Monday, December 26, 2011

10 Things We Did to Make this a Memorable Year

Ready for Our New Year's Countdown?

cowntown illustrationAs 2011 draws to a close, we want to wish you and your loved ones a new year filled with peace and justice.

We also want to thank you for the generous support that enables us to wake up every morning and work on an issue we feel deeply passionate about, advancing a mission we believe in: to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support freedom, justice, and equality.

In this economy, we're all glad just to have jobs.  That's why we're extra grateful to have jobs that contribute to a better world. 

Because we feel so privileged to work for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we work extra hard, day-in and day-out, to provide you with actions, resources, information and inspiration to advance our collective work to end U.S. support for Israeli occupation and apartheid and to change our country's policies toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality.

Below is our New Year's Countdown -- 10 things we did in 2011 to move us ever closer to our goal, in random order. Please make your year-end tax-deductible donation now so that we can do even greater things in 2012.

Top 1010.We grew our coalition to more than 380 organizations in 46 states.

9.We published articles in the Los Angeles Times, The Hill, Huffington Post, Palm Beach Post, Richmond Times-Dispatch, and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, to name a few.

8.We produced a flash mob how-to guide to help strengthen boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) protests.

7.We partnered with member groups to advance BDS campaigns like Stolen Beauty, Stop Caterpillar, and We Divest, and called upon performers and other celebrities to cancel appearances in Israel. Some of them agreed!

6.We joined the Palestinian BDS National Committee's call for a global arms embargo of Israel and launched a campaign to get city councils to pass resolutions against military aid to Israel.

5.We expanded our organizing campaign to end military aid to Israel to more than 900 cities and joined with the Occupy movement to protest corporate greed and war profiteering.

4.We gave our website an extreme makeover--reorganizing and redesigning it--to make it more user-friendly and interactive.

3.We held our 10th Annual National Organizers' Conference, with more than 160 delegates representing 63 member groups, at the historic Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, DC.

2.We kicked off our 10th anniversary with a fabulous benefit concert featuring world-renowned musician Simon Shaheen.


1.We launched an interactive Report Card for the 112th Congress.

Thank you for making this work possible. We look forward to returning in 2012 to unleash even more creativity, with your generous support.

Our best wishes for a new year of peace and justice,

Anna, Josh, Josh, Mike & Rana
US Campaign staff

P.S.: Consider making a personal divestment from Israeli occupation and apartheid, and "offset" your taxes today. This year the average U.S. taxpayer had $21.59 of their hard-earned income spent on more weapons for Israel. This is your last chance to "offset" your 2011 taxes to support a U.S. policy that upholds human rights and equality for all.


our 10th anniversary videoP.P.S.: Speaking of our 10th anniversary, stay tuned for our final email of 2011, which will bring you a music video of what we have accomplished together over the past decade.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Gingrich’s Campaign Resurgence Funded by Secretive Coterie of Super PACs, Wealthy Israel Backers

The following is an excerpt of today's newscast from DemocracyNow.org. While you're here, check out one of our Steering Committee members' analyses about Newt Gingrich earlier this week, plus this post from one of our member groups about Gingrich's "invented Palestinians" claim.

As Newt Gingrich's poll numbers surge and plummet with the predictability of the Dow Jones, some are making the connection between the two figures as genuine reflections of investor confidence. Several recent exposes reveal how Gingrich has skirted campaign finance rules to raise millions of dollars in unlimited donations from billionaire backers and big industry, with his ability to attract capital showing signs of abiding. But just who are those donors and what do they stand to gain from Gingrich?

Greg Gordon, an investigative reporter for McClatchy Newspapers who has been following the Gingrich campaign's finances, discussed one of Gingrich's latest beacons of support: Sheldon Adelson. "Sheldon
Adelson is a rabidly pro-Israel donor and he operates two of the most elite casinos in Las Vegas: The Pallazzo and the Venetian. And he is also listed by Forbes as the 16th wealthiest person on the planet. Mr.
Adelson is a huge backer of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and he in fact publishes a free newspaper that circulates in Israel that basically is an extra voice to boost the Israeli Prime Minister.

... Perhaps it is no surprise, after all these donations from Adelson--totaling 7.65 million--that Gingrich has recently...talked about the Palestinian people as an 'invented people,' and he talked about moving the [US] embassy on his first day in office...from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which would be an extremely provocative move to make in the Middle East," Gordon said. "According to Politico...[Adelson] is planning to put $20 million into these Super PACs that support Newt Gingrich."

