Yes, India, Israel uses water as a weapon

For the past couple of nights I’ve noticed a new commercial on English language television in India. It seems that Israel is currently promoting tourism on occupied land while hiding their reality of their almost 70-year long colonisation of the land. It seems that now that Indians no longer have a stamp in their passport preventing them from travelling to the world’s 2 apartheid states–South Africa and Israel–they’re pushing tourism, making it appear as if it were any European country. It was shocking to see such a commercial, knowing how many Indians will fall for it, travel there, and never even have a glimpse of what life is like for Palestinians in historic Palestine or the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (Here is my response to a similar piece in The Hindu a couple of years ago).

Of course, one would expect that an Israeli agency would promote its own tourism. But what’s even more shocking is that an Indian environmental organisation would fall for such propaganda. And that’s what seemed to happen with India Water Portal. Their piece was lazy–relying solely on the Israeli embassy for their misinformation. And the Indians who published this piece are too enamoured with the mythology of Israelis making the deserts bloom, they credit them with inventions like drip irrigation, which Indians were doing for hundreds–if not thousands–of years before the colony of Israel existed. They seem to be completely oblivious to the realities in Palestine, too, and the way that water is used as a tool of apartheid. Perhaps if they realised, Indian passports would once again be prohibited from entering Israel (wishful thinking, I know).

What bothers me about false reporting on water in India is that so many Indians–Indians who I expect to know better–will repeat this fib about Israel being some agricultural, water genius nation that India should look to as a model. And the Indian government is indeed stepping up its work in that area with collaborative ventures in the agricultural sector.

Israel’s water lies go far back to their early colonisation in the 1940s, but after they accelerated the colonisation of the West Bank, the theft quickened, as Charlotte Silver explains:

The Israeli military has governed all sources of water in the West Bank and Gaza since 1967 and 1974, respectively. Originally gained by military conquest, its control has subsequently been affirmed through the Oslo Accords and, increasingly, the work of the Palestinian Authority and international NGOs. 

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In Gaza, because of the ongoing siege of the world’s largest open air prison, the water situation is even worse than in the West Bank, which is why the Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) has been actively involved in helping to create solutions to the lack of drinking water:

In the West Bank and Gaza, the Israeli Occupation systematically denies Palestinian adequate quality and quantities of water. Palestinian communities inside the state of Israel have less access to water than their Jewish counterparts, as well. Water is diverted from Palestinian resources the West Bank (and previously in Gaza) to illegal Israeli settlements and into Israel. Israel denies materials, fuel, and permits to sustain and expand water systems. Military attacks predictably—and often deliberately—destroy wells, water tanks, pipes, treatment plants, and sewage systems. Widespread poverty prevents people from purchasing clean water or repairing their wells and plumbing. The health and well being of virtually every Palestinian child and adult is affected by the shortage of clean, safe water.

The water crisis in Gaza is extreme. When the state of Israel was established in 1948, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes in what is now southern Israel to the small and arid Gaza Strip. At the same time, Israel cut off access to water sources around Gaza. The only source available, the Gaza Aquifer, could not support the huge and sudden rise in population, and the water it generates has been steadily deteriorating for more than sixty years. It is currently estimated that 95% of water from the Gaza Aquifer is unfit for human consumption.

It’s pretty simple to surf the Internet and figure out the truth about water in Palestine and Israel’s role in siphoning it for their swimming pools when Palestinians barely get enough to drink, cook, and bathe with. Even Israel’s Ha’aretz has reported on the way Israel creates thirst in Palestinian communities as has the Economist. Amnesty International has published reports on Israel’s use of water as a tool of their apartheid regime.

What will it take for Indians to understand the truth, the reality of what really goes on with water in Palestine? Perhaps a trip, but not to Israel; one to the occupied territories where tourists also get first-hand experiences with inequity and water as well as all the other visible and less visible forms of apartheid.

