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BDS movement

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The Palestinian BDS National Committee website
Updated: 4 hours 27 min ago

Protestors block and delay Israeli ships up and down US West Coast

Thu, 28/08/2014 - 11:35am

Over the past two weeks, activists in port cities along the West Coast of the United States staged picket lines to prevent or delay vessels operated by Israel’s Zim shipping line from offloading cargo.

The actions had been planned at the height of Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip that began on 7 July and ended with a ceasefire yesterday.

Zim Integrated Shipping Services Ltd. is Israel’s biggest cargo shipping company and the tenth largest in the world. It’s 2013 revenue was $3.7 billion.

The action originated in Oakland, California, which set a high bar for others to follow. Protestors there successfully prevented the unloading of the Zim Piraeus container ship for nearly four full days.

But other cities’ more modest demonstrations were nevertheless successful in temporarily delaying the Zim ships from unloading, costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars, building momentum and signalling widespread support for such actions.

After Zim Piraeus departed Oakland on 20 August, two different Zim container ships were scheduled to dock in Tacoma and Seattle, Washington and in Long Beach, California. Weeks earlier, organizers in Oakland had reached out to Palestine solidarity groups in those cities to plan a coordinated shut-out of Zim cargo ships along the West Coast.

In Tacoma, the Zim Chicago was supposed to arrive at port on 18 August but was delayed from offloading until 23 August — which local organizer, Nada Elia describes as a victory for the Northwest Block the Boat Coalition.

Elia, a member of Antioch University’s faculty and a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), told The Electronic Intifada that the delay was partially due to a crane malfunction in Vancouver, British Columbia, but mostly due to protesters.

“The delay showed that they were trying to avoid the blockade,” Elia said. Throughout the week, activists around the state were poised — monitoring the Facebook page and then their phones for text alerts — to be called down at moment’s notice to Tacoma port for the picket. Elia said her group’s Facebook page was taken down with no explanation.

When the Zim Chicago docked on Saturday, activists rallied at the port and successfully blocked the two known entrances. But the port opened up a third, little-known entrance that allowed workers to cross the picket line and unload the containers from the Zim vessel.

The coalition that had formed around this action included Filipino group BAYAN, Queers Against Israeli apartheid and Occupy Seattle. Elia said people travelled from all around the state to attend the demonstration at the ports.

According to the Seattle Globalist, the delay cost the shipping company half a million dollars.

Limited goal

Elia said that the action’s organizers had to consider that their relationship with the longshoremen’s union in Seattle and Tacoma is not strong.

“The union’s response was, to put it mildly, not positive,” Elia said. “So we knew they were not going to be on our side.”

So they were very clear about their goal: “Our victory was determined if we were able to delay, which we very clearly did for at least three days.”

On 25 August the same Zim ship docked in Seattle and organizers were unable to prevent the workers from unloading. However, according to a press release issued by the coalition on 27 August, the ship may have delayed its arrival to the Seattle port by 24 hours in an effort to avoid the expected protests.

According to the press release, the Zim Chicago finished offloading in Tacoma the morning of 24 August, but did not begin to unload in Seattle — a port only a short distance away — until the evening of the next day, 25 August.

“We know of no other reason for the ship to wait for an open dock except to avoid spreading the impact of our blockade to other ships, who might then ask for refunds because of delays,” organizer Ed Mast states in the press release.

Getting labor onboard

Elia says that while organizers are content with the victory they set out to achieve, they hope to build their coalition: “At this point what we want to work on is getting labor on board — getting the union to realize this is an issue of social and global justice.”

Meanwhile, down the coast in Southern California’s Long Beach port, organizers were moved to mobilize an action in the span of only two and a half days after witnessing Oakland’s action.

“Oakland was so amazingly successful and it really inspired a lot of people,” Garrick Ruiz of BDS-Los Angeles told The Electronic Intifada. “We in Los Angeles wanted to do something along the same lines and that’s when the larger coalition came together.”

The coalition included American Muslims for PalestineUS Palestinian Community NetworkInternational Jewish Anti-Zionist Network’s labor division, Global Women’s Strike, Jewish Voice for Peace – Los Angeles, Al-Awda (The Palestine Right to Return Coalition), ANSWER and BDS-LA.

Ruiz said that his group had done an informational picket on 13 August to gauge support of the action among the union, build a relationship with the rank and file members and provide information about the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Union’s call for US labor solidarity with Palestine and the efforts to blockade the Zim lines.

Ruiz said that the union as of now has been unresponsive to his group’s attempt to reach out by phone, mail and email.

But it wasn’t until the Oakland success that they decided to stage a picket line: when the Zim Haifa docked on 23 August in Long Beach, around 250 people rallied at the port until a union official sent workers for the morning shift home.

“We see this action as an important piece for building our movement, planning bigger actions and building solidarity with labor at the ports,” said Ruiz.

“In the big picture we called that demo in less than three days and everyone in that coalition put in an immense amount of work to make it happen. Now we’re stepping back to determine next steps.”

Ruiz said members of the coalition plan to attend a Labor Day parade on 1 September in Wilmington, Los Angeles to reach out to the ILWU and Teamsters unions.

And while the protests had been a direct demonstration against the devastating attack on Gaza, organizers are hoping to maintain pressure on ports and businessescontracting with Zim.

The movement to protest Zim is catching on in more cities. As a tool for activists and organizers, a new pastebin has been created that provides crucial information for tracking the activity of Zim vessels at various port cities across the US. There activists can see when and where Zim will be docking in their city.

Next up: a protest at Florida’s Tampa port is planned for 30 August.

Activist blockade delays Israeli ZIM ship another day at Port of Seattle

Wed, 27/08/2014 - 12:05pm

After delaying work on the Israeli freight ship ZIM CHICAGO at the Port of Tacoma, local human-rights activists have learned that they also delayed the arrival of ZIM CHICAGO into the Port of Seattle for another full day.

The unloading and loading of ZIM CHICAGO in the Port of Tacoma was completed by 8 AM on Sunday August 24. Ordinarily the ship would have moved to the Port of Seattle within a few hours and been ready for a longshore work shift starting that same Sunday at 6 PM. However, ZIM CHICAGO spent a full day anchored north of Vashon Island, only docking on Monday afternoon. As a result, the longshore work shift to unload the ship began a full 24 hours later, on Monday at 6 PM.

There was plenty of room for ZIM CHICAGO at its scheduled berth in Seattle, but ZIM CHICAGO waited until there were no other ships in a berth that could handle up to three other ships at once.

“We know of no other reason for the ship to wait for an open dock except to avoid spreading the impact of our blockade to other ships, who might then ask for refunds because of delays. This would not be out of simple goodwill toward other shipping lines, but rather to avoid isolation from other shipping lines that might refuse to share berths with ZIM ships in the future,”, said Ed Mast, one of the blockade organizers. “A full day’s delay costs ZIM not only the extra running time money for fuel and staff, but also potential losses in cargo diverted to other ships, as well as credibility with customers that might start to distrust the irregular schedule, and credibility with other shipping lines that might refuse to share berths with ZIM at this and other ports.”

At 5:00 PM on Monday, over 100 protestors gathered at the Port of Seattle to blockade the gates through which longshore workers would enter to unload ZIM CHICAGO. An almost equal number of police had been called, and those police used aggressive physical force to push back the blockaders and open pathways for longshore workers to enter. One arrest was made, though no physical aggression was reported from the blockaders.

“Delay was always our victory condition, since delay costs money to ZIM and sends a message to Israel that it will be increasingly isolated as long as it maintains its regime of apartheid against Palestinians, “ said Nada Elia, another organizer. “They once again delivered us this victory before they reached the port and before we even understood it. We owe this success to the previous successful blockades against ZIM ships in Oakland and Los Angeles, as well as our own blockade in Tacoma. We plan to continue resisting business-as-usual for ZIM and other Israeli companies as long as Israel’s apartheid continues.”

The blockade actions at the Port of Seattle slowed down the entrance of longshore workers to the terminal where the ZIM ship was docked, though it is not yet clear whether or not the blockade caused actual delays to the start of unloading the ZIM ship beyond the 24-hour initial delay in docking.

The West Coast blockades of Israeli ZIM ships are part of the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel for its ongoing violations of human rights and international law, including Israel’s recent assault on the captive population of Gaza, during which Israel bombed schools, several hospitals, seven UN-­designated shelters, Gaza’s only power plant, and Gaza’s water purification system. More than 2000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed by Israel’s attacks over the past month.

Local activists are also responding to the Palestinian General Federation Trade Unions’ call for international supporters to take action in support of the people of Gaza. A letter signed by 93 Gazan civil society members, including teachers, doctors, and lawyers, demands three basic rights:
1) freedom for Palestinians to move freely in and out of Gaza;
2) unlimited import and export of supplies and goods, including by land, sea and air;
3) unrestricted use of the Gaza seaport.

Statement regarding the acquisition of Elbit technology by the Philippines

Tue, 26/08/2014 - 11:08am

Do not profit from Israel’s military aggressions against the Palestinian people

With strong disappointment we have read the news about the announced delivery of 28 Israeli upgraded APCs (armored personnel carriers) to the Philippines’ army. According to news reports, the US$20 million deal was signed with the Israeli military company Elbit Systems on June 22, 2014 and the first APCs are to be handed over in 2015 .

Since July 8, Israel has been waging a brutal military aggression against 1.8 million Palestinians in the occupied and tightly besieged Gaza Strip. Over 2122 Palestinians have been killed, over ten thousand injured , and much of the civilian infrastructure destroyed. Universities, schools, UN humanitarian shelters, the sanitation system and the only electricity plant in Gaza have been bombed by Israel, aggravating an already devastated civilian infrastructure.

Palestinians thank the government of the Philippines for voting in favour the UN Human Rights Council resolution (A/HRC/S-21/L.1) on ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem. But we wish to highlight the utter contradiction inherent in the decision of the Philippines government to buy Israeli weapons that are “field-tested” on Palestinian civilians in Gaza while simultaneously condemning “in the strongest terms the widespread, systematic and gross violations of international human rights and fundamental freedoms arising from the Israeli military operations carried out in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 13 June 2014 that may amount to international crimes” .

The Israeli assault on Gaza, described by leaders in France, Brazil, Turkey and elsewhere as a “massacre,” has been dubbed by the Israeli media a ‘cash cow’ for the Israeli arms industry, which is testing and displaying its weapons during the repeated Israeli aggressions against the Palestinian and other Arab people. De facto, the ties of complicity of the Israeli arms industry in the Israeli policies of human rights violations extend from war profiteering, to knowingly providing weaponry and technology that are persistently used in the Israeli commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity during its belligerent military attacks, to participation in the construction of the illegal Israeli Wall and colonial settlement enterprise.

Elbit Systems, the leading Israeli weapons manufacturer benefiting from the reported contract, provides equipment for the Israeli Merkava tanks and produces the armed drones used in the wars and attacks against civilians in Gaza and Lebanon. Elbit Systems provides the “intrusion detection systems” for the Israeli Apartheid Wall, which is crippling Palestinian communities by isolating them in walled-in ghettos. Moreover, Elbit subsidiaries supplied and incorporated LORROS surveillance cameras in the illegal Ariel settlement section as well as around Ar-Ram in the OPT. This makes Elbit directly complicit in Israel’s grave violations of international law and human rights .

For this reason, the Norwegian finance ministry has already in 2009 instructed the state pension fund, the largest sovereign fund in the world, to divest from Elbit Systems, and over a dozen private and public financial institutions in Europe and elsewhere have followed suit. The then Special Rapporteur of the UN for the human rights situation in the occupied Arab territories has called on a boycott of Elbit Systems, and the recently released legal analysis signed by 92 high level legal experts and 41 Palestinian and international legal organizations also points to the illegality of public contracts with corporations involved in serious breaches of peremptory norms of international law, such as Elbit.

We are therefore calling on the government of the Philippines to act in line with its international obligations under international law resulting from the condemnation of Israel’s aggression on the occupied Palestinian territories, the recognition of the sovereignty of the Palestinian state and the ratification of the international conventions on human rights. We ask the government to cancel this contract, and we call on the parliament not to approve the contract or allocate the necessary budget for its implementation.

We trust that the people and the government of the Philippines will stand in support of human rights, international law and a just peace in Palestine and will take the right steps not to become complicit in the ongoing Israeli crimes against our people.

Occupied Palestine

Holocaust survivors condemn Israel for ‘Gaza massacre,’ call for boycott

Sat, 23/08/2014 - 11:04am

Hundreds of Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors have signed a letter, published as an advertisement in Saturday’s New York Times, condemning “the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza” and calling for a complete boycott of Israel.

According to the letter, the condemnation was prompted by an advertisement written by Elie Wiesel and published in major news outlets worldwide, accusing Hamas of “child sacrifice” and comparing the group to the Nazis.

The letter, signed by 327 Jewish Holocaust survivors and descendants of survivors and sponsored by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, accuses Wiesel of “abuse of history” in order to justify Israel’s actions in the Gaza Strip:

“…we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.”

The letter also blames the United States of aiding Israel in its Gaza operation, and the West in general of protecting Israel from condemnation.

“Genocide begins with the silence of the world,” the letter reads.

The letter ends with a call to bring the blockade of Gaza to an immediate end, and for a full boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!,” the letter concludes.

Full text of letter:

“Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of Nazi genocide unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

“As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.

“We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.

“Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.

“We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!”

For full list of the letter’s signatories, click here

Sales of Israeli Goods in West Bank Down 50% Due to Boycott

Fri, 22/08/2014 - 12:09pm

RAMALLAH, West Bank — In a convenience store in Ramallah, Muhammad Ali, 9, asked his mother to buy him some juice, but told her, “I do not want an Israeli one.” When Al-Monitor asked him why, he replied, “Because they are killing the children in Gaza.”

