Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Divestment

Economic boycott of Israel settlers: The terror of Israel state of affairs

Note: A re-edit of 2014 article “Why Israel Fears the Boycott”? By OMAR BARGHOUTI published this JAN. 31, 2014 SundayReview

The UN declared recently that 68 companies, among them 18 foreign companies, are doing business with Israel illegal settlements in Palestine West Bank.

“If Israel continue construction of illegal settlements, the Israeli government is likely to face an international boycott “on steroids,” as Mr. Kerry warned last August 2014.

These days, Israel seems as terrified by the “exponential” growth of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (or B.D.S.) movement as it is by Iran’s rising clout in the region.

Last June, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu effectively declared B.D.S. a strategic threat. Calling it the “delegitimization” movement, he assigned the overall responsibility for fighting it to his Strategic Affairs Ministry.

But B.D.S. doesn’t pose an existential threat to Israel; it poses a serious challenge to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people, which is the root cause of its growing worldwide isolation.

The Israeli government’s view of B.D.S. as a strategic threat reveals its heightened anxiety at the movement’s recent spread into the mainstream.

It also reflects the failure of the Foreign Affairs Ministry’s well-endowed “Brand Israel” campaign, which reduces B.D.S. to an image problem and employs culture as a propaganda tool, sending well-known Israeli figures around the world to show Israel’s prettier face.

Begun in 2005 by the largest trade union federations and organizations in Palestinian society, B.D.S. calls for ending Israel’s 1967 occupation, “recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality,” and the right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homes and lands from which they were forcibly displaced and dispossessed in 1948.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power with a strong economy, feel so vulnerable to a nonviolent human rights movement?

Israel is deeply apprehensive about the increasing number of American Jews who vocally oppose its policies — especially those who are joining or leading B.D.S. campaigns.

Israel also perceives as a profound threat the rising dissent among prominent Jewish figures who reject its tendency to speak on their behalf, challenge its claim to be the “national home” of all Jews, or raise the inherent conflict between its ethno-religious self-definition and its claim to democracy.

What I. F. Stone prophetically wrote about Israel back in 1967, that it was “creating a kind of moral schizophrenia in world Jewry” because of its “racial and exclusion” ideal, is no longer beyond the pale.

Israel is also threatened by the effectiveness of the nonviolent strategies used by the B.D.S. movement, including its Israeli component, and by the negative impact they have had on Israel’s standing in world public opinion.

As one Israeli military commander said in the context of suppressing Palestinian popular resistance to the occupation, “We don’t do Gandhi very well.

The landslide vote by the American Studies Association in December to endorse an academic boycott of Israel, coming on the heels of a similar decision by the Association for Asian-American Studies, among others, as well as divestment votes by several university student councils, proves that B.D.S. is no longer a taboo in the United States.

The movement’s economic impact is also becoming evident. The recent decision by the $200 billion Dutch pension fund PGGM to divest from the 5 largest Israeli banks because of their involvement in occupied Palestinian territory has sent shock waves through the Israeli establishment.

To underscore the “existential” danger that B.D.S. poses, Israel and its lobby groups often invoke the smear of anti-Semitism, despite the unequivocal, consistent position of the movement against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

This unfounded allegation is intended to intimidate into silence those who criticize Israel and to conflate such criticism with anti-Jewish racism.

Arguing that boycotting Israel is intrinsically anti-Semitic is not only false, but it also presumes that Israel and “the Jews” are one and the same. This is as absurd and bigoted as claiming that a boycott of a self-defined Islamic state like Saudi Arabia because of its horrific human rights record, would of necessity be Islamophobic.

The B.D.S. movement’s call for full equality in law and policies for the Palestinian citizens of Israel is particularly troubling for Israel because it raises questions about its self-definition as an exclusionary Jewish state.

Israel considers any challenge to what even the Department of State has criticized as its system of “institutional, legal and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens as an “existential threat,” partially because of the apartheid image that this challenge evokes.

Tellingly, the Supreme Court recently rejected an attempt by Israeli liberals to have their nationality or ethnicity listed simply as “Israeli” in the national population registry (which has categories like Jew, Arab, Druse, etc.). The court found that doing so would be a serious threat to Israel’s founding identity as a Jewish state for the Jewish people.

Israel remains the only country on earth that does not recognize its own nationality, as that would theoretically avail equal rights to all its citizens, undermining its “ethnocratic” identity.

The claim that B.D.S., a nonviolent movement anchored in universal principles of human rights, aims to “destroy” Israel must be understood in this context.

Would justice and equal rights for all really destroy Israel?

Did equality destroy the American South? Or South Africa?

Certainly, it destroyed the discriminatory racial order that had prevailed in both places, but it did not destroy the people or the country.

Likewise, only Israel’s unjust order is threatened by boycotts, divestment and sanctions.

A Palestinian human rights activist and the author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.”

Noam Chomsky: Israel’s Actions in Palestine are “Much Worse Than Apartheid” in South Africa

Web Exclusive AUGUST 08, 2014

“In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid,” Noam Chomsky says. “To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. … The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison.

(Actually, until recently, Israel relied on the Palestinians to build the settlements, and cultivate the land. And they started to bring African immigrants to replace them, and now they want these immigrants out also)

Part 2 of our conversation with famed linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky on the crisis in Gaza, U.S. support for Israel, apartheid and the BDS movement. (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction of the economy in the occupied land and settlements)

Click here to watch Part 1 of the interview.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

And we’re continuing our conversation with Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist, author, has written many books, among them, one of the more recent books, Gaza in Crisis. I

want to turn right now to Bob Schieffer, the host of CBS’s Face the Nation. This is how he closed a recent show.

BOB SCHIEFFER: In the Middle East, the Palestinian people find themselves in the grip of a terrorist group that is embarked on a strategy to get its own children killed in order to build sympathy for its cause—a strategy that might actually be working, at least in some quarters. Last week I found a quote of many years ago by Golda Meir, one of Israel’s early leaders, which might have been said yesterday: “We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children,” she said, “but we can never forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.” (This is the same political figure who said in 1968: There is No Palestinians)

AMY GOODMAN: That was CBS journalist Bob Schieffer. Noam Chomsky, can you respond?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we don’t really have to listen to CBS, because we can listen directly to the Israeli propaganda agencies, which he’s quoting. It’s a shameful moment for U.S. media when it insists on being subservient to the grotesque propaganda agencies of a violent, aggressive state.

As for the comment itself, the Israel comment which he—propaganda comment which he quoted, I guess maybe the best comment about that was made by the great Israeli journalist Amira Hass, who just described it as “sadism masked as compassion.” That’s about the right characterization.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to also ask you about the U.N.’s role and the U.S.—vis-à-vis, as well, the United States. This is the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, criticizing the U.S. for its role in the Israeli assault on Gaza.

NAVI PILLAY: They have not only provided the heavy weaponry, which is now being used by Israel in Gaza, but they’ve also provided almost $1 billion in providing the Iron Domes to protect Israelis from the rocket attacks, but no such protection has been provided to Gazans against the shelling. So I am reminding the United States that it’s a party to international humanitarian law and human rights law.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner or human rights. Noam, on Friday, this was the point where the death toll for Palestinians had exceeded Operation Cast Lead; it had passed 1,400.

President Obama was in the White House, and he held a news conference. He didn’t raise the issue of Gaza in the news conference, but he was immediately asked about Gaza, and he talked about—he reaffirmed the U.S. support for Israel, said that the resupply of ammunition was happening, that the $220 million would be going for an expanded Iron Dome.

But then the weekend took place, yet another attack on a U.N. shelter, on one of the schools where thousands of Palestinians had taken refuge, and a number of them were killed, including children. And even the U.S. then joined with the U.N. in criticizing what Israel was doing. Can you talk about what the U.S. has done and if you really do see a shift right now?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, let’s start with what the U.S. has done, and continue with the comments with the U.N. Human Rights Commission.

Right at that time, the time of the quote you gave over the radio—that you gave before, there was a debate in the Human Rights Commission about whether to have an investigation—no action, just an investigation—of what had happened in Gaza, an investigation of possible violations of human rights.

“Possible” is kind of a joke. It was passed with one negative vote. Guess who. Obama voted against an investigation, while he was giving these polite comments. That’s action.

The United States continues to provide, as Pillay pointed out, the critical, the decisive support for the atrocities. When what’s called Israeli jet planes bomb defenseless targets in Gaza, that’s U.S. jet planes with Israeli pilots. And the same with the high-tech munition and so on and so forth. So this is, again, sadism masked as compassion. Those are the actions.