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Tibet and Palestine

Last month I started the summer off with a vacation in Dharamsala, in the northern part of India. I went there for the same cliched reason many other foreigners go there–for yoga and meditation. I’ve been meditating and practicing yoga for about 17 years. But for the past several years, since I first went to Palestine, I’ve struggled with this practice a bit. It’s been hard for me to reconcile the idea that working on one’s own inner peace, as it were, could lead to any global kind of peace. Moreover, the pessimist in me doesn’t believe that anyone in power would ever commit to such a practice, which is what would have to happen for such a change to emerge. True, it has happened in history–most notably with Ashoka who changed quite radically after his conversion to Buddhism. And there are others, too. In spite of my reservations, I’ve returned to these practices little by little in the past few years.

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I recalled a demonstration against Israeli theft of Palestinian agricultural land for their settlements and apartheid wall, which I attended in Bil`in in 2005. There was a Buddhist monk who joined us, although I recalled him as Tibetan, looking at the photographs now he’s clearly not. Still, I found it striking watching him beating his drum while the soldiers began to open fire on us. I never had a chance to speak with him because I was arrested that day.

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I remembered this image, though I hadn’t seen it in some time, because the more I explored Dharamsala and Tibetan history, the more I saw lucid parallels to Palestinian struggles. Just one glimpse of the images around McLeod Ganj, the main area where Tibetans, especially Tibetan monks, reside shows clearly an ongoing struggle for freedom, and not only in the Buddhist sense of liberation. At the Tibet Museum this resonated even more because I learned of the Tibetan resistance movement–I had not known that there had ever been armed struggle against the Chinese. But there are many similarities I noticed:

1. The time frame: Palestinians commemorate the nakba (catastrophe) on 15 May 1948, although the ethnic cleansing of Palestine began long before that and continues until this day. A year later, in 1949, China invaded Tibet.

2. Palestinians began their armed resistance movement to get their land back in 1968; the infamous Battle of Karameh marked its introduction to the world. In 1958, according the the museum catalog:

the flag of a united Tibetan resistance movement, the Tensung Danglang Maggar (‘Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet’), was hoisted for the first time in Driguthang, Lhoka. Andrug Gompo Tashi was nominated as our chief commander. Many recruits from all parts of Tibet joined us and we soon had more than 5,000 members. Fighting began soon after. At Nyemo we faced our biggest battle, Less than 1,000 of us successfully fought against a much bigger Chinese force. (25)

3. Both Israel and China have led ongoing campaigns to destroy cultural religious buildings, among other structures, in Palestine and Tibet respectively. Israel also regularly destroys Palestinian homes (often forcing Palestinians to destroy their own homes and/or pay the fees for that process) and does not permit them to build or rebuilt as the case may be.  In Tibet, according to the museum,

The systematic eradication of Tibetan culture and religion saw the destruction of over 6,000 monasteries and temples. The handful still standing today are used as tourist attractions, army barracks, or public toilets. Precious scriptures and sculptures were destroyed or sold in international art markets. The Chinese used scriptures as shoe soles and monks and nuns were forced to desecrate religious objects. (29)

4. Just as Israel practices Judaisation, China practices what Tibetans call Sinicisation, which is includes the erasure of Tibetan identity and the inculcation of a Chinese one–starting with language. The museum explains:

The Chinese language is given priority in education and administration, thus marginalizing Tibetans in every sphere of life. Even more worrying are the population transfers that are diluting our culture and are reducing Tibetans to a minority in our own country. China is actively engaged in denials of our history, culture–our very identity. (37)

5. As indicated above, China also practices transfer, a euphemism for ethnic cleansing that Zionists have used since their pre-state days. In both cases, the occupying nation moves its citizens into the areas or homes where Tibetans or Palestinians used to live. One example is the expulsion of people from Yaffa and another more recent example is the ongoing nakba affecting Bedouins in the Naqab desert known as the Prawer Plan.