This child may not be aware that there are thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip who are currently boycotting Israeli products in response to public and youth campaigns. There are posters calling for the boycott everywhere in the West Bank.

It is not yet clear what impact this will have on either the Israeli or Palestinian economy, but analysts and campaign organizers say this is not just about economy. Khaled Mansour, a leading activist in the boycott and a member of the Palestinian People’s Party, believes that “this should be a way of living in Palestinian society.” Birzeit University academic and economic analyst Naser Abdul Kareem said, “The campaigns to boycott Israeli products go beyond the economic repercussions because this is a patriotic and moral duty that contributes, even if only partially, in eliminating the economic dependence on Israel.”

The head of the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Oula Awad, told Al-Monitor that the effects of the boycott campaigns have not yet appeared in the official data. She said more than 70% of Palestinian imports come from Israel or through it.

According to Awad, the Palestinian market is the most important for the Israeli market, as the imports from Israel are worth $4 billion-$4.5 billion, while exports do not exceed half a billion dollars.

Although the effects of the boycott cannot be estimated in figures and numbers, there are indications showing that the boycotts have gained momentum and expanded in the West Bank districts.

According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, Palestinian exports to Israel increased during May 2014 by 7.1%, compared to the previous month. This accounted for 86.5% of the total value of exports. Meanwhile, imports from Israel decreased by 7.3% compared to the past month, accounting for 65.3% of the total value of imports in one month.

A TV report on Israel’s Channel 10, broadcast on Aug. 15, said, “Sales of Israeli products in the West Bank decreased by 50% due to the boycott accompanying the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.” The report added, “Some factories closed some of their production lines due to the drop in sales.”

Increased demand for Palestinian products is an indicator that the boycott campaign is having an impact, according to the director-general of Policy and Economic Studies and spokesman for the Ministry of Economy, Azmi Abdul Rahman. “The impact of the boycott campaign is yet to be measured, but there are important indicators, such as increased demand for Palestinian products that provide substitutes for the Israeli products,” he told Al-Monitor.

The effects of the boycott campaigns started to appear in Palestinian factories and companies offering substitutes for Israeli products, especially in the dairy industry, which is trying to offer an alternative for Israeli Tnuva dairy products.

Amjad al-Mouhtaseb, sales manager of Al-Junaidi company, one of the biggest Palestinian dairy companies, told Al-Monitor, “The boycott campaign has reflected positively on the company and its product sales, some of which have increased. In the past two weeks, the sales of the company increased by 15%. This applies to other companies, too. The Palestinian dairy companies used to have a 55-60% share in the past, but now their share exceeds 80%.”

This production increase also has affected work hours. Mouhtaseb confirmed that “work hours have been added in the company’s factories, and 40 new workers have been hired.”

Only a few weeks have passed since the beginning of the boycott, but its repercussions have already started to appear on several levels. The director-general of the General Production Management in the Ministry of National Economy, Manal Farhat, said in a news release, “The share of the Palestinian local product in the Palestinian consumer’s basket is expected to witness an increase of at least 12% to 25% in the short run. We will witness a good investment activity that will have positive effects on the components of the economic process.”

She added, “The share of the food industry in the consumer’s basket will witness a 60% increase, and many factories, given their increased production capacity, have already hired a large number of evening workers.”

Abdul Rahman said, “The campaign to boycott Israeli products intersects with the policies of the government and the Ministry of Economy. They are in line with the development policies that the ministry put forward until 2016, in an attempt to increase the shares of national production sectors in the local market to 35% and decrease unemployment from 26% to around 18%.”

Abdul Rahman expected “all production sectors to witness a rise in their marketing share. The furniture sector is expected to cover the Palestinian market’s need, which currently reaches 85%. The pharmaceutical sector is expected to witness a rise from 50% to 70%.”

“With $1 billion invested in production, 70,000-100,000 job opportunities will be created. The continuing boycott for Israeli products will largely contribute to decreasing unemployment and poverty and enhancing the financial sustainability of the Palestinian government,” he added.

Abdel Karim of Birzeit University said that while the Palestinians should continue with their boycott, it is unlikely to change Israel’s policies. “The boycott is important on the political, moral and national levels. It should become a way of life. There are economic repercussions for the boycott of Israel, but there are basic goods that Palestinians cannot boycott, like fuel, electricity, cement and water,” he told Al-Monitor.


Abdel Karim said that Palestinians probably would only be able to boycott approximately $600 million worth of Israeli goods, which is a pinch of salt considering Israel’s overall trade volume is $160 billion. “The value of basic goods imported from Israel reaches $3 billion. There are also around $1 billion worth of personal consumption goods, some of which are irreplaceable. This means that the Israeli products that can be boycotted are worth $600 million. This boycott harms Israel economically, but it won’t push it to change its politics and occupation plans. Israel’s trade is estimated at $160 billion. So, the Palestinians have much more to gain from the boycott than the Israelis have to lose,” he said.

Large sums of money need to be invested into Palestinian industry to decrease the Palestinian economy’s dependence on Israel.

“Around $1 billion has to be invested in the rehabilitation of agricultural lands and development of factories to provide Palestinian alternatives worth $600 million. This will create jobs for around 30,000 Palestinians and will contribute to freeing Palestinians from dependency on Israel, even if partially. It will also support the international boycott that worries Israel,” Abdel Karim added.

Khaled Mansour believes that the boycott should be institutionalized. “Citizens should vow to boycott Israel and turn this into a culture rooted in people through integrating it in the school and university curricula and in the mosque sermons.” He asked the political leadership to “take an intrinsic decision to stop dealing with Israel according to the Paris Economic Protocol.”

These campaigns come in light of the increasing international boycott campaigns on Israel economically, academically and culturally. Israel is deeply concerned about the growing economic boycott in Europe, which will create many obstacles to the export of Israeli agricultural and industrial products to Europe.

Ahmad Melhem is a Palestinian journalist and photographer based in Ramallah for Al-Watan News, he writes for a number of Arabic outlets.

BDS activists occupy G4S offices in Portland

Fri, 22/08/2014 - 10:48am

A group of pro-Palestinian activists briefly occupied the Portland, Oregon offices of global security company G4S on Thursday, to protest its affiliation with the Israeli prison system.

U.K.-based G4S, the world’s largest security company in terms of revenue, has operations in some 125 countries, including 11 Arab states. Members of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Portland targeted G4S because it holds contracts to “provide equipment and services to Israeli prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners, are detained and mistreated.” They also cited G4S for providing “equipment and services to checkpoints, illegal settlements and businesses within these settlements.”

G4S announced in early June that it would end all Israeli prison contracts within the next three years, but activists assert that the company has made similar promises in past without following through.

The company recently won a contract to provide security for the city of Portland to provide security in several city-owned buildings, including Portland’s City Hall.
According to the International Middle East Media Center, activists briefly occupied the company’s office in an effort to shut it down for the day before being forced out by security.

“One local organizer stated: ‘As bombs continue to fall on the besieged Gaza Strip, we, as anti- Occupation Jews, Americans, Israelis, and other people of conscience call on G4S to heed the call of Palestinian civil society and divest from Israel until it complies with International law and the Universal Principles of Human Rights.’

The activists’ press release included quotes from members of the local Jewish community.

“Businesses that profit from human rights abuses, war, and possible crimes against humanity should have no place working for Trimet or City Hall,” said Jonathan Irwin, 28, who was quoted as a “Jewish American.”

“If G4S would like to keep its local contracts, they must pull out of Israel/Palestine and follow their own human rights policy more carefully,” he added.

Maya Rotem, stated in the press release: “As an Israeli Jew I have seen the Israeli military system that is used to oppress Palestinians and that violates human rights daily. G4S is a full accomplice in operating and maintaining this system, its checkpoints and military courts & jails. I urge G4S to sever its ties with Israel and stop its participation in the Israeli occupation and international human rights violations.”

The protesters demanded that G4S “honor its prior commitments to withdraw from Ofer prison, affiliated checkpoints, and affiliated West Bank police stations,” lay out plans to end contracts related to the West Bank, abide by its human rights guidance policy and review all its contracts throughout the world to make sure they adhere to its human rights guidance policy.


SLIDESHOW: Palestinians in Gaza say #StopArmingIsrael

Fri, 22/08/2014 - 6:38am

Amid the devastation, Palestinians in Gaza call on world governments to #StopArmingIsrael, and in particular, on Italy to ban Israeli participation in military training exercises on the Italian island of Sardegna planned for this fall.

Read the Palestinian call for an immediate and comprehensive military embargo on Israel.

Round-up: Creative actions and grassroots campaigns boost boycott and sanctions momentum and prioritize military embargo on Israel

Thu, 21/08/2014 - 4:58pm
Campaigners gather at the Oakland Port. (Charlotte Silver)

- Oakland activists prevent Israeli ship from docking for 4 days;
- Elbit arms factories in UK and Australia occupied by protesters
- EU to ban Israeli dairy and meat imports with any settlement connections
- European retailers and companies boycott Israel
- 7-million strong National Union of Students (UK) endorses BDS
- Fourth Scottish city council endorses the boycott of Israel

As Israel launched fresh bloody attacks on the 1.8 million Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, supporters of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement continue to take inspiring action and pile pressure on governments to impose a military embargo and other sanctions on Israel.

Oakland’s “Block the Boat!”

Thousands of supporters of Palestinian rights in the San Francisco Bay area have taken part in pickets and demonstrations that have prevented an Israeli ship from docking at the port in Oakland for four consecutive days.

The action, taken in response to a call from Palestinian trade unions in Gaza, prevented the Zim Pireaus ship from docking at Oakland entirely, and lasted for four days, forcing the ship to leave the port of Oakland without being unloaded. Dockworkers from the local International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) – Local 10 honored a community picket line, and refused to unload the ship.

“The hugely successful action in Oakland is an inspiring and effective display of solidarity by the community and workers of Oakland that has the potential of causing real damage to Zim, Israel’s biggest shipping company, and eventually to the Israeli economy as a whole,” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC).

“The accelerating growth of BDS around the world is the most appropriate first response to Israel’s massacre in Gaza. Ending Israel’s criminal impunity starts with grassroots actions that can pressure governments to act,” Nawajaa added.

The Oakland action follows weeks of huge mobilisations in support of Palestine, including an international Day of Rage for Gaza initiated by groups in Gaza that saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets to call for a boycott of Israel and demand governments impose sanctions and a military embargo on Israel (photos here, here and here).

“The global masses that demonstrated their support for Palestinian rights on the Day of Rage, remind us of the demonstrations in the 1980s against apartheid South Africa,” wrote Haidar Eid, a Palestinian academic, community leader and BDS activist based in Gaza.

EU to ban all Israeli dairy and meat imports if sourcing from illegal colonies

A dramatic deterioration in EU-Israeli trade relations has taken place, with the European Commission informing Israel that it intends to “completely ban the import of milk and dairy products from Israel, which may be in any way related to factories, dairies or farms located beyond the Green Line,” the Israeli daily Maariv reported.

“This decision is an important step forward, bringing EU policy and accountability measures towards Israel more in harmony with the BDS logic that products of any company with connections to the illegal Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory must be banned entirely,” said Michael Deas, Europe coordinator with the BNC.

“But these new moves still appear to rely on the EU trusting the word of Israeli exporters that have been shown to employ routine deception about the origin of their produce and do little to address the huge support that the EU affords to Israel despite its regular massacres of Palestinians. The EU must ban all trade with companies that operate in settlements and take steps to suspend its Association Agreement with Israel,” added Deas.

Latin American leaders call for BDS

A call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel has been a key demand of Palestinian civil society in the wake of Israel’s attack on Gaza. Six Nobel laureates and more than 90 public figures have called for a military embargo on Israel, a call that has been echoed by civil society groups, political parties and parliamentarians across the world. The BDS National Committee is urging people to add their names to a public petition for a military embargo that will be submitted to the UN General Assembly.

In a sign that calls for a military embargo are becoming increasingly mainstream, Amnesty International has built on its call for a military embargo on Israel by urging the US government to block a shipment of fuel destined for use by the Israeli military. Oxfam International has also issued a call for an end to arms sales to Israel.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, Fidel Castro and a series of other high-profile figures from central and Latin America have called for BDS action and government sanctions, in a powerfully worded statement. The statement follows the recalling of ambassadors by 5 Latin American countries and the suspension by Chile of negotiations on a free trade agreement with Israel.

A coalition of Chilean MPs from different parties has started a parliamentary petition asking the government to stop all acquisition of Israeli arms. Chile is one of the top 10 importers of Israeli weapons globally.

In Brazil, the Minister of Defense, Celso Amorim, is being called upon  to clarify all current military contracts with Israel as well as the ongoing presence of Brazilian military attachés in an office of the Brazilian armed forces in Tel Aviv.

Defying Palestinian and Amnesty International appeals for a military embargo on Israel, the German government, reports revealed, exported a heavily-subsidized military submarine with nuclear capability to Israel in the middle of its ongoing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Gaza, making Germany the second most complicit government in Israeli crimes after the US.

To its shame, the UK government has made announcements suggesting that it will continue to arm Israel. Campaigners had hoped that the resignation of a key government minister and calls for an end to arms sales to Israel by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg would force the government to impose a military embargo.

Israel hit by grassroots movement for boycott

Other key developments include:

- The executive of the UK National Union of Students, representing 7 million British students, passed a motion in support of BDS campaigns.

- Midlothian has become the fourth Scottish council to endorse BDS, following earlier decisions by Clackmannanshire, West Dunbartsonshire and Stirling.

- Major Israeli food exporters are facing an unprecedented wave of cancellations in orders from Europe as a result of Israel’s most recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, it has emerged. SuperValu, the biggest food distributor in Ireland, told the Irish media last week that it has withdrawn Israeli products from its shops and a silent boycott of Israeli produce is increasingly being adopted by major European retailers, according to the Israeli business press.

