Category Archives: BDS

Zionism battles BDS, branding it the new Ahmedinajad

The past fortnight has seen proliferating opportunities to champion Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Just a few examples:

A Palestinian move to expel Israel from FIFA mesmerised global sports media until attention shifted to mind-boggling corruption allegations against FIFA bosses. In the corporate world, the AGM of security giant G4S was almost entirely dominated by calls for the company to stop profiting from contracts with the Israeli security apparatus. On stages in theatres up and down the UK, triumphant performances by the Jenin Freedom Theatre were followed by lively discussions in which cultural boycott always came to the fore.

Against this background, liberal Zionist Peter Beinart continued – in the words of leading Palestinian BDS activist Omar Barghouti, “his ongoing, futile attempts to circle the square by claiming that Zionism … can be reconciled with liberal values”

Barghouti commends Beinart’s latest piece in Ha’aretz for its unusually accurate portrayal of what BDS is and why it is growing so fast. It suggests that Zionists, deprived of a convenient bogeyman since the departure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as Iranian president, are now casting BDS in the vacant role.

We reproduce the full text of Beinart’s piece below.

 

 

The era of Iran is over; the age of BDS begins

How the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is changing organized American Jewish life.

By Peter Beinart

The news that Sheldon Adelson will this weekend host a secret conference for Jewish groups aimed at countering the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is yet more evidence that “pro-Israel” activism in the United States is entering a new phase. The Iran era is ending. We are entering the age of BDS.

The Iran era started in the mid-1990s. During the cold war, American Jewish groups had defended Israel primarily against Arab regimes and the PLO. The most famous episode in AIPAC’s history had been its 1981 struggle against the Reagan administration’s bid to sell AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia.

But in 1993, the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist and began negotiating with it as part of the Oslo peace process. The following year, Jordan made peace too. With most Arab regimes at least tacitly supporting Oslo, Yitzhak Rabin argued that Iran—which supported rejectionist groups like Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad—constituted the new threat. In 1994, according to Argentine prosecutors, Iran and Hezbollah blew up a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, thus further linking the Islamic Republic to anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish terrorism. The prospect of Tehran developing a nuclear weapon made it all the more sinister.

American Jewish groups, suddenly deprived of their traditional Arab and PLO enemies, gladly followed Rabin’s suggestion that they focus on Iran instead. In his indispensable book about Iranian-Israeli relations, “Treacherous Alliance,” Trita Parsi quotes Shai Feldman, an Israeli foreign policy expert now at Brandeis University, as explaining that “AIPAC made Iran a major issue since they didn’t have any other issue to champion. The U.S. was in favor of the peace process, so what would they push for?”

The Iran era reached its apex during the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose Holocaust denial and rhetorical aggression helped American Jewish groups portray Iran as a regime plotting genocide against Israel. But since 2013, Ahmadinejad’s successor, Hassan Rohani, has made Iran appear less menacing. And in Barack Obama, he has found a partner eager to end the long-standing U.S.-Iranian cold war. That effort could still fail.

But given the two leaders’ determination, it is more likely that they will strike a deal, which Benjamin Netanyahu and the Republican Congress will prove unable to torpedo. Already, Israeli security experts are talking about using Israel’s acquiescence to a nuclear agreement to win new military guarantees from the United States. And if Israel does eventually acquiesce, even tacitly and sullenly, the two-decade era in which Iran dominated “pro-Israel” activism in the United States will end.

Enter BDS. If American Jewish groups began focusing on the Iranian threat once the Israeli-Palestinian peace process was born, BDS is growing in large measure because the Israeli-Palestinian peace process has died. For six years, Netanyahu has publicly rejected the idea of a Palestinian state along the 1967 lines, with land swaps. Most Palestinians have lost any faith that negotiations with Israel can bring them a state anytime soon. And Mahmoud Abbas’ failure to end the occupation, or stand for election, has wrecked his legitimacy among Palestinian activists.