6. Of course, when one is faced with forced expulsion one becomes a refugee. Approximately 750,000 Palestinian refugees were expelled in 1948 and many more since then including internally displaced people. Because this process is ongoing (and because of normal population growth) that number is 7.2 million today. In the case of Tibet:

Since 1959, about 100,000 Tibetans fled to neighboring countries. Many died on the way as a result of Chinese attacks and harsh conditions. Thousands continue to escape oppression and persecution in Tibet each year. (40)

7. Recent struggles for both Tibetans and Palestinians have included boycotting products made in China and Israel respectively. Additionally, Tibetans have resorted to self-immolation to call attention to their plight.

I lay out all of these comparisons here because while in Dharamsala I read a book called A Jew in the Lotus by Rodger Kamenetz (1995). The book is not worth quoting, but essentially it is the tale of a variety of Jewish people–Orthodox, Conservative, Reform–primarily from the U.S. and Israel who come to Dharamsala to participate in a Buddhist-Jewish interfaith dialogue. From what I gleaned in the book, that dialogue was motivated by the Jewish delegation because of the great many Jews who leave their faith for Buddhism. There were so many odd concerns they held about joining this group and interacting with people who, for example, don’t keep kosher or who are formally addressed as “His Holiness.”

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In the book, there didn’t yet seem to be an Israeli colony in Dharamsala yet.  This is likely because relations between India and Israel were just beginning to publicly thaw in the early 1990s. But today there are many such colonies, (see here and here) most notably in this mountain top hill station and in Goa. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I went to explore these two areas, pretty far removed from each other–one on top of the mountain in Dharamkot and the other in a valley a few kilometres below, Bhagsu Naag. In Dharamkot there is a Chabad House (an Orthodox Jewish prayer house–the tall brick building, which is the tallest in the area). It’s a bit odd to see that here given that stories I hear and read about often detail the way in which Israelis come after their three (men) or two year (women) compulsory army service, trash the area, smoke a lot of hashish, and have a lot of sex. It doesn’t exactly seem like the type who would frequent an extremely religious space.  The photographs above are from Dharamkot and those below from Bhagsu Naag.

The most disturbing aspect of this Israeli take over of this previously Indian and Tibetan community is the inclusion of what restauranteurs call “Israeli cuisine” (hummus, felafel, etc.) with no sense of irony. There are several photographs of menus above that illustrate this. Unfortunately none of the restaurant owners (most seemed to be Indian, not Tibetan) are aware that what they are serving is Arabic cuisine originating in the Levantine countries of Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria. This cultural theft is akin to what I listed above as one of the many ways Israel Judaises Palestine, often taking on Arabic or Palestinian culture and claiming it as its own. This would be akin to Chinese restaurants serving momos and tsampa and claiming it as their own. Of course, they do that too. Also, I find it odd that just because a group of foreigners frequents another country that “their” cuisine must be readily available. Why travel if you’re not going to eat local food. Seriously! Likewise why is there a need for all the signage to change from Tibetan, Hindi, and English to just two foreign languages: English and Hebrew?

Finally, Kamenetz’s book made it clear that through their interfaith exchange Tibetans and Israelis would begin working together towards a common cause. From their point of view, the Tibetan struggle mirrors the Jewish and Israeli one (he often conflates the two) and, not surprisingly, Palestine is barely mentioned at all. (See Gideon Levy on this.)  Indeed, there is an Israeli-Tibet society. And Israelis seem to be collaborating with Tibetans on agricultural projects. However, if the Tibetans want to know what will come of such a venture, they should look at what people did in Andhra Pradesh at Kuppam once they realised how they were being deceived by Israeli promises to improve the agricultural practices here.

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One final image: at my meditation centre there were only two languages used other than English and Hindi: Russian and Hebrew.
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Thank you, American Studies Association #BDS #ASA2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And all that effort has paid off!