AMY GOODMAN: What about opinion in the United States? Can you talk about the role that it plays? We saw some certainly remarkable changes. MSNBC had the reporter Ayman Mohyeldin, who had been at Al Jazeera, very respected. He had been, together with Sherine Tadros, in 2008 the only Western reporters in Gaza covering Operation Cast Lead, tremendous experience in the area. And he was pulled out by MSNBC.

But because there was a tremendous response against this, with—I think what was trending was “Let Ayman report”—he was then brought back in. So there was a feeling that people wanted to get a sense of what was happening on the ground. There seemed to be some kind of opening. Do you sense a difference in the American population, how—the attitude toward what’s happening in Israel and the Occupied Territories?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Very definitely. It’s been happening over some years. There was a kind of a point of inflection that increased after Cast Lead, which horrified many people, and it’s happening again now. You can see it everywhere.

Take, say, The New York TimesThe New York Times devoted a good part of their op-ed page to a Gaza diary a couple of days ago, which was heart-rending and eloquent. They’ve had strong op-eds condemning extremist Israeli policies. That’s new, and it reflects something that’s happening in the country. You can see it in polls, especially among young people. If you look at the polling results, the population below 30, roughly, by now has shifted substantially. You can see it on college campuses.

I mean, I see it personally. I’ve been giving talks on these things for almost 50 years. I used to have police protection, literally, even at my own university. The meetings were broken up violently, you know, enormous protest. Within the past, roughly, decade, that’s changed substantially by now that Palestinian solidarity is maybe the biggest issue on campus. Huge audiences. There isn’t even—hardly get a hostile question. That’s a tremendous change. That’s strikingly among younger people, but they become older.

However, there’s something we have to remember about the United States: It’s not a democracy; it’s a plutocracy. There’s study after study that comes out in mainstream academic political science which shows what we all know or ought to know, that political decisions are made by a very small sector of extreme privilege and wealth, concentrated capital. For most of the population, their opinions simply don’t matter in the political system.

They’re essentially disenfranchised. I can give the details if you like, but that’s basically the story. Now, public opinion can make a difference. Even in dictatorships, the public can’t be ignored, and in a partially democratic society like this, even less so. So, ultimately, this will make a difference. And how long “ultimately” is, well, that’s up to us.

We’ve seen it before. Take, say, the East Timor case, which I mentioned. For 25 years, the United States strongly supported the vicious Indonesian invasion and massacre, virtual genocide. It was happening right through 1999, as the Indonesian atrocities increased and escalated. After Dili, the capital city, was practically evacuated after Indonesian attacks, the U.S. was still supporting it.

Finally, in mid-September 1999, under considerable international and also domestic pressure, Clinton quietly told the Indonesian generals, “It’s finished.” And they had said they’d never leave. They said, “This is our territory.” They pulled out within days and allowed a U.N. peacekeeping force to enter without Indonesian military resistance. Well, you know, that’s a dramatic indication of what can be done.

South Africa is a more complex case but has similarities, and there are others. Sooner or later, it’s possible—and that’s really up to us—that domestic pressure will compel the U.S. government to join the world on this issue, and that will be a decisive change.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, I wanted to ask you about your recent piece for The Nationon Israel-Palestine and BDS. You were critical of the effectiveness of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. One of the many responses came from Yousef Munayyer, the executive director of the Jerusalem Fund and its educational program, the Palestine Center.

He wrote, quote, “Chomsky’s criticism of BDS seems to be that it hasn’t changed the power dynamic yet, and thus that it can’t. There is no doubt the road ahead is a long one for BDS, but there is also no doubt the movement is growing … All other paths toward change, including diplomacy and armed struggle, have so far proved ineffective, and some have imposed significant costs on Palestinian life and livelihood.” Could you respond?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, actually, I did respond. You can find it on The Nationwebsite. But in brief, far from being critical of BDS, I was strongly supportive of it. One of the oddities of what’s called the BDS movement is that they can’t—many of the activists just can’t see support as support unless it becomes something like almost worship: repeat the catechism. If you take a look at that article, it very strongly supported these tactics. In fact, I was involved in them and supporting them before the BDS movement even existed. They’re the right tactics.

But it should be second nature to activists—and it usually is—that you have to ask yourself, when you conduct some tactic, when you pursue it, what the effect is going to be on the victims. You don’t pursue a tactic because it makes you feel good. You pursue it because it’s going—you estimate that it’ll help the victims. And you have to make choices. This goes way back. You know, say, back during the Vietnam War, there were debates about whether you should resort to violent tactics, say Weathermen-style tactics.

You could understand the motivation—people were desperate—but the Vietnamese were strongly opposed. And many of us, me included, were also opposed, not because the horrors don’t justify some strong action, but because the consequences would be harm to the victims. The tactics would increase support for the violence, which in fact is what happened. Those questions arise all the time.

Unfortunately, the Palestinian solidarity movements have been unusual in their unwillingness to think these things through. That was pointed out recently again by Raja Shehadeh, the leading figure in—lives in Ramallah, a longtime supporter, the founder of Al-Haq, the legal organization, a very significant and powerful figure. He pointed out that the Palestinian leadership has tended to focus on what he called absolutes, absolute justice—this is the absolute justice that we want—and not to pay attention to pragmatic policies.

That’s been very obvious for decades. It used to drive people like Eqbal Ahmad, the really committed and knowledgeable militant—used to drive him crazy. They just couldn’t listen to pragmatic questions, which are what matter for success in a popular movement, a nationalist movement. And the ones who understand that can succeed; the ones who don’t understand it can’t. If you talk about—

AMY GOODMAN: What choices do you feel that the BDS movement, that activists should make?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, they’re very simple, very clear. In fact, I discussed them in the article. Those actions that have been directed against the occupation have been quite successful, very successful. Most of them don’t have anything to do with the BDS movement. So take, say, one of the most extreme and most successful is the European Union decision, directive, to block any connection to any institution, governmental or private, that has anything to do with the Occupied Territories.

That’s a pretty strong move. That’s the kind of move that was taken with regard to South Africa. Just a couple of months ago, the Presbyterian Church here called for divestment from any multinational corporation that’s involved in any way in the occupation. And there’s been case after case like that. That makes perfect sense.

There are also—so far, there haven’t been any sanctions, so BDS is a little misleading. It’s BD, really. But there could be sanctions. And there’s an obvious way to proceed. There has been for years, and has plenty of support. In fact, Amnesty International called for it during the Cast Lead operations. That’s an arms embargo. For the U.S. to impose an arms embargo, or even to discuss it, would be a major issue, major contribution. That’s the most important of the possible sanctions.

And there’s a basis for it. U.S. arms to Israel are in violation of U.S. law, direct violation of U.S. law. You look at U.S. foreign assistance law, it bars any military assistance to any one country, unit, whatever, engaged in consistent human rights violations. Well, you know, Israel’s violation of human rights violations is so extreme and consistent that you hardly have to argue about it.

That means that U.S. aid to Israel is in—military aid, is in direct violation of U.S. law. And as Pillay pointed out before, the U.S. is a high-contracting party to the Geneva Conventions, so it’s violating its own extremely serious international commitments by not imposing—working to impose the Geneva Conventions. That’s an obligation for the high-contracting parties, like the U.S. And that means to impose—to prevent a violation of international humanitarian law, and certainly not to abet it. So the U.S. is both in violation of its commitments to international humanitarian law and also in violation of U.S. domestic law. And there’s some understanding of that.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response, Noam, to Nicholas Kristof on the issue of Palestinian nonviolence. Writing in The New York Times last month, Kristof wrote, quote, “Palestinian militancy has accomplished nothing but increasing the misery of the Palestinian people. If Palestinians instead turned more to huge Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns, the resulting videos would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom.” Noam Chomsky, your response?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, first of all, that’s a total fabrication. Palestinian nonviolence has been going on for a long time, very significant nonviolent actions. I haven’t seen the reverberations in Kristof’s columns, for example, or anywhere. I mean, there is among popular movements, but not what he’s describing.

There’s also a good deal of cynicism in those comments. What he should be doing is preaching nonviolence to the United States, the leading perpetrator of violence in the world. Hasn’t been reported here, but an international poll last December—Gallup here and its counterpart in England, the leading polling agencies—it was an international poll of public opinion. One of the questions that was asked is: Which country is the greatest threat to world peace? Guess who was first. Nobody even close.

