Category Archives: academia

B.D.S SHATTERS ISRAEL’S “ILLUSION OF INVULNERABILITY”

This article from The Middle East Magazine, by Federica Marsi, argues strongly that:
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is shattering Israel’s illusion of invulnerability. The “delegitimisation” movement, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defines it, is building consensus among international actors and Israeli Jews themselves, in defiance of the Anti-boycott law.
Despite a still limited impact on Israel’s economy, the BDS movement has been shining a spotlight on the violations of Palestinian human rights and triggered a
change in Israel’s public image that is stirring anxiety in the political establishment. 
Omar Barghouti  (Photo: Tony Greenstein)

Omar Barghouti (Photo: Tony Greenstein)

The piece, which can be seen in full here,  concludes with powerful arguments from Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian BDS National Committee and Ronnie Barkan of the Israeli group Boycott from Within.

The BDS “is not a one-size-fits-all recipe”, says Barghouti. Every international partner is free to decide whether to boycott Israeli companies as a whole or only those involved in the oPt.  But “no one called for boycotting only Sudanese factories in Darfur due to Sudan’s massive violation of international law there. Only when it comes to Israel do we hear this strange distinction and we are asked to fight the crime, not the criminal who committed it”.
Barghouti strongly believes the EU has to take four immediate measures to restore its credibility among the disillusioned Arab and Palestinian civil society: Firstly, impose a military embargo on Israel and the entire region as a “conflict zone”; secondly, ban imports from all Israeli companies that profit from the occupation; thirdly, stop funding Israeli universities and research institutes involved in violations of international law; and instruct European companies to stop their involvement in Israeli violations of international law, including occupied Jerusalem.
The Israeli BDS wing Boycott from Within, advocates a global boycott of Israel. The ultimate aim is equality, which according to Ronnie Barkan is “regarded by Zionists as the destruction of the state of Israel. What the BDS movement calls for is the dismantlement of its system of segregation, just as South Africa was not destroyed by ending apartheid”.
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ISRAEL RESTS ON ZIONIST BRUTALITY, OPPOSING BDS IS FUTILE

Thanks are due to writer and BDS advocate Mike Marqusee  for a powerful response to the critics of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, and to Ami Asher from the Israeli organisation Zochrot for exposing the “filthy work” of ethnic cleansing on which the State of Israel rests.

Follow the links to read these valuable pieces in full.

Marqusee publishes an edited version of a letter he sent to a relative in the US who’s been trying to figure out the BDS issue in the wake of the recent onslaught against the American Studies Association’s decision to support the academic boycott.

It’s important to remember that what BDS calls for is basically the withdrawal of the current support given to Israel by our governments and institutions. If you invest money in a company that is profiting from the settlement programme in the West Bank, you are investing in ethnic cleansing – and the first thing you should do when you learn that is simply to stop doing it. All the rest is special pleading.

Asher responds to Israeli journalist Ari Shavit who has written about the expulsion and massacre of Palestinians in Lydda, 1948 in the New Yorker, asserting that even ‘the critics of later years enjoyed the fruits of their deed.’ 

Shavit struggles to make sense of the “black box of Zionism,” as he calls Lydda. He starts by describing the neighboring Jewish youth village of Ben Shemen and also ends there, with a commanding view of the town. A Palmach militia fighter recently interviewed as part of Zochrot’s oral history project had a similar point of view to offer. Look at the town as you drive past it on your way back to Tel Aviv, he said, and imagine it bustling with a million Palestinians – then you will thank me.

Shavit is just as candid. He too feels enormous gratitude for the perpetrators of the Lydda massacre for doing the “filthy work” because even “the critics of later years,” who I can only assume include the likes of me, “enjoyed the fruits of their deed.” This zero-sum hypothesis – us or them – is the very essence of Zionism.

Support for Australian academics

J-BIG has signed the following petition supporting two Australian academics targeted by an Israeli Law Centre.    We invite you to sign the petition, http://www.change.org/petitions/supporters-of-free-speech-and-human-rights-defend-free-speech-and-human-rights-and-support-the-bds

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Prof. Stuart Rees, Chair of the Sydney Peace Foundation and Associate Prof. Jake Lynch, Director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPACS), have been threatened with legal action by Shurat HaDin, an Israeli Law Centre, through agents acting on their behalf in Australia.

The claim is that Rees and Lynch are backing racist and discriminatory policies through their support for the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
These accusations are unfounded and intimidatory. They are intended to stifle free speech.

The BDS movement is a call for justice by all sectors of Palestinian civil society and supported around the world by unions, churches, civil society and human rights groups. It is a form of non violent popular resistance and international solidarity in protest against Israel’s persistent violation of Palestinian human rights and international law.

BDS policies make it clear that it is a human rights based movement and opposed to racism in all forms, including anti-Semitism.
Inspired by the effective movement against apartheid South Africa, BDS is directed against the illegal military occupation and settlements of the West Bank, the collective punishment of Gaza and Israeli discrimination of its own Palestinian citizens.
BDS opposes corporations, institutions and organizations which support Israel’s violation of human rights and international law including businesses such as Caterpillar, Motorola, G4S and Veolia.

In 2009, Assoc. Professor Lynch wrote to the Sydney Vice Chancellor asking him to revoke fellowships schemes between the University of Sydney and two Israeli universities: Technion University, Haifa and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 2012, Professor Don Avnon of Hebrew University contacted Assoc. Prof. Lynch, seeking permission to use his name on an application under the Sir Zelman Cowan fellowship program. Prof Lynch refused, citing his and CPACS’ support for a boycott of institutional links with universities in Israel.

