Thursday, December 31, 2009

With Only 0.4% of AIPAC's Budget...

In 2008, the totl revenues for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)-the leading organization in the United States supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid-amounted to $70,676,421.

In that same year, the total revenues for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation-the leading coalition in the United States working to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality-amounted to $276,747, or just 0.39% of AIPAC's revenues. In some ways, this is a depressing statistic. In other ways though, it is inspiring as it shows how much we've been able to accomplish with less than 1/200th of AIPAC's budget.

Even Howard Kohr, AIPAC's Executive Director (whose salary alone, by the way, is nearly double our annual operating budget) agrees that the movement we are helping to lead is having a profound impact. Consider our accomplishments and his concerns about them delivered in remarks at AIPAC's last annual conference:

Help Us Catch Up w/ AIPAC

Donate $50 or more to the US Campaign and we'll send to you or a friend a copy of Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis' updated book:

* Our public education campaigns against Israeli occupation and apartheid have helped to dramatically shift the discourse on Israel/Palestine in a much more favorable direction over the past few years
Kohr: "I'm not saying that these allegations have become accepted. But they have become acceptable. More and more they are invading the mainstream discourse, becoming part of the constant and unrelenting drumbeat against Israel."

* Our national advocacy campaigns have brought attention to the terrible human costs of U.S. military aid to Israel and our grassroots lobbying campaigns are starting to have an effect in opening up debate on Capitol Hill

Kohr: "This is a conscious campaign to shift policy, to transform the way Israel is treated by its friends to a state that deserves not our support, but our contempt; not our protection, but pressured to change its essential nature."

* Our national boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against corporate giants such as Caterpillar and Motorola-companies which literally profit from Israeli occupation and apartheid-are taking off and negatively impacting their public images

Kohr: "Incredibly there now is even an Israel Apartheid Week [cosponsored by the US Campaign] conducted in cities across the globe. Its aim, to build boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns as part of a growing global movement."

* Our coalition has grown to more than 325 organizations, making us the largest and most diverse coalition ever assembled in the United States to challenge our country's support for Israel's occupation and apartheid policies toward Palestinians

Kohr: "But the campaign doesn't stop there. It is coming home right here to the United States. We see it already on our college campuses, America's elite institutions of higher learning, the places we've entrusted with the education of our children."

* Our presence in the media has skyrocketed, with the US Campaign appearing this year in mainstream media outlets such as NBC News, Reuters, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, BBC Radio, Al Jazeera, Democracy Now!, the Detroit Free Press, and more

Kohr: "No longer is this campaign confined to the ravings of the political far left or far right, but increasingly it is entering the American mainstream: an ordinary political discourse on our T.V. and radio talk shows; in the pages of our major newspapers and in countless blogs, in town hall meetings, on campuses and city squares.

We're proud, and apparently AIPAC is very concerned, that we've accomplished all of this and more with only 0.39% of AIPAC's budget. Please consider making a year-end tax-deductible contribution today to support our work by clicking here. Because we've been able to accomplish so much with so little, it's clear that our movement is not lacking in determination, commitment, sophistication, or effectiveness. What we are lacking are the resources needed to counteract the work of AIPAC and other similar organizations and achieve our mission of changing U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality. Please consider making the most generous year-end tax-deductible contribution you can today to support our work in the New Year and bring us closer to achieving our goal by clicking here. As our thanks to you, if you donate $50 or more, we'll send you or a friend a copy of US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis' new, updated edition of her book "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer".

Just click here, make a secure on-line donation of $50 or more, and tell us where and to whom you'd like the book sent. The US Campaign will also gratefully accept a donation of any amount, so please give whatever you can today by clicking here. And if you can help us with a regular contribution, even just $5 or $10 or $15 every month, join our Olive Branch Club by clicking here. For a year-end newsletter detailing the US Campaign's many accomplishments this year, please click here. Thank you for your generous support of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and our best wishes to you for a New Year of peace and justice!

PS: If you'd prefer, you can also make a tax-deductible contribution via credit card by calling our office at 202-332-0994 (we'll be open until 6PM Eastern New Year's Eve) or via check made out to US Campaign, PO Box 21539, Washington, DC 20009.

"Before the Wall I could see the sun" -- Free Israel's Anti-Apartheid Prisoners

A report from the Alternative Information Center in Jerusalem, entitled "Israel's Anti-Apartheid Prisoners": Free the prisoners. Stand up against apartheid. Intensify campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli occupation and apartheid.

Freedom marchers in Cairo, Gaza Strip, Israel, and the United States

More updates from the Gaza Freedom March in Cairo, the Gaza Strip, Israel, and across the U.S.: New York Times has this report that could probably use some letters to the editor to correct serious misrepresentations. CNN is carrying this report online and carrying a ticker on its TV network. Al Jazeera English has this report. Here's a Reuters article on the march. And here's an update from the Indypendent. Here's an excerpt from a press release from the Gaza Freedom March about Egyptian police repression, from earlier today. It seems that things are calmer now:
"Members of the Gaza Freedom March are being forcibly detained in hotels around town (Lotus, Liala) as well as violently forced into pens in Tahir Square by Egyptian police and additional security forces. Reports of police brutality are flooding a delegate legal hotline faster than the legal support team can answer the calls. The reports span from women being kicked, beaten to the ground and dragged into pens, at least one confirmed account of broken ribs, and many left bloody. The assault is ongoing, legal team and other spokespeople can be reached at the Nile Hotel or by contacting the phone numbers listed above."
Palestine Video has compiled footage of demonstrators being pushed off the streets in Cairo. Mondoweiss has this update:

