the backlash & the steadfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To write the Bard administration:

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

Executive Vice-President Dimitri Papadimitriou

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

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

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

Defend Freedom of Speech

Open Letter to university community regarding Palestinian Rights and Canadian Universities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We the undersigned:

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

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

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

israeli-apartheid-week-2009-poster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Students win majority support in historic AGM

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

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

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

Occupation encourages University to take action

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

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

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

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

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

University denies major R&D funding from the arms industry

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

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

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

University is to look for alternative and ethical sources of funding

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

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

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

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

Specifically we demand that the university:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

more bds wrap up

i’m bummed that i haven’t had time to blog for the past couple of days because there is such exciting boycott, divestment, and sanctions news going on. but i’m visiting friends in deheishe refugee camp this weekend and so short on time. so i’ll just post some updates with links below…

the most exciting news, of course, is that the students of new york university have followed their colleagues in the united kingdom and the university of rochester and hampshire college and they have occupied their university. it seems from their blog that the university is being extremely harsh and cracking down on them at present. but they must be supported and commended. their statement is utterly brilliant. it reads:

NYU is the latest university to join a wave of global student occupations in the name of student empowerment. The Kimmel Center for University life is official a reclaimed space.

Demands

We, the students of NYU, declare an occupation of this space. This occupation is the culmination of a two-year campaign by the Take Back NYU! coalition, and of campaigns from years past, in whose footsteps we follow.

In order to create a more accountable, democratic and socially responsible university, we demand the following:

1. Full legal and disciplinary amnesty for all parties involved in the occupation.

2. Full compensation for all employees whose jobs were disrupted during the course of the occupation.

3. Public release of NYU’s annual operating budget, including a full list of university expenditures, salaries for all employees compensated on a semester or annual basis, funds allocated for staff wages, contracts to non-university organizations for university construction and services, financial aid data for each college, and money allocated to each college, department, and administrative unit of the university. Furthermore, this should include a full disclosure of the amount and sources of the university’s funding.

4. Disclosure of NYU’s endowment holdings, investment strategy, projected endowment growth, and persons, corporations and firms involved in the investment of the university’s endowment funds. Additionally, we demand an endowment oversight body of students, faculty and staff who exercise shareholder proxy voting power for the university’s investments.

5. That the NYU Administration agrees to resume negotiations with GSOC/UAW Local 2110 – the union for NYU graduate assistants, teaching assistants, and research assistants. That NYU publicly affirm its commitment to respect all its workers, including student employees, by recognizing their right to form unions and to bargain collectively. That NYU publicly affirm that it will recognize workers’ unions through majority card verification.

6. That NYU signs a contract guaranteeing fair labor practices for all NYU employees at home and abroad. This contract will extend to subcontracted workers, including bus drivers, food service employees and anyone involved in the construction, operation and maintenance at any of NYU’s non-U.S. sites.

7. The establishment of a student elected Socially Responsible Finance Committee. This Committee will have full power to vote on proxies, draft shareholder resolutions, screen all university investments, establish new programs that encourage social and environmental responsibility and override all financial decisions the committee deems socially irresponsible, including investment decisions. The committee will be composed of two subcommittees: one to assess the operating budget and one to assess the endowment holdings. Each committee will be composed of ten students democratically elected from the graduate and under-graduate student bodies. All committee decisions will be made a strict majority vote, and will be upheld by the university. All members of the Socially Responsible Finance Committee will sit on the board of trustees, and will have equal voting rights. All Socially Responsible Finance Committee and Trustee meetings shall be open to the public, and their minutes made accessible electronically through NYU’s website. Elections will be held the second Tuesday of every March beginning March 10th 2009, and meetings will be held biweekly beginning the week of March 30th 2009.

8. That the first two orders of business of the Socially Responsible Finance committee will be:

a) An in depth investigation of all investments in war and genocide profiteers, as well as companies profiting from the occupation of Palestinian territories.

b) A reassessment of the recently lifted of the ban on Coca Cola products.

