Friday, April 30, 2010

Nadia Hijab and Jesse Rosenfeld: New Palestinian roads "facilitate settlement expansion, apartheid-style segregation and annexation"

US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab and Jesse Rosenfeld of The Daily Nuisance have a piece in The Nation on new Palestinian roads in the West Bank, encouraged by Palestinian Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad and funded in part by USAID. These roads, they allege, contribute to the solidification of Israeli apartheid and settlement expansion in the West Bank:
"Fayyad has argued that development will make the reality of a Palestinian state impossible to ignore. However, many of the new roads facilitate Israeli settlement expansion and pave the way for the seizure of main West Bank highways for exclusive Israeli use.

For decades Israel has carried out its own infrastructure projects in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. These include a segregated road network that, together with the separation wall Israel began building in 2002, divides Palestinian areas from each other while bringing the settlements--all of which are illegal under international law--closer to Israel.

Now, armed with information from United Nations sources and their own research, Palestinian nongovernmental organizations are raising the alarm. Their evidence spotlights the extent to which PA road-building is facilitating the Israeli goal of annexing vast areas of the West Bank--making a viable Palestinian state impossible.

Roads currently under construction in the Bethlehem governorate are a prime example, as they will complete the separation of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, which includes some of the earliest Israeli settlements, from the Palestinian West Bank, swallowing up more pieces of Bethlehem on the way. The PA is building these roads with funding from the US Agency for International Development and thus ultimately the US taxpayer. "

Hijab and Rosenfeld argue that "many of the alternative roads could facilitate settlement expansion, apartheid-style segregation and annexation by taking Palestinians off the main grid--thus working against a Palestinian state." They point out the human impact of segregated roads:
"Nidal Hatim, a local playwright, online columnist and activist with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS), cannot take the main road from Bethlehem to his home village of Battir, just outside the city. Route 60 is the main highway running north-south through the center of the West Bank. "To go on the highway, we have to go through the checkpoint and turn around," he said. "I have a West Bank Palestinian ID, so I can't go through the checkpoint." Instead, he takes a bumpy side road that is currently being built by the PA with USAID support. The road turns from choppy cement to residential street to dirt and gravel path, weaving around and under the four-lane Route 60, which is now used mostly by Israeli settlers. Passing through a partly completed tunnel, the car stalls for a second on a steep unpaved incline on the edge of an olive grove."
Separate is never equal. Read the rest of the article here, and learn more about how you can take a stand against Israeli apartheid and U.S. aid to Israel.

More on UC Berkeley divestment vote

US Campaign Steering Committee member Sophia Ritchie (who shared her eyewitness account of the UC Berkeley divestment vote in an earlier post) passed along this great interview on Pacifica Radio's "Flashpoints" with UC Berkeley students Loubna and Shoaib and author Ali Abunimah. Democracy Now also covered the story: Amy Goodman interviews Dr. Clayborne Carson of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute, on the legacy of late civil rights leader Dr. Dorothy Height, followed by a report on the UC Berkeley divestment vote (at around minute 50:30):

More CAT Crimes: "Caterpillar equipment used in extrajudicial killing near Hebron"

Electronic Intifada passes along the following press release from the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights:
"On Monday 26 April 2010, Israeli occupation forces killed a Palestinian man, Ali Ismael Ali Swaiti, 45, in Beit Awwa in the West Bank district of Hebron, after demolishing a house while he was inside. Israeli occupation forces claim that Ali Swaiti had been wanted for several years. The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) condemns this crime -- which constitutes an extrajudicial execution -- and calls upon the international community to work towards bringing to trial those Israeli politicians and commanders suspected of committing war crimes."
You can read the rest of the release here, which confirms that Caterpillar equipment was involved in this extrajudicial assassination and that "the bulldozer lifted the body of Swaiti out of the rubble and dropped it onto a road close to the demolished house before moving it another 10 meters away." Caterpillar bulldozers are specially adapted (with the cooperation of Caterpillar) for house demolitions like this one. Caterpillar bulldozers have also been used to destroy houses with occupants still inside in Jenin and Gaza. Join the fight to stop Caterkiller by ordering an organizing packet and sending a message to CAT management today. (Also check out this report from a direct action at a Caterpillar distribution center organized by students at Macalester College in MN.)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Seeds of the new movement": US Campaign Steering Committee member Sophia Ritchie reports from UC Berkeley

