Friday, July 29, 2011

Lower the Debt -- End U.S. Military Aid to Israel: 10 Things You Can Do!

As the President and Congress grapple with a formula to raise the debt-ceiling by next Tuesday to avert the United States defaulting on its loans, we offer this suggestion to our elected officials:

Lower the debt by ending U.S. military aid to Israel.


Click to check out our new site, weaponstoisrael.org
Above: Check out our new slideshow of unique billboards and public transit ads opposing military aid to Israel. Also read below to join next week's conference call where the organizers of these ads will explain how you can do this in your city!


We know that cutting off the $30 billion in weapons pledged to Israel from 2009 to 2018 won't solve our country's gargantuan $14.3 trillion debt crisis, but it sure would help.  From a moral and financial perspective, we cannot afford to provide Israel with the weapons it misuses to sustain its illegal 44-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip.

Here are 10 things you can do to advance our coalition's ongoing campaign to educate people in the United States about the true costs of arming Israel and mobilize them to end our country's military support for Israel's violations of Palestinian human rights:
1. Learn from experts how to place an ad in your community to oppose military aid to Israel. US Campaign member groups have purchased ads in at least nine U.S. cities. Find out how to make your city the next.  Join us for a conference call on Thursday, August 4, at 9:00 pm Eastern.  To join the call, dial (760) 569-7676 and use the access code 545802#. No RSVP needed.

2. Join more than 2,000 people in more than 800 cities and 49 states (come on North Dakota -- we know you're out there) who are educating and mobilizing people in their communities.  Sign up to receive an organizing packet in the mail.  It includes postcards, petitions, flyers, fact sheets and stickers -- everything you need to lay out your case.

3. Get your city council to pass a resolution opposing military aid to Israel.  Read our brand-new organizing how-to guide, download templates and resources, and let us help you publicize your campaign.  Fund community needs, not Israel's misdeeds!

4. Find out the staggering amount of money that people in your state, congressional district, county and city give in weapons to Israel and what that same amount could purchase instead for unmet needs like housing and health care.


Last night's demonstration at the White House
Above: Last night members of CODEPINK, a US Campaign member organization, held a banner in front of the White House: "NO U.S. TAX $$ FOR ISRAEL." Click image to enlarge.


5. Use the numbers on our website to write President Obama and your Members of Congress a letter opposing military aid to Israel. Urge them to redirect that money to unmet needs here at home.

6. Use those numbers to write a letter to the editor of your local paper or call in to your local talk show.  Reference a recent story on the debt-ceiling negotiations, and make the point that we could reduce our debt and improve our moral and financial standing by ending military aid to Israel.

7. Learn more about the prices and quantities of weapons transferred from the United States to Israel in the past decade (more than 670 million weapons!) and the devastating impact these weapons make on Palestinians living under Israel's brutal military occupation.

8. Sign up to arrange a local meeting with your Members of Congress during the August recess to discuss with them ending U.S. military aid to Israel and other policy issues.  We'll provide you with templates, suggested talking points, and memos for your meeting.

9. Help end U.S. military and diplomatic support for Israel that enables it to deny Palestinians their freedom and self-determination. Sign our petition telling the Obama Administration not to veto Palestinian UN membership.

10. Last, but not least "offset" the taxes you pay in weapons to Israel -- $21.59 for the average taxpayer this year -- by making a tax-deductible contribution to support our work to educate and organize even more people to end U.S. military aid to Israel.
Now more than ever, people in this country are concerned by the unsustainable level of government debt we are carrying.  Let's take action to educate, organize and mobilize to improve our country's financial and moral position by ending U.S. military aid to Israel

Thanks for taking action today!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Video: Josh Ruebner on "Rafah: Crossing Physical and Diplomatic Barriers"

Our National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, participated in the following panel discussion on July 19, 2011, at the Palestine Center (a coalition member of the US Campaign). Following is a 25-minute excerpt showing only Josh's presentation and answers to audience questions. The full-length version is viewable at the Palestine Center.



"Rafah: Crossing Physical and Diplomatic Barriers"
-- with --
Mr. Josh Ruebner
National Advocacy Director, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
-- and --
Mr. Matthew Reynolds
Head Representative, UNRWA, Washington, DC

SEE ORIGINAL POST...

Coalition member JVP receives nod in Jewish mainstream press

Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is a coalition member of the US Campaign, and the leader of several US Campaign-sponsored initiatives. The following JTA.org article excerpt gives JVP some credit for offering many members of the Jewish Left in the United States an irresistible alternative to J Street and the Jewish political establishment. Read the full article on JTA.org.

J Street, the book—expect more controversy

By Ami Eden, JTA.org
July 19, 2011

If there’s one thing J Street is good at, it’s getting attention.

Supporters, critics and relatively neutral observers all have conspired -- with plenty of prodding from J Street’s own aggressive communications operation -- to shine an intense media spotlight on the self-described “pro-Israel, pro-peace” organization. The result has been waves of positive attention and tough scrutiny, often out of proportion with any actual accomplishment or misdeed.

...

