Wednesday, September 29, 2010

TIAA-CREF Student Strategy Session

I'm writing to ask if you'd mind promoting an upcoming regional strategy session for the TIAA-CREF divestment campaign. We have four such meetings, and one of them is set for New York City in late October. I've included all the info about it below. I think it would be fabulous to turn out many of the Hudson Valley students within reach of your radio show.

Let me know if you'd be willing to plug the session as it gets closer and/or if Rebecca or I might be able to do a quick interview about it.

Thanks for everything,
Stefanie

TIAA-CREF Student Strategy Session

New York City:  October 30th


A bit of background:
TIAA-CREF is the one of the world's largest retirement funds, and we're demanding they stop investing in companies that profit from Israel's Occupation of Palestine. In many cases, campus divestment campaigns are targeting the very same companies as those within the TIAA-CREF portfolio. This fall, join other students in your region to strategize about the ways we can work together to make both campus campaigns and the national TIAA-CREF campaign stronger.

Since the June launch of the JVP campaign for TIAA-CREF to divest, over 17,000 people have signed the online petition and groups in 20 different cities have begun to mobilize. Local coalitions are leading community teach-ins, gathering signatures at events, hosting poetry slams, and organizing actions against the five main campaign targets--Motorola, Elbit, Northrop Grumman, Veolia, and Caterpillar.

At the same time, the student divestment movement is kicking it into high gear, with promising campaigns on campuses all over the country.

In these all-day strategy sessions we'll build relationships and work together to answer the following questions:

How can we build strategy against shared targets?
How can your campus group launch a TIAA-CREF campaign?
How can the materials, tactics, and organizing for the National TIAA-CREF Campaign support and enhance your campus group's existing divestment efforts?
How can your campus divestment campaign grow the national movement for TIAA-CREF to divest?


Please spread the word among your networks and let me know if you have any questions at all!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing

The Sunday Times Sep 26, 2010†


By:†Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The University of Johannesburg's Senate will next week meet to decide whether to end its relationship with an Israeli institution, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, on the grounds of that university's active support for and involvement in the Israeli military. Archbishop Desmond Tutu supports the move. He explains why


Archbishop Desmond Tutu†
Photograph by: ROBYN BECK
" My heart aches. I say, "Why are our memories so short." " Jacob Zuma
"The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own.
We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice." - Nelson Mandela, December 4 1997
Struggles for freedom and justices are fraught with huge moral dilemmas. How can we commit ourselves to virtue - before its political triumph - when such commitment may lead to ostracism from our political allies and even our closest partners and friends? Are we willing to speak out for justice when the moral choice that we make for an oppressed community may invite phone calls from the powerful or when possible research funding will be withdrawn from us? When we say "Never again!" do we mean "Never again!", or do we mean "Never again to us!"?
Our responses to these questions are an indication of whether we are really interested in human rights and justice or whether our commitment is simply to secure a few deals for ourselves, our communities and our institutions - but in the process walking over our ideals even while we claim we are on our way to achieving them?
The issue of a principled commitment to justice lies at the heart of responses to the suffering of the Palestinian people and it is the absence of such a commitment that enables many to turn a blind eye to it.
Consider for a moment the numerous honorary doctorates that Nelson Mandela and I have received from universities across the globe. During the years of apartheid many of these same universities denied tenure to faculty who were "too political" because of their commitment to the struggle against apartheid. They refused to divest from South Africa because "it will hurt the blacks" (investing in apartheid South Africa was not seen as a political act; divesting was).
Let this inconsistency please not be the case with support for the Palestinians in their struggle against occupation.
I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, "Why are our memories so short?" Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon?
Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about all the downtrodden?
Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence - but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
South African universities with their own long and complex histories of both support for apartheid and resistance to it should know something about the value of this nonviolent option.
The University of Johannesburg has a chance to do the right thing, at a time when it is unsexy. I have time and time again said that we do not want to hurt the Jewish people gratuitously and, despite our deep responsibility to honour the memory of the Holocaust and to ensure it never happens again (to anyone), this must not allow us to turn a blind eye to the suffering of Palestinians today.
I support the petition by some of the most prominent South African academics who call on the University of Johannesburg to terminate its agreement with Ben-Gurion University in Israel (BGU). These petitioners note that: "All scholarly work takes place within larger social contexts - particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of 'purely scholarly' or 'scientific work'." It can never be business as usual.
Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation. For example, BGU offers a fast-tracked programme of training to Israeli Air Force pilots.
In the past few years, we have been watching with delight UJ's transformation from the Rand Afrikaans University, with all its scientific achievements but also ugly ideological commitments. We look forward to an ongoing principled transformation. We don't want UJ to wait until others' victories have been achieved before offering honorary doctorates to the Palestinian Mandelas or Tutus in 20 years' time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Israeli Beauty Products Company Ahava Complicit in the Sins of Occupation

Walk into any Ricky's store, a beauty shop chain in New York, and you will find a shelf filled with Ahava products. For $28, you can buy mineral toning cleanser; for $22, Dead Sea liquid salt; and for $9, purifying mud soap. The products made by Ahava (which means "love" in Hebrew) seem innocent enough, perfectly enticing for anyone fond of beauty products.