The following report on the divestment vote at UC Berkeley is shared by US Campaign Steering Committee member and UC Berkeley alum Sophia Ritchie: I am here again for another late night ASUC hearing, at my alma mater UC Berkeley, surrounded by hundreds of students and community members, most of who are here supporting the overturn of Will Smelko’s veto on SB118. It is the same place that we met two weeks ago, but this time it’s a bit more claustrophobic not only because they’ve cut the room in half, but also everyone’s speaking time. My head spins – as speakers rush through their prepared statements in the allotted minute and a half. I strain to hear them as they are left at the end attempting to continue and complete their points when their sound is cut. The anticipation is thick. People are nervous. We just want a decision; didn’t they vote 16-4 to pass this resolution already? That vote feels so long ago. By now we all know the outcome of last night: the veto was not overturned. I could focus on a lot of things: the weak arguments that proponents of the veto used and everything I heard that was presented to challenge their claims, but I think the videos of personal stories and testimony that will be online soon will say better what I could repeat here. I want to write about something else – on what happened after we heard that the veto was sustained and on what is happening at this moment. The now ubiquitous green stickers that read “Another (fill in the blank) for Human Rights. Divest from the Israeli Occupation” were taken off of shirts, coats and purses and placed instead over our mouths. A room full of people whose views and experiences and struggles have been silenced by this outcome. Senator Patel takes a moment to address the room. He directs those of us who support the resolution to raise our right fist, hundreds of arms stay raised in the air as he passionately talks about the “seeds of a new movement”. The seeds have been planted, our roots are deepening and we are growing. That to me is the most important outcome of this entire process. Something has shifted – in the discourse, in the sheer numbers of people who are concerned, in the solidarity work and coalition building amongst a broad and truly diverse range of student and community groups, in the energy around Palestine– that cannot be ignored. In this way, we are winning. After Senator Patel speaks we walk out collectively, silently. Outside, on the steps to the building, we stand around for a bit when someone starts the familiar “Free, Free Palestine” and the response echoes across Sproul Plaza, the home of so many demonstrations and pivotal historical moments, bounces off buildings, and settles deep in my heart. An elder from the Palestinian community addresses the crowd. Beautiful, poignant, raw and wise – he reminds us that this fight is not over. That truth and justice will prevail, even if it takes many more years. The continued chants of “When Palestine is under attack, what we do? Stand up, fight back” feed a growing circle of people on Sproul at 4:30am. It is a chilly bay area night, but I feel warmed and energized by the people, both friends and strangers, surrounding me - by their determination and by their love. More and more people address the crowd - youth, professors, Palestinian students and community members. I see many of the senators who spoke in favor of the resolution join the circle. I think these recent weeks have shown something – Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity with their struggle for justice, equality and freedom, are no longer willing to be silenced. It also shows that more people are hearing what we have to say. More and more of us are raising our voices. Palestine is in the vocabulary of more people. No, we’re not going to shut up and we’re not going away – in fact, we’re getting louder and stronger. As long as the Occupation continues and our tax dollars feed it, as long as there are massacres of innocent Palestinian civilians, as long as Palestinian land continues to be stolen, as long as Palestinian children are being held in Israeli jails without trials, as long as the madness continues we have no choice, but to speak out and work for justice. Alice Walker completes her new essay “Overcoming Speech-lessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel,” by writing, “The world is, at last, finding its voice about everything that harms it…Though the horror of what we are witnessing in places like….Palestine/Israel threatens our very ability to speak, we will speak. And, because almost everyone on the planet acknowledges our collective slide into global disaster unless we profoundly change our ways, we will be heard.” This is an analysis, but more importantly it is also a call to each and every one of us. Are we listening? -- Want to plant more movement seeds? Check out our campus divestment resources, and help grow the seeds that have already been planted by making a tax-deductible donation to the US Campaign!

From UC Berkeley divestment supporters: "We lost the vote, but won the night."

The ASUC Senate at UC Berkeley fell one vote short of the 14 needed to override a veto of a bill calling for divestment from two companies, General Electric and United Technologies, that directly profit off of human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. From Cal Divest from Apartheid:

"We lost the vote, but won the night.

13 senators voted to override, 14 were required. Only 5 senators voted to uphold, less than half the 13.

We made a statement recorded for posterity and forced everyone to listen and watch what the nature of Israeli occupation is, to listen to Palestinian voices, from Palestine and from the US, telling their stories. These transcripts will stay preserved in recorded history, and we shall overcome.

Make no mistake, we lost the vote, but we won the night.

Undaunted,

Cal Divest Team"

As we've said before, this conversation needs to happen on every campus. Find out how you can make that happen using US Campaign campus divestment resources.

David Hosey: "From Arizona to Palestine -- Documentation, Deportation, and Boycott"

The following is cross-posted from City of..., the blog of US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey. It represents his views, not necessarily the views of the US Campaign:
Tell me if this sounds familiar:
A new order allows enforcement officials to stop anyone who "looks illegal" (read: has brown skin) and demand that they produce documents proving their right to be in a place they call home. Failure to produce such documents can lead to fines, jail time, or deportation. Widely seen as a violation of basic rights, this new order leads to widespread calls for boycott.
I'm speaking, of course, about Arizona's new racist law, SB1070--but I could just as easily be talking about Palestine.
If you haven't heard, SB1070 effectively mandates racial profiling by giving local police officers the right to demand immigration documentation from anyone they think might be in the country without documents. Here's the Washington Post summarizing the new law (and insisting on calling human beings "illegal"):
"The law gives local police broad authority to stop and request documents from anyone they reasonably suspect is an illegal immigrant. It calls for aggressive prosecution of illegal immigrants, and officers can be sued if they do not enforce the law."
SB 1070 is so racist and over the top that it has led to a wave of outrage around the country, including condemnation from a wide spectrum of faith leaders and President Barack Obama. Many organizations and individuals have called for a boycott of Arizona, including Arizona Member of Congress Raul Grijalva and Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney.
I support these calls, just as I support efforts to oppose so-called "Secure Communities" initiatives that would require local law enforcement to work with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a manner sure to promote racial profiling and ruin community policing efforts.
I have to wonder, though, how calls to boycott Arizona--including sports boycotts and boycotts on travel to the state--are so easily endorsed in the Washington Post (McCartney: "I like the idea of a boycott because it's so all-American"), while calls to boycott Israel for its consistent violations of Palestinian human rights and international law are deemed "controversial."
The connections are eerie: earlier this month, a new Israeli military order came into effect in the Palestinian West Bank, which would allow the military to demand that any Palestinian, anytime, produce proof of their right to be in a place they call home. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz:
"A new military order will take effect this week, enabling the army to deport tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and prosecute them on infiltration charges, which carry long prison terms....The order's vague language will allow army officers to exploit it arbitrarily to carry out mass expulsions, in accordance with military orders which were issued under unclear circumstances. The first candidates for expulsion will be people whose ID cards bear addresses in the Gaza Strip, including children born in the West Bank and Palestinians living in the West Bank who have lost their residency status for various reasons."
Sound familiar? And yet where was the Washington Post call for boycott?
There's more: The Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli violations of international law came one year after the International Court of Justice ruled against the Israel's "Separation Barrier," which annexes massive sections of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. That "Barrier" (read: apartheid Wall) is being built, in part, by Elbit, an Israeli military contractor that also has half of the contract on the U.S./Mexico Border Wall.
And SB1070 is likely to lead to the type of checkpoints and arbitrary "searches" and arrests that have been daily reality for West Bank Palestinians for decades. The West Bank currently has over 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, and closures--in an area the size of Delaware, not Arizona.
Of course, in Arizona and in Palestine/Israel, many of the people affected by racist laws and policies can trace their ancestral connection to the place back well before the current (predominantly white-skinned) regimes making such racist laws came into power. That's how colonialism and occupation works. And as Jewish Israeli Assaf Oron writes at DailyKos, racial profiling linked to ID documents is a fact of life for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as well.
So here's what I'm saying: all those calling for boycotting Arizona because of a racist "documentation and deportation" law--I'm with you. And everyone who supports the Palestinian BDS call should be with you too. But we're asking you to support boycotts targeting such racist laws, mandating displacement and ethnic cleansing, that are supported by U.S. policy and U.S. corporations, no matter where these "laws" are being made.
And yes, that includes you, faith leaders who have rightfully condemned SB1070. The Palestinian Christian community is asking you for your support, too.
Now is the time. It's the right thing to do. And it just makes sense.
--
For more information on how you can get involved with boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), check out the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation's BDS resources.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Apartheid: Making rush hour traffic even more infuriating