It is true, as [J Street founder and president Jeremy] Ben-Ami asserts in his book, that some right-wing and centrist critics of his organization have launched vitriolic and distortion-filled attacks against J Street and its leaders, often working to blackball them from various forums.

And he’s also right in arguing that many of J Street’s main policy positions -- a Jewish state in Israel, a demilitarized Palestinian state, borders based on the 1967 lines with land swaps, no Palestinian right of return, a compromise on Jerusalem -- fall well within the Israeli and Jewish mainstream. To boot, J Street has criticized Palestinian incitement and worked with other Jewish organizations to head off anti-Israel boycott campaigns."

"...in the end the organization’s biggest challenge could well come from the left.

During the past year, one could make the argument that the upstart Jewish Voice for Peace has emerged as the main challenger for the hearts and minds of Jews on the left who feel alienated from Israel and the Jewish establishment. That’s bad news if you count yourself as a pro-Israel activist.
You don’t like J Street’s policies? Jewish Voice for Peace supports some boycotts and divestment measures targeting Israel and takes no position on whether it backs a two-state solution.
You don’t like J Street’s tactics? JVP activists heckled Israel’s prime minister at another Jewish organization’s conference.
By comparison, Ben-Ami’s talk about Zionism, support for U.S. aid to Israel and opposition to the BDS movement sound downright establishment. And if JVP's influence and popularity grow, it might not be long before establishment folks start telling themselves that maybe J Street wasn’t so bad after all.

SEE ORIGINAL ARTICLE...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Nadia Hijab on HuffingtonPost: Flotilla said "No to a kinder, gentler siege"

Nadia Hijab
A member of our Advisory Board published the following on the Huffington Post:

By Nadia Hijab
July 4, 2011

It was never about aid.

Freedom Flotilla II is, like its assaulted predecessor of a year ago, a political act. The passengers came together in shared determination to challenge Israel's five-year siege of Gaza and to exercise their right to travel through international waters to Palestinian shores and, by so doing, support the Palestinian right to freedom.

Many have misrepresented this political act as being about aid. If Palestinians had a dollar for every time the State Department bleated, "there are established channels for aid to Gaza," they would never need another donated dime. Instead, because of U.S. policy the highly educated and enterprising Palestinians have been stripped of their dignity and forced to live on international charity.

Israel has never made any secret of its intentions for Gaza. Dov Weisglass, key advisor to former Israeli prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert, reportedly explained in the wake of Hamas' electoral victory in 2006, "the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet but not to make them die of hunger." This was later revealed to be Israeli strategy according to official documents.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Omar Barghouti on the Moral Imperative to Boycott Israel

Omar Barghouti is a featured presenter at this year's 10th Annual National Organizers' Conference of the US Campaign, in Washington, DC, from September 16 to 19.

Omar Barghouti spoke at Socialism 2011 in Chicago on July 3, 2011, to explain why boycotting Israel is the right approach and a moral imperative for people who support justice and universal rights. Omar Barghouti is one of the founders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), and author of BDS, The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.

SEE ORIGINAL POST...

'Tears of Gaza' - lest our tears dry up


Susan Abulhawa serves on the US Campaign's Advisory Board, and is the author of Mornings in Jenin (Bloomsbury 2010) and the founder of Playgrounds for Palestine.

By Susan Abulhawa on IMEU.net
July 24, 2011

'Tears of Gaza' by Vibeke Lokkeberg is a documentary film that should be watched by every American, to see how Israel spends our taxes. Every European should watch it, to see the true face of Israel. It should be viewed by every Arab, to renew our resolve not to allow a racist nation to wipe Palestine and her children from the map and from history.

I had read the stories from Gaza after Israel's so called "operation cast lead". I had read the reports. I thought I had cried enough then not to cry again. But this film went to my heart, stirred everything up, made the tears fall and fall and here I am now, with a hollow, spooned out hole in my gut because bombs were dropped on sleeping children, helicopters rained the death and disfigurement of white phosphorous on terrified civilians huddling at a UN school for shelter... and no one is doing anything about it.

Tears of Gaza lays bare the lies, the cover ups and Richard Goldstone's moral flip flopping. It takes you into the heart of Gaza's tormented landscape to show the truth behind craven and mendacious headlines with words that describe Israel's slaughter as an "incursion" or "self defense". This film shows us these truths through the luminous spirits of children. It is not to be missed!

I first heard of "Tears of Gaza", or "Gaza Traer" as the original Norwegian title is called, when Bernard Henri-Levi launched an attack against Lokkeberg and me in major newspapers throughout Europe. She and I were in touch after that and I was finally just able to get hold of the film to watch it. It is a monumentally important work. It is beautiful and painful and honest and devastating.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

USACBI Alert: Will you tell Renée Fleming to cancel her trip to Israel?


The US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) is a coalition member of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

USACBI Alerts, July 23, 2011

We are asking BDS supporters to get the word out and tell Renée Fleming, an American soprano, to cancel her July 27th performance in Israel! See the letter from BRICUP urging her to respect Palestinian rights and not cross the international picket line: http://www.bricup.org.uk/#185 or read the letter to Renée from Israeli activists: http://bit.ly/ReneeFleming

Tweet your BDS message or post it on Facebook.
Use the sample tweets below or write your own. Click “tweet now!” below the samples for automatic tweeting.