"Word from Gaza is that 6,000 marched — the maximum allowed by Hamas in absence of international shield — civil society march under Palestinian flag only. Govt felt march route too exposed and too narrow for more to march if Israeli attack was possible....The 84 internationals who marched w/ gazan palestinians went beyond the end of the march to within 500 meters of border and are sitting in the road holding a press conf"

UPDATE: Mondoweiss has now corrected the figure to 600. UPDATE: Hundreds hold candlelight vigil in Cairo's Tahrir Square, see Ali Abunimah's blog for more. Meanwhile, solidarity actions continue across the U.S. and around the blog. Last night U.S. Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey attended a vigil organized in Washington, DC, by US Campaign member groups Jewish Voice for Peace-DC, Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace, Church of the Savior, and CODEPINK. More than 100 people came out in the cold for the vigil, check out footage below: You can see report backs from other solidarity actions on the Gaza Freedom March website. Here are things you can do to support the Gaza Freedom March--and to support human rights and equality for Palestinians, whether in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Israel, the refugee camps, or the diaspora: 1) Check out our most recent action alert: "Take Action: Gaza Still Blockaded One Year after 'Cast Lead'" 2) Read this blog post on how you can act against corporations and governments that are complicit in the destruction of Gaza. 3) Fast in solidarity with the Gaza Freedom March hunger strikers.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

3 (More) Things You Can Do For Justice and Accountability for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip

Yesterday, we issued an action alert with five things you can do to support the Gaza Freedom March, including contacting the State Department, joining a solidarity action, and using our resources to take action in the media and with Congress. But as the Gaza Freedom March steering committee says, "the march itself is not supposed to be only a symbolic gesture, but rather a part of a series of events which will lead to the end of the siege, once and for all." Here are some more ideas for action you can take to hold the U.S., Israel, and corporate actors accountable for the destruction they have wrought in the Gaza Strip: 1) Boycott Motorola. Shrapnel with Motorola serial numbers were discovered by Human Rights Watch investigators at the site of the first Israeli air strike during "Operation Cast Lead," which targeted a police academy graduation and killed at least 40 police cadets. In addition, Motorola has the exclusive contract to provide the Israeli military with encrypted mobile phone technology. This means that every Israeli boarder guard manning a checkpoint inside of Palestinian territory or enforcing the Gaza blockade and every Israeli soldier who committed war crimes in the assault on the Gaza Strip takes their orders through a Motorola device. Finally, Motorola has close ties with Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), which makes drone aircraft that the Israeli military used during Operation Cast Lead. Watch the video below to see what sort of damage these remote-controlled killing machines can do, and then click here to sign the Motorola pledge and here to order a free organizing packet for promoting the Motorola boycott in your community. 2) Stop Caterkiller. US Campaign Steering Committee member Peter Miller of member group Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights put together this document which compiles mentions of armored bulldozers in the Goldstone Report on war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip. The Israeli military used remote controlled and weaponized Caterpillar bulldozers to destroy homes, roads, and agricultural land during the invasion of the Gaza Strip. Click here to read more, and then act to hold CAT accountable by sending an email to CAT management and organizing in your community. 3) Act to end U.S. military aid to Israel. U.S.-made F-16 fighter planes and Apache helicopters. U.S.-made white phosphorous shells. U.S.-made MK-80 bombs. These are just a few of the weapons provided via U.S. military aid that Israel abused to wreak destruction in the Gaza Strip. After Operation Cast Lead, Amnesty International issued a report entitled "Fueling Conflict" which outlined the role that foreign arms played in the 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip. The United States was by far the largest provider of arms to the conflict. Act to end U.S. military aid to war criminals by meeting with your Member of Congress and by signing up to attend our March 7-8 Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day. These national campaigns for justice and accountability are not possible without your participation and your support. Help sustain the important work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation by making a tax-deductible donation today.

As world's attention turns to Gaza, apartheid, settlements, and crack down on nonviolent resistance in the West Bank and East Jerusalem