Here's a report from Al Jazeera on one of the daily examples of apartheid faced by Palestinians: traffic lights. Note that Alstom and Veolia, the companies involved in building the tramway that has further increased the traffic woes of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been subject to international campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). Want to support BDS against Israeli apartheid? Both UC Berkeley and UC San Diego will be holding student senate hearings TONIGHT, at the same time, considering parallel bills calling for divestment from companies that profit from war crimes and occupation. Here are three things you can do, courtesy of US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace: 1. Express you solidarity with students here: http://standwithstudents.org/ 2. Send supportive emails to UC San Diego student senators here 3. Follow both student movements here: UC Berkeley: www.caldivestfromapartheid.com UC San Diego: www.ucsddivestforpeace.org

Friday, April 23, 2010

Stop! Pink Police! -- Great video of Ahava boycott action in Austin, TX

Check out this great video of an Ahava boycott action in Austin, TX:

BDS Austin Activism - Ahava Protest from PSC UT Austin on Vimeo.

You can help! Visit ULTA online or send them an email at service@ulta.com to ask them to take Ahava products, which are made in illegally occupied Palestinian territory with minerals stolen from the Dead Sea, off of their shelves. Here's a sample message: "Please stop selling Ahava products. The theft by Israeli colonizers of these resources from stolen Palestinian land supports the illegal displacement and dispossession of the indigenous population. I ask Ulta to cease supporting such violations of international law and human rights." Sign a boycott pledge and find out more about the Ahava boycott by clicking here.

"That's Billion with a B": US Campaign protests at the IRS building on Tax Day

Check out video of the US Campaign and allies protesting at the IRS Building in Washington, DC on Tax Day, and see below for more reports on Tax Day protests and actions across the United States

Last week, on Tax Day, the US Campaign and its member organizations held Tax Day actions to educate people about Israel's misuse of U.S. weapons to commit human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians, and to organize people to demand that our elected officials end tax-payer subsidies for Israeli occupation and apartheid. More than one dozen public actions took place across the country, from Baltimore to Milwaukee, New York to Oakland, and McAllen, Texas to Sebastopol, California to name a few.

In Washington, DC the US Campaign organized a lunch-time protest at IRS headquarters. During the event, which was cosponsored by Washington, DC Area War Tax Resistance and Code Pink, protestors handed out info to tourists and government employees alike.

In New York City, US Campaign member groups Women In Black-Union Square and Code Pink NYC organized protests outside of Manhattan post offices. Check out the review of these actions in an article in The National.

In New Haven, Connecticut, US Campaign member group Middle East Crisis Committee put up a billboard calling on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza. Learn more about this billboard campaign by clicking here.

And last weekend, US Campaign member group American Friends Service Committee-Chicago held a ground-breaking mock Congressional hearing at the University of Chicago, entitled "Does U.S. Policy on Israel and Palestine Uphold Our Values?" The amazing 4-hour hearing included a panel on U.S. military aid to Israel, introduced by US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, with testimony from Amer Shurrab and Cindy Corrie. To watch videos from the hearing, please click here.

If you organized a Tax Day action, please let us know about it by clicking here.

In preparation for Tax Day, the US Campaign distributed about 200 organizing packets across the country to volunteer organizers to educate people about Israel's misuse of U.S. weapons and organize them to demand an end to military aid to Israel on Tax Day and beyond. You can order your organizing packet as we continue our campaign to challenge military aid to Israel by clicking here.

Did you remember to file your taxes on time last week? If so, the US Campaign estimates that you-the average individual tax-payer-gave $19.19 of your money to Israel for the purchase of U.S. weapons to be misused to commit human rights abuses against Palestinians.

There's still time for you to "offset" the taxes that you give to Israeli occupation and apartheid by making a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign in increments of $19.19. The more you donate to us, the less taxes you'll owe Uncle Sam on future tax returns, so please make your generous contribution today to support our ongoing efforts to challenge military aid to Israel. For every "offset" contribution of $19.19 you make, we'll send you one of these stickers to the right. Get yours today by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Josh Ruebner, Amer Shurrab, and Cindy Corrie testify at Chicago Hearing

Check out testimony from US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, introducing Amer Shurrab and Cindy Corrie, at this past weekend's Chicago Hearing on U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine:

Chicago Hearing examines whether U.S. policy toward Palestine and Israel upholds our values

US Campaign member group American Friends Service Committee organized a remarkable event this past Sunday: a mock Congressional hearing on U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. From the Chicago Hearing website:
"The Chicago Hearing will bring together witnesses to tell seldom-heard stories from Israel-Palestine that raise critical questions about the effects of U.S. policies in the region. Does Israel's explanation of security legitimize its violations of international law? Does the U.S. government condone Israeli policies and practices that would not be tolerated if replicated in America by the U.S. government?