Even your voice cant drown out the bulldozers demolishing Palestinian homes & dreams Stand up for humanrights @reneesmusings #BDS
tweet now!

Ethnic Cleansing is a crime Dont cross our picket line! Support the Palestinian call for equal rights @reneesmusings #BDS
tweet now!

Colonization of #Palestine land is illegal dont entertain violations of humanity and law @reneesmusings #BDShttp://bit.ly/ReneeBDS
tweet now!

@reneesmusings dont let your beautiful voice be used to whitewash #Israel war crimes Stand up against oppression #BDS
tweet now!

Sample email:

To email Renée Fleming, contact atreuhaft@imgartists.com, press@reneefleming.com
Subject Line: Renée Fleming – don’t cross the international picket line!

Dear Renée Fleming,

We would like to inform you of a few important details.

The venue which has been selected for your concert in Jerusalem, Binyanei Hauma, is owned by the Jewish Agency and the Jerusalem municipality (http://www.jpost.com/LandedPages/PrintArticle.aspx?id=211329).

The Jewish Agency has been a key player in Israel’s violent colonization project throughout the occupied West Bank (http://www.jafi.org.il/JewishAgency/English/Aliyah/Absorpton+Options/Bayit1/Regional+Councils/bayitemekjordan.htm).

The Jerusalem Municipality is a racist authority which demolishes Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and severely discriminates against Jerusalem’s Palestinian population (http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2010/12/19/separate-and-unequal-0).

A performance by prominent international artists like you serves to whitewash the Jewish Agency and the Jerusalem Municipality’s complicity in severe violations of human rights and international law, and legitimize its wrongful conduct.

Moreover, Palestinian fans of classical music living under Israeli military occupation will not be allowed to come to any venue in Jerusalem and enjoy your performance!

Palestinian civil society has called for a boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s policies of apartheid, racism and occupation.

In view of these details, should you, as a conscientious artist, perform at Binyanei Hauma, and in Jerusalem, under such circumstances?

Sincerely,
________________

SEE ORIGINAL POST...

An Interview with Omar Barghouti - July 9, 2011


Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political and cultural analyst whose opinion columns have appeared in several publications. He is also a human rights activist involved in civil struggle to end oppression and conflict in Palestine. Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, PACBI. He is a featured presenter at this year's 10th Annual National Organizers' Conference of the US Campaign, in Washington, DC, from September 16 to 19.



Video also available in HD and 16:9
For more info, please visit PACBI.

Friday, July 22, 2011

BDS and the State of Denial


The Palestine Center is a coalition member of the US Campaign
The US Campaign endorses and works to support an array of Israel boycott and divestment initiatives across the United States.


By Yousef Munayyer, on Al Jazeera.net
July 20th, 2011


Recent legislation passed in the Israeli Knesset, which many people call the "Anti-BDS" bill, has raised a number of questions about a rising tide of "fascism" in Israel. This language is not only used by Palestinian critics, who have long borne the brunt of Israel's undemocratic policies. Now, many Israeli and Jewish-American writers can no longer ignore the trend. 

If something good has come out of the passage of this legislation, it is two things: First, a growing number of people are recognising that the Zionist aim - the imposition of an ethnocentric majority by force in a territory where the majority of the native inhabitants are disenfranchised - is fundamentally and inherently undemocratic. Second, the passage of this bill has brought discussion of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement to the foreground.

While increased discussion about BDS will only strengthen the movement, a troubling trend has become apparent in some of the commentaries on BDS written in response to the passage of the "Anti-BDS" bill. This is the assertion that boycotting colonies or settlement goods is acceptable, while boycotting the Israeli state or Israeli products outside of the occupied territories is somehow unacceptable.

Click Here to Read the Rest of the Article

For human rights advocates, supporting BDS is a no-brainer


Nadia Hijab is an Advisory Board Member of the US Campaign

By Nadia Hijab, on Bitterlemons.org
July 21st, 2011

Nadia Hijab
Making the Palestinian case has never been a problem. It is a powerful story grounded in universal principles of human rights and in international law. The question has always been how to shift the balance between one of the strongest military powers in the world and a people struggling with occupation, inequality, and exile.

That question began to be answered in the mid-2000s. The International Court of Justice issued its advisory opinion in 2004, affirming the illegality of Israel's wall and settlement enterprise, the Palestinian right to self-determination, and the applicability of international law. The ICJ opinion reinforced a resurgent Palestinian civil society movement not seen since the Madrid and Oslo peace processes defused the first intifada or uprising.

The 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (also known as BDS) marked the first anniversary of the ICJ opinion, becoming another strand in Palestinian non-violent resistance that included the popular struggle against Israel's separation wall in the Palestinian villages directly impacted by its route.

Click Here to Read the Full Article

Canada clamps down on criticism of Israel

No coincidence that this comes at the same time as U.S. Congressman Howard Berman introduces a bill to outlaw U.S. boycotts of Israeli occupation and apartheid.