The United States was way in the lead. Far behind was Pakistan, and that was probably because mostly of the Indian vote. Well, that’s what Nicholas Kristof should be commenting on. He should be calling for nonviolence where he is, where we are, where you and I are. That would make a big difference in the world. And, of course, nonviolence in our client states, like Israel, where we provide directly the means for the violence, or Saudi Arabia, extreme, brutal, fundamentalist state, where we send them tens of billions of dollars of military aid, and on and on, in ways that are not discussed. That would make sense. It’s easy to preach nonviolence to some victim somewhere, saying, “You shouldn’t be violent. We’ll be as violent as we like, but you not be violent.”

That aside, the recommendation is correct, and in fact it’s been a recommendation of people dedicated to Palestinian rights for many years. Eqbal Ahmad, who I mentioned, 40 years—you know, his background, he was active in the Algerian resistance, a long, long history of both very acute political analysis and direct engagement in Third World struggles, he was very close to the PLO—consistently urged this, as many, many people did, me included. And, in fact, there’s been plenty of it.

Not enough. But as I say, it’s very easy to recommend to victims, “You be nice guys.” That’s cheap. Even if it’s correct, it’s cheap. What matters is what we say about ourselves. Are we going to be nice guys? That’s the important thing, particularly when it’s the United States, the country which, quite rightly, is regarded by the—internationally as the leading threat to world peace, and the decisive threat in the Israeli case.

AMY GOODMAN: Noam, Mohammed Suliman, a Palestinian human rights worker in Gaza, wrote in The Huffington Post during the Israeli assault, quote, “The reality is that if Palestinians stop resisting, Israel won’t stop occupying, as its leaders repeatedly affirm. The besieged Jews of the Warsaw ghetto had a motto ‘to live and die in dignity.’ As I sit in my own besieged ghetto,” he writes, “I think how Palestinians have honored this universal value. We live in dignity and we die in dignity, refusing to accept subjugation. We’re tired of war. … But I also can no longer tolerate the return to a deeply unjust status quo. I can no longer agree to live in this open-air prison.” Your response to what Mohammed Suliman wrote?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, several points again. First, about the Warsaw Ghetto, there’s a very interesting debate going on right now in Israel in the Hebrew press as to whether the Warsaw Ghetto uprising was justified. It began with an article, I think by a survivor, who went through many details and argued that the uprising, which was sort of a rogue element, he said, actually seriously endangered the Jews of the—surviving Jews in the ghetto and harmed them. Then came responses, and there’s a debate about it.

But that’s exactly the kind of question you want to ask all the time: What’s going to be the effect of the action on the victims? It’s not a trivial question in the case of the Warsaw Ghetto. Obviously, maybe the Nazis are the extreme in brutality in human history, and you have to surely sympathize and support the ghetto inhabitants and survivors and the victims, of course. But nevertheless, the tactical question arises. This is not open. And it arises here, too, all the time, if you’re serious about concern for the victims.

But his general point is accurate, and it’s essentially what I was trying to say before. Israel wants quiet, wants the Palestinians to be nice and quiet and nonviolent, the way Nicholas Kristof urges. And then what will Israel do? We don’t have to guess. It’s what they have been doing, and they’ll continue, as long as there’s no resistance to it.

What they’re doing is, briefly, taking over whatever they want, whatever they see as of value in the West Bank, leaving Palestinians in essentially unviable cantons, pretty much imprisoned; separating the West Bank from Gaza in violation of the solemn commitments of the Oslo Accords; keeping Gaza under siege and on a diet; meanwhile, incidentally, taking over the Golan Heights, already annexed in violation of explicit Security Council orders; vastly expanding Jerusalem way beyond any historical size, annexing it in violation of Security Council orders; huge infrastructure projects, which make it possible for people living in the nice hills of the West Bank to get to Tel Aviv in a few minutes without seeing any Arabs.

That’s what they’ll continue doing, just as they have been, as long as the United States supports it. That’s the decisive point, and that’s what we should be focusing on. We’re here. We can do things here. And that happens to be of critical significance in this case. That’s going to be—it’s not the only factor, but it’s the determinative factor in what the outcome will be.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet you have Congress—you’re talking about American population changing opinion—unanimously passing a resolution in support of Israel. Unanimously.

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s right, because—and that’s exactly what we have to combat, by organization and action. Take South Africa again. It wasn’t until the 1980s that Congress began to pass sanctions. As I said, Reagan vetoed them and then violated them when they were passed over his veto, but at least they were passing them. But that’s decades after massive protests were developing around the world. In fact, BDS-style tactics—there was never a BDS movement—BDS-style tactics began to be carried out on a popular level in the United States beginning in the late ’70s, but really picking up in the ’80s.

That’s decades after large-scale actions of that kind were being taken elsewhere. And ultimately, that had an effect. Well, we’re not there yet. You have to recall—it’s important to recall that by the time Congress was passing sanctions against South Africa, even the American business community, which really is decisive at determining policy, had pretty much turned against apartheid. Just wasn’t worth it for them. And as I said, the agreement that was finally reached was acceptable to them—difference from the Israeli case. We’re not there now.

Right now Israel is one of the top recipients of U.S. investment. Warren Buffett, for example, recently bought—couple of billion dollars spent on some factory in Israel, an installment, and said that this is the best place for investment outside the United States. Intel is setting up its major new generation chip factory there. Military industry is closely linked to Israel. All of this is quite different from the South Africa case. And we have to work, as it’ll take a lot of work to get there, but it has to be done.

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, Noam, you say that the analogy between Israel’s occupation of the terrories and apartheid South Africa is a dubious one. Why?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Many reasons. Take, say, the term “apartheid.” In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by “apartheid” you mean South African-style apartheid. What’s happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There’s a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. It was 85 percent of the workforce of the population, and that was basically their workforce. They needed them. They had to sustain them. The bantustans were horrifying, but South Africa did try to sustain them. They didn’t put them on a diet. They tried to keep them strong enough to do the work that they needed for the country. They tried to get international support for the bantustans.

The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don’t want them. They want them out, or at least in prison. And they’re acting that way. That’s a very striking difference, which means that the apartheid analogy, South African apartheid, to the Occupied Territories is just a gift to Israeli violence. It’s much worse than that. If you look inside Israel, there’s plenty of repression and discrimination. I’ve written about it extensively for decades. But it’s not apartheid. It’s bad, but it’s not apartheid. So the term, I just don’t think is applicable.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to get your response to Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. Speaking to The New York Times, Eiland said, quote, “You cannot win against an effective guerrilla organization when on the one hand, you are fighting them, and on the other hand, you continue to supply them with water and food and gas and electricity. Israel should have declared a war against the de facto state of Gaza, and if there is misery and starvation in Gaza, it might lead the other side to make such hard decisions.” Noam Chomsky, if you could respond to this?

NOAM CHOMSKY: That’s basically the debate within the Israeli top political echelon: Should we follow Dov Weissglas’s position of maintaining them on a diet of bare survival, so you make sure children don’t get chocolate bars, but you allow them to have, say, Cheerios in the morning? Should we—

AMY GOODMAN: Actually, Noam, can you explain that, because when you’ve talked about it before, it sort of sounds—this diet sounds like a metaphor. But can you explain what you meant when you said actual diet? Like, you’re talking number of calories. You’re actually talking about whether kids can have chocolate?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Israel has—Israeli experts have calculated in detail exactly how many calories, literally, Gazans need to survive. And if you look at the sanctions that they impose, they’re grotesque. I mean, even John Kerry condemned them bitterly. They’re sadistic. Just enough calories to survive. And, of course, it is partly metaphoric, because it means just enough material coming in through the tunnels so that they don’t totally die. Israel restricts medicines, but you have to allow a little trickle in.

When I was there right before the November 2012 assault, visited the Khan Younis hospital, and the director showed us that there’s—they don’t even have simple medicines, but they have something. And the same is true with all aspects of it. Keep them on a diet, literally. And the reason is—very simple, and they pretty much said it: “If they die, it’s not going to look good for Israel. We may claim that we’re not the occupying power, but the rest of the world doesn’t agree.

Even the United States doesn’t agree. We are the occupying power. And if we kill off the population under occupation, not going to look good.” It’s not the 19th century, when, as the U.S. expanded over what’s its national territory, it pretty much exterminated the indigenous population. Well, by 19th century’s imperial standards, that was unproblematic. This is a little different today. You can’t exterminate the population in the territories that you occupy. That’s the dovish position, Weissglas. The hawkish position is Eiland, which you quoted: Let’s just kill them off.

