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.

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.

action alert: protest amnesty international & leonard cohen

this is from an open letter from pacbi (palestinian academic & cultural boycott of israel) in response to amnesty international’s support of leonard cohen’s ignoring the boycott. below is an action alert where you can protest this as well as more analysis of this issue:

The following open letter was sent to Amnesty International USA by the The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) on 30 July 2009.

In May, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called on singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen to heed the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and avoid complicity with Israel’s violations of international law by cancelling his planned September concert in Israel, particularly in view of Israel’s war crimes in Gaza earlier this year. Sadly, according to a 28 July article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA has agreed to cooperate with Cohen in dealing with Israel on the basis of business as usual. Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.” Being one of the world’s strongest proponents of human rights and international law, you shall thus be subverting a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. We call on you to be true to your values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

The Jerusalem Post report indicates that Cohen and his public relations staff, having been criticized for trying to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to the article, “All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s 24 September concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation,” and the fund will be “sponsored by Amnesty.” Curt Goering, the senior deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA, told the Jerusalem Post that, “We saw this as an exciting opportunity with potential to recognize, support and pay tribute to the Israelis and Palestinians who have been working for peace and human rights amid a difficult environment and insurmountable odds. I see our participation as complementary to what we do, even though this initiative is different from Amnesty’s ongoing work.”

Why we are calling on Amnesty to withdraw from the project

By supporting Cohen’s concert in Israel, Amnesty International is actively undermining a particularly successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. We find this position by Amnesty particularly frustrating and puzzling given your call for an arms embargo against Israel following its atrocities in Gaza earlier this year, which your organization described as constituting war crimes.

Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa. Profits earned through violations of human rights and international law are tainted and should not be accepted by any morally consistent human rights organization, particularly when this money is intended to be used to whitewash the very violations behind those profits.

Furthermore, your Israeli partners in this venture actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. The Peres Center for Peace, with its multi-million dollar annual budget and fifteen million dollar building, is listed incongruously by the Jerusalem Post as both a beneficiary of the fund and a member of the new fund’s board of trustees. The Peres Center has been denounced by leading Palestinian civil society organizations for promoting joint Palestinian-Israeli projects that are “neither effective in bringing about reconciliation, nor desirable” and that enhance “Israeli institutional reputation and legitimacy, without restoring justice to Palestinians, in the face of continued Israeli Government violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian human rights, including breaches of the Geneva Conventions.” A columnist in Israel’s daily newspaper Haaretz called the Peres Center patronizing and colonial, explaining that “Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews.”

Your other indirect partner in this project, according to the Jerusalem Post, is Israel Discount Bank, a key sponsor of the Cohen concert. Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, reports that the Israel Discount Bank has branches in the settlements of Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim, has financed construction in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar llit and Maale Adumim, and is a major shareholder in a factory in a settlement. Amnesty hardly needs any reminder that all Israeli colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory are not only illegal under international law but are considered war crimes in the Fourth Geneva Convention. Your intention to indirectly partner with a bank that profits from the occupation and to oversee a fund that uses some of that legally and morally stained money contradicts Amnesty’s founding principles and commitment to human rights.

The latest attempt by the Cohen team to find an alternative Palestinian fig leaf has also failed. The only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Background on the boycott

With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Endorsed by nearly sixty Palestinian cultural and civil society organizations and inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycotts, PACBI calls on “the international community to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a contribution to the struggle to end Israel’s occupation, colonization and system of apartheid.” These Palestinian calls have inspired a growing international boycott movement which gained added momentum following Israel’s assault on Gaza last winter.

In April, the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) and over 100 Israelis called on Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. Protests against Cohen’s plans to play in Israel were then held at Cohen’s concerts in New York, Boston, Ottawa and Belfast, among other cities. Feeling the rising heat of the protests, Cohen tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert. The Palestinian group that was supposed to host the Ramallah event cancelled its invitation to Cohen after realizing the adverse effects this would have on the boycott movement, which is widely supported by Palestinians. Reflecting the general mood in Palestinian society against any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation, a 12 July PACBI statement explained, “Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel’s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel. PACBI has always rejected any attempt to ‘balance’ concerts or other artistic events in Israel — conscious acts of complicity in Israel’s violation of international law and human rights — with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory.”

For all the above reasons, we strongly urge you to distance Amnesty International from this discredited project and its tainted money.

Signed:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East, American Jews for a Just Peace (US), Boycott from Within (Israel), British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP), International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI), Palestine Solidarity Campaign (UK), US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel.

now TAKE ACTION:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and groups around the world have been calling for months for musician Leonard Cohen to cancel his planned September concert in Israel. With the international community failing to take action to stop Israeli oppression of the Palestinian people, and inspired by the international boycott movement that helped bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, Palestinian civil society has launched calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, including an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

Feeling the heat of the protests, Cohen and his PR staff tried to schedule a small concert in Ramallah to “balance” his concert in Israel. However, Palestinians rejected the Ramallah concert and any claimed symmetry between the occupying power and the people under occupation.

Now Cohen and his PR staff are trying to whitewash the concert in Israel by using Amnesty International USA’s good name. According to a July 28th article in the Jerusalem Post, Amnesty International USA will serve as sponsor of a new fund. The fund will launder the money raised at Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for “peace.”

In response, sixteen groups and coalitions issued a July 30th Open Letter to Amnesty International calling on Amnesty to be true to its values and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel. The groups noted that by supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International is undermining a successful effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s occupation and other violations of international law and human rights principles. Amnesty International also is partnering in the initiative with Israeli institutions that undermine peace, including a bank directly involved in supporting Israeli settlement construction. The only alleged Palestinian partner has announced it is not taking part.

TAKE ACTION

Please email Amnesty International, calling on Amnesty to withdraw from support for Cohen’s concert. Amnesty International is recognized by many as defending human rights worldwide, so please be respectful and courteous in your message.

You can write and email your own letter, or use the sample letter below and email it, or send an editable form letter from here. For reference, here is the full Open Letter to Amnesty International.

If you send your own email, please email your letter to:

lcox[at]aiusa.org, cgoering[at]aiusa.org, ZJanmohamed[at]aiusa.org, ikhan[at]amnesty.org, msmart[at]amnesty.org, ccordone[at]amnesty.org, drovera[at]amnesty.org

-Larry Cox, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Curt Goering, Senior Deputy Executive Director of Amnesty International USA
-Zahir Janmohamed, Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International USA
-Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General
-Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International (UK) Senior Director
-Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International (UK) Middle East Director, Research and Regional Programs
-Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International (UK) Researcher on Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories)

If you email your own letter, please cc it to: noamnesty4israeliapartheidat]gmail.com so that we can keep track of the responses.

SAMPLE LETTER TO AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

Dear Amnesty International,

I hold Amnesty International’s worldwide work for human rights and international law in high esteem. For this reason, I was very troubled to learn that Amnesty International has agreed to manage a fund that will disburse the proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s planned concert in Israel in September. I call on Amnesty International to be true to your values, distance yourself from efforts to normalize Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and immediately withdraw support for Leonard Cohen’s ill-conceived concert in Israel.

By supporting Cohen’s concert, Amnesty International will be subverting the worldwide movement to boycott Israel, a non-violent, effective effort by Palestinian and international civil society to end Israel’s violations of international law and human rights principles. Accepting funds from the proceeds of Cohen’s concert in Israel is the equivalent of Amnesty accepting tainted funds from a concert in Sun City in apartheid South Africa.

Ninety-three artists, writers and other cultural workers have signed onto the Palestinian cultural boycott call. Many dignitaries signed the “No Reason to Celebrate” pledge and refused to participate in any artistic or literary event during Israel’s year-long 60th anniversary celebrations.

In his protest resignation from Amnesty International over this issue, Irish author and composer, Raymond Deane, wrote: “By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.”

Furthermore, the Israeli partners in the concert, the Peres Center for Peace and Israel Discount Bank, actively hinder efforts to achieve a just peace. A columnist in Israel’s Ha’aretz Daily called the Peres Center for Peace patronizing and colonial organization that is in the business of training “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel.” According to research by Who Profits, a project of Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace, Israel Discount Bank is deeply involved in supporting Israel’s settlement enterprise. Israeli settlements violate the very tenets of international law that Amnesty International works to uphold.

Finally, the only Palestinian organization falsely reported in the July 28th Jerusalem Post article as being a partner in this project, the Palestinian Happy Child Center, has confirmed that it is not taking part. There is no Palestinian organization participating in this whitewash.

Thank you for your attention to this vital human rights issue. I look forward to learning of Amnesty International’s withdrawal of its support for the Leonard Cohen concert in Israel.

Sincerely,
Your name

here is some more background information on leonard cohen from pulse media:

Artist, writer and activist, and friend of PULSE, Tali Shapiro on Leonard Cohen and Amnesty International.

I always talk about Israeli pacifists and their inability to see the barriers they place on the Palestinian road to justice, dignity, and human rights. Today I’d like to talk about a much more appalling occurrence; Amnesty International supporting Leonard Cohen’s breach of the boycott of Israel.

The Leonard Cohen Myth

Personally, it’s hard for me to understand the disillusionment of pro-Palestinian Leonard Cohen fans. In the history of his involvement with Israel, Cohen has always sided with Israel, or made statements of officially taking no sides, when his side was rather obvious:

I don’t want to speak of wars or sides … Personal process is one thing, it’s blood, it’s the identification one feels with their roots and their origins. The militarism I practice as a person and a writer is another thing. … I don’t wish to speak about war.

In case I’m misconstruing my information, I’ll repeat the quote I’ve embedded on my front page and have, personally, had no choice but to live by:

If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmund Tutu)

In Cohen’s most recent history, he is consistent. He refuses to take a side, thus siding with the oppressor. Cohen has received a letter from many organizations (originated with PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel), asking him not to preform in Israel. As response, typically trying to balance out a situation in which balance is not there to be found, Cohen decided to preform for the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society. The Society declined to entertain Cohen’s notions of equality:

We are now pleased to announce that we have received confirmation from the Palestinian Prisoners‘ Club Society that they will not be hosting Leonard Cohen in Ramallah. A strong consensus has emerged among all parties concerned that Cohen is not welcome in Ramallah as long as he insists on performing in Tel Aviv, even though it had been claimed that Cohen would dedicate his concert in Palestine to the cause of Palestinian prisoners. Ramallah will not receive Cohen as long as he is intent on whitewashing Israel‘s colonial apartheid regime by performing in Israel.

The Problem with the International Centrist

As if all this wasn’t enough, Cohen was dead-set on clearing his conscious:

All of the net proceeds from Leonard Cohen’s September 24 concert at Ramat Gan Stadium will be earmarked for a newly established fund to benefit Israeli and Palestinian organizations that are working toward conciliation…

The above quote is taken from non-other than the very-Zionist Jerusalem Post. Here’s another quote from the same article:

Attempting to maneuver through the barbed wire of both Israeli and US tax laws to enable the organizations to benefit from the concert, Kory realized that an intermediary neutral vehicle would be required to facilitate the financial funneling. He approached Amnesty International for advice, and the concept of a special fund was raised.

In other words, trooper Cohen maneuvered through the barbed wire with the assistance of the Amnesty International brigade. How poetic. How utterly embarrassing for Amnesty International to be portrayed favorably by the Jerusalem Post.

I understand big groups like Amnesty International have to be diplomatic and must exercise impartiality, and quite frankly I respect the ability to do so. However, being diplomatic doesn’t mean endorsing pseudo-diplomatic initiatives, especially when they are completely avoidable, as in the case of Leonard Cohen.

To refrain from repeating myself, here’s my own attempt at diplomacy, that I sent to Amnesty International (at the event of a response, I will update):

Hello Amnesty International,

I’m a big supporter of Amnesty International and a regular donation contributor. As an Israeli citizen- who opposes the occupation and violence wreaked by my government, army and countrymen on the Palestinian people, and supports the international movement to boycott Israel- I am appalled that Amnesty USA might break the boycott efforts. The international community has set the terms for the Palestinian struggle and rightfully made it clear that no violence will be tolerated. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has done a wonderful job in stating the terms of the BDS campaign- I don’t have to tell you what a huge commitment to a long-term strategy of non-violence that is. Terms which seem very fair and have been accepted around the world as the guidelines for this world-wide initiative.

When Leonard Cohen decided to come to Israel, PACBI made themselves clear, once again, that it is unacceptable, under the guidelines of a cultural boycott. As I’m sure you know, Cohen tried to appease PACBI by scheduling a show in Ramallah, which PACBI rejected. There is no need to be balanced in a situation that balance doesn’t occur. Had Cohen canceled in Israel he would have been making a meaningful statement and propelled the boycott movement by sheer power of his fame. Performing in both Israel and the Occupied Territories is a wishy-washy peace-faking statement, the kind that Israeli “peace” groups have been making, in order to stroke their own sensibilities, meanwhile marginalizing the other organizations (Palestinian, Israeli and International), who believe in the importance of keeping one’s stand, when it comes to the BDS initiative. “Peace” is a word that has lost all meaning in Israel, we demand human rights instead.

To find that Amnesty International might support this damaging endeavor is shocking, for me, but I take it you decided upon it with the best of intentions. Since I don’t expect you to understand the inner workings of the Israeli Center-Left and its psychological motives, I urge you to consider simple facts: Leonard Cohen preforming in Israel breaches the cultural boycott and normalizes the occupation. This is not something that should be supported by Amnesty International. It is morally wrong and diplomatically wrong. The boycott movement must stick to a standard of “no business as usual”, in order to be effective. I urge you to reconsider.

Awaiting your reply,
Tali Shapiro

What’s Wrong with Balance?

If some of you are wondering how donating the proceeds of the concert to both Israeli and Palestinian organizations is a “damaging endeavor”, here’s PACBI’s words:

PACBI has always rejected any attempt to “balance” concerts or other artistic events in Israel–conscious acts of complicity in Israel‘s violation of international law and human rights–with token events in the occupied Palestinian territory. Such attempts at “parity” not only immorally equate the oppressor with the oppressed, taking a neutral position on the oppression (thereby siding with the oppressor, as Desmond Tutu famously said); they also are an insult to the Palestinian people, as they assume that we are naive enough to accept such token shows of “solidarity” that are solely intended to cover up grave acts of collusion in whitewashing Israel‘s crimes. Those sincerely interested in defending Palestinian rights and taking a moral and courageous stance against the Israeli occupation and apartheid should not play Israel, period. That is the minimum form of solidarity Palestinian civil society has called for.

And some wonderful words from Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane:

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”?… By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

In my words: I’ve long covered the problematic programs and people that dare call themselves “peacemakers”. I’m thought of as the extreme of the extreme, in Israel, but if asking for unconditional human rights is extreme, then I am a proud extremists. Many on the self-proclaimed Left are easy to spot, their key phrase is:

They deserve human rights/freedom/their own country, but…

This “but” is a fearful one, rooted in a deeply ingrained and denied racism. The people who say this are well aware of Israel’s crimes- past and present, and yet still afraid of what may happen, once we let the “two legged beasts” out of their cage, whether they call Palestinians that, or not. In my journey of discovering the truth behind Israel, I’ve realized some things are not negotiable. That is human rights and as a result, this boycott.

Learning from the Cohen/Amnesty Debacle

As the Zionist propaganda machine goes into overdrive, we may find new claims, resulting in the Cohen/Amnesty debacle. For now, Israelis are generally unaware of the international boycott against their state, already underway. Last time I observed any mention of this in the mainstream media was during Cast Lead, when Channel 10 aired the typically condescending and ignorant Before you boycott Israel! video. (Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this article in their archives.) Nothing more responsible than your main stream media instilling blind confidence in you, when an international boycott of your country is rapidly developing.

I can’t predict the creativity of the Zionist mind, but I’m expecting that when the boycott is finally made clear to Israelis, the first rebuttals will be that nothing is enough for those “demanding” Palestinians, and even when the “reasonable” and “unbiassed” offer to give a little to both sides is made, they still “demand the whole arm”. These kinds of underhanded remarks are exactly why I decided to document the Cohen/Amnesty incident.