In an affront to free speech, government committee declares that criticism of Israel should be considered anti-Semitic.


Jillian Kestler-DAmours
22 July, 2011

Nearly two years after the first hearings were held in Ottawa, the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) released a detailed report on July 7 that found that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses.

While the CPCCA's final report does contain some cases of real anti-Semitism, the committee has provided little evidence that anti-Semitism has actually increased in Canada in recent years. Instead, it has focused a disproportionate amount of effort and resources on what it calls a so-called "new anti-Semitism": criticism of Israel.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 
a staunch supporter of Israeli policy,
has described criticism of Israeli as
a form of "new anti-Semitism". [EPA]

Indeed, the real purpose of the CPCCA committee seems to be to stifle critiques of Israeli policy and disrupt pro-Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada, including, most notably, Israeli Apartheid Week events. Many of the CPCCA's findings, therefore, must be rejected as both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and as recklessly undermining the fight against real instances of anti-Semitism.

The CPCCA and its findings

The Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) was born out of a conference held in London in February 2009 by the Inter-Parliamentary Committee for Combating Anti-Semitism. Formed in March 2009 and not directly linked to the Canadian government, or to any NGO or advocacy group, the CPCCA included 22 Canadian Parliament members from across party lines. Former Liberal MP Mario Silva chaired the Inquiry Panel and Conservative MP Scott Reid led the Steering Committee.

Between November 2009 and January 2010, the CPCCA held ten separate hearings during which time representatives of various non-governmental organizations, religious institutions, police departments and Canadian and Israeli universities presented papers meant to assess the level of anti-Semitism in Canada. While groups critical of Israel were denied the chance to address the committee, major Zionist organizations like B'nai Brith Canada, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Canadian Jewish Congress were welcomed.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Well... It Is an Occupation!


Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, Editorial Board member of BlackCommentator.com, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. 

by Bill Fletcher, Jr.
BlackCommentator.com

I recently returned from North Africa and Palestine.  I found myself giving a talk to a group in the USA where I mentioned my trip as a way of discussing the manner in which events can unfold very rapidly.  I mentioned that I had been to North Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Barely had I finished speaking than an individual rose from their chair and moved toward the front of the room.  When the session broke the individual approached me and challenged my use of the term “occupied Palestinian territories,” claiming that that terminology is inflammatory and that I should have used a more neutral term like “West Bank” or “the disputed territories.”

I looked at the individual and listened to what they said.  I then responded:  “Well…it IS an occupation!”

It is difficult to describe the Occupied Territories.  I have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the June 1967 War and I have been an advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians since the spring of 1969.  I have studied countless documents, articles, speeches, etc.  I have seen pictures of the so-called settlements and the apartheid separation Wall.  Yet, to be honest, I still was not prepared for what I actually experienced.

I was part of a labor delegation.  When we crossed from Jordan into the Occupied Territories we immediately experienced the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers.  While waiting on line to go to the first passport control I was watched by an Israeli security person.  I somehow knew that this was not a good sign.  When my delegation awaited clearance to actually enter the Occupied Territories this same security person came up to me and me alone (in my delegation) and proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about the objectives of my visit.  Perhaps it was my naturally curly hair, or perhaps it was that I am told that I look North African, but in any case, there was nothing approaching politeness in this exchange.  The Israelis held us at the border for about two hours for no apparent reason and then let most of my delegation through.  They then held one member of my delegation - not me - for an additional hour, again for no apparent reason and without explanation or apology (when they were released).

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Protesters gather outside TIAA-CREF shareholder meeting

David Matos is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee.


By Beck Bereiter
Charlotte.News14.com
July 19th, 2011


With organized chants and giant signs, dozens gathered outside TIAA CREF's annual shareholder's meeting in Charlotte Tuesday.

The group, Jewish Voice for Peace, is calling on the Fortune 100 financial services company to cut ties with companies in its investment portfolio they say are profiting from the Israeli occupation. They referenced companies like Caterpillar Inc. and Veolia.

"It's so important what we do with our money, especially money that's for people's retirement," said Jerry Markatos, who came all the way from Pittsboro to attend the demonstration.

Earlier this year, a group of shareholders say they tried to get the resolution on the agenda but that request was denied.

David Matos, US Campaign
Steering Committee member
"We have some people inside who are going to bring it up during the open question and answer period but they are trying their hardest not to talk about it at all," said Rebecca Vilkomerson, with Jewish Voice for Peace.

"TIAA CREF's slogan is 'For the greater good.' It is not for the greater good to keep their money in the Israeli occupation," added fellow organizer David Matos.

According to the company's website, TIAA CREF is a leading retirement provider for those who work in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields.

While security did not allow cameras inside the meeting, a spokesperson emailed the following statement on the matter:

“Our investment committee makes decisions that are guided by our corporate governance policies. We are always listening and determining how best to serve clients according to our guidelines.”

Boycott discourse enters New York Times spotlight


This week, the New York Times published one of (if not the) first editorials on the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli occupation and Apartheid.

