Category Archives: BRICUP

PRO-ISRAEL TORIES AIM TO BAN ETHICAL DIVESTMENT BY LOCAL AUTHORITIES

This analysis first appeared on the website of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP). It is a response to a blatant attack by the Conservative government on local councils, trade unions and pension funds which attempt to implement an ethical procurement or divestment policy in solidarity with the Palestinian people.  

The full text of the email outlining the Conservative attack appears at the bottom of this post.

TORY ATTACK ON LOCAL AUTHORITY INDEPENDENCE

Britain’s Conservative government has announced a new policy to block local councils from choosing to boycott or divest from companies complicit in the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. A statement on October 3 said the government would change procurement guidelines affecting local authorities in England and pension regulations in England and Wales in order to “stop the growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.”

It says that “foreign nations” may only be targeted for boycott if the government has imposed “formal legal sanctions”.

The announcement brands Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, a number of local authorities in England, “Labour-affiliated” unions UNISON and GMB, the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as part of a “hard left”, “politically motivated” “radical fringe” guilty of “poisoning community relations” by supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement called for by Palestinians.

The government statement retails baseless allegations that the boycott movement targets Kosher products and Jewish films. It suggests that British Jews depend for their identity on supporting the state of Israel – a wrongheaded idea far more poisonous to community relations than a justice-based BDS campaign for human rights and respect for international law.

The Conservatives have, to all intents and purposes, adopted wholesale the agenda of “politically motivated radical fringe” Zionist groups intent on outlawing boycott actions which they define as antisemitic.

Whatever one’s attitude to BDS, the new government policy is alarming for all those concerned about the wider government agenda of curtailing freedoms in other areas of society, from trade union rights, to lobbying by charities, to imposing a surveillance role on teachers and lecturers under the Prevent strategy. The latter, with its focus on identifying individuals “vulnerable to radicalisation,” primarily among Muslims, is genuinely damaging to community relations.

Although Scotland is not covered by the threatened restrictions on democratically elected local authorities, the Scottish National Party also comes under attack in the government statement for “strongly discouraging trade and investment from illegal settlements.”

PSC has noted that this contradicts warnings to business from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) about the financial, legal and reputational risks of working with or in Israel’s illegal settlements.

The government statement is at least honest in expressing fears about the “threat” that human rights campaigners can cause to the UK military and defence industry, and its close relationship with Israel through the arms trade and military and security cooperation.

This is the Tory response to growing support for campaigns uniting ethically concerned citizens who are opposed to both the international trade in instruments of mass killing and the Israeli state which buys them, sells them and uses them against Palestinians with impunity.

BRICUP will be working with other concerned organisations to defend the right of dissent from the policies of an increasingly repressive Westminster government.

CONSERVATIVE PRESS RELEASE ON PLAN TO BAN “TOWN HALL BOYCOTTS AND SANCTIONS”

From: “Jackson, Richard N.” <Richard.N.Jackson@Conservatives.com>

To: “Jackson, Richard N.” <Richard.N.Jackson@Conservatives.com>

Subject: Government to stop ‘divisive’ town hall boycotts & sanctions

 

Press Release

(Press) 020 7984 8121

(Broadcast) 020 7984 8180

020 7222 1135

3 October 2015

 

Government to stop ‘divisive’ town hall boycotts & sanctions

 

Action to curtail ‘municipal foreign and defence policies’

  • Growing spread of militant divestment campaigns against UK defence and Israeli firms.
  • Conservatives warn economic and national security from municipal militancy.
  • Government to change pension and procurement rules to protect taxpayers’ interests.

 

Government Ministers announced today new rules to stop politically-motivated boycott and divestment campaigns by town halls against UK defence companies and against Israel. There is growing concern over the militant actions of left-wing councils, spurred on by trade unions and the Labour leadership, which threaten to poison community relations and harm Britain’s economic and international interests.

 

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, alongside Labour-affiliated trade unions, are urging councils to use their procurement and pension policies to punish both Israel and the UK defence industry. Faith leaders have expressed alarm at such policies fuelling anti-Semitism – and worryingly encouraging further protests such as kosher food being taken from supermarket shelves and Jewish films being banned. Separate hard-left campaigns against British defence companies threaten to harm Britain’s £10 billion export trade, destroying British jobs, and hinder joint working with Israel to protect Britain from foreign cyber-attacks and terrorism.