Peter Stone, of the Center for Public Integrity, echoed Gordon's findings on Adelson and the Gingrich campaign. According to one of his reports, a close friend of Adelson's confirmed that he would "do whatever it costs to help Gingrich."



SEE ORIGINAL ON DEMOCRACYNOW.ORG...

Anna Baltzer: "Will You Help Me Cultivate Justice This Season?"

By Anna Baltzer
National Organizer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Just over one year ago, I began working as National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Having spent five years on my own educating everyday people about the occupation, Israeli apartheid, and the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, I realized I needed to do more than advise others to move from education into campaigning -- I needed to follow my own advice!

During my first 12 months at the US Campaign, my respect for the work and dedication of the organization has only grown. Whether it's providing trainings; creating new resources; setting up mass action alerts; coordinating and mobilizing for nationwide boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaigns and days of action; or promoting the work that you do in Campaign member groups, we spend every day working to support organizations and individuals around the country in challenging Israel's violations of Palestinian rights and the U.S. military, diplomatic and financial support that allows these violations to continue.

Believe me, we are a very small staff with an even smaller budget. The only way we can continue our work is through support from people like you. 

That is why I ask you to consider donating to the US Campaign this holiday season.



Olive Tree donation certificate
Above: We'll send you this personalized certificate when you donate to plant a tree.
Your gift not only supports the US Campaign, but also Palestinian farming families. For every $25 you donate, the US Campaign will plant one olive tree for a Palestinian farming family in the name or in memory of someone special to you. For every $100 you donate, we will plant five trees.

Hannukah has just begun. Christmas is this Sunday. Rather than rushing out for more shopping, why not give a deeply meaningful gift in the name of a loved one to help us cultivate justice here at home and in Palestine?

Of course, we know that planting olive trees will not end U.S. support for Israel's occupation and apartheid policies. We know that new trees cannot replace adult, fruiting olive trees that Israeli soldiers and settlers have uprooted from Palestinian groves.

But, in some ways, olive trees represent the past, present and future of Palestinian traditions and steadfastness.  olive tree illustrationEach tree planted sends a message to Israel that Palestinians will never give up their way of life and right to stay on their own land, and that people in the U.S. will not allow our government's support for Israel to go unchallenged.

Many of you purchase Christmas trees as a holiday tradition. Why not start another tradition with the olive tree? This year, with your help, we raised funds to plant 1,603 trees so far. Help us to reach our goal of 2,000 new olive trees by the year's end!

May 2012 be the year that brings desperately needed change in U.S. policy and an end to Israel's occupation and apartheid. Until that happens, help us continue to join and elevate voices and actions nationwide in support of Palestinian human rights.


Click here to donate to the US Campaign today.

Check Out Our New Stickers to End Military Aid to Israel

Santa has come a few days early to our office to deliver to us this awesome new resource...stickers to end U.S. military aid to Israel.

We've got so many of them here in the office and we'd love to send you some, along with our other resources to educate and organize people in your community to end military aid to Israel.

Just sign up for an organizing packet here and receive in the mail from us postcards, facts sheets, fliers, posters and these stickers.

When you do sign up, you'll be joining thousands of organizers in more than 900 U.S. cities who are educating and organizing people in their community to end $30 billion of military aid to Israel.

While we're on the topic, check out our newly redesigned and easier-to-use interactive map at http://www.aidtoisrael.org to find out how much money your state, Congressional district, county, and city will be spending on weapons to Israel and what that money could fund instead for unmet community needs.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ahmad Tibi Schools Eric Cantor

Member of Knesset Ahmad Tibi has vigorusly criticized House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in his hometown Richmond Times-Dispatch.  Please make your online comments and send your letters to the editor today, particularly those of you in Richmond or in the district of Michele Bachmann or Newt Gingrich's old district. Those two presidential candidates also came in for heavy criticism.

Please keep your letter to under 200 words and use this online form: http://www2.timesdispatch.com/forms/letters-editor/.

Alternatively, you can email your letter to letters@timesdispatch.com along with your name, city, and contact information (for verification purposes).

***********************

The op-ed can be read in full by clicking on the link below.

http://www2.timesdispatch.com/news/oped/2011/dec/22/tdopin02-tibi-world-beginning-to-understand-palest-ar-1560551/

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Will the Holy Cow of Aid to Israel Survive the Dull Blade of Across-the-Board Budget Cuts?