The editors' premise that Israel is a democracy is faulty (as documented by human rights organizations in Israel such as
Mossawa Centre: The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel and Adalah: The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel), but discussion of BDS in high-profile media such as the New York Times illustrates precisely how effective the BDS movement has been in bringing discussion on Israel's human rights abuses to the forefront of public discourse.  



Not Befitting a Democracy
New York Times Editorial
July 17th, 2011

Israel’s reputation as a vibrant democracy has been seriously tarnished by a new law intended to stifle outspoken critics of its occupation of the West Bank.

The law, approved in a 47-to-38 vote by Parliament, effectively bans any public call for a boycott — economic, cultural or academic — against Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense.

It would enable Israeli citizens to bring civil suits against people and organizations instigating such boycotts, and subject violators to monetary penalties. Companies and organizations supporting a boycott could be barred from bidding on government contracts. Nonprofit groups could lose tax benefits.

The law has rightly drawn fierce criticism in Israel. The newspaper Haaretz called it “politically opportunistic and antidemocratic,” and warned that it and other recently enacted laws were “transforming Israel’s legal code into a disturbingly dictatorial document.” In the United States, the Anti-Defamation League — which strongly supports Israel and opposes boycotts against it — warned that the law impinged on the “basic democratic rights of Israelis to freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

We are also opposed to boycotts of Israel, but agree this is a fundamental issue of free speech.

Israel’s conservative government is determined to crush a growing push by Palestinians and their supporters for boycotts, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. Since last year, many Israeli artists and intellectuals, as well international artists, have canceled performances and programs in Israel and the West Bank to protest the settlements. The bill’s sponsor, Zeev Elkin, said his concern was that the calls for a boycott “increasingly have come from within our own midst.”

With peace talks stalemated, Palestinians are searching for ways to keep alive their dream of a two-state solution, including a push for United Nations recognition this fall. Israel risks further isolating itself internationally with this attempt to stifle critics.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should have exercised leadership and urged lawmakers against doing their country serious harm. While Mr. Netanyahu was absent for the vote, he eagerly insisted that it would never have passed “if I had not authorized it.”

Advocates said the law was needed to prevent efforts to “delegitimize” Israel, but no country can be delegitimized if it holds true to its democratic principles. Opponents are already challenging the law in court. We hope they succeed, for Israel’s sake.

See the Original Article 

New Yorkers demand retirement-fund giant TIAA-CREF divest from the Israeli occupation

Adalah-NY is a coalition member of the US Campaign


July 19, New York, NY – At rush hour Tuesday in midtown Manhattan, seventy-five New Yorkers from diverse backgrounds protested outside the headquarters of US retirement-fund giant TIAA-CREF, demanding that it end its investment in the Israeli occupation. The New York demonstration is a part of national divestment campaign initiated by Jewish Voice for Peace which saw similar actions in twenty cities nationwide marking the day of TIAA-CREF’s annual shareholder meeting, held this year in Charlotte, NC.

According to reports from Charlotte, the TIAA-CREF shareholder meeting was dominated by discussions about divestment from Israel, despite TIAA-CREF’s quashing of a shareholder resolution on the issue. Last week Israel sparked worldwide controversy by passing an anti-boycott law in an attempt to stop divestment efforts like the TIAA-CREF campaign by making support of boycotts a punishable offense.

During the New York protest, three TIAA-CREF participants delivered to a TIAA-CREF communications officer at the entrance to the building a copy of the shareholder resolution that company leadership had blocked.  One of the TIAA-CREF participants, James Schamus - Columbia professor, screenwriter, producer and CEO of Focus Films - told the crowd of protesters, “We refuse to retire on profits derived from a cruel and unjust regime of ethnic cleansing, dispossession, land and resource theft.” He added, “TIAA-CREF’s management will surely have to make its choice of where to stand, without recourse to subterfuge and censorship.”

With chants such as “T-CREF, pay attention: No apartheid in our pension,” protestors called on TIAA-CREF, the premiere retirement fund for US educators, health professionals, and cultural workers, to divest from companies in its portfolio like Caterpillar, Veolia, and Northup Grumman that profit from the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.  The protesters parodied a well-known US folk tune, singing, “This plan is your plan, this plan is my plan; No room for violence; Or occupation; For peaceful retirement; There's one requirement; T-CREF, divest for you and me.” They also reprised, to great applause, a song and dance calling for TIAA-CREF to divest that was originally performed as a flashmob in New York’s Times Square a few weeks earlier.

Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY told the Manhattan protesters, "The TIAA-CREF divestment initiative is the largest campaign of its kind in the US. It has the potential to send a very strong message to not only the companies that are being targeted, but all US companies, that Americans don’t want their money being invested in war and occupation. Americans don’t want their money funding companies that are violating human rights."
 
The New York City protest was organized by the groups Adalah-NY: The NY Campaign for the Boycott of Israel; CODEPINK-NYC; Jewish Voice for Peace-NYC; Jewish Voice for Peace-Westchester; Brooklyn For Peace; WESPAC Foundation; Women in Black, Union Square; and Jews Say No!