The Hearing highlights voices of those on the other end of the pipeline of U.S. aid to Israel. Israeli, Palestinian and American witnesses will testify to lives lost, freedoms denied and property destroyed by Israeli policies buttressed by U.S. aid and support. The witnesses will testify to the collateral effects of U.S. policies toward Israel: military and financial aid that totaled over $3 billion in 2009 as well as unconditional diplomatic support for Israel in the United Nations.

A Listener Panel of public officials, academics and religious leaders will ask questions and make comments following the testimony. The Hearing, modeled after a Congressional fact-finding hearing, will center on three topics: Property Rights; Freedom of Movement, Association and Speech; and Military Aid and Armaments. A speaker will provide the context for each topic and will introduce one or more witnesses"

The event was introduced by US Campaign Steering Committee member Jennifer Bing-Canar, moderated by Helena Cobban of Just World News, and included US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, US Campaign Advisory Board member Barbara Ransby, and US Campaign allies such as Cindy Corrie, Amer Shurrab (who also participated in the US Campaign's Capitol Hill briefing on civilian casualties caused by U.S. weapons in Israel/Palestine), and Jeff Halper. Check out the promo video, and visit the Chicago Hearing website for more video of this remarkable event:

Monday, April 19, 2010

Israeli Defense Minister links U.S. aid with ending the Israeli occupation

Ha'aretz reports on comments by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak:
"Israel must recognize that the world will not put up with decades more of Israeli rule over the Palestinian people, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in unusually frank remarks Monday. Barak's comments came against the backdrop of severe friction between the U.S. and Israel's hawkish government over an impasse in peacemaking. "The world isn't willing to accept - and we won't change that in 2010 - the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more," he said. "It's something that doesn't exist anywhere else in the world." "The alienation that is developing with the United States is not good for Israel," Barak said during a Memorial Day radio interview. "We have strong ties with the United States, a bond, long-term friendship and strategic partnership. We receive three billion dollars from them each year; we get the best planes in the world from them." "For all these reasons we must act to change things," Barak said, while voicing doubt that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would soon enjoy the same warm ties with the White House as his predecessors did when President George W. Bush was in office."
Tired of giving three billion dollars a year and the best planes in the world to support Israeli rule over the Palestinian people? Act to change things.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Cecilie Surasky of JVP on UC Berkeley divestment movement: "The future is clear and it's already here."

Cecilie Surasky of US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace writes on UC Berkeley divestment debate at Mondoweiss:

"The future is clear and it's already here. It is a multicultural (and queer-integrated) universe bound together by a belief in full equality. Period.

Silence and apathy are the friends of the status quo. Sunlight, debate, facts, passion- these are what justice requires to grow. Open debates like the one UC Berkeley held last night simply must happen at campuses everywhere. The students of SJP have already won by making this debate happen. The whole campus is talking about Israel and Palestine. Last night's forum and vote will forever impact the lives of every person who was in that room. And the new connections made have strengthened the movement in ways none of us imagined.

No wonder Israeli Consulate General Akiva Tor stayed for the entire vote. If I were he and it were my job to protect Israel's occupation, I'd be worried. Very worried."

Read the full article here. Want this to happen on campuses everywhere? Check out the US Campaign's campus divestment resources, and get the open debate started today!

Nadia Hijab: "Make the costs of occupation clear"

US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab writes at Agence Global that the Obama Administration's best way forward is to clarify its position on international law and settlements and to make the costs of violating that position clear:
"For starters, Obama could dust off that 1979 State Department ruling that Israeli settlements are “inconsistent with international law.” Never revoked, it peeps through the verbiage every now and then. Now it needs to be rearticulated forcefully. Further, the Administration should begin public investigations of how much of its own aid -- and that of U.S. non-profits -- supports settlement activity, with a view to stemming that flow. This will send the clearest message yet to the Israeli government -- and to the settlers -- to stop settlements and begin to pull back. Buying property there will become unattractive while supporting settlements would be a risky enterprise for law-abiding Americans. Concurrently, the Obama administration should continue the steady if unglamorous task of pushing for a final and comprehensive agreement, albeit at a much, much faster pace and backed by clear costs for Israel for not ending its occupation. And it should call on Europe -- Israel’s largest trading partner -- to help make the costs of occupation clear. This will lessen the heat on the Administration and present Israel with a determined united front that says: Yes, to security for the citizens of Israel, No to occupation, injustice, and inequality."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eyewitness accounts of UC Berkeley divestment debate