There should be no questions as to what the boycott’s goals or guidelines are. Some areas are unclear to many, and these cases should be studied. But to those who are unclear, I direct you again to PACBI, who are the Palestinian voice on the issue of the boycott, and have articulated their terms thoroughly. When in doubt, contrast and compare your specific case to their statements. Implementing a boycott on Israel isn’t as hard as Zionist propaganda would like you to think. The best way to deal with the occupation army is to arm yourself with knowledge.

and one more letter/analysis from pulse media:

Renowned Irish composer and novelist Raymond Deane on the reasons why he has chosen to resign from Amnesty International. We encourage readers to follow Deane’s example.

When I first – and belatedly – began fretting about human rights and political injustice in the wake of the 1990-91 Gulf War, I joined Amnesty International and started writing letters and cards to political prisoners and to a variety of Embassies.

Although I was subsequently drawn deeply into activism of a more explicitly political nature – particularly on the Israel/Palestine issue – I retained my Amnesty membership out of residual respect for the organisation, but also because I wished to be in a position to say “as an Amnesty member myself, I completely disagree with the organisation’s stance on…” (fill in the dots as appropriate).

On 30th July I read the “Open Letter to Amnesty International” from 10 admirable organisations involved in seeking justice for the Palestinian people, ranging from PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) through the UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign to the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. This letter was prompted by Amnesty’s decision to sponsor “a new fund that will whitewash the money raised at [Leonard] Cohen’s concert in Israel by using it to finance programs for ‘peace.’”

What could any reasonable person have against “programs for peace”? Well, one answer is that these include the Peres Center for Peace, described by the Israeli paper Ha’aretz as a “patronizing and colonial” organization that trains “the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and… to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews”, and the Israel Discount Bank, which has branches in three illegal Jewish settlements and hence functions in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Another answer is even simpler: Leonard Cohen should heed the call from the oppressed Palestinian people not to perform in Israel until that state dismantles its apartheid structures and complies with international law and international humanitarian law, ends the occupation and colonisation of Palestinian territories, and concedes the inalienable Palestinian right of return. By assisting Cohen in his ruse to bypass this boycott, Amnesty International is in fact taking a political stance, in violation of the premise of political neutrality with which it so regularly justifies its failure to side unambiguously with the oppressed. Amnesty is telling us: resistance is futile, the voice of the oppressed is irrelevant, international humanitarian law is a luxury.

I was one of the organizers of the protests held outside Leonard Cohen’s four recent Dublin concerts (19th, 20th, 22nd, 23d July) in which we called upon the singer not to perform in Tel Aviv, using the text of his 1960s classic “Please don’t pass me by” to deliver a demand for solidarity and engagement with the Palestinian people and against their oppressor, the Zionist Israeli state.

I used to be a Cohen fan. Should Cohen continue with his plan to perform in Israel on 24th September next, I shall consign my Cohen albums to the charity shop, although I’ll do so with considerable grief and disillusionment. It is with similar feelings that today I have sent the following message to the Irish branch of Amnesty International:

To whom it conferns: I am terminating my membership of Amnesty. The last straw has been Amnesty’s decision to support a cynical scheme dreamt up by Leonard Cohen’s PR department to whitewash the fact that he is ignoring the call from Palestinian civil society to respect the cultural boycott of Israel. While I respect Amnesty’s policy of not supporting particular political positions and not itself participating in boycott campaigns, on this occasion it is actively supporting actions that undermine a boycott campaign supported by the Palestinians themselves, and doing so by lending support to Israeli organisations the raison d’etre of which is to seek “conciliation” without an end to oppression.

Sincerely – Raymond Deane.

now it is your turn!

more reasons to boycott the zionist entity

last week palestinian university students in gaza showed extraordinary solidarity by coming together and authoring a boycott statement. if only palestinian students in the west bank could show the same moral courage to come together for such a document:

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) calls upon freedom-loving students all over the world to stand in solidarity with us by boycotting Israeli academic institutions for their complicity in perpetuating Israel’s illegal military occupation and apartheid system. We note the historic action taken by thousands of courageous students of British and American universities in occupying their campuses in a show of solidarity with the brutally oppressed Palestinian people in Gaza. We also deeply appreciate the decision by Hampshire College to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. Such pressure on Israel is the most likely to contribute to ending its denial of our rights, including the right to education.

In this regard, we fully endorse the call for boycott issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI, in 2004.[i]

We emphasize our endorsement of the BDS call issued by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations in July 2005.[ii]

We also support the Call from Gaza issued by a group of civil society organizations in the second week of the Gaza Massacre (Gaza 2009).[iii]

Our goal, as students, is to play a role in promoting the global BDS movement which has gained an unprecedented momentum as a result of the latest genocidal war launched by Israel against the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. We address our fellow students to take whatever step possible, however small, to stand up for justice, international law and the inalienable rights of the indigenous people of Palestine by applying effective and sustainable pressure on Israel, particularly in the form of BDS, to help put an end to its colonial and racist regime over the Palestinians.

We strongly urge our fellow university students all over the world to:

(1) Support all the efforts aimed at boycotting Israeli academic institutions;

(2) Pressure university administrations to divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies;

(3) Promote student union resolutions condemning Israeli violations of international law and human rights and endorsing BDS in any form;

(4) Support the Palestinian student movement directly.

To break the medieval and barbaric Israeli siege of Gaza, people of conscience need to move with a sense of urgency and purpose. Israel must be compelled to pay a heavy price for its war crimes and crimes against humanity through the intensification of the boycott against it and against institutions and corporations complicit in its crimes. As in the anti-apartheid struggle in solidarity with the black majority in South Africa, students concerned about justice and sustainable peace have a moral duty to support our boycott efforts.

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)

Endorsed by:

* Progressive Student Union Block;
* Fateh Youth Organization;
* Progressive Student Labor Front;
* Islamic Block;
* Islamic League of Palestinian Students;
* Student Unity Block;
* Students Affairs (University of Palestine).

[i] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869
[ii] http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52
[iii] http://www.odsg.org/co/index.php/component/content/article/1100-a-call-from-gaza.html

if you need more reasons why you should boycott, try this one (thanks dina):

The Carmel Academic Center in Haifa shut down the concentration in accounting within its Department of Business Administration because a majority of the students applying were Palestinian citizens of Israel. This was revealed in a news item reported on Israeli news Channel 10 on 24 May (in Hebrew only).

or this one (thanks josie):

Despite strong objections from the Committee of University Heads, individual academics and the human rights organization Gisha, the High Court of Justice on Monday accepted the army’s non-security related criteria for granting Palestinian post-graduate students permits to enter Israel to study at Israeli universities….

At the urging of the court, the army also presented criteria for investigating applications from other Palestinians who had been accepted for studies in Israel as an exception to its overall policy not to consider entry requests except for humanitarian reasons.

The criteria included the following:

• Only PhD and Masters students will be considered and only if there is no practical alternative to studying in Israel

• Preference will be given to applicants to programs focusing on regional cooperation or developing coexistence and regional peace. The Education Ministry must testify as to the nature of the program

• Palestinians will not be allowed to study professions that have the potential to be used against Israel.

• The applicant will have to provide the army with a detailed request from a recognized academic institution explaining the grounds on which the institution wants him to study there

• There will be no further examination if the applicant has a security or criminal record.

• The army will take into account the age of the applicant and his personal status.

• The army, at its own discretion, may refuse to consider an applicant even if the student meets the above criteria.

The court added, however, that whenever the army rejects a Palestinian student’s entry request on the grounds that he has not met its criteria, the Palestinian student may petition the High Court against the decision.

“We are being forcibly prevented from accepting students who can make a decidedly valuable contribution to higher education in Israel,” Hebrew University Law Prof. Alon Harel said, following the court ruling.

“I call upon the court and the defense establishment to respect academic freedom. The decision whether or not to accept a student must be the exclusive decision of the university, while the military should be limited to performing a security check.”

and here are some even better reasons from omar barghouti in an interview with ali mustafa in electronic intifada:

AM: One of the most contentious aspects of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is the academic boycott. Can you clarify exactly what this means and why Israeli academic institutions are, as you argue, such a fundamental extension of the Israeli state and state policy?

OB: The academic boycott, which was called for by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in 2004, is an institutional boycott — so it’s a call to every conscientious academic and academic institution to boycott every Israeli academic institution because of their complicity in perpetuating Israel’s occupation and other forms of oppression … Complicity in the case of Israel is different than academic complicity elsewhere. In Canada, for example, your biggest universities are certainly complicit in Canadian policy, especially since they’re all state-funded universities exactly like in Israel … But what’s different is that in Israel, they are in full organic partnership with the security/military establishment — so that most of the weapons developed by the Israeli army are done through the universities, most of the research justifying the repression of the Palestinians and denial of Palestinian rights is done by academics in the universities in academic programs; many of the colonization projects that are considered by international law to be war crimes have been produced by universities. The wall [in the West Bank] for example was produced in an academic environment; an academic at Haifa University claims that this is his brainchild and there is no reason not to believe him because he has produced other projects that were terribly involved in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians even inside Israel. At every level there is a very deep, entrenched complicity between the Israeli academia and the security/military establishment.

Also, all Israeli academics, like all Israelis within a certain age group, with some exceptions, serve in the occupation reserve army. They serve as occupying soldiers part-time every year, three months every year … You go and leave academia, your research, you leave everything, and you serve at a checkpoint or worse — so you’re either participating in committing human rights violations or war crimes, or at least you watch them with total apathy — in both cases you’re very complicit even at an individual level; the universities not only tolerate that, they promote that — this is part of the system. Despite this, we are not calling for boycotting individual academics but institutions. The only reason why our boycott is not individual is because otherwise it would be McCarthyist — it would involve some form of McCarthyism or political test: who is a good academic, who is bad, and who decides? And we don’t want to get into that because it’s a very troubling prospect to have political tests and in principle, we are against political tests, so that’s why we have an institutional boycott.

AM: One common argument against the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign is that dialogue is more constructive than boycotts. How would you respond?

OB: That’s wrong factually and wrong logically. Factually, there have been so many attempts at dialogue since 1993 when the so-called peace process was announced at Oslo. There were many dialogue organizations and initiatives established; it became an industry — we call it the peace industry. You could get rich very fast by getting involved in one of those dialogue groups and you get to travel to Europe and stay in fancy hotels and get a lot of money in return, but otherwise it produces absolutely nothing on the ground. The main reason is because it’s morally flawed and based on the false premise that this so-called conflict is mainly due to mutual hatred and, therefore, you need some kind of therapy or dialogue between those two equivalent, symmetric, warring parties. Put them in a room, force them to talk to one another, then they will fall in love, the hatred will go away and you will have your Romeo and Juliet story. Of course, this is deceitful and morally very corrupt because the conflict is a colonial conflict — it’s not a domestic dispute between a husband and wife — it’s a colonial conflict based on ethnic cleansing, racism, colonialism and apartheid. Without taking away the roots of the conflict you cannot have any coexistence, at least not ethical coexistence.

There are many other issues related to this dialogue industry in that you don’t have dialogue between asymmetric parties, you have negotiations. To have a dialogue you have to have a certain minimal level of a common denominator based on a common vision for the ultimate solution based on equality and ending injustice. If you don’t have that common denominator than it’s negotiation between the stronger and weaker party and, as I’ve written elsewhere, you can’t have a bridge between them but only a ladder where you go up or down not across … I call this the master/slave type of coexistence … A master and a slave can also reach an agreement where this is reality and you cannot challenge it and you make the best out of it. There is no war, no conflict, nobody is killing anybody, but a master remains a master and the slave remains a slave — so this is not the kind of peace that we the oppressed are seeking — the minimum is to have a just peace. Only with justice can we have a sustainable peace. So dialogue does not work — it has not worked in reality and cannot work in principle. Boycotts have worked in reality and in principle so there is absolutely no reason why they cannot work, because Israel has total impunity given the official support it gets from the west in all fields (economic, cultural, academic and so on). Without raising the price of its oppression, it will never give up; it will never concede on any of our right

for these and many other reasons please sign this petition to protest the university of california, davis’ study abroad program in the zionist entity, which would necessarily mean being complicit in zionist terrorist war crimes:

To: Dr. Eric Shroeder Summer Abroad faculty Director, Dr. Jean-Xavier Guinard Associate Vice Provost, and Dr. William Lacy Vice provost at the University of California Davis

From: The EAP Equality Coalition

Date: June 1, 2009

As University of California students, faculty, and people of conscience, we strive to uphold the Principles of Community whereby “We affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and strive to maintain a climate of justice.” In light of these principles supporting equality and justice, we find the recent inception of the new Summer Abroad to Israel program morally objectionable.

Given that the university also shares our commitment to uphold “the highest standards of civility and decency towards all,” we are dismayed that UC Davis established the program with Israel, which required the university to make recommendations that nullified even the US Department of the State’s (DOS) Travel Advisory.

We are deeply troubled that UC Davis decided to make an exception for the program in Israel, and did so in the wake of Israel’s war on Gaza in winter 2008-09. UN special investigators on human rights offer compelling evidence that “Israel’s latest offensive in Gaza violates international humanitarian law,” and requires an independent investigation into whether it involved war crimes.

Numerous UN-protected Palestinian schools and universities were bombed by Israeli missiles in the recent war on Gaza. We are very dismayed that the university has continued a program with Israel in the wake of these recent attacks, that have been condemned by the international community. Even though this program was planned before the latest Israeli offensive in Gaza that caused the deaths of 1500 people, once this massacre became public, the university should have revoked its approval of the program.

Continuing the Study Abroad in Israel suggests the university’s condoning of the Israeli massacres and sanctioning of the Israeli state’s ongoing policies of discrimination toward non-Jews. Israel’s long-standing pattern of human rights violations includes the exploitation, annexation, and illegal settlement of Palestinian territories, as well as segregation of and discrimination toward Palestinians in the occupied territories and inside Israel. The location and structure of the program in Israel hinder an unbiased representation of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict; indeed they reinforce a limited and narrow understanding of these issues.

We understand that the university is going through extreme precautions to ensure the inception of this program by forwarding the names of enrolled students to the Israeli consulate in San Francisco to ensure their proper passage through Israeli airports and checkpoints. Israeli military personnel will also apparently accompany UC students during their outdoor endeavors. Although doing this may provide an illusion of protection for the students, it does not guarantee their safety, especially those suspected of being Arab or Muslim, in a state that practices systemic racial discrimination, as illustrated by the DOS warning: “American citizens whom Israeli authorities suspect of being of Arab or Muslim origin are likely to face additional, often time-consuming, and probing questioning by immigration and border authorities, or may even be denied entry into Israel.”

In fact, these measures only compromise the freedom of education of the participants. The military presence also serves to romanticize the notion of the Israeli Defense Force as a protective state entity that ensures human security, when in reality the IDF is currently under numerous investigations for consistently attacking innocent civilians, including children and students, and violating international human rights law. The impact of the “security wall,” the closures of roads and restrictions on travel, the demolition of homes, the destruction of trees, all impact the mobility and livelihood of Palestinians and violate their human rights, including their right to education, and consequently make a mockery of the notion of academic freedom for students and scholars.

These extreme measures of providing military escort also violate the philosophy of the EAP. Study Abroad programs strive to provide “opportunities to discover, learn about and engage with other cultures to challenge our students to rethink the way they look at the world”; however, normal Israeli citizens do not walk around Israel with military protection. Therefore, by having the inevitable military presence in the program, students experience an education that is embedded with the military, and that limits their understanding of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. By continuing this program, the university transgresses core standards of equality, justice and precedence.

The University of California has a historic pattern of divestment from South Africa in 1986 because of systematic racism against black Africans, and again in 2006 from Sudan, due to issues of transnational displacement and ethnic cleansing. Now in 2009, the UC should divest from Israel because Israel also enforces systemic discrimination against Palestinian citizens in Israel, and is accused of ethnic cleansing and war crimes against the Palestinians in the occupied territories. By supporting this program the university fails to uphold its own statements of values.

Given UC Davis’s commitment to the “Principles of Community,” where the university pledges to “affirm the inherent dignity in all of us, and…strive to maintain a climate of justice…and confront and reject all manifestations of discrimination, including those based on race, ethnicity, gender,” it becomes morally contradictory and compromising to have a Study Abroad program in Israel. Therefore, in light of this evidence, it is ethically incumbent on EAP officials to reconsider the inception of the Summer Abroad program in Israel, and to terminate it forthwith.

and finally a salute to the guerrilla activists who have been busy campaigning in the bay area by altering zionist colonist terrorist study abroad programs trying to lure american students to their universities. you can read more about the campaign and see more images on the us campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of israel website.