The BDS movement has entered this breach. It offers Palestinian activists a way to bypass their divided, corrupt, ineffectual politicians by taking the struggle against Israel into their own hands. Its three planks — an end to Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the return of Palestinian refugees—offers something for each of the three main Palestinian populations (those in the occupied territories, those inside Israel proper and refugees) and thus unites a divided people. As a nonviolent movement that speaks in the language of human rights and international law rather than Islamic theology, the movement also attracts progressive allies who would never join a movement defined by suicide bombings and the Hamas charter.

Already, BDS is changing the landscape of organized American Jewish life. First, it is making Washington less important, which may make AIPAC less important. AIPAC’s power rests on the relations between its members and members of Congress. But the BDS movement bypasses Congress in favor of universities, liberal Christian groups and trade unions, where it can gain a more sympathetic ear. The response has been a gold rush among American Jewish groups seeking to lead the anti-BDS charge. In 2010, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council on Public Affairs created the Israel Action Network to combat Israel’s “delegitimization.” As the Forward notes, AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee have all recently “set up operations geared at students” largely to do the same thing. In Washington, AIPAC still dominates. But in these new arenas where the BDS struggle will be fought, AIPAC is just one Jewish group among many.

The second consequence of the rise of BDS will be to increase the prominence of Jewish Voices for Peace. Right now, many establishment-minded American Jews don’t know what JVP is. In their mind, J Street still represents American Jewry’s left flank. But as the only significant American Jewish group to support BDS, Jewish Voices for Peace will grow in prominence as the movement itself does. Already, non-Jewish BDS activists cite JVP as evidence that American Jews do not monolithically oppose their cause. The more that mainstream American Jews hear this, the more enraged at JVP they will become. How exactly that rage will express itself, I don’t know. But as JVP grows, its battles with the American Jewish establishment will make those of J Street look tame.

Finally, BDS will spark a growing debate among American Jews about Zionism itself. American Jews are used to thinking of Palestinians as residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (By using the phrase “Arab Israelis,” American Jews even delude themselves that the Arabs living inside the 1967 lines are not really Palestinian.) But many of the Palestinians active in BDS live in the West or hail from Israel proper or both. That means that for them personally, the rights of Palestinian citizens of Israel and the rights of Palestinian refugees are at least as important as the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories.

Ending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza doesn’t threaten its character as a Jewish state. To the contrary, it may help preserve it, which is why many centrist American Jews support the two-state solution. But as the BDS movement grows more prominent, it will spark more debate about Palestinian citizens and Palestinians refugees, both subjects that expose the tension between Israel’s democratic character and its policies — in immigration and public life — that privilege Jews.

Inside the American Jewish establishment, the first response to the BDS movement’s challenge to Zionism has been to cry anti-Semitism. But that response conceals a dirty little secret: that many “pro-Israel” activists haven’t thought much about the tension between Jewish statehood and liberal democracy, and thus don’t really know how to justify Zionism to an audience of skeptical, progressive non-Jews.

Justifying Zionism to liberals is not an impossible task. But neither is it intellectually or morally simple. And it will require establishment-minded American Jews to defend principles they have long taken for granted. Of all the BDS movement’s consequences for American Jews, that may prove the most significant of all.

 

Exposed – Israel lobby’s threat to artistic and academic freedom

Letters in today’s Guardian (April 6) highlight the growing threat to artistic and academic freedom by pro-Israel lobbyists seeking to criminalise criticism of the Zionist state.

Playwright Caryl Churchill, a leading signatory of the UK Artists’ Pledge for Palestine, noted the alarming conjunction of a threat to funding of arts institutions that decline Israeli state links and cancellation of an academic conference planned for April 17-19 at the University of Southampton after Zionist pressure.

The organisers have launched a legal challenge to the decision to cancel. See lower down this post for a message from Southampton Students for Palestine explaining the campaign to raise funds to support the challenge.

“All Charlie Hebdo?” wrote Churchill, alluding to the collective outpouring of official outrage at the murder of cartoonists in France in January. “Except when freedom of expression means freedom to criticise Israel.”

