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. 

vp palestine water infographic

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.

daily-water

“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?

Bangalore Bandh

I’ve finally arrived in Bangalore about a week ago. I went directly to Ayurvedagram, about forty minutes outside the city, for a relaxing retreat filled with gorgeous Kerala-style homes (see photo gallery below), where one stays, receives treatment, dines, and does yoga and meditation. It was an amazing way to begin my stay here.

When I returned to Bangalore I decided to venture out in an auto rickshaw by myself to run a few errands and see the city (see photo gallery below). I’m struck by all of the amazing colors surrounding me in people’s clothes and on Hindu temples, of course, but also the colors of homes and other buildings. It is also more green than I had imagined, especially given the size and population density of the city.  As I travel around and through this city most of the land seems to be occupied by either the Indian army (Bangalore was a garrison town for the British when they colonized India) or various foreign (and largely American) churches, which are actively proselytizing Indians, and as a result, are eroding the cultural landscape and traditional practices.  It’s like there are visible remnants from the colonial days of the Bible in one hand and the sword in the other. You can see this in various ways just in my neighborhood: the pork shop across the street from the mosque; the use of names like Nazareth (see photo below with name on house gate), Hebron, and even shalom, by evangelical Christians. I think I’ve seen even more churches in the past couple of days than I did when I lived in Accra, Ghana, which is a bit surprising.

Since I moved into my new home, I have spent time getting settled, unpacking. But my first full day in my new house, Saturday, was also a day that I could not leave the house because there was a bandh (or a strike) in Bangalore over water issues between Karnataka (the state where I now call home) and the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu.  Just like in my former home countries of Palestine (see MECA’s Maia Project on this), Jordan, and Lebanon, India, especially where I am located, has serious water issues. Vandana Shiva’s book Water Wars details some of these problems, and here she is in the film Blue Gold talking about water issues related to another problem, which is Coca-Cola’s pollution of water sources in India:

Karnataka seems to be doing some interesting things to combat this problem of water shortage, including legislating that people have to have some kind of rain water harvesting system in their homes. We have one here. But even that is not enough. There are several systems (in fact each sink has three sets of faucets) that are used in the house to access water from the ground water system (where our rain harvesting feeds into) or the delivered water to the tank, which only happens three days per week. It’s a complicated system that I haven’t fully figured out yet.

Yesterday I had lunch with my family at Cholayil Sanjeevanam, which is an amazing Kerala-based Ayurvedic restaurant. If you click the above link and go to their Facebook page you’ll see photographs of the amazing lunch, called rajakeeyam, but the image below gives you an idea of the menu and the rationale behind it.

After the fabulous, delicious lunch we went to the Sunday farmer’s market, which is quite large (more photos in gallery below) and fruits and vegetables we brought home were divine.

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:

“i just want to have fun” (so says random bingo player)

northridge mall
northridge mall
zionist terrorist colonist projects in la
zionist terrorist colonist projects in la

i spent the last few days scouting out various spots where items from the zionist entity are being sold in los angeles. last week i went with a friend from the boycott campaign to a beauty supply shop at the northridge mall. she scoped it out beforehand and saw ahava dead sea products in the window. when we went they were pushed to the back of the store. we went with some materials from code pink, though as i have written before, their concept of what occupied palestine consists of is terribly limiting. for instance, all we had at the time were flyers that they made to hand out to customers and managers to educate them about the issue. here is the front and back image of the flyer:

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 6.42.12 AM

Screen shot 2009-08-29 at 6.43.18 AM

because of the limitations of the code pink rhetoric, another member of the boycott collective who is amazing with altering images and doing guerrilla ad campaigns. here is what we are hoping to use to put some teeth into the ahava boycott project:

ahava

in any case, we spoke to the russian woman who managed the beauty store. we gave her the materials, but it was obvious that whatever stories she’s heard about palestine–and they were quite the tall tales, i might add–were very clearly those distorted versions of the facts from local zionists she knows. i’m not sure that we did any good in the end, but it seemed that my first-hand experiences of zionist terrorist colonists in palestine made her at least doubt some of the propaganda she’s been fed.