More on the incredible UC Berkeley divestment debate: US Campaign Steering Committee member Sophia Ritchie writes from Berkeley:
"I write these words after staying up all night alongside many, many others as we awaited the decision from UCB ASUC senators as to whether they would overturn the veto on SB 118, calling on the UC to divest from GE and United Technologies, 2 companies profiting from Israeli war crimes. The original meeting which was to start at 7:30, was pushed back to a 10pm start and moved to a larger venue to accommodate the huge numbers of people who came out (at its height I believe there were more than 500 people). After hours of speakers, they finally moved into a vote. Not enough senators voted in favor of overturning the veto, due to abstaining votes the floor was opened up for further debate, filibusters were put in place, more speakers, confusion, drawn out attempts at "compromise" etc, etc. End result - the 'real' vote been tabled for another week and the veto still stands. 2:30, 4, 6:45....this went on and on. Despite the majority numbers of people who were in the room supporting the bill, it was so apparent how strong the intimidation tactics were in silencing some of the senators. I feel many things right now, tiredness, sadness, frustration, angst, which I could elaborate more on, but really it comes down to this: on tax day 2010, my money (our money) is going to continue being sent to Israel; the occupation, oppression and injustice continue and so, too, does our fight. On an 'up' note the list of speakers was phenomenal and included a Skype call from Richard Falk, moving speeches by Hedy Epstein and Judith Butler and testimonial by many of my truly amazing peers. The action this afternoon was also very powerful. Onward....."
The Daily Californian quotes ASUC Senator-Elect Waseem Salahi:
"Independent Senator-Elect Waseem Salahi said he felt the voices of those hoping to override the veto had not been heard, but that this meeting presented an opportunity for those opinions to be expressed. "People scream all the time, but it is the screams that have been muffled that are the most important to hear," he said. "These are the screams that are usually so quiet-a suffocated cry that we, decorated by our own privilege, can barely notice. But tonight these screams are not quiet, even though some have attempted to muffle them through manipulation and a seemingly unstoppable sense of entitlement." "
Helena Cobban quotes Berkeley Law student Liz Jackson at the Just World News blog:
"I'm bleary and weary at 2:45 am with public comment still ongoing. The crowd is finally starting to thin. At peak there was probably 2000 people here. Despite the cries of divisiveness, there is a beautiful large and diverse coalition here of students of color, Jews, Arabs, Palestinians- the voices we never hear in the mainstream- voices that finally get to be vocal and visible. Whatever the results of the vote (it's coming down to one sophmore senator who is still undecided) this is no doubt a huge opening for the bds movement. It's amazing to watch Jewish voices for accountability take off their muzzles and speak! Amazing to watch so many students of color bust out and have such a loud unified voice."
And Rae Abileah of US Campaign member group CODEPINK writes at Mondoweiss:
"A former IDF soldier is speaking out in opposition to the occupation of Palestine. An 85-year old Holocaust survivor testifies to the peril of waiting to make a decision rather than saving lives now by stopping war machines. A queer Jewish Latino speaks about his own journey from living in a settlement in East Jerusalem to coordinating a national organization opposing the occupation. A Palestinian student shares the story of his own family's loss and highlights the lost logic in the room. The Israeli Consulate General admits to the existence of an "occupation" and states that Israel wants to end it! An orthodox man calls in a metaphor of candlelight illuminating goodness, each of us a candle....It all went down in Berkeley, California on Wednesday night, April 14, as the world watched (and tweeted).... The 12-hour meeting ended on Thursday morning, April 15, Tax Day....How fitting for the local debate on war funding to end on this day, when taxpayers will fork over the funds to give Israel another $3 billion in military aid (which last year was used to break international law in Gaza) and potentially another $33 billion to fund the occupation of Afghanistan. While many may not yet be ready to engage in war tax resistance, or feel that Congress is listening to the call to stop funding war, local divestment campaigns such as the courageous bill in Berkeley offer an avenue for putting our community’s money where our values are – for justice and peace, not endless war and occupation."
Sound exhilarating? Sound like exactly what's needed to shake up the pro-occupation, pro-apartheid status quo? Find out how you can start this conversation on your campus today! Update: Check out video of UC Berkeley divestment debate, (h/t Palestine Video):

UC Berkeley Divestment Debate Shows Importance of Campus Divestment Movement

The UC Berkeley divestment debate was a 12-hour nail biter. At one point, the Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley (ASUC) cast their vote: 12 votes to overturn veto of divestment at UC Berkeley. 7 votes in favor of veto. 1 abstention. 1 vote short of the number need to overturn President Smelko's veto and divest from two companies--General Electric and United Technologies--that directly profit of off and sustain Israel's military occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights. But the debate raged on, and after 12 hours of testimony, debate, lobbying, and cheers, the ASUC tabled the motion to vote on at another time. -- What happened last night and into this morning at UC Berkeley was amazing. A diverse coalition organized around human rights, made up of Israelis and Palestinians; Jews, Christians, and Muslims; students and members of the community; people of color and representatives of the LGBT-Q community; organized to challenge a status quo of silence and support for Israel's violations of international law. When divestment was first introduced at UC Berkeley 8 years ago, student activists couldn't even get ASUC to consider a bill. Now, a majority of ASUC Senators support the bill, and only 1 abstention blocked divestment. Even that 1 vote wasn't enough to kill divestment--the motion has now been tabled, and will be taken up again by ASUC next week. Regardless of the final vote, this night will go down in history. How often do we have 12 hour teach-ins, with Holocaust survivors and Nakba survivors speaking out about war crimes in the presence of representatives from the Israeli consulate? How often do student governments hear testimonies from refugees, from people who lost relatives in the assault on Gaza, from Israeli and Palestinian activists committed to human rights? Cecilie Surasky, of US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace, Tweeted live from the debate. At one point she wrote: "This experience will change the lives of every student here. This discussion has to happen on every campus." We couldn't agree more. This is exactly the conversation and the coalition building that needs to happen on every campus--the conversation about U.S. government and institutional complicity in Israeli war crimes, the conversation about what can be done to end that complicity, and the building of a coalition to do just that. The status quo--in Congress, on U.S. campuses, and in our communities--is silence and implicit (if not explicit) support for human rights violations against Palestinians. The UC Berkeley divestment debate has shattered that silence. We urge all of you to find your voice. The decision to table the vote on divestment means that you can still send a message supporting divestment to ASUC student senators. Seize this opportunity to join one of the most interesting debates of our time, send an email to UC Berkeley Student Senators.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

UC Berkeley Divestment vote TONIGHT--send email, follow on Twitter

The Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley (ASUC) will cast its final vote TONIGHT on whether to divest from two corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid. You have just a few hours left to send emails in support of the divestment vote. You can follow the debate and vote tonight by following US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace on Twitter.