Culture Secretary Sajid Javid’s comments on Israeli sponsorship ‘breached the principle of an arms-length relationship between the government and the arts’, writes playwright Caryl Churchill. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

Another letter, from Professors Hilary and Steven Rose, prominent proponents of the academic boycott, said the university had “shamefully capitulated to pressure from the pro-Israel lobby”, as evidenced by the statement issued by the university authorities.

The university had initially listened to the hundreds of academics who rallied in support of the conference despite a barrage of attacks from a roll-call of Tories and Israel lobbyists, among them Communities Minister Eric Pickles, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation.  Pickles & Co alleged that the conference was a one-sided antisemitic rant against Israel’s “right to exist” and threatened demonstrations and disruption if it went ahead. This seems to have been what forced vice-chancellor Prof Don Nutbeam to announce the cancellation on unconvincing “health and safety” grounds.

A letter the Guardian declined to publish,  submitted by Tony Greenstein on behalf of J-BIG (full text at the bottom of this post) contrasted this cowardice with the fate of Danish film director, Finn Noergaard, killed at a cafe in Copenhagen in February while defending the right to debate freedom of speech.

The organisers of the three-day Southampton conference, titled International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism, had assembled an array of expert participants from around Europe, North America and the Middle East, including many Jews.   If the conference programme lacked representation from Israel’s friends, it is because invitations issued by the organisers to defenders of Zionism were rejected by the recipients.

As explained by Prof Haim Bresheeth on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP),  Israel and its apologists are resorting to all possible means to prevent the issues addressed by the conference being aired.

One of the conference organisers,  engineering professor Suleiman Sharkh, a Palestinian from Gaza, explained its importance.

“International law was responsible for our misery. It was used to legalize the theft of our homes and it continues to be used to legalize the ongoing oppression of my people by the State of Israel. The questions asked by the conference are therefore questions that I have been asking all my life. They are important questions that need to be answered.”

 

Information from Southampton Students for Palestine.
Subject: Conference donations: update & important information
Q1: What is the final university decision in relation to the conference? 
The university’s initial decision to withdraw its consent was appealed by the organisers but the internal appeal was rejected by the Vice Chancellor and the withdrawal of consent was confirmed. University’s public statement: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/statements.page#.VRxbTkFmtTw.twitter
Q2: Are you collecting donations now or shall we wait further notice?
Donations are being collected now. Please see information on donations below.
Q3: Does this mean that you are proceeding with legal action?
Yes. Legal action has been initiated today. Please see official organisers’ statement attached hereby. Also see: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/news/europe/17842-academics-pursue-judicial-review-over-cancelled-israel-conference
Q4: Why are we making donations to Student Palestine Solidarity/Students for Palestine? 
You are not making donations to these organisations. They are only carriers of the funds to help facilitate payment since we are not using any personal accounts to collect donations.
* Information on donations*
Many thanks to those who have already sent their donations and sent me a confirmation email in that regard, I can confirm that they have been received.
If you are yet to donate, please find bank/paypal details below. Kindly consider a bank transfer as a first option (if possible) since paypal are deducting a fee on each incoming transaction. If a bank transfer is not possible then please feel free to make your donation via paypal. 
UK bank transfer:
Account name: Students for Palestine Southampton
Account number: 26617360
Sort Code: 30-90-34
 
International bank transfer:
Bank: LLoyds Bank
IBAN (for International Transfers Only): GB84 LOYD 3090 3426 6173 60
BIC (for International Transfers Only): LOYDGB21148
Paypal: 

J-BIG LETTER SUBMITTED TO THE GUARDIAN

The decision of Southampton University to cancel a Conference on Israel and the State of Israel [University event questioning Israel’s right to exist is cancelled, Guardian 31st March] is a disgraceful surrender to powerful bullies.  Zionist groups have a long track record of trying to ban anything they disagree with, given their inability to defend the indefensible.  The normal response is to stand up to them.