zionist terrorist irving moskowitz's bingo parlor, hawaiian gardens
zionist terrorist irving moskowitz\’s bingo parlor, hawaiian gardens

my next mission was with tamara who came to visit me this week. i had been wanting to drive down to hawaiian gardens to see the irving moskowitz bingo club that funds colonies for zionist terrorists who live on stolen palestinian land. the place is called simply “the bingo club” and it’s a pretty bland place. very simple building outside, and inside very simple–just a set of tables with some video monitors and booths in the back and front for people to pay for their bingo cards and get their cash pay out should they win. we warrived at around 3:30 pm, which apparently was too early. it doesn’t open until 4 pm. so we walked around the perimeter of the place to take some photographs. there are entrances on all sides and there are security cameras everywhere–the same kind they have all over places like the old city of al quds. there were also plenty of people lined up or waiting in their cars for the doors to open. the crowd was a mixture of white trash and people of color. they were mostly older, and many were handicapped. we talked to two women who were waiting. one was african american, the other samoan. we asked them if they know where the money was going when they played bingo here. one of the women asked questions and wanted to know, but then she just said: “why does everyone hate the jews?” by “everyone” she meant iranians as she then went into her ignorant questioning based on zionist propaganda about iran. when we explained to her that it was not that “everyone” or even iran that hates jews, but rather people hate colonists who steal land and massacre palestinians she seemed a bit more clear. but only a bit. the other woman couldn’t give a s*&^. she said she doesn’t care who gets the money. she said, “i’m just here to have fun.”

DSC00012

generally speaking, i find casinos and gambling places depressing. i don’t like the use of brown colors, dark light, and the lack of clocks designed to keep people from seeing what time it is so they stay longer and lose more money. but i also find it depressing when i see places like this one where the people are so obviously working class or barely hanging on to that middle class thread going to the casino to waste their hard earned money. it is a spectacle of over-consumption that epitomizes the things i hate about the u.s. while we were scouting out the place and talking to these women, security obviously saw us taking photos from their security cameras everywhere. they came over to us and told us that we were not allowed to take photographs. of course, i didn’t listen to them. but they came over twice to tell us we couldn’t take photographs. they seem highly paranoid. and understandably so.

DSC00018

i found a website called “stop moskowitz” that looks like it has not been updated in a while, but it has a number of useful materials on it related to the campaign to stop the casino and its support of zionist terrorist colonialism. but it also has uncovered some important points about the community of hawaiian gardens and moskowitz’s treatment of workers as well. for instance, here is what they say about how the bingo parlor affects the local community:

Over the years, the bingo club has netted dozens of millions of dollars and, rather than using the money to benefit Hawaiian Gardens, Moskowitz has funneled the bulk of it to extremist Israeli causes (see the information on
Jerusalem below). By contrast, his use of bingo funds in Hawaiian Gardens has been strategically stingy, directed mostly to the hospital he owns and the food bank he and his family control. Yes, you will see some old news stories discussing how Moskowitz’s bingo supported the Hawaiian Gardens government.

But that was from 1995 to 1997, while he campaigned for approval of his casino. In 1999 his total giving to the city was $35,000! Moskowitz’s bingo operation takes advantage of a state law requiring that bingo be a charity run by volunteers. His Moskowitz Foundation has no members, so he staffs the bingo with immigrant “volunteers” who work only for tips – no wages or benefits. MALDEF, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, is suing the Moskowitz bingo on behalf of 24 unpaid bingo workers.