9. That annual scholarships be provided for thirteen Palestinian students, starting with the 2009/2010 academic year. These scholarships will include funding for books, housing, meals and travel expenses.

10. That the university donate all excess supplies and materials in an effort to rebuild the University of Gaza.

11. Tuition stabilization for all students, beginning with the class of 2012. All students will pay their initial tuition rate throughout the course of their education at New York University. Tuition rates for each successive year will not exceed the rate of inflation, nor shall they exceed one percent. The university shall meet 100% of government-calculated student financial need.

12. That student groups have priority when reserving space in the buildings owned or leased by New York University, including, and especially, the Kimmel Center.

13. That the general public have access to Bobst Library.

SOLIDARITY STATEMENT

We, the students of Take Back NYU! declare our solidarity with the student occupations in Greece, Italy, and the United Kingdom, as well as those of the University of Rochester, the New School for Social Research, and with future occupations to come in the name of democracy and student power. We stand in solidarity with the University of Gaza, and with the people of Palestine.

from their website it seems as if they have already ended their occupation, which is disappointing as it does not seem as if their demands have been met. stay tuned.

there is also hope that a sports boycott is burgeoning with the recent news of an israeli terrorist tennis player being banned from playing in dubai. will on kabobfest shows why this is necessary and why sports are indeed political:

I want to add a more forceful argument after Abou Mack’s post on this subject. While he has doubt about a sports boycott, I am fully supportive, in principle and in this case in particular.

1. The star tennis player joined the Israeli military in 2005 and went through basic training.

2. Her induction was used for PR purposes by the military.

3. She served in the “IDF program for outstanding athletes.”

4. The Israeli military is a belligerent occupying force that has violated international law consistently in various forms since its inception.

5. By willingly serving and putting hr public image to the military’s use, she abetted violations of international law.

6. The Israeli military recently killed more than 1000 Palestinians, the majority of whom were civilians.

7. There is an active, organized boycott movement that makes clear demands and is part of a political program. It was launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005.

8. She has shown no understanding for why people would be angry to see a former IDF soldier after the Gaza offensive. Her statement claims she is a victim of discrimination. She has not made any comment regarding the immobility of Palestinian athletes living under the occupation forces she served for.

kim peterson on dissident voices offers more context on the sports boycott, in which he says, in part:

At the 1976 Olympics in Montreal, 26 nations boycotted the inclusion of Aotearoa (New Zealand) for maintaining sporting relations with the the apartheid states of Rhodesia and South Africa.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided that segregation on a state’s Olympic teams was wrong. South Africa was expelled by the IOC in 1970.

It is a widely held view that Israel is an apartheid state. A distinction has been made between South African apartheid and Israeli apartheid, in that the latter is more insidious, being premised on committing genocide. The recent slaughter in Gaza is but another demonstration of the genocidal intent of the Zionists.

The Palestinian Sports Foundation, Atlas, accused apartheid-state Israel of targeting Palestinian athletes, a violation of the IOC Charter.

Tennis Principles

Tennis was not so stringent against sporting links with apartheid regimes. It did ban South Africa from international play in 1970 Davis Cup, which re-instated South Africa won in 1974, after India refused to play it in the final. South Africa was again barred from team competition, but individual South Africans were allowed to play on the pro tours.

The WTO chairman voiced concern about fair treatment for Peer.

Peer said in a statement to the AP, “I am very disappointed that I have been prevented from playing in the Dubai tournament. I think a red line has been crossed here that could harm the purity of the sport and other sports. I have always believed that politics and sports should not be mixed.”

Unfortunately, Peer is, indeed, a victim here. Nonetheless, one wonders what Peer believes about human rights for Palestinians, victims of her country’s government’s racist policies. What does she think about the fact that Israeli Jews are living on land that they violently dispossessed the indigenous Palestinians of? What does she think of the red line that Israeli Jews crossed when they invaded and slaughtered Gazans?

