Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jewish Perspectives on Boycott / Divestment / Sanctions

Jewish Perspectives on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), a panel of four Jews, two for and two against. Program took place on June 15 in Manhattan. Here are the links to the online version of the event.

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MHLL4pU_AJ8

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHFvhwdyK8M

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0NhiAyWllQ

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pH0_r5CzP2k

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA4o15RJinE

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgsm5Te3j5E

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ItPb5Q3QCEY

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaWNGAP_Hao

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlyYzty4EUs

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aY7k-UfrKQ

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CCzyd5aJghs

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MibLQSKecKQ

- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_dGALc8tAY



This morning was the first half of a victory. 1,000 picketers from around the SF Bay. The first shift [of dockworkers] for unloading the Israeli ZIM Line ship was cancelled. That is historic, but only if we finish the job by being there again at 4:00 this afternoon and staying until at least 8:00 p.m.†

Some of the people who were there this morning will not come this afternoon, which makes it all that much more important for those of you who were not there to come this afternoon. It would be better to have 2,000 people. Unlike this morning, the BART trains will be running. You can come to the West Oakland station early, and there will be cars to drive you. There will be media this afternoon. It is better for them to see a large crowd at each of the gates to the berth.†

THIS IS YOUR LAST CHANCE TO BE PRESENT AT THIS HISTORIC EVENT. You will talk about it for the rest of your life. We are the first to stop the unloading of an Israeli ship in the U.S., but we will not be the last. See you there!†


Unions, labor federations and other organizations around the world have condemned IsraelĂ­s deadly attack against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31. In response on†June 20th, a labor and community picket of an Israeli Zim Lines ship was called for the Port of Oakland. The picket has already succeeded in shutting down the port for the morning shift, after the ILWU refused to cross the picket line. Activists have promised to return†today at 4:30pm†to stop the next shift from unloading the Zim lines ship.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Anna Baltzer on BDS

The Aftermath of the Flotilla

Last night marked one week since Israel's attack in international waters on the Mavi Marmara Turkish humanitarian ship bound for Gaza, killing nine. One by one, the hundreds of witnesses aboard the vessels have been returning home to tell their stories after being stripped of any and all footage. By confiscating all non-military evidence of the incident, Israel has been able to successfully dominate the narrative, at least in the US where news of the attack had begun to dwindle by the time witnesses were released. One wonders, if Israel is conveying the whole story of what happened that night, why eliminate every single other piece of documentation? What does Israel have to hide?

According to hundreds of eyewitnesses, the Navy shot at the boat and threw tear gas and sound bombs before boarding the ship, and then hit the ground shooting. The videos released by Israel show those aboard the ship attacking soldiers with sticks. Israel claims that the deaths were an accident, that the soldiers were startled by the sticks and thus forced to shoot people to defend themselves.

Now let's put things into perspective. In 2005, the Israeli Army removed 8,000 ideological settlers from Gaza, many of them kicking and screaming with sticks and rocks in hand. The Army managed not to kill or even shoot a single one of them. Do sticks from Turks hurt more, or is it not about the sticks at all?

As Dr. Norman Finkelstein pointed out, Israeli officials met for an entire week prior to the flotilla to plan precisely what they intended to do. The Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren himself stated that the Mavi Marmara was simply "too large to stop with nonviolent means." It's hard to believe that this was an accident.

While the world focuses on the flotilla and Gaza, Israel's restrictions on Palestinian rights in the rest of Palestine continue to tighten. On Friday, soldiers surrounded the Old City in Jerusalem to prevent Muslim men from praying at Al-Aqsa mosque. Only those younger than 15 or older than 40 were allowed through. Hundreds of men gathered outside the metal bars installed by the Army around the city gates. Frustrated, many men sat down to wait to pray on the sidewalk, but soldiers on horseback pushed through the crowd, forcing the men to scatter.

It's important to note that many Palestinians wait for years to receive a permit to visit Jerusalem for just one day. Sometimes the permits are valid only for a few hours. I saw a woman in Beit Sahour whom I'd met in Syracuse last Fall. She said it's easier for her to travel to New York than to go 10 miles away to Jerusalem. She said often permits are sent to the wrong village and families fall over themselves to get the permit to the right person in time, often failing. At the gates, some men argued with the soldiers, close to tears, not knowing if they would ever get another chance to realize a life-long dream of praying at their country's holiest site.