DSC00019

of course i wrote about this here and here if you want to see other linked articles about how the casino affects palestinians, especially the video on youtube that i posted earlier.

inside the bingo hall
inside the bingo hall

the stop moskowitz website does a good job of linking local issues affecting the working class and people of color who live in this area. but the people going to the bingo hall don’t seem to get it. or they don’t want to. and this is also what i loathe about the u.s. people want to be fat and happy. they just want to mindlessly consume. and i think it is degenerative. i don’t mind on some level as once the u.s. implodes on itself the rest of the planet will finally be able to breathe freely. but it still depresses me to see people who would rather just sit on their butts, with their pile of snacks in their cooler, their special little cushions they bring to sit on, their bingo gear (apparently one needs special tools to mark out their letter choices on the cards) than think about how their supposedly simple act of “wanting to have fun” has a direct impact on their own community and on palestinians.

moskowitz bingo menu
moskowitz bingo menu

tamara and i also went to trader joe’s to check out if there was any wine from the zionist entity the other night. i wanted to check it out since the article i posted the other day said that it’s becoming a popular export. fortunately, we found none. but we did find a wine that recommended people go to the cheese aisle and purchase cheese from the zionist entity to go with that particular wine (see photos below).

trader joe's promoting cheese from the zionist entity
trader joe\’s promoting cheese from the zionist entity
zionist terrorist colonist cheese at trader joe's
zionist terrorist colonist cheese at trader joe\’s

one last little adventure tamara and i had. we went to the campaign to end israeli apartheid southern california meeting the other night. the meeting was a sorry state of affiars. just a handful of people, most of them older, most of them jewish. i wondered where all the young activists were. i wondered why there were no members of students for justice in palestine present. that said, there new project is going to target los angeles mayor antonio villaraigosa’s project to work with mekorot, the zionist entity’s national water company (which i wrote about the other day too). they handed out an impressive overview of the issue of stolen water in palestine more generally and then on this local angle more specifically. they don’t have it up on their website yet, but there are some links to how the zionist entity creates a system of water apartheid. and they also have a few good links on boycott for americans:

Be extra vigilant about purchasing anything off of mall kiosks:

http://www.jewishjournal.com/articles/item/illegal_israelis_lured_to_mall_kiosks_20060908/

Never use the internet Yellow Pages:

http://sabbah.biz/mt/archives/2007/12/12/internet-yellow-pages-collects-your-money-for-zionist-occupation/

Never use a 1-800 locksmith company; they are owned by Israelis.

And finally, here’s a list of products straight from the horse’s mouth: http://www.buyisraelgoods.org/

more examples of why zionism = racism

here are some news items over the past month–just the latest examples in 122+ years of why zionism = racism.

1. An Arab couple whose one-year-old daughter was expelled from an Israeli day-care center on her first day are suing a Jewish mother for damages, accusing her of racist incitement against their child.

Maysa and Shuaa Zuabi, from the village of Sulam in northern Israel, launched the court action last week saying they had been “shocked and humiliated” when the center’s owner told them that six Jewish parents had demanded their daughter’s removal because she is an Arab.

In the first legal action of its kind in Israel, the Zuabis are claiming $80,000 from Neta Kadshai, whom they accuse of being the ringleader.

The girl, Dana, is reported to be the first Arab child ever to attend the day-care center in the rural Jewish community of Merhavia, less than one kilometer from Sulam.

However, human rights lawyers say that, given the narrow range of anti-racism legislation in Israel, the chance of success for the Zuabis is low.

Since its founding in 1948, Israel has operated an education system almost entirely segregated between Jews and Arabs.

However, chronic underfunding of Arab schools means that in recent years a small but growing number of Arab parents have sought to move their children into the Jewish system.

Dana was admitted to the day-care center last December, according to the case, after its owner, Ivon Grinwald, told the couple she had a vacant place. However, on Dana’s first day six parents threatened to withdraw their own children if she was not removed.