What has priority: that a person is not barred from playing a game or that Palestinians are not barred from living in peace and dignity? Does justice for Peer, the individual, take precedence over the fate of an entire people? Peer has an opportunity, few people are so meaningfully presented in life, to sacrifice her love of playing tennis to bring attention to the plight of an oppressed people. Her silence about the plight of Gazans and her right to play tennis speak loudly.

and for some analysis of why the israeli terrorist dance company is being boycotted on its tour here is an article from the editor of the dance insider by paul ben-itzak:

So Ohad Naharin, rather self-servingly and — for someone who claims the mantle of artist to confer on himself a sort of moral immunity — cynically, thinks that “it’s not really going to make a difference to boycott a dance company.” A month and a half and 1,000 victims ago, I pointed out that the question was not whether a dance company should be singled out for boycott, but whether a dance company should get a get-out-of-boycott free card. What’s so special, after all, about Ohad Naharin and Batsheva that they should merit such an exemption? Has Naharin, all of whose company, including himself, have served in the Israeli army, voiced any kind of objection to what his country has wrought that would lead us to believe he’s not among the 90 percent of Israelis who supported those actions? No. But today, in the context of a PR campaign that seeks to distort the cruel Israeli reality by distracting us with images of (largely feminine) beauty, I would say that not only is Batsheva guilty of doing nothing to oppose its country’s violence, but as a government-sponsored self-proclaimed ambassador of Israel, it is culpable in Israel’s campaign to (literally) white-wash its bloody image. “I think artists belong to a group of people who don’t represent the ugly side of Israel,” Naharin says. Exactly. And this image is a lie. This is not America, where roughly 50 percent — sometimes more, sometimes less — opposed the Bush government’s illegal and murderous war on Iraq, and where numerous artists didn’t just impotently wring their hands about the violence on both sides but risked their careers to publicly denounce their own government’s actions. This is Israel, where 90 percent — *90 percent*! — supported a policy in which civilians, including on internationally protected grounds, including women, children, and non-combatant men, were targeted and killed. (You aim at an obviously civilian facility, car, or home; you fire lethal weapons at it; you block medical aid from getting to the survivors — voila, you’re targeting civilians.) And where Ohad Naharin has not publicly denounced his country’s actions. Brand Israel? I say that today, the Israel brand has come to represent genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and anything but Jewish values, never mind the Israeli rabbis who try to justify the killing of Arabs. I say that Israel and its ambassadors, including the ‘artistic’ ones like Ohad Naharin and his company, are now branded with the mark of Cain. I say, let’s boycott this company and make it and any other representative of its country — no matter how superficially beautiful — a vagabond and a fugitive on the Earth until it stops slaying its brother.

and here is an example of something that must be boycotted:

Quite extraordinarily, the Science Museum in London and the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry have both been made available (on 3 and 5 March respectively) for an event called “Israel Day of Science”. The museums argue they are not sponsoring the event, but have merely hired out their premises. This subtle distinction is unlikely to be appreciated by the many thousands of all ages and faiths who have repeatedly taken to the streets round the country to protest against Israeli war crimes in Gaza.

The event is promoted by the Zionist Federation and is designed to showcase the scientific achievements of seven Israeli universities. But all of these are complicit in the Israeli occupation and in the policies and weaponry so recently deployed to such disastrous effect in Gaza. To take just one example, Tel Aviv University, in its most recent annual review, states that “the Israel ministry of defence is currently funding 55 projects at TAU”, which “is playing a major role in enhancing Israel’s security capabilities and military edge”. The head of TAU’s security studies programme was a former director of the R&D directorate of the Israel ministry of defence. He holds the rank of major-general in the Israel Defence Forces and is a member of the Knesset.

and adalah is calling for a lev leviev diamond boycott at the oscars coming up:

Adalah-NY and Jews Against the Occupation-NYC (JATO-NYC) have called on 16 Hollywood PR firms and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to ensure that no stars wear Leviev diamonds at this Sunday’s Academy Awards. In a two week campaign involving letters and dozens of phone discussions with PR firms, the groups drew attention to Leviev’s violations of human rights and international law in the occupied West Bank where his companies build Israeli settlements, and in the diamond industry in Angola and Namibia. Leviev reportedly controls one third of the world’s diamond mines.