 

The Government will amend pension legislation to make clear using pensions and procurement policies to pursuit boycotts, divestments and sanctions campaigns against foreign nations and the UK defence industry are inappropriate, other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. The Government will similarly issue new Procurement Policy guidance to implement the same approach in procurement law.

 

Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said:

 

“Divisive policies undermine good community relations, and harm the economic security of families by pushing up council tax. We need to challenge and prevent the politics of division. Conservatives will provide the stable, competent and sensible Government that working people want to see.”

 

Matthew Hancock, Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:

 

“Conservatives are on the common ground. We will take steps to stop such outdated policies being pursued through procurement and pension policies. We will safeguard the security of families at home and prevent such playground politics undermining our international security.”

 

ENDS

 

For further information, please contact the press office on 020 7984 8121.

 

Notes to Editors

 

HARD-LEFT FOREIGN AND DEFENCE POLICIES ON THE RISE

 

  • In November 2014, Labour-run Leicester City Council passed a policy to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements in the West Bank (link). Jewish groups have recently launched a judicial review against the council’s decision, warning ‘this amounts to a get-of-out-town order to Leicester Jews’ (Daily Express, 25 August 2015, link).

 

  • In January 2015, Labour councillors on Nottingham City Council debated a boycott against Israel (link) – the council resolved to consider the issue further and ‘work with the Nottingham Palestine Solidarity Campaign’ (link). Jewish faith leaders warned: ‘local authorities need to be guardians of good community relations and not go down the route of setting one community against the other by adopting partisan campaigns’ (Jewish News, 26 January 2015, link).

 

  • Jeremy Corbyn is a patron of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign radical fringe group (link). In August 2015, whilst running for Labour leader, he endorsed the boycott of Israeli settlement goods and was receptive of academic boycotts of Israeli universities involved with the arms trade (link). He asserted: ‘I fully support the call to end all trade and investments with the illegal settlements’ (Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle Eastlink) and ‘I think the boycott campaign, divestment campaign, is part and parcel of a legal process that has to be adopted’ (link).

 

  • Corbyn has also called for the removal of Israel’s right to trade with the UK and the EU: ‘It’s time, indeed past time, to demand the immediate suspension of the trade agreements between the EU and Israel’ (Morning Star, 2 June 2010) and cutting all off commercial and diplomatic ties: ‘no arms, no money, no recognition and no support for Israel’ (Haaretz, 13 April 2002, link). Corbyn was even heckled at the Labour Party Conference’s Labour Friends of Israel event for refusing to refer to Israel by name in his speech (Daily Telegraph, 29 September 2015, link).

 

  • Labour MPs such as Shabana Mahmood have personally taken part in supermarkets protests against Israeli goods (Daily Mail, 19 August 2014, link).

 

  • Both Corbyn and John McDonnell have sponsored a Commons motion urging the boycotting of Israeli goods, including demanding that all supermarkets boycott such goods (EDM 57, 14 May 2012). John McDonnell has told shops in his constituency of Hayes ‘to boycott Israeli goods… and find alternative suppliers’ (Get West London, 1 August 2014).

 

  • In August 2014, the SNP-led Scottish Government published a procurement notice to Scottish councils which ‘strongly discourages trade and investment from illegal settlements’, though conceding that ‘decisions need to be taken on a case by case basis’ (Scottish Procurement Policy Note 4/2014,link). Four Scottish councils have resolved to boycott Israeli goods: Clackmannanshire, Midlothian, Stirling, West Dunbartonshire (link).

 

  • In June 2015, Labour-affiliated UNISON launched a campaign to lobby councils to divest their Local Government Pension Schemes from companies linked with Israel (A UNISON guide to pension fund engagement and divestmentlink). In July 2014, Labour-affiliated Unite resolve to campaign for boycott of goods produced by Israeli settlements and divest from any financial holdings in any companies or funds linked to the settlements (Unite press release, 11 July 2014, link). In July 2013, the Labour-affiliated GMB voted to support boycott and divestment initiatives against Israeli settlements, and banned its members from visiting Israel on delegations organised by the Trade Union Friends of Israel (link).

 

  • By contrast, the last Labour leader, Ed Miliband, opposed such ‘BDS’ policies: ‘I think the boycotts of Israel are totally wrong. We should have no tolerance for boycotts. I would say that to any trade union leaders’ (Jewish Chronicle, 7 March 2013, link) and ‘boycotts of Israel will never be a way of advancing the cause of peace. They are the wrong response and I will never support them. Labour will continue to resolutely oppose the isolation of Israel. The answer has to be greater dialogue and greater engagement rather than disengagement and boycotts’ (Jewish News, 1 May 2015, link).