Kadshai, in particular, is said to have waged a campaign of “slurs and efforts aimed at having [Dana] removed from the day-care center, making it clear that [her] children would not be in the same center as an Arab girl.” Zuabi was summoned to a meeting the same evening at which Grinwald said she could not afford to lose the six children. She returned the contract Zuabi had signed and repaid her advance fees.

Zuabi said that while she was in the office Grinwald received a call from Kadshai again slandering Dana and demanding her removal.

2. A 23-year-old woman of Ethiopian descent claimed that the driver of an Egged No. 5 bus in Rishon Lezion refused to allow her to board his bus because of the color of her skin.

Speaking to Ynet, Yedno Verka recounted last Wednesday’s incident: “As I prepared board the bus, the driver suddenly shut the door. I banged on the glass, but he ignored me. Then a young woman came running towards the bus, and he opened the door for her. I stayed close to her and boarded the bus.

“When the driver saw me he said, ‘what, don’t you understand that I don’t allow Kushim (derogatory term for black people) on board? Are you trying to smash my door in? Were there buses in Ethiopia? Why don’t you walk? In Ethiopia you didn’t even have shoes and here you do, so why don’t you walk?’ I was shaking all over; I couldn’t even speak,” she said.

At this point Verka handed the driver the bus fair, but, according to her, he refused to accept it and said, “Kushit hold on, what’s your hurry? Since you (Ethiopians) made aliyah you’ve become arrogant.”

3. At least 100 students of Ethiopian origin in Petah Tikva do not know what school they will be attending in the fall, with the opening of the school year just two and a half weeks away. The uncertainty stems from the fact that the city’s private schools with an ultra-Orthodox or national Orthodox bent have refused to accept children of Ethiopian origin.

Much of the funding for the private schools comes from the Education Ministry and the city. Education Ministry director general Shimshon Shoshani said Wednesday that the schools that continue to refuse to enroll the children will be fined and may have their licenses suspended.

A few days ago the Petah Tikva municipality told the city’s private schools that they would need to enroll about 70 students of Ethiopian origin. Another 30 students were to be enrolled in the public Orthodox school system, where most Ethiopian-Israeli students go. However, sources at the ministry and municipality said conversations with officials at the private schools indicated that they would refuse to enroll the children.

Administrators at the city’s public Orthodox schools said they would not accept the 30 children as planned.

Sources familiar with the situation said that around 150 to 200 students of Ethiopian origin are to go to school in Petah Tikva.

According to a senior city official, the private schools “told us specifically that they do not intend to register the new students. It’s clear to everyone that the response to the enrollment instruction would be negative, but we had to go public with it to allow the Education Ministry to begin the process of imposing monetary fines.”

4. A trip for some 250 children from Al Jish village, near Safad north of the country, had to be cut short after the manager of a Jewish-run swimming pool refused to allow the organizers of the Jish Church Summer camp, play Arabic music.

Israeli Ynet News published a report on the incident and stated that Jad Salman, the director of the Jish Church Summer Camp, stated that the pool manager was insulting and racist in his statement.

Salman said that this summer camp is conducted by the church every year, and is considered one of the best summer camps among Christians in Israel, the Ynet added.

Salman stated that after he along with the organizers of the trip, and some 250 children entered the country club to swim, he asked the personnel about the location of an electricity connection, but the workers did not give a direct answer and kept sending him around.

Later on, Salman managed to find a power outlet, and connected a stereo system before playing church music.

As soon as he went to fill some drinking water, he noticed that the music had stopped, he went back and the instructors told him that they were asked to stop the Arabic music and were instead given a Hebrew music CD.

He then approached the club manager, Shemi Namimi, and asked him about what is going on, and then the directors said “do not put Arabic music, but you can play Hebrew music”, the Ynet reported.

Salman tried to convince the manager to allow them to play Arabic music, as he told him that this is a summer camp, and that the mother tongue of the children is Arabic.

But the manager just said “There will be no Arab music in the club”. After he heard the response, Salman used a microphone and called on the children to leave the pool.