AMY GOODMAN: And who do you think is going to prevail, as I speak to you in the midst of this ceasefire?

NOAM CHOMSKY: The Weissglas position will prevail, because Israel just—you know, it’s already becoming an international pariah and internationally hated. If it went on to pursue Eiland’s recommendations, even the United States wouldn’t be able to support it.

AMY GOODMAN: You know, interestingly, while the Arab countries, most of them, have not spoken out strongly against what Israel has done in Gaza, Latin American countries, one after another, from Brazil to Venezuela to Bolivia, have. A number of them have recalled their ambassadors to Israel. I believe Bolivian President Evo Morales called Israel a “terrorist state.” Can you talk about Latin America and its relationship with Israel?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Yeah, just remember the Arab countries means the Arab dictators, our friends. It doesn’t mean the Arab populations, our enemies.

But what you said about Latin America is very significant. Not long ago, Latin America was what was called the backyard: They did whatever we said. In strategic planning, very little was said about Latin America, because they were under our domination. If we don’t like something that happens, we install a military dictatorship or carry—back huge massacres and so on. But basically they do what we say. Last 10 or 15 years, that’s changed.

And it’s a historic change. For the first time in 500 years, since the conquistadors, Latin America is moving toward degree of independence of imperial domination and also a degree of integration, which is critically important. And what you just described is one striking example of it. In the entire world, as far as I know, only a few Latin American countries have taken an honorable position on this issue: Brazil, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador have withdrawn ambassadors in protest. They join Bolivia and Venezuela, which had done it even earlier in reaction to other atrocities. That’s unique.

And it’s not the only example. There was a very striking example, I guess maybe a year or so ago. The Open Society Forum did a study of support for rendition. Rendition, of course, is the most extreme form of torture. What you do is take people, people you don’t like, and you send them to your favorite dictatorship so they’ll be tortured. Grotesque. That was the CIA program of extraordinary rendition. The study was: Who took part in it? Well, of course, the Middle East dictatorships did—you know, Syria, Assad, Mubarak and others—because that’s where you sent them to be tortured—Gaddafi. They took part.

Europe, almost all of it participated. England, Sweden, other countries permitted, abetted the transfer of prisoners to torture chambers to be grotesquely tortured. In fact, if you look over the world, there was only really one exception: The Latin American countries refused to participate. Now, that is pretty remarkable, for one thing, because it shows their independence. But for another, while they were under U.S. control, they were the torture center of the world—not long ago, a couple of decades ago. That’s a real change.

And by now, if you look at hemispheric conferences, the United States and Canada are isolated. The last major hemispheric conference couldn’t come to a consensus decision on the major issues, because the U.S. and Canada didn’t agree with the rest of the hemisphere. The major issues were admission of Cuba into the hemispheric system and steps towards decriminalization of drugs. That’s a terrible burden on the Latin Americans. The problem lies in the United States. And the Latin American countries, even the right-wing ones, want to free themselves of that. U.S. and Canada wouldn’t go along. These are very significant changes in world affairs.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to turn to Charlie Rose interviewing the Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. This was in July. Meshaal called for an end to Israel’s occupation of Gaza.

KHALED MESHAAL: [translated] This is not a prerequisite. Life is not a prerequisite. Life is a right for our people in Palestine. Since 2006, when the world refused the outcomes of the elections, our people actually lived under the siege of eight years. This is a collective punishment. We need to lift the siege. We have to have a port. We have to have an airport. This is the first message.

The second message: In order to stop the bloodletting, we need to look at the underlying causes. We need to look at the occupation. We need to stop the occupation. Netanyahu doesn’t take heed of our rights. And Mr. Kerry, months ago, tried to find a window through the negotiations in order to meet our target: to live without occupation, to reach our state. Netanyahu has killed our hope or killed our dream, and he killed the American initiative.

AMY GOODMAN: That is the Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal. In these last few minutes we have left, Noam Chomsky, talk about the demands of Hamas and what Khaled Meshaal just said.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, he was basically reiterating what he and Ismail Haniyeh and other Hamas spokespersons have been saying for a long time. In fact, if you go back to 1988, when Hamas was formed, even before they became a functioning organization, their leadership, Sheikh Yassin—who was assassinated by Israel—others, offered settlement proposals, which were turned down. And it remains pretty much the same. By now, it’s quite overt. Takes effort to fail to see it. You can read it in The Washington Post.

What they propose is: They accept the international consensus on a two-state settlement. They say, “Yes, let’s have a two-state settlement on the international border.” They do not—they say they don’t go on to say, “We’ll recognize Israel,” but they say, “Yes, let’s have a two-state settlement and a very long truce, maybe 50 years. And then we’ll see what happens.” Well, that’s been their proposal all along. That’s far more forthcoming than any proposal in Israel. But that’s not the way it’s presented here. What you read is, all they’re interested in is destruction of Israel. What you hear is Bob Schieffer’s type of repetition of the most vulgar Israeli propaganda. But that has been their position. It’s not that they’re nice people—like, I wouldn’t vote for them—but that is their position.

AMY GOODMAN: Six billion dollars of damage in Gaza right now. About 1,900 Palestinians are dead, not clear actually how many, as the rubble hasn’t all been dug out at this point. Half a million refugees. You’ve got something like 180,000 in the schools, the shelters. And what does that mean for schools, because they’re supposed to be starting in a few weeks, when the Palestinians are living in these schools, makeshift shelters? So, what is the reality on the ground that happens now, as these negotiations take place in Egypt?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, there is a kind of a slogan that’s been used for years: Israel destroys, Gazans rebuild, Europe pays. It’ll probably be something like that—until the next episode of “mowing the lawn.” And what will happen—unless U.S. policy changes, what’s very likely to happen is that Israel will continue with the policies it has been executing. No reason for them to stop, from their point of view. And it’s what I said: take what you want in the West Bank, integrate it into Israel, leave the Palestinians there in unviable cantons, separate it from Gaza, keep Gaza on that diet, under siege—and, of course, control, keep the West Golan Heights—and try to develop a greater Israel.

This is not for security reasons, incidentally. That’s been understood by the Israeli leadership for decades. Back around 1970, I suppose, Ezer Weizman, later the—general, Air Force general, later president, pointed out, correctly, that taking over the territories does not improve our security situation—in fact, probably makes it worse—but, he said, it allows Israel to live at the scale and with the quality that we now enjoy. In other words, we can be a rich, powerful, expansionist country.

AMY GOODMAN: But you hear repeatedly, Hamas has in its charter a call for the destruction of Israel. And how do you guarantee that these thousands of rockets that threaten the people of Israel don’t continue?

NOAM CHOMSKY: Very simple. First of all, Hamas charter means practically nothing. The only people who pay attention to it are Israeli propagandists, who love it. It was a charter put together by a small group of people under siege, under attack in 1988. And it’s essentially meaningless. There are charters that mean something, but they’re not talked about. So, for example, the electoral program of Israel’s governing party, Likud, states explicitly that there can never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River. And they not only state it in their charter, that’s a call for the destruction of Palestine, explicit call for it. And they don’t only have it in their charter, you know, their electoral program, but they implement it. That’s quite different from the Hamas charter.

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How Stephen Hawking supported the Palestinian cause

I support the rights of scientists everywhere to freedom of movement, publication and collaboration,

The renowned scientist, who has passed away, will be remembered not only for his work, but his support for Palestine.

Hawking made headlines in May 2013 when he decided to boycott a high-profile conference in Israel where he was scheduled to speak [File: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

Stephen Hawking, the world-renowned scientist who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 76, was known not only for his groundbreaking work but also for his support for Palestine.

Hawking, who had motor neurone disease, made headlines in May 2013 when he decided to boycott a high-profile conference in Israelwhere he was scheduled to speak.

The physicist was working at the Cambridge University in the UK at the time.

The Presidential Conference, an academic event held in Jerusalem, was being hosted by the late Israeli President Shimon Peres.

In a letter Hawking sent to the organisers on May 3, he said the “policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster”.

“I accepted the invitation to the Presidential Conference with the intention that this would not only allow me to express my opinion on the prospects for a peace settlement but also because it would allow me to lecture on the West Bank.

“However, I have received a number of emails from Palestinian academics. They are unanimous that I should respect the boycott. In view of this, I must withdraw from the conference.

“Had I attended, I would have stated my opinion that the policy of the present Israeli government is likely to lead to disaster,” the letter read.