One year since Israel unleashed "Operation Cast Lead," Israel's 22-day assault against Palestinians in the occupied Gaza Strip which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, injured thousands more, and destroyed billions of dollars of Palestinian civilian infrastructure, the world's attention is once again falling on Gaza as more than 1300 Gaza Freedom Marchers continue to make headlines in Cairo...with good reason. Yet we should be careful not to separate the occupation of the Gaza Strip from the occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, nor the Palestinians of Gaza from the rest of the Palestinian population that continues to suffer the effects of Israeli apartheid. Here are some updates on apartheid, settlements, and the crackdown on nonviolent resistance in the West Bank and East Jerusalem: 1) Israel has announced that it will build 700 new housing units in settlements in East Jerusalem. The White House has voiced its opposition to this plan, but still refuses to attach conditions on its aid and support of Israel. Meet with your Members of Congress during the winter recess and come to D.C. in March to let the U.S. government know that opposition without accountability is no opposition at all. 2) The Israeli High Court has ruled that Palestinians can use Highway 443, which was built on Palestinian land in the West Bank but closed to Palestinian use since October 2002. In Ha'aretz, Gideon Levy calls Highway 443 "28 kilometers of distilled apartheid" and notes that, inexplicably, the High Court ruling will not come into effect for 5 months. Democracy Now's report on the ruling notes that "It is unclear if the ruling will apply to other Israeli-only roads in the West Bank." Learn how you can stand against Israeli apartheid by clicking here. 3) The Israeli crackdown on nonviolent resistance to Israeli continues. According to Stop the Wall, Mohammad Othman's administrative detention, which expired last Wednesday, has been renewed until January 22. He is still not allowed to talk with his lawyer and is still held as a West Bank resident though he has a Jerusalem ID. No charges are being given. Jamal Juma's detention was extended 12 days after a hearing in front of a military judge on December 24. And of course Abdallah Abu Rahmah has been charged with arms possession for collecting U.S.-funded tear gas canisters in a move that can only be described as unbelievable. (If you haven't already, get ideas for action from Stop the Wall.) Here's US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab writing for the Agence Global:
"I remember the day I first met Jamal Juma. He was speaking at a United Nations conference in 2003 about the damage being done by Israel’s Wall. The audience was shocked: Many had heard that Israel had started carving a Wall in the West Bank in 2002, but they had no idea it could already be seen from outer space....Now Jamal is in jail. Israel’s occupation army detained him on December 16. After interrogating him, they brought him back home, handcuffed, and searched his house while his wife and three children watched. Then they took him off to prison....Jamal is the third anti-Wall activist to be arrested in the last few months. Their arrest is an Israeli acknowledgement of their success, at great personal cost."
Hijab notes that US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace has been active for the release of the anti-Wall protesters, and points out the connection between the Stop the Wall campaign and the international campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israeli apartheid and occupation:
"Moreover, the Stop the Wall Campaign made a strategic decision to link to the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The first Stop the Wall activist to be arrested was Mohammad Othman on his return from Norway, where his advocacy efforts contributed significantly to the Norwegian Pension Fund decision to divest from the Israeli military giant Elbit Systems....Israel still believes it can act with impunity. It will only stop if there is a cost to its human rights violations. Appeals to the Israeli authorities to respect due process are not enough, as Omar Barghouti put it in a call to redouble efforts for BDS. Israel will only change if it "gets the message that its arrest of civil resistance leaders will only intensify the already massive BDS campaigns against it."
Find out how you can "intensify the already massive BDS campaigns" against Israeli occupation and apartheid by clicking here.

More updates from the Gaza Freedom March

Lots of updates from the Gaza Freedom March, although it's a bit hard to piece together what is happening since things are changing so quickly: Read the latest update at the Gaza Freedom March blog here. New York Times covers the Freedom March, this time more fully:
"More than 1,000 people from around the world were gathered here on Tuesday for a solidarity march into Gaza despite Egypt’s insistence that the Gaza border crossing that it controls would remain closed to the vast majority of them."
Jewish Telegraph Agency and many others reporting that 100 marchers were allowed to go to Gaza:
"Egypt allowed 100 protesters from around the world to enter the Gaza Strip for a solidarity march with Palestinian residents. Another 1,200 activists from more than 40 countries who wanted to participate in the Gaza Freedom March remained in Cairo on Wednesday. "Two buses with 100 delegates on board left this morning for Gaza," Ann Wright, an organizer of the Gaza Freedom March, told the news agency AFP on Wednesday. The buses were set to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing, the only entry point into Gaza that does not require going through Israeli territory."
But Mondoweiss is carrying an update entitled "Gaza Freedom March rejects Egyptian offer to allow only 100 protesters into Gaza, which includes a statement from the Gaza Freedom March steering committee:
"We support any decisions taken by the Gaza Freedom March Coordination Committee about the entry of just 100 of 1400 delegates into Gaza instead of all the delegates presently in Cairo....The decision to send 100 delegates, however, seemed too divisive for the growing solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The unity of the global solidarity campaign is of utmost importance for us, the besieged Palestinians of Gaza. We have repeatedly argued that the march itself is not supposed to be only a symbolic gesture, but rather a part of a series of events which will lead to the end of the siege, once and for all."
And here's Ziyaad Lunat, a member of the march Coordinating Committee:
"We flatly reject Egypt’s offer of a token gesture. We refuse to whitewash the siege of Gaza. Our group will continue working to get all 1362 marchers into Gaza as one step towards the ultimate goal for the complete end of the siege and the liberation of Palestine” said Ziyaad Lunat a member of the march Coordinating Committee."
Here's video of activists from the Gaza Freedom March reject Egypt's offer to allow only 100 of the delegates through the border to Gaza. Their decision is cheered by the other delegates who were not allowed to go to Gaza, and they chant "All or none!" (thanks to Palestine Video for posting this). Amy Goodman devoted much of her Democracy Now! show today to the Gaza Freedom March. Here, she interviews Ali Abunimah, who is in Cairo and describes his own decision not to be part of the 100 Marchers who would supposedly be let into Gaza: Finally, Pam Rasmussen writes in Electronic Intifada: "Gaza's border must be opened NOW!" See a good (or bad) piece of media coverage of Gaza and/or the Gaza Freedom March? Not seeing enough coverage? Write letters to the editor and op eds using our resources for media action! UPDATE: Sami Abdel-Shafi writes in The Guardian: "This is not humane. We need dignity." Antony Loewenstein has posted Haidar Eid and Omar Barghouti's reponse to "Mubarak's Generous Offer" of just 100 protesters going to Gaza on his blog. The Real News Network carrying this report including an interview with Sam Husseini in Cairo:

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

More reports on Gaza Freedom March as solidarity actions continue

International media coverage of the Gaza Freedom March is picking up. The Christian Science Monitor is carrying a report entitled "Egypt cracks down on foreign protesters heading to Gaza Strip." The Sydney Morning Herald reports "Hunger strikers press Egypt on Gaza march." And we've updated the list of media coverage in our earlier post "Gaza Freedom Marchers persist in Cairo." Democracy Now! has an update from Cairo: The Arab Detroit News reports on members of US Campaign member group Michigan Peace Team who are attending the Gaza Freedom March, including Sheri Wander who says:
"I believe nonviolent people power is the only thing strong enough to stop what I honestly believe amounts to genocide in Gaza, With the leadership of Palestinians in Gaza and the solidarity of ordinary citizens from around the world we can do what the governments can/will not."
Jean Athey of US Campaign member group Peace Action Montgomery has this update on the group's blog:

"We have learned that Egypt has forbidden the bus companies to transport us to the border. Egyptian authorities have cancelled the space that had been rented for our group meeting scheduled for the evening of December 27. It is becoming increasingly unlikely that we will be able to get anywhere near Gaza. So, somehow, we will take a stand in Cairo."

Jesuit priest and activist John Dear writes about the hunger strike on Common Dreams, and Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence has an update on the Huffington Post. And here's the latest update from the march organizers. UPDATE: "Egyptian security forces confront Gaza Freedom March protesters, possibly at the request of the US embassy" Meanwhile, across the United States and around the world, Gaza solidarity actions are being held to commemorate one year since Israel's 22-day assault on the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, which resulted in some 1400 deaths. It's not too late to find a solidarity action near you, and to use our resources to take action in the media, with Congress, and in the streets. Check out more ways to take action in support of Palestinian human rights and the Gaza Freedom March on the US Campaign's website!

Rep. Brian Baird calls for cutting U.S. aid to Israel on Al Jazeera English

Check out this short clip from Al Jazeera English, interviewing Reps. Brian Baird and Keith Ellison, both of whom visited Gaza, have spoken out in Congress, and were instrumental in opposing H.Res.867's ridiculous condemnation of the Goldstone Report (thanks to Palestine Video for the catch) : Listen to Rep. Baird at the end: "There will be a cost in dollars, in aid, in support, if some fundamental changes don't happen." It's not too late to arrange a meeting with your Members of Congress when they are in their home districts during the winter recess and let them know that you agree with Rep. Baird. Click here to find out more. Want tips on pressuring Congress, opportunities to network with other organizers, and the chance to meet with your Members of Congress in their D.C. offices? Register today for the US Campaign and Interfaith Peace-Builder's Grassroots Advocacy Training & Lobby Day, March 7-8, 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

As Gaza Freedom Marchers persist in Cairo, solidarity actions across the globe

Reports from Gaza Freedom March participants in Cairo are rolling in so quickly that I am struggling to keep up. Here are just a few of the reports we've been receiving: 1) Emily Ratner of US Campaign member group New Orleans Palestine Solidarity and the New Orleans International Human Rights Film Festival (which the US Campaign has helped sponsor for the past several years), writes at Mondoweiss:
"Yesterday we joined the people of Gaza, the people of all of Palestine, and allies around the world in remembering the anniversary of the inhuman and illegal Israeli attacks that stole the lives of more than 1,400 mothers, fathers, daughters, and sons last December and January. And, in a manner far too appropriately suited to remembering an unfathomably vicious massacre and the preposterous silence of the American and Egyptian governments, we freedom marched in circles throughout the streets of Cairo."
Read her full report here. 2) The front page of Ma'an News was dedicated to the Gaza Freedom March:
"Surrounded by police, an international group of human rights advocates staged a demonstration at a UN installation in Cairo on Monday after the Egyptian government denied their request to enter Gaza....Former EU parliament vice president Luisa Morgantini, Filipino Senator and president of the Transnational Institute Walden Bello and others held a news conference outside the UN building in Cairo in hopes to negotiate their entry in Gaza via the Rafah crossing. Another member of the Gaza Freedom March group, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstien, 85, declared a hunger strike in protest of Egypt’s decision. More than 600 others joined the demonstration at the UN building...."
3) AFP is carrying this report on Hedy Epstein and other hunger strikers:
"An 85-year-old Holocaust survivor was among a group of grandmothers who began a hunger strike in Cairo on Monday to protest against Egypt's refusal to allow a Gaza solidarity march to proceed. American activist Hedy Epstein and other grandmothers participating in the Gaza Freedom March began a hunger strike at 1000 GMT. "I've never done this before, I don't know how my body will react, but I'll do whatever it takes," Epstein told AFP, sitting on a chair surrounded by hundreds of protesters outside the United Nations building in Cairo."
UPDATE: The BBC is now carrying the report as well, as is the Israeli daily Yedioth. Here's Al Jazeera English's report. UPDATE: Robert Naiman writes at Huffington Post about lack of U.S. press coverage of the march (his article was posted before the New York Times started carrying the longer Reuters piece). UPDATE: Reuters is now reporting on the Gaza Freedom Marchers, and the Reuters report has been picked up by the New York Times. [Not the greatest article ever--good opportunity for letters to the editor]. 4) Democracy Now! is carrying this report as well as an interview with Palestinian journalist Sami Abu Salem: 5) Ken Mayers, National Treasurer of Veterans for Peace, writes of an action at the Kasr al Nil bridge in Cairo:
"This was a small but moving action in which small groups of us moved to the bridge and tied notes to the bridge recording our solidarity with the people of Gaza and our sorrow at the horrors inflicted on them a year ago in the three weeks prior to the inauguration of Barack Obama. The action was schedule to unfold from 11am to 1pm. I was there from 11 to 12:30 or so and saw no security force interference during that period [the memorial was apparently broken up by security forces later on-ed.]. Pictured below is the flower and the note that I tied to the bridge. This is not to say that there were no security forces around. I don't believe I have ever been in a city where police are more visible -- and that includes Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Beijing."
6) Mohammad at KABOBfest breaks down a recent report on the humanitarian situation in Gaza one year after "Operation Cast Lead" in a devastating fashion, including these figures:
  • Since the assault ended, leaving 15,000 buildings damages and 5,000 completely destroyed, only 41 trucks of contsruction materials have been allowed to enter Gaza
  • Prior to 2007, and average of 70 truckloads of exports left Gaza everyday. For the past two years, that number has been zero.
  • Only 35 categories of items are allowed into Gaza. That is, only 35 types of products are allowed in to the 1.5 million prisoners.
The figures highlight the complete failure of governments to act on behalf of justice and peace. When governments--whether Egyptian, Israeli, or U.S.--fail to act, civil society steps up to the plate. This time around it's no exception. As 1400 human rights advocates work to highlight the siege of Gaza in Cairo, people around the world are organizing. Some are contacting the Egyptian government. Others are organizing solidarity actions. Here in the United States, it's important to link these solidarity actions with our ongoing national campaign to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to one that respects international law, human rights, and equality for all. Take action in the media, with Congress; and in the streets. Link your actions with ongoing campaigns against Caterpillar (whose bulldozers were used heavily in Operation Cast Lead), Motorola, Ahava, and U.S. military aid. It's long past time for the siege to end. It's long past time for the Israeli occupation to end. It's long past time for apartheid to end.