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letters from prisons

dsc00103

the other day a friend told me about a museum devoted to palestinian political prisoners at al quds university at abu dis. another friend who was at dinner with us at the time and who attends that university as an m.a. student had not heard of this museum. we decided to go there saturday morning before her classes and on my way home. we got off the service and walked onto campus. i didn’t know what to expect. i thought maybe a few rooms in a building. but what we found was something far more extravagant. the abu jihad museum for the prisoners movement affairs, as it is officially called, is in a huge, rather funky looking building on the southern edge of campus. if you look closely at the shot of it above you’ll notice you can see the apartheid wall imprisoning the prisoners’ museum and the rest of abu dis. the building itself and the museum inside is really quite striking in the interesting aesthetic it uses to to tell the story of palestinian political prisoners. there is a sign in the lobby that states the funding for this museum came from the state of kuwait and the arab fund for economic and social development. while i think the museum is rather amazing and tells a necessary story in the palestinian experience, i wonder just how much this museum cost to build and if that money couldn’t have been better spent in another sector of palestinian society (perhaps on prisoners themselves?).

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as you walk inside you notice that the interior is made to look like a prison with bars for doors and windows within the museum space in several locations. but at the same time the space gives off a sense of freedom in the way large windows allow lots of light inside. first you see various photographs of israeli terrorist prisons and detention centers and a map, as pictured above, showing where all the various prisons are located. there are other photographs of israeli terrorists in uniform beating palestinians and then an artistic display of paintings showing the various common forms of torture used in israeli terrorists’ prisons. at each point in the exhibit there are explanations with history and context about each aspect of prisoners’ lives.

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there are exhibits on martyrs, on old prisoners, on the longest serving prisoners (the two profiled, have thankfully been released in the last year and i can proudly say i was at their welcome party in beirut and nablus respectively: samir quntar and said al ‘atabeh), on female prisoners, on solidarity between palestinian political prisoners and others (notably bobbie sands in ireland), on hunger strikes in prison, on prisoners’ education, on prisoners’ letter writing, on prisoners’ artwork.

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one of my favorite parts of the exhibit was the letters. i posted a photograph here of what some of them look like, but there were so many more displayed. you can see how small and meticulous the handwriting has to be. and you can see the capsules in the other photograph that the prisoners have to make in order to smuggle messages and letters out of the prisons. it reminded me of a scene in fateh azzam, ismail dabbagh, ‘abed ju’beh, and nidal khatib’s play ansar: a true story from an israeli military detention center (which can be found in salma khadra jayyusi’s anthology short arabic plays, which i have been teaching in my drama class. there is a scene with kifah gets zahran a present and kifah asks zahran to write a letter home for him because he doesn’t know how. this is a really beautiful part of the play because it initiates the scenes where we see palestinians starting to create schools in the various prison tents to educate one another on everything from hebrew to palestinian history. but when zahran writes the letter we see how space and size become an issue:

KIFAH: Now listen, Zahran, you write what I’m just going to tell you in brackets, so no one will read it except Mayss, understand? Tell her to tell Khulud that I miss her very, very, very much. Make sure you write “very” three times.

Zahran: There’s not much space to write all that, Kifah.

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but another favorite part of mine was to see the various aspects of education in the exhibit. from a number of paintings and drawings that depicted prisoners as reading books to cases with books written by prisoners or read by prisoners this was a reminder of what the prison used to be in palestine: the university. scene twelve of the play ansar represents this rather well through a series of vignettes showing students attending various lectures and some of these vignettes are staged so that the lectures are delivered simultaneously and we are plopped into the middle of such lectures as in the ninth such vignette:

The two following monologues are delivered simultaneously, the impression being of lectures going on at the same time in two different tents.

PRISONER 1: For example, in the tenth century Palestine was an exporter of olives, raisins and carob as well as silk and cotton textiles. Jerusalem especially was famous for cheese, apples, bananas, mirrors, lamps and even needles. Yes, needles!

PRISONER 2: ‘Asqalan, Dahriyyeh and others were always detention centers, during the time of the British, then the Jordanians followed suit, and now the Israelis. Here, Ketziot, was also a detention center during British days, and they used to call it ‘Oja Hafeer. My grandfather, God rest his soul, was a prisoner there in ’46.

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i just finished reading another novel this weekend by john berger called from a to x: a story in letters. berger is a writer whose book ways of seeing many graduate students in english studies are required to read. but i had not really thought much about his more creative writing until my friend jamelie turned me on to his essays hold everything dear last year. he has a number of essays in it about palestine and lebanon and it’s quite moving and beautiful. berger was one of the people to lead the way for a cultural boycott of the zionist entity three years ago in a statement that was published on electronic intifada:

“There is a fragile ceasefire in Lebanon, albeit daily violated by Israeli overflights. Meanwhile the day to day brutality of the Israeli army in Gaza and the West Bank continues. Ten Palestinians are killed for every Israeli death; more than 200, many of them children, have been killed since the summer. UN resolutions are flouted, human rights violated as Palestinian land is stolen, houses demolished and crops destroyed. For archbishop Desmond Tutu, as for the Jewish (former ANC military commander presently South African minister of security), Ronnie Kasrils, the situation of the Palestinians is worse than that of black South Africans under apartheid. Meantime Western governments refer to Israel’s ‘legitimate right’ of self-defence, and continue to supply weaponry.

The challenge of apartheid was fought better. The non-violent international response to apartheid was a campaign of boycott, divestment, and, finally UN imposed sanctions which enabled the regime to change without terrible bloodshed. Today Palestinians teachers, writers, film-makers and non-governmental organisations have called for a comparable academic and cultural boycott of Israel as offering another path to a just peace. This call has been endorsed internationally by university teachers in many European countries, by film-makers and architects, and by some brave Israeli dissidents. It is now time for others to join the campaign as Primo Levi asked: If not now, when?

We call on creative writers and artists to support our Palestinian and Israeli colleagues by endorsing the boycott call. Read the Palestinian call (www.pacbi.org).

Don’t visit, exhibit or perform in Israel!”

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more recently, berger produced a video of himself reading ghassan kanafani’s “letter from gaza,” which qui qui wrote about last december on kababfest. the video was played at the zapatistas’ conference in mexico and was published on their website and qui qui published the full text of kanafani’s “letter from gaza” on kabobfest as well.

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interestingly berger’s new novel is also about letters. and it is also about prisoners. the book is dedicated to kanafani, which is what made me buy the book in the first place when i found it in al quds a few months ago. but the book is not about palestine. in fact, it is unclear where exactly the novel is set. there are all sorts of confusing location and identity markers in the novel. for instance the “a” stands for a’ida, an arabic name, of a a woman whose lover, xavier, standing in for “x” in the title, is in prison. the name xavier has basque origins. the letters are not dated, so not fixed in a particular time period. nor do they appear chronologically in the novel. and the letters are only from a’ida to xavier–there are none from him to her. but there are notes he left to a’ida on the backs of these letters that do locate the story in a particular time frame–the present. for example, he scrawls a note about hugo chavez on the back of one such letter:

“After almost 200 years we can say that the USA was designed to fill the entire world with poverty–whilst giving it the name of Freedom. The United States empire is the greatest threat which exists in the world today…” Chavez, Moscow, 27/07/2006 (44)

another such note from xavier places him ideologically and chronologically:

IMF WB GATT WTO NAFTA FTAA–their acronymns gag language, as their actions stifle the world.(70)

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the novel is beautiful and moving, lyrical and striking. i love that you cannot place it precisely in the world because it means that in many ways this story of a political prisoner and resistance is one that is the same everywhere when one fights for liberation of one’s land. we cannot place a’ida even who calls her beloved at once habibi and mi guapo among other terms of endearment from various languages. but here are some of my favorite passages from the novel that speak to the commonality and specificity of place and struggle across the world. the italics indicate xavier’s notes and the rest is from a’ida’s letters.

I love your secrecy. It’s your candour. Two F16s have passed over flying low. Because they can’t break our secrets, the try to break our eardrums. I love your secrecy. Let me tell you what I can see at this moment.

Crammed windowsills, clotheslines, TV satellite dishes, some chairs propped against a chimney stack, two bird cages, a dozen improvised tiny terraces with their innumerable pots for plants and their saucers for cats. if I can stand up I can smell mint and molokhiyya. Cables, telephone and electric, looping in every conceivable direction and every month sagging more.Eduardo still carries his bicycle up three flights of stairs and padlocks it to a cable by his chimney. (29)

One by one the birds appeared; they didn’t fly into the tree, they appeared on its branches like prayers. Gassan’s house was destroyed by a missile, aimed, they claim at a hide-out! The birds perched there on the branches of the apple tree like answers, answers to questions which have no words. Watching the birds, I finally cried.

Gassan wasn’t there when his house was destroyed. He had gone to the market and was playing cards with some cronies. When he heard the news, he foundered and fell to the floor, making no sound.

The next day I accompanied him to the ruin. There were several epicenters where everything had been reduced to dust, surrounded by tiny fragments. Except for pipes and wires no recognisable objects remained. Everything which had been assembled during a lifetime had gone without trace, had lost its name. An amnesia not of the mind but of the tangible. (120)

The poor are collectively unseizable. They are not only the majority on the planet, they are everywhere, and the smallest event somehow refers to them. Consequently the activity of the rich is the building of walls–walls of concrete, of electronic surveillance, of missile barrages, minefields, armed frontiers, media misinformation, and finally the wall of money to separate financial speculation from production. Only 3% of financial speculation and exchange concerns production. I love you. (149)

My phone rang and there was Yasmina’s clipped voice–finches chirp quickly like this when their tree is at risk–telling me that an Apache had been circling above the old tobacco factory in the Abor district, where seven of ours were hiding, and that the neighbouring women–and other women too–were preparing to form a human shield around the factory and on its roof, to prevent them shelling it. I told her I would come.

I put down the telephone and stood still, yet it was as if I was running. Cool air was striking my forehead. Something of mine–but not my body, maybe my name A’ida–was running, swerving, soaring, plummeting and becoming impossible to sight or get aim on. Perhaps a released bird has this sensation. A kind of limpidity.

I’m not going to send you this letter, yet I want to tell you what we did the other day. Perhaps you won’t read it until we are both dead, no, the dead don’t read. The dead are what remains from what has been written. Much of what is written is reduced to ashes. The dead are all there in the words that stay.

By the time I got there, twenty women, waving white headscarves, were installed on the flat roof. The factory has three floors–like your prison. At ground level, lines of women with their backs to the wall, surrounded the entire building. No tanks or jeeps or Humvee yet to be seen. So I walked from the road across the wasteland to join them. Some of the women I recognised, others I didn’t. We touched and looked at one another silently, to confirm what we shared, what we had in common. Our one chance was to become a single body for as long as we stood there and refused to budge.

We heard the Apache returning. It was flying slowly and low to frighten and observe us, its four-bladed rotor blackmailing the air below to hold it up. We heard the familiar Apache growl, the growl of them deciding and us rushing for shelter to hide–but not today. We could see the two Hellfire missiles tucked under its armpits. We could see the pilot and his gunner. We could see the mini-guns pointing at us.

Before the ruined mountain, before the abandoned factory, which was used as a makeshift hospital during the dysentery epidemic four years ago, some of us were likely to die. Each of us, I think, was frightened but not for herself. (167-168)

Each new death prepares us for something–of course for our own deaths–mine not yours, nothing could prepare me for yours, I’ll sit on the earth, your head in my lap, their cluster bombs exploding, and I will refuse your death. Each new death also prepares us for a carnival, a carnival held under their very noses, and about which they can do f*&% all, not even with their Predator Drones. I’m thinking of how they shot Manda. (174)

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there is so much more that is beautiful and amazing about this novel. i strongly recommend it. but i will leave you with berger himself speaking about palestinian prisoners among other things in a beautiful, eloquent fashion:

boycotting study abroad programs in the zionist entity

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last month i blogged about california faculty resisting study abroad programs between american universities and those in the zionist entity. now, apparently, some american professors who believe that massacring and ethnic cleansing are appropriate behaviors are trying to encourage their students to learn these behaviors at zionist universities. here is an email detailing this position:

IN SUPPORT OF the University of California’s Decision to Re-open the Education Abroad Program in Israel

We, the undersigned, support UC’s decision to reopen its Education Abroad Program (EAP) in Israel. The original decision in 2002 to close the program was based on security concerns, which have now been significantly reduced. A number of UC faculty have petitioned to have this decision rescinded due to Israeli restrictions on the operation of Palestinian educational institutions and subject to investigation of Hebrew University’s discriminatory policies towards Arab students. We the undersigned urge the university to stand by its decision.

*The petition requesting that the EAP not be re-opened in Israel must be placed in the context of a larger, on-going political struggle to isolate Israel diplomatically, educationally, culturally and economically. It is part of a strategy to characterize Israel as an apartheid state and to boycott Israel in the same manner that was done to the apartheid South African regime. * The two are not the same. Israel has granted its Arab residents citizenship and now faces a partition of the land between two peoples. South Africa confronted the challenge of extending citizenship to all its residents.

Although we regret the restrictions and disruptions to which Palestinian educational institutions are subject and those to which Israeli Arab, Palestinian, and potentially American students of Arab background may be subject within Israel, it is critical to place these restrictions in the context of a history of violent attacks against which Israel has a right to protect itself, indeed attacks that caused the closure of the EAP program in the first place.

Israel’s alleged violations of human rights are being unfairly singled out. Why are our colleagues who demand an end to EAP with Israel not also demanding an end to the present exchange programs with China — which violently suppresses Tibetan efforts to achieve even a modicum of self-determination and brutally crushes all efforts to democratize its society, or Russia — which invaded Georgia and conducted a war of suppression in Chechnya in which tens of thousands have lost their lives? To select out Israel which withdrew from Gaza, allowed the election of a Hamas government which calls for Israel’s destruction and that then went on to mount a concerted campaign of targeting Israeli civilians with suicide bombings and low-grade rockets, would be most unfair.

We do believe it is incumbent upon our university to assiduously protect the rights of our students who travel under its auspices abroad. But we believe that these efforts apply equally to any student of any group liable to suffer discrimination, harassment, not to mention detention and interrogation in any country where the University of California has an educational program.

Benjamin J. Cohen, Professor of Political Science, UCSB
Edwin M. Epstein, Professor Emeritus, International and Area Studies and Haas School
of Business, UCB
Claude Fischer, Professor of Sociology, UCB
Roger Friedland, Professor of Religious Studies and Sociology, UCSB
Thomas B. Gold, Associate Professor, Sociology, UCB
Ron Hassner, Assistant Professor, Political Science, UCB
Richard Hecht, Professor of Religious Studies, UCSB, Director, EAP, Hebrew
University, Jerusalem, 1982-1984
Estie Sid Hudes, Statistician, Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, UCSF
David Levine, Professor of Law, UC Hastings College of the Law
Ann Swidler, Professor of Sociology, UCB
David Vogel, Professor, Haas School of Business, Department of Political Science, UCB
Maurice Zeitlin, Professor of Sociology, UCLA

and it seems that this is something that is being advertised at bus stops and in other public places around california as in the image below:

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therefore, friends of mine created a counter campaign and are putting up images in response (see image at the top and image below of this poster at a california bus stop):

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here is their statement about the guerrilla poster campaign:

Guerrilla Ad Campaign Replaces Study In Israel Billboards

Students and community members near the UC Berkeley campus were surprised one weekend to see a series of bus shelter billboards asking, “What country uses live ammunition against unarmed children?” Below a photo of identically dressed schoolboys in front of a barbed wire fence is the answer: Israel.

The guerrilla ads replaced ads which also featured photos of groups of people, beneath the headline, “Study in Israel? You’d like it here.” The ad campaign was part of an intensive campaign to promote study in Israel at California universities. The University of California recently reinstated a study abroad program at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, after years of strong lobbying from pro-Israel students and professionals. The program was suspended seven years ago based on concerns that the area was too dangerous.