5. UNRWA’s Hebrew-language outreach program titled “Building Understanding: Epitaph of a Dead Warehouse,” was cancelled by Acre festival authorities in the last days before the UN organization was to present photos and films of their work in Palestine.

The agency had prepared a multimedia theatrical performance that documented the “dramatic last day of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency’s warehouse in Gaza which was destroyed during the fighting in Gaza on 15th of January 2009,” a program for the evening read.

“[The production] has already been shown in Tel Aviv and Sderot where it was well received,” UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said in a statement. “We presented the piece to the Acre Festival authorities a couple of months ago and they gave an immediate green light and it is surprising that the play should be cancelled by the Festival authorities just hours before our first performance here.”

The festival also booted UNRWA’s photo exhibit and another film from the program.

6. Israel’s national water company announced Tuesday that it would be disconnecting the water in the Bedouin community of Rahat due to an accumulated debt of about $400,000 owed by the town’s municipality.

The 46,281 residents of the town, located in Israel’s desert region, will remain without water for a few hours a day until the municipality settles its debts with Mekorot.

Heads of the Bedouin councils held a meeting with Shlomo Buchbut, chairman of the Union of Local Authorities, in order to discuss their financial difficulties.

Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu-Sabihan said a plan had been formed in order to pull the municipality from its deficit, which currently stands at around $7.8 million. However he said the plan had not yet been approved.

“Our accounts have been seized,” the mayor told Ynet. “And the employees are not being paid. We’ve been chosen to provide a service I cannot provide.” He said the municipality would strike until the plan was approved.

An official with the Interior Ministry’s southern district said the plan had been approved, but that the ministry still had to cooperate with the Treasury in order to allot funds towards its implementation.

Meanwhile, the data presented by the municipality at the meeting was disheartening. While Rahat exacts municipality taxes from just 30% of its population, 35% receive income support and 26% are eligible for unemployment payment. The city’s rate of unemployment is a whopping 20%, and the average age of its residents is 13.5.

7. The government extended on Sunday, by one year, the force of the Law of Citizenship and Entry into Israel, which prevents people from the Palestinian Authority and enemy states from becoming Israeli citizens by marrying Israeli citizens.

A High Court decision on the legality of the law is pending, and could cause its negation.

8. A Bedouin forum on education has recently filed a complaint with the Prime Minister’s Office inquiring why the government committee tasked with promoting the representation of Arab citizens in government offices did not include a single Arab member.

The forum’s coordinator, Dr. Awad Abu-Freih, demanded that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appoint Arab representatives to the committee.

According to the government’s Civil Service Commission, the number of Israeli Arabs employed by the government does not exceed 6.8 percent of the employees. Last week, the cabinet decided to establish a committee to promote proper representation of Arabs in government offices.

The members of the Bedouin education forum were dismayed to find that the 11-member committee did not include a single Arab member. The committee includes Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Prime Minister’s Office Director Eyal Gabbai and Welfare Ministry Director Nahum Itzkovitch.

“There is no doubt that in the absence of Arab citizens on the committee, the commission may continue to give unfair preference to Jews in appointments, in promotions, and in handing out key positions,” Abu-Freih said in his complaint to the prime minister.

“The promises on fair representation still sound hollow and empty,” he went on to say. “Again and again we will be told that ‘no qualified Arabs could be found for the job.'”

“The services offered to Arab citizens will also continue to be discriminatory,” he continued. “For example, the education services offered to the Arab community in the Negev are neglected and deprived.”

“Out of 20 percent of the population of the state, not one Arab could be found who would be qualified to be honored with serving on the committee?” Abu-Freih asked.

9. Five years after a mounted militia stormed his village, torching houses and killing his relatives, Ibrahim Saad el-Din, a refugee from Sudan’s Darfur region, gazed at remnants of another slaughter: hundreds of shoes worn by Jews killed in a Nazi death camp during the Holocaust.