U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel has more than 500 endorsers!

A press release from US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation member group USACBI: December 27, 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s 22-day assault on the captive population of Gaza, which killed 1400 people, one third of them children, and injured more than 5300. During this war on an impoverished, mostly refugee population, Israel targeted civilians, using internationally-proscribed white phosphorous bombs, deprived them of power, water and other essentials, and sought to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society, including hospitals, administrative buildings and UN facilities. It targeted with peculiar consistency educational institutions of all kinds: the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, at least ten UNRWA schools, one of which was sheltering internally displaced Palestinian civilians with nowhere to flee, and tens of other schools and educational facilities. While world leaders have tragically failed to come to Gaza’s help, civilians everywhere are rallying to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people, with anniversary vigils taking place this week in New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and many more cities and towns in the US and world-wide. The United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was formed in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, bringing together educators of conscience who were unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions. Today, over 500 US-based academics, authors, artists, musicians, poets, and other arts professionals have endorsed our call. Our academic endorsers include postcolonial critics and transnational feminists Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Indigenous scholars J. KÄ“haulani Kauanui and Andrea Smith, philosopher Judith Butler , Black studies scholars Cedric Robinson, Fred Moten, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, and intellectual historian Joseph Massad. “Cultural workers” who have endorsed our call include well known author Barbara Ehrenreich, Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, poets Adrienne Rich and Lisa Suhair Majjaj, ISM co-founder and documentary film-maker Adam Shapiro, Jordan Flaherty of Left Turn Magazine, and Adrienne Maree Brown, of the Ruckus Society. Among the 34 organizations supporting our mission are and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Green Party, Code Pink, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, Artists Against Apartheid, and Teachers Against the Occupation. The Advisory Board of the United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has grown to include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hamid Dabashi, Lawrence Davidson, Bill Fletcher Jr., Glen Ford, Mark Gonzales, Marilyn Hacker, Edward Herman, Annemarie Jacir, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Robin Kelley, Ilan Pappe, James Petras, Vijay Prashad, Andrenne Rich, Michel Shehadeh, and Lisa Taraki. Israeli academics, listed among the organization’s International Endorsers, have also joined us, including Emmanuel Farjoun, Hebrew University; Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University; Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University; Kobi Snitz, Technion; and Ilan Pappe now at Exeter. The USACBI Mission Statement calls for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions in support of an appeal by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Individual Israelis are not targeted by the boycott. Specifically, supporters are asked to: (1) Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine; (2) Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions; (3) Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions; (4) Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations; (5) Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support. This boycott, modeled upon the global BDS movement that put an end to South African apartheid, is to continue until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by: 1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall; 2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and 3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. Internet Addresses: United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) Homepage and Mission Statement: http://usacbi.org Endorsers: http://usacbi.wordpress.com/endorsers/ Advisory Board Members: http://usacbi.wordpress.com/advisory-board/ Face Book: http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?id=542646326&gv=12#/group.php?gid=62141897558 --------- BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions): Bridging the gap between speaking out against apartheid, and actually taking steps to end it. www.usacbi.org

Jewish Daily Forward covers Hampshire College divestment, tax-exempt status for settlers