“It’s ironic that the University of California has decided the area is less dangerous now than seven years ago, when 1,400 Palestinian civilians were killed by the Israeli government in Gaza just four months ago,” said one of the creators of the alternative ad campaign, who prefers to remain anonymous. “2009 has already been the deadliest year for Palestinians since the Second Intifada began in September 2000.”

The replacement poster took a satirical tone, reading in part:

“For over eight years, Israel has been under siege. Unarmed Palestinian children have led the attack by crossing Israeli checkpoints, intimidating Israeli troops and provoking gunfire. Acting with extreme restraint, Israelis have killed no more than 1,100 children and seriously wounded only 4,000. Israeli troops have arrested over 6,000 children, but only 80% have been tortured….

“With your continued support we can do better. The U.S. government gave us $5 billion last year, but your additional contributions will help us arrest every Palestinian child, torture 100% of detainees, and rid ourselves of the menace of international human rights workers once and for all. In these tough economic times, think of Israel on April 15th and give generously.”

The poster made its first appearance on March 29, which is observed as Land Day by Palestinians all over the world. Land Day commemorates events of 33 years ago, when Israeli security forces shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel and injured many others. The young people were killed while protesting ongoing Israeli expropriation of Palestinian land for Jewish-only settlements.

The Study in Israel billboards were carefully designed to appeal to the U.C. system’s multicultural student body. One featured a group of Southeast Asians and another a women in hijab (traditional Muslim headcovering). One of the artists behind the alternative campaign finds this portrayal of Israel as a society that is welcoming to people of all cultures particularly troubling. “Not only is Israel an apartheid state, where Palestinians – whether they wear hijab or not – do not have equal rights with Jewish citizens, but Muslims who attempt to travel there as tourists or students are very likely not even to be allowed into the country,” the artist observed.

While the guerrilla ads are not affiliated with any organization, www.stopthewall.org, www.bdsmovement.net and www.whoprofits.org are excellent sources of information.

meanwhile, as if we needed yet another reason to boycott israeli terrorist universities a friend of mine is under attack at his university. here is the statement about his case from electronic intifada:

The impressive growth of the Palestinian civil society campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, particularly after its criminal war of aggression on the occupied Gaza Strip, is testimony to the morality and consistency of ordinary citizens and civil society organizations around the world concerned about restoring Palestinian rights and achieving justice for Palestinians.

The most recent achievement of the Israel boycott movement was the adoption of BDS — nearly by consensus — by the Scottish Trade Union Congress, following the example set by the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

In despair over their evident inability to stop or even hold back the growing tide of BDS across the globe, Israel apologists have resorted to an old tactic at which they seem to excel: witch hunts and smear campaigns. A self-styled McCarthyist academic monitor group in Israel has launched a petition calling for the expulsion of Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), from Tel Aviv University, where he is enrolled as a doctoral student. The Israeli campaign urges the university administration to expel Barghouti due to his leading role in the BDS movement that calls for boycotting Israel and all institutions complicit in its occupation and apartheid.

To date, more than 65,000 persons have reportedly signed this right-wing Israeli petition that depicts Barghouti as an “especially strident and persuasive voice” against Israeli colonial and racist policies. Several media columns by Zionist journalists in Israel and the United Kingdom, among others, have tried to use the “revelation” that Barghouti, “now enrolled” at an Israeli university, is politically inconsistent for calling for the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions while he is a student at one of them. Other than the clear dishonesty and underhandedness of these same media in presenting the case as if Barghouti has just — or recently — enrolled in an Israeli university despite themselves having reported years ago that he was already enrolled then, the reports have made some glaring omissions about the Israeli apartheid context, the widely endorsed criteria of the PACBI boycott, and the system of racial discrimination in Israel’s educational system against the indigenous Palestinians.

While consistently calling upon academics around the world to boycott Israel and its academic — and cultural — institutions due to their entrenched collusion in the state’s colonial and apartheid policies, PACBI has never called upon Palestinian citizens of Israel and those who are compelled to carry Israeli identification documents, like Palestinian residents of occupied Jerusalem, to refrain from studying or teaching at those Israeli institutions. That would have been an absurd position, given the complete lack of alternatives available. Successive Israeli governments, committed to suppressing Palestinian national identity in their pursuit of maintaining Israel’s character as a racist state, have made every effort possible to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian university inside Israel. The only choice left to Palestinian students and academics in Israel, then, is to go to an Israeli university or leave their homeland to pursue their studies or academic careers abroad — often not possible due to financial or other compelling reasons. In fact, the Israeli authorities have consistently worked to strip Palestinians from occupied Jerusalem of their Israeli ID cards and thus their residency rights while they study abroad, thereby prohibiting them from returning.

Palestinians in Israel are treated as second-class citizens in every vital aspect of life and are subjected to a system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination,” as admitted even in US State Department reports on human rights. In the field of education this discrimination is dominant throughout the system, as the following conclusion from a ground-breaking Human Rights Watch study published in 2001 states:

“The hurdles Palestinian Arab students face from kindergarten to university function like a series of sieves with sequentially finer holes. At each stage, the education system filters out a higher proportion of Palestinian Arab students than Jewish students. … And Israel’s courts have yet to use … laws or more general principles of equality to protect Palestinian Arab children from discrimination in education.”

Palestinians, like any people under apartheid or colonial rule, have insisted on their rights, including their right to education, even if the only venues available were apartheid or colonial institutions. Nelson Mandela studied law at the Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, one of the most notorious apartheid institutes then. Similarly, leaders of the anti-colonial resistance movement in India and Egypt, among many other countries, received their education at British universities at the height of the colonial era.

PACBI has always made a distinction between the forms and range of academic boycott it urges the world to adopt and what Palestinians themselves can implement. The former have a moral choice to boycott Israeli universities in order to hold them accountable for their shameful, multifaceted complicity in perpetuating the occupation and racist policies of the state; the latter are often left with no choice but to use the services of the oppressive state, to which they pay taxes.

Finally, we stress that it is precisely PACBI’s five-year-old record of moral and political consistency and the growing influence of its principles and the campaigns it and its partners have waged around the world that have provoked Zionist anti-boycott forces to try, yet again, to rehash old attacks of inconsistency, failing to understand or intentionally and deceptively ignoring the boycott criteria set by PACBI. We urge all academics, academic unions, cultural figures and cultural associations to adopt whatever creative form of BDS their context allows them. This remains the most effective and morally sound form of solidarity with the Palestinian people in our struggle for freedom, dignity, equality and self determination.

analogizing gaza; or, what’s in a name?

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quiqui is on a roll today on kabobfest. first she asks us: when it will be time for us all to overthrow our governments? then she asks us, sarcastically, how’s that “ceasefire” is working out given the fact that more palestinians were murdered by israeli terrorists today. she cites this story from ma’an news:

A Gazan farmer is dead and his son injured by Israeli fire less than ten hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in the Gaza Strip Sunday morning, medical sources confirmed.

The farmer was identified as 24-year-old Abd As-Samad Abu Rejlieh, who was shot as he went out to his lands to inspect the damage from the 22-day Israeli incursion.

Israeli fire also hit a mother and her daughter in their home in the northern Strip town of Beit Hanoun, both were injured.

Since the ceasefire went into effect at 2am Sunday morning, one is dead and several injured. Medical crews continue to dig bodies out of Gaza rubble.

this so-called “ceasefire” is bringing with it some dangerous dimensions such as further collusion between american and israeli terrorists in the form of american soldiers (as if we didn’t have enough to deal with in the form of american jews who are illegal colonists and soldiers at checkpoints all over the west bank):

Just before Saturday’s decision by Israeli officials to declare a ‘ceasefire’ in Gaza, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni received a signed assurance from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the US government would provide security and intelligence personnel to assist the Israeli military in its ongoing military occupation of all Palestinian land.

and gordon brown signed a similar agreement after speaking with a forked tongue–at once criticizing livni for her terrorist targeting of civilians in gaza and at the same time offering her even greater military support to continue her terrorist project:

In a statement Sunday by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister criticized Israel for targeting civilians in a ground and air assault that has left over 1200 dead in 3 weeks. But at the same time, officials in the British government were busy signing agreements with the Israeli military that would commit British intelligence and security resources to supporting the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

the cynic in me wonders if brown’s collusion is related to the natural gas resources recently discovered in gaza:

The military invasion of the Gaza Strip by Israeli Forces bears a direct relation to the control and ownership of strategic offshore gas reserves.

This is a war of conquest. Discovered in 2000, there are extensive gas reserves off the Gaza coastline.

British Gas (BG Group) and its partner, the Athens based Consolidated Contractors International Company (CCC) owned by Lebanon’s Sabbagh and Koury families, were granted oil and gas exploration rights in a 25 year agreement signed in November 1999 with the Palestinian Authority.

The rights to the offshore gas field are respectively British Gas (60 percent); Consolidated Contractors (CCC) (30 percent); and the Investment Fund of the Palestinian Authority (10 percent). (Haaretz, October 21, 2007).

The PA-BG-CCC agreement includes field development and the construction of a gas pipeline.(Middle East Economic Digest, Jan 5, 2001).

The BG licence covers the entire Gazan offshore marine area, which is contiguous to several Israeli offshore gas facilities. (See Map below). It should be noted that 60 percent of the gas reserves along the Gaza-Israel coastline belong to Palestine.

The BG Group drilled two wells in 2000: Gaza Marine-1 and Gaza Marine-2. Reserves are estimated by British Gas to be of the order of 1.4 trillion cubic feet, valued at approximately 4 billion dollars. These are the figures made public by British Gas. The size of Palestine’s gas reserves could be much larger.

and of course the israeli terrorists have not yet left gaza and who knows what their plans are since no “ceasefire” was negotiated between parties, nothing has been written down. but there are israeli colonist terrorists making their own plans in relation to this gaza occupation:

More than three years after being forcibly expelled from their homes, a group of former Gush Katif residents is demanding that the Israeli government allow them to return.

we’ll see how long this so-called “ceasefire” lasts. in any case it has enabled palestinians in gaza to return home and see the damage and pull out the bodies. here are some al jazeera reports showing people beginning to assess the damage. first imran khan reports from zeitoun:

sherine tadros went to the samouni house, the site of the massive massacre of the samouni family; she met the few surviving members of the family in the hospital and now she went to the site of the bombing where israeli terrorist tanks were still encircling the area and terrorizing the people:

as you can see in tadros’ report the bodies are still being pulled out of the rubble and so far today 95 new martyrs have been recovered from the rubble:

Palestinian medical sources in the Gaza Strip reported on Sunday that medics and residents located the bodies of 95 Palestinians who were killed during the Israeli offensive and their bodies were buried under the rubble of shelled homes and facilities.

The sources added that 1305 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive and more than 5450 were wounded. Among the killed residents were 417 children, 108 women, 120 elderly, 14 medics, 4 reporters and five internationals.

eva barlett describes what it was like to go out and to assess the damage and destruction today:

Today was the first day that medics and journalists were able to reach areas occupied by the invading Israeli troops. Palestinians by this point, by weeks ago, were desperate for any semblance of a normal life, though normality here is far from normality anywhere else. They were desperate to return to their homes, survey the damage and if possible repair it, find displaced family members, or their corpses, as well as neighbours, friends.

Not everyone returned home to stay; many could be seen returning to where their homes were, or had stood, to retrieve anything worthwhile. Donkey carts and taxis were piled with blankets, clothes, cooking pots, cupboards, pieces of furniture, people…

I went straight to Ezbat Abed Rabbo, the area east of Jabaliya which had been cut off since day 1 of the ground invasion, over 2 weeks ago. The Red Crescent had been receiving calls to evacuate the injured and dead since day 1, and were prevented, at gunpoint, by gunfire, from reaching those needing evacuation. We heard the cries of those who managed to escape, their stories of being locked in homes at gunpoint, losing family members to point-blank assassinations or house-bombings.

And although the area was crammed with troubled, panicked, residents, many of them injured, without water, without food, with homes occupied by Israeli soldiers, I worried particularly about one man: the father of my friends.

We had no idea if he was alive, though we knew he’d stayed in the area. My panic was great, daily, I felt like I had said goodbye to a grandfather.

I bee-lined for his house, though had a hard time doing it since the streets and the land were turned upside-down, torn apart, filled with carcasses of houses and animals.

He was there, miraculously, noble in his traditional gown, long beard, hat. But he looked shattered.

“He cried for us,” his son told me. “He didn’t know if we were alive or dead.” So the confusion and desperation was both ways. Utterly cut off from one another, we were but mirror examples of families and loved ones all over the Gaza Strip. And we were luckier, because we are all alive. Except his wife, my friend’s mother, who was killed on the very first day of attacks. But now everything is relative and we cling desperately to the positive, for its all there is to cling to.

I have so much to tell, so many photos that don’t do justice to the suffering, heart-break, trauma, psychological damage, and despondency of people here. So many smells ingrained in my memory, that when sniffed will bring images of dead children, burned houses, chemical fires.

Slamming doors will forever remind of the missiles slamming the earth, the life below.

And just visiting the few areas I saw today, so many people, so desperate to tell their stories, tell of their anguish. For some the anguish is immense: pulverized homes, killed family members, corpses unretrieved, sanctimony and all that is sacred defiled. For others, the suffering is in the tragedy of shattered dreams, of every personal item destroyed or lost. It all matters, and they were all desperate to tell me. And I to listen. But quickly their words became a blur, a swirl of agony. My basic Arabic began to fail me as I wrote their ailments, their losses.

I will go back, to take careful inventory of the destruction, physical and emotional. Many of those who returned to where their homes were have to return to overcrowded schools with memories of slaughters even within school premises.

While the bombs may have stopped, for now, the terror remains. F-16s still flew low, terrifyingly low, today, so loud, so unpredictable. No one here has any reason to believe any words Israeli leaders proclaim. Only reason to believe in the worst. But out of necessity, we must hope for the best.

there are many photographs and there is film footage on eva’s website, which document the unreal devastation. it gives you a sense of precisely why people will continue to feel terrorized regardless of whether or not israeli terrorists are physically present inside gaza or whether they merely are controlling the air, land, and sea borders.

there have been a number of writers thinking about the relationship between this latest massacre in gaza in relation to the holocaust in nazi germany. and this is one of many holocausts or nakbas or massacres or genocides–pick your strong word of choice–over the course of sixty one years of israeli colonialist terrorist history. there are many who warn against such labels because of the historical or legal inaccuracy of such analogies as robert fisk does in his op ed this week, though he does make an interesting comparison in relation to international criminal courts or war crimes tribunals and gaza:

I should add that I had a sneaking sympathy for the Syrian foreign minister who this week asked why a whole international tribunal has been set up in the Hague to investigate the murder of one man – Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafiq Hariri – while no such tribunal is set up to investigate the deaths of more than 1,000 Palestinians.

nevertheless a number of blogs have published a photo essay this week asking readers to think about the visual parallels between the warsaw ghetto or nazi germany and palestine. i am only posting one photograph from each category so i encourage those interested in seeing the rest to click on the link.

arrests4

checkpoints3

civilizedchildre12

destroyinghomes2

walls1

westernpropaganda2

british labor minister, sir gerald kaufman, whose family survived the holocaust, found it important to make this analogy–between the holocaust and the massacres in gaza. and i don’t think that doing so is to make some sort of historically inaccurate claim. what kaufman is saying, for instance, is that the behavior we are witnessing is like nazi behavior.

My grandmother did not die to provide cover for Israeli soldiers murdering Palestinian grandmothers in Gaza. The current Israeli Government ruthlessly and cynically exploit the continuing guilt among gentiles over the slaughter of Jews in the holocaust as justification for their murder of Palestinians. The implication is that Jewish lives are precious, but the lives of Palestinians do not count.

On Sky News a few days ago, the spokeswoman for the Israeli army, Major Leibovich, was asked about the Israeli killing of, at that time, 800 Palestinians — the total is now 1,000. She replied instantly that “500 of them were militants.”

That was the reply of a Nazi. I suppose that the Jews fighting for their lives in the Warsaw ghetto could have been dismissed as militants.

The Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni asserts that her Government will have no dealings with Hamas, because they are terrorists. Tzipi Livni’s father was Eitan Livni, chief operations officer of the terrorist Irgun Zvai Leumi, who organised the blowing-up of the King David hotel in Jerusalem, in which 91 victims were killed, including four Jews.

Israel was born out of Jewish terrorism. Jewish terrorists hanged two British sergeants and booby-trapped their corpses. Irgun, together with the terrorist Stern gang, massacred 254 Palestinians in 1948 in the village of Deir Yassin. Today, the current Israeli Government indicate that they would be willing, in circumstances acceptable to them, to negotiate with the Palestinian President Abbas of Fatah. It is too late for that. They could have negotiated with Fatah’s previous leader, Yasser Arafat, who was a friend of mine. Instead, they besieged him in a bunker in Ramallah, where I visited him. Because of the failings of Fatah since Arafat’s death, Hamas won the Palestinian election in 2006. Hamas is a deeply nasty organisation, but it was democratically elected, and it is the only game in town. The boycotting of Hamas, including by our Government, has been a culpable error, from which dreadful consequences have followed.

the blog pulse posted this video of sam husseini questioning tzipi livni in washington dc and added this analysis and film footage from the real news:

The times they are a-changing! Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni called a ‘terrorist’ at the National Press Club. And then the brilliant Sam Husseini steps in to raise the the all important question (which I have raised on several occasions here) that if the alleged blockade of the Gulf of Tiran by Nasser in ‘67 was sufficient casus belli for an Israeli assault on Egypt, then why isn’t the Israeli blockade of Gaza sufficient pretext for Hamas rockets?

This is unprecedented: Israelis have hitherto received a free ride from all of the US (and most of UK) media. Likewise, the moderators here appeared happy enough to let Livni bloviate until things started getting unruly. How did the NPC uphold its commitment to free speech? By cutting their mics.

and of course the word nakba is used again and again and again by palestinians who continue to experience nakba after nakba. here is the latest evidence of a new gaza nakba:

tents-in-egypt

Under cover of announcing humanitarian relief for injured Palestinians, it is now emerging that Israel is planning the transfer of tens of thousands of Palestinians from Gaza into Egypt.

Evidence of the Israeli transfer plan has been sent to London based Islington Friends of Yibna** [IFY]. Earlier today, Sat 17 Jan 09, IFY received a photo of tents [see attached] outside the main hospital in Egyptian Rafah, near the border with Gaza.

The white tents with no markings are being erected by the Egyptian Army, starting last night, Fri 16 Jan 09. The photo was taken this morning [Sat 17 January 09]. The soldiers stated that 5,000 tents were planned for refugees from Gaza.

Further information is available from our contacts in the Egyptian side of Rafah [Rafah was divided by Israel after it occupied Gaza and Sinai in 1967; Israel divided Rafah when Sinai was returned to Egypt].

From our contacts in Yibna Refugee Camp in Gaza we have learnt that, in the north east of Rafah, near the Egyptian border, Israeli tanks have surrounded and sealed off the Al Sarayh neighbourhood, for more than the last 48 hours. There are many injured people trapped there, the Israelis are not allowing access for the Red Cross and many people are dying of their wounds, isolated and with no medical treatment.

We have grave concerns that Israel will target the Al Sarayh neighbourhood to be the first to be transferred and that this might be within the next 24h.

one reason for the use of particular words or to create certain analogies is to shake people up–to wake them up enough to do something. to get them to see that regardless of the differences there is a tremendous human travesty, a massacre upon massacre upon 61 years of ethnic cleansing. john pilger had an interesting article on the subject of diction and also the silence among many of those who dare not to speak out:

Dr. Dahlia Wasfi is an American writer on Palestine. She has a Jewish mother and an Iraqi Muslim father. “Holocaust denial is anti-Semitic,” she wrote on 31 December. “But I’m not talking about World War Two, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad (the president of Iran) or Ashkenazi Jews. What I’m referring to is the holocaust we are all witnessing and responsible for in Gaza today and in Palestine over the past 60 years … Since Arabs are Semites, US-Israeli policy doesn’t get more anti-Semitic than this.” She quoted Rachel Corrie, the young American who went to Palestine to defend Palestinians and was crushed by an Israeli bulldozer. “I am in the midst of a genocide,” wrote Corrie, “which I am also indirectly supporting and for which my government is largely responsible.”

Reading the words of both, I am struck by the use of “responsibility.” Breaking the lie of silence is not an esoteric abstraction but an urgent responsibility that falls to those with the privilege of a platform. With the BBC cowed, so too is much of journalism, merely allowing vigorous debate within unmovable invisible boundaries, ever fearful of the smear of anti-Semitism. The unreported news, meanwhile, is that the death toll in Gaza is the equivalent of 18,000 dead in Britain. Imagine, if you can.

Then there are the academics, the deans and teachers and researchers. Why are they silent as they watch a university bombed and hear the Association of University Teachers in Gaza plea for help? Are British universities now, as Terry Eagleton believes, no more than “intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries”?

Then there are the writers. In the dark year of 1939, the Third Writers’ Congress was held at Carnegie Hall in New York and the likes of Thomas Mann and Albert Einstein sent messages and spoke up to ensure the lie of silence was broken. By one account, 3,500 jammed the auditorium and a thousand were turned away. Today, this mighty voice of realism and morality is said to be obsolete; the literary review pages affect an ironic hauteur of irrelevance; false symbolism is all. As for the readers, their moral and political imagination is to be pacified, not primed. The anti-Muslim Martin Amis expressed this well in Visiting Mrs. Nabokov: “The dominance of the self is not a flaw, it is an evolutionary characteristic; it is just how things are.”

i am thankful every time i read a piece chastizing academics for their silence, and thus complicity, in this gaza massacre that will continue now regardless, albeit it will just look different. it will be less visible. but there was yet another final blow today from the israeli terrorists and i bet you very few academics–or anyone else for that matter–will be outraged by this:

PACBI learned today from its Steering Committee member, Dr. Haidar Eid, that the headquarters of the University Teachers Association-Palestine, in Gaza, was bombed by the Israeli occupation forces during their indiscriminate, willful destruction campaign in the Tal el-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza City on Friday.

This latest wanton attack on an academic organization is far from being an exception. It is only the latest episode in what Oxford University academic Karma Nabulsi has termed “scholasticide,” or Israel’s systematic and intentional destruction of Palestinian education centers. In its current war on Gaza alone, Israel has bombed the ministry of education, the Islamic University of Gaza, and tens of schools, including at least 4 UNRWA schools, after having largely destroyed the infrastructure of teaching throughout the year and a half of its illegal and criminal siege of the densely populated Gaza Strip.

The UTA headquarters is a detached two-story building that is clearly marked with the Association’s name. The bombed structure, which now stands without a roof, has sustained heavy structural damage and may be in danger of collapsing any time.

but a few are speaking out publicly. here are some israeli academics who i will refrain from calling terrorists as they are calling for bds:

The leaders of the western world are wringing their hands in despair at the sight of the horrors inflicted on Gaza (Gaza crisis, 16 January). The UN general secretary, the French president and others are holding intensive discussions with some of the leaders of the Middle East in an attempt to put an end to the carnage in Gaza. Word, words, words.

Meanwhile, hundreds of Palestinian civilians get killed, thousands are bleeding to death, tens of thousands are uprooted and wandering in vain in search of some shelter to protect them. The Israeli army bombs hospitals and Unrwa relief centres, and, defying international convention, it uses white phosphorus bombs against civilians. “What else can we do?” these leaders keep asking. Well, here is what you can do: move from words to deeds. Only immediate, decisive and strict sanctions against the state of Israel and its limitless aggression will make it realise that there’s a limit.

We, as Israeli citizens, raise our voices to call on EU leaders: use sanctions against Israel’s brutal policies and join the active protests of Bolivia and Venezuela. We appeal to the citizens of Europe: please attend to the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation’s call, supported by more than 540 Israeli citizens (www.freegaza.org/en/home/): boycott Israeli goods and Israeli institutions; follow resolutions such as those made by the cities of Athens, Birmingham and Cambridge (US). This is the only road left. Help us all, please!

omar says the list of signatories is longer than what appeared in the above guardian article. here is a full list of their names:

Signatories (provided by authors — only partial list appeared in the Guardian)

Gish Amit
Adv. Abeer Baker
Iris Bar
Yoram Bar Haim
Prof. Daphna Carmeli (Haifa University)
Prof. Yoram Carmeli (Haifa University)
Keren Dotan
Ronit Dovrat
Dr. Judith Druks (City University, London)
Rona Even
Dr. Ovadia Ezra (Tel Aviv University)
Prof. Rachel Giora (Tel Aviv University)
Neta Golan
Tamar Goldschmidt
Adar Grayevsky
Dalia Hager
Haim Hanegbi
Rosamine Hayeem
Ala Hlehel
Aya Kaniuk
Lana Khaskia
Prof. Vered Kraus (Haifa University)
Yael Lerer
Dr. Aim Deuel Luski (Tel Aviv University)
Eilat Maoz
Moshe Machover
Prof. Charles Manekin (University of Maryland)
Dr. Ruchama Marton
Dr. Anat Matar (Tel Aviv University)
Rela Mazali
Prof. Yitzhak Y. Melamed (John Hopkins University)
Dorothy Naor
Dr. David Nir
Annie Ohayon
Noam Paiola
Michal Peer
Sigal Perelman
Amit Perelson
Jonathan Pollak
Prof. Yehuda Shenhav (Tel Aviv University)
Dr. Kobi Snitz (Technion – Israel Institute of Technology)
Ruth Tenne
Adv. Lea Tsemel
Michael Varshavsky
Oded Wolkstein
Sergio Yahni

and other good news: bolivia is taking the lead in the criminal court process:

Bolivia is seeking to take Tel Aviv to International Criminal Court over the brutal atrocities the Israeli forces have committed in Gaza.

The Andean state says it is intended to make regional allies take a unified stance against “the Israeli political and military leaders responsible for the offensive on the Gaza Strip” and make it to stand trial at the international body in the Hague, said Sacha Llorenti, whose portfolio covers civil society.

Moves to begin the legal process will begin “probably next week,” Bolivia’s deputy justice and human rights minister Wilfredo Chavez told journalists during the visit to Geneva, AFP reported on Friday.

and similar bds progress is being made in new zealand:

“The New Zealand Government must do all it can to stop the inhumane bombing of Gaza by the Israeli Government” CTU President Helen Kelly said today.

In response to calls for support from the Palestine General Federation of Trade Unions and the International Trade Union Confederation, the NZCTU is calling on the New Zealand Government to take a number of practical actions including:
• Revoking the credentials of the Israeli Ambassador to New Zealand.
• Cutting contacts with Israeli military and intelligence officials outside of official UN sponsored peacekeeping or observer liaison.
• Ensuring that New Zealand does not import goods manufactured, in whole or in part, in the Occupied Territories.
• Ensuring that the New Zealand government does not make use of Israeli products or services in its procurement provisions.
• Taking steps to ensure that New Zealand sourced goods and services are not used by Israel to further its occupation of Palestinian lands.
• Ending the ‘Working Holiday Scheme’ for young Israelis.
• Attending meetings specific to, and advocate within, international organisations for the rights of the Palestinian people.
“These actions are similar to those taken by the Government in relation to Fiji and are an appropriate and proportionate response to the totally disproportionate actions of Israel against the people of Gaza” Helen Kelly said.

and kudos to qatar for taking steps towards anti-normalization with the zionist state. may other arab countries follow its lead:

Qatar has closed Israel’s trade office in the small Gulf Arab state and ordered its staff to leave because of the Israeli offensive on Gaza.

The Qatar News Agency says the head of the Israeli trade office was summoned Sunday morning and given a memorandum containing the decision to close the office, according to the Foreign Ministry.

now we just need people to build these actions against normalization with the zionist entity and do the same with the u.s. which is equally complicit in all of these war crimes:

According to documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, between 2004 and 2007 the U.S. Defense Department gave $818 million worth of fuel to the Israeli military. The total amount was 479 million gallons, the equivalent of about 66 gallons per Israeli citizen. In 2008, an additional $280 million in fuel was given to the Israeli military, again at U.S. taxpayers’ expense. The U.S. has even paid the cost of shipping the fuel from U.S. refineries to ports in Israel.

In 2008, the fuel shipped to Israel from U.S. refineries accounted for 2 percent of Israel’s $13.3 billion defense budget. Publicly available data shows that about 2 percent of the U.S. Defense Department’s budget is also spent on oil. A senior analyst at the Pentagon, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, says the Israel Defense Force’s fuel use is most likely similar to that of the U.S. Defense Department. In other words, the Israeli military is spending about the same percentage of its defense budget on oil as the U.S. is. Therefore it’s possible that the U.S. is providing most, or perhaps even all, of the Israeli military’s fuel needs.

What’s more, Israel does not need the U.S. handout. Its own recently privatized refineries, located at Haifa and Ashdod, could supply all of the fuel needed by the Israeli military. Those same refineries are now producing and selling jet fuel and other refined products on the open market. But rather than purchase lower-cost jet fuel from its own refineries, the Israeli military is using U.S. taxpayer money to buy and ship large quantities of fuel from U.S. refineries.

الصمود في غزة

gaza graffiti on wall outside my old apartment in hamra
gaza graffiti on wall outside my old apartment in hamra

i keep thinking about safa joudeh. the last two days since i read and blogged her words from electornic intifada:

We have fled for too long, Gaza is our last refuge and our home after we were displaced from what is now called Israel. All this happened 60 years ago. What more could they want? We have nowhere left to go. They have disregarded every single international law there is. Now is the time to defend ourselves, now is the time for resistance.

i found her online and i asked her what we can do for her–those who want to support the resistance from beirut or nablus. those who would come to fight in the resistance if we could, but are unable to get there. i was somewhat surprised by her answer, but i think it is important to really think about what she says:

It’s wonderful to hear about the demonstrations being organized and here in Gaza knowing what’s going on in the rest of the world and that people are outraged is truly a huge source of comfort. At this point we feel so helpless, I for one wish that there was more I can do than write! but I think raising awareness is very important and that gives me comfort. And I think that would be the best thing people outside can do to help.

she wants us to write. to raise awareness. to demonstrate. demonstrate so that it makes the media. so that they see it in gaza. to show them that we care. so simple. but we must do this every day. and we must organize and do this in numbers big numbers. like hezbollah: yesterday they got 20,000 people into the streets of nabatiya to march for gaza. yesterday the communists and pflp, who seem to be doing most of the organizing in beirut, got about 20 people to protest in front of the egyptian embassy (well, a few blocks away because the internal security forces [isf] has the street cordoned off with barbed wire) and today in the pouring rain we had maybe 1,000 people at a march from barbir to downtown. but more on that later.

gaza coffins, hamra street, beirut
gaza coffins, hamra street, beirut

last night some dear friends got together to discuss what we could do, how we could not only support palestinians in gaza, but their resistance, their stadfastness, their الصمود. one of my friends told a story about an ‘azza he went to once for a friend whose relative had died. at the time my friend did not think much about the act of going to the ‘azza to pay his condolences for his friend; it is a normal thing people do. but he later learned how much it meant to his friend. after this ‘azza the friend later told my friend that he had divided his friends into two camps: those who paid their condolences and those who did not. something with this clicked with me instantly. i remember when my mom died in my senior year of college. i was very struck by people’s responses to this. those friends who wrote me letters, who called, who came to the funeral indeed were people i remained closed to. those who did nothing i never spoke to again. it is very clear what we need when people we love die: we need to know that people are standing with us; we need to know that people will that there are people who will help us to get through those difficult times. this is the bare minimum that we can do. to lend our emotional support to the palestinian people in gaza. to show them that we are with their armed struggle against zionist colonizers and terrorists 100%. too, after loved ones die, after palestinians in gaza become martyrs we have practical questions of how we can help prepare them to carry on this revolution to liberate palestine. and we need to convince people in lebanon of this issue as much as we need to convince those palestinians that their support should be with the people not with the cia-controlled palestinian authority.

this is why we must remember the martyrs and name them and not forget them and honor their death in a dignified way. in solidarity. the latest massacre figures are as follows:

Twenty three Gazans have been killed since midnight Sunday morning and dozens injured by new weapons that ensure the incineration of buildings and people hit by the explosives.