Another budget battle has ended as Congress has agreed to fund the government through next fall including a record-breaking $3.075 billion in military aid to Israel.  At the same time though, the failure of the super committee to come up with a deficit reduction plan will trigger across-the-board budget cuts in 2013, including a loss of $250 million per year in military aid to Israel.  As our National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner writes, this is the time for Congress to review U.S. policy towards Israel, a policy which the United States cannot afford "morally, politically or financially." Military aid to Israel makes the average American taxpayer complicit in Israel's human rights abuses as well as takes away resources from funding the projects Americans need at home, including providing affordable housing and primary healthcare. 

Will the Holy Cow of Aid to Israel Survive the Dull Blade of Across-the-Board Budget Cuts?
Posted: 12/20/11 11:52 AM ET

The Israel lobby can breathe a sigh a relief now that Congress has agreed to fund the government through next fall, including a record-breaking $3.075 billion in military aid to Israel. This earmark may have emerged unscathed in this year's budget battle, but because the super committee failed to produce a deficit reduction plan, triggering across-the-board budget cuts in 2013, this heretofore sacrosanct and perennially expanding budgetary line-item is suddenly and deservedly on the chopping block.

Budgets are always moral documents and budgetary priorities always reflect trade-offs. With the annual average $3 billion appropriation of U.S. military aid to Israel, the United States could provide instead each year 350,000 low-income families with affordable housing, or 500,000 unemployed workers with green jobs training, or 900,000 at-risk youth with early reading education, or 24 million uninsured people with access to primary health care, according to www.aidtoisrael.org, a project of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Despite the deteriorating fiscal position of the United States, military aid to Israel has been increasing and crowding out these more urgent, unmet domestic needs because in 2007 the United States and Israel signed a memorandum of understanding for the United States to provide Israel with $30 billion of taxpayer-financed weapons from 2009 to 2018. This agreement represented an annual average increase of 25 percent above previous levels of military aid to Israel, which even beforehand took the lion's share of U.S. foreign aid despite per capita income greater than New Zealand and Saudi Arabia, according to the International Monetary Fund. The Bush and Obama Administrations faithfully implemented the proposed increases in weapons to Israel in their budget requests to Congress from a baseline of $2.4 billion in FY2008 to $3.075 billion in the FY2012 budget.

President Obama was to have requested $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel in his FY2013 budget, the level at which weapons to Israel was expected to plateau until the memorandum expires fives years hence. However, it appears these projected increases in aid to Israel will not be immune from the ramifications of the super committee debacle. According to Nathan Guttman, writing in the Jewish Daily Forward, Israel will lose an estimated $250 million yearly from its military aid package when across-the-board budget cuts take effect.

Surprisingly, Guttman notes, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most influential of the organizations within the Israel lobby, has yet to publicly protest the upcoming cuts in military aid to Israel, because it "may fear a backlash if Israel is singled out for special treatment in the face of broad cuts favored by both Democrats and Republicans." This despite the fact that the lobbying outfit's primary purpose is to advocate for additional weapons to Israel, one of the central reasons its tax-exempt front group, the American Israel Education Foundation, led a record-breaking delegation of 81 Members of Congress to Israel this August.

Questioning military aid to Israel has long been a taboo topic in U.S. politics, a third rail issue even more electric than abortion and guns. Led by a cadre of Congressional true believers and backed by the fearsome power of the Israel lobby to reward acquiescence and punish deviance, Congress has, for the most part, unquestioningly toed the line that saturating Israel with weapons will conjure up peace. Those few in Congress who have raised doubts about this received wisdom have tended toward the feather tips of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party or the libertarian wing of the Republican Party.

The across-the-board budget cuts that will affect future levels of U.S. military aid to Israel should allow Members of Congress to reexamine this policy more broadly in an atmosphere devoid of the usual ideological cant of zealots and the menacing glare of AIPAC if it continues to sit out this battle.

Such a review is long overdue since providing Israel with taxpayer-funded weapons is a policy that the United States cannot afford, either morally, politically, or financially. From 2000-2009, the United States gave Israel more than $24 billion in military aid, from which the United States licensed, paid for, and delivered more than 670 million weapons valued at nearly $19 billion. (The remaining money was gobbled up by Israel's own weapons industry due to a unique budgetary provision that allows Israel to spend up to 26 percent of its U.S. military aid domestically.)