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

First, here is USACBI’s official statement:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council Statement on the Academic Boycott of Israel

ASA National Council Votes Unanimously To Endorse Academic Boycott of Israel

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

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

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

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

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

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

Background on the Resolution

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ASA National Council

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elizabeth Redden’s “Backing the Israel Boycott”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Hindu” Promotes Tourism to Apartheid Israel

Yesterday morning I was enjoying reading the Sunday edition of The Hindu newspaper. That is, until I got to the final page of the paper where I saw an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “Ten Things to do In Israel,” which  ahistorically, acontextually promotes Indian travel to a settler-colonial, racist, apartheid state.

Here is my response to that piece, which I just emailed to the newspaper’s editor:

9 September 2013

Dear Editor:

In yesterday’s The Hindu Magazine section, you published an article by Lakshmi Anand entitled “10 Things to do in Israel.” I found the article to be shocking and offensive. Since when did it become normal for Indians to promote travel to a settler-colonial apartheid state? I would suggest a more apt article for you to publish in your newspaper’s pages entitled, “Ten Reasons Not to go to Israel.” The list could include the following justifications:

  1. Israel practices apartheid and is a settler-colonial state. Just as the British were a settler-colonial state in India and just as South Africa was an apartheid regime, Israel is a combination of these two racist state systems of the past. Just as the British Empire created its settler-colonial state in India, they too enabled the set up of a colonial entity by partitioning the Levant after World War I. Since 2002, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has unequivocally compared the practices of apartheid by Israel with the former regime in South Africa.
  2. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194 stipulates that Palestinian who were forcibly removed from their homes during the ethnic cleansing of 1948 (Israel’s premeditated “Plan Dalet” to eliminate the indigenous population), should be allowed to return to their homes and be compensated financially for the losses they incurred, much like Jews were offered compensation after World War II.
  3. The ethnic cleansing operations of 1948 have never ended: it is ongoing. For the most recent example of this, one need only look at the Negev desert where yet again the Bedouin community is being forcibly removed from their land. But this is also an ongoing project in places like Jaffa and Jerusalem, places that Anand seems to only see as tourist destinations.
  4. Israel likes to promote itself as an country that has “made the deserts bloom,” which, ignores the centuries of cultivation established by indigenous Palestinians. Israel’s ability to cultivate stolen Palestinian land comes from their ongoing theft of natural resources, like water, which they exploit for their settlement swimming pools while Palestinians are left with little to no water for bathing and drinking.
  5. Anand recommends tourists visit Israel’s Nazi holocaust museum, Yad Vashem, which is located on the land of the Palestinian village, Deir Yassin, which notably endured one of the most infamous massacres during Israel’s ethnic cleansing operations of 1948. The depopulated village ironically hosts this museum about the ethnic cleansing of Jews in Europe.
  6. The article also recommends that people spend time sampling food like felafel. Anand fails to mention that this is an Arab food not an Israeli one. Like most Israeli “culture,” felafel was studied and adopted by Zionist Jews who colonized Palestinian land. Likewise, the Jaffa oranges mentioned in the article were world renowned produce that Palestinians exported globally prior to their forced removal from their land. In addition to coopting Palestinian culture and branding it Israeli, Israel has consistently been on a mission to commit cultural genocide by imposing various laws—many of which date from the British Mandate era—to prevent Palestinian literature, music, dance, and theatre from being produced and shared publicly.
  7. Palestinian political prisoners, many of whom have been on ongoing hunger strikes for the past few years, and many of whom are children, are being held for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is resisting the ongoing colonization of their land. Just as Indians were political prisoners of the British during the Raj, Palestinians are also fighting to get their country back and those who work towards this end, regardless of age or gender, are often imprisoned.
  8. Since its formation, Israel has repeatedly promoted the ironic idea that it is always at risk of being thrown into the sea by its neighbors. The reality is that since its inception, Israel has been a belligerent regime and the fourth most powerful military in the world, propped up by the United States, of course. On a daily basis, Israel’s army fires at fishermen in Gaza; they regularly capture shepherds in Lebanon, and most recently they have bombed Syria and are pushing for the U.S. to invade Syria as well.
  9. Palestinians who live in Israel, who call themselves 1948 Palestinians because they are the people who managed to remain on their land against all odds are second-class citizens, just as Indians were under the British Raj. 1948 Palestinians do not have equal rights because they live in a state that defines itself as Jewish and Palestinians are either Christian, Druze, Baha’i, or Muslim.
  10. Don’t go to Israel. Go to Palestine. Show your solidarity with the Palestinian people. Join the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement inspired by India’s boycott movement and later South Africa’s. Join the Indian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Traveling to Israel promotes their economy and therefore enables it to continue its brutal and ruthless colonial system. India remembers all too well what colonialism means. Why would Indians want to promote its continuation in another location?