It was less than three months ago that four million people and world leaders marched in France in support of freedom of speech, in the wake of the murder of the journalists of Charlie Hebdo.  Amongst them was David Cameron.  If Cameron was sincere he would sack Eric Pickles MP from his government for having lent his support to the call to ban an academic conference.

The use of health and safety as the pretext to cancel the conference is absurd and illogical.  Is it really being suggested that Southampton University was incapable of protecting those attending the conference?  The Police were quite confident they could deal with any threats.

Southampton’s charter includes a commitment to secure academic freedom. With this decision it has been shown to be worthless.

It was barely a month ago that Danish film director, Finn Noergaard, was killed [while defending the right to] debate [on] freedom of speech.  The actions of Southampton University’s Vice Chancellor Don Nutbeam and the university administration in failing to uphold the basic norms of a democratic society are an act of abject cowardice.  If they have any integrity left they should collectively resign.

Yours faithfully

Professor Haim Bresheeth

Mike Cushman

Deborah Fink

Tony Greenstein

Professor (Emeritus) Moshe Machover

Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi

(Dr) Les Levidow

Roland Rance

 

Palestinian Football Association demands FIFA suspend Israel FA

 THE PALESTINIAN FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION (PFA) FORMALLY SUBMITS A RESOLUTION TO FIFA DEMANDING THE SUSPENSION OF THE ISRAEL FOOTBALL ASSOCIATION (IFA) . 

Press Release by the Red Card Israeli Racism campaign.

On 20 March 2015 the PFA submitted its resolution to be considered at the 28-29 May FIFA Annual Congress in Zurich.  The full text has not yet been published, but it calls for the suspension of the IFA from FIFA until certain conditions are satisfied, including:

 

  • Players, staff and officials can move freely into, out of and within Palestine; football equipment can be imported without hindrance.
  • Football facilities can be developed in Palestine without hindrance.
  • Football clubs established in the illegal settlements in the West Bank are banned from playing in IFA competitions.
  • The IFA takes firm action to eliminate racist and apartheid practices from its own leagues.

 

These conditions address long-standing grievances.  The PFA has supported initiatives by FIFA over the last almost two years to address them.  Regrettably, the PFA’s attempts to work with the FIFA Task Force have been undermined by Israel and have come to naught.   As a result, strong pressure in the form of suspension of the IFA is needed to help bring about the necessary change.

A PFA report on signing the resolution is, in Arabic: http://www.pfa.ps/index.php/news/et7ad-news/1789-2015-03-20-18-38-46.html.

UEFA taking sides against the PFA?

A recent web report quotes UEFA’s Platini as advising the IFA to enlist diplomatic channels to thwart the PFA motion at the FIFA Congress.  Such actions would contravene FIFA’s Statutes on the independence of national football associations from the influence of third parties.  Surely Platini cannot recommend undermining one of football’s basic principles?

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4641433,00.html

Israeli repression.

Israel continues to perpetrate its devastating military occupation of Palestinian territories, to flout international law, disregard UN resolutions, kill and maim innocent civilians and imprison Palestinians without charge.  Full details on the impact on sports and football in particular are given in the PFA blog:Israeli Occupation Transgressions against Palestinian Sports.

The IFA to all extents and purposes is a State institution – it reports to the State Comptroller and is financed in part by the State.   A 2009 declaration in the Knesset clarifies that the PFA is an “organ of the State”.  Therefore it is complicit in the actions of the Israeli civil and military authorities and so breaches FIFA’s Statute 3, which prohibits racist actions punishable by suspension or expulsion.   However, regardless of such technicalities, FIFA has the moral duty to take a stand against Israeli repression.

South African precedent.

From 1964 to 1992 South African Football Association was excluded from FIFA membership.  Several prominent South African  leaders who experienced apartheid in South African including Archbishop Tutu state that Israeli apartheid is far worse than South African apartheid ever was and that Israel is guilty of far more serious crimes against humanity.

Leaders’ concerns.