During this same period, Israel killed at least 2,969 unarmed Palestinian civilians, according to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, while enforcing its illegal 44-year military occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. The extensive databases at weaponstoisrael.org, a project of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, make clear that by providing Israel with hundreds of categories of weapons, the United States is intimately and intricately connected to every Israeli military action in some fashion.

Not only does U.S. military aid to Israel make the average taxpayer complicit in Israel's human rights abuses committed against Palestinians; it also serves as a perverse disincentive to the attainment of U.S. policy goals such as ending Israeli settlement expansion, loosening the blockade of Gaza, and establishing a Palestinian state.

With the super committee's failure necessitating cuts across-the-board to reduce the deficit, Israel and its supporters in Congress should be forced to share the pain. Israel's impending loss of $250 million per year in military aid should also open up a conversation about ending all U.S. military to Israel at least until it complies with its obligations under international law to end its illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory.

"Newt Gingrich puts Israel interests first" - Kristin Szremski

Szremski
Our Steering Committee member Kristin Szremski writes that Newt Gingrich is forwarding a Zionist agenda at the expense of Americans. In trying to "out-Romney" Romney, and align himself to the pro-Israel element, the potential GOP frontrunner is not only selling off the values and safety of the United States for his shot in the Oval Office -- and still failing to impress the pro-Israel Jewish voters he was trying to court -- he's also inflaming tensions in the Middle East, where U.S. neutrality and integrity are already is viewed with suspicion and hostility. He's proven he does not care about the people whom he'd be sworn to protect as President.

Szremski faults Gingrich with helping to inflame Islamophobia by using the pro-Israel entities behind it. Millions of dollars are being funneled into organizations bent on helping Israel maintain its occupation of Palestine, thanks to figures like Gingrich demonizing Islam in the United States by planting outrageous and false innuendos of a "stealth jihad" here, and insinuating a connection between American Muslims and overseas groups on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.


Newt Gingrich puts Israel interests first

Gingrich will abandon US values and safety for a chance at the White House.

By Kristin Szremski
December 19, 2011
AlJazeera.com

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who faded into obscurity after resigning in 1998 amid a sex scandal, is back and seemingly ready to say anything to become the next president of the United States - even if it means making sycophantic statements that pander to the pro-Israel lobby but that oppose US policy and the best interests of the American people.

Gingrich apparently revised history when he told Jewish reporter Steven Weiss recently that the Palestinians are an "invented" people. He willfully obfuscated the fact that Palestinians' roots in the Holy Land go back thousands of years. He ignored that Palestinians and Palestine are mentioned in the Torah and the Bible; that they are referred to in many historical documents, including the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which gave British support for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

Gingrich re-invented history when he said the
Palestinians are an "invented" people
[GALLO/GETTY]
The potential GOP frontrunner is far from alone in his pandering to the pro-Israel lobby. Mitt Romney, running a close second to Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman, also have made concerted efforts to undermine President Barack Obama's Middle East policy while emphasising their own loyalty to Israel in attempts to gain the votes of Tea Partiers and Christian evangelicals, who are strongly pro-Israel. During the GOP debate in Des Moines, it appeared as if it were an open season on Palestinians.

That Gingrich would intentionally contradict stated and long-standing US policy, which recognises the Palestinian people and their right for a state of their own, for his own self-interest is extremely troubling. But even more problematic is the fact that Gingrich told Weiss he would consider granting clemency to one of the most notorious spies ever to infiltrate our national security agencies: Johathon Pollard.

Pollard's release

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 after he confessed to spying for the state of Israel. Pollard, who was a civilian research analyst with high security clearance for the US Navy, had agreed to spy for Israel for 10 years in exchange for more than $500,000.

According to a January 1999 article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, Pollard "betrayed elements of four major American intelligence systems". He caused extensive damage to US intelligence and US national security because of the nature of the highly sensitive documents he sold to Israel. According to Hersh, Pollard gave up data dealing with specific American intelligence systems and how they worked, a "most sensitive area of intelligence". The espionage was so great that successive presidents have rejected Israel's pleas for Pollard's release.

Gingrich told Weiss he'd consider granting clemency if Pollard were no longer a security threat and also had served time within the range of people with "similar problems". To be sure, seasoned politicians often have to compromise goals - sometimes even ideals - to achieve their own. But when a potential presidential candidate so easily panders to the interests of a foreign country and its lobby here, in the United States, over the interests of his fellow countrymen, he is clearly not fit to hold public office.