How I Failed the Thirsting for Justice Challenge

Yesterday my friend and I decided to take the Thirsting for Justice water challenge of living with 24 liters (that’s about 6 gallons for Americans) of water for 24 hours, which is something Palestinians in Palestine are forced to do every day. The challenge was created to educate people about the ways in which Israeli colonists control the water in Palestine even though all of the water sources are Palestinian. An infographic illustrates the problem quite well:

 

Just yesterday, for example, Israel demolished two Palestinian water cisterns, which, of course, meant that Palestinians who relied upon those water sources now do not have any access to water.

To begin this challenge I researched water consumption to get an idea about how much I might use each day. To be sure, my friend and I chose a difficult day because it was the day to clean the flat. This meant that we needed several buckets of water. We also needed to wash our clothes, but could not because the average washing machine requires between 80-170 liters of water (although we had conflicting information on this, we decided to lean towards the high end of the spectrum). So I had to wear some dirty clothes yesterday as a result.

Through my research about water I found some interesting facts about how much we waste when we don’t have to be conscious about our water usage:

  • the average Briton uses the equivalent of 16 buckets worth of water a day. One third of this goes down the loo
  • many people in the world exist on 10 litres of water or less a day, we use this in almost one flush of the toilet

Growing up in California, which does struggle with water issues, sometimes I was made aware of the hazards of taking long showers or flushing the toilet too much. But the water never ran out and so there is only so much of an impression that this warning had on me. Toilet waste is particularly important to think about given how much water it uses beyond what seems necessary. Consider these figures:

There are two types of toilets in my friend’s house. One is the typical type and the other is the kind that gives you a choice for a full or a half flush. Yesterday morning I opted for the half flush thinking that it might let me count a lower end of 9 liters instead of 16 liters. However, even that, when you realize that you only have 24 to use for the entire 24 hours, is too much. So I wasted around 9 liters too early in the day.

For the average American, here is what their indoor water consumption looks like (check out this link for the actual graphic which has enhanced features on the original):

When I tried to add up and estimate my daily usage, without considering how much water goes into cleaning my flat, I came up with a figure of about 234 liters (61 gallson) per day, 130 liters of which are devoted to toilet flushing. These initial figures are based on calculations that say we use 9.5 liters per minute when a faucet is one (for showering, washing hands, washing dishes, etc.). It also lowballs figures on washing clothes, partially because we use a front-loading machine, unlike the typical American top-loading machines, which seem to require more water.

Ultimately, we decided to use the handy water consumption chart on the Thirsting for Justice website:

Based on these figures here is how I failed the challenge:

I woke up, used the toilet, washed my face, brushed my teeth (with the tap off as usual): 12.4 liters.

I made coffee, drank some water, washed dishes (although I suspect washing dishes they way people do here, with the water off, requires less water than the way Americans do it by leaving the water running): 22 liters.

Then we both took showers. Rather than use the faucet, which according to the cart above, would at best require 35-50 liters for a 3 minute shower and at worst 75-90 liters for a 5 minute shower, we opted for a different option. Because even in the best case scenario above, if we only had 24 liters of water for the day, that would mean no shower at all. So we placed 3 liters of water into a pot and boiled it. We brought it into the shower and then split that amount between the two of us. My friend washed her hair, but I did not. This meant that we each used only 1.5 liters for showering.