And, with the approval of Hawking, the British Committee for Universities of Palestine, an organisation of UK-based academics to support the academic boycott of Israel, said in a statement at the time: “This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.”

Hawking’s decision was widely celebrated by Palestinian activists and academics.

“Palestinians deeply appreciate Stephen Hawking’s support for an academic boycott of Israel,” Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement (BDS), said.

“We think this will rekindle the kind of interest among international academics in academic boycotts that was present in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.”

Ali Abunimah, a Palestinian-American journalist, wrote: “When we look back in a few years, Hawking’s decision to respect BDS may be seen as a turning point – the moment when boycotting Israel as a stance for justice went mainstream”.

Support for Palestinian students

Hawking’s sympathy with the Palestinian cause extended beyond a boycott of Israel.

Last year, he asked his millions of Facebook followers to contribute financially to the Palestinian Advanced Physics School – a physics lecture series for masters students in the occupied West Bank.

I support the rights of scientists everywhere to freedom of movement, publication and collaboration,” he wrote.

Screenshot from Stephen Hawking’s official Facebook page calling on his followers to raise funds

Hawking also publicly congratulated in a video on his Facebook page Hanan al-Hroub, a Palestinian woman who won the Global Teacher Prize for 2016.

“You are inspiration to people everywhere,” he said.

“In a society torn apart by conflict, where children are regularly exposed to violence, Hanan Al Hroub is building trust and supporting children suffering psychological trauma – from the heart of her classroom.”

Source: Al Jazeera News

The Insult: Six points toward clarification

Note: I watched the talk of Ziad Doueiri on ARTE, but didn’t have the opportunity to see the movie

 on 

Controversy has arisen in recent weeks over the 2017 film, The Insult [Qadiat raqm 23(Case #23)], Lebanon’s submission to the 2018 Academy Awards.

The film’s director, Ziad Doueiri, who also directed West Beirut [À l’abri les enfants] (Sheltered Children)] (1998), is a proponent of Israeli normalization, a political strategy by and large rejected by Palestinians and their allies because its position concerning the Israeli occupation of historic Palestine entails an unacceptable compromise with Zionism.

(Israel is a colonial State, created by our existential enemy the US Evangelical Zionists)

Normalization not only accepts a Jewish presence in the region–something to which most proponents of either the one- or two-state solution would agree–but consents to its continuation in the form of Zionist hegemony.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) supporters, who reject normalization, are calling for a boycott of The Insult, not only because, in line with normalization tactics, it was made with Zionist funding, but because Doueiri “previously lived and worked with Zionists while making [his 2012 film] The Attack (Mada Masr, 1 Feb. 2018), a pro-Israeli take on suicide bombers, and used an Israeli production company to help fund it (Dina Abumaria, 29 Oct. 2017).

For these activists, boycotting The Insult is consistent with the divestment aspect of the BDS Call.

The Insult presents us with a sophistical narrative structure.

Its story is self-consciously organized into multiple allegorical layers, the meaning and significance of which are intentionally obscured and bound up with specious reasoning that distorts and exploits the historical record.

In an attempt to counter the resulting confusion, I supply below six straightforward, interconnected analytic points regarding the film. 

These points are meant to underscore, through clarification, the dual fact that The Insult is a vehicle of Zionist propaganda (hasbara) and that director Doueiri has collaborated with Zionists in its making, in an effort to forward the normalization agenda which he evidently supports.

1) Although The Insult is structured as an allegory, the moral of its story turns on the Damour massacre of 1976, the film’s attribution of which to Palestinian forces, who were in fact operating in concert with the Lebanese left during an active military conflict–the Lebanese Civil War–is presented completely out of historical context.

In turn, the massive Israeli bombing of Palestinian-controlled Damour in 1982, eight months prior to the genocidal Sabra and Shatila massacre perpetrated by ultra-nationalist Maronites with Israeli approval and support, is never mentioned.

As a result, the Sabra and Shatila massacre implicitly becomes an understandable act of Maronite revenge for the Damour massacre, while Maronite collaboration with Zionism in this crucial context is downplayed.

By this tack, Palestinian refugees and ultra-nationalist Maronites are positioned as moral equivalents, while the right-wing view is retained of Palestinians as foreigners who are prone to instigate violence and who should therefore be deported from (or at least not permitted socio-economic integration into) Lebanon–rather than as loyal opponents of fascism who in fact struggled historically in solidarity with the Lebanese left against the disproportionately overwhelming violence perpetrated by Maronite ultra-nationalists and their Israeli allies during the period in question.

2) This positioning of the two main parties to the film’s narrative conflict as morally equivalent is easily belied by the film’s own dramatic structure, in which the right-wing Maronite character, protagonist Tony Hanna (Adel Karam), is portrayed as three-dimensional and psychologically complex, his personal struggle positioned at the film’s dramatic center, while the Palestinian character, antagonist Yasser Abdallah Salameh (Kamal El Basha), serves basically as his foil and as such is portrayed in a more simplified manner.

3) Likewise in typical hasbara fashion, The Insult reinforces the stereotypical view of excessive violence as somehow inherent to Arab men, and of an exotic passivity as inherent to Arab women.

Both Yasser and Tony are portrayed, albeit in differing ways, as irrational and unable to control their tempers, whereas their wives, Manal Salameh (Christine Choueiri) and Shirine Hanna (Rita Hayek), are portrayed as sympathetic and emotionally intuitive.

Likewise, the female attorney, Nadine Wehbe (Diamand Bou Abboud), who defends Yasser in a lawsuit brought against him by Tony, is portrayed as calm and receptive, while Tony’s male attorney, Wajdi Wehbe (Camille Salameh), is portrayed as verbally abusive and interruptive.

Similarly, a group of Palestinian males depicted protesting the trial outside the courthouse are depicted as immature and thuggish–in this instance as no better than the Maronite ultra-nationalist males with whom they spar; moreover, women play no role in such apparent political spectacles.

Together, these tactics serve to reinforce the moral equivalency discourse, in this instance along conventional gender lines, while naturalizing the film’s core conflict through racist ideology.

4) The Insult nonetheless purports a feminist sensibility, in that Nadine ultimately wins her legal case.  Yet the film’s feminism is  contradicted not only by the elements in point #3 above.

Nadine wins her case with the surreptitious help of Wajdi, who early on is revealed to be her father.  Wajdi’s male pride will not permit him to lose his case, so he decides to manipulate the proceedings, at once bringing about the “realization” of moral equivalence and the acquittal of his daughter’s client.

His paternalism not only reinforces patriarchy but a sense that the moral high ground belongs to the political Right:  Wajdi is a well-known litigator on behalf of the Maronite ultra-nationalist cause.

5) In line with this right-wing slant, when political-economic factors in The Insult‘s narrative conflict are raised, they serve merely as background for dissimulating the film’s Zionist undercurrents rather than for genuinely analyzing the situation in Lebanon. 

For example, we are given to know superficially that Tony is unemployed and cannot find affordable housing under neo-liberal conditions of urban gentrification, whereas Yasser works for a construction company that is actively facilitating that gentrification–a symptomatically unexplored allegorical reference to the situation of economically challenged Israeli settlers, on the one hand, and the Palestinians whom they are displacing, and who are often compelled, under such conditions, to work for Israeli construction companies, on the other hand, that is never made explicit in the context of the trial which comprises the film’s central drama.

 In effect, The Insult projects an Israeli predicament onto Lebanon–and resolves it ideologically in a direction amenable to Zionism and condescending, damaging–insulting–to Arabs.

6) None of the above is surprising.  At least two of The Insult‘s production companies, Cohen Media Group and Ezekiel Film Productions, are of dubious ideological-political origin. 

Both produce slick “world cinema” fare intended primarily for international film festival and art house audiences and not for populations indigenous to third and fourth world countries in which many of their films’ narratives are set.

Making films for distribution on the world cinema circuit is a common tactic of hasbara tactic, the aim of which is to persuade international audiences of the correctness of Zionist perspectives.

Cohen Media Group is a New York-based company whose founder, real estate magnate Charles S. Cohen, was awarded the 2002 Israel Peace Medal for having raised an all-time record $52.4 million in donations to the State of Israel Bonds, and was also honored for his “humanitarian” and community service by the pro-Zionist organization, B’nai Brith International.

Ezekiel Film Production’s main website is devoid of transparency, and its secondary website lists it as yet another U.S. company based in Los Angeles, where Cohen Media Group also has offices.

Another of the film’s production companies, Rouge International, is based in France and produces world cinema fare, as does Tessalit Films, which is listed as both based in France and as a Weinstein company with offices in New York City, as well as Scope Pictures, which is based in Brussels.