 

  • The hard-left Campaign Against the Arms Trade has been lobbying for Local Government Pension Schemes to divest funds in British manufacturers such as BAe (link). Jeremy Corbyn has endorsed their campaign: ‘The Campaign Against the Arms Trade… has a long and honourable tradition… The scale of British arms sales is truly astounding… we need a clear lead for arms conversion. Let the brilliance and skill of those in the arms industry be converted for peaceful purposes’ (Corbyn website).

 

  • Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, has similarly called for ‘the end of the arms trade’ (Guardian, 1 April 2009).

 

DANGEROUS CONSEQUENCES OF HARD-LEFT POLICIES

 

  • Local government pensions are a funded scheme. Councils’ goals should be to ensure that their pension funds investments deliver the best rate of return. Councils receive £3.1 billion a year from their pension investment returns; in addition, town hall pensions cost taxpayers a further £6.0 billion a year in employer contributions – equivalent to over £300 a year on a Band D council tax bill. Twisting investment decisions on political grounds risks reducing investment returns, requiring larger employer contributions to compensate: in turn, such higher costs would force cuts to services and/or hikes in council tax.

 

  • It is not for local government to pursue its own municipal foreign or defence policies – as rightly, that matter is reserved to the UK Government. The Government has to take into account the international implications of such policies, and the broader need to maintain stability and security in international relations. Rather than encouraging legitimate debate, such boycotts are counter-productive – they widen gaps in understanding, poison and polarise debate, and block opportunities for co-operation and collaboration.

 

  • The call for municipal boycotts against Israel threatens to inflame tensions in local communities, undermining integration and fuelling broader anti-Semitism. Such militant boycotts have already led to hard-left groups pressuring supermarkets to take Kosher products off their shelves (link), and Jewish films being banned as part of such boycotts (link).

 

  • The campaign against British defence companies risk harming Britain’s export trade and would destroy British jobs across the country. The UK defence sector has a £22 billion turnover a year and contributes £10 billion to UK exports (ADS fact sheetlink).

 

  • This Government wants to enhance the growing economic ties between the UK and Israel, particular in areas like technology and science, as well as working together to strengthen security against cyber-attacks and tackle Islamist extremism (No10 press release, 10 September 2015).

 

  • The UK Government has put in place formal legal sanctions and restrictions at a national level, when justified as in the national interest (link).

 

GOVERNMENT ACTION

 

The Government will take action to curtail such municipal foreign and defence policies:

 

  • The Local Government Pension Scheme (Management and Investment of Funds) Regulations 2009 requires local authorities to publish and follow a Statement of Investment Principles (link). These statements must also comply with guidance issued by the Secretary of State. The government propose to amend the secondary legislation to make clear that such boycott, divestment and sanctions (‘BDS’) campaigns are inappropriate – other than where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government.  There is a statutory requirement to consult on the pension law changes.

 

  • The Cabinet Office will issue a revised Procurement Policy Note to public authorities to make clear that boycotts in procurement policy are inappropriate, outside where formal legal sanctions, embargoes and restrictions have been put in place by the Government. Indeed, the WTO Government Procurement Agreement – an international market access agreement – requires all those countries that have signed up to the Agreement to treat suppliers equally. This includes the EU and Israel. Any discrimination against Israeli suppliers involving procurements covered by the Agreement would therefore be in breach of these treaty obligations.

 

Procurement guidance relates to England. Local government pension regulations relate to England and Wales.

 

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Academics’ report reveals Kafka-esque world of Palestinian Universities under Occupation

A devastating new report – Palestinian Universities under Occupation – has been put together by a delegation representing the European Platform for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (EPACBI) who visited seven Palestinian universities and academies in April 2015. The delegation consisted of eight academics from five countries.

Their Summary of Findings point to a “consistent pattern across all the universities that it visited  … of a coherent and multi-faceted policy of Israeli interference with the normal functioning of academic life.

“This interference inhibits free movement of staff and students; reduces academic effectiveness and productivity by the usurpation of staff time through mobility restrictions and imposed bureaucratic obstacles; prevents effective collaboration and sharing of intellectual resources between Palestinian universities; obstructs international visits to Palestinian universities; substantially prevents the employment of teaching staff from abroad; interrupts the supply of equipment, materials and books; and subjects staff and students to repeated humiliations and indignity.”