In 2005, a Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian civil society groups. The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a nonviolent campaign for Palestinian rights inspired by the international boycott campaign that helped to abolish apartheid in South Africa. On Sunday, former South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu published an op-ed in the Charlotte Observer calling on TIAA-CREF to divest from the Israeli occupation, just as companies divested from apartheid South Africa.

Houston Activists Petition Local Pacifica Radio Station to Endorse BDS

Students from new US Campaign member group the University of Houston Students for a Democratic Society have joined with other Houston activists to campaign for Houston-based Pacifica Radio station KPFT to endorse the Palestinian-led campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS).

An ad-hoc KPFT BDS Committee of station listeners and members originally formed in response to KPFT's giving air-time to "Voice of Peace," a show promoting Israel historically produced by the Israeli Government. KPFT is a listener-supported radio station with a mission to promote peace and social justice. Airing this programming was a clear violation of the BDS call. The ad-hoc committee of concerned individuals sees BDS as "the fullest action to address the current situation and prevent pro-colonial propaganda in the future."

The committee put together this petition- All are encouraged to sign!!

For a list of KPFT-affiliate signers, click here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

APN Joins Peace Now's Call for Boycotting Settlements


By Ori Nir on July 19, 2011

Washigton, DC - Today the Board of Directors of Americans for Peace Now met in a special session to discuss Israel's new anti-boycott law.  In the session the board unanimously adopted the following position:  APN's Board wholeheartedly endorses Peace Now's campaign to challenge the new law and joins in their call for a boycott of products made in settlements.

APN President and CEO Debra DeLee commented:

"The actions of our Board today underscore the seriousness of the threat today to Israel's democracy.  The new law passed by the Knesset is a travesty of democracy.  APN proudly supports our colleagues in the Israeli Peace Now movement as they lead domestic efforts to challenge the new law.  They understand what this law means for Israel and for their future as Israelis.  They know that it is not just their own ability to fight for peace, but also the very soul of Israel, that it is at stake.
"APN continues to oppose boycotts and other forms of BDS against Israel and the Israeli people as a whole, and urges people to continue buying Israeli products.  However, today it is clear that Israeli extremists are exploiting concerns about BDS, turning them into a pretext to effectively outlaw peaceful opposition to settlements and the occupation.  In light of these attacks, no one who cares about Israel can afford to be squeamish about the issue of settlement boycotts.   
"Today we join Peace Now in urging all those who care about Israel's character as a democracy to boycott settlements and products made in settlements.  Settlements are not Israel.  Such a boycott is the best way to show our support for Israel and to register our commitment to Israeli democracy."
"Like Peace Now, we recognize that fundamentally this new law is not about boycotts or even, truly, about settlements.  It is about stifling dissent, smothering activism, and suppressing freedom of expression.  We also know that this flagrant attack on the basic democratic value of freedom of expression is not an isolated case.  Tomorrow the Knesset will consider an anti-democratic measure that would set up McCarthy-ite committees to investigate Israeli non-governmental organizations.  Multiple other pieces of pending legislation seek to suffocate the Israeli civil society organizations that are most critical to preserving Israel's democracy - groups working to promote peace, human rights, and civil rights within Israel.
"All of us who love Israel - who love the people of Israel and who are deeply committed to ensuring a future for them in the Jewish and democratic state of Israel - must speak out and act to protest these attacks on Israel's democracy." 

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Listen: The Anti-Boycott Law: What Does it Mean for Israel & the BDS Movement?


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The Anti-Boycott Law: What Does it Mean for Israel & the BDS Movement?
On July 11, the Israeli parliament (Knesset) passed a law that allows for serious penalties to be imposed on individuals and organizations that support boycotts of Israel, its illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, or any entity connected to the occupation. Many Israelis expressed alarm at the erosion of their civil liberties, with more than one prominent newspaper columnist calling the boycott law “fascist.”


At the same time, advocates with the global boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement are ramping up their campaign to pressure Israel into respecting international law and Palestinian human rights, with American BDS supporters holding a cross-country day of action tomorrow as part of an effort to convince the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association – College Retirement Equities Fund (TIAA-CREF) to divest from companies that profit from Israel's occupation of Palestinian lands.


Participants:
Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian commentator and human rights activist, and a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestinian Civil Society Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. His commentaries have been featured on CNN, the BBC, al-Jazeera, and in The Guardian newspaper.


Ofer Neiman is an Israeli translator from West Jerusalem. He is co-editor of the Israeli website, Occupation Magazine, and is active with Boycott! (aka Boycott from Within), which supports the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel.


Rebecca Vilkomerson is Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. From 2006 to 2009 she lived in Israel, where she worked with BUSTAN, a Jewish-Bedouin environmental rights organization, and DIRASAT, a Palestinian-Israeli public policy organization.


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Rae Abileah: My Update from Court

Codepink is a coalition member of the US Campaign
Abileah was prosecuted in connection with an incident that was one of several demonstrations that took place during "Move Over AIPAC," a May 2011 conference endorsed by the US Campaign


Below is a letter from Rae Abileah giving an update on her court case.