Saad el-Din was among a dozen African refugees brought by an Israeli advocacy group to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial last week, hoping to spur public sympathy for their plight by invoking the Jewish people’s own history fleeing death and persecution.

Over 16,000 asylum seekers have poured into Israel in recent years, most from Africa, posing a unique dilemma for the Jewish state.

Israel is proud of its heritage as a refuge that took in hundreds of thousands of Jews who survived the Nazi genocide. But it’s conflicted over refugees from elsewhere. Israel’s many wars with its Arab neighbors have left it distrustful of outsiders, while some fear accepting non-Jews could threaten the state’s Jewish character. As a result, it is struggling with how to handle the non-Jewish newcomers.

“The Jewish past makes us particularly mindful of the dangerous plight of exiles and refugees and the need to help them,” said Yaron Ezrahi, a political science professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. “But the smallness and siege mentality of our country given its hostile environment make us more committed to maintaining our majority.”

Israeli refugee advocates criticize the state, saying stints in jail and the scant support asylum seekers find in Israel fail to honor the memory of Jewish persecution through the ages.

“I think it’s a great shame the way we’re behaving,” said Sigal Rozen of the Hotline for Migrant Workers. “We have an extremely short memory.”

Israel’s current refugee influx started in 2005, when Egyptian smugglers helped a few hundred Africans sneak into Israel. The government arranged jobs for some, and as stories of their new lives spread, more came.

Just under half are from Eritrea, whose repressive government often detains returned asylum-seekers, according to Amnesty International. About one-third are from south Sudan and Darfur, whose conflicts have left millions dead and homeless, according to the U.N.

Under the U.N.’s Refugee Convention, all those claiming to be refugees should have their cases reviewed, said Sharon Harel of the U.N. refugee agency.

But the sudden influx outstripped the ability of the UNHCR and the government to process them, officials in both bodies said, resulting in stopgap policies that critics say make Israel inhospitable.

Those arriving now are detained for an average of five months — and some more than a year. They then receive release papers that must be renewed every three months but give them no right to work, though the government usually looks the other way when they take under-the-table jobs.

Simona Halperin of the Israeli Foreign Ministry said the government has a “full moral and legal commitment” to protecting refugees, but must distinguish them from economic migrants.

Asylum seekers from Sudan pose a unique problem, she said, because their mere entering Israel — which Sudan considers an “enemy state” — prevents their return.

10. The Education Ministry’s budget for special assistance to students from low socioeconomic backgrounds severely discriminates against Arabs, a new study shows. The average per-student allocation in Arab junior high schools amounts to only 20 percent of the average in Jewish junior highs.

The study, published recently in the journal Megamot by Prof. Sorel Cahan of Hebrew University’s School of Education, supports the claims of institutionalized budgetary discrimination that Arab educators have long voiced. On Monday, when the ministry published town-by-town data on what percentage of high school students pass their matriculation exams, most Arab towns were once again at the bottom of the list. A rare exception was Fureidis, where 75.86 percent of students passed – the third highest rate in Israel.

Ordinary classroom hours are allotted to schools on a strictly per-student basis. But the special assistance budget, which totaled NIS 150 million last year, is by nature differential, as its purpose is to give extra assistance to schools with a large proportion of students from low socioeconomic backgrounds. The money goes toward tutoring, enrichment activities and more.

The special assistance budget is allocated in two stages. First, it is divided between the Jewish and Arab populations based on the number of students in each. Then, it is distributed among schools in each sector based on an index with three components: the percentage of students per school from low-income families, the percentage from large families, and the percentage whose fathers have relatively little schooling.

However, Cahan found, because the Arab sector has more students who meet these criteria but less students overall, “educationally needy” Jewish students receive anywhere from 3.8 to 6.9 times as much funding as equally needy Arab students.

This discrimination defeats the whole point of the special assistance budget, he wrote.