More signs of the changing discourse on Israel/Palestine in the United States: Gal Beckerman of The Jewish Daily Forward recently covered the tax-exempt status that the U.S. arms of Israeli settler organizations enjoy, and how these organizations might be in violation of U.S. tax law (the same topic covered by Andrew Kadi and Aaron Levitt of US Campaign member group Adalah-NY in a recent Guardian article):
"An Israeli organization handing out cash to soldiers for disobeying orders has been collecting tax-exempt donations from American donors in apparent disregard of United States tax law."
Even more intriguing, check out this piece at The Forward. It's a collection of short pieces by prominent Jewish writers and thinkers looking back over the last decade. There's the usual anti-Palestinian garbage from folks like Elliot Abrams and Abraham Foxman, but the Forward also published this piece by Alisa Solomon of Columbia University:
"After years of building slowly, the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has gained real traction. The BDS conference at Hampshire College in November — which drew students from 40 campuses — marked a watershed in anti-occupation activism in the United States. BDS proponents — many of them Jewish — are picking up a time-honored, non-violent protest tool as they seek meaningful action against the 42-year-old occupation. Charges that these are “antisemitic” efforts to “delegitimize Israel” mischaracterize a multifaceted movement for human and civil rights. As BDS keeps growing, the Jewish community is going to have to grapple seriously with the issues this movement raises."
Check it out here, and leave comments on the article (thanks to US Campaign Steering Committee member David Matos of member group Carolina Peace Resource Center for spotting this one). You can use our media action resources and campus BDS resources to get more involved.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Holiday Message from US Campaign Steering Committee Member Phyllis Bennis

Dear Supporter, Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your loved ones a great holiday - and hope for a better and more peaceful year all around. I know that you're being bombarded right now by important organizations asking for your support. So let me tell you why you should join me in supporting one particular important organization--the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation-especially in this holiday season, and at this particular political moment. The moment is urgent not only because of the holidays and the end of the year - but because as you know, conditions in the Middle East are deteriorating every day, and US policy still hasn't caught up with the changes in discourse and thinking about the region that you have helped make possible. The work of the US Campaign is crucial. No organization I know of does so much important, quality work on such a small budget. From leading national campaigns to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel, to organizing the national boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against U.S. corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid policy, to helping build support for the Gaza Freedom March later this month, and working with the UN and our human rights counterparts around the world, the US Campaign plays a vital role. The US Campaign brings together more than 300 organizations in a broad national coalition, dedicated to changing US policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. That's why I have worked with the US Campaign since its founding almost a decade ago. And I'm happy to say that because of its great public education work, its savvy policy work, and its dynamic campaigns challenging multi-national corporations, the US Campaign is playing a leading role in shifting the discourse in and policy of this country on Palestine/Israel for the better. That's been hard. But it takes a lot more hard work to reach the kind of policy transformation that we need. That's why I'm proud to continue to serve on the US Campaign's Steering Committee and to be a financial supporter. Please join me in supporting the important work of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation by making a tax-deductible donation today. Donate $50 or more and I'll send you or a friend a copy of the new, updated edition of my book "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer". Just click here, make a secure on-line donation of $50 or more, and tell us where and to whom you'd like the book sent. The US Campaign will also gratefully accept any donation of any amount, so please give whatever you can today by clicking here. And if you can help us with a regular contribution, even just $5 or $10 or $15 every month, join our Olive Branch Club. For a year-end newsletter outlining the US Campaign's many accomplishments this year, please click here. Thank you for your generous support of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation! Happy holidays, and thanks for all your work for peace and justice. Phyllis Bennis for the US Campaign Steering Committee

Gaza Freedom March on Democracy Now

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! interview Gaza Freedom Marchers Hedy Epstein and Medea Benjamin: Find a Gaza Freedom March solidarity event near you, and check out our resources for taking action in the media and your local community.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Repression of nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation reaches new levels of absurdity

The repression of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation reached new heights of absurdity today as Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a high school teacher and coordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall, was charged with arms possession. The basis of the charge? Used tear gas canisters, fired at protesters by the Israeli army, that were collected by Rahmah and others to demonstrate to visitors the level of repression faced by nonviolent resistance to the occupation: You can't make this stuff up. Here's Abu Rahmah's lawyer, Gaby Lasky, on the indictment:
"[T]he army shoots at unarmed demonstrators, and when they try to show the world the violence used against them by collecting presenting the remnants – they are persecuted and prosecuted. What’s next? Charging protesters money for the bullets shot at them?"
Hate to say it, Adv. Lasky, but we know exactly who's getting charged for the bullets and tear gas canisters shot at protesters--not to mention the bombs and missiles dropped on Gaza. It's the U.S. tax payer! In FY2001-2006, the United States provided $2,515,080 worth of .22-.50 caliber ammunition to Israel--26,619,524 bullets. In FY2007, the U.S. provided $4,181,378 in ammunition--28,672,145 bullets. In FY2007 alone, the United States gave Israel 121,991 pieces of teargas and riot control agents valued at $1,654,536. Organize against U.S. military aid by signing up as part of our Congressional District Coordinators Network.

Israel steps up campaign of repression. We can step it up our campaign, too!