- Factories owned by Israeli arms company Elbit Systems have been occupied by activists in Australia and the UK, with the UK factory forced to close for two days. The UK activists that occupied the Elbit Systems factory have been charged with aggravated trespass, but have plead not guilty in court on the grounds that Elbit’s activities in arming Israel are themselves illegal.

- UK superstar comedian Russell Brand has released a video denouncing Barclays complicity with Elbit Systems and backing the 1.6m strong Avaaz petition calling for divestment from companies that arm Israel and participate in its violations of international law and . Brand is the latest in a long list of celebrities that have spoken publicly in support of Palestine in recent weeks.

- The Argentine confederation of Trade Unions CTA has called on the government to suspend the Free Trade Agreement between the Mercosul regional bloc and Israel and is spearheading an initiative among trade unions from the region for a joint effort calling for the suspension of the agreement.

- Irish and Leinster rugby star Gordon Darcy took part in a protest with 2,000 people supporting the people of Palestine. His Exchequer Bar was one of the first in Ireland to ban the use of Israeli products.

Stop U.S Repression of African Americans in Ferguson

Wed, 20/08/2014 - 8:21pm

Palestinians Express Deep Solidarity with U.S. Minorities’ Struggle for Justice, Equality and Dignity

 “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”–Martin Luther King, Jr.

Occupied Palestine, 20 August 2014 — On behalf of Palestinians everywhere, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) expresses its deep solidarity with the African American community of Ferguson, Missouri in the aftermath of the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown by a police officer on August 9th. We convey our condolences to Brown’s family and friends and to all minority communities struggling to end the still-entrenched system of racism, racial discrimination and disenfranchisement.

In response to the people’s demands for justice for Michael and an end to police brutality against African Americans, police in Ferguson have shamefully launched a militarized attack against unarmed protestors. Heavily deploying tear gas and rubber bullets, police tactics partially reflected the training that some of the law enforcement agencies involved in Ferguson had received from Israeli security forces in recent years, as revealed in media reports.

We recognize those tactics being used in Ferguson and the mentality behind them. The dehumanization of the victim, the corporate media distortions of the realities, the obfuscation of the root causes of the protests, and the methods of unbridled violence and control being used by security forces are all too familiar to Palestinians living under Israel’s decades-old occupation. Indeed, Israel’s dehumanization of Palestinians, particularly the 1.8 million living in the world’s largest open-air prison in Gaza, paved the way for the current massacre being perpetrated by the Israeli army. How else can Israel rationalize its murder of more than 470 Palestinian children and the obliteration of entire families in Gaza by air, sea and land bombardment?

We recognize that Michael Brown’s murder is part of a system that claims the mantle of some “Anglo-American civilization” while stereotyping and endangering African Americans, especially young men, based on their race. U.S. racial justice and labor activist Bill Fletcher Jr. comments on the wider context of the Ferguson repression saying, “The racial terror against African Americans seeks to ensure that we remain immobilized and disorganized.” But our sisters and brothers in Ferguson have not been intimidated by this terror; they have shown the world their inspiring capacity to mobilize and self-organize in empowering actions against repression, for social and economic justice, for equal rights, and for a dignified future.

Michael’s death has been met with outrage and anger among the people of Palestine struggling for freedom, justice and equality. We strongly believe that the oppressed of the world must stand united in the face of racism, racial repression and injustice. Together we can prevail. Together we shall prevail.

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)

Israel’s Most Important Source of Capital: California

Wed, 20/08/2014 - 11:01am

Last Saturday between one and two thousand protesters marched on the Port of Oakland to blockade one of its busy marine terminals and prevent an Israeli ship from docking. After confronting a line of police guarding the waterfront the protesters declared victory; the Zim Lines vessel hovered offshore, afraid to dock, they said, and port workers wouldn’t be unloading its cargo.

One protester, looking beyond the line of police guarding the port, explained that the purpose of the action was to “impede the flow of capital.” Stopping one of Zim’s ships—the company’s vessels arrive in Oakland about four times a month, according to Zim’s web site—was a small, but real economic blow against Israel.

But if it’s a matter of stopping the flow of capital, the ports are a relatively small conduit of trade between California and Israel. For over 20 years California’s technology industry has been channeling billions of dollars to finance the growth of Israeli tech firms. In that time, tech has become a key sector for Israel’s economy. The flow of capital between California and Israel is digital, transmitted as currency and intellectual property. And this flow of capital occurs mostly through the decisions of a small number private equity firms and perhaps as few as a dozen large corporations. These flows of capital supporting Israel’s economy are less susceptible to social movement pressure.

The amount of support of for Israel’s economy originating from Silicon Valley’s private equity firms is especially large. In 2001, during the first year of the Second Intifada, Sequoia Capital Partners, a private equity company headquartered in Menlo Park, raised $150 million to invest in Israeli technology companies. This was Sequoia’s second Israel-focused venture capital fund. Last year Sequoia raised its fifth Israel-dedicated fund, totaling $215 million. Since 1999 Sequoia Capital has injected over $789 million into Israel’s software and electronics industries. Much of this money managed by Sequoia Capital was contributed by California investors, including major tax-exempt institutions like the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Accel Venture Partners, another one of the giants of Silicon Valley private equity, set up its first Israel-focused investment vehicle in 2001. Joseph Shoendorf of Accel told the Haaretz newspaper in 2007 that Accel has invested over $200 million in 20 Israeli companies. He added that many of Accel’s investments in Israel are not the run-of-the-mill consumer apps and gadgets that are so popular in the Bay Area’s tech scene. Although Israeli engineers produce plenty of that, Shoendorf said, “the world’s security situation is expected to get worse, and as a result, inventiveness will increase. The armies of the world are seeking solutions to a problem, and will encourage technological answers.”  Last March, Accel successfully raised $475 million for a fund that will burn a lot of its powder supporting Israeli tech companies.

You’re starting to get the picture. Billions flow from California’s Bay Area into Israel to support chip manufacturers, Internet startups, and telecommunications companies.

A lot of California’s venture capital has been exported to Israel to fund military and cybersecurity startups. Israeli society, constantly mobilized for a counter-insurgency war and occupation, creates an environment in which the nation’s hi-tech firms see their main role as contributing to the security of the Jewish state.

But the U.S. tech industry is also steeped in surveillance and weapons companies, and even the big consumer and enterprise brands like Google, Microsoft, and Cisco produce militarized software and hardware for use in the “homeland” and abroad. The contributions of Hewlett Packard in creating Israel’s biometric tracking system to control the movements of Palestinians is well known. Hewlett Packard also maintains the Israel Defense Ministry’s server farms, a job IBM previously held.  What makes the California-Israel economic connection powerful, however, isn’t so much the nature of the technologies being traded, and the capabilities they provide the Israeli state and military, but more so the sheer economic value of these transactions.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Israel received $1.846 billion in direct investment from U.S. investors in 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available. This is about two thirds of the total military aid the U.S. government provided Israel the same year.

U.S. investors have built up large positions in Israel’s economy, mostly through ownership of stock in Israeli corporations. In 2012 U.S. investors held a $19.7 billion stake in Israel’s economy, more than double the interest owned by all European countries combined. And corporations registered in the Cayman Islands, a tax shelter where thousands of American investors establish offshore funds, owned another $8.6 billion of Israel’s economy. For example, the Sequoia Capital Partners venture firm of Menlo Park raised $215 million last August to invest entirely in Israel. The legal place of incorporation for this fund? The Cayman Islands.

California investors own and manage stakes in Israeli companies like Mellanox Technologies, Ltd.. In 2002 Silicon Valley venture capital firms and several U.S. tech companies provided Mellanox with $64 million in funding. The American investors included three Menlo Park private equity firms, Sequoia Venture Partners, U.S. Venture Partners, and Bessemer Venture Partners, as well as technology giants IBM and Intel. Using this capital, Mellanox, headquartered in Yokneam, Israel, grew from a small company into a transnational technology giant valued today at $1.8 billion. It’s a key supplier of hardware to Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Intel. It’s main office in Yokneam looks like any other tech campus you can see in San Mateo County off the 101 Highway with gleaming glass mid-rise buildings tucked among trees and grass.

Yokneam is in the heart of Israel’s Silicon Wadi (“wadi” being a dry stream bed in Arabic, meaning “valley” in colloquial Hebrew). Prior to 1948 Yokneam was called Qira, the site of a Palestinian village and farms, but the area was “depopulated” and occupied by Israeli forces, and later settled and transformed into one of Israel’s most affluent cities.

Lots of Silicon Valley venture capital firms have set up offices in Israel. The location of choice for California investors seems to be Herzliya Pituach, a posh ocean side district of the city of Herliya. North of Tel Aviv, Herzliya is named after Theodor Herzl, considered by many to be the intellectual father of Zionism. The Herzliya Pituach is one of the wealthiest spots in all of Israel, home to many of the nation’s elite families. Bessemer Venture Partners’ Israel office is located just a few blocks from the Marinali Marina yacht harbor, and a short drive from million dollar beachfront homes. Sequoia Venture Partners maintain an office on Ramat Yam in one of the high rise towers with views of the azure Mediterranean Sea.

The business links between Silicon Valley and Israel aren’t apolitical. Many of California’s venture capital investors and technology executives are staunch supporters of pro-Israel causes. They have established numerous nonprofit organizations to strengthen economic and political ties between California and Israel.

The California-Israel Chamber of Commerce, located in Sunnyvale in an office park filled with software firms, is funded by Silicon Valley investors, corporations and law firms including Intel, Paypal, Silicon Valley Bank, and Morrison Foerster. Executives from these companies sit on the Chamber’s board of directors. Their ties to pro-Israel political groups are numerous.

Zvi Alon, a director of the California-Israel Chamber, runs a family foundation out of his Los Altos Hills home. Alongside a donation of $9,900 in 2011 to the California-Israel Chamber, Alon also made donations worth $36,000 to the Friends of Israeli Defense Forces. Alon is also credited as being a founder ofIsrael21C, an “online news magazine offering the single most diverse and reliable source of news and information about 21st century Israel to be found anywhere.”

Operating out of offices on Montgomery Street in downtown San Francisco, across the Street from Israel’s consulate, Israel21C produces media promoting Israel’s technology companies. Recent articles published by the group include “20 top tech inventions born of conflict,” and a profile of the “maverick thinker” behind the creation of Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system. A recent film produced by the organization promotes Tel Aviv as a startup epicenter similar to San Francisco.

The General Consul of Israel in San Francisco, Andy David, is a board member of the California-Israel Chamber, as is the president of Silicon Valley Bank.

Nir Merry, another board member of the California-Israel Chamber, was born and partly raised in Israel in the Ma’agan Michael kibbutz. His father worked in a hidden underground ammunition factory making armaments used by Jewish commandoes in the battles that created the state of Israel. In a talk to students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, Merry elaborated on the links between Israel’s technology companies and its military.

“I volunteered to become a commando. It’s quite related to the topic of innovation,” said Merry. “Because to be a commando we have to be very innovative.”

Silicon Valley’s financial and technological assistance to Israel is by no means only a private sector effort. In March of 2014 Governor Jerry Brown signed a memorandum of understanding with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promising to promote economic links between California and Israel. The setting for the signing ceremony, Mountain View’s Computer History Museum, underscored the centrality of the tech industry in the agreement.

On the same trip Netanyahu visited Apple’s Cupertino headquarters where he was ushered into the executive board room for a chat with the company’s leaders. He also toured Stanford University.

Netanyahu’s California appearance was designed to beat back the Palestinian solidarity movement’s boycott, divest and sanction campaigners who, in recent years, have increased pressure on California’s universities and other public institutions to divest from companies that do business with Israel. During the signing ceremony for the MOU that would give Israeli companies access to California’s technology infrastructure, Netanyahu thanked Governor Brown for California’s divestment from Iran. In 2012, California virtually barred insurance companies from owning Iranian assets. Earlier the state passed legislation requiring its pension funds to divest from Iranian companies. As a result of these laws, the state’s teachers retirement fund CalSTRS even consults with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee regarding its investments.

Netanyahu also thanked Brown for the economic benefits that California’s giant public employee pension funds, CalPERS and CalSTRS, provide to Israel. Both are major investors in Israel’s economy.

The California-Israel MOU originated from California assembly member Bob Blumenfield’s office. Blumenfield, the sponsor and author of several Iran sanctions bills, is now a city council member in Los Angeles. Blumenfield is a staunch ally of Israel, and has used his political offices, from Sacramento to the state’s largest city, to strike back against the boycott, divest, sanction movement aimed against the Israeli military occupation of Palestine. Most recently Blumenfield organized LA’s top elected officials, including mayor Eric Garcetti, to make a public statement in support of Israel.

“We stand with Israel against a Hamas regime that terrorizes Israelis from the skies and now, from beneath the ground,” Blumenfield told the public.

Mayor Garcetti called Israel “our strongest ally in a tumultuous region.”

Palestinian solidarity activists inside Israel’s biggest economic and military partner, the United States, and inside one of its biggest investors, California, have struggled for years to build a boycott, divest and sanction movement. They’ve asked pension funds and universities to divest from companies that do business with the state of Israel, and they’ve asked academics and musicians to boycott Israel by canceling concerts and shunning conferences. They’ve had some success, but as California’s continuing links to Israel show, their task is a difficult one.

Their struggle will continue long after Zim’s ship pulls anchor and leaves Oakland’s harbor. Supporters of Israel will be working to strengthen California’s ties to their cause and prevent any economic protest movement from gaining traction. This coming October the California-Israel Chamber of Commerce will be hosting an international business summit at the Microsoft Campus in Mountain View where innovation and investment will be among the topics of discussion. And between now and then another six to eight Israeli vessels will probably also moor along Oakland’s waterfront trading millions in goods.