And that is only one of the ways in which Gingrich is forwarding a Zionist agenda at the expense of Americans, which is readily seen in his "Clash of Civilisations" narrative that became prominent in 2010 during the controversy surrounding the Park 51 mosque project. During the controversy, the country's favourable attitude towards Muslims fell 10 points (from 40 per cent to 30 per cent), according to a study co-authored by the Centre for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Islamophobic rhetoric

That same report says Gingrich was one of those at the forefront of fuelling mistrust and hatred of Muslims. In other words, a former Speaker of the House was working against American unity by bringing divisive Islamophobic rhetoric into mainstream discourse.

The Constitution founded the United States as a pluralistic society; the First Amendment grants the free expression of religion. Yet Gingrich behaves as if allowing Muslims that right would lead to the loss of American values and liberty.

Other credible reports - "The Great Isamophobic Crusade", by Max Blumenthal and "The Roots of the Islamophobic Network in America", by the Centre for American Progress - have exposed the link between Islamophobia and the pro-Israel entities behind it. Millions of dollars are funneled into organisations bent on helping Israel maintain its occupation of Palestine.

One way they accomplish this is by smearing anyone trying to raise awareness about Israel's continued violations of international law. Another way is to demonise Islam in the United States by planting outrageous and false innuendos of a "stealth jihad" here. Or they insinuate that there is a connection between American Muslims and overseas groups on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. These fallacies are then taken up and trumpeted about by unprincipled people like Gingrich.

Gingrich seems to have no qualms allying himself to pro-Israel element and selling the values and safety of the US for his shot in the Oval Office. But based upon published reports, he's failed to impress the pro-Israel Jewish voters he was  trying to court. Instead, he's inflamed tensions in the Middle East where the neutrality and integrity of the US already is viewed with suspicion and in some cases hostility, and he's proven he does not care about the people who, if he were elected president, he'd be sworn to protect.

In trying to "out-Romney" Romney, Gingrich may have passed Israel's litmus test, but he hopelessly failed to show his loyalty to the US or the American people.

Kristin Szremski is the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine, a national grassroots organisation. Follow her on Twitter: @kristin_scribe


READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE...

Flash Mob Tells Bed Bath & Beyond: "Stop Selling Illegal Israeli Settlement Products!"

The three groups involved in this action -- CODEPINK, 14 Friends of Palestine, and Keep Hope Alive -- are all coalition members of the US Campaign, which offers its exclusive flash mob resources here.


Brides, Professional Choir and Minister Flash Mob at Bed Bath & Beyond with Message:
"Stop Selling Illegal Israeli Settlement Products!"


Action in Solidarity with Global Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement



[LARKSPUR]: On Saturday, December 10, International Human Rights Day, a flash mob took over the wedding registry section of the Bed Bath & Beyond in Larkspur.  The flash mob consisted of a mock wedding in which four brides committed to boycott illegal Israeli settlement products, namely Ahava cosmetics and SodaStream home carbonation systems, and local Reverend Dr. Walt Davis pronounced the brides "married to a life of peace and justice."  The Justice Voices choir sung a parody of "Ode to Joy" that asked Bed Bath & Beyond to deshelve these products.  Store employees asked the flash mobbers to leave the store and called the police.  No arrests were made.  Caroling continued outside the store where the group received positive feedback from holiday shoppers.

“We hope Bed Bath & Beyond CEO Steven Temares hears our plea and stops selling products that are in clear violation of international law,” said Rae Abileah, flash mob "bride" and co-director of CODEPINK.  “Consumers have a right to know the ugly truth behind Ahava beauty products: they’re stealing Palestinian land! SodaStream is marketed as an environmentally responsible product, but the destruction of life, land and peace brought about by this settlement industrial zone is anything but environmentally responsible. Save a few plastic bottles at the expense of trashing Palestinian land and people?  We don’t think so.”

Ahava and SodaStream products are fraudulently labeled as “Made in Israel”, but are in fact produced in illegal settlements under the conditions of the military occupation in the West Bank, outside the internationally-recognized borders of Israel.  Ahava cosmetics are manufactured in the illegal settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the occupied Palestinian West Bank. Ahava’s fraudulent labeling is under investigation in the UK and in The Netherlands. The Stolen Beauty Boycott and international boycott pressure have successfully pressured many stores to drop Ahava.  Stores that have pulled Ahava from their shelves include Canada’s major department store The Bay, UK retailer John Lewis, the National Cathedral in DC, the U.N. commissary in Vienna, and many more.