11. The inhabitants of the Bedouin village of Amra have good reason to fear that the harsh tactics used by the Israeli army against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank have been imported to their small corner of Israel’s Negev desert.

Over the summer, the Tarabin tribe, all of them Israeli citizens, have had the sole access road to their homes sealed off, while the dirt track they must use instead is regularly blocked by temporary checkpoints at which their papers and vehicles are inspected at length.

Coils of razor wire now surround much of the village, and children as young as eight have been arrested in a series of night-time raids.

“Four-fifths of our youngsters now have files with the police and our drivers are being repeatedly fined for supposed traffic violations,” said Tulab Tarabin, one of Amra’s 400 Bedouin inhabitants. “Every time we are stopped, the police ask us: ‘Why don’t you leave?’”

Lawyers and human rights activists say a campaign of pressure is being organised against the Tarabins at the behest of a nearby Jewish community, Omer, which is determined to build a neighbourhood for Israeli army officers on Bedouin land.

“The policy in Israel is that when Jews need land, the Bedouin must move – no matter how long they have been living in their homes or whether their communities predate Israel’s creation,” said Morad al Sana, a lawyer with the Adalah legal centre for Israel’s Arab minority. “The Tarabins’ crime is that they refuse to budge.”

The 180,000 Bedouin in the Negev have never been welcome, says Oren Yiftachel, a geographer at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Beersheva. They are descendants of a few thousand who managed to avoid expulsion from the southern semi-desert region during the 1948 war that founded Israel.

12. The UN says that access to education is a basic human right. But for Palestinian children living in the occupied West Bank, getting to school itself is a challenge. One Bedouin community lost three children in road accidents on their long walk to school. Making matters worse, Israeli authorities are trying to block the building of a school near the community’s home outside Jerusalem.

13. Gaza’s children are starting a new school year, but Israel’s blockade and its January war on the territory mean many are doing so without adequate supplies. Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports from one school in Gaza where classes are resuming.

14. Black British filmmaker Ishmahil Blagrove has launched an outspoken attack against the “racist” Israeli government after being abducted from the high seas and imprisoned for seven days.

Jamaica-born Blagrove, who lives in West London, was one of six British nationals taking part in a mercy mission to Gaza who were seized from the vessel Spirit of Humanity on June 30 by Israeli military forces.

The ship, which Blagrove says was illegally boarded in international waters, was bringing a cargo of medicines, children’s toys and reconstruction materials to the devastated people of Gaza.

“I’m not concerned with the time that I spent in jail because I am now free, however, there are still thousands of people being persecuted as we speak,” said Blagrove.

“I went on the voyage to deliver medical aid, toys and film a documentary about Palestinians living in Gaza post the 22-day bombing last year however, I was unable to fulfill my mission and have now returned with a bigger story to tell. Africans, like Palestinians, are being persecuted by the Israeli governmentand the world needs to know.”

Sailing from Larnaca, Cyprus, with a crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, those on board included Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire and former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.

“We were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships.”

Blagrove told how Israeli warships surrounded their vessel threatening to open fire if they did not turn back.

“We were 18 miles of the coast of Gaza and 23 miles outside the international water boundaries. The Israelis made contact with us via radio at approximately 1.30 am. Our ship had been given security clearance by the port authorities in Cyprus so we posed no threat, yet the Israeli government insisted that we aborted our journey.

“When we refused to be intimidated, they jammed our instrumentation and blocked our GPS, radar, and navigation systems, putting our lives at risk.

“Before we knew it we were surrounded by four Zodiac Special Forces, which are Israeli gunships and helicopters were also flying over our heads. They stormed our ship and took us against our will to Ashdod Port in Israel.

“They confiscated and destroyed all our equipment including all our medical aid and toys and eventually we were all taken to Ramla High Security Prison where we were imprisoned.”

“Most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans.”

