When Boycotts Are Acceptable
America’s pro-Israel supporters have made no bones about their defamatory attacks against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to rally grass-roots activists against a near half century of Israeli occupation and secure Palestinian self-determination. BDS’ most strident opponents have branded the movement indecent and antisemitic.
The more interesting critique of BDS comes from those pro-Israel types who claim a “liberal Zionism” and swear by the “peace process” and “two people, two states” while aligning themselves against BDS. Their argument is simple: Instead of uniting Israelis and Palestinians, they contend, BDS separates them further by calling on individuals to boycott state-backed Israeli institutions.
In actuality, BDS activists are not opposed to dialogue, but, rather, they have made their demands clear and have received an even louder answer from Israel in the form of continued illegal settlement growth, home demolitions, multiple wars on Gaza, the daily humiliation of the occupation, ect, ect…
In response to Israel’s refusal to take even minimal steps to end the occupation, BDS has chosen to censor Israel. The tactic is unarguably the right of any individual who opposes the conduct of a state or company, such as boycotting sportswear brand Nike for its industry practices in developing nations.
What’s most intriguing about BDS’ opponents is that far from deploring such tactics, Israel’s supporters frequently resort to divesting from, boycotting, and sanctioning individuals who criticize Israel. Take the following recent examples:
Y’s Public Theater cancels Palestinian production, ‘The Siege,’ it agreed to stage in May, by Philip Weiss, Mondoweiss – 10 Feb.
The production had already been postponed one year at the request of the Public, but with a promise to put it on this year. It was never on the official schedule; and the decision came down in recent days. I am told that Oskar Eustis, the trailblazing artistic director at the Public, was behind the show all the way. But evidently intense pressure came to bear on the Public Theater board . . .
Lawmakers take aim at your #Right2Boycott, Palestine Legal – 18 Feb.
A wave of anti-BDS legislation is sweeping the country. Dozens of bills aimed at suppressing or punishing BDS activism have been introduced in the U.S. Congress and state legislatures – from Arizona to Massachusetts – in the past year. (See here for information on previous anti-BDS legislative initiatives.) […]
These bills are part of a well-funded and coordinated campaign to suppress Palestine solidarity activism in the U.S., which is leading to what what we call the Palestine Exception to Free Speech.
ZOA Calls on SJP ban at 23 Schools, Palestine Legal – 25 Feb.
The ZOA is at the forefront of efforts to pressure universities to censor speech supportive of Palestinian rights by falsely conflating criticism of Israeli policy with anti-Semitism. The organization describes itself as “the oldest pro-Israel organization in America” andreceives funding from GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson.
Harvard Law loses 250K after ‘Palestine Exception’ event, Palestine Legal – 16 Feb.
The law firm of Milbank, Tweed, Hadely & McCloy reportedly pulled $250,000 from Harvard Law after a panel discussion called “The Palestine Exception to Free Speech: A Movement Under Attack.”
Over the years, such example multiply immeasurably.
So, the point is obvious: If you oppose the subjugation of the Palestinian people, BDS’ tactics are illegitimate if not bigoted, but employing similar tactics in defense of the occupying state is a model of good citizenship. Push further and many of these individuals will openly concede they support some form of interminable occupation for the Palestinians, oppose the two-state solution, and will unconditionally support Israel no matter the moral cost. BDS’s goal is to secure equality for Palestinians alongside Israelis, while its detractors employ similar tactics for the goal of maintaining a power asymmetry between the colonizer-and-colonized. So clearly BDS’ tactics aren’t the issue, but, of course, the end goal. Zionist attacks on BDS unwittingly reveal that their cause necessitates the oppression of another people. Who’s the bigot?
And as for their ostensible commitment to dialogue, Israel’s most militant supporters employ the lofty claim to smear BDS as a divisive group, but, in reality, few organizations have sought to stifle dialogue and silence voices more than professional pro-Israel lobbies. Leaving aside that mere talk of dialogue effaces power relations, BDS’ detractors seek dialogue not as a prelude to ending the occupation, but as a delaying tactic that affords Israel the opportunity to further colonize the West Bank while deceptively presenting the Israeli government as a peace-seeker.