Eventually, hundreds of men began to gather next to the wall of the Old City and across the street. If they could not enter, they would pray as close as they could. As the call to prayer rang out (at least sound can overcome walls), a noticeable calm came over the space as they bowed down in unison. The soldiers stood over the group, some filming with cameras. In the middle of the group were an olive tree and a young child who stood by himself, watching.

When the prayers ended, those who hadn't brought prayer mats wiped the dirt off their foreheads and gathered with others across the street where an imam had started to speak. Lara, a Palestinian delegate in our group translated bits and pieces of what he said.

The sermon was about the importance of compassion and justice in Islam. There they were, being denied their religious freedom, and they were talking about compassion. The imam asked that their prayers be accepted even though they could not be in the house of God. At one point, he raised his finger and called out the following: "Someday, we will live in a place where it doesn't matter what color your skin is, or where you're from." With every sentence the group resounded in a collective "Amen."

After the prayers, hundreds of women and older men poured out, one of whom told me he'd seen a man beaten by the Army for calling out against Israel's attacks on the flotilla. This is likely precisely what the Army wanted to avoid by keeping Muslims from congregating at the mosque, and they had been largely successful, at least so they thought.

Just as I was turning to return to the hotel, I heard a chorus of women's voices coming from inside the city walls. Soon a large group of women emerged carrying a Turkish flag and singing out familiar calls for justice and praising those who gave their lives to free Gaza. The soldiers thought that keeping the men out would be enough, but they had underestimated the women.

Israel has also underestimated the international civilian community, which continues to speak out. Day and night, we watch protests around the world unfold one after another, seemingly stronger and larger by the day: Japan, Paris, India, Oslo, Australia, and beyond. This is being called "Israel's Kent State."

Far more significant than protests is the fact that worldwide disapproval has been transforming into concrete rejection of normalization with Israel, including major victories for the Palestinian movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it complies with international law.

This past week, the student body at Evergreen College voted to divest from "Israel's illegal occupation." Before she was run over by Israeli soldiers in a US-made Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza, Rachel Corrie had attended Evergreen. Along with divesting, students have voted for a "Caterpillar free" campus. You can support the students by clicking here.

A week before the flotilla, Italy's largest supermarkets COOP and Nordiconad announced a boycott of the Israeli produce company, Carmel Agrexco. Four days later, Deutsche Bank (Germany's largest bank, worth more than $1 trillion) announced divestment from Elbit Systems, an Israeli firm that supplies technology for Israel's military, settlements, and Wall (as well as the Wall between the US and Mexico). Deutsche Bank was one of the company's largest share-holders.

The next day, it was announced that Sweden's largest national pension funds were also divesting from Elbit. (Norway did the same more than one year ago.) Going a step further, the Swedish Port Workers Union announced last Wednesday that it would temporarily stop handling Israeli cargo in response to the attacks on the flotilla.

On the same day, Britain's largest union, Unite, passed a unanimous motion "to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies" and to boycott Israeli goods and services as in "the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid."

Then yesterday, the Pixies canceled of their upcoming concert in Israel in response to Israel's attack on the flotilla. Musical artists Klaxons and Gorillaz canceled as well. This on the heels of cancelations by Santana, Gil Scott-Heron, Snoop Dog, Sting, and Elvis Costello.

These are but a few of the BDS victories that have happened just in the last month. The movement that officially began in 2005 crossed its first threshold in 2009 (having gained in four years the same momentum it took the BDS movement against South Africa 20 years to achieve), but 2010 has brought it to a new level.

Last month marked 62 years since 80% of the families in Gaza were displaced during Israel's creation, the Palestinian Nakba. And this week marks 43 years since Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank. The Occupation has been in place 70% of Israel's life-span so far. It is not temporary. And it is but one part of the problem. Along with Israel's discrimination against Palestinians within Israel's de-facto borders and outside historic Palestine, the Occupation will not be stopped voluntarily by Israel. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed." I spoke with a member of Boycott from Within (Israelis supporting the Palestinian BDS Call) paraphrased a common phrase during the anti-Apartheid struggle in South Africa: We will bring them to their senses, or we will bring them to their knees. For Israel, as was the case for the South African Apartheid government, the former has simply never worked.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Emergency Global BDS Day of Action on Saturday 5 June 2010

Saturday at the Woodstock Village Green, from 2-4 pm.
Please e-mail Elaine if you can participate in this local action: ehencke1@hvc.rr.com or (845) 679-4781


Emergency Global BDS Day of Action on Saturday 5 June 2010
Join Adalah-NY in the Freedom BDS March Against the Blockade on Gaza and the Attack on the Flotilla
Date: Saturday, June 5, 2010
Time: 12:00-2:00
Locations: Gather at Union Square and March to Max Brenner (841 Broadway), Ricky's NYC (7 East 14th St) and Aroma Espresso Bar (145 Greene St.)