The 16 PR firms contacted include six firms representing the ten nominees for best actress and best supporting actress, and representatives for many other female stars. The PR firms acknowledged receiving the Adalah-NY/JATO-NYC letter, and a number of the firms said the letter had been circulated among their senior staff. In a February 18th phone call with Adalah-NY, a press spokesman for the Oscars also said they had received Adalah-NY and JATO-NYC’s letter, but had no comment on the letter’s appeal to ban Leviev’s jewelry, or the groups’ assertion that “the presence of Leviev jewelry at the Academy Awards would taint the events with complicity in Leviev’s companies’ egregious” human rights violations.

queer activists in san francisco are also calling for boycott of the tel aviv film festival:

Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), a San Francisco Bay Area solidarity group, is calling on international Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer filmmakers not to participate in the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival this June. QUIT!’s call for filmmakers to respect the cultural boycott of Israel initiated by more than 100 organizations of Palestinian civil society. The call has been joined by members of South West Asian and North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ) and a founder of Trikone, the largest South Asian LGBT organization in the world.

all of this solidarity is amazing and glen ford expresses it beautifully in his article on black agenda report this week:

African Americans must take a leadership role in the movement to boycott and disinvest in Israel, both for reasons of elemental justice and to defend our own people from the raging rightwing, corporate assault, of which the pro-Israel lobby is an integral component. If solidarity with Palestinians who suffer the aggressions of a regime as fundamentally racist as apartheid South Africa is not a compelling enough reason – and it surely is – then self-defense against Zionist subversion of domestic Black politics should move us to action. There can be no prospect of global peace or domestic progress while Israel runs amok in the Mid-East and its operatives wreak havoc in the African American political arena.

The moral imperative to answer the call “to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era,” is overwhelming – so much so that failure to act amounts to a kind of self-mutilation, a defiling of one’s legacy. Every iota of African American past and present existence tells us that no people can be allowed to superimpose themselves, their history, their supra-national rights on another people and their land, thus negating the Other’s humanity – the essential facts of Zionism.

“There can be no prospect of global peace or domestic progress while Israel runs amok.”

1948 saw the creation of civilization’s greatest document to date – possibly the founding document of the truly modern era – the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The year also witnessed the founding of a state based on the antithesis of those values: Israel.

Both Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. tapped the deep reservoirs of the Declaration in their struggle for African Americans’ human rights, and both understood the indivisibility of freedom. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” wrote Dr. King in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” Malcolm counseled Black activists that “if they would expand their civil rights movement to a human rights movement it would internationalize it.”

and for those who need reminding about why bds is essential here are some of israel’s latest terrorist acts:

Israeli police and soldiers uprooted more than 100 newly-planted olive trees from privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank village of Al-Jab’a, southwest of Bethlehem.

According to witnesses, between 10am and noon on Thursday, Israeli personnel uprooted each of the young trees individually, along with plastic protective tubes and wooden stakes.

Israeli jet fighters bombarded on Thursday midday areas along the Gaza-Egypt border, Palestinians sources reported.

The Israeli Army stated that the attacks targeted underground tunnels at the border line, Palestinian sources reported no injures.

Hours after the Israeli cabinet decided not to enter a truce deal with Gaza-based resistance factions, Israeli tanks rolled into eastern Gaza city and opened heavy random fire on Palestinian residents in southern Rafah city.

The Al Qassam brigades, armed wing of the ruling Hamas party in Gaza, said in a statement emailed to media outlets, that its fighters clashed with Israeli tanks advancing into the eastern parts of Gaza city, with no causalities reported.