Losing the Next Generation
Most US Jewish students don’t see Israel as ‘civilized’ or a ‘democracy,’ Luntz tells secret anti-BDS conference, by Ofer Neiman, Mondoweiss – 22 Feb.
[Israeli] Minister Gilad Erdan has organized a secret conference in Jerusalem, with 150 top supporters of Israel. American right wing pollster Frank Luntz [who has earlier stated that Zionism is becoming a dirty word for US elites] presented statistics:
– The Ministry of Tourism’s attempt to market Israel as a cool destination (girls and bikinis) has failed.
– Jewish American students have an increasingly negative image of Israel:
-Just 42% believe Israel wants peace.
-Just 38% believe “Israel is civilized and Western”.
-Just 31% believe Israel is a democracy.
– No less than 21% believe the US should side with the Palestinians.
Campaign 2016 – That Was (Predictably) Quick
Apparently even The Donald – who flouts ever other conventional stance – has his limits:
Trump: I’ll be ‘neutral’ on Israel and Palestine, by Mark Hensch, The Hill – 17 Feb.
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump on Wednesday refused to pick sides in the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
“You know, I don’t want to get into it,” he told hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski during a MSNBC town hall in Charleston, S.C.
“If I win, I don’t want to be in a position where I’m saying to you [my choice] and the other side now says, ‘We don’t want Trump involved,'” the real estyate mogul said of potentially winning the presidency and then brokering a lasting peace deal.
“Let me be sort of a neutral guy,” the billionaire added. “I have friends of mine that are tremendous businesspeople, that are really great negotiators, [and] they say it’s not doable.
Trump Embraces Israel, Vows 100 Percent Support, by Rob Garver, The Fiscal Times – 24 Feb.
Less than a week after coming under criticism for saying that he would approach the conflict between Israel and Palestinians as a “neutral” party, Donald Trump appeared at the Evangelical Christian Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA and declared his “100 percent” support for Israel. And he said that his past tussles with New York City Zoning Board officials might help him strike a deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
The Donald, however, hasn’t made a small fortune off addressing pro-Israel lobbies.
The Clintons Earned Over $3.5 Million in Paid Addresses to Pro-Israel Organizations, by Sarah Lazare and Max Blumenthal, Alternet – 11 Feb.
An evaluation of Hillary Clinton’s public disclosures from 2001 to 2015 shows that she and Bill, and their daughter, Chelsea, have earned roughly $4 million in speaking fees from pro-Israel organizations, including [Jewish National Fund] and organizations allied with the right-wing government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Hillary Clinton, With Little Notice, Vows to Embrace an Extremist Agenda on Israel, by Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept – 18 Feb.
Last month, Clinton wrote an even more extreme op-ed in the Jewish Journal, one that made even clearer that she intends to change Obama’s policy to make it even more “pro-Israel.” It begins: “In this time of terrorism and turmoil, the alliance between the United States and Israel is more important than ever. To meet the many challenges we face, we have to take our relationship to the next level.” […]
As always, there is not a word about the oppression and brutality imposed on Palestinians as part of Israel’s decadeslong occupation. She does not even acknowledge, let alone express opposition to, Israel’s repeated, civilian-slaughtering bombing of the open-air prison in Gaza. That’s because for Clinton — like the progressive establishment that supports her — the suffering and violence imposed on Palestinians literally do not exist.
Boor, boor Balestinians
The “Peace Camp” in Israel
Israeli Labor Party adopts the apartheid mantra, by Neve Gordon, Al Jazeera International – 9 Feb.
On Sunday night, Israel’s Labor Party unanimously approved their leader’s diplomatic plan. […]
Examining Labor’s new plan more closely, what becomes bitterly clear is that “We are here, they are there” does not signify the withdrawal of Israeli power from Palestinian territories, but rather a devious way of entrenching the colonial enterprise even further. […]
The plan unabashedly promotes Palestinian Bantustans. Herzog notes that Palestinians will gain more autonomy to run their daily lives in areas A and B, which comprise only about 40 percent of the West Bank. “Palestinians will have total freedom in civil but not military matters,” he said. “They’ll be able to build new cities and expand existing ones, to develop agriculture, industry, employment.”