A recent report by the Israeli research project Who Profits from the Occupation describes SodaStream’s illegal settlement activities, exposes its fraudulent labeling practices and investigates its exploitative labor practices.  SodaStream is another occupation profiteer located the illegal industrial zone called Mishor Adumim, one of the largest land expropriations of Palestinian land in the West Bank, which prevents a future contiguous Palestinian state.

"This month, we mark three years since the Israel's deadly assault on Gaza that killed about 1,400 Palestinian men, women, and children. Let us all recommit ourselves to ending US financial and diplomatic support to Israel, and to supporting the inspiring, growing, global, Palestinian-led  movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions until Palestinians enjoy the freedom, equality, and justice that they deserve,” said Anna Baltzer, flash mob "bride" and national organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.  

“I invited the CODEPINK women to Marin so that we could do a boycott action at our local Bed, Bath, and Beyond,” said Jane Jewell, founder of 14 Friends of Palestine and Justice Voices. “BDS is one of the most important non-violent activities we can do to oppose the cruel Israeli Occupation of Palestine that causes such terrible suffering to the Palestinian people. I consider it the duty of those of us who enjoy a life of freedom and privilege to help those who do not. If I lived under horrendous oppression like the Palestinians do, I would like to think that somewhere in the world there were people looking out for me. "

The action was coordinated by 14 Friends of PalestineCODEPINK Women for Peace, and Keep Hope Alive.

More information on both campaigns is available at www.stolenbeauty.org and www.codepink.org/boycottsodastream.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Israel Bonds Lawsuit to Continue Despite Governor's Refusal to Divest

US Campaign coalition member group Minnesota Break the Bonds (MN BBC) today distributed the media release below about its lawsuit to get the state to divest from Israel Bonds.


First, here's a TV news clip from November 29, when WCCO Channel 4 News in Minneapolis interviewed activists with MN BBC on the day their lawsuit was announced. The original article can be viewed here.


Israel Bonds Lawsuit to Continue Despite Governor's Refusal to Divest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 16, 2011

Email: mn@breakthebonds.org
Website: http://mn.breakthebonds.org/

[St. Paul] Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC), a statewide campaign aimed at stopping Minnesota investment in Israel’s human rights and international law violations, has officially filed its lawsuit against the Minnesota State Board of Investment. This filing comes after Governor Dayton rejected the Campaign’s demand that the SBI divest from in Israel Bonds.

The complaint was formally filed yesterday in the Ramsey County District Court in St. Paul, and today was assigned to Judge Margaret M. Marrinan, with case number 62-CV-11-10079.

On November 29, 2011, MN BBC, along with 26 other co-plaintiffs, including Palestinian residents of the besieged village of Bil’in in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Jewish-Israeli members of the Israeli human rights advocacy group Boycott From Within, served a lawsuit against the SBI demanding that it cancel its Israel Bonds investments. The suit was not formally filed in court at that time in order to permit the SBI an opportunity to resolve MN BBC’s divestment demand without the necessity of court action.

The lawsuit claims that the Board’s investments in Israel Bonds are unlawful according to Minnesota and international law because they help fund Israel’s universally condemned illegal settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Following Governor Dayton’s rejection of the divestment demand, the Executive Committee of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), headquartered in New York, advised all four members of the SBI Board, including Governor Dayton, that the Board was aiding and abetting Israel’s violation of international law, which also violates Minnesota law. The NLG correspondence to each of the four Board members, which was delivered to them on December 13, 2011, is posted at the MN BBC website at http://mn.breakthebonds.org/?p=1597.

In deciding to proceed with the lawsuit, the plaintiffs also considered the murder by Israeli soldiers last Friday of Mustafa Tamimi, a Palestinian resident of Nebi Saleh, one of a growing number of West Bank villages besieged by Israeli settlers. Tamimi was shot point-blank in the face with a high velocity tear gas grenade. Israel buys a portion of its military equipment with the aid of Israel Bonds. MN Break the Bonds Campaign believes that Minnesota should not be investing our state's money in such atrocities.

To read the complete version of the lawsuit, go to:
http://mn.breakthebonds.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/MNBBCvSBI.pdf.