Darwin Bond-Graham is a sociologist and investigative journalist. He is a contributing editor to Counterpunch. His writing appears in the East Bay Express, Village Voice, LA Weekly and other newspapers. He blogs about the political economy of California at


South African president meets with BDS activists

Wed, 20/08/2014 - 10:55am

President Jacob Zuma met representatives of civil society, trade unions, and the ANC Youth League to discuss support for Palestine, lobby group Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) SA said on Thursday.

“The 90 minute meeting on Palestine was convened in response to growing protests by South African civil society across the country including a recent 9th August 150 000 person strong protest march in Cape Town,” BDS SA’s Muhammed Desai said in a statement.

“In the meeting with the president we expressed what the hundreds of thousands of South Africans want our government to do in support of the Palestinians.”

The meeting was held at Zuma’s official residence Genadendal in Cape Town on Wednesday.

Representatives of the National Coalition 4 Palestine, BDS SA, the Congress of SA Trade Unions, the African National Congress Youth League, People Against Suffering and Oppression, Young Communist League of SA, University of Cape Town Students Representative Council, Minara Chamber of Commerce, Kairos Southern Africa, Muslim Judicial Council, and StopTheJNF were present.

The group called for boycotts, divestments and sanctions against Israel.

They also reiterated the call for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled from Pretoria.

“During the meeting President Jacob Zuma listened carefully to all the views presented by the various organisations and indicated a willingness to engage.

“The president explained the role South Africa is trying to play diplomatically while also acknowledging and considering our demands and not dismissing them.”

Desai said Zuma was willing to work with the group towards finding a long-term solution

The group would have another meeting with Zuma in a week’s time.

Israeli ship is blocked from unloading in Oakland for four straight days

Tue, 19/08/2014 - 9:08pm

San Francisco Bay Area activists have not allowed a vessel from Israel’s largest shipping company to unload in the Oakland Port for four consecutive mornings.

On Tuesday, 19 August, at 6:45am, activists declared yet another victory against the Zim Line, which has been trying to make its way into Oakland since Saturday, 16 August.

Lara Kiswani, the executive director of the local Arab Resource and Organizing Center, told The Electronic Intifada that they are now waiting to hear if the Zim Line will leave the Port of Oakland today with the cargo it brought. “If not,” Kiswani wrote in an email, “we will continue to mobilize until it does.”

Organizers had initially planned a one-day action for 16 August, delaying the weekly, Saturday-scheduled offloading of the Zim ship by just one full work day. Saturday’s success was seamless: the Zim Pireaus avoided the Oakland Port completely, preferring to remain at sea south of Oakland rather than meet the thousands of protesters who had descended onto the docks.

But, fueled off the initial triumph, activists returned to Berth 57 at the Oakland Port the next evening, on Sunday, 17 August.

At 5pm Sunday, activists released an urgent call for activists to convene at the port. Within thirty minutes of the call, hundreds of people returned to the docks. Workers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) – Local 10 honored the picket line, and refused to unload the ship.

No one would cross

Leading up to Saturday’s action, organizers had worked hard to gain the support of workers with the local ILWU, whose contracts are currently expired. While many ILWU members are eager to lend their support to Palestine — as they did before, in 2010 — others were still concerned about missing a day of work in the absence of an internal contract agreement.

But Monday came, and the Zim Line sat at the Oakland Port: no one would cross the picket line, even though the numbers of demonstrators had thinned since the weekend — and as of Tuesday morning, the ship remained full of cargo. Because the union is out of contract, they are not obliged to defer to a port arbitrator to decide whether or not they must go to work as it is an internal decision.

On Monday, the ILWU issued a statement on their compliance with the picket line, maintaining that it was the “unsafe conditions” that led them to their decision:

The ILWU has taken no position on the issue associated with the demonstration, but in cases when unsafe circumstances arise at the point of entry, the union must protect the safety of its members in the workplace …

SSA [Stevedoring Services of America], after recognizing the safety situation associated with ingress to their gates, released all ILWU manpower at 7:30 p.m.

More actions to come

This is the first time that an Israeli ship has been obstructed from docking for more than one day due to protest.

Activists here are looking forward to the future. In September, an annual weapons convention held in Oakland, Urban Shield, will feature numerous Israeli companies, and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center (AROC) is already mobilizing against it.

While the port shutdown was in response to Israel’s current bombardment of Gaza and a direct appeal by Palestinian trade union groups, local organizations like AROC want the action to mark the first of many direct mobilizations against Israel’s decades-long control of Palestinians and US-supported colonization of their land.

Ireland’s biggest food retailer drops Israeli produce, as European boycotts surge

Tue, 19/08/2014 - 6:58pm

Major Israeli food exporters are facing an unprecedented wave of cancelations in orders from Europe as a result of Israel’s most recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

SuperValu, the biggest food distributor in Ireland, told the Irish media last week that it has withdrawn Israeli products from its shops.

And Israeli media reports suggest that other major European retailers have taken similar decisions without announcing them publicly.

Israeli fruit and vegetable exporters have faced cancelations from Scandinavia, the UK, France, Belgium and Ireland.

Retailers have become fearful of the rapidly growing consumer boycott of Israeli goods, according to an 11 August article in Hebrew business website The Marker.

A spokesperson for EDOM, a major Israeli fruit grower and exporter that has extensive operations in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, told The Marker:

Importers from Europe are telling us that they can’t sell Israeli produce … One European buyer has told me that he had been blocked in several chains in Denmark and Sweden, and then in Belgium. Last weekend, he told me that mangoes which had been packaged in the Netherlands, as always, and shipped to Ireland, were returned, claiming that Israeli produce would not be accepted …

I’ve heard of major exporters from whom chains in southern France are no longer buying. There is no official boycott, but everyone is afraid of selling Israeli fruits. We can only hope that things do not get worse.

Among the other exporters interviewed for the article is an Israeli pomegranate grower who is quoted as saying that they had been forced to cancel their “entire work plan in the UK” because major retail chains were no longer interested in Israeli goods, and that similar messages had been received from importers in Belgium and Scandinavia.

separate article published in The Marker on 27 July details how fruit juice producer Priniv had lost a major contract with a business in Sweden after refusing a request to export the produce in a way that would make it easier to conceal the fact it was produced in Israel. Customers in Belgium and France also made similar requests.

Priniv director Ido Yaniv attributes the drop in sales to Israel’s attack on Gaza.

Organized boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns have in recent years succeeded in pressuring retailers across Europe to announce that they will not stock produce from illegal Israeli settlements or from companies that operate in settlements. The Tesco chain the UK is the latest to make such an announcement.

But it is now becoming increasingly clear that European businesses are starting to react to growing public support for Palestinian rights and boycotts of Israel in Europe. They are deciding not to sell Israeli produce of any kind — at least for now.

“Disposal” of Israeli goods

Ireland’s largest grocery and food retailer distributor SuperValu instructed all of its 232 stores to remove Israeli products from the shelves earlier this month.

In an email to store managers, the chain called on store managers to “remove all stock from available sale and dispose of [it] at store level.”

“It’s mostly fruit and vegetables, carrots and herbs more specifically,” a source from the retailer told the Irish Herald

Following the Irish Herald story, SuperValu issued a statement saying that it has not officially endorsed the boycott of Israel but did not deny that Israeli products have been removed from its stores.

Major Irish toy store Smyths may have taken a similar decision, temporarily displaying a poster at one Dublin store stating that it had removed products made in Israel from the shelves.

The decisions come as part of a huge upsurge in support of the Palestinian struggle and boycotts of Israel across Ireland.

Protests have been held in retailers across the country and calls for boycott have been made by national trade unions, local councils and even sports stars including Irish and Leinster rugby star Gordon Darcy.

Building the boycott

Calls for boycotts of Israeli products, for sanctions and a military embargo to be imposed on Israel have been a key part of the huge mass demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza that have taken place across the world in recent weeks.

Civil society organizations are responding to the attack on Gaza by announcing new boycott initiatives.

In the weeks and months that follow, the challenge for campaigners will be to ramp up the pressure on retailers to remove Israeli products and to make their refusal to do so public.

Campaigns against the sale of Israeli fresh produce have been a major focus of the solidarity movement in Europe in recent years.

BDS initiatives have focused on Israeli companies such as Mehadrin and EDOM that play a key role in the colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and profit from the siege of Gaza, as research published by Palestinian farming unions has detailed.

In January, Israeli settler leaders in the Jordan Valley region of the West Bank told the Associated Press that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign had cost settlers $29 million in lost sales, especially in Europe.

Campaigns against Israeli fresh produce exporters have intensified following thedecision by the UK Co-operative retail chain to boycott all companies that operate in settlements, with campaigns also underway in FranceSpainBelgium, theNetherlandsGermanyNorway and Sweden.

In 2011, Israeli export company Agrexco entered into liquidation after boycotts and campaigns in thirteen European countries that saw retailers cut links with the company, blockades of its UK and Belgium warehouses and a huge mobilization against plans for an Agrexco distribution center in Sete in the south of France.

Israeli analyst Shir Hever suggested at the time that farmers leaving Agrexco to export their products through other channels because of the boycott campaign was a major factor behind the company’s collapse.

With thanks to Boycott From Within for translation from Hebrew.


On Gaza and global rage

Tue, 19/08/2014 - 5:59pm

Palestinian efforts to encourage a boycott of Israel, modeled on the South African anti-apartheid global campaign, is gaining momentum as a democratic movement

On 9 August, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide took to the streets in response to a call from Palestinian civil society in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip, and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions, National Committee (BNC), for a Day of Rage.

This mobilization comes as grassroots pressure mounts on complicit Western governments to impose a military embargo on Israel. In its call for a Day of Rage, Palestinian Civil Society made it absolutely clear that:

“As we face the full might of Israel’s military arsenal, funded and supplied by the United States and the European Union, we call on civil society and people of conscience throughout the world to pressure governments to sanction Israel and implement a comprehensive arms embargo immediately. Take to the streets … with a united demand for sanctions on Israel.”

In response to an earlier call issued by the same civil society organizations in Gaza, and endorsed by the BNC, Spain announced a “provisional” suspension of military exports to Israel on 31 July. On 7 August, Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, became the first head of state to declare his support for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). These actions were a precursor to the global support for Gaza and Palestine shown on 9 August.

The Israeli wrath inflicted on the Palestinians of Gaza, two-thirds of whom are refugees, entitled to the right of return, comes within an ideological context of tribal bigotry, racism, and exclusivism. In 2004, Israeli Professor Arnon Soffer, Head of the Israeli Occupation Force’s National Defense College, and advisor to Ariel Sharon, spelt out Israel’s macabre expectation from the unilateral Israeli disengagement from Gaza (2005) in an interview with The Jerusalem Post:

“[W]hen 1.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it’s going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today,… The pressure at the border will be awful. It’s going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day…If we don’t kill, we will cease to exist…Unilateral separation doesn’t guarantee “peace” – it guarantees a Zionist-Jewish state with an overwhelming majority of Jews”

Then, there is the view bluntly expressed in 2002 by Israel’s then chief of staff, General Moshe Yaalon, which sums up the objective of the current blood bath: “The Palestinians must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people”.

The resemblance of Israel’s campaign of tribal racist hate both to that of apartheid South Africa and to Hitler’s murderous regime has recently been articulated by ANC freedom fighter and former South African Cabinet Minister, Ronnie Kasrils, who is Jewish:

“Certainly we South Africans can identify the pathological cause, fuelling the hate, of Israel’s political-military elite and public in general. Neither is this difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenseless civilians – women, children, the elderly amongst them. In fact was this not the pathological racist ideology that fuelled Hitler’s war lust and implementation of the Holocaust?”

The Israeli establishment’s stated goal of annihilating Palestinians to manage the “demographic threat” and to maintain “calm” by “mowing the lawn” (Israeli-speak for flattening Gaza every two years) is exactly why we in Palestine have concluded that the Palestinian struggle for self-determination must work to isolate apartheid Israel in the same way that apartheid South Africa was isolated through a campaign of Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS.)

Today, there is a growing mass-based non-violent struggle inside Palestine, alongside other forms of struggle, exactly as there was inside apartheid South Africa. It is also evident today that the Palestinian BDS campaign, modeled on the South African anti-apartheid global campaign, is gaining momentum as a democratic movement based on the universality of human rights and the implementation of international law. These values are the antithesis of Zionism, Israel’s hegemonic ideology, which is about religious, ethnic, and racial superiority. Our struggle, like that of Blacks in South Africa, and African Americans in the United States, is inclusive and pluralistic: one that maintains our humanity and dignity in the face of a racist, genocidal state.

This is exactly what Steve Biko, a hero of the South African anti-apartheid struggle – who paid with his life for the freedom of all South Africans – meant when he said:

“Not only have the whites been guilty of being on the offensive, but by some skilful manoeuvres, they have managed to control the responses of the blacks to the provocation. Not only have they kicked the black, but they have also told him how to react to the kick. For a long time the black has been listening with patience to the advice he has been receiving on how best to respond to the kick. With painful slowness he is now beginning to show signs that it is his right and duty to respond to the kick in the way he sees fit.”

And we, Palestinians, have decided to respond to the Zionist kick in the way we see fit! And for that, we need the support of the freedom-loving “every man and every woman”, as opposed to the complicit, official world leaders who have chosen to support oppression and blame the victim. Now is the time for global civil society to help us end Israeli racism and genocide. The only way to ensure a just peace and redress for Palestinian dispossession is for global civil society to intensify the boycott of the apartheid Israeli state, and by advocating for divestment from Israel and sanctions against it.

Veteran Australian journalist John Pilger , writing in The New Statesman on the 2009 assault on Gaza said:

“What happens in Gaza is the defining moment of our time, which either grants the impunity of war criminals the immunity of our silence, while we contort our own intellect and morality, or gives us the power to speak out.”