In order to ensure the consolidation of the division of the West Bank into archipelagos, the plan emphasises the importance of completing the separation barrier around settlement blocs in the West Bank, because the blocs, according to Herzog, will always remain under Israeli sovereignty and “will be part of the permanent solution”.
In order to get rid of Palestinians who are residents of Israel and have an Israeli identity card, Herzog endorses cutting off Palestinian villages from Jerusalem. As he put it: “Issawiya is not and won’t be part of Israel’s eternal capital. Neither is the refugee camp in Shuafat. We’ll separate from them. We’ll build a wall. Terrorists won’t have access to Jews. Those who want to work and make a living rather than stabbing people – we’ll leave those for the consideration of the defence establishment.”
Finally, the Israeli military, according to Herzog, should continue to control the entire West Bank.
That Occupation Thing
Palestinian Villagers Tilled Their Land So Well, Israel Is Now Confiscating It From Them, by Nir Hasson, Ha’aretz – 19 Feb.
Two weeks ago, soldiers hung posters in the village of Al-Walaja, south of Jerusalem: “Notice of intent to acquire rights to the land and purchase ownership of the land required for public purposes.” In translation to non-legalese, these are orders to confiscate Palestinian land for the purpose of continuing building the West Bank separation barrier near the village. […]
As part of the absurdity, Al-Wajala’s terraces were cultivated for many years by the local Palestinian farmers. Now they’re one of the reasons for declaring the area around the village a national park – which, along with the separation barrier, threatens to keep the farmers away from the very terraces they nurtured.
The desire to preserve the landscape was one of the considerations for building the separation barrier almost adjacent to the homes of the residents rather than next to the Green Line (the pre-1967 borders of Israel).
One Hebron Neighborhood Has Become A ‘Prison’ for Palestinian Residents, by Sarit Michaeli, Newsweek – 17 Jan.
Since October, Israel’s security forces have tightened the system of checkpoints and obstacles around the Tel Rumeidah neighborhood, citing security reasons. Even prior to this, soldiers checked everyone leaving and entering the neighborhood, but now anyone without a registered Tel Rumeidah address is denied entry.
Recently, in a move that raised a minor public outcry in Israel, the army has started numbering residents, to coincide with a list kept at the checkpoint. The Israeli military says it has sincestopped the system, but Palestinian activist Issa Amro says residents are still being numbered. International volunteers and Israeli anti-occupation activists are also barred entry to the neighborhood, though their presence is vital for documenting harm caused to the residents, and even the authorities do not claim they pose a security threat.
Jewish West Bank settlers are as smug as white South Africans in 1980, by James North, Mondoweiss – 29 Jan.
The resemblance is more than an attitude of colonial superiority. Beyond that, I recognized in Weiss’s settlers a similar feeling of self-confidence, the conviction that although the outside world could criticize all it wanted, no one was going to taken any serious actions to disturb their lives.
The great South African black poet Dennis Brutus once told me an anecdote that summed up this smug view. Brutus, who passed on in 2009, was the man who encouraged me to go to southern Africa and see for myself. He had been imprisoned on Robben Island in the 1960s, alongside Nelson Mandela and other national leaders. “One day one of the white warders approached,” Brutus said in his mellifluous voice. “He said, ‘Brutus, you seem like an intelligent man — why do you fight against a system that you will never be able to change?’ He was a decent sort, so I answered, ‘And why do you think you will keep dominating us forever?’ He answered simply, ‘Because America will never stop supporting us.’”
The same self-confident attitude shines through in Weiss’s reports. The settlers are absolutely certain the Israeli government will never uproot them, and behind that is the unspoken conviction that the United States will never put significant pressure on Israel.