The President of the Asian Football Confederation, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, recently declared his commitment to tackling the “illegal Israeli practices” hindering Palestinian soccer.   Frederic Kanoute and about 50 other prominent footballers had earlier expressed their concern over Israel’s hosting of the 2013 UEFA under 21 finals tournament, and he was joined by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ken Loach and other leading humanitarians.   There were similar objections to Israel’s 2014 proposal for Jerusalem to be a host city for the 2020 Euro competition, which was rejected by the UEFA administration, partly due to our campaign’s intervention.

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign

For four years we have campaigned for the rights of Palestinian football.  We fully endorse the PFA’s proposal to suspend the IFA until certain important conditions have  been satisfied.  For further information see our website: Red Card Israeli Racism

Red Card Israeli Racism campaign

27 March 2015

STATEMENT ON THE BANNING OF A CONCERT BY GILAD ATZMON

Israeli-born saxophonist Gilad Atzmon has been targeted for intimidation by the Zionist zealots of the North West Friends of Israel (NWFOI), resulting in the cancellation of a concert at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester.
Atzmon’s views have set him at odds with the BDS movement and in particular with its Jewish supporters, but this must not prevent us standing up to acts of censorship by the pro-Israel lobby.
J-BIG founder member Prof Moshe Machover has written the following statement.
Dear Friends,
Regarding this article from the Manchester Evening News:
I know Gilad Atzmon personally and am familiar with the opinions that he spreads, which I find loathsome.
He is not so much anti-Zionist as anti-Jewish. Not so much a holocaust denier as holocaust justifier.*
At the same time I must protest strongly against  banning his appearances, muzzling him, and especially preventing his concerts.
Views, however unacceptable, should be defeated by argument, not by bureaucratic bans.
Moshé Machover

 

RIBA CAPITULATES TO ISRAEL LOBBY ON ARCHITECTS’ BOYCOTT DECISION

Abe Hayeem chairs Architects and Planners for Justice for Palestinians

Abe Hayeem 

Abe Hayeem, chair of Architects and Planners for Justice in  Palestine, has summed up the U-turn performed by the Royal Institute of British Architects, reversing its principled boycott decision earlier this year to urge suspension of the Israeli association from the architects’ international body:

There we have it. It speaks for itself. The RIBA has gone even beyond merely reversing the Council motion. It has obsequiously declared that they got it wrong. This is not only a capitulation to the Israel lobby, it is a spit in the eye for professional ethics and brings the whole institute into disrepute. 

We will not let this stand.

Here is the Jewish Chronicle’s jubilant report of a shameful climb-down.

Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresham)

Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresham)

Riba u-turn over Israel boycott: ‘We got it wrong’

By Marcus Dysch, December 4, 2014

Riba president Stephen Hodder (Photo: Jamesfranklingresha m)
British architects have reversed their call for Israeli counterparts to be suspended from an international union.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) confirmed the u-turn today when its council adopted a new policy on international affairs.
The move rescinded a motion which had been passed in March calling for Israelis to be barred from the International Union of Architects (UIA) in response to concerns about Palestinian human rights and Israeli settlement building.
Riba changed its stance after lawyers warned that such a policy was outside its charitable remit and could lead to Charity Committee censure.
The boycott is understood to have cost the institute more than £100,000 after Jewish supporters and groups pulled out of bookings to use its prestigious central London headquarters for batmitzvahs and other celebrations.
Riba president Stephen Hodder admitted: “We got it wrong.”
But he declined to apologise formally for the upset caused to British Jews.
Mr Hodder said: “For the Institute to have engaged in this issue in a confrontational way – by seeking suspension of the Israeli Association of United Architects from the UIA – was wrong.”
The institute accepted that the reputational damage caused by the affair would take years to recover from, but said it wanted to take positive steps to engage in foreign affairs.
A Riba delegation travelled to Israel two months ago in an attempt to rebuild bridges with architects in the country. International division chair Peter Oborn said he had been warmly received on the trip.
The boycott motion had proved hugely controversial, with Jewish and pro-Israel architects around the world criticising the decision.