The global masses that demonstrated their support for Palestinian rights on the Day of Rage, remind us of the demonstrations in the 1980s against apartheid South Africa. These global protests since 2009 have shown us in Palestine that this is our “South Africa moment”. Just as the South African internal mass-based anti-apartheid struggle and the international anti-apartheid boycott and solidarity movement brought an end to the apartheid regime, Palestinians, with the support of people of conscience worldwide, will bring an end to Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression.

Governments across the world must be forced to act in accordance with the will of their people and hold Israel accountable for war crimes, and impose sanctions and an arms embargo. People of conscience globally have spoken and their voices have reached us here in Gaza. We know that their voices have been heard in the capitals of the world and that their voices signal an end to Israeli apartheid. The clock is ticking.

Hence the importance of the Gaza Day of Rage!

- Dr Haidar Eid is Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature, Al-Aqsa University, Gaza Strip, Palestine.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo credit: housands of people stage a solidarity demonstration for Gaza toprotest the Israeli attacks in Gaza Strip on August 9, 2014 in Cape Town, South Africa.
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Freedom and justice For Gaza: Boycott action against 7 complicit companies

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 4:54pm

Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is once again committing heinous massacres on the Palestinian people in Gaza.

Israel enjoys criminal impunity because of the direct support from governments in the North America and Europe but also from corporations that are implicated in the Israeli occupation and egregious human rights violations.

There are dozens of companies that play an active and ongoing role in facilitating Israeli apartheid. In light of the exceptionally bloody massacres Israel is currently committing in Gaza, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) suggests to BDS activists and every conscientious person and organization around the world to target the following 7 companies as a matter of urgency.

READ MORE: Read our Get Involved page for more ideas on companies to boycott and ways to get involved in the Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement

1. Hewlett Packard (HP)

IT company Hewlett Packard is involved in various Israeli violations of international law through providing the Israeli occupation forces with a vast range of IT services and infrastructure solutions.

This includes the operation of an ID system installed in Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and the administration of the IT system of the Israeli Navy that enforces the naval blockade of Gaza and that is deeply involved in committing war crimes in the ongoing aggression on Gaza.

By providing such significant support to the Israeli military, HP is an active accomplice to Israel’s siege on Gaza. That’s why the Presbyterian Church USA and the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) have divested from the company.

Take action:
- Boycott HP consumer products. Don’t buy HP laptops, printers or ink cartridges!
- Sign the petition calling on HP CEO Meg Whitman to end the company’s collaboration with the Israeli military
- Campaign for divestment from HP and for the company to be excluded from public contracts. Get in touch for ideas on how to get started.

2. Caterpillar

Caterpillar bulldozers are regularly used in the demolition of Palestinian homes and farms, and the Israeli army has used unmanned Caterpillar bulldozers in the 2008-09 attacks in Gaza. A CAT bulldozer was also used by Israel in killing US activist Rachel Corrie in Rafah in 2003. The Presbyterian Church USA, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) and the Church of England have all divested from Caterpillar.

Take action:
Boycott Caterpillar consumer products such as shoes, bags and tools!
- Campaign for divestment from Caterpillar. Get in touch for ideas on how to get started.

3. SodaStream

While not directly implicated in Israel’s on-going attack in Gaza, home drink carbonation machines produced by SodaStream are one of Israel’s most visible and widely advertised exports. Tax revenue from SodaStream sales help to fund Israel’s attack on Gaza.

SodaStream operates in the illegal Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the occupied West Bank, and the company’s plan to open a factory inside Israel beside Rahat, a planned Palestinian Bedouin township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, amounts to participation in Israel’s plans to forcibly displace at least 40,000 Palestinian Bedouins into townships.

John Lewis in the UK recently became the latest retailer to stop stocking SodaStream products and protests forced a SodaStream store in Brighton, UK, to close recently. The company’s share price has fallen by 50% in the past year, especially since a scandal over actor Scarlett Johansson’s association with the brand.

Take action:
- Boycott all SodaStream products and call on retailers not to stock them!
- Organise a demonstration or flashmob at a retailer near you that sells SodaStream products. Check out Codepink’s action guide for ideas.

4. Elbit Systems

Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest military company. It provides a wide range of equipment and services to the Israeli military, including surveillance equipment used in Israel’s illegal Wall and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as drones. Elbit Systems armed drones are widely used by the Israeli military and were documented as being used in attacks on unarmed civilians during the 2008-09 assault on Gaza.

According to Palestinian human rights organization Al Mezan Center, armed drones killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza in the period 2000-2010. Palestinian and international human rights organisations have reported numerous attacks on Palestinians by drones during the current attack on Gaza.

Elbit Systems markets its drone technology across the world as ‘field tested’. Countries that have procured UAVs from Elbit include Australia, Canada, Croatia, France, Georgia, Mexico, Singapore, Sweden, the UK, Brazil and USA.

The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund and more than a dozen European banks have divested from Elbit Systems.

Take action:
- Sign the call for a military embargo on Israel
- Call on UK bank Barclays and on pension funds to divest from Elbit Systems

5. Israeli banks (including Hapoalim and Leumi)

© Oren Ziv/ActiveStills

Israel’s private banks provide the financial infrastructure for all activities of companies, military bodies, governmental agencies and individuals in the continuing occupation of Palestinian and Syrian territory and provide significant financing to the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and the on-going colonisation of Palestinian land.

Israeli banks have severed their contractual connections with the Palestinian banks in Gaza and stopped providing any and all services to them. Given the way in which the Palestinian economy is dominated by and dependent on the Israeli economy, this had a devastating impact on the local Gazan economy.

A number of European pension funds including Dutch pension giant PGGM, the Luxembourg sovereign wealth fund and Denmark’s biggest bank Danske Bank have already divested from Israeli banks.

Take Action:
- Send a Tweet to Dutch Pension giant ABP calling on them to divest from Israeli banks that fund the Israel occupation and settlements
- Campaign for your own pension fund or any institution you are a part of to divest from Israeli banks. Get in touch for ideas on how to get started.

6. G4S

G4S is a British security company that provides a wide range of equipment and services to the Israeli government and military including to Israeli checkpoints and to prisons where Palestinians, including many children, are held without trial and subjected to torture.

G4S provides equipment used in Israeli-run checkpoints at the Erez crossing between occupied Gaza and Israel, thereby directly assisting Israel’s siege on Gaza.

The international campaign against G4S has cost the company millions of dollars in contracts with universities, charities and other public bodies and has seen the Bill Gates Foundation, the United Methodist Church and others divest from the company.

In response, G4S has recently claimed that it will end some aspects of its role in Israeli apartheid and has stated it intends to end its role in Israel’s prisons by 2017, yet the campaign against the company must continue until its complicity in Israeli apartheid verifiably comes to a complete end.

Take action:
- Add your name to the open letter calling on G4S to end its support for Israeli apartheid and colonialism
- Campaign for your G4S to be excluded from public contracts. Get in touch for ideas on how to get started.

7. Mekorot

Click to view a larger version of this infographic on Israel’s water apartheid

Mekorot is Israel’s national water company and illegally appropriates Palestinian water, diverting it to illegal Israeli settlements and towns inside Israel, and imposes severe obstacles to Palestinians accessing their own water.

Mekorot is part of the Israeli occupation complex that denies Palestinians access to their fair share of aquifers that should be shared between Israel and Gaza. Palestinian and international organisations in Gaza are warning that Gaza’s water crisis is being rapidly escalated by the on-going assault on Gaza.

Mekorot is now seeking to export its discriminatory water practises and is bidding to take over water supplies all across the world as they are being privatised. Authorities in Argentina, Netherlands and Portugal have cancelled cooperation deals with Mekorot following BDS pressure.

Take action:
- Share this fact sheet on Mekorot
- Campaign for Mekorot to be excluded from local authority contracts. Get in touch for more info and ideas

READ MORE: Read our Get involved page for more ideas on companies to boycott and ways to get involved in the BDS movement

Britain decides to keep on arming Israel

Thu, 14/08/2014 - 7:28pm

Also read: British arms sales to Israel face high court challenge

Britain remains determined to keep on arming Israel, judging by a decision taken by one of the most senior figures in the UK government this week.

Vince Cable, the business secretary, has reviewed 130 licenses granted for exporting British weapons to Israel. On Tuesday, he announced that just twelve of these licenses would be suspended “in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities.”

This means that if the current “truce” between Israel and Hamas holds, then Britain will deliver all the military equipment that Israel has ordered. Israel will be able to prepare for its next offensive against Gaza, with the aid of British weaponry.

The Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) in London has complained that Cable’s decision was “not good enough.” Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for CAAT, called on the government to announce a “full embargo on all arms sales to Israel as well as an end to all military-industrial collaboration with Israel.”

Broken promises

Cable’s stance is a case of broken promises. His party, the Liberal Democrats, had urged that Britain cease selling arms to Israel in early 2009 (as a response to Operation Cast Lead, a three-week bombardment of Gaza).

The Lib Dems were in opposition then. Now that they are in government, Cable appears more interested in pleasing arms-dealers than honoring commitments to defend human rights.

Yet Cable has been consistent in terms of government behavior.

After providing the Israeli military arms that were used during Cast Lead, the UK reviewed its licenses for arms exports and revoked five used by the Israeli Navy.

A British parliamentary committee on arms exports wrote in its 2010 annual report: “It is regrettable that arms exports to Israel were almost certainly used in Operation Cast Lead.”

In January 2010, Ivan Lewis, then a minister of state for the Foreign Office, stated that “The whole point of the review process was to look at the lessons learned from a particular conflict and to use those lessons as an additional safeguard to the consolidated criteria.”

The lesson learned was limited: Lewis emphasized there would “not be any arms embargo against Israel” as the British government was “firmly of the view that Israel faces real threats.”

“Morally indefensible”

And indeed, four years later — on 2 August 2014 — CAAT revealed that the UK’s exports of military wares to Israel since 2010 were valued at £42 million ($70 million). The revelation came three weeks after Israel had commenced its massive assault on Gaza.

Yet another review was then announced, again with the proviso that Israel has a “legitimate right to self-defense.”

Former foreign office minister Sayeeda Warsi argued that arms exports to Israel “must stop.” Last week, Warsi resigned from the government in protest over Britain’s approach to the attack on Gaza, describing it as “morally indefensible.”

Furthermore, when Cable announced the possible suspension of licenses he echoed Israel’s claims that its bombing of hospitals and schools in Gaza was an act of defense, stating, “the vast majority of exports currently licensed for Israel are not for items that could be used by Israeli forces in operations in Gaza in response to attacks by Hamas.”

CAAT has documented that UK companies or companies with UK factories have provided the Israeli military with equipment for drones, armored tanks, targeting systems and ammunition — in other words helped equip Israel’s arsenal that has killed almost 2,000 Palestinians in one month.

Israel has been named by Britain as one of 27 countries with human rights concerns to which the UK nevertheless exports arms equipment. Israel is by far the largest recipient of those countries, netting nearly £8 billion ($13.3 billion) from a total of 470 export licenses, as of 14 July 2014, when a parliamentary committee published its “scrutiny of arms export and arms control” report.

This is, notably, a 23 percent rise from the previous year. Last year, the government stated that it was “satisfied that none of the currently extant licences for Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories contravenes its policy [for arms exports]” while acknowledging that “circumstances can and do rapidly change, leading to a reassessment of risk and, in some cases, a different decision using the same criteria.”

Since 2000, the UK has had a standing policy that it would not export arms that would be used in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, despite the difficulty in discerning which arms were used against Palestinians. That policy didn’t prevent the export of arms to Israel: in 2002, CAAT reported that between 2000 and 2001, arms exports to Israel from the UK nearly doubled, from £12.5 million ($20.8 million) to £22.5 million ($37.5 million).

“Destined for Israel”

In July 2002, the UK government introduced new guidelines that allowed it to circumvent these export restrictions to Israel, and sell components to the US that were then used in F-16 warplanes headed for Israel. While this policy was contested by many members of parliament, it has remained in force.

In April 2009, David Miliband, then foreign secretary, stated that the UK “almost certainly” provided components for F-16 jets and Apache helicopters that were sold first to the United States on aircrafts “destined for Israel.”

Government representatives have explained that all arms licenses are considered on a case-by-case basis. But it would seem that the UK is following a pattern of arming first and only revoking the license after Israel has laid waste to Palestinian lives.

In the summer of last year, the UK announced that, after “careful consideration,” it would export a Joint Strike Fighter aircraft to Israel.

On 30 July 2013, Vince Cable stated that Israel was expected to take delivery of its first aircraft in 2016. “At this time we do not believe there is a clear risk that the JSF would be used for internal repression, would aggravate existing internal tensions or conflict, or be used aggressively against another state,” he added.

With such reluctance on the part of the UK to withhold its contributions to Israel’s massive arsenal and such willingness to believe in Israel’s virtue, how many more “lessons” will the UK need to understand what Israel does with its weapons.

Hundreds of thousands set to participate in International Day of Rage for Gaza

Sat, 09/08/2014 - 9:13am

- Spain announces “provisional” suspension of military exports to Israel and Evo Morales backs BDS
- Pressure grows for military embargo and sanctions

Follow #GazaDayofRage for updates

Hundreds of thousands of people will take to the streets today to demand boycotts and sanctions against Israel as part of an international day of rage initiated by organisations in Gaza.

As Israel recalls its reserves and threatens to re-intensify its assault on Gaza that has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, scores of demonstrations across the world from Johannesburg to Delhi will raise demands for a full military embargo on Israel and in support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

The Congress of South African Trade Unions has announced that it will take part in demonstrations across South Africa as part of the day of rage.

Thousands of people are expected to join a protest outside the White House to demand an end to US military aid to Israel.

Organisers of a mass rally in London have said they expect it to be the largest ever demonstration in support of Palestine in the UK.

“Today’s huge mobilisations show that the people of the world stand united in support of the rights of Palestinian people and against international complicity with Israel’s on-going massacre of Palestinians in Gaza,” said Dr Haidar Eid, a steering committee member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel who lives in Gaza.