Media Release: Tax Day Events Highlight Cost of U.S. Military Aid to Israel

Washington, DC — On Tax Day, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is organizing a national day of action to highlight the ways in which U.S. tax money is misused by the Israeli military to violate international law and Palestinian human rights. Events will be held at post offices across the United States, including in New York, Chicago, Baltimore, and the Bay Area, as well as at the Washington, DC headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), in order to educate taxpayers about the role that U.S. military aid plays in maintaining Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. A full list of events can be found here. From 2009-2018, the United States is scheduled to give Israel--the largest recipient of U.S. assistance--$30 billion in military aid. Through its illegal 42-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip, Israel misuses U.S. weapons in violation of U.S. law to kill and injure Palestinian civilians, destroy Palestinian civilian infrastructure, blockade the Gaza Strip, and build illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. “On Tax Day, activists across the country will be educating last-minute tax filers that Israel is misusing their hard-earned money to colonize Palestinian land, entrench its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory, and commit human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians,” stated Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “Given that important needs such as infrastructure, health care, affordable housing, and education are all under-funded in this country, there are much better uses toward which we can put our tax dollars than giving Israel billions of dollars of weapons every year,” Ruebner added. U.S. taxpayers can learn how much money their state, Congressional district, county, and city contribute in U.S. military aid to Israel, as well as what this money could have provided instead for unmet domestic needs at: http://aidtoisrael.org. The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is a national coalition of more than 325 organizations working to change to U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality. For more information about the US Campaign, please click here.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Desmond Tutu supports UC Berkeley divestment--and you can too

Anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu writes today in the Huffington Post:
"It was with great joy that I learned of the recent 16-4 vote at UC Berkeley in support of divesting the university's money from companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights. Principled stands like this, supported by a fast growing number of U.S. civil society organizations and people of conscience, including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the making, and it is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak truth to power. Despite what detractors may allege, these students are doing the right thing. They are doing the moral thing. They are doing that which is incumbent on them as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings....These students are helping to pave that path to a just peace and I heartily endorse their divestment vote, encourage them to stand firm on the side of what is right, and urge others to follow the lead of the youth."
Desmond Tutu supports divestment at UC Berkeley, and you can too. The Associated Students of the University of California Berkeley (ASUC) will cast its final vote TOMORROW on whether to divest from two corporations profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid. This means that you have one last chance to support the divestment resolution by asking ASUC student senators to overturn their president's veto of the resolution. Click here to send a message urging ASUC student senators to support divestment.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work: Israel to deport...well...just about the entire West Bank, apparently

In the most recent round of Kafka-esque absurdity from the U.S.-funded Israeli military, new military orders would allow the occupying army to deport anyone in the West Bank without an army-granted permit--which could include just about anyone. Al Jazeera reports: According to an editorial in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, "The order's vague language will allow army officers to exploit it arbitrarily to carry out mass expulsions, in accordance with military orders which were issued under unclear circumstances....This would be a grave and dangerous move, unprecedented during the Israeli occupation." And The Guardian reports on efforts by Israeli human rights groups to combat this order:
"Israel's leading human rights groups are trying to stop two new Israeli military orders which will make any resident of the occupied West Bank who does not have an Israeli-issued permit liable for deportation or jail.

The new Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration and Order Regarding Security Provisions, which comes into force on Tuesday have "severe ramifications," the rights groups say. Palestinians, and any foreigners living in the West Bank, could be labelled infiltrators and deported within 72 hours or jailed for seven years if they are found without the correct permit. It does not define what Israel considers a valid permit.

"The orders … are worded so broadly such as theoretically allowing the military to empty the West Bank of almost all its Palestinian inhabitants," said the 10 rights groups, which include Ha-Moked, B'Tselem, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, and Rabbis for Human Rights. Until now the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank have not been required to hold a permit just to be present in their homes, the groups say."

Meanwhile, deported American journalist Jared Malsin writes at Huffington Post that the recent Anat Kam/Uri Blau cover-up scandal, which involves an expose of Israeli assassination orders that violated even the country's own laws (much less international law regarding extrajudicial assassination), is the latest front in Israel's "crisis of legitimacy." Crisis of legitimacy, indeed. Racist permit systems. Arbitrary deportation. Extrajudicial assassinations. There is nothing legitimate about any of it. Find out how much money you and your community are spending to support this sort of absurdity, and what you can do to stop it, at AidtoIsrael.org

Friday, April 9, 2010

Benjamin Netanyahu's Nephew in the Christian Science Monitor: "Peace for Israelis and Palestinians? Not without America's tough love"

Jonathan Ben-Artzi was one of the spokespeople for the Hadash party in the Israeli general elections in 2006 and is a PhD student at Brown Univeristy. He also happens to be Benjamin Netanyahu's nephew, but we won't hold that against him, especially after this great piece in the Christian Science Monitor:
Sometimes it takes a good friend to tell you when enough is enough. As they did with South Africa two decades ago, concerned citizens across the US can make a difference by encouraging Washington to get the message to Israel that this cannot continue....Americans are heavily involved in the conflict: from funding (the US provides Israel with roughly $3 billion annually in military aid) to corporate investments (Microsoft has one of its major facilities in Israel) to diplomatic support (the US has vetoed 32 United Nations Security Council resolutions unsavory to Israel between 1982 and 2006).
Ben-Artzi goes on to describe some of the apartheid conditions he witnessed growing up in Israel:
Some of the acts of segregation that I saw while growing up in Israel include towns for Jews only, immigration laws that allow Jews from around the world to immigrate but deny displaced indigenous Palestinians that same right, and national healthcare and school systems that receive significantly more funding in Jewish towns than in Arab towns....The situation in the occupied territories is even worse. Nearly 4 million Palestinians have been living under Israeli occupation for over 40 years without the most basic human and civil rights.
Check out the rest of the article here, and find out how you can oppose military aid to Israel, join in the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), and stand up against Israeli apartheid.