Independent media outlets have been providing some great coverage of this latest wave of repression directed against Palestinian nonviolence. Here's Neve Gordon at Counterpunch, who frames the issue with an overview of the history of Palestinian nonviolence and Israeli repression and summarizes the current trend:
"Clearly, the strategy is to arrest all of the leaders and charge them with incitement, thus setting an extremely high "price tag" for organising protests against the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The objective is to put an end to the pro-peace popular resistance in the villages and to crush, once and for all, the Palestinian peace movement."
And check out this great report from The Real News Network, which covers the repression of Israeli anti-occupation activists as well as Palestinian, and describes the apartheid differences in the way Israeli and Palestinian prisoners are treated: The question for us, of course, is how do we respond? What actions can we take in solidarity with our Palestinian and Israeli allies who are working nonviolently for justice and peace? If you haven't already, check out the call to action from Stop the Wall. Once you've done that, here's a couple of suggestions of actions you can take in your local community: 1) Your tax money helps pay the bill for the munitions that are used to suppress nonviolent demonstrations. In FY2001-2006, the United States provided $2,515,080 worth of .22-.50 caliber ammunition to Israel--26,619,524 bullets. In FY2007, the U.S. provided $4,181,378 in ammunition--28,672,145 bullets. In FY2007 alone, the United States gave Israel 121,991 pieces of teargas and riot control agents valued at $1,654,536. Organize against U.S. military aid by signing up as part of our Congressional District Coordinators Network. 2) Much of the Palestinian nonviolent resistance is directed against the building of the Apartheid Wall and settlements on Israeli land. Caterpillar bulldozers are used to build both the Wall and the settlements, not to mention uprooting Palestinian agricultural land and demolishing Palestinian houses. Motorola provides surveillance equipment for settlements, as well as communication equipment that is likely used to coordinate night raids in villages like Bil'in. Products such as Ahava are produced in settlements built on Palestinian land. Engaging in boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns in your local community is exactly the kind of solidarity called for by Palestinian civil society--and, as Omar Barghouti has said, it might just be the "most consequential form of protest" against the repression on nonviolent resistance. 3) The repression of nonviolent protest, the separation of populations, the imprisonment without trial--all of these violations of human rights fall under the crime of apartheid. Educate yourself and your community about the crime of apartheid and how it applies to Israel's treatment of the Palestinians by clicking here. 4) Finally, incorporate messaging about military aid, BDS, and apartheid into your solidarity events with the Gaza Freedom March, coming up next week. Israel is stepping up its campaign of repression. Let's show the Israeli military--and our Palestinian and Israeli partners in the struggle for a just peace--that we can step up our campaign, too. Help us do just that by making a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation today!

Gaza Lives On

Check out this powerful video showing the strength of the Palestinian community in Gaza one year after "Operation Cast Lead" from the Never Before Campaign, and then click here to take action for the Gaza Freedom March (via US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace):

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Two US Campaign member groups publish pieces on Gaza in Huffington Post

Leaders of two US Campaign member groups have published articles on Gaza in the Huffington Post today. Linda Frank of North West Middle East Peace Forum shares diary entries from Khulood Ghanem, a 27-year old resident of Gaza City who kept a diary during the entirety of last year's 22-day Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip. Click here to read the piece, entitled "Living Under the Bombing of Gaza." Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK Women for Peace writes about the Egypt's threat to block the Gaza Freedom March and vows that the march will go on. Click here to read her piece. For more on the Gaza Freedom March and US Campaign member groups making news, check out our earlier post, "Gaza Freedom Marches On."

Omar Barghouti: BDS as response to repression of Palestinian nonviolence

Many of you have already heard of the most recent arrest by Israel of a leader of Palestinian nonviolent resistance to occupation and apartheid. Our allies at Stop the Wall have information and action steps that you can take to demand the release of Jamal Juma', who joins Mohammad Othman and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh in the current list of Palestinian nonviolent resisters being held in administrative detention, with no charges and no trial.
Omar Barghouti, a leader in the BDS movement and a speaker at the US Campaign's last National Conference, has this to say about how human rights advocates should respond to this latest campaign of repression against nonviolent resistance to occupation and apartheid:
"This Israeli campaign of repression needs to be exposed and countered effectively and comprehensively. Appeals to the Israeli authorities to respect due legal process or release Jamal should not be the only form of protest over this gross violation of Palestinian rights. Intensifying BDS, ultimately, is the most consequential form of protest. If Israel gets the message that its arrest of civil resistance leaders will only intensify the already massive BDS campaigns against it, it may think."
How can you "intensify the already massive BDS campaigns" against Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian human rights?
Here are three suggestions:
1) If you haven't already, sign the Motorola boycott pledge, and sign up to receive a Hang Up on Motorola organizing packet. Incorporate the resources in the organizing kit into your Gaza Freedom March solidarity actions or other local events in your community.
3) Ask your organization to endorse the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). If you are a faculty member at an academic institution or a cultural worker, you can individually endorse the USACBI call. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation officially endorsed academic and cultural boycott at its 2009 National Organizers' Conference.

Gaza Freedom (and Palestinian Nonviolent Resistance) Marches On

Nancy Murray of US Campaign member group Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights has a piece in The Nation entitled "The Gaza I Know." Take it away, Nancy:
"The Gaza I have been visiting for the past twenty-one years bears little relation to the dehumanizing imagery to which it has been reduced by the mainstream media. The Gaza I know is home to friends and strangers who are as welcoming and humane as they are resilient and determined to achieve their freedom. They have maintained their humanity despite enduring a brutal forty-two-year-old Israeli occupation that has cost them the destruction of their homes, land, economy and future and the loss of more than 4,000 lives since the dawn of the twenty-first century....In late December, to mark the first anniversary of Israel's war, some 1,200 internationals from forty-two countries will be doing what they can to get things moving in the right direction. They intend to enter Gaza from Egypt to participate in the Gaza Freedom March."
Read the full article here.
The Gaza Freedom March, which is endorsed by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is facing a new challenge this week, as Egyptian authorities are threatening to close the Rafah border with the Gaza Strip for the next several weeks. March organizers have vowed that this obstacle will not prevent them from entering Gaza. Click here to read more and take action.
You don't have to go to the Gaza Strip to advocate for an end to Israel's illegal and immoral siege. Join a solidarity action in your community, or use the action resources on our website to organize your own. And remember--the blockade of Gaza is only one aspect of Israel's policy of occupation and apartheid that we have to confront. Incorporate calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions and for freedom for leaders of Palestinian nonviolent resistance into your solidarity actions. Meet with Members of Congress about the humanitarian effects of the siege and how U.S. military aid is misused by Israel. And take action in the media to draw attention to the conditions in Gaza one year after "Operation Cast Lead," and continuing U.S. support for Israeli violations of Palestinian rights in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem.