Read the full report here:

http://www.bricup.org.uk/2015DelegationReport.pdf

 

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

 

ANGER AT GAZA SLAUGHTER TARGETS SADLER’S WELLS

NOVEMBER 18 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ANGER AT GAZA SLAUGHTER TARGETS SADLER’S WELLS
  • PROTEST OVER GAZA DEATHS MOVES TO THEATRE HOSTING ISRAEL’S BATSHEVA DANCE ENSEMBLE
 
  • BATSHEVA ACCUSED OF ACTING AS CULTURAL FIGLEAF FOR ATROCITIES
 
  • SADLER’S WELLS BEEFS UP SECURITY IN PREPARATION FOR PRO-PALESTINE PROTESTS
  • ACADEMICS CONDEMN THEATRE MANAGEMENT REFUSAL TO ENTER DIALOGUE
November 18 – Protests at the growing Palestinian death toll caused by Israel’s bombardment of Gaza will move from outside London’s Israeli Embassy to the city’s premier contemporary dance venue at Sadler’s Wells, Islington on Monday.
nationwide campaign,  Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid, has already interrupted 11 dance performances by Israel’s Batsheva Ensemble in six cities up and down the country and is now targeting the Israeli troupe’s three planned performances at Sadler’s Wells on Nov 19, 20 & 21.
Campaigners say their protest is not directed at individual Israeli artists, but at the government which deliberately uses culture as cover for its human rights abuses and violations of international law.
 
“We target artistic institutions which are intrinsically linked to the Israeli state through funding and the ‘Brand Israel ’ initiative,” the campaign leaflets say. They quote an Israeli Foreign Affairs ministry spokesman outlining, in the wake of the previous onslaught on Gaza which killed more than 1300 Palestinians, its explicit intention to send abroad cultural icons to “show Israel ’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
Although Batsheva’s artistic director Ohad Naharin has publicly opposed Israeli policies towards the Palestinians, his company isembraced by Israel ’s far-right government as their finest cultural ambassador.
It receives funding from the Israeli state, Israeli arms companies and the racist Jewish National Fund which works openly to dispossess Palestinians and replace them with Jewish immigrants.
“With Israel escalating its attacks on Gaza, killing dozens including civilians, with children among them, we intend our protests to reclaim for the Palestinians a tiny piece of the cultural and physical space which Israel has stolen from them,” said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural working group coordinator for the Boycott Israel Network, part of the UK Don’t Dance coalition. “We do not accept that art may be used as a figleaf for killings and collective punishment of a civilian population.”
Sadler’s Wells management has emailed ticket-holders telling them to expect “groups of peaceful demonstrators” at the Batsheva Ensemble performances, with the possibility of “some form of disruption inside the venue”. Bags will be searched on arrival and people should be ready for delays, the email said.
The theatre’s chief executive and artistic director Alistair Spalding refused to meet academics from the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine  (BRICUP) who had asked to discuss the invitation to Batsheva with him.
Spalding insisted the Israeli company was no different from other international institutions: “the vehicle for the creative expression of their artistic directors and not .. representatives of the governments of their countries.
“I have a firm belief in cultural engagement rather than exclusion and … will present the work of choreographic artists whatever theirnationality,” Spalding said.
Prof Jonathan Rosenhead, chair of BRICUP, said that Sadler’s Wells commitment to cultural engagement seemed not to extend to dialogue with principled critics. Spalding had failed to address any of the arguments BRICUP had made, said Rosenhead.
He referred in particular to the conditions under which Palestinian culture has to operate, described by a Palestinian dancer as “ Israel ‘s three-tiered system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid [which] ruthlessly suffocates the livelihoods of Palestinian communities, including our right to artistic and cultural expression.”

BRICUP has issued an open letter to Batsheva’s Naharin,  even more relevant now that Gaza is under Israeli attack, asking “What does the artistic freedom of yourself and your dancers mean, when it’s used as international cover by a state that’s essentially trying to force out the indigenous Palestinian population?”

Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid began its campaign with protests at performances by the main Batsheva Dance company in the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August , winning support from considerable Scottish cultural figures including the national poet (Makar) Liz Lochhead.
Hundreds of campaign supporters have made their presence felt at every stop on the current tour by Batsheva’s junior Ensemble, beginning in Scotland  before moving on to Manchester and Bradford .
In Brighton Green Party MP Caroline Lucas wrote to the Dome Theatre management reminding them that: “Israel’s sponsorship of arts and cultural events is one deliberate way in which it is actively seeking to repair the reputational damage inflicted by its treatment of Palestinians, so Palestinian civil society has called for a full cultural boycott of all cultural performers and exhibitors that are institutionally linked to the Israeli state.”
There were more protests on November 13 & 14 in Birmingham where five  protestors disrupted the performance on each of the two nights, and on the second night they managed to drop a banner from the Circle.