Heeding the Palestinian civil society call for intensifying boycott and sanctions, as Israel massacres humanitarian workers and international solidarity activists, we invite you to join the BDS movement this Saturday, June 5 in calling for Israeli accountability and protesting its piracy against the Freedom Flotilla.

Israel’s ongoing violations of human rights and international law are enabled by the international community who do not hold Israel accountable for its actions. After the recent assault on the Freedom Flotilla, Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian Territories, said "the best hope for the Palestinians is not on a governmental level or through reliance on the United Nations, but rather through the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign."

Meet us at Union Square, where we will gather and start marching, singing and performing for BDS and ending the illegal blockade on Gaza. Our first stop will be Max Brenner Chocolatier, an Israeli business whose parent company directly supports Israeli military brigades. We will then stop at Ricky’s NYC, which carries AHAVA Cosmetics, a company whose main factory is in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank and 43% of whose profits go to subsidize two West Bank Settlements. AHAVA also excavates mud from the shores of the Dead Sea in Occupied Palestine, a practice that is against international law. We will end our march at Aroma Espresso Bar, the Israeli coffee chain that has at least one branch located in an illegal Israeli settlement, Maaleh Adumim.

We will call for an end to the illegal blockade of Gaza, the release of all Flotilla activists, vessels and cargo, and for the guarantee of safe passage to Gaza for the humanitarian vessel MV Rachel Corrie. We will also call upon all people of conscience to engage in a concerted effort of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

Governments have by and large refused to act, therefore as citizens we must take action ourselves! Come join us in the campaign end the blockade on Gaza.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Evergreen Students Vote to Divest

Just minutes ago, the students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, the alma mater of Rachel Corrie, announced that the whole student body voted overwhelmingly in favor of divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation and in favor of making their campus Caterpillar-free.

What's more remarkable is that the decision was not made by a student council and thus vulnerable to veto by just one person, as we saw in Berkeley. No, it was decided through a campus-wide vote. No one, not the promoters of the divestment policy, not its detractors, knew how the students would vote in complete privacy.

The results? The divestment vote won by a landslide 79.5%! The Caterpillar vote by an equally impressive 71.8%!

The Evergreen College Board of Trustees and Board of Governors actually hold the purse strings of the Evergreen College and the Evergreen Foundation respectively. You can imagine the pressure that will be brought upon them to ignore the student votes.

We need you to email them right and ask them to respect the voice of the students and divest!

Board of Turstees Direction Carver T. Gayton (tescbot@evergreen.edu)
Foundation Vice President Lee Hoemann (foundation@evergreen.edu)
Also, go to http://www.tescdivest.org/ to sign a petition in support of the students!

Immediately after the student vote, the student union passed a unanimous resolution requesting full disclosure of all corporations, including those held through mutual funds, in which The Evergreen State College Foundation and The Evergreen State College are invested and asking the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors to make public a plan of action for divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine.

Please email Mr. Gayton and Ms. Hoemann today and ask them to divest.

Many of you followed with baited breath the struggle for divestment at the University of California at Berkeley and San Diego. We sent you this report about the inspiring students from Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).  Well the attacks on the bill's supporter's, including Jewish Voice for Peace, were vicious and predictable, so we decided to respond and also document what we had learned about how the anti-divestment groups work. We think it's important reading for those working on other campuses. 

Most important, we interviewed the UC Berkeley student supporters of divestment so you could hear them in their own words. We can't possibly convey how incredibly inspired we were by them, but we think this ten-minute video clip will do the job for us. One thing is certain. If you want to know where today's smart, compassionate, curious and socially engaged students of all backgrounds are gravitating to, it's the campus divestment movement.

Congratulations Evergreen. During these very painful times when we see peacemakers being attacked on the seas outside Gaza, in B'ilin and N'ilin and Sheik Jarrah, it's hugely inspiring to see that real change is happening with an entire new generation.

Sydney Levy
Director of Campaigns
Jewish Voice for Peace


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