BLOCKING THE BOAT – OAKLAND DOCKWORKERS IN ACTION AGAINST ISRAELI APARTHEID

block the boat oct 2014

One of the most inspiring BDS actions in response to Israel’s massacres in Gaza over the summer took place in Oakland, California, where Palestine solidarity activists have built constructive links with port workers.

Here we reproduce a report by Greg Dropkin, a leading member of the Boycott Israel Network and  Liverpool Friends of Palestine.

 

OAKLAND, USA

On Sept 27 and 28, dockworkers in Oakland California refused yet again to unload cargo from the Israeli shipping line ZIM which operates world-wide.

Block the Boat march in Oakland. (Photo: Bob Ristelhueber)

Block the Boat march in Oakland. (Photo: Bob Ristelhueber)

On 16 August, a mass march of 5000 by the Arab Resource and Organising Center and 75 other organisations in the San Francisco Bay Area reached Pier 57 and picketed for 3 days. The Zim Piraeus left port, only to return suddenly.

However, a much smaller picket continued and the ship eventually sailed to Russia without discharging most of its Oakland cargo. The Lebanese newspaper Al Akhbar found customers were furious with ZIM.

On Sept 27, the Stop ZIM Action Committee leafletted the union ILWU Local 10 and an announcement at the dispatch hall requested longshoremen not to take jobs on the Zim Shanghai. Only one worker signed up for work, and no-one crossed the picket line that night.

On Sept 28 the Zim ship sailed without discharging any containers. It was eventually worked in Long Beach, but the delays and additional transport will cost ZIM dearly.

Oakland dockers took similar action in June 2010 in response to a mass community picket after Israel attacked the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish ship on the aid flotilla seeking to break the blockade of Gaza after the invasion of 2008-9.

The recent ceasefire has not demobilised the movement, and workers are capable of effective action if solidarity activists engage them directly over a period of time.

This resolution, adopted by a public meeting in support of the Oakland actions in Liverpool on October 7, could serve as a model for campaigners wishing to follow the US example:

Solidarity with Oakland Actions

This solidarity meeting convened by Liverpool Friends of Palestine congratulates the Oakland longshore workers of ILWU Local 10, and all those who organised the successful pickets triggering action against the Israeli shipping line ZIM in August and September, responding to Israel’s massacres in Gaza.

From the mass picket called by the Arab Resource and Organizing Center on 16 August, to the picket line mounted by the Stop ZIM Action Committee and Transport Workers Solidarity Committee on 27 September, and with all supporting organisations for both actions, the movement has engaged directly with workers in the port and their response is inspiring.

We are proud that Liverpool dockworkers past and present have voiced their support for these actions. We hope that other transport workers will take heart from the Oakland actions and seek to impose their own boycotts of trade with apartheid Israel. We hope that solidarity activists will continue to approach workers with a view to implementing the appeal from Palestinian unions issued on 30 July. They wrote:

“We ask you to consider the following actions:

  • Stop handling goods imported from or exported to Israel,
  • Divest your trade union pension — and other — funds from Israel Bonds as well as from corporations and banks that are complicit in Israel’s occupation and human rights violations
  • Dissociate from Israeli trade unions which are complicit in the occupation
  • Support our call for a military embargo on Israel
  • Share information with your members about the siege and destruction of Gaza and ask your members to boycott Israeli products and to share their knowledge with family, co-workers, and friends.”

For frequent updates on the ZIM saga, see http://www.labournet.net/

Palestine solidarity mural in Oakland USA

Palestine solidarity mural in Oakland USA

GREEN PARTY MAGAZINE PROMOTES BDS — AND J-BIG

The Autumn edition of Green World – the magazine of the UK Green Party – includes a well-argued explanation of the party’s support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and also a write-up about Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) by founder member Deborah Fink, who is also a Green Party activist.

Green World is a print-only publication so we are posting scans of the relevant pages here. Click on the text to make it easier to read.

green world bds 001

Green World  BDS 2 001