Demonstrators massed outside the Leicester Curve on Friday Nov 16

A performance in Leicester on Friday night attracted a hundred or more local people angered by the assault on Gaza. As in every other venue, the show was interrupted on a number of occasions by protesters calling out pro-Palestinian slogans.
After Sadler’s Wells there are two more Batsheva Ensemble tour dates, in Plymouth on Nov 23 & 24.
ENDS
 
 

Press release from BIN and Bricup: Pro-Palestine Protesters thwart draconian secruity at Globe

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - MAY 28, 2012
    [updated version, 29th May]

Press Release from
BIN - Boycott Israel Network
and BRICUP - British Committee for the 
    Universities of Palestine
    
PRO-PALESTINIAN PROTESTERS THWART DRACONIAN SECURITY AT 
ISRAELI STATE THEATRE PERFORMANCE, GLOBE THEATRE
    
* Shakespeare's Globe in security lockdown to defend 
        Israeli National Theatre
* Repeated interruptions
* Israeli Embassy orchestrates propaganda campaign against 
        growing support for cultural boycott
    
Despite unprecedented security at Shakespeare's Globe for 
Monday's performance by Israeli National Theatre, Habima, 
pro-Palestinian campaigners succeeded in unfurling a 
banner and staging a mute protest against illegal 
colonisation and settlement. Protesters were manhandled 
by security staff out of the theatre on London's Bankside, 
where Habima - which entertains colonists illegally 
settled on Palestinian land - was performing the Merchant 
of Venice in Hebrew as part of the Cultural Olympiad.
   
Just before the interval 15 demonstrators stood up 
with Palestinian flags and a banner. Demonstrator 
Veronica Simpson said "Security was unnecessarily 
aggressive. We were just making a peaceful protest 
about Israel". One demonstrator had her glasses 
broken. One man was handcuffed and arrested. 
Pro-Israel audience members shouted abuse, and 
some physically attacked demonstrators.

After the interval two members of the audience 
introduced some adapted texts from Shakespeare 
"Hath a Palestinian not eyes.... if you prick 
us do we not bleed" and "Avaunt and quit my 
sight - Apartheid" before they were removed.

Previously six protesters displayed a large 
banner and several smaller ones they had 
smuggled into the theatre. The banners carried 
the slogan "Israeli apartheid leave the stage".
    
"We tried non-violently to convey the message that 
culture may not be used to give a civilised gloss to 
a state that perpetrates human rights abuses," said 
Zoe Mars, a protester. Audience members walked out 
of the performance because they were disgusted by the 
rough treatment of the peaceful and silent
demonstrators.

There were other smaller demonstrations by members 
of the audience.
    
Protesters' ingenuity was tested by airport style 
security checks including "extensive searches of 
bags and audience members". The theatre box office 
was closed by 4 pm, photographic equipment was banned 
and any bag larger than a modest sized purse had to 
be checked into a special left luggage facility.
    
Israeli Embassy attempts to undermine the protests with a 
Twitter campaign in support of Habima fizzled out when 
their efforts were leaked to pro-Palestinian activists. 
An embassy circular suggested using the hashtag 
#loveculture, because it "won't be taken at first glance 
as a political statement."
    
"This is proof positive that as far as the Israeli state 
is concerned, culture and political propaganda are 
indivisible," said Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, cultural 
working group coordinator of the Boycott Israel Network.
    
"This campaign is not an attack on individual artists, 
we are not censoring the content of their work nor are 
we concerned about their ethnicity or the language they 
speak. As with South African sport in the apartheid 
era, this is about refusing to allow culture to be 
used to whitewash oppression."
    
Israeli, Palestinian and British human rights 
campaigners, backed by respected figures in theatre 
and the arts, have urged the Globe over recent months 
to withdraw its invitation to Habima which is 
complicit in the state's human rights violations 
and illegal colonisation of occupied land.
    
Campaign supporters such as film maker Ken Loach 
and actors David Calder and Miriam Margolyes say 
Habima uses its art to normalise an unacceptable 
situation. Their complicity "makes a mockery of 
their claim to freedom in their work," says Loach.
    