Hi friends and allies, 



I want to give you a quick update on my court case(s) and health and thank you again for all your concern about my physical well-being.  I took a week off at the start of July and being away from the computer and all things tech for a week did my neck a world of good.  I can now turn to the left again (something unimaginable for the previous month since the assault... though some fellow activists said "Why do you need to look to the left?  You are already in the left!  Study the opposition!")  


On July 8 I had my criminal court appearance for my arrest May 24 in Congress after disrupting the Israeli Prime Minister with a message of equality and justice for all including Palestinians (more on what I'm talking about here in case this is left field).  The government gave me a Stet Agreement which seems to be a fancy way of saying "stay outta trouble and your record will be clean again in no time!" I signed it, agreeing for the next 6 months to not get arrested and to stay away from Capitol Grounds (we argued for just the Capitol rotunda but they wouldn't do it, though if I have "official business" like lobbying my representative, I can get special permission to visit Congress - yay free speech!).  After that period of time the charges will be dropped and my record clear.  My lawyer was expecting the charge to additionally include drug tests and 35 hours community service, so not having either of those to deal with in DC from SF is less hassle.  After criminal court, I met with my attorneys who took on my civil case against the people who assaulted me and so onward we go to hold these people accountable for their violence and protect against further assault of activists in the future.  


Meanwhile the incarceration and assault of peaceful protesters by Israeli soldiers in the West Bank continues - I wrote a piece recently about my arrest and the case of the Tamimi cousins who are in prison for organizing nonviolent demonstrations in the small village of Nabi Saleh here: http://j.mp/nvmO9y 


Hope you are doing well and staying cool in these hot (climate-wise and politically) months.
In solidarity,
Rae

Take Action: Tell U.S. Not to Veto Palestine's Membership in UN Security Council

Palestinian UN membership illustrationLast Friday an estimated 2,000 Palestinians and Israelis marched together through the streets of Jerusalem in support of Palestinian efforts to gain UN membership and additional statehood recognition when the UN meets this fall.

Envisioning a future free of Israeli military occupation, apartheid and colonization, these protesters carried placards declaring "We March Together for Liberation," and "Solidarity with Palestine."

Take action now to echo their message to the Obama Administration.

Who stands in their way? Our government does. The United States is trying furiously to restart the morally bankrupt "peace process," which perpetually fails because our government acts as "Israel's lawyer," in the words of former negotiator Aaron David Miller.

By dangling before Palestinians the prospect of renewed, biased, and interminable negotiations in exchange for dropping their UN membership bid, the United States is hoping to avert the embarrassment of vetoing Palestine's application in the Security Council and thereby once again exposing itself as the guarantor of Israeli military occupation and apartheid. 


Sign - Only free people can negotiate
Above: These signs appeared among the 2,000 protesters last Friday in Jerusalem.



But, as Friday's demonstrators reminded us: "Only Free People Can Negotiate."  And Palestinians are not free people while living under Israeli occupation, as second-class citizens of Israel, or as refugees whom Israel exiled from their homes.

Palestinians are seeking membership in the United Nations as a way toward Palestinian freedom and self-determination, but President Obama mistakenly has equated this with "efforts to single Israel out" at the UN and has promised to "stand up against" this initiative.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote in his Letter from Birmingham Jail that the worst stumbling block to freedom's advance is the person who "believes he can set the timetable for another" person's freedom.

Join the US Campaign and other prominent national organizations--including: the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Jews for a Just Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK--Women for Peace, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Friends of Sabeel--North America, Interfaith Peace-Builders, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)--USA, Jewish Voice for Peace, and Peace Action--to urge the Obama Administration not to set a timetable on another's freedom by vetoing Palestine's UN membership application.


This could be debated in the Security Council as early as July 25, so join us today in signing this important petition.


Play video of Susan Rice receiving petition
Above: Click to watch our hand-delivery of 7,500 signatures to Ambassador Rice last February, demanding the U.S. support a UN resolution against Israeli settlements.


If we get 100 organizations and 10,000 individuals to endorse the petition, then we'll deliver it to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice before the vote.

Please take action today and then help us spread the word!

Want to learn more about Palestine UN membership and statehood recognition? Check out our FAQ to get our position and to explore the political, legal and historical issues. Plus, check out more in-depth analysis here.

Thank you for taking action to tell the Obama Administration not to veto Palestine's UN membership application.

Monday, July 18, 2011

African Heritage Delegation Arrives in Israel-Palestine

Interfaith Peace-Builders is a coalition member of the US Campaign
July 18, 2011

Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) is pleased to announce that our historic 14 member African Heritage Delegation to Israel/Palestine arrived at Ben-Gurion airport Monday morning and is now safely in Jerusalem.
The African Heritage delegation will travel in Israel/Palestine for two weeks and meet with members of Palestinian and Israeli civil society, human rights organizations, grassroots activists and others.  Specific meetings will also feature African Heritage communities in Israel/Palestine, Jews of color (Sephardi and Mizrahi Jews), Palestinian refugees, and others whose unique experiences will contribute to the educational and activist aim of the delegation.
The goals of the delegation (the 38th organized by IFPB since 2001) are:

To exchange lessons learned from Black Power, Civil Rights, anti-apartheid and anti-racist, pro-justice, struggles in the US with those waging similar campaigns in Palestine/Israel.
To strengthen African-American leaders who have on-the-ground experience in Israel/Palestine and can work for change upon return home.
To further link African American delegation participants with work being done in other anti-war, peace and justice communities in the US.