The Israeli Phosphoric bombs have not yet been used in the Gaza offensive.

The total for the 16 days of Israeli strikes and ground fire is now 875 killed, 3,620 injured and 411 seriously wounded.

and there are now 50,000 internally displaced people (idps) in gaza. so the subject of conversation in beirut, among friends of mine, is focused on what we can do from here: how can we support the steadfastness, the resistance from here? how can we place pressure on external players who have blood on their hands for participating in this massacre either by arming the israeli terrorists (the united states) or by closing the borders and now helping palestinians who wish to flee (egypt) or by those in collusion with this american-israeli massacre on the political level (jordan, saudi arabia). this pressure is important for the long-term struggle. and we identified 3 levels of this struggle that need to be dealt with and supported:

1. the military struggle (which those of us outside cannot really help with)

2. putting pressure on external players (boycott, divestment, sanctions, protests)

3. supporting the psychological steadfastness of the palestinians in gaza (protests, writing, educating)

in all of these levels we need to be highly visible. it needs to be done well. to be coordinated without factionalism. but the third element–to which the second one is related–is important because we don’t want palestinians in gaza to become a defeated people. we want them to see the support and continue their resistance. to know that it is worth it. this is why even the propaganda that we see on television stations like al manar (which you can watch online) is important.

another important thing my friend mentioned in our discussion is that what is happening in gaza is symptomatic of the arab world so we need a systemic response to it. even if we were capable of smuggling weapons from here, it would be a bandaid response to a larger, regional problem. what is needed, what they don’t have is support from the arab world. obviously, the people of the arab world support the people of gaza; but we need new governments in these complicit states that reflect the will of the people not these regimes we see in jordan and egypt that are in collusion with the united states. we need to put pressure to halt all normalization with the zionist entity so that we can truly liberate palestine. the armed resistance in gaza is not a problem as kabobfest observed last week and angry arab observed yesterday: in 1967 the region was defeated in 6 days. we are now into day 16 and palestinians are not defeated in the least.

jordanian flag painted over with red...
look closely at the flag: jordanian flag painted over with red…

one reason it was important for us to have this discussion last night, and why many of my friends are continuing to have such discussions here, is because we need to figure out how we can act in ways that would be powerful and effective. so that the media comes to the protests, so that people in gaza see us on television and know that we are here for them, with them. we need to think how people can best be mobilized. and this question came up because we went to a protest yesterday at the egyptian embassy and it was only sparsely attended. there were about 20 people there. we couldn’t get nearly close enough as all the streets in a one-block radius around the embassy are blocked off with barbed wire. some of the protesters brought pictures from the massacre in gaza and affixed them to the barbed wire (oddly: al jazeera english, which showed images from our demonstration yesterday, said that we put this barbed wire there: we did not! the internal security forces put it there so that we could not get close enough to the embassy as they did in yemen). this demonstration, like the one i went to today, was organized by the various leftist and communist parties in lebanon and from the palestinian refugee camps here. but yesterday there were 3 protests: this one at the embassy, a candlelight vigil in sassine square in ashrafiyeh, and a mass at an ‘aoun affiliated church in ashrafiyeh which had around 250 people in attendance.

dsc00039

on a side note: we went to buy flags for the protest at a shop in hamra yesterday. once we got there and we saw the sun shining on the red of the flag we noticed that the flag shop sold us jordanian flags with the white star painted over in red to make it a palestinian flag. anyway, these protests at the egyptian embassy are daily, which may be one reason for the sparse attendance. so we are trying to think about how to best connect people. the people are too divided–even among the left here. there are multiple meetings every day. there are too many protests. we need one big one every day. like an ‘azza, in a central place, like in the cemetery outside shatila refugee camp where people from mar elias refugee camp, bourj al barajneh refugee camp, and the christian, shi’a, and sunni neighborhoods nearby can easily get to. where we can maybe get at least 1,000 people every day to attend, to mourn for 40 days. to show solidarity with the people of gaza. an on-going vigil. it must be centrally located. this is more important than the nightly vigil at the united nations escwa building downtown, the spaces of the elite, rich people. and we need to duplicate the work of the people in bourj al barajneh camp that has the phone bank to call people in gaza to let them know we are with them 100%. every day.

the key is this: the focus must be on the palestinian people of gaza. this is not and cannot be about people’s egos, their desire for power or fame or control of one political party or another, which is what it sort of seems like to me at the moment.

egyptian embassy in the distance
egyptian embassy in the distance

on a related note my friend also had an important thing to say about the political parties with which we align ourselves. we expect that whatever party we belong to meet our ideological perspective 100%. and if it doesn’t we tend to not want to involve ourselves. for instance, there are things about hezbollah or hamas that i do not agree with, but their resistance is strong and steadfast and i support both in this 100%. but this is again related to questions i posed the other day when thinking about resistance. my friend said: we work at places, spend 8 hours a day at such places, that we do not agree with institutionally, politically. maybe we agree with our places of employment 20%. and yet we work there. so why is it that we are not willing to work with those political parties with which we agree maybe 80%? such thinking forces us to divide, to factionalize and this weakens our resistance and our ability to support people in gaza.

barbir to downtown march
barbir to downtown march

today’s demonstration, though, was better in some respects as there seemed to be around 1,000 people. we met in barbir and marched to downtown in the pouring rain and hail. but people did not seem to run for shelter and abandon the demonstration. we marched in our soaking shoes, socks, pants in spite of the weather. but again, just one political orientation: just leftists. where are the others? why can’t we join forces with hezbollah and ‘aoun, for instance, and make our voices louder and stronger. sure al jadeed television and al jazeera and al manar television will cover these events, but the bigger we are the more support we lend to the people of gaza and that should be our overall goal. we should not forget this.

marching in the rain
marching in the rain

as for other forms of resistance: boycott, divestment, sanctions and a total cessation of any form of normalization with israeli terrorists should be demanded by people all over the planet. not just the arab world. just as i divided the world into two parts after my mom died: those who stood with me and those who ignored me, i feel the same way now. those who normalize and those who don’t. those who stand steadfastly with palestinian resistance and those who do not. there is no space for a gray area now. we should follow norway’s example, for instance, in their boycott plans:

Norway has been the site of a flurry of Palestine solidarity activism and BDS initiatives over the past week, as tens of thousand of people have called for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador to Oslo, and major trade unions are mobilizing in support of a comprehensive boycott and divestment campaign.

Demonstrations have now been held in at least 28 cities:

Oslo, Stavanger, Sandnes, Fredrikstad, Trondheim, Hamar, Sortland, Namsos, Arendal, Norheimsund, MosjÃen, Bergen, Sarpsborg, TÃnsberg, Harstad, TromsøKristiansand, Notodden, VadsøMoi Rana, Alta, Kirkenes, RÃros, Volda, Halden, GjÃvik, Lillehammer, Selbu.

The numbers of participants have never been bigger.

Union activities:

POLITICAL STRIKE: Thursday ALL trains in the whole of Norway, and all trams and subways in Oslo, will stand still for two minutes as a result of a political strike organized by the Norwegian Locomotive Union and the Oslo Tram Workers Union in protest of the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

A large selection of Norwegian trade unions and organizations has endorsed a new campaign for the withdrawal of all State investments in Israel. The call is endorsed by so far 6 of the largest national trade unions.

The Union of Trade and Office Workers calls on all members to ask their employers to remove Israeli products from stores. The union is the by far largest union of workers in all types of private and public stores in Norway.

The confederation of Norwegian Trade Unions (LO), with apr. 1/5 of the whole Norwegian population as members, condemns the Israeli bombing and invasion in Gaza and calls for demonstrations.

The Norwegian Church has protested Israels invasion of Gaza and was, according to media, “called to the carpet” by the Israeli ambassador.

22.000 supports the Facebook-group demanding the ambassador to be expelled from Norway. The Facebook-group has got attention in all major newspaper and was hacked by a Zionist hacker-group but is now back on track.

31% of Norwegians supports the boycott of Israel, in a survey by the pro-Israel tabloid VG today. The question was politically charged “Do you support the Socialist Left’s boycott of Israel?” If not mentioning the Socialists the number would probably be much higher. The vast majority in all groups in the survey is against the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

likewise, in canada we are seeing increased workers mobilize in solidarity with palestinians in gaza through boycott:

On behalf of the 56,000 members of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, I am writing to demand that the Canadian government condemn the military assault on the people of Gaza that the state of Israel commenced on December 26th, 2008.

Canada must also call for a cessation of the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza, which has resulted in the collective punishment of the entire Gaza population.

Canada must also address the root cause of the violence: Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Israel’s current actions are totally out of proportion with any notion of self-defense. Israel’s actions are resulting in the massacre of people in Gaza.

Israels action will not bring peace to the region. they will result in Israel being less secure.

Professor Richard Falk, the UN’s Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied territories, has characterized the Israeli offensive as containing “…severe and massive violations of international humanitarian law as defined in the Geneva Conventions, both in regards to the obligations of an occupying power and in the requirements of the laws of war.”

CUPW strongly urges the Canadian government to condemn the serious violations of humanitarian and international law by the state of Israel.

The Israeli Government’s siege and military incursions into Gaza are not isolated events. It is a direct result of Israel’s ongoing occupation of Palestine and the refusal of the Israeli government to abide by numerous United Nations security council resolutions.

Therefore, as a longer term strategy, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers is asking your government to adopt a program of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel recognizes the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and complies with international law, including the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

Yours truly,

Denis Lemelin
National President

cc.
Michael Ignatieff, Liberal Leader
Jack Layton, NDP Leader
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Quebecois Leader
Ken Georgetti, Canadian Labor Congress

and in egypt we see more action on the front of destabilizing its normalizing relations with the zionist terrorist regime:

90 members of the Egyptian parliament have asked for accelerating the endorsement of a draft law banning the sale of natural gas to Israel in the light of the latter’s “criminal aggression on the Gaza Strip”.

The request signed by 90 MPs asked for respecting the Egyptian state court’s ruling that banned such exports.

They also asked for canceling the minister of petroleum’s decision in 2005 that approved the signing of a deal allowing the export of gas to Israel.

MP Hussein Ibrahim, Muslim Brotherhood deputy, said that he tabled a proposal to this effect in the past parliamentary session but it was delayed and he was now insisting on putting it to vote in the current session.

Signatories to the request, tabled with the parliament speaker, said that they would not tolerate witnessing Egyptian gas and petroleum being exported to Israel at a time it was using it in killing Gaza children.

burning the israeli terrorist flag
burning the israeli terrorist flag

likewise academics must stop their normalizing relations with israeli professors and institutions who are complicit in israeli state terrorism (all israeli universities are state run institutions that produce the knowledge that enables their genocidal practices and policies and there has NEVER been a single israeli academic body to condemn this behavior). dear rania and i wrote an article for the chronicle of higher education last week, addressed to our academic colleagues in the united states, but they ignored it and refused to publish it. it is now on dissident voice. i encourage you to read it in full (as well as rania’s updating of it on her blog), but here is what we are demanding:

We urge our fellow academics to not only support this statement in theory, but also in practice by pushing for academic boycott on your campuses as you return to classes this week. Supporting the human rights of Palestinians is not anti-Semitic; it is about human rights: Palestinian human rights. If this were any other captive population besieged for seven days with US-made materiel, we would be outraged and acting. So we are asking you to act now. It is our tax dollars at work that enables this massacre to take place. Let us work for justice, for consistency. Let us make apartheid, in all its forms, only present in history books.


the blog south lebanon also republished the piece;
we hope others will not only follow in getting the word out, but alter their behavior institutionally and personally. i refuse to subscribe to the belief that freedom of speech is more important than the palestinian people who are being slaughtered.

canadians have been active on this academic boycott front for a while now and are renewing that work, though shamefully american academics are not in the same way:

CUPE Ontario’s university workers committee will bring a resolution to its annual conference supporting a ban on Israeli academics doing speaking, teaching or research work at Ontario universities as a protest against the December 29 bombing of the Islamic University in Gaza.

“In response to an appeal from the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees, we are ready to say Israeli academics should not be on our campuses unless they explicitly condemn the university bombing and the assault on Gaza in general,” said Sid Ryan, president of CUPE Ontario. “It’s a logical next step, building on policy adopted by our provincial convention in 2006.”

Resolution 50, adopted in May 2006, supported boycotts, divestment and sanctions aimed at bringing about the Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories and a just peace in the region.

“Clearly, international pressure on Israel must increase to stop the massacre that is going on daily,” said Janice Folk-Dawson, chair of the CUPE Ontario University Workers Coordinating Committee, whose conference is scheduled for February. “We are proud to add CUPE voices to others from around the world saying enough is enough.”

Ryan and other CUPE representatives will join in the demonstration against the Israeli assault on Gaza at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, Saturday, January 3 at Dundas Square in Toronto.

likewise, the palestinian academic and cultural boycott of israel wrote a letter this week to soas for its normalizing relationship with tel aviv university in the midst of this horrific genocide on gaza:

Dear Professor Paul Webley,

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) is gravely concerned that the School of Oriental and African Studies will be hosting the Tel Aviv University Special Lecture Series marking Tel Aviv’s centennial (January 12th-March 16th).

At a time when the Israeli government is unleashing the full force of its military might in an all-out war against an essentially defenceless population in the occupied Gaza Strip, celebrating Tel Aviv while Gaza burns is morally repulsive. It is an indefensible position for an academic institution to take while a population, over half of whom are children, are subject to daily attacks that are widely recognized as violating international humanitarian law and basic human rights.

Tel Aviv is not a ‘White City on the Dunes’ promising a ‘Mediterranean Dream’ as the titles of two lectures in the Lecture Series would have us believe. Rather, as the seat of Israeli political and economic power, Tel Aviv houses the masterminds of Israel’s longstanding policies of ethnic cleansing, racial discrimination and military subjugation. It is hence more emblematic of apartheid and colonial rule than any other Israeli city.

Tel Aviv is a city in colonial denial. Its very existence and expansion are products of the Zionist project of erasing the physical presence of the Palestinians, their culture, heritage and memory. The adjacent Palestinian city of Jaffa and numerous villages were emptied of their indigenous inhabitants to make way for the ‘White City’. This fact is conspicuously absent from the Special Lecture Series and thus renders the lectures no better than political propaganda on behalf of Israel and its ongoing project of colonial dispossession.

It may be claimed that as an academic institution, Tel Aviv University stands apart from all this. But it is important to stress that the university was built on the lands of the Palestinian village of Sheikh Muwannis, a village largely destroyed in 1948 and its inhabitants ethnically cleansed and forced to flee for their lives. The “Green House”, the former home of the head of the village, is one of the few original buildings of the village that remains and currently serves as a restaurant for university faculty. The President of Tel Aviv University refused to acknowledge its history and objected to the posting of a sign on the “Green House” that would explain its origin. The campaign to pressure the university to recognize its history has been led by the Israeli organization Zochrot. [1]

The university not only refuses to recognize its past, but is also an integral part of Israel’s brutal occupation and apartheid regime imposed on the Palestinians, including the current savage bombardment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Typical is the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), an external institute of Tel Aviv University, which boasts in its mission statement of its “strong association with the political and military establishment”. Advising governmental decision makers and public leaders on important “strategic issues”, it is no stretch of the imagination to suppose that the INSS has played a direct or indirect role in the current Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

In common with all other Israeli academic bodies and institutions, Tel Aviv University has never taken a public stand against the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, or criticized the closure of Palestinian universities which are part of a longstanding assault on Palestinian education. Unsurprisingly then, no voice was heard from Tel Aviv or any other academic institution in Israel condemning the bombing of the campus of the Islamic University in Gaza on December 28th, 2008. In addition to Palestinian academics, we know that a significant number of their international and UK colleagues are shocked at the deafening silence emanating from the Israeli academy. As the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees asked in their recent statement [2], are Israeli universities willing to call for an end to the occupation? Are Israeli academics going to speak out in support of freedom of education and call for an end to their government’s assault on Palestinian education? Are they going to cut their organic and deep-rooted ties with the military-security establishment? Or are the members of the academy dutifully preparing for the reserve call-up just approved by their government, ready to serve in the death squads committing what international human rights organisations have described as war crimes?