Business Weekly: "End Israel's Allowance"

Another sign of changing discourse on U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine: A commentary piece in Business Weekly calls for an end in U.S. aid to Israel:
"Israel will get $2.7 billion in military aid from the U.S. this year -- or 18 percent of Israel’s military budget. By 2013, that will lock into an annual level of $3.15 billion for five years. It also has almost $4 billion outstanding in available U.S. loan guarantees, left over from $9 billion extended at former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s request in 2003.... Back in 2007, when U.S. President George W. Bush pushed through a 10-year military aid agreement with Israel, Nicholas Burns, then undersecretary of state, said the U.S. considered the cumulative $30 billion in assistance to Israel “to be an investment in peace -- in long-term peace.” Now may be a good time to check the return on that investment."
We can't afford U.S. military aid to Israel, and the return on the "investment in peace" has been ongoing war and occupation. Click here to find out how you can organize against U.S. military aid to Israel on Tax Day.

BDS Victory: Swedish Pension Funds Exclude Elbit

In another example of the growth of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and apartheid worldwide, the Swedish pension fund has divested from Israeli apartheid wall-builder Elbit, a divestment decision that follows earlier divestment targeting Elbit by Norwegian and Danish funds:
"The First, Second, Third and Fourth National Pension Fund (AP1, AP2, AP3 and AP4) have decided to exclude the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems from their investments. The dialogue of the AP funds joint Ethical Council with Elbit Systems has not produced the desired results, according to a press release. The reason that Elbit Systems, are rejected is that the company delivered a monitoring system to parts of the barrier built on West Bank. In this way the company, "is connected to the violation of fundamental norms and conventions", according to Ethics Council." Despite repeated requests, Elbit Systems has refused to comment on the matter, said Ethics Council."
Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel comments:
"This fresh victory comes after the Norwegian pension fund had decided last year to divest from Elbit Systems as well. The largest Danish Bank, Danske Bank, has also done the same. Holding Israeli and international companies accountable for profiting from Israel's violations of international law and Palestinian rights has clearly become less taboo and may soon spread from the Nordic countries to others in the West."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

"US military aid to Israel violates domestic, international law" says member of PCUSA Middle East Study Committee

N.H. Gordon, a member of the Presbyterian Church USA's Middle East Study Committee, writes at Electronic Intifada:
"Based on international and domestic US laws, and the Goldstone report's finding that Israel committed grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the US government, in providing military aid and the transfer of arms to Israel, has violated its responsibility not to participate in the internationally wrongful acts of another state. With these observations in mind, I personally believe that the recommendation of the Presbyterian Church (USA) Middle East Study Committee to withhold military aid to Israel as a last resort -- in attempting to enforce international law vis-a-vis the occupation of Palestinian territories and the human rights violations against the Palestinians -- is a mild statement, indeed."
As Gordon notes, the Presbyterian Church has been the target of attacks for publishing the recommendations of the Middle East Study Committee, which include suggestions for leveraging military aid and a condemnation of Caterpillar's military sales to Israel. You can help support the Presbyterian Church's efforts for justice by sending a supportive email to the following individuals: Rev. Dr. Ronald L Shive, Chair Committee on Mideast Study Presbyterian Church USA rshive@fpcburlington.org Rev. Dr. Gradye Parsons Stated Clerk of the General Assembly Presbyterian Church USA gradye.parsons@pcusa.org Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow Presbyterian Church USA breyeschow@gmail.com Elder Linda Bryant Valentine Presbyterian church USA Linda.valentine@pcusa.org Here's a sample email you can use: To the Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.), The Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.) Committee on Mideast Study, in its published report, expresses the belief that ‘we all do have a shared responsibility to guard human rights everywhere . . . for every suffering victim in the world today, including the Palestinians.” We know that in today’s political reality in the United States that to mention, let alone advocate, for the human rights of Palestinians is a courageous stance. We urge the Presbyterian Church (U. S. A.) General Assembly to consider and accept the report and recommendations of its Middle East Study. We encourage you to remain strong and courageous in speaking truth for the sake of peace and justice in Palestine-Israel.

Mustafa Barghouti: "When Washington fails to act decisively towards this festering conflict, it is in fact acting decisively"

Independent Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti has a blistering op-ed in the Financial Times entitled "Israel knows apartheid has no future." Arguing that "apartheid is here" and the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) can end it, Barghouti highlights the importance of real action:
"When Washington fails to act decisively towards this festering conflict, it is in fact acting decisively. Billions of American taxpayers’ dollars continue to flow to Israeli coffers. And American diplomatic capital is still spent to shield Israel from world censure....We are now in the early stages of a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions directed at this Israeli government for its refusal to abide by international law. Such action successfully overturned Jim Crow laws in the American South and apartheid in South Africa, and we are slowly applying it to Israeli occupation and apartheid. But until students seize on it with the same moral fervency as earlier generations did against Jim Crow and South African apartheid, we will achieve only marginal success. That day of student engagement is coming."
Find out more about campus BDS and how you can support student BDS at UC Berkeley.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

"Israel-Palestine or Israel-U.S.?" -- Phyllis Bennis weighs in on current tensions between the U.S. and Israel