But looks can be deceiving. As activists from the peace group CodePink's Stolen Beauty campaign are fond of chanting at protests, Ahava can't hide its "dirty side."

For nearly two years, an international campaign spearheaded by Palestine solidarity activists has targeted Ahava and the various stores that carry its products, including Ricky's, calling for a boycott. The boycott campaign has heated up recently, eliciting push-back from Jewish organizations around the country and a response from the CEO of Ahava.

While Ahava labels its products "made in Israel," they are actually manufactured in a settlement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in Palestine. According to the Web site Who Profits?, a project of the Israeli anti-occupation group Coalition of Women for Peace, the company exploits Palestinian resources from the Dead Sea.

Under the Geneva Conventions, and various United Nations resolutions, all of Israel's settlements--which house about 500,000 settlers--are illegal, as is excavating natural resources in an occupied area. Israel has occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip since the 1967 Six-Day War. The settlements are widely seen as an obstacle to the creation of a viable and contiguous Palestinian state.

"[The boycott] is about a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians," said Nancy Kricorian, CodePink's coordinator for the Stolen Beauty campaign. "The situation on the ground there is dehumanizing and demoralizing and terrible."

Ahava, which rakes in profits of nearly $150 million a year, according to a Dec. 2009 CNN report, is owned by entities deeply involved in Israel's settlement project in the occupied West Bank. According to Who Profits? 37 percent of the company is owned by Mitzpe Shalem, an illegal settlement located in the eastern West Bank; another 37 percent by the private investment fund Hamashibr Holdings, which also is a major shareholder in two companies that export produce made in settlements; 18.5 perent by the U.S.-based Shamrock Holding, owned by the Roy E. Disney family of Walt Disney fame, and which is a shareholder in a company that manufactures electronic detection systems that are used on the West Bank separation barrier; and 7.5 percent by the West Bank settlement of Kalia.

In an interview, Kricorian acknowledged that Ahava is a huge target, and likened the Stolen Beauty campaign to a "game of whack-a-mole," as new places where Ahava products are sold pop up frequently. But Kricorian says it isn't just about hurting the company's sales.

"A boycott campaign is strategic, and it's a long-term thing," she said. "It's not just about hurting the company's sales. It's also about educating the public about, in this particular case, the company's illegal practices and sullying the company's name and reputation."

Page 2 of 3 Continued from previous page

The campaign to boycott Ahava, in both the United States and around the world, has racked up some important victories. In August 2009, activists successfully pressured Oxfam International to drop Sex and the City star Kristin Davis as a spokeswoman because she was also working with Ahava. In November 2009, the Dutch Foreign Ministry agreed to investigate Ahava's manufacturing and labeling practices. Costco, a large U.S. retailer, was pressured into halting the sale of Ahava products at its stores in January 2010. The Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, has included Ahava products in its boycott of settlement products campaign, confiscating and destroying products made in West Bank settlements. Recently, four activists in London were acquitted on charges of trespassing after direct actions in 2009 in which they locked themselves onto oil-filled drums inside an Ahava shop.

AHAVA did not respond to inquiries for comment.

The Stolen Beauty campaign, which began in the aftermath of the brutal Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-'09, is part of the larger boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that grew out of a 2005 call by a vast swathe of Palestinian civil society groups for BDS against Israel. Modeled on the anti-apartheid movement that targeted South Africa, the Palestinian-led BDS movement demands that Israel withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories, implement equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and recognize the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and their descendants who fled or were expelled from Palestine during the1947-'49 Arab-Israeli war.

"The BDS campaign has become the most effective, morally consistent, nonviolent form of solidarity with the colonized Palestinians against Israel's apartheid and colonial rule," Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, wrote in an e-mail. "The Stolen Beauty Campaign against Ahava, led by our partner CodePink, is a truly inspiring BDS campaign, as it is creative, focused, well-researched and very effective in conveying the message across to and, more crucially, in mobilizing BDS action in a wider, more mainstream audience."

The Israeli government has taken notice of the growing BDS movement. The Israeli Knesset recently passed a preliminary reading of anti-boycott legislation that would impose fines on Israeli activists promoting boycotts of Israel. A February 2010 report by the Reut Institute, an Israeli think-tank with close ties to Israel's government, identified the BDS movement as an threat to the state.