Insofar as the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rarely honors films from the Arab world on (prejudicial) account of their presumed anti-Zionism or that of their makers, it is little wonder that The Insult was selected for submission to this year’s competition. 

One wonders who will fund Doueiri’s next film project, which is rumored to be an all-out condemnation of BDS.

Comment:  Why Doueiri believed he needed to shoot a short section in Israel? Because in bad times, al tatbee3 shi thanaweh wa ma bte7rez al tafkeer? The fact that Israel (our existential enemy) allowed Ziad to shoot there means that he and the film serve its propaganda interests

BDS Movement for Palestinian Rights Nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

OSLO, Norway, Feb 2 2018 (IPS) – As a member of the Norwegian parliament, I proudly use my authority as an elected official to nominate the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nominating the BDS movement for this recognition is perfectly in line with the principles I and my party hold very dear.

Like the BDS movement, we are fully committed to stopping an ascendant, racist and right-wing politics sweeping too much of our world, and securing freedom, justice and equality for all people.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the American Civil Rights movement, the grassroots, Palestinian-led BDS movement is a peaceful, global human rights movement that urges the use of economic and cultural boycotts to end Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.

Awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement would be a powerful sign demonstrating that the international community is committed to supporting a just peace in the Middle East and using peaceful means to end military rule and broader violations of international law.The BDS movement seeks to end Israel’s 70 years of military rule over 4.5 million Palestinians, including the devastating ten-year illegal siege collectively punishing and suffocating nearly 2 million Palestinians in Gaza, the ongoing forcible eviction of Palestinians from their homes, and the theft of Palestinian land through the construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

It seeks equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, currently discriminated against by dozens of racist laws, and to secure the internationally-recognized legal right of Palestinian refugees to return to homes and lands from which they were expelled.

Palestinian refugees constitute nearly 50% of all Palestinians, and they are being denied their right to return, (as of UN resolution 194) guaranteed by law to all refugees, simply because of their ethnicity.

The BDS movement’s aims and aspirations for basic human rights are irreproachable. They should be supported without reservation by all democratically-minded people and states.

The international community has a longstanding history of supporting peaceful measures such as boycotts and disinvestment against companies that profit from human rights violations. International support for such measures was critical in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the racist colonial regime in former Rhodesia.

If the international community commits to supporting BDS to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and the oppression of the Palestinian people, new hope will be lit for a just peace for Palestinians, Israelis and all people across the Middle East.

The BDS movement has been endorsed by prominent figures, including the former Nobel Peace Prize winners Desmond Tutu and Mairead Maguire.

It is gaining support from unions, academic associations, churches, and grassroots movements for the rights of refugees, immigrants, workers, women, indigenous peoples and the LGBTQI community. It is increasingly embraced by progressive Jewish groups and anti-racist movements across the world.

Eleven years since BDS’ launch, it’s high time for us to commit to doing no harm, and for all states to withdraw their complicity in Israel’s military occupation, racist apartheid rule, ongoing theft of Palestinian land, and other egregious human rights violations.

Awarding a Nobel Peace Prize to the BDS movement would be a powerful sign demonstrating that the international community is committed to supporting a just peace in the Middle East and using peaceful means to end military rule and broader violations of international law.

My hope is that this nomination can be one humble but necessary step towards bringing forth a more dignified and beautiful future for all peoples of the region.

Sanction all Israeli settlement goods and services, Amnesty demands

Human rights organizations are finally catching up with the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign to make Israel pay a price for its crimes against humanity.

On Wednesday, Amnesty International said that all states “must ban Israeli settlement products to help end half a century of violations against Palestinians.”

“The international community must ban the import of all goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and put an end to the multimillion dollar profits that have fueled mass human rights violations against Palestinians,” Amnesty stated.

The group announced it was launching a campaign to mark this week’s 50th anniversary of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip, to urge governments to take this long overdue step.

Lawns and swimming pools

For decades, the world has stood by as Israel has destroyed Palestinians’ homes and plundered their land and natural resources for profit,” Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said. “While the Palestinian economy has been stunted by 50 years of abusive policies, a thriving multimillion dollar settlement enterprise has been built out of the systematic oppression of the Palestinian population.”

Shetty described a “discriminatory and criminal settlement policy that enables Israeli settlers to live on stolen land in homes with irrigated lawns and swimming pools, while Palestinian communities on their doorstep are deprived of access to enough clean water or electricity to cover their basic needs.”

“Israel has made it abundantly clear that maintaining and expanding settlements takes priority over respect for international law,” Shetty added. “It’s time for the world to send a clear message that it will no longer tolerate the Israeli authorities’ blatant disregard for international law.”

Amnesty’s statement comes more than a year after Human Rights Watch called on businesses to end all activities in or with Israeli settlements.

Human Rights Watch also urged governments to withhold aid to Israel.

Amnesty’s position arguably goes further, by urging governments to ban the importation of settlement goods outright.

This is in line with a growing consensus among international law experts and jurists that trade with Israeli settlements violates international law.

But campaigners face strong opposition from governments that continue to support trade with settlements.

European complicity

The 28-member European Union, Israel’s largest trading partner, has imposed minimal requirements that goods from settlements be accurately labeled.

But the EU’s top envoy in Tel Aviv last year declared that settlement products were still “welcome” in European markets.

Emboldened by such complicity, Israel continues to aggressively expand its colonies on stolen Palestinian land, all of which are illegal under international law.

“It is utterly shocking that, since the occupation began 50 years ago, there has been virtually total impunity for the decades of war crimes, crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed in the occupied Palestinian territories,” Amnesty’s Shetty said.

The group’s endorsement of a total ban on settlement goods is a welcome, if belated, step in bringing Israel and the governments complicit with such crimes to account.

Israeli Gov’t Approves Plan To Punish People Who Disagree With Them

I Can See Palestine posted this Dec. 16, 2013:

The Israeli government has just passed a new law designed to punish people who disagree with them, a law which the attorney general and legal experts in the country say is both unconstitutional and a dangerous infringement on democratic freedom of expression within Israel.

The newly approved bill would impose a harsh new “tax” on any non-governmental organization whose managers expresses an opinion that conflicts with the currents policies of the Israeli government.

If even one manager of an NGO expresses support for the boycott of Israel, or for divestment and sanctions, or the trial of Israeli soldiers in international military courts for war crimes, or opposes Israel’s status as a “Jewish state,” any donation made to that NGO by a “foreign entity” would be taxed at a rate of 45%.

The approved version changed two clauses in the original proposal:

That a leftist nonprofit would be penalized even if only one member of its board violated one of the clauses for which sanctions are imposed, and that sanctions would be imposed on organizations working against “the Jewish-democratic identity of the state.” The latter clause would have included negating, even implicitly, Israel’s existence as a Jewish state, or calling for the separation of religion and state.

In an unusual move, it was agreed that the bill would be debated again by the ministerial panel after it passes its preliminary reading in the Knesset.

Under the revised bill, certain nonprofits that receive donations from a foreign entity would be required to pay a 45 percent tax on the contributions.

The law would apply to groups that work for or call on others to boycott Israel, stop investing in Israel, or impose sanctions on the state or its citizens. It would also apply to groups calling to prosecute IDF soldiers for war crimes, subsequently exposing such alleged acts, or calling to investigate them.

This means that the Israeli government has just passed a law declaring that they will effectively seize almost half of all funds donated to NGOs in Israel if their leaders do not toe the appropriate party line.

Freedom of expression in Israel is only for people who express the appropriate opinions, because… the safety and operational ability of the Israeli military depends on suppressing political dissent.

The bill was pushed by Jewish Home, which insists that it will protect Israeli soldiers from “immoral legal claims,” and insisted that not cracking down on the NGOs harms the military’s “operational ability.”

The Israeli attorney general has said the bill infringes on a number of the constitutional rights enshrined into Israel’s Basic Laws, such as freedom of expression and freedom of association.

AG Yehuda Weinstein says that the “tax hike” on NGOs is really a de facto fine designed to cut donations to the non-profits in question in ways which would harm freedom of expression in Israel.

“Limiting donations and harming non-profit organizations’ free speech, and in general harming human rights is something done by a group of countries that it is doubtful that Israel wants to join,” said Weinstein. He added that even if the purpose of the bill was proper, which he said he doubted, it exceeded any sense of proportion because of the serious ramifications it was likely to cause.