[ contact details edited out of this version ]
    
NOTES FOR EDITORS
    
1.    This campaign went public with an open letter 
published in The Guardian  (March 29), signed by David 
Calder, Trevor Griffiths, Jonathan Miller, Mark Rylance, 
Emma Thompson and Harriet Walter, along with 31 others.
    
2.    See video statements from actors David Calder, 
Miriam Margolyes and John Graham Davies.
    
3. Statement from filmmaker Ken Loach and from  
Palestinian writer Dr Ghada Karmi.
    
4. Photos and a first-hand report can be found on
Tony Greenstein's Blog
    
5. Palestinian theatre company, Ashtar, based in Ramallah 
in the Occupied West Bank, staged Richard II in Arabic at 
the Globe on May 4 and 5. In a post-performance 
discussion, artistic director Iman Aoun revealed that 
she had been strip searched on leaving Tel Aviv airport to 
travel to London. She and other members of the company 
explained their support for the cultural boycott of 
Israeli institutions.

6. Video: "Hath a Palestinian not eyes?"

7. Israeli President Shimon Peres recently cited boycotts
as a key reason why Israel may be obliged to make peace.

8. Foreign Secretary William Hague last month condemned 
Israeli settlement activity, saying: "As the Occupying 
Power of the Palestinian Territories, the Israeli 
government has an absolute requirement to uphold 
international law and to fulfill its commitments."

9. Content of Israeli Embassy circular mobilising 
Twitter support for Habima:

An Important Message from the Israeli Embassy - 
MAY 29TH/HABIMA THEATRE COMPANY
Importance: High

Dear Liverpool Jewish Community Members,

As part of the campaign around Habima's performance 
at the Globe this coming week, we are aiming to get 
something relevant trending on twitter. After careful 
consideration, we have decided to use the hashtag 
#LoveCulture as it is short enough to fit on a 
substantial tweet and won't be taken at first glance 
as a political statement.

To get something trending on twitter, we need it 
to be a sudden occurrence. Therefore, we will start 
tweeting with #LoveCulture at 08:00 UK Time 
(which is GMT +1) on Tuesday 29 May (please do not 
start before this time as it will dilute the 
possibility of this actually trending).

(If you do not have twitter, please email 
acailler@live.co.uk before Tuesday 
29th May and Adam will advise you what/how to use twitter)

Due to the rules twitter has, please refrain from using 
additional hash-tags, sending multiple tweets with only 
minor changes as they won't be counted and please make 
sure that your tweets are relevant, as again not 
complying will result in tweets not being counted.

Examples of tweets that you can use (please try and 
edit them) are:

· Great to see @HabimaTheatre celebrating the Cultural 
Olympiad @the_globe...all the world's a stage #LoveCulture

· Fantastic seeing the foremost Hebrew speaking theatre 
company perform the Merchant of Venice @the_globe 
#LoveCulture

· Was great to hear @edvaizey enjoyed watching 
@HabimaTheatre... did he understand any of it though? 
#LoveCulture

· Jealous of all those off to see sold out @HabimaTheatre 
at @the_globe tonight...last night was great #LoveCulture

If you are using a twitter client such as TweetDeck or 
HootSuite, there is an option to schedule tweets to be 
sent at a predetermined time.

Please feel free to send this on to trusted contacts 
with twitter.

If you have any questions please contact 
pr-asst3@london.mfa.gov.il or elliot@thejlc.org.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach

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.

STOP PRESS: FINKELSTEIN BOYCOTT DISCUSSION VENUE

 
Prof Norman Finkelstein will be in conversation with BRICUP chair Prof Jonathan Rosenhead
at 2 pm Friday November 11
in the Christopher Ingold Lecture Theatre
UCL Chemistry Building, 20 Gordon Street, London WC1 6BT
This is opposite the Bloomsbury Theatre.
To reserve your place please email  jews4big@gmail.com
 
Finkelstein and Rosenhead will discuss the proposition:
The Palestinians having being denied justice for 63 years, those who support their rights must endorse their call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), including academic and cultural boycott of Israel.
 
This is in addition to Finkelstein’s lecture at 7 pm in the Logan Hall, Institute of Education for which booking is required. 
http://www.eventsbot.com/events/eb253345787
 
After lecturing to packed houses in Leeds and Manchester on Monday and Tuesday, Finkelstein’s tour continues with dates in Birmingham and Nottingham before concluding in London on Friday.