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies wonders whether the Obama Administration is "prepared to recognize that there is a new reality at home" when it comes to Palestine and Israel: The tensions that erupted during Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel a couple of weeks ago are indeed real. Biden and the Obama administration see the Israeli action as a slap in the face, a poke in the eye, a smack upside the head…choose your preferred metaphor. The problem is, Washington’s outrage was 90 percent about timing, and only 10 percent about substance — that is, the administration was insulted because the announcement that Israel had just approved building 1,600 new settlement housing units in occupied Arab East Jerusalem surprised Biden during his visit. Only about 10 percent of the concern seemed to focus on the settlement expansion itself. But the dust-up occurred while the Obama administration faces new challenges to its Middle East policy. In the region Arab allies have pulled away from Washington, recognizing that they can no longer pacify furious populations. The Arab League refused to endorse Palestinian participation in a new round of “proximity talks,” and the U.S.-backed Palestinian Authority itself said no talks without a complete settlement freeze. In Washington there is a growing chorus of influential voices finally admitting that the longstanding U.S. policy of uncritical embrace of Israel, with unchallenged military, economic, legal and diplomatic support and protection, wasn't serving U.S. interests. That means considering the possibility — gasp! — that maybe, just maybe, Israeli and U.S. interests aren't always identical. Now the Pentagon’s most influential general, David Petraeus, has admitted that the widespread public view of the U.S. as Israel’s backer in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict undermines U.S. strategic goals in the region — widely interpreted to mean it puts U.S. troops at risk. He is backed up by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, as well as Biden. A no-brainer, yes, for any high-schooler paying attention to a current events lesson. But that obvious strategic reality has almost never been acknowledged by military leaders, who have in the past been unwilling to challenge their civilian counterparts’ pro-Israeli assumptions and strategies, even if they didn’t share them. (It should be clear that Petraeus’ own framework for criticizing the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” has nothing to do with international law, human rights, or justice – it is a military judgment aimed at strengthening the U.S. military occupations and control of the strategic region.) And it’s not only the military and political elites. A new Zogby poll indicates that almost two-thirds of Democrats believe in the statement “Israeli settlements are built on land confiscated from Palestinians and should be torn down and the land returned to Palestinian owners.” Within the Jewish community, AIPAC can no longer claim that it's speaking for a monolithic Jewish bloc. (There never was such a bloc, of course, but few were willing to challenge AIPAC’s claim to speak for it.) The shift in elite opinion sets the terms for policy changes once thought impossible. Some Israeli leaders are already recognizing the new discourse in Washington. The influential Israeli analyst Akiva Eldar wrote in Ha’aretz that “as far as President Barack Obama and his senior advisers are concerned, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is to blame for nothing less than damaging the standing of the U.S. in the Middle East and the Muslim world.” That’s a lot worse than just being blamed for the delay in starting a new round of so-called “proximity talks.” Influential New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, long viewed as an echo chamber for Washington’s mainstream pro-Israel voices, weighed in with the new admission that for Israelis, peace with the Palestinians is not a necessity but has become a hobby. Newsweek noted that Israelis are dismissing the need for peace with the Palestinians because they already have it on their own terms: “While the global recession plunged other countries into crisis in the past year, nearly all of Israel's indicators have held steady. Tourism, a good gauge of overall welfare, hit a 10-year high in 2008. Astonishingly, the IMF projected recently that Israel's GDP will grow faster in 2010 than that of most other developed countries. In short, Israelis are enjoying a peace dividend without a peace agreement…Israelis have intellectually disengaged from peacemaking.” Certainly Israelis are doing fine with the status quo. There are few Israeli victims, and indeed the occupation doesn't affect their daily lives. But that reality is already changing, as the international BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaigns are gaining strength and beginning to bite. The BDS movement, launched in a global call from Palestinian civil society in 2005, is transforming how Israel — and the rest of the world — define Palestinian resistance to occupation and apartheid. Although the core of Palestinian resistance has always included nonviolent mobilization, acts of armed resistance over the years largely determined how that movement was perceived. The BDS movement, along with the turn away from armed struggle by resistance organizations in recent years, is rapidly changing that perception. Israel’s international diplomatic isolation is growing as well. In last week’s Human Rights Council decisions, only the U.S. voted to protect Israel from the otherwise unanimous support for “the inalienable, permanent and unqualified right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, including their right to live in freedom, justice and dignity and to establish their sovereign, independent, democratic and viable contiguous State.” The council also reaffirmed its “support for the solution of two States, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace and security; stresses the need for respect for and preservation of the territorial unity, contiguity and integrity of all of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; and urges all Member States and relevant bodies of the United Nations system to support and assist the Palestinian people in the early realization of their right to self-determination.” The wide European support for this resolution was particularly significant, given the current negotiations underway to allow Israel to join key European institutions. The question now is whether the Obama administration is prepared to recognize that there is a new reality at home as well as in the region. Whatever we may think of the past, holding Israel accountable for violations of international and U.S. law is no longer tantamount to political suicide in Washington. We haven't yet seen evidence of any such recognition. Despite real anger regarding the settlement issue, the administration’s response has been limited to verbal criticism and demands (albeit far harsher in tone than normal). It's as if someone told Obama and his top officials that simply upping the ante of requests is enough to bring Israel around. But they were wrong. So far the requests have gone like this: Obama: Please freeze settlements. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Please freeze settlements. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Please freeze some settlements. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Please freeze just a few settlements, not including Jerusalem, just for a short time. Netanyahu: Well, maybe…No. Then Obama stopped asking. Real pressure sounds like this: Obama: Please freeze all the settlements, since they’re all illegal under international law, as a reasonable first step towards ending the occupation. Netanyahu: No. Obama: Okay. Then you know that $30 billion in military assistance former President Bush agreed to give you, and I agreed to implement? You can kiss that goodbye. Call me if you change your mind. Stay tuned. (You can check out the rest of Phyllis Bennis' "Talking Points," including analysis of President Obama's visit to Afghanistan and the Iraqi election, by clicking here.)

Friday, April 2, 2010

Phyllis Bennis and Remi Kanazi talk creative protest on GRITtv

Check out US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis and poet and activist Remi Kanazi talking to GRITtv about "art, nonviolent protest, and creative boycotts that are changing the way Americans look at Israel and Palestine." Check out two quick ways to get involved with the creative movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) by supporting efforts to get UC Berkeley to divest from occupation profiteers and to keep the Pixies from whitewashing apartheid, and keep an eye on the US Campaign blog for video and photos of creative protest action across the United States and around the world.