Describing his experience inside Ramla, Blagrove said: “Without insulting the memory of those that have survived the Nazi concentration camps, the prison we were kept in can only be described in that manor. But most astonishingly the prison was full of black Africans. I was absolutely dumbfounded!

“Israel operates under a right-wing racist government that discriminates anyone that is non-Jewish.

“The first day I was there, I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison. The next day 300 more Africans were taken in and the prison population continues to grow daily with Africans falling victim to the Israeli judiciary system.

“There were Africans from the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Ethiopia and so on. The prison population in Israel is 90 percent black, which is why I was so welcomed by fellow inmates. There are thousands upon thousands of Africans inside the Israeli prisons.

“I was told atrocious stories. Real harrowing tales and countless inmates that have been transferred from one prison to the other informed me and that every prison is the same and the government is refusing to send them back to their own country.”

“I witnessed 500 Africans scooped from the streets of Tel Aviv thrown into prison.”

Haunted by the conditions of the prison, he said: “I shared a seven foot by seven foot cell with 14 others. We were constantly being barked at and threatened with physical abuse. If you disobey, prisoners are stripped naked and put inside a hole with no lights or heating. We were seen as sub-human.

“In the corner of the room there was a white plastic bag full of single slices of bread, which was our breakfast, lunch and dinner. If we were lucky they occasional gave us a cup of yoghurt to share.

“The toilets are two tubes and to pass your waste you have to aim and squat. The smell was indescribable because it was a mixture of sweat, urine and feces.”

Explaining that the government officials tried to force him to sign documents in Hebrew, which is illegal as all prisoners must be able to understand what they are consenting too, Blagrove said: “My fellow passengers and I were only kept for seven days because they knew the world was watching.”

helena cobban’s recent article in ips of one zionist terrorist colonist who is renouncing zionism because of its racism, though it appears, not the colonialism:

I’ve never met Dov Yermiya, a Jewish Israeli peace activist who is now 94 years old. But I read of course the book he published in 1983 in which he wrote with anguish about the torture and other gross mistreatment of civilians he witnessed directly during Israel’s invasion of Lebanon the year before.

I have it in my hand now.

I just learned, from an open letter published by Uri Avnery, that Yermiya, recently renounced the ideology and practice of Zionism with these stirring words:

“I, a 95 year old Sabra (native born Israeli Jew), who has plowed its fields, planted trees, built a house and fathered sons, grandsons and great-grandsons, and also shed his blood in the battle for the founding of the State of Israel,

“Declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem, that I shall stand at attention only on the days of mourning for those fallen on both sides in the wars, and that I look with a broken heart at an Israel that is committing suicide and at the three generations of offspring that I have bred and raised in it.

“… for 42 years, Israel turned what should have been Palestine into a giant detention camp, and is holding a whole people captive under an oppressive and cruel regime, with the sole aim of taking away their country, come what may!!!

“”The IDF eagerly suppresses their efforts at rebellion, with the active assistance of the settlement thugs, by the brutal means of a sophisticated Apartheid and a choking blockade, inhuman harassment of the sick and of women in labor, the destruction of their economy and the theft of their best land and water.

“Over all this there is waving the black flag of the frightening contempt for the life and blood of the Palestinians. Israel will never be forgiven for the terrible toll of blood spilt, and especially the blood of children, in hair-raising quantities… “

yes, the zionist entity does all these things. this is its “normal.” but how to get these abnormal hateful people to wake up, renounce zionism, and voluntarily leave the land (since 70% have dual citizenship) so that palestinian refugees can return…

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

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

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

–Frantz Fanon, “A Dying Colonialism”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A BDS Victory

Enter the story of Veolia and the light rail.

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

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

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

Said an exultant Omar Barghouti, a BDS founding member:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carbohydrates are divided into two broad categories:

simple carbohydrates,

e.g. glucose,

fructose (fruit sugar),

lactose (milk sugar),

sucrose (table sugar) etc.

complex carbohydrates,

e.g. starch

cellulose

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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