The African Heritage Delegation builds upon existing efforts within the African Heritage communities and will strengthen work focusing on Apartheid in Israel, justice in Palestine, and the growth of boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns nationally. In a 2007 "Letter to Black America on Palestinian Rights" over 40 African American activists urged:
It is time for our people to once again demand that the silence be broken on the injustices faced by the Palestinian people resulting from the Israeli occupation.

This delegation grows out of that call and ongoing efforts within the African American community  IFPB is working with local and national organizational partners to recruit community leaders, activists, faith leaders, artists, educators, and more from African Heritage communities.

Participants on this delegation have the unique opportunity to hear directly from Palestinians and Israelis regarding their hopes for peace and the role of the US government in promoting a resolution to the conflict.


A photo of the delegates at orientation in Washington, DC.

The delegation includes the following people:

Queen Adams (not pictured) - Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia
Avery Blakeney - Washington, DC
Carolyn L. Boyd - Alexandria, Virginia
Gloria Brown - Streetsboro, Ohio
Jesse Hagopian  - Seattle, Washington
Oscar Harrell - Sudbury, Massachusetts
Keith Harvey - Wareham, Massachusetts
Trina Jackson - Decatur, Georgia
Gerald Lenoir - Berkeley, California
Michael Nettles - College Park, Maryland
Sterling Pack - Marriottsville, Maryland
Mark Pollard - Atlanta, Georgia
Raheemah Raheem - Tulsa, Oklahoma
Paula Watts - Fort Washington, Maryland

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UPCOMING EVENT: Rafah: Crossing Physical and Diplomatic Barriers


Tuesday, 19 July 2011 12:30 - 2:00 p.m. The Palestine Center, Washington DC

This lecture seeks to address the recent opening of the Rafah border crossing and its impact, if any, on the blockade on Gaza and how it's affecting the economic and social mood of Gazans.


Mr. Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Mr. Ruebner is a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service, a federal government agency providing Members of Congress with policy analysis. His analysis and commentary on U.S. policy toward the Middle East appears frequently in media such as NBC, ABC Nightline, CSPAN, Al Jazeera, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, The Hill, Detroit Free Press, Huffington Post, Middle East Report. 



Mr. Matthew Reynolds is the Head Representative of the UNRWA Washington, DC office. He began his career on Capitol Hill in 1986, serving as Legislative Director and Chief of Staff for Representatives Robert Lagomarsino and Jay Kim. He then was a professional staffer on the House International Relations Committee and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and finally served as Staff Director of the House Rules Committee. After 17 years in Congress, Mr. Reynolds moved to the Department of State as Director of House Affairs. In 2005 he started with the Bureau of Legislative Affairs, and was appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs in 2008.



This is the second lecture in the 12th Annual Summer Intern Lecture Series: The Arab Spring Gives Way to a Palestinian Autumn: Palestinian Social Politics in an Evolving Middle East.

Archbishop Tutu in editorial: "TIAA-CREF should hear us"

The "We Divest" campaign on financial services giant TIAA-CREF is a US Campaign-sponsored initiative. The following newspaper editorial appeared in the Charlotte Observer on Sunday, July 17, 2011.


Please write your letter to the editor of the Charlotte Observer today to express your support for his opinion piece. Letters should address a single idea and not exceed 150 words. E-mail your letter to opinion@charlotteobserver.com. Include your name, address and phone number.

From Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009:

As shareholders with the retirement giant TIAA-CREF head to Charlotte this week for their national meeting, there is one issue they will find conspicuously absent from the agenda: divestment from the Israeli Occupation. Despite pleas from shareholders, including medical professionals, students and academics from universities across the United States, the pension fund refused to allow a vote on a resolution that would have compelled TIAA-CREF to consider divestment from companies such as Caterpillar or Elbit. These are companies that profit substantially from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.
In an effort, presumably, to avoid the topic altogether, TIAA-CREF even went so far as to move its annual meeting to Charlotte from its usual location in New York City. But even in Charlotte, they will not be able to escape from "occupation." Throughout the United States and the world, people will continue to speak truth to power about the apartheid perpetrated in the Holy Land.
I, for one, never tire of speaking out against these injustices, because they remind me only too well of what we in South Africa experienced under the racist system of apartheid. I have witnessed firsthand the racially segregated roads and housing in the Occupied Palestinian territories. I have seen the humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children at the checkpoints and roadblocks. I have met Palestinians who were evicted and replaced by Jewish Israeli settlers; Palestinians whose homes were destroyed even as new, Jewish-only homes were illegally built on confiscated Palestinian land.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...