The issue of proportionality is important because under Israeli law the state may undertake an act that harms a right in one of Israel’s Basic Laws if it is consistent with the values of the State of Israel, intended for a proper purpose and the harm done is proportionate.

This issue of “proportionality” in keeping the values of the State of Israel is incredibly important because one of the State’s most fundamental tenets is its Jewish identity.

If the state feels there is anything which “threatens” that identity, such as calls for the separation of church and state or marriages between members of different faiths, then it may make whatever laws necessary to stop the practice, regardless of how it violates the democratic and human rights which Israel claims to uphold.

Former Israeli Supreme Court President Aharon Barak had this to say about the Israeli government’s violation of constitutional rights in relation to marriage equality in his forthcoming book “Human Dignity: The Constitutional Right and its Derivatives”:

“Anyone who is unable to marry according to religious law, and anyone who does not want to marry according to religious law for their own reasons, cannot marry in Israel.

Civil marriage is not recognized in Israel. This state of affairs violates the constitutional right to marry…The present law does not only violate the constitutional derived right to marriage, but it also often violates the derived right to freedom of conscience and freedom from religion.

A law that prevents two members of the same gender from entering a relationship of couplehood is a violation of the human dignity of each partner.”

These people who are refused the right to marry include the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who have entered the country under the Law of Return, but who are not considered Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. This religious body is notorious for its attempts to be the sole arbiter of “who is a Jew,” not only in Israel but in the diaspora as well.

Then, of course, there is the gross violation of both the Basic Laws and international law with the practice of administrative detention, where individuals from asylum seekers to Palestinian residents (including children) are held without trial for extended periods of time.

Administrative Detention

The Israeli Supreme Court recently overturned a law which allowed the detainment of asylum seekers for up to three years without trial on the basis that it was “unconstitutional,” as it violated a basic law enshrining human dignity and freedom.

“In the opinion of all nine justices on the panel, the period of three years’ detention as stated in the law is unconstitutional,” judge Edna Arbel wrote.

Despite the unconstitutionality of their actions, the Israeli government seems to prefer to legislate first, then force people to go through the court system to change unconstitutional laws. This process is lengthy, expensive in time and money, and allows the Israeli government to continue violating human rights while the cases drag on.

Monetary punishment of people that disagree with the government is yet another mark against the government of Israel.

I’m Jewish, and I want people to boycott Israel

Israel must be held accountable for its human rights abuses.

PostEverything. June 24, 2016
Rebecca Vilkomerson is the executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace

In 2009, I was living in Tel Aviv during Operation Cast Lead.

During that offensive, Israel killed about 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza. When small numbers of us went out into the streets to protest the war, we were often pelted with eggs or attacked by passersby.

When I dropped my children off at their preschool, parents chatted as if nothing unusual was going on.

When they asked me what was wrong, I would tell them I was deeply upset about what was happening just 40 miles away. Their response: awkward silence, or an angry defense of Israel’s actions.

I wanted to take concrete action to bring about freedom and full rights for Palestinians.

So I embraced the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. The non-violent effort, started in 2005 by a broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations, is a call for solidarity from the international community until Israel complies with international law and ends its violations of Palestinian rights.

It’s hard going though — the governor of my own state, New York, recently condemned BDS in a unilateral executive order.

Seven years later, there have been two more horrific assaults on Gaza.

About 500 Palestinian children were killed in 2014. Even when there are no intensive bombing campaigns, Palestinians in Gaza live under siege.

West Bank residents are severely curtailed by Israel’s matrix of control in the area, including checkpoints, administrative detention and home demolitions. Inside Israel, Palestinians with Israeli citizenship live in a system of unequal laws and rights. Outside of Israel, refugees cannot return home.

Of course, during this time there have been attacks on Israeli civilians too. These are a horrifying symptom of ongoing occupation and repression, as Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai pointed out after a recent attack in Tel Aviv killed four Jewish Israelis.

I believe that Israel won’t change its policies until outside pressure becomes impossible to ignore. BDS is a powerful way to encourage the state to act.

And during my time with the movement, we’ve had growing success. Mainstream churches have divested from companies profiting from the occupation. Dozens of American campuses have passed divestment resolutions.

More than 100 artists refuse to perform in Israel, and multinational corporations like G4S and Veolia have withdrawn from the Israeli market.

During this time, there’s also been a shift in public opinion. A 2015 Brookings Institute poll found that 49 percent of Democrats support imposing economic sanctions against Israel over settlement construction.

Pew poll released last month found that for the first time, liberal Democrats were more sympathetic to Palestinians than to Israelis. In May, the research firm Ipsos found that one-third of Americans support the boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel until it respects Palestinian rights.

But our efforts have been threatened here in the United States by a nationally coordinated, well-funded strategy financed by the Israeli government and advocacy organizations.

Over the last year, 22 states have introduced or passed anti-BDS legislation. Many of these measures make it illegal for states to do business with companies that support BDS.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has escalated that strategy with a draconian executive order that would create a blacklist of companies and organizations that choose not to invest in Israel or that advocate for BDS. Cuomo’s executive order circumvented the state legislature, where opposition from supporters of Palestinian rights and free speech, including many members of Jewish Voice for Peace, had successfully stalled the anti-BDS legislation in committee.

This is wrong. It’s not discrimination to hold a state accountable for its violations of international law and human rights abuses. The state of Israel is not the same as the Jewish people.

My daughters who I dropped off at preschool in Tel Aviv in 2009 are now middle-schoolers in Brooklyn. If as Israeli citizens they choose someday to live in Israel/Palestine, I hope it will be a place where all people, Jewish and Palestinian, can live in equality and freedom.

I believe that BDS is the best tool that we have to make that vision a reality. We will look back on the attempts to legislate against BDS as the last desperate attempts to shield Israel from much-needed pressure to change its policies. Cuomo is standing on the wrong side of history.

 

Anti-Zionism does Not equal anti-Semitism: People in the Near East are catalogued Semitic too by the racist Western colonial powers

Someone please tell Hillary Clinton and the University of California

U.C. is at it again, with its deceptive attempt to thwart criticism of Israel.

. Tuesday, Mar 22, 2016

Last summer there was a flurry of activity in the University of California system as U.C. regents were pressured to suppress criticism of Israel on U.C. campuses.

One regent in favor of such silencing played a trump card: He threatened to bring his particularly well-connected partner in to add muscle.

The regent was wealthy developer Richard Blum, his wife is Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Here is what Blum said in September:

I should add that over the weekend my wife, your senior Senator, and I talked about this issue at length. She wants to stay out of the conversation publicly but if we do not do the right thing she will engage publicly and is prepared to be critical of this university if we don’t have the kind of not only statement but penalties for those who commit what you can call them crimes, call them whatever you want.

Students that do the things that have been cited here today probably ought to have a dismissal or a suspension from school. I don’t know how many of you feel strongly that way but my wife does and so do I.

So now a U.S. senator says she’ll use the power of her office to suspend undergraduates for speaking out against Israeli state policies?

Interesting read of her mandate.

Blum was particularly incensed because just a few months before, free speech and pro-Palestinian activists had won a victory.

As I wrote back then:

For a while it looked like on July 23 the regents of the University of California were going to adopt the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism and in some fashion or another put policies into place that would have a severe impact on what can and cannot be said about Israel on each of the 10 U.C. campuses, which together enroll some 230,000 students.

Those students, along with 190,000 faculty and staff, would all be constrained under the regents’ interpretation of the definition.

The decision would in fact be continuing a process that began in 2012, when the California House passed a resolution condemning anti-Semitism (HR35), and continued into this past spring, when the Senate passed a similar resolution (SCR35).

The stage was set, the momentum was there, activists and advocates on both sides were ready to march on the regents meeting in San Francisco and address the regents and U.C. president Janet Napolitano. (A former politician and a judge?

But just before the regents were to meet, it was announced that they had decided to drop the matter entirely and instead to have a discussion about “tolerance” in general at their meeting in the autumn.

Since the autumn there has been speculation as to what, exactly, the regents would vote on; how would “tolerance” be defined?

Well, now we know, and the document under discussion still shows the two main perspectives of the prior discussions. We see efforts to produce a broad and positive statement for tolerance, and also the fingerprints of those who wish to smuggle in a false and destructive equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism, thereby making the University of California a place where any criticism of a certain state’s illegal policies is intolerable.

The manner in which this is done in the current draft is deceptive and underhanded.