“Governments across the world must act in line with the will of their people and take action to hold Israel to account, including by imposing sanctions and a military embargo on Israel,” Dr Eid added.

The mobilisations come as pressure mounts for western governments to impose a military embargo on Israel.

On August 4, the Spanish government announced that it was “provisionally” suspending all arms sales to Israel. The campaign for a military embargo has been a major focus of Palestine solidarity groups, trade unions and social movements across Spain, where  government and private sector have developed deep military cooperation with Israel.

In the UK, deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has called for action against arms sales to Israel, causing splits in the coalition government there.

UK campaigners occupied and closed an arms factory near Birmingham that is owned by Israeli arms company Elbit Systems for two days to protest the role the factory plays in supplying engines for drones used by the Israeli military.

Bolivian president Evo Morales has publically backed BDS, following on from the withdrawal of ambassadors to Israel by five Latin American states and the suspension of negotiations on a free trade agreement by the government of Chile.

More than 60,000 people have signed a petition calling for a military embargo on Israel that was launched last month by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and 5 other Nobel laureates.

“Israel’s ability to unleash its military might on Palestinians in Gaza is dependent on the huge military trade and cooperation it maintains with states around the world. As fresh evidence emerges that Israel has been deliberately targeting civilians, it is time for governments to end their material support for Israeli war crimes,” said Mohsen Abu-Ramadan from the Palestinian NGO Network in Gaza.

People across the world are expressing anger and a strong resolve to make Israel pay for its crimes through the BDS movement.

Evo Morales endorses BDS, calls Israel a terrorist state

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 3:03pm

The following statement from the Network in Defense of Humanity (REDH) in Bolivia is a translation of the original from

In Defence of Palestine

The Network in Defense of Humanity (REDH), before the tragic events being experienced by our Palestinian brothers in Gaza, performs its duty in stating the following:

We declare our adherence to the words of comrade Evo Morales, founder of the Network in Defense of Humanity and President of the Pluri-national State of Bolivia, which declare Israel as a terrorist state.

We express our absolute condemnation of the genocide suffered by the Palestinian people at the hands of a state founded upon the dispossession and colonial occupation of Palestinian territories.

We acknowledge and express our solidarity with the heroic struggle of the Palestinian people and their resistance organizations, especially in Gaza, against Israel’s attempt to exterminate [them] and snatch the remaining shreds of what was their homeland.

We condemn the imperialist United States’ (U.S.) role that feeds and supports politically, financially and militarily the State of Israel, as we condemn the unusual inaction of the UN Security Council whose resolutions regarding the Palestinian issue are systematically violated with impunity by Washington. The U.S. has been acting throughout its history with hypocrisy and cynicism, threatening by sanctions and interventions the peoples of Latin America, Africa and Eurasia that defend their sovereignty, while supporting Israel’s action’s.

We condemn the complicity in these events [in Gaza], by default in some cases, the governments of the European Union and the unconditional subordination of the media oligopolies to the dictates of Washington. Enough calling it war! It is genocide being perpetrated by one of the best equipped armies in the world against a people whose defensive resources are infinitely inferior in number and quality!

We encourage joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the terrorist state of Israel. It is time for active and creative solidarity, beyond expressions of condemnation. We have failed the over 1600 people killed in Palestine in the recent weeks, as well as the more than 9,000 injured since the terrorist [Israeli] operation started and hypocritically called “Protective Edge”.

We demand the end of the [Israeli] apartheid and genocide, as well as the walls and settlements. We call on the governments of the world to demand that Israel complies with the resolutions of the UN Security Council and be forced to withdraw from Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, to return to the borders prior to the “Six Day War” (1967) and to ensure the return of Palestinian refugees, as was established by Security Council Resolution No. 242 of November 22, 1967, a resolution unfulfilled until today by the State of Israel.

We stand for a real political solution to the conflict in Palestine on the basis of dialogue, negotiation and the existence of two states with equal rights and internationally recognized borders; a solution that includes the immediate lifting of the blockade on Gaza and the release of all Palestinian political prisoners. We welcome the supportive stance of the governments of ALBA, MERCOSUR and other governments around the South against the barbaric Israeli conduct in Gaza.

Inspired by the revolutionary words of Nelson Mandela: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestine,” we assert that Israel has morally and politically lost this battle against the courageous Palestinian people and that it deserves the growing condemnation of the peoples of the world as a “pariah” state that violates international law. The indomitable Palestinian resistance will be rewarded sooner or later in the smile of their children in a free country.

Against Israeli terrorism and U.S. imperialism, in defence of Palestinian right to self-determination and of all peoples in the world!

PRIMI FIRMATARI (Primary Signatories)

Evo Morales

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Premio Nobel de la Paz

István Meszáros, Filósofo. Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico 2008.

Franz Hinkelammert, Filósofo. Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico 2005.

Enrique Dussel. Filósofo. Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico 2009.

Atilio Boron. Sociólogo. Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico 2012.

Marta Harnecker. Premio Libertador al Pensamiento Crítico 2013.

Luciano Vasapollo – universidad roma sapienza , premio pensamiento critico 2007

Pablo González Casanova. Filósofo.

Piedad Córdoba. Ex – Senadora. Luchadora Social. Colombia.

Patricia Villegas. Presidenta de Telesur

Stella Calloni, Periodista

Rita  Martufi  representante permanente ante la FAO  unión sindical de base y  FSM

Eva Golinger , Periodista

Roy Chaderton Matos, Embajador de Venezuela ante la OEA

Farruco Sesto, Ex -Ministro de Cultura de Venezuela

Theotonio Dos Santos, Economista

Mónica Bruckman, Socióloga. Asesora de la Secretaría General de UNASUR

Michael Lebotwiz, Economista

Win Dieckersen

Omar González

Carmen Bohórquez. Filósofa, Historiadora. Premio Nacional de Humanidades.

Ángel Guerra

Hugo Moldiz

Katu Arkonada

Lidia Fagale, Secretaria General de la Unión de Periodistas de Buenos Aires

Joaquín Arriola – Universidad País Vasco

Galarza – Universidad publica de Navarra

Joan Tafalla – historiador, centro Espai Marx


What’s behind the rise of BDS?

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 2:58pm

In its nine-year existence, the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement has boldly redefined the battle for Palestine in the simple, straightforward terms of human rights. More than any other tactic of the Palestinian liberation movement, the BDS campaign has succeeded in creating a global outpouring of support for Palestinian rights and placed Israel’s violations of them under international scrutiny like never before.
In the United States, the issue of Palestinian rights has gone from the margins of the Left and Arab and Muslim communities into mainstream discourse and debate. From the corporate media to academic institutions, the discussion of Israel-Palestine has veered away from obscure territorial claims and competing historical narratives, however important those may be, to focus on the three simple demands of the BDS movement. Israel must do the following:

End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and Respect, protect, and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in UN resolution 194. [1] The 2005 BDS call that emerged from 170 Palestinian civil society groups—including all political parties, unions, refugee networks, NGOs, and organizations representing Palestinians living under occupation, in Israel, and in exile—took its inspiration from the successful South African anti-apartheid movement. Initiators were encouraged by the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance that was organized by Unesco in Durban, South Africa, at which a draft statement opposed “movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority.” [2] In 2003, Palestinian academics started by calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions and a year later they launched the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel in Ramallah calling upon Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. [3] Out of this, a national committee was established that brought together Palestinian civil society groups who agreed to the above three demands, and they launched the BDS movement.

The internationalism that undergirds BDS is a departure from the thinking that dominated Palestinian political leadership circles for decades, which perceived the liberation of Palestine as coming through the mobilization of Palestinians alone. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) formed in 1964 and was influenced by the successful anticolonial struggles of that era, especially the guerrilla movement that kicked the French out of Algeria in its war for independence. Though PLO membership was mostly drawn from the impoverished sections of Palestinian society, its leadership was almost entirely comprised of wealthy businessmen and others from the ranks of the Palestinian elite. PLO leaders tried to graft a guerrilla warfare strategy that they’d seen work in Algeria on a population that was much smaller and dispersed throughout the Middle East and beyond. The financing for this armed strategy came from Arab rulers whom wealthy PLO leaders saw as their natural allies, including King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, Jordan’s King Hussein, and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak.

In exchange for arms and money, the PLO under the leadership of Yasser Arafat agreed to a noninterference policy in the domestic affairs of Arab states. As Philip Marfleet and Tom Hickey explain in the British journal International Socialism, “They acted in effect as a bourgeoisie without a state, confining their ‘own’ population to a strictly nationalist agenda. This was congenial to the kings, emirs and presidents of the region, who used formal backing for the PLO as part of a chorus of rhetorical opposition to Israel, the better to maintain their own privilege.” [4]

This approach was politically and economically disastrous. Not only were Palestinians easily defeated militarily within Israel, but the vast numbers of Palestinians working in Arab states were abandoned by the PLO to the low wages and absence of rights that constituted working conditions in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, and elsewhere.

The first intifada in 1987 and the second one starting in 2000 were inspiring uprisings of resistance on the part of Palestinians in response to the rapid growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza following Israel’s occupation of those territories in 1967. Arab workers in the region initiated work stoppages and other acts of solidarity with the first intifada, but were actively opposed by Arafat and the PLO leadership. When textile workers at Egypt’s Mahalla al-Kubra factory launched strikes and other actions that spread to Cairo and Alexandria, they were threatened with violence by Interior Minister Zaki Badr: “I will sever any foot that attempts to march in demonstrations,” he warned. [5] Instead of embracing workers’ solidarity, Arafat and the PLO leadership discouraged these actions and joined Arab rulers in Algiers at a summit that committed $330 million to the PLO. [6] The PLO’s further collusion with Arab leaders and ultimately the governments of Israel and the United States in the 1993 Oslo Accords has only led to the spread of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, the establishment of the apartheid wall, and even worse conditions of life for Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.

A new Palestinian generation raised on the legacy of this failed strategy has taken over the reins. This article examines three of the key developments that have fueled the rise of BDS in the United States. Though by no means an exhaustive list, these three causes have been essential to the ideological and organizational shifts that have taken place in a relatively short time.

The success of BDS in the United States is largely due to:

Unprecedented exposure of Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians, especially of Operation Cast Lead in the winter of 2008–09 and the 2010 massacre of nine unarmed civilians aboard a humanitarian aid vessel in international waters, the Mavi Marmara. The leadership of what may be called Generation Palestine [7], mostly young Arab-Americans and Muslims, but also many young Jews and others, who came of age in the atmosphere of heightened Islamophobia and anti-Arab racism in the post–9/11 United States. The application of methods used in the successful South African anti-apartheid movement that spread to US campuses and reached a crescendo in the 1980s. Arguably, each of these developments discussed below is a result of and leads to many more, but these appear to be three key catalysts in the rising US BDS movement.

Israel against itself

Leading figures of Israel along with international defenders of Zionism claim the BDS movement is “delegitimizing” Israel, that is threatening Israel’s authority and prestige. Global polls warrant their concern: Israel’s daily Ha’aretz reported in May 2013 that of the more than 26,000 people surveyed by the BBC in twenty-five countries around the world, only 21 percent of participants had a positive view of Israel, while 52 percent viewed the country unfavorably. [8]

But a more accurate explanation of the dramatic shift in international public opinion against the self-proclaimed “Jewish state” is that Israel’s own horrific acts are helping to create a growing movement that shines a light on Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians, and more and more people are repelled by what they see. Israel’s delegitimization is, in fact, self-inflicted; the BDS movement merely acts to display, amplify, and oppose Israel’s crimes.

Let us be clear: Israel’s human rights violations are not new. Israel is and always has been a colonial occupier of Palestinian land, and its birth pangs include the ethnic cleansing of more than 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. Karl Marx’s picturesque description of capitalism’s roots seems to apply equally well of Israel’s, which also came into the world “dripping from head to foot, from every pore, with blood and dirt.” [9] Many previous articles in this journal have detailed this history and taken up the myths of Zionism and Israel’s ongoing crimes against Palestinians. But this history and the ongoing repression of Palestinians living in both the Occupied Territories and inside Israel were publicly denied and ignored until recent years, especially in the United States. Today, the denial by Israel’s defenders persists, but the inhumane treatment of Palestinians can no longer be ignored.

A key turning point in consciousness about Israel-Palestine that helped shift BDS into higher gear was Operation Cast Lead. For three weeks in the winter of 2008–09, Israel used one of the most deadly military arsenals in the world on Gaza, leaving 1,400 or more Palestinians dead (thirteen Israelis died, nine of them soldiers), and the surviving population of 1.5 million was left trapped behind walls of concrete and high-tech surveillance equipment. The Gaza massacre, code-named Operation Cast Lead, was followed by the reimposition of Israel’s cruel war of immiseration that prevents the free flow of goods, services, and human beings in and out of Gaza—a siege that remains in place to this day.

Launched midday when Gaza’s children were leaving school, a police academy graduation ceremony was getting under way, and streets were filled with shoppers, Israel’s attack was calculated to do maximum damage to humans and infrastructure. On just the first day, Israel killed more than 200 Palestinians and left 700 injured; after that, Israeli forces destroyed water- and sewage-treatment systems, bombed al Quds hospital, blew up stockpiles of UN food and supplies, and universities, schools, and mosques were wiped off the map in densely packed Gaza City.

Even then, vulgar apologists for Israel were aghast at the potential ideological cost of the massacre. A senior correspondent for Israel’s newspaper of record, Ha’aretz, Ari Shavit, complained the scale of the attack was “destroying [Israel’s] soul and its image. Destroying it on world television screens, in the living rooms of the international community and most importantly, in Obama’s America.” Shavit noted that Israel’s shelling of a UN facility on the same day the UN secretary was visiting Jerusalem was “beyond lunacy.” [10] He had a good point.