While some may claim that an academic institution such as SOAS, should remain above ‘political frays’ and provide instead a neutral forum for the open exchange of ideas, hosting such an event, and particularly as Gaza is being decimated by Israel, is to support and acquiesce in Israel’s vicious and illegal actions. We urge the administration of SOAS to cancel the Special Lecture Series to avoid being held complicit in whitewashing Israel’s grave violations of international law, to take a minimal stand in solidarity with your Palestinian colleagues, and in response to the call issued by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, urging international civil society “not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights.”[3] We agree with the statement’s conclusion that “without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.”

SOAS has the opportunity to uphold ethical principles and the universality of human rights by cancelling this ill-conceived propaganda exercise, thereby contributing to bringing about the conditions for a just and lasting peace for Palestine and the entire region.

Sincerely,
PACBI
www.pacbi.org

likewise in scottland there is a call for boycott:

SCOTTISH COMMITTEE FOR THE UNIVERSITIES OF PALESTINE

Press release: 1-00 pm / 4th January 2009 – Glasgow

As evening closed in on Saturday 3rd January 2009 F-16 fighter planes
 renewed their bombing of one of the most densely populated areas of land in the world, killing more Palestinian civilians. In seven days Israel has killed over 500 Palestinians and injuring thousand of innocents. And now it has embarked on a full scale ground invasion.

We note and deplore the failure of the UN Security Council to condemn the Israeli massacre of Gazans in the Strip; the international body has proved itself a farce by once again colluding in the US-EU-Israeli effort to thwart peace. In these circumstances we call for all members of Scottish civil society to support all demonstrations against this atrocity, to join lobbies and write to representatives, and to contribute to medical aid through various organisations. We seriously urge the BBC to speak out against the Israel’s concealment of its atrocities, away from the world’s media. Again Israel defies international law and its own legal system. We say this is not the action of a democracy! Journalists and media organizations must therefore make formal objections to this ban. Israel cannot be allowed to conceal its war crimes.

We call for a boycott of Israel and for ordinary people to participate in peaceful actions everywhere opposing actions of the Zionist state and express real support for the Palestinian people. We also demand that the UK government withdraw its ambassador in Tel Aviv immediately and cease diplomatic relations until Israel starts conforming to the norms of international relations. A country that spurns diplomacy as an option for resolving its disputes must not benefit from the legitimacy that diplomatic recognition confers.

Israel must withdraw from the Gaza Strip immediately. The bombing and ground operation must cease without delay; and the border crossing with Egypt must be opened forthwith. There is no justification for withholding food, water, power and essential services to 1.5 million civilians. International observers and the press must be allowed into Gaza and, finally, the Scottish civil society must respond to the call issued by their Palestinian counterparts in adopting the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) campaign and generate international pressure where the multinational institutions have been remiss. Israeli institutions and produce must be rejected. We urge shoppers to look for replacement goods from peaceful states.

For further information and contacts who may be interviewed please contact:

Keith Hammond

Notes:

The Scottish Committee for the Universities of Palestine is a committee of academics and similar professionals, established in 2008 as a sister organisation to the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). The Scottish Committee is committed to furthering the boycott of the state of Israel. We aim to popularise amongst in Scottish universities and broader civil society the humanitarian consequences of Israel’s war policies. We aim to highlight the racist state of Israel’s systematic destruction of Palestinian universities and schools, hospitals, and municipalities. We work towards an end to the Israeli occupation, meaningful peace in the dismantling of the apartheid wall, the checkpoints and illegal settlements; and we campaign to further the building of a free state of Palestine.

i know it is a lot to ask of americans to think about palestinians as human beings (just look at the white house’s response to the death of its f(*&^%$ cat compared to the 857 palestinians in gaza as one example) whose rights and lives are more important than their precious positions in corporations or universities. this is why i had naievely thought that israeli terrorists targeting not only universities and schools, but united nations unrwa schools housing palestinian idps might just get their attention and force them to change their point of view. but clearly this is not the case as of yet. nevertheless, it is worth reading ameer ahmad and ed vulliamy’s piece in the guardian today on what they call scholasticide:

A new word emerged from the carnage in Gaza this week: “scholasticide” – the systematic destruction by Israeli forces of centres of education dear to Palestinian society, as the ministry of education was bombed, the infrastructure of teaching destroyed, and schools across the Gaza strip targeted for attack by the air, sea and ground offensives.

“Learn, baby, learn” was a slogan of the black rights movement in America’s ghettoes a generation ago, but it also epitomises the idea of education as the central pillar of Palestinian identity – a traditional premium on schooling steeled by occupation, and something the Israelis “cannot abide… and seek to destroy”, according to Dr Karma Nabulsi, who teaches politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. “We knew before, and see more clearly now than ever, that Israel is seeking to annihilate an educated Palestine,” she says.

The Palestinians are among the most thoroughly educated people in the world. For decades, Palestinian society – both at home in the West Bank and Gaza, and scattered in the diaspora – has put a singular emphasis on learning. After the expulsions of 1948 and after the 1967 occupation, waves of refugees created an influential Palestinian intelligentsia and a marked presence in the disciplines of medicine and engineering across the Arab world, Europe and the Americas.

“Education is the most important thing – it is part of the family life, part of your identity and part of the rebellion,” says Nabulsi. “Everyone knows this, and in a refugee camp like Gaza, every child knows that in those same schooldesks sat your parents and your grandparents, whose tradition they carry on.”

Schooling and university studies are the fabric of life despite, not because of, circumstances: every university in the occupied territories has been closed down at some point by Israeli forces, many of them regularly. However, the closures and arrests of students (more than 300 at Birzeit university in Ramallah, says Nabulsi) only strengthens the desire to become educated.

In the current offensive, Israel began attacking Gaza’s educational institutions immediately. On only the second and third day of air attacks last week, Israeli planes wreaked severe damage in direct strikes on Gaza’s Islamic University. The main buildings were devastated, destroying administrative records, and, of course, ending studies. The Ministry of Education has been hit twice by direct hits from the air.

The Saturday of the ground invasion was the day on which most students in Gaza sit their end-of-year examinations. In the majority of cases, these had to be abandoned, and it remains unclear whether they can or will be sat again. Other schools were also attacked – most notoriously the UN establishment in the Jabaliya refugee camp where at least 40 people were massacred on Tuesday.

On Sunday, another Israeli air strike destroyed the pinnacle of Palestinian schooling, the elite and private American International School, to which the children of business and other leaders went, among them Fulbright scholars unable to take up their places in the United States because of the Israeli blockade. Ironically, the same school was attacked last year by a group called the Holy Jihad Brigades, and has been repeatedly vandalised for its association with western-style education.

The school was founded in 2000 to offer a “progressive” (and fully co-educational) American-style curriculum, taught in English, from kindergarten to sixth form, and was said by the Israelis to have been the site, or near the site, from which a rocket was fired. A night watchman was killed in the destruction of the building.

The chairman of its board of trustees, Iyad Saraj, says: “This is the most distinguished and advanced school in Gaza, if not in Gaza and the West Bank. I cannot swear there was no rocket fired, but if there was, you don’t destroy a whole school.” He adds: “This is the destruction of civilisation.”

The school has no connection to the US government, Saraj says, and many of the 250 who graduate from it each year go on to US universities. “They are very good, highly educated open-minded students who can really be future leaders of Palestine.”

Young Palestinians playing in Daniel Barenboim’s celebrated East-West Divan Orchestra – which this week again brings Palestinian and Israeli musicians together to play a prestigious concert in Vienna – say that music schools in their communities and refugee camps are “not just educating young people, but helping them understand their identity”, as Nabeel Abboud Ashkar, a violinist based in Nazareth, puts it, adding: “And the Israelis are not necessarily happy with that.”

Ramzi Aburedwan, who runs the Al-Kamandjati classical music school in Ramallah, argues: “What the Israelis are doing is killing the lives of the people. Bring music, and you bring life. The children who played here were suddenly interested in their future”.

In a recent lecture, Nabulsi at St Edmund Hall recalled the tradition of learning in Palestinian history, and the recurrent character of the teacher as an icon in Palestinian literature. “The role and power of education in an occupied society is enormous. Education posits possibilities, opens horizons. Freedom of thought contrasts sharply with the apartheid wall, the shackling checkpoints, the choking prisons,” she said.

This week, following the bombing of schools in Gaza, she says: “The systematic destruction of Palestinian education by Israel has countered that tradition since the occupation of 1967,” citing “the calculated, wholesale looting of the Palestinian Research Centre in Beirut during the 1982 war and the destruction of all those manuscripts and archived history.”

“Now in Gaza,” she says, “we see the policy more clearly than ever – this ‘scholasticide’. The Israelis know nothing about who we really are, while we study and study them. But deep down they know how important education is to the Palestinian tradition and the Palestinian revolution. They cannot abide it and have to destroy it.”

again, i must ask: what are you doing? what are you going to do? what sacrifices are you willing to make to support the palestinian people in gaza?

trying to find the words for gaza…

i feel like i can only write. and write only about gaza. i’ve been doing this for six days. not just here, but rania and i have been writing op-eds together, trying to place them in american newspapers and have yet to find success. it seems like others do not want to read the words about gaza. the truth about gaza. and yet i write. i feel like it is all i can do, and really it is nothing. the bombing continues. no one is outraged, no one in power anyway. no one with the power to stop this carnage. and while i spend all this time writing about gaza i am supposed to be finishing a book review of suheir hammad’s brilliant new book of poems, breaking poems. i feel like i don’t have it in me. and yet her words sustain me, especially because these poems were written during the summer of 2006 when israeli terrorists invaded lebanon and gaza and did what they do best: massacre and devastate. i am sure i have posted part of this poem of hammad’s before, “break (word)” including the video for it on youtube, but i keep coming back to this poem in which she tells us “we no longer know language” because it becomes so impossible to imagine in images or in any other form the bloody devastation. the last stanza, especially, reflects my current state of mind:

words are against us
there is a math only subtracts

the words that are against us are those of israeli terrorists like tzipi livni who said, with a straight face, today:

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister, has again rejected a French proposal for a ceasefire to allow aid into the Gaza Strip saying there is “no humanitarian crisis”.

yes, words are indeed against us. and as the words are against us, spewing lies all over the bloody massacre of the bodies we must count, the martyrs we must name. remember. honor. there are other people who have the words. i added a new category of links on the side under the heading “gaza” with a number of blogs of people based there. their words, especially, are the words we need to read now.

there are new petitions to sign if people are listening to our words:

1. In support of the Palestinian human rights community call for international action

2. Urgent Appeal for Israel to Immediately Cease Its Murderous Bombing, Siege and Threatened Invasion of Palestinian Gaza

and dr. mona el farra reminds us that we need to donate money to middle east children’s alliance to help the people of gaza (barbara lubin is like no other when it comes to getting aid into gaza; it is the single best place to donate money):

Dr.Mona El-Farra is flying to Cairo on Saturday to oversee the transportation from Egypt to Gaza of 5 tonnes
of essential medical relief.
The consignment was to be taken by boats of the Free Gaza campaign, which can take up to one tonne per boat. But after an Israeli gunboat rammed and damaged one such relief boat in international waters earlier this week alternative means had to be found. The World Health Organisation is helping to organise this emergency relief.

The consignment is taking anaesthetic, orthopaedic surgery equipment for adults and children, pain killers as well as milk powder and general medication. These will be distributed through the Red Crescent Society to hospitals and medical centres. The consignment is funded by Middle East Children’s Alliance and by a variety of organisations in US, Europe and Britain, including the Liverpool Friends of Palestine.

Once the emergency is over, Dr.El-Farra hopes to continue a project to introduce water purification into Gaza schools,
to provide drinking water for children. This has the support of Middle East Children’s Alliance but has had to be suspended
due to the Israeli bombing of Gaza.

if you like to help please contact mecafropeace.org

ma’an is reporting 418 dead, 2,100 injured now, though al jazeera is saying 428 dead. hammad tells us that it is only math; even the math does not compute.

ghada ageel has words to describe what she is feeling, albeit at a painful distance from her family:

There is nothing worse in life than being glued to the TV screen, watching one’s nation being slaughtered on an hourly basis while able to do nothing. There is nothing more painful in this universe than hearing the tears and cries of one’s mother on the phone and be unable to hug her, to wipe her tears or to comfort her with any words or means. There is nothing more terrifying than living through every night in fear that the coming morning will bring the worst possible news a person can bear, that a member of one’s immediate family has been killed. And last but not least there is nothing more horrible on this globe than something happening to a family member when he or she is barred from returning to his or her family and home.

Like many other members of my community, I wonder what is happening to humanity in the 21st century that makes it deaf to the cries of Gaza’s children and of its entire population, trapped in their open-air prison for more than two years now. Why is this so-called free world blind, deaf and dumb towards these atrocities, again and again?

heba el-sakka has words to describe what happened to her when her thesis was destroyed by american-made bombs dropped by israeli terrorists in american-made f16s:

When Heba El-Sakka heard the thundering sound of the Israeli bombardment, she was, just like every time, terrified to death. But it never crossed her mind the target this time was her university.

“My graduation project, the fruit of five years of hard study, vanished in a blink on an eye,” the engineering student at the Islamic University in Gaza (IUG) told IslamOnline.net with tears rolling down her face.

“It can’t be. It feels like the missiles took away a piece of me.”

Israeli warplanes have fired air-to-ground missiles at the IUG, the biggest and oldest scientific edifice in the impoverished Gaza Strip, on Monday and Tuesday.

heba has the words to accurately describe her feelings about what happened to her institution of higher learning. i tried to find the words in relation to this bombing, as well as the rest of the american-israeli terrorist project in gaza to see if might get my colleagues in the american studies association to revisit the boycott proposal i offered them a few years ago–the same time hammad wrote that poem–the last time israeli-american terrorists bombed gaza, and at that time lebanon too. of course these professors have lots of words, words that clearly say to me: well, we think that it is okay for gazans to die in this massacre that our tax dollars pay for; we don’t want to squelch the academic freedom of israeli terrorists. we want to make sure that they can continue to produce the knowledge that can build bigger and better terrorist bombs to kill more palestinians, more lebanese. we don’t want to harm their freedom of speech. dialogue is much better. yes, sixty-one years of dialogue and ethnic cleansing has gotten us where exactly? their silence is complicity. they too are responsible. they, too, have blood on their hands. shame on them. even neve gordon and jeff halper’s words did not move them to consider their complicity:

Not one of the nearly 450 presidents of American colleges and universities who prominently denounced an effort by British academics to boycott Israeli universities in September 2007 have raised their voice in opposition to Israel’s bombardment of the Islamic University of Gaza earlier this week. Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University, who organized the petition, has been silent, as have his co-signatories from Princeton, Northwestern, and Cornell Universities, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Most others who signed similar petitions, like the 11,000 professors from nearly 1,000 universities around the world, have also refrained from expressing their outrage at Israel’s attack on the leading university in Gaza. The artfully named Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, which organized the latter appeal, has said nothing about the assault.

meanwhile, as american academics sit in their comfy offices, enjoying their academic freedom and privileges (because it is a privilege and not a right) palestinian academics are beseeching us to join in the call to boycott this terrorist state of israel. here is their statement in full:

Occupied Ramallah, Palestine – 27 December 2008: Today, the Israeli occupation army committed a new massacre in Gaza, causing the death and injury of hundreds of Palestinian civilians, including a yet unknown number of school children who were headed home from school when the first Israeli military strikes started.

This latest bloodbath, although far more ruthless than all its predecessors, is not Israel’s first. It culminates months of an Israeli siege of Gaza that should be widely condemned and prosecuted as an act of genocide against the 1.5 million Palestinians in the occupied coastal strip.

Israel seems intent to mark the end of its 60th year of existence the same way it has established itself – perpetrating massacres against the Palestinian people. In 1948, the majority of the indigenous Palestinian people were ethnically cleansed from their homes and land, partly through massacres like Deir Yassin; today, the Palestinians in Gaza, most of whom are refugees, do not even have the choice to seek refuge elsewhere. Incarcerated behind ghetto walls and brought to the brink of starvation by the siege, they are easy targets for Israel’s indiscriminate bombing.