But we failed when it came to washing the house. Because my friend has a large 3 bedroom flat, and because it requires about 7 buckets to clean the floors, each of which contains 10.5 liters of water, we used up 73.5 liters cleaning the house. And this only got us to the halfway point in the day.

After the house was clean, we made lunch. We washed vegetables, drank water, washed more dishes, and then brushed our teeth again. This required around 23 liters of water.

We spent the rest of the day outside the home where we drank more water (it is summer after all), ate more vegetables (which were washed), and ate off plates (that would then need to be washed). We went to the bathroom and washed our hands (but also used hand sanitizer at times to save the 1.4 liters it takes to wash one’s hands). We chose not to count this water because the 24 liters for 24 hours is for one’s household.

When we returned home I washed my face, brushed my teeth, drank some more water, which required another 4.4 liters.

My total water usage for the day was: 136.8 liters or 35.9 gallons.

Later this month I will try to do this again to see if I can do it on a day when I don’t need to clean the house. But in some ways I think this is a good way to test oneself because in most Palestinian homes, cleaning the house is a daily part of one’s activities.

I encourage others to try to meet this challenge. To sign up, you need only to visit the Thirsting for Justice website. There are a number of resources and fact sheets on the website to learn more about the way water theft accompanies land theft in Palestine. Also, here is an older Amnesty International report on how Palestinians are denied access to their own water. I also encourage people to donate to the Middle East Children’s Alliance Maia Project, which is helping to bring clean, fresh water to Palestinian children.

For those interested in water as an environmental issue more generally, there is an interesting UNDP report co-authored by youth entitled “Water Rights and Wrongs” that addresses the scarcity of water, the need for water, and water as a human right. Finally, I recommend this film Blue Gold, which explores the topic of water as a human right and an environmental more globally:

why i love rosa clemente

just a taste of how that Israel love fest would have gone if vice presidential candidates rosa clemente and matt gonazalez had been included. here is what they have to say about palestine (yes! they actually are able to say that word and speak about it in an informed and moral way! imagine!). and there are many reasons why i love clemente: her position on the prison industrial complex, the military industrial complex, queer rights, the environment. you can watch the entire debate or read the transcript at democracy now!

MATT GONZALEZ: Well, I think, you know, both of these candidates pay lip service to the notion that we need a two-state solution. They don’t tell you any specifics around that. Do they support 1967 borders, for instance? Joe Biden did not repudiate Barack Obama’s earlier remark about Jerusalem belonging to Israel.

And I think their sort of over-the-top repeating of how much they love Israel—I think, in that, they lose an opportunity to support peace movements in and outside of Israel, joined by many Jews, both in this country and in Israel, that want to see an end to the violence in the region, that don’t believe, for instance, the way Palestinians are being treated is fair.

And I think when Joe Biden starts repudiating elections in the West Bank and elsewhere, you see that these guys are pretty much in step with the current administration. You know, they either—you either have to be a supporter of democracy and deal with the right of people to self-determine, or you repudiate that. And if you repudiate it, you’re going to go down a path that can be very dangerous.

AMY GOODMAN: Rosa Clemente?

ROSA CLEMENTE: Well, I mean, I think it’s not even a question of fairness. The Israeli government, every day, kills Palestinian people in their own homeland. I think it is about the right to self-determination, but it’s also—I think it’s more than a two-state solution. Many Palestinian groups are calling for a one-state solution, and that’s how it should be.

And the United States, we need to stop sending any type of military aid to Israel. I think what’s going on in—what’s been happening in Palestine, you know, is an indication of forty years of complete terror amongst another group of people, aided by American tax dollars, you know.

And I think younger people, particularly through hip-hop, it’s been interesting that we can have cultural exchanges and actually have people in Palestine, like the hip-hop group DAM, that let us know what’s happening every day right there on the ground and that the issue for a lot of Palestinian people would be that they deserve their homeland back and that the right of return is fundamental to them as a people.