Also on Thursday morning, Israeli tanks opened heavy and random fire on Palestinian residential areas in Rafah city, in the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

Witnesses said that Israeli tanks, stationed near the Kerem Shalom crossing, opened fire abruptly into the area; no injuries were reported.

Israeli media sources reported earlier on Thursday that an Israeli army unit on the Gaza-Israel border line in southern Gaza, spotted, wounded and arrested a Palestinian, while he was attempting to plant an explosive device near the Kerem Shalom crossing.

Israeli troops seized seven Palestinians from Nablus and the village of Asira Ash-Shamailya, north of the city, on Thursday.

and while the world focuses on one israeli terrorist who remains in gaza as some sort of deal breaker for ending the siege of gaza, check out the latest information about palestinian child political prisoners:

Palestinian researcher, specializing in detainees’ affairs, Awni Farawna, stated that the Israeli Army has kidnapped a total of 7,600 Palestinian children, males and females, since the year 2000; 246 children are still behind bars.

At least 200 of the kidnapped children were detained under administrative detention, without charges or trial. Some of the children were as young as 12 years old.

One detainee is now 13 months old as he was born behind bars. His mother, Fatima Al Zoq, was kidnapped while pregnant, and gave birth in prison while she was handcuffed and her legs were tied to the hospital bed.

Farawna stated that Israel’s targeting of children is a policy that targets childhood and a healthy growth, and expressed concern over the fate of the detained children as they are subjected to different sorts of violations, including torture and isolation, which affects their growth, physical and psychological conditions, in addition to affecting their education.

Hundreds of children were cut off schools due to being imprisoned; hundreds of detainees were kidnapped when they were children and grew up behind bars. Many of them have spent more years behind bars than with their families.

Several detained children were sexually abused and violated by interrogators and soldiers, while a number of Israeli prisoners, held for criminal violations, also attacked them.

Farawna stated that international law and treaties regarding children forbid barring children from their freedom, forbid torturing and violating them, and call for providing them with a healthy environment, education, mental and physical care, and calls for providing them with the needed recreation.

On the ground, Israel is ongoing with kidnapping Palestinian children, imprisoning and torturing them. At least 93 percent of the detained children were tortured, physically and mentally, and were forced to sign confessions which were used later on in Israeli courts.

Farawna added that the detained children are treated by the soldiers and the interrogators as adults, which comes in direct violation of international law and international human rights.

Many children were arrested more than one time before they reached the age of 18; others were kidnapped as children, and grew up to be young men and women while they were in prison.

Several children who grew up in prison and were released later on are having difficulties in coping with the outside world; some became violent and tend to seek vengeance.

Some of the abuse practices against the detained Palestinian children are in the form of sexual harassment, threat of rape, forcing them to undress and having pictures taken of them naked, and threats of more harm if they do not become collaborators with the occupation.

Farawna demanded international human rights groups to intervene and put pressure on Israel in order to oblige Israel to comply with international law and the fourth Geneva Convention.

He said that the children should be back in school, not in cells, and that the daily violence they witness, the arrest of their parents, the death and destruction they witnessed before being kidnapped, is also affecting their growth and behavior.

The ongoing Israeli violations are creating a generation of Palestinians who seek vengeance, a generation that is willing to join the resistance at an early age, a generation of youths who have nothing more to lose after the occupation took their childhood, tortured and abused them, in addition to imprisoning them for extended periods.

The Israeli military says that 10 Palestinians were detained in overnight raids across the West Bank.

Palestinian security sources told Ma’an that Israeli troops raided several areas in Nablus, including the Old City, detaining Mahmoud Taher Samaro, Na’el Khamis Awad and Ashraf Al-Qurdy, 22.

In Asira Ash-Shamailya, local sources said that Israeli troops seized three residents after raiding their houses: Ala Awwad Ash-Sholi, 31, Ammar Jarar’a, 25, and Ubay Hamadneh, age unknown.

Marwan Mahmoud Hassan Hamdah, 25, was detained from Al-Ain refugee camp, in the west of Nablus.