Israeli soldier overturns disabled Palestinian’s wheelchair in Hebron, West Bank, Middle East Monitor – 15 Feb.
BDS in Europe
Italian scholars boycott Israeli academic institutions, by Dalia Hatuqa, Patrick Strickland, Al Jazeera International – 30 Jan.
Some 170 scholars from more than 50 Italian universities and research organisations have signed a pledge committing to the boycott. The signatories described themselves as “a solid critical block of scholars” who were “no longer willing to tolerate Israeli academic complicity with Israel’s state violence”.
Dutch students intensify campaign for academic boycott of Israel, by Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada – 12 Feb.
Students for Justice in Palestine at VU University in Amsterdam stepped up their campaign for an academic boycott of Israel last week.
Two students dressed as Israeli soldiers “raided” the university accompanied by fellow activists who handed out leaflets about Israel’s occupation and others abuses of Palestinians.
The “soldiers” summoned students to show their IDs to check if they were Palestinian and inspected bags and “suspicious” objects.
The action aimed to increase the support for an academic boycott of Israel.
Palestinian (Second-Class) Citizens in Israel
Enemy Citizens, by Amjad Iraqi, London Review of Books – 4 Feb.
Two Arab teenagers who had been arrested at an anti-government protest were waiting to see a lawyer at a police station in Nazareth, the largest Arab city in Israel. Their shirts were torn and their arms, legs and faces were covered in cuts and bruises. The lawyer turned to a police officer and demanded an explanation. The officer denied any wrongdoing: the police, he said, had used ‘reasonable force’ to detain them. At the court hearing that followed, the lawyer insisted that the boys be released and the police officers reprimanded for breaking laws regarding excessive force and the protection of minors. The judge waved his arguments away: ‘These are special security circumstances, and we must respond to these incidents [the demonstrations] with this in mind.’ The boys’ detentions were extended for several days, and then they were put under house arrest.
Adalah – The Legal Center For Arab Minority Rights In Israel – 28 Dec. 2015.
An Arab agenda, The Economist – 27 Feb.
ON FEBRUARY 23rd, a committee of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, began debating a new law which will allow it to suspend its own members for “expressing support for terrorism”. While the law is not specifically directed at any political faction, its thrust is clear. It was tabled by the government in response to a meeting three weeks ago between three Israeli-Arab Knesset members and the families of a number of Palestinians who had been killed while attacking Israelis. […]
In a message broadcast on election day, Mr Netanyahu warned right-wing voters that “Arab voters are flowing in droves to the polls.”
He later expressed regret over that message but recently he linked an attack in Tel Aviv, in which an Israeli Arab murdered three Israelis, to “lawlessness” in Arab towns. He also instructed two conservative ministers to draw up a list of tough conditions that Arab local councils must adhere to in order to get money from a $3.8 billion programme designed to improve conditions in the Arab sector.
Full-page Ad in Los Angeles Times Calls on Oscar Nominees to #Skipthetrip Offered by Israeli Government, Jewish Voice for Peace – 24 Feb.
A full-page color ad calling on Oscar nominees to #SkipTheTrip being offered by the Israeli government in swag bags was published in the Calendars section of today’s Los Angeles Times. The ad, which is sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, urges nominees not to endorse Israeli apartheid by participating in a government-sponsored junket. The same ad made waves this week after Variety declined to publish it at the last-minute, despite previously publishing a politically-charged ad criticizing the Obama administration for its Israel policies.
The Palestinian People
Palestinian Muslims and Christians unite to restore Bethlehem church, by Florence Talyor, Christianity Today – 17 Feb.
The first stage of the restoration of Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, built in the fourth century by Saint Helena over the believed site of the virgin birth, has been completed.
“For the first time you can see, when you go up, mosaics really magnificent and beautiful and unique in the whole world,” said Ziad al-Bandak, who leads the Palestinian committee in charge of the renovation.
Before the project, the roof was in urgent need of repair, and leaks had ruined a significant number of the church’s mosaics and paintings. Now that the roof has been structurally repaired, these treasured art works have been restored to their former beauty.
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