Prof. Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and international law expert at Princeton University, described Israel’s siege of Gaza last year, when it was still not comparable in its severity to the current situation, as follows:

“Is it an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with this criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity? I think not. The recent developments in Gaza are especially disturbing because they express so vividly a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty. The suggestion that this pattern of conduct is a holocaust-in-the-making represents a rather desperate appeal to the governments of the world and to international public opinion to act urgently to prevent these current genocidal tendencies from culminating in a collective tragedy.”

The most brutal episode of this “collective tragedy” is what we have seen today.

Israel’s war crimes and other grave violations of international law in Gaza as well as in the rest of the occupied Palestinian territory, including Jerusalem, could not have been perpetrated without the direct or indirect complicity of world governments, particularly the United States, the European Union, Egypt, and other Arab regimes.

While the US government has consistently sponsored, bankrolled and protected from international censure Israel’s apartheid and colonial policies against the indigenous people of Palestine, the EU was able in the past to advocate a semblance of respect for international law and universal human rights. That distinction effectively ended on December 9th, when the EU Council decided unanimously to reward Israel’s criminal disregard of international law by upgrading the EU-Israel Association Agreement. Israel clearly understood from this decision that the EU condones its actions against the Palestinians under its occupation. Palestinian civil society also got the message: the EU governments have become no less complicit in Israel’s war crimes than their US counterpart.

The large majority of world governments, particularly in the global south, share part of the blame, as well. By continuing business as usual with Israel, in trade agreements, arms deals, academic and cultural ties, diplomatic openings, they have provided the necessary background for the complicity of world powers and, consequentially, for Israel’s impunity. Furthermore, their inaction within the United Nations is inexcusable.

Father Miguel D’Escoto Brockman, President of the UN General Assembly prescribed in a recent address before the Assembly the only moral way forward for the world’s nations in dealing with Israel:

“More than twenty years ago we in the United Nations took the lead from civil society when we agreed that sanctions were required to provide a nonviolent means of pressuring South Africa to end its violations. Today, perhaps we in the United Nations should consider following the lead of a new generation of civil society, who are calling for a similar non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its violations.”

Now, more than ever, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC, calls upon international civil society not just to protest and condemn in diverse forms Israel’s massacre in Gaza, but also to join and intensify the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel to end its impunity and to hold it accountable for its persistent violation of international law and Palestinian rights. Without sustained, effective pressure by people of conscience the world over, Israel will continue with its gradual, rolling acts of genocide against the Palestinians, burying any prospects for a just peace under the blood and rubble of Gaza, Nablus and Jerusalem.

i have no more words. because my words are falling on deaf ears and i cannot bear it. i cannot bear the thought of people ignoring this crime against humanity. so i will offer some images now that hopefully will give you the idea. i got some of these from the people’s geography blog.

latuff_cartoon_israel_collective_punishment

palestinian_boy_mr_fish_cartoon

leunig_israel_war-brings-peace

gaza-massacre-latuff-3

bendib-divest-from-sudan

chanukkahisrael

do you get it now? will you do something now? gazans are trapped in a prison and being bombed to hell with american-made weapons. they are being slaughtered. it may not be a gas chamber but make no mistake about it: israeli terrorists learned well from their history in nazi germany. right now the only people in this israeli-terrorist created prison who will be allowed to leave–and this after 6 days of incessant bombing–are foreigners. every other war people flee. here, no. palestinians may not flee. not this time. what the f)(# are you going to do about it?

tis the season to boycott

bethlehem-cartoon-mary-joseph-israeli-soldiers

it is christmas again. or christmas eve anyway. a time when most americans over-consume, and over-eat. though it seems like many americans are not able to do the former as a result of the recession. and i think that is a good thing. americans who are more secular and christian, like my grandma, see it as a time to spend with family, eat lots of sweets(though if you are my grandma your diet consists almost entirely of chocolate year round), and give/receive gifts. americans who are more religious i imagine spend time in church and perhaps they read the bible (i don’t really know any such people so i’m assuming here…) but relatively few of either secular or religious american christians will spend any amount of time thinking about palestine, where jesus was born and whose birth they are supposedly celebrating tonight and tomorrow. certainly they may sing christmas carols that have allusions to palestine–such as that song with the line in “the little town of bethlehem”–but i imagine few will think about where bethlehem is and what is happening in bethlehem today to the christians and muslims who live there. here is one example of what is happening now in bethlehem–exile, house demolitions, an illegal apartheid wall, illegal and increasing israeli settlements, as nour odeh reports on al jazeera:

mazin qumisiyeh also describes this process of ethnic cleansing by illegal settlements in bethlehem:

When I look out the balcony of the faculty lounge at Bethlehem University, I hear the constant hammering of the construction in the settlement that separates us from Jerusalem and I see Israeli settlements built on Palestinian lands surrounding Bethlehem on three sides. Every two weeks, Jewish settlers “visit” the hill on the fourth side (called Ush Ghrab) that they have set their eyes on. Yet, I hear the U.S. media is focused on other things, including the weighty matter of dodging shoes.

me & divy in front of the entrance to bethlehem
me & divy in front of the entrance to bethlehem

likewise the apartheid wall that is choking bethlehem is another form of forcing exile on palestinians as the economy is deeply affected by this. the system of the apartheid wall and its corollary checkpoints are also forcing palestinians to leave palestine:

Bethlehem has also been badly affected by Israel’s separation barrier causing widespread economic hardship among both Muslims and Christians. Yusuf Nassir 57, is looking for a way to emigrate. “The problem is that we are a minority and minorities always suffer in times like these. My house was attacked [by Muslims] over nothing. There was a dispute between a Muslim and a Christian boy, this turned into a communal fight and then around 70 men turned on us. My sister got injured. She said to me ‘you must leave for the safety of your family’, but finding the money is not easy,” he says. “I have also had Israeli soldiers fire at me, once when I was driving a car. The bullet missed me by about 25 centimeters.

“But it is the wall which has destroyed my business. I now owe $120,000 in back rent. I have had to sack staff, and other businesses around here have had to do the same. This just adds to the unemployment and social problems here.”

this excerpt above from england’s independent newspaper gives a far more accurate picture of the economic conditions facing palestinians everywhere, including bethlehem. while tourists may be coming to see the church of the nativity, most of these tours are organized by israeli companies and the tourists are shuttled in and out of bethelehm so fast they don’t have enough time to shop or even eat a felafel sandwich (which is a shame because afteem felafel sandwhich shop across from the church is one of the best places for felafel in the world). not surprisingly, though, the ever clueless new york times published a piece yesterday talking about the economy improving here:

It might seem obvious that in the days leading up to Christmas this city, which lives in the hearts of Christians worldwide, would become a tourist magnet. But only six years ago the Church of the Nativity was the site of a five-week standoff between Israeli troops and armed Palestinian militants. Even today, to get into Bethlehem requires passing through an Israeli checkpoint under the shadow of the enormous Israeli separation wall.

Yet there are more tourists in Bethlehem this year than at any time in a decade, and their presence signals something beyond the Christmas spirit: life for West Bank Palestinians, oppressive and challenging though it remains, seems to be making substantial, if fragile, improvement.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials report economic growth for the occupied areas of 4 to 5 percent and a drop in the unemployment rate of at least three percentage points. The Israelis report that in 2008 wages here are up more than 20 percent and trade by 35 percent. The improved climate has nearly doubled the number of tourists in Bethlehem and increased them by half in Jericho.

It is not just tourists. The Bethlehem Small Enterprise Center, financed with German aid, has been open for eight months and busy, helping printers improve their software and olivewood craftsmen their marketing.

“It has been the best year since 1999,” noted Victor Batarseh, mayor of Bethlehem. “Our hotels are full whereas three years ago there was almost nobody. Unemployment is below 20 percent. But we are still under occupation.”

And all this in a year when the global economy has been sinking at an alarming rate.

if an american journalist can’t get it right i expect even less from the average christian american (though to be fair this is ethan bronner and his reports can be largely characterized by how out of touch he is with reality on the ground). i imagine relatively few american christians will also spend the next twenty-four hours thinking about the road from nazareth to bethlehem as bbc journalist aleem maqbool recently did. he traveled on foot and donkey from nazareth to bethlehem and wrote and filmed his experiences, which you can see on the bbc website. but he ran into some troubles that i don’t think jesus ever encountered:

After a wait at the checkpoint, I was happy to be told that I would be allowed to pass. However, the Israeli authorities informed us that our donkey did not have the correct paperwork. Donkey number two would have to be left behind.

I would like to think her stubborn resistance to getting into the animal trailer was because she wanted to stay with me. However, I have a feeling it was more the prospect of a bumpy ride home.

For those Palestinian farmers in the West Bank who have land on the “wrong side” of the barrier (in many places it runs well inside West Bank, leaving Palestinian land outside), such bureaucracy can really impact on working life. Many farmers have given up tending their land in these circumstances.

Two donkeys down, I crossed into the West Bank alone.

The Israeli government says the barrier, and the checkpoints, are necessary for the security of its citizens – to keep potential Palestinian bombers out. It is one of the main reasons given for the massive decrease in the number of suicide bombings in Israel.

But the Israeli army has also arrested and killed hundreds of people it suspects of militancy, in regular raids on West Bank towns and cities.

bethlehem

and here is what we can imagine evangelical zionist christians to be doing today and tomorrow–totally ignoring history and even their own religious books in order to facilitate the zionist regime’s redrawing the map:

For the first time this year, yuletide celebrations in Christ’s birthplace will be streamed live on the internet – and if you’re busy feasting on turkey or watching the Queen’s speech you can revisit the scene a couple of days later when it is repeated.

The online broadcaster IPrayTV.com, which says it wants to strengthen Christian ties with “Israel and the Holy Sites”, has mounted a permanent camera in the Franciscan section of the Church of the Nativity.

The broadcaster, founded by a pro-Israeli evangelical, has also placed a camera overlooking Manger Square in the centre of the Palestinian town.

apparently to these christians bethlehem is in israel now (see map above). it’s not, of course, though the illegal settlements strangling the city are trying to make it become one (as seen in the video from al jazeera posted above). i wonder if these same christians think that it is “christian” (whatever that means) to behave in the murderous way the zionist state behaves every day. as some of these people are fond of saying: what would jesus do? what would he do, for instance, if he were to know that the people in gaza had to shut their bakeries down again once more?:

Bakeries’ owners in Gaza announced today they have shut down doors before residents due to their inability to get cooking gas and wheat to make bread.

Abdelnaser aL-Ajrami, head of the bakeries society in Gaza, stated to media outlets that more than 27 bakeries out of a total of 47 in Gaza city, have been shut down completely due to lack of cooking gas and wheat, as Israel closes commercial border crossings for almost two months now.

” the current crisis is increasingly becoming crippled as there are only 400 tons of wheat left at Gaza’s seven windmills”, he explained.

aL-Ajrami made clear that the said quantities will be distributed at the bakeries for the next four days, maintaining that there have been relentless efforts to ensure the needed cooking gas.

Last month , Israel imposed a restrictive closure on Gaza’s commercial crossings following a series of Israeli army attacks on Gaza Strip. Gaza-based resistance factions responded with homemade shells fire.

According to petroleum officials in Gaza, Gaza’s 1.5 million residents need at least 350 tons of cooking gas on daily basis.

i’d like to think that jesus would find a way to resist this inhuman behavior by calling for a boycott of the zionist regime. for if jesus were still alive he’d be either living behind that apartheid wall or living as a third-class citizen in 1948 palestine. either way i don’t think he would be silent about what the zionists have done and do. the most recent update on a company on the boycott list is l’oreal cosmetics:

In this holiday season, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, BNC*, calls upon people of conscience all over the world to boycott all the products of the French cosmetics giant, L’Oreal**, due to its deep and extensive involvement in business relations with Israel, despite the latter’s continued occupation and apartheid policies against the indigenous Palestinian people.

L’Oreal’s operations in Israel began in the mid-1990s, motivated in part by political considerations. Since then, L’Oreal Israel, the company’s subsidiary in Israel, has operated a factory in the Israeli town of Migdal Ha’emek in the Lower Galilee. The settlement of Migdal Ha’emek was established in 1952 on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed Palestinian village of al-Mujaydil, whose original inhabitants are still denied the right to return to their homes. Like almost all other Jewish settlements built in the midst of Palestinian villages in the Galilee, inside Israel, Migdal Ha’emek discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, denying them the right to buy, rent or live on any part of the town, simply because they are “non Jews.”

L’Oreal Israel manufacturers a line of products using Dead Sea minerals under the name “Natural Sea Beauty” that is exported to 22 countries. It should be noted that one third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. While the entire shore and its resources are systematically closed to Palestinians by Israeli military occupation and apartheid practices, Israel exploits the Dead Sea for international tourism, mining, and improving its image.

L’Oreal’s activities in Israel are not, however, limited to L’Oreal Israel. While Palestinian academics and students in the occupied territories and Israel are systematically impeded by Israeli occupation roadblocks and other oppressive measures from conducting normal academic life and research, L’Oreal awarded a $100,000 “lifetime achievement” award to a scientist at Israel’s Weizmann Institute of Science in July 2008. The Weizmann Institute, since its establishment, has been a major center for clandestine research and development of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons on behalf of Israel’s military establishment with which it has close ties. It is, therefore, one of many academic institutions in Israel that are in collusion with the state’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights, and which are targeted for academic boycott by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).

The chairman of L’Oreal Israel is Gad Propper who is the founding chairman of the Israel-EU Chamber of Commerce, and has also been heavily involved in promoting trade between Israel and Australia and New Zealand. The French government has recognized the important role that L’Oreal’s Israeli operations play in the company’s global business by awarding Propper France’s highest civilian honor, the Legion d’honneur earlier this month. “The award was in recognition of Propper’s contribution to the global success story” of L’Oreal, according to a report in the Jerusalem Post.

In 1994, L’Oreal bought a 30 percent stake in Propper’s company Interbeauty, from which L’Oreal Israel was created. Since then Israel has become L’Oreal’s commercial center for the entire Middle East.

POLITICAL MOTIVATIONS FOR L’OREAL’S ISRAEL INVESTMENTS

In 1995, L’Oreal agreed to pay $1.4 million to the US government to settle charges that it had cooperated with the Arab League’s official boycott of Israel. The company was accused of providing information in the 1980s about its US subsidiaries’ ties to Israel, to the now effectively inactive official Boycott Office of the Arab League. The company denied that it had broken US laws designed to prevent American firms from cooperating with the official Arab boycott of Israel, but mounted a campaign to placate Zionist critics by emphasizing its desire to invest in Israel.

Following the settlement, then chairman of L’Oreal, Lindsay Owen-Jones, apologized for the company’s actions in a letter to the US-based pro-Israel lobby group the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

According to the ADL, Owen-Jones thanked the pro-Israel group “for its support of L’Oreal’s business and community service activities in Israel,” and assured the ADL that “The forward-looking approach that you have taken is an encouragement to L’Oreal and other companies that are already involved in Israel to expand their involvements till further.”

One of L’Oreal’s most well-known global brands, The Body Shop, boasts that one of its core values is “We’ve never been afraid to champion the vulnerable and the disadvantaged, and we continue to campaign for social justice and human rights.” Yet its parent company’s deep politically-motivated and profit-driven involvement with Israeli apartheid indicates, if anything, a flagrant disregard for the human rights of Palestinians and a disservice to justice and peace.

Business-as-usual should not continue with a state that has not only practiced apartheid and colonial rule against an indigenous population for decades, but is also, today, committing grave and persistent war crimes described as “a prelude to genocide” by Richard Falk, a prominent Princeton international law professor and UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the OPT.

Under these circumstances L’Oreal’s vast investment in Israel amounts to complicity in severe abuse of human rights, to say the least; it should be stopped at once.

al mujaydil, the palestinian land that l’oreal occupies, is in the district of nazareth, the district where jesus came from. yet another reason i suspect jesus would boycott this company (and all others supporting the zionist regime).

there are many other american and european companies to boycott, of course, many of which i’ve written about here. and there are links in the side bar to learn more about that. but given that it is christmas i thought it would be nice to end with boycott christmas carols, from adalah new york, against the israeli diamond billionaire who builds illegal settlements in the west bank and who recently opened a shop in dubai. this is a little more of the sort of christmas spirit that i can get into…