From Stop the Wall: Free Jamal Juma’! - Free the anti-Wall prisoners!

A message from our allies at Stop the Wall:

Jamal Juma’ was arrested by Israeli authorities on December 16. This arrest follows the imprisonment of Mohammad Othman, another Stop the Wall activist, and Abdallah Abu Rahmeh, a leading figure in the Bil’in popular committee against the Wall, as well as dozens more that are currently in prison for their action and advocacy against the Wall.
This latest arrest is yet another escalation of Israel’s attack on Palestinian human rights defenders, which continues to clamp down on the right to freedom of expression and the right to association.

Join the campaign for Jamal Juma’s release and for the freedom of the anti-Wall prisoners! It is crucial that global civil society stands in solidarity with their Palestinian counterparts.

Recommended Actions:

• Encourage your members to join this campaign through petitions, demonstrations and/or letter writing and phone calling. Please provide them with contact information and details.

• Urge your representatives at consular offices in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem/Ramallah to advocate for the immediate release of Jamal Juma’, Mohammad Othman, Abdallah Abu Rahmeh and the other anti-Wall activists. See pro forma letter below. (For your consular contacts, see: http://www.embassiesabroad.com/embassies-in/Israel#11725)

• Let the Israeli Embassy in your home country know that you are campaigning for the release of Jamal Juma’ and the other anti-Wall prisoners.

• Bring the case of the anti-Wall prisoners to the attention of local and national media outlets.

• Follow the site, blog and Facebook group regarding the issue:

Site: www.stopthewall.org
Blogs: http://freejamaljuma.wordpress.com/ ;http://freemohammadothman.wordpress.com/
Facebook: Free the Anti-Wall Prisoners
Twitter: http://twitter.com/wallprisoners


We would highly appreciate it if you would coordinate your actions with us. We have pro forma letters and can let you know if there are other activists and organizations that are taking similar action. The better we coordinate, the more effective our action will be.

For more information contact: global@stopthewall.org

Facts and Background:

Israeli security first summoned Juma’ for interrogation at midnight of December 15. Hours later, they brought him back to his home. Juma’ was handcuffed while soldiers searched his house for two hours as his wife and three young children looked on helplessly. The parting words of the soldiers were directed at his wife: she would only see her husband again through a prisoner exchange. Since then, Juma’ has been detained and barred from speaking to a lawyer or his family. No explanation has been given for his arrest.

Jamal, 47 years old, was born in Jerusalem and has dedicated his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. The main focus of his work is on empowering local communities to defend their human rights in the face of violations brought about by the occupation. He is a founding member of a number of Palestinian NGOS and civil society networks. Juma' has been the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign since 2002. He is widely respected for his work and has been invited to address numerous civil society and UN conferences. His articles and interviews are widely published and his work has been translated into several languages. As a highly visible figure, Juma’ has never attempted to hide or disguise his activities.

Jamal Juma’ is the highest profile arrest within an intensifying campaign of repression of grassroots mobilizing against the Wall and settlements. Initially arresting local activists from the villages affected by the Wall, the Israeli authorities have moved towards the detention of internationally known human rights defenders such as Mohammad Othman and Abdallah Abu Rahmah. Mohammad, another member of the Stop the Wall Campaign, was arrested nearly three months ago when returning from a speaking tour in Norway. After two months of interrogation, Israeli authorities still could not press any charges against him and therefore passed an administrative detention order against him. Abdallah Abu Rahmah, a leading figure in the nonviolent struggle against the Wall in Bil’in, was taken from his home in the middle of the night a week before Jamal was jailed.

With these arrests, Israel aims to weaken Palestinian civil society and its influence on political decision making at the national and international level. This process clearly criminalizes the work of Palestinian human rights defenders and Palestinian civil disobedience.

It is crucial that the international community combat Israeli attempts to criminalize human rights defenders struggling against the Wall. The Israeli policy of targeting organizers calling for Israeli accountability is a direct challenge to the decisions of governments and global bodies such as the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to hold Israel to account for its violations of international law. This challenge shall not go unmet.


Pro Forma letter

Dear x,

I am writing to you to express my deepest concern about the detention of Jamal Juma' on December 16. He was summoned from his home for interrogation with the Israeli security at midnight and has been kept in detention ever since. Though Jamal Juma' is a Jerusalem ID card holder, West Bank military orders have been applied to bar him for access to legal counsel for the first week of his arrest. No charges have been made against him.

I fear that the detainment of Jamal Juma' is a result of his peaceful criticism of violations of international law by Israeli authorities. The charges against him have not been made clear, but there is reason to believe that he is a prisoner of conscience, arrested solely for his human rights work through legal organizations. His arrest follows a number of other arrests of similar nature. This seems to show a systematic disregard for Palestinian freedom of expression and assembly and a full-scale attack on Palestinian human rights defenders by Israeli authorities.

I ask you to take all appropriate measures, including official inquiries and protests, to ensure the immediate and unconditional release of Jamal Juma' and the other Palestinian human rights defenders in Israeli prisons. Furthermore, whilst being held, he should be protected from any form of torture or ill-treatment, and the conditions of his detention should fulfill the requirements of international law.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this urgent matter.

Sincerely,