By supporting BDS and in resisting derision and threats for doing so, Rees and Lynch have rejected the attempt by a foreign agency – in this case the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin – to stifle dissent in Australia. This letter invites you to do the same, and in the following terms:

I hereby support the global BDS movement.
I wish to be named a co defendant.

http://www.change.org/petitions/supporters-of-free-speech-and-human-rights-defend-free-speech-and-human-rights-and-support-the-bds

Finkelstein says international law is powerful weapon for boycott

Professor Norman Finkelstein stormed UK campuses in the week to November 11, lecturing to packed auditoriums in London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham on How to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.

His main message was that since Israeli settlement, occupation and denial of rights to Palestinian refugees are all acknowledged as illegal under international law,  the campaign on these points is as good as won.

Norman Finkelstein addresses boycott activists. Photo: Brian Robinson

He said that Tzipi Livni, when serving as Israel’s foreign minister,  had declared:

“I’m a lawyer – and I’m against the law, international law in particular.”

She had good reason for saying that because under international law “Israel loses, on Jerusalem, on the West Bank and Gaza, on settlements and right of return for refugees,” said Finkelstein.

The relevance of this to the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was teased out in discussion between Finkelstein and Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) on Friday afternoon, Nov 11, at UCL.

BRICUP chair Jonathan Rosenhead at the BDS discussion. Photo: Brian Robinson

Rosenhead opened with a review of the history of boycott as a weapon available to the weak oppressed by the strong, as in Ireland in the 1880s and in South Africa in 1960s-90s.

He said boycotts targeting Israel, begun in  2004, combine “symbolic protest, material intervention and political action.”  The overall aim was ending the Israeli system of oppression,  as called for by Palestinian civil society.

Rosenhead said freedom of expression in academia was a vital principle, but it was not absolute and could conflict with a higher principle, such as freedom and self-determination for an oppressed people.

Finkelstein said he supported the BDS campaign as a legitimate and potentially effective tactic. But he locked horns with Rosenhead and many in the audience when he argued that to go beyond goals that were enshrined in international law was to lose the possibility of reaching a broad public.

If your target is all Israeli institutions and your goal is an amorphous “system of oppression”, he said, the campaign may be morally pure, but it will be politically useless – a sect.

“The public will want to know, you are asking us to boycott until when? Until the Occupation ends, as defined in international law, or until Israel ends?  If the latter, you will have no possibility of reaching beyond the people in this room,” Finkelstein said.

From the audience, Naomi Foyle of British Writers in Support of Palestine (BWISP)  referred to the principles laid down by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), setting out the aims of BDS based on international law and human rights and including “dismantling the Israeli system of apartheid”.

She argued that Israel fits the United Nations definition of apartheid and that far from this position distancing us from the public, explaining the many ways in which Israel behaves like an apartheid state resonates within huge numbers of people.

Frank Barat, coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, read out the findings of the Tribunal session held last week in Johannesburg. The judgement said that Israel’s “rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid.”

Abe Hayeem, of Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, said the boycott campaign laid considerable stress on the legal arguments when taking its message to the public.  “But governments don’t uphold the law, so civil society has to pressure Israel to come to its senses,” Hayeem said.

Tony Greenstein, anti-Zionist blogger and founding member of J-BIG, wrote later that Finkelstein’s focus on international law and institutions was misplaced.

Analysing Finkelstein’s evening lecture, Greenstein said: “Not once in his speech . . .  did Norman Finkelstein mention the word ‘Zionism’. It is as if Israel magically appeared. As if its behaviour towards Palestinians is some form of aberration. As if the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is out of character. And as if Israel, once it hands back all the 1967 territories, will become a normal state.”

“The real task ,” Greenstein wrote, “is to de-Zionist Israel and the creation of one unitary, secular and democratic Israel/Palestine.”

The full BDS discussion can be heard in an audio recording by Brian Robinson here and on video from InMinds here.

 The BDS discussion took place as part of Finkelstein’s lecture tour organised by students at University College London, supported by the Palestinian Return Centre and Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods.
The tour was targeted by Zionists attempting to prevent Finkelstein’s trenchant pro-Palestinian message from reaching a wide audience.
University authorities in Manchester threatened to cancel his lecture there unless non-students were denied access, forcing the Action Palestine organisers to find an off campus venue at short notice.
University head of governance Martin Conway, responding to a letter of complaint from J-BIG,  insisted that they were simply following protocols to safeguard “the safety and security of our students and visitors.”
He denied there had been any pressure on the administration, but Action Palestine said the Jewish Society had alleged that Jewish students could be in danger if an open meeting was held.
Finkelstein said such suggestions were absurd. ” I have spoken at Manchester on at least two previous occasions without any incident,” he said.
On the day the tour ended, the pro-Zionist weekly Jewish Chronicle filled its front page with a hysterical outburst alleging that Finkelstein was one of “a wave of hate speakers” on UK campuses.
But as anyone who attended any of his lectures or has read any of his works will know, his learned, critical and challenging analysis of Middle East history and politics illuminates an area be-fogged with pro-Israel bias.
Click here for Brian Robinson’s audio recording of Finkelstein’s lecture at the Logan Hall, Institute of Education, on Friday evening, November 11.
See also comment from Tony Greenstein and Naomi Foyle.