congressman and mayor… all of whom opposed the fundamental human right of return.

For details on this resolution you may read their statement on the language on the ballot and what it means as well as what its limitations are.

One final word: I posted a bit of Vijay Prashad’s article on Sonal Shah the other day and there were a number of people defending her. First, my main reason for posting that piece was because I find it disturbing that someone from Goldman Sachs is advising Obama. But there were obviously other issues related to her and since Prashad himself has posted a follow up, I thought I’d quote some of it here as well for people to see additional arguments he makes:

The VHP says Ms. Shah left the organization in 2001. Three events from 2004 bear mention:

(1) Ms. Shah delivered a keynote address at the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh young conference. The HSS is the U. S. branch of the RSS. The University of Chicago’s Martha Nussbaum describes the RSS as “possibly the most successful fascist movement in any contemporary democracy.” The RSS “guru” (teacher) M. S. Golwalkar wrote glowingly about Nazi “race pride,” and called it a “good lesson for us in Hindusthan to learn and profit by.”

(2) Ms. Shah delivered a keynote address at an Ekal Vidyalaya conference in Florida. The Ekal Vidyalaya’s are schools set up in tribal areas. The RSS’s Chief of Service work, Premchand Goel, said that the RSS and the VHP run “thousands of Ekal Vidyalayas.” One Ekal Vidyalaya teacher, Mohan Lal, told Frontline reporter, T. K. Rajalakshmi, “We go for the RSS shakha [branch] meetings regularly. The teachers are selected only if they subscribe to the RSS way of thought.”

(3) On her behalf, her brother Anand Shah received an award from the Gujarat government in the presence of Chief Minister Narendra Modi. When Mr. Modi became Chief Minister of the State in 2001 was the first RSS pracharak (volunteer) to be in the position. The RSS celebrated its victory. Human Rights Watch’s 2002 report calls attention to the way the RSS and Mr. Modi have used Gujarat as “Hindutva’s laboratory,” stacking the higher administration with RSS-VHP cadre. No Muslim police officer has a field posting. As Frontline reporter Praveen Swami wrote at the time, “Chief Minister Narendra Modi has become something of a hero for many Hindus because he presided over the pogrom.”

At none of these events did Ms. Shah or her brother raise their voices for the broken hearts and bodies, the survivors and victims of the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat. By 2004, even mainstream human rights organizations and media outlets had recognized that the Gujarat riots were state-engineered, and that their author was Narendra Modi. In 2005, the U. S. government refused to allow Mr. Modi a visa on these grounds. And yet, Ms. Shah received an award given by Mr. Modi. The novelist Amitav Ghosh refused to be considered for the Commonwealth Prize in 2001 because it commemorated imperialism. That is a sign of sound moral judgment. To have taken an award from a man who conducted a pogrom is a sign of moral turpitude.