Over the years, Israel has launched innumerable military assaults on the Palestinian people. Overwhelming, no-holds-barred violence marks many of these assaults, like the Battle of Jenin in 2002, when 150 Israeli tanks, plus armored personnel carriers and artillery, backed by F-16 fighter jets, laid siege to a refugee camp of less than a square mile that is home to 15,000 people. [11] But with the spread of social media like Facebook and Twitter in the hands of the budding movement, the 2008–09 war on Gaza drew alarm from Americans who’d not previously been particularly sympathetic or even aware of the conditions in Gaza. Across the United States, thousands took to the streets in protest and attended educational events held by small BDS community groups and the growing number of campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). [12] Activists posted and tweeted images of the deadly attacks, and people were shocked to see pictures of Israeli settlers relaxing over food and wine in beach chairs on a hilltop overlooking Gaza, cheering the bombings and sniper hits as if enjoying an afternoon at a soccer match or a concert.

In the United States, saturated with pro-Israel messages, it is important to note that in the immediate wake of the siege, only 44 percent of Americans supported the assault, versus 41 percent who opposed it, according to Rasmussen. [13] Ordinary Democrats—unlike their party’s leadership—were appalled; only 31 percent could muster any enthusiasm for the assault.

The next major turning point came over the Memorial Day Weekend of 2010. The lead ship of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, was attempting to break the siege and bring humanitarian aid to Gazans suffering without medicine and sufficient food, but instead was militarily attacked in the middle of the night in international waters. Kevin Ovenden, one of the flotilla organizers aboard the Mavi Marmara, described Israel’s horrifying commando-style attack by air and sea that murdered nine unarmed civilians: “A new phase of struggle is born, but at a terrible, almost unbearable price: Nine of our brothers taken from us, scores more wounded by gunshots, their blood now lapping on the shores of Gaza.” [14]

Palestine solidarity activists swung into action and organized protests, speakouts, and educational events with those who’d been aboard the ship describing the horror of suddenly being the target of unprovoked gunfire, exposing Israel’s justifications for what they were: lies. Journalist Glenn Greenwald added his voice to the movement and spoke before packed crowds at universities. Within a few months, Frank Gehry, considered the world’s most influential architect, joined the boycott of Israeli settlement goods after refusing to design Jerusalem’s Museum of Tolerance, planned for construction on top of a Muslim cemetery. Along with pianist and conductor Daniel Barenboim, Gehry added his name to the Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) statement of 200 Jewish artists and cultural workers supporting the boycott of Israeli settlement goods. [15]

While US polls continue to show clear majorities in favor of Israel over Palestine—hardly surprising given the inundation of pro-Israel propaganda in the US media despite recent cracks—nobody, from veteran Palestine solidarity activists to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, denies the growing sympathy with Palestinians and suspicion of Israel’s human rights violations. At the 2014 conference of the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC), unquestionably the most influential pro-Israel group in the United States, speakers from Secretary of State John Kerry to Netanyahu felt the urgency to deride BDS. In his keynote address to AIPAC, Netanyahu mentioned BDS no fewer than eighteen times. To rousing cheers, Netanyahu called on Zionists to “fight back” against boycott advocates, “to delegitimize the delegitimizers.” [16] Many BDS activists rightly took this to be a form of distorted respect from an enemy that previously ignored the movement’s existence. Now that Israel is becoming a global pariah, the BDS movement is garnering greater attention from all sides.

Generation Palestine takes the reins

How Does it Feel to be a Problem? asked Brooklyn College professor Moustafa Bayoumi in the title of his 2009 book of interviews with Arab-American youth growing up in post–9/11 Brooklyn. The book explores a central life experience in this country for many Arab and Muslim Americans who’ve come to know the feelings of being targeted and suspected of terrorism for no other reason than their appearance or ethnic-religious background. For many, the US government’s dragnet and society’s stigma have had the desired silencing effect. But for a rising minority of Arabs and Muslims who’ve taken the reins of the BDS movement in the United States, defiance of Israel’s human rights violations—and institutions collaborating with them—has become the civil rights struggle of their generation. Call it, if you will, Generation Palestine.

If the liberation of the oppressed is inconceivable without their self­activity, as Marxists have always claimed, this development is a crucial one. The movement itself, of course, was initiated by Palestinians living under occupation and in the diaspora, and the growing participation and leadership of Arab and Muslim Americans in the movement is undeniable to even the casual observer.

Remi Kenazi, the popular and talented Palestinian-American poet, moved to New York City just four months before 9/11. Growing up in mostly white Western Massachusetts had conditioned Remi to certain racist experiences, but he recounts in a Jadaliyya podcast interview that the nasty atmosphere against Arabs and Muslims right after the attacks helped propel him toward his poetry writing and spoken word performance career. [17] As a member of Adalah-NY, the BDS group, and the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI), Remi creatively expresses the outrage, hopes, and political vision of a radicalizing generation. In addition to live shows, he’s become a BDS cultural hero in his videos “Normalize This” and his latest sendup of campus Zionists, “This Divestment Bill Hurts My Feelings,” a collaborative effort with Suhel Nafar, director, animator, and co-founder of the massively popular Palestinian hip hop group DAM whose music has become the soundtrack of the movement.

In email responses to my question about what inspired some leading Arab and Muslim BDS student activists, certain themes reappear in their accounts of their own politicization. They include early Iraq War images that stoked humiliation at the debased treatment of people in the Arab World, like photos of torture in the Abu Ghraib prison, but also terrifying snapshots of their childhood contemporaries in Palestine suffering at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). In 2000, the widely broadcast one-minute film footage of twelve-year-old Muhammad al-Durrah shows a cowering young boy crouched against a wall by his father’s side as IDF soldiers shoot all around them until the camera captures the murder of small Muhammad and the heart-wrenching grief of his father, unable to shield him from harm. Many university student activists today would have been about Muhammad’s age when he was killed. Added to those images from abroad are the daily racist indignities experienced here in the States, yet another source of both shame and defiance.

The embryonic BDS movement created a magnet for some of them, and a means to express their rage and mobilize their peers into action. One young Yemeni Boston student, Sofia Arias, writes, “But it was Operation Cast Lead in 2008–09, and my rejection of the two state solution, that pushed me to organize around BDS at my university, and the urgency of an international movement in solidarity that got activated out of that. And after that, in the US, you could feel things shift, and you could see the cracks in Israel’s pristine image begin to show.” [18]

Tareq Radi, a Palestinian-American student at George Mason University, explains his motivation for getting involved in organized political activity this way:

Before I began organizing, I used to be a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitor, which required me to travel and frequent other training facilities. In December of 2012, I was invited to a gym that had an Israeli flag overlooking the area where I would be training. I respectively declined the invitation and explained that 42 members of my family were massacred in the name of that flag. To my surprise the owner of the gym, who was Jewish, offered to take it down. Later that evening I received a complaint from my coach, a person I considered as a brother. He demanded that I keep politics separate from my athletic career. It was at this point that I realized wearing a Palestinian flag on my uniform wasn’t enough. I needed to contribute to the liberation of my people to the fullest of my abilities. I want to create a space, not just for Palestinians, for all oppressed populations to thrive without sacrificing their identities. [19]

Similarly, Palestinian-American Wael Elasady at Portland State began to see the battle for Palestine as much closer to home through the complicity of American institutions. He asked himself: “Why are universities bringing war criminals to give speeches? Why do they continue to normalize a racist apartheid state by setting up study abroad programs in Israel? Why are student tuition dollars invested in companies profiting off human rights violations of the Palestinian people? Why are our university presidents condemning professors who teach the truth about Palestine?” [20]

The 2011 SJP conference held at Columbia University during the height of Occupy Wall Street in October drew several hundred students, a majority of them Arab and Muslim. In addition to strategic discussions about launching campus-based boycott campaigns, students debated the Arab revolutions, the role of US imperialism, and the history of Israel-Palestine. The Sunday morning after hundreds of SJPers had joined nearly 100,000 New Yorkers at an impromptu Occupy gathering in Times Square, classrooms were full with students eager to continue the discussions. As a speaker that morning on the myths of Zionism, I’d expected that most students would either sleep in after a heady night of activism out on the town or head back to their own campuses early. Instead, the room was packed, standing-room-only, and many grilled me on an impressive range of issues well past the end of the session. Dozens left the room with a newly purchased copy of Omar Barghouti’s book, BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, without a doubt, the primer of the movement.

BDS student activists’ political evolution was even more apparent at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in 2012, an international people’s tribunal that came to New York City to place the United Nations and US government on trial for its complicity with Israel’s internationally recognized human rights violations. [21] For a frenzied six weeks, dozens of mostly Arab and Muslim students throughout the city volunteered to help organize and promote the event, which featured, among others, Black Power leader Angela Davis, author Alice Walker, and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters as judges. These student activists, who’d been organizing BDS on their campuses, worked tirelessly to build a hugely successful tribunal that drew more than a thousand people each day to watch and listen to the proceedings at Cooper Union’s storied Great Hall, the venue where Frederick Douglass read out the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

Also noteworthy is the shift taking place among American Jews, especially those under thirty, some of whom are joining and playing leading roles in the BDS struggle. In a well-publicized New York Review of Books article, [22] Peter Beinart wrote, “For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door, and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.” And there is Time magazine’s piece on “Why Fewer Young American Jews Share Their Parents’ View of Israel,” which cites these stats:

A 2007 poll by Steven Cohen of Hebrew Union College and Ari Kelman of the University of California at Davis found that although the majority of American Jews of all ages continue to identify as “pro-Israel,” those under 35 are less likely to identify as “Zionist.” Over 40% of American Jews under 35 believe that “Israel occupies land belonging to someone else,” and over 30% report sometimes feeling “ashamed” of Israel’s actions. [23]

Those who have been speaking on college campuses about Israel-Palestine for years perceive a striking shift. In the nineties and earlier, the announcement of a public forum even mildly critical of Israel garnered death threats from the Jewish Defense League or similar groups, universities often required metal detectors and guards at our talks, and we were frequently disrupted by large numbers of confident Zionist students. In one memorable episode at NYU, the campus Zionists marched in flying an Israeli flag and singing Israel’s national anthem, Hatikva, as this author rose to speak. At Harvard during the Gulf War of 1991, students stood and threateningly jeered that I was an “anti-Semite” for criticizing Israel and only backed down when the iconic historian Howard Zinn stood and announced that we were both Jews who refuse to be silenced by a mob. Large groups of swaggering Zionists attempting to intimidate isolated handfuls of Palestine solidarity activists are far less frequent nowadays, though their turn to administrative bullying and legal sanctions is a mark of both their grass-roots weakness and the institutional ties Zionists are strengthening to fight a war on campus BDS, detailed in Ali Abunimah’s new book, The Battle for Justice in Palestine.

In 2013, the efforts of groups like USACBI brought the question of Palestinian human rights smack into the center of academia. In just a few months, three North American academic organizations voted to boycott Israeli universities: the Association of Asian American Studies was first, passing a resolution last spring, then the American Studies Association, and soon after the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association. SJP chapters swung into action to defend their professors from the predictable wave of attacks. But the controversy, now reaching the halls of state legislatures, brought the BDS movement even deeper into the mainstream media—the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times all carried op-ed pieces in support of the boycott of Israeli universities. It was unprecedented.

The first cracks in the campus bastions of pro-Israel organizing deepened in the winter of 2013–14 as “Open Hillels” formed at Swarthmore and Vassar declaring their intention to work with BDS and other pro-Palestine groups, in open defiance of the Hillels’ mission. Today, the role of JVP in promoting and organizing BDS campaigns against pension giant TIAA-CREF, home carbonation device manufacturer SodaStream, and others has been invaluable. Though as a group JVP focuses only on companies operating in the territories occupied since 1967—not the whole of Israel, as the BDS call targets—JVP has opened itself up to debates about the broader boycott and the question of whether a Jewish state can be defended at all. Many of its members are anti-Zionists, others are more equivocal on that question and just oppose the 1967 occupation. Yet in a movement where charges of “anti-Semitism” are hurled at any criticisms of Israel, having a prominent Jewish organization that connects well over 100,000 Jewish-identified activists is an undeniable advantage in challenging these spurious claims.

Smaller initiatives such as the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) have joined with American Muslims for Palestine to organize events such as a “Never Again for Anyone” speaking tour with Holocaust survivors speaking alongside Palestinian victims of dispossession advocating BDS. IJAN has spawned Facebook groups like Jews for the Palestinian Right of Return that put out statements signed by thousands to help amplify the voices of Jews who reject the logic of an ethnically cleansed Jewish state and instead advocate democratic rights for all Palestinians and Jews in one secular state.

Though BDS activists’ early attempts to win university resolutions to divest from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies were often met with setbacks, the movement has grown more sophisticated. The April 2013 University of California–Berkeley divestment debate and vote expressed the profound distance Generation Palestine has come. For an unprecedented ten hours, speaker after speaker, students of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, rose and made eloquent cases for divestment, and the resolution passed. The confidence with which students advocated divestment showed that the BDS movement was transforming campus political culture in many places. BDS activists are beginning to make the question of Palestinian human rights as central to this generation as the issue of the Spanish Civil War was in the thirties or the South African anti-apartheid struggle was in the eighties.

In response to the campus BDS movement’s meteoric rise, Zionists have launched a well-funded and multi-pronged attack. The Israel Action Network began in 2010 with a $6 million budget with tentacles in more than 400 communities to “serve as a rapid response team charged with countering the growing campaign.” [24] Campus groups have looked to the newly formed Palestine Solidarity Legal Support for help in countering institutional attempts to shut down, silence, and even legally prosecute SJP activists for their Palestine advocacy. The counterattacks from Zionists are raising larger questions among activists about the need for more formal decision-making structures in the national movement, centralization, and political questions about how to best challenge these attempts to discredit their actions. National days of action are now on the agenda for many.