In the United States, the BDS movement, and the campaign against Ahava, has also generated controversy. After a Washington, D.C.-based group protested in July 2010 against Ahava products being sold in Ulta, a beauty store, the Jewish Community Relations Committee of Greater Washington urged supporters to buy Ahava products.

Brooklyn's Ricky's shop has also become the epicenter of a dispute over the Boycott Ahava movement. After a July 9 protest outside the store led by CodePink's Stolen Beauty and Brooklyn for Peace, which signed onto the campaign in May, a group of rabbis in Brooklyn drafted a letter in response, urging people to buy Ahava products and denouncing the campaign. The rabbis' letter claimed that "CodePink ignores the history and legal status of Mizpeh Shalom" because it is located in "'Area C', a huge section of the West Bank over which Israel, again by joint agreement, was granted full control, except over Palestinian civilians." (The Area C designation comes out of the 1993-era Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Area C incorporates all West Bank settlements.)

Page 3 of 3 Continued from previous page

"Local Jewish leaders find the idea of a boycott of Israel to be a misguided and one-sided approach to a complex and deeply troubling conflict," said Rabbi Andy Bachman, a signatory to the letter and a member of the liberal group J Street's Rabbinic Cabinet. "The problem with a boycott is there's one side that's all right and another side that's all wrong. If that's what the boycotters think, then there really is nothing to discuss. But if not, then why not boycott Palestinian business for years of rejecting peace accords?"

So far, Ricky's has not budged, and continues to sell Ahava products. Dominick Costello, the president of the store, refused to comment.

The relentless targeting of Ahava hasn't gone unnoticed by the company. A letter that has recently been circulated by Ahava to its business partners states that "our company and products have been the subject of unfortunate, ugly and clearly politically motivated smear attacks" that are being pushed by a "couple of small radical fringe organizations, which are part of a larger and more insidious campaign aimed against the State of Israel."

The surge in attention to the boycott campaign is a sign that "we've gotten attention to issue of settlements like we never got before," said Naomi Allen, an activist who sits on Brooklyn for Peace's board and is involved in the group's Israel/Palestine committee. Beginning this month, Brooklyn for Peace plans to hold protests outside the Ricky's shop in Brooklyn on the last Tuesday of every month.

"This is not an argument that we're going to lose, because [what's] right and international law are on our side," Allen said. "The issue of Ahava is a clear-cut issue. There's no excusing the fact that this is occupied territory which is being stolen from the rightful owners and exploited for profit that isn't being shared with the rightful owners."

Alex Kane is a student, journalist and blogger based in New York City. He is a writer for the Indypendent and a frequent contributor to the blog Mondoweiss. His work has also appeared in Salon, Electronic Intifada, Common Dreams, Palestine Chronicle, Gotham Gazette and Extra! He blogs at alexbkane.wordpress.com, and you can follow him on Twitter.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sondheim, Moore, et al. Support Israeli Boycott

Broadway World Web September 8, 2010
http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/

Jewish Voice for Peace has collected over 150 names ofObie/Emmy/Tony/Pulitzer and other prize-  winning theater and filmprofessionals in support of the Israeli actors'/playwrights' boycott ofIsraeli settlements. The issue has exploded in Israel and now support forthe boycott hasgone global.Supporters include: Theodore Bikel, Mira Nair, JuliAnne Moore, Hal Prince,Stephen Sondheim, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Kushner, Mandy Patinkin, Eve Ensler,Jennifer Tilly, Ed Asner, Wallace Shawn, James Schamus and many more.

Ed Asner, actor "It is always amazing when actors turn down jobs. To have
the actors of Israel say they will not work in those venues is truly an actof courage. I applaud them and would love to instill the actors of Americawith that courage."

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace: "The response of American artists to the courageous actions of their Israelicounterparts is just phenomenal. It is especially notable that so many ofthe signatories are Jewish Americans with long-standing connections toIsrael. We hope that the strong show of solidarity by Americans in responseto these brave Israelis will help spark a new conversation in bothcountries, one that acknowledges that the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories are illegal by every measure of international law, contribute to the daily violation of human rights of Palestinians, and are a major obstacle to a just peace inthe region."

Corey Fischer, co-founder of the Traveling Jewish Theater (now JewishTheater San Francisco), "It seems to me that, as often happens in our times,these artists are taking on what was traditionally the task of the Hebrew Prophets: speaking truth to power. I hope someone is listening."The Israeli theatre community re cently released a petition in which theyrefused to perform in the West Bank because of news that performances werebeing planned for Ariel's new cultural center. The group of artistsparticipating in the boycott hope that their actions will only highlight theinjustice of the current occupation.

Read more:

http://www.broadwayworld.com/article/Sondheim_Moore_et_al_Support_Israeli_Boycott_20100908

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