In the main body of the text, the rightful condemnation of anti-Semitism is clear and unadorned: “In a community of learners, teachers, and knowledge-seekers, the University is best served when its leaders challenge speech and action reflecting bias, stereotypes, and/or intolerance.

Anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination have no place in the University. The Regents call on University leaders actively to challenge anti-Semitism and other forms of discrimination when and wherever they emerge within the University community.”

Fair and good.

But in the introduction to the document we find the proposal for tolerance when it comes to anti-Semitism presented this way: “Anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism and other forms of discrimination have no place at the University of California.”

This portion of the document, separated from the section where the proposals appear, is couched as a “contextual statement.” Thus a casual reader could endorse the proposal itself while being unaware that the entire framing of the discussion of anti-Semitism is being used as a cover for silencing voices protesting state policies that might include, among other things, the continued demolition of Palestinian homes and the building of illegal settlements, which have been publicly condemned by the U.S. State Department and which are part of a Zionist project.

What this means is that if the U.C. proposal passes, the U.S. State Department can protest illegal settlements and the Occupation as a whole, but students and teachers in the U.C. system cannot.

This sleight of hand has been called out by both activist groups and mainstream news sources such as the Los Angeles Times.

California Scholars for Academic Freedom (disclosure—I am a member) states: “For the record, we wish to underscore that criticisms of Zionism are co-extensive with the history of Zionism and have from the start included Jewish voices from a variety of political and religious orientations. The inclusion of such a broad category as either intolerant or bigoted represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the political viewpoints critical of Zionism.

Many political positions, including those that favor Palestinian rights, statehood, and political self-determination, can be considered anti-Zionist although they comply with internationally accepted norms of human rights and principles of democratic self-governance.”

The Los Angeles Times editorial notes that the document

conflates anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism and says both are forms of discrimination that “have no place at the University of California.” It’s difficult to read that as anything other than a warning to those students or faculty members who have fundamental disagreements with the state of Israel. ..

The equation of anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism might also make it easier to stigmatize protests against Israeli policies — particularly the treatment of Palestinians — even if they don’t actually oppose the idea of a Jewish state.

Pro-Palestinian activists on campus are right to fear that such a statement would target their advocacy even when it doesn’t involve anti-Semitic language or harassing behavior.

This issue is not a matter of splitting hairs; it goes to the heart of issues of free speech, and the exercise of power to suppress certain types of political expression while letting others flow freely.

What is most telling about this latest episode is the tactic being employed. Faced with substantial public pressure from grass-roots activists, the regents’ working group chose this back-door route to insert its insidious equation. Now it has been called out, and we should be watching carefully which way the regents will move.

What is happening in California might well serve as an index to how these issues will play out on the national scene.

The position of at least one of the two front-runners in the presidential elections is crystal clear. Hillary Clinton has consistently been one of Israel’s staunchest supporters.

What is most troubling, however, is the fact that she has come out vocally as someone who will, in her own words, make “countering BDS a priority.”

In a letter to potential donors she uses exactly the same equation of anti-Semitism with anti-Zionism that we find in the U.C. document:

I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction [sic] movement, or “BDS,” a global effort to isolate the State of Israel by ending commercial and academic exchanges.  I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority.

I am seeking your advice on how we can work together—across party lines and with a diverse array of voices—to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel….

I am also very concerned by attempts to compare Israel to South African apartheid.

Israel is a vibrant democracy in a region dominated by autocracy, and it faces existential threats to its survival.  Particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world—especially in Europe—we need to repudiate forceful efforts to malign and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.

And on Monday, in her appearance before AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), Clinton doubled down on her support of Israel.  As CommonDreams reports:
During the address, Clinton vowed to take the U.S.-Israel relationship to “the next level”—a level which seemingly includes more war and imperialism, few, if any, rights for Palestinians, and definitely no economic boycotts of Israel….
Later, Clinton doubled down on her previous pledge to dismantle the growing international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, linking the campaign against Palestinian apartheid to anti-Semitism, saying “we must repudiate all efforts to malign, isolate and undermine Israel and the Jewish people.”
In a statement to Common Dreams, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said that the speech “is a reminder of the current limits of the mainstream discourse on Israel, which rely on racist and Islamophobic tropes to justify unquestioning support for Israel.”

“From Democrats to Republicans, the message is the same,” Vilkomerson continued. “More arms for Israel, a stronger relationship between Israel and the U.S., no mention of Palestinian rights, and no recognition of the impossible contradiction of being both democratic and Jewish when the state is predicated on maintaining systems of unequal rights and rule by military occupation.”

This is deeply troubling, especially as the Palestinian cause has now been established as one of the most pressing human rights issues of our age.  Education on this issue therefore needs to be rigorous, debated, argued, in order for us to make informed decisions and take meaningful action.

The suppression of ideas is anathema to the university, but this is exactly what is being suggested by reputed leaders in education and politics, all under this deceitful equation.

About time for Palestinian liberation: Statement by over 1,000 Black activists

The actual distance between Ferguson, Missouri, and Gaza is about 6,000 miles. But last summer, the repressive and deadly violence visited upon blacks and Palestinians, respectively, made that distance seem to disappear.

Immediately, lines of solidarity began to emerge between those groups, and in August a set of activists and organizations in Palestine issued this statement:

We the undersigned Palestinian individuals and groups express our solidarity with the family of Michael Brown, a young unarmed black man gunned down by police on August 9th in Ferguson, Missouri. We wish to express our support and solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have taken their struggle to the street, facing a militarized police occupation.

From all factions and sectors of our dislocated society, we send you our commitment to stand with you in your hour of pain and time of struggle against the oppression that continues to target our black brothers and sisters in nearly every aspect of their lives.

We understand your moral outrage. We empathize with your hurt and anger. We understand the impulse to rebel against the infrastructure of a racist capitalist system that systematically pushes you to the margins of humanity.

And we stand with you.

At the same time, I wrote an article in Salon that spelled out the similarities between the forms of oppression both groups live under, including dispossession from lands and homes; de facto forms of inequality; state violence; the constant interruption of daily life; and the ways the perpetrators of such violence are often immune from prosecution.

Nevertheless, such comparisons were criticized by some here in the U.S., and acts of solidarity were sometimes regarded with suspicion:

In what ways might solidarity with Palestinians be harmful to black political projects here?

Individual activists such as Angela Davis and Cornel West addressed that issue and spoke out on the need for black solidarity with the Palestinians.

As West put it:

In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice.

This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation.

Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids. Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected.

There is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.

But until today there has not been a mass statement of support from black activists and groups to echo the one issued by Palestinians last year.

Now, in a historical event, well over 1,000 black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations have released a comprehensive, carefully crafted and passionately intoned statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people,” and supporting “freedom and equality for Palestinian people.”

In this sweeping and momentous document, the signatories make a point of drawing out the historical connections between the issues of black and Palestinian freedom and rights, and the urgency of their present-day struggles, calling the fight for Palestinian liberation “a key matter of our time”:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)—and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States—we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X, and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. Organizational signers include the Florida-based Dream Defenders and St. Louis-based Hands Up United and Tribe X, which were founded after the killings of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, respectively, as well as the 35-year-old Organization for Black Struggle in St. Louis.

The statement calls on the U.S. government to end diplomatic and economic aid to Israel, for black and U.S. institutions to support the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law, and for supporters of black and Palestinian liberation to target the private security company G4S for boycotts and divestment, as well as other companies doing business in the occupied territories.

Besides endorsing both academic and cultural boycotts (which in the U.S. is facilitated by the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), as well as divestment and sanctions, the statement makes emphatically clear the signatories’ commitment to the three goals of BDS and especially addresses the issue of Palestinian refugees:

Our support extends to those living under occupation and siege, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the 7 million Palestinian refugees exiled in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine. The refugees’ right to return to their homeland in present-day Israel is the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.

Andrew Bossone shared the link

“In terms of the various kinds of Zionist critiques, we make it clear that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anti-Jewish hatred or anti-Jewish prejudice.

This has to do with a moral and spiritual and political critique of occupation. Secondly, there is no doubt that Gaza is not just a “kind of” concentration camp, it is the hood on steroids.

Now in the black community, located within the American empire, you do have forms of domination and subordination, forms of police surveillance and so forth, so that we are not making claims of identity, we are making claims of forms of domination that must be connected….

There is no doubt that for the Ferguson moment in America and the anti-occupation moment in the Israel-Palestinian struggle there is a very important connection to make and I think we should continue to make it.”

More than 1,000 black activists released a statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle”
salon.com|By David Palumbo-Liu

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