As in other movements, BDS activists are influenced by the wider currents in the US Left, though the active collaboration with Israel’s government by leading Democrats, including President Obama, creates a robust debate about how and whether to get involved in electoral politics. Most activists are extremely critical of the Democrats, though few have formally concluded that independence from them is key.

“Palestine’s South Africa moment”

It is no coincidence that many of the BDS movement’s founders and leaders came of age during the victorious final years of the South African anti-apartheid movement. Omar Barghouti, a founding member of BDS and author of BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights, was an international student at Columbia University in the eighties, the site of one of the most tumultuous campus occupations in the US divestment battle. That generation cut its political teeth in the solidarity movement’s final decade, witnessing the victory of Black South African workers against apartheid. Barghouti often refers to the meteoric rise of BDS as “Palestine’s South Africa moment.” The analogy with South Africa is not rhetorical; it is a conscious acknowledgement of the historical and political links between the two apartheid systems and a reference to the methods being employed to bring down the world’s last apartheid state.

The word “apartheid” is Afrikaans for “apartness” or “separate.” In 1948—the same year Israel was established as a state—apartheid became the official policy of the white South African government, referring to the laws, policies, and practices established by that government to maintain the supremacy of the white minority over the non-white majority. In 1973, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, [25] defining apartheid as a crime against humanity, not specific to South Africa. The crime of apartheid is defined by “inhuman acts” committed with the purpose of imposing racial segregation and discrimination on a targeted group, and establishing domination of one group over another. The Convention specifically prohibits acts “designed to divide the population . . . by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages . . . the expropriation of landed property.” The Convention also prohibits measures that deprive people and organizations of their basic human rights, including the right to work and education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence.

This describes Israel’s political and legal character perfectly. All of these rights are denied Palestinians. Americans know of this kind of formal racial segregation—it was the legal policy of the American South from the late nineteenth century until the 1960s, known as Jim Crow. Though one will never see signs in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem that read: “Jews only” or “Palestinians only,” make no mistake about it: Israel is a Jim Crow state. Israel is an apartheid state, though the workings of the two states’ apartheid systems are different in many regards. As Israeli-born socialist Moshé Machover has put it, they are of the same genus but different species. In South Africa, apartheid operated to repress, control, and hyperexploit the indigenous Black population, whereas in Israel apartheid is used to cleanse the nation of its native population.

There is another crucial difference. In South Africa where the overwhelming majority of the population under apartheid was made up of Black workers, their power was capable of landing the deathblow to apartheid. The same cannot be said of Palestine, where the population is not only small but also increasingly disenfranchised. In the case of Palestine, international solidarity from the BDS movement today, and, ultimately, labor actions by workers of the region and beyond, will be decisive in winning Palestinian struggles. Nonetheless, the apartheid analogy applies.

Racial discrimination against the Palestinian people was formalized and institutionalized through the creation by law of a “Jewish nationality,” which is distinct from Israeli citizenship. No “Israeli” nationality exists in Israel, and their Supreme Court has persistently refused to recognize one as it would end the system of Jewish supremacy in Israel. The 1950 Law of Return entitles all Jews—and only Jews—to the rights of nationals, namely the right to enter “Eretz Yisrael” (Israel and the Occupied Territories) and immediately enjoy full legal and political rights. “Jewish nationality” under the Law of Return is extraterritorial in contravention of international public law norms pertaining to nationality. It includes Jewish citizens of other countries, irrespective of whether they wish to be part of the collective of “Jewish nationals,” and excludes “non-Jews” (i.e., Palestinians) from nationality rights in Israel. Under Israeli law the status of Jewish nationality is accompanied with first-class rights and benefits, which are not granted to Palestinian citizens.

The South African anti-apartheid movement was formally launched in Britain in 1959 as a boycott movement. By the early sixties, the United Nations imposed a partial arms ban; in 1964, South Africa was suspended from participating in the Olympics and banned outright in 1970; the divestment and sanctions movement, however, didn’t take off internationally for many years. In 1994, the formal apartheid system was thoroughly dismantled and Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress came to power. Throughout South Africa’s apartheid years, Israeli leaders from Golda Meir in the 1940s through Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 were willing to look past the anti-Semitism of South Africa’s rulers—some with Nazi pasts—to do secretive arms and trade deals as well as police training with the apartheid state. [26]

The BDS movement unabashedly has taken a page from the successful playbook of the South African anti-apartheid movement. Like Israeli Jews today, the vast majority of South Africa’s white population opposed a democratic state and clung to their domination over the Black population until the bitter end. But the domestic resistance of Black South Africans combined with the pressure from the international anti-apartheid movement led to a total loss of legitimacy of the apartheid regime. Like today, some argued that the boycott would harm the very people the movement aimed to help. Yet then as now, the indigenous population was both the initiator and defender of the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Today, some of the same figures who led the South African movement are speaking out against Israel’s apartheid and advocating BDS.

“The same issues of inequality and injustice today motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them,” .” [27] argues South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu. South African anti-apartheid activists Suraya Dado and Muhammed Desai insist a debt of gratitude is owed: “It is our duty as South Africans to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people [28]

The fake shanty towns that college students set up on their campuses to portray the segregation and misery of life in South Africa’s Black slums has an echo in the mock checkpoints BDS activists set up to dramatize daily conditions for Palestinians trying to travel from home to work. The days-long teach-ins of the South African anti-apartheid movement have their match in the annual Israeli Apartheid Week, which celebrated its tenth year this winter. The phony apartheid passbooks identifying people by their race that students made in the eighties have their counterpart in the faux eviction notices passed under dormroom doors to educate students about what the IDF does before violently driving Palestinians from their homes. The examples are growing as an older generation shares its experiences with their young peers in the movement, and workshops on lessons from the South African anti-apartheid movement have become de rigueur at BDS conferences.

What is so striking about the BDS movement today is the rapidity with which it has made advances in just nine years. Not only is Israel becoming a pariah state in the eyes of growing numbers of people, but the financial losses are taking a greater toll sooner than activists had dared hope. Israel’s Maariv newspaper reports that at least $30 million have been lost so far due to BDS, mostly in the agricultural sector. .” [29] Top officials in Israel today call BDS Israel’s “greatest threat [30]

However, no state, and surely not this closest of US allies, would accept these blows without striking back. Abunimah, Blumenthal, and others have detailed the official and clandestine means by which Israel is trying to “delegitimize the delegitimizers.” From multimillion-dollar campaigns that “sabotage and attack” activists to propaganda attempts at promoting Israel’s limited LGBT rights (“pinkwashing”), Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) efforts are sleek, well-financed, and supported by figures throughout the US establishment. Legislators in New York, Florida, Illinois, and Pennsylvania have put forward bills that attempt to squash criticism of Israel on US campuses in the wake of the recent boycott resolutions. President Obama made sure to join the chorus against BDS at this year’s AIPAC conference.

Achieving the ultimate goals of the movement—ending the occupation and apartheid policies as well as allowing the right of return—remains far in the future and cannot be won by BDS alone. Though BDS is a magnificent tactic for winning sympathy and drawing activists into solidarity with Palestinians, even landing financial and ideological blows against Israel, it is ultimately a struggle for reforms within capitalism—an exploitative system that is part of an imperial order.

Socialists must support this rising movement, though not all do. At the very heart of socialist ideals lies international solidarity with the struggles of the oppressed, which BDS surely is. Yet some socialists argue that the movement is either not radical enough in its adherence to a human rights framework or must be opposed because it could hurt Palestinian and Israeli Jewish workers.

First and foremost, as a movement launched and led by Palestinians across the political spectrum—extraordinary in and of itself given the historic splits—BDS is an expression of the self-determination of the Palestinians. Its human rights-based framework uses international law to expose the hypocrisy of nations like the United States that claim adherence to such high-minded principles, yet defy them in their collusion with apartheid Israel.

Yet the reformist nature of BDS is not a reason for socialists to oppose it any more than other reform movements. Virtually all social and economic justice struggles, including unionization drives, would be shunned by socialists if that were the case. The movement’s limitations instead require socialists to raise broader anti-imperialist and internationalist class solidarity politics within the BDS movement, as members of the International Socialist Organization do as active participants in campus and community-based BDS groups. A strength of the current BDS movement is that conferences and educational events have begun to take up questions and debates about what has worked and failed so far in the revolutions of the Arab world these last years. However, it is a weakness of the movement so far that most groups become so immersed in day-to-day logistical planning that deeper political questions are often sidelined in the interests of expediency. It is a tension in every movement, but one that must be addressed if the ultimate aim of liberation is ever to be achieved. The emboldened global movement for BDS must be won to a clearer analysis of imperialism and the centrality of workers’ power, unlikely to happen without the active engagement of socialists inside the movement, developing the ties and political credibility to gain a wider hearing for these ideas as struggles in the Arab world place these questions front and center.

The challenge that BDS might hurt Palestinian workers echoes the arguments made against the South African anti-apartheid movement. Palestinian workers’ organizations, like Black workers’ unions in South Africa who supported anti-apartheid efforts, have signed onto the BDS call. So this argument flies in the face of what those presumably most affected are demanding of us. What’s more, the notion that Israeli workers might be hurt by BDS may be accurate, but concerns here are misplaced. Jewish Israeli workers, like those the world over, are exploited and oppressed by their own ruling class. But their overwhelming support for the ongoing displacement, occupation, and repression of Palestinians must be confronted, not accommodated. Overwhelming support for the occupation among Israeli Jews, including a whopping 90 percent support for the brutal siege of Gaza, [31] is further testament to the fact that the vast majority of Jewish workers in Israel have thrown their lot in with the Zionist state against Palestinians.

The handful of Jewish Israelis who defy Israel’s policies, most famously Ilan Pappé and Amira Haass, the activists in Boycott From Within, and other small pro-Palestine groups warrant our solidarity, but they are a stark exception to the rule. There is a much-needed update to the 1969 essay on the class character of Israeli society, [32] but the central features of the argument remain intact: the financial subsidization of Jewish Israeli society and the Praetorian Guard role Israel plays for the US Empire in the Middle East distort the “normal” class relations in that country. Until that dynamic is upended, Jewish Israeli workers are not going to break with Zionism en masse.

The focus of the international solidarity movement must therefore remain on those forces inside Palestine and internationally who are willing and able to act. The road to Palestinian liberation continues to run through the major industrial centers of the region where the potential of revolutionary victories led by the working class of the Arab world lies, from Cairo to Amman. But as the world has seen in these last years, this is likely to be a years-long process.

There have yet to be significant policy changes to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Israel. But the ideological tectonic plates beneath Israel’s support have shifted, and a new global human rights movement is on the rise. When Israeli officials speak of a “demographic threat” they usually mean the domestic Palestinian population. The BDS movement has shown that the real demographic threat to Israel’s stability is the rise of Generation Palestine.

[1] Omar Barghouti, BDS: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2011), 6.

[2] THE RACISM WALKOUT; The Cause and the Effect: Two Excerpts, New York Times, September 4, 2001.

[3] For a history of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, see

[4] Tom Hickey and Philip Marfleet, “The ‘South Africa Moment’: Palestine, Israel and the boycott,” International Socialism issue 128, October 2010,…

[5] Quoted in Ibid.

[6] Ibid

[7] The author would like to acknowledge Bill Mullen, professor of English and American Studies at Purdue, for introducing me to this term that is also the title of a 2013 book by Verso Press.

[8] “BBC poll: Israel among world’s least popular nations,” May 25, 2013, Ha’aretz,…

[9] Karl Marx, Capital Vol. I, Chap. 31, “Genesis of the industrial capitalist,”…

[10] Cited in Noam Chomsky, “’Exterminate all the brutes,’” January 19, 2009,…

[11] Arjan El Fassed, “Israel commits massacre in Jenin refugee camp,” April 7, 2002,…

[12] Elizabeth Schulte, “Rallying in support of Gaza,” January 2, 2009, Socialist Worker.

[13] Cited in Glenn Greenwald, “More oddities in the U.S. ‘debate’ over Israel/Gaza,” January 2, 2009,…

[14] Kevin Ovenden, “A new phase of struggle is born,” June 28, 2010, Socialist Worker.

[15] Jesse Bacon, “Breaking: Architect Frank Gehry supports Israeli settlement boycott,” September 21, 2010,…

[16] Philip Weiss, “Netanyahu mentions ‘BDS’ 18 times in denouncing movement and its ‘gullible fellow travelers,’” March 4, 2014,…

[17] Interview with Tareq Radi, “Poetry, Solidarity, and BDS: An Interview with Remi Kenazi, March 26, Jadaliyya,…

[18] Sofia Arias, email to Sherry Wolf, March 24, 2014.

[19] Tareq Radi, email to Sherry Wolf, March 25, 2014.

[20] Wael Elasady, email to Sherry Wolf, March 24, 2014.

[21] The Russell Tribunal on Palestine, http://www.russelltribunalonpalesti…

[22] Peter Beinart, “The failure of the American-Jewish establishment,” June 10, 2010, New York Review of Books,…

[23] Dana Goldstein, “Why fewer young American Jews share their parents’ view of Israel,” September 29, 2011, Time,…

[24] Quoted in Ali Abunimah, The Battle for Justice in Palestine (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2014), 128.

[25] John Dugard, “Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid,” November 30, 1973, []

[26] Sasha Polakow-Suransky, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa (New York: Pantheon Books, 2010).

[27] Ali Abunimah, “South African church leaders endorse Israeli Apartheid Week,” March 10, 2014, Electronic Intifada,…


[29] “BDS costs Israel 100 million shekels in losses,” Maariv, March 7, 2014,…

[30] Ali Abunimah, “Israel is losing the fight against BDS,” Electronic Intifada,…

[31] Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2013), 11.

[32] For an excellent article on this question that is a reprint of the 1969 essay, “The class character of Israeli society,” see Moshe Mochover and Akiva Orr, ISR 23, May–June 2002,…

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