###

Embody the Message: Occupy the Mind

We Will Not Be Silent, the artists/activists who designed the U.S. Boat to Gaza T-Shirts, is now selling 35 new designs to the We Will Not Be Silent t-shirt/language project.  Designs include a shirt which says PALESTINE on the front and a list of human rights on the back, and shirts with the worlds SOLIDARITY, LOVE, and FREEDOM in Arabic.

Make sure to show your support by purchasing your t-shirt today!


As the artists/activists who designed the U.S. BOAT TO GAZA T-SHIRTS, we are pleased to announce the addition of
35 new designs to the WE WILL NOT BE SILENT t-shirt/language project. The original project began in March 2006, when a small group of artists and activists decided to wear those historic words "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT" on their bodies during a public action in New York City. Soon after, the words were translated into six different languages, including Arabic and Arabic and Hebrew together. Since then, we have reached over 50,000 people throughout the world, who have also embodied that important message.

We continue to be galvanized by peoples' movements from Palestine, to Tunisia, to Egypt, to Greece and beyond. Here in the United States, with the Occupy Wall Street movement taking root and growing, we are engaged in a global uprising for social and economic justice, moving toward liberation and striving to end military occupations and abuses of power worldwide.


Based on some of the signs we carried in Greece, while advocating to send THE AUDACITY OF HOPE to Gaza, and in the spirit of our time, we designed new additions to the WE WILL NOT BE SILENT campaign. The words SOLIDARITY, LOVE, and FREEDOM in Arabic, have been added to the
Arabic Language Collection, each their own shirt.

Finally, we want to demonstrate our strong commitment to solidarity with the people of Palestine by offering a new shirt to wear, which says PALESTINE on the front and has a unique list of human rights on the back.

In each of the
35 new designs, we have chosen clear, bold and simple language to evoke complex ideas and, most importantly, to compel conversations between those who wear the shirts and others they encounter.

Please visit the updated site: 

WWW.WEWILLNOTBESILENT.NET

Thursday, December 15, 2011

IFPB's Offering Scholarships for Summer 2012 Delegations to Israel/Palestine

Interfaith Peace-Buliders, a US Campaign coalition member group, is offering scholarships for students and young adults interested in joining a summer 2012 delegation to Israel/Palestine.



We are offering two $1,000 Scholarships for students and young adults who travel on Interfaith Peace-Builders Summer 2012 Delegations*
   
*Plus...in addition to the two $1000 scholarships, anyone who applies will also be considered for smaller financial aid packages from IFPB, ranging from $250 – $500.
   
APPLICATION DEADLINE: January 20, 2012

WHY SHOULD YOU PARTICIPATE?
Be an Eye Witness:  Move beyond research and gain first-hand experience on the ground.
Network:  Meet and build relationships with key players working towards peace and justice.
Build Personal Connections:  Hear from people directly affected by the conflict, from various viewpoints.
Test your Knowledge:  See how the realities on the ground compare to what you have already learned.
Interfaith Peace-Builders has led 35 delegations and taken more than 550 people to Israel/Palestine.

SUMMER 2012 DELEGATION DATES
We're offering 2 different delegations this summer. Click to learn more...

WHO CAN APPLY?
IFPB welcomes any current student or young adult (age 18-30) to apply for consideration for these two scholarships.
To apply, fill out and submit the application form by January 20, 2012.
We expect to notify scholarship recipients in early February, 2012.
As mentioned, applying for this opportunity will also add you to our pool of other candidates who may be considered for smaller scholarship help, generally in the $250 - $500 range.
For more information or if you have questions, contact IFPB at office@ifpb.org.
Want to advertise to others? Click and print this Announcement!
WHAT DOES THE DELEGATION COST?
IFPB delegations regularly cost $2100 for ground fees (including: accommodations, local transportation, breakfasts and dinners, guides, and meetings. This $2100 does not include international airfare.
Scholarships will be applied towards the delegation cost of $2,100.

LEARN MORE ABOUT IFPB DELEGATIONS

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Israeli Blood Diamonds Campaign Conference Call, December 18th, 9am PST

Join US Campaign member group Palestine Action Group- Corvallis for a conference call about the Boycott Israeli Blood Diamonds Campaign, this Sunday, December 18 with Sean Clinton from Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 

Contact Emmet Whittaker at
palestineactiongroup@gmail.com for call-in info.


Join the Palestine Action Group- Corvallis, Oregon for a conference call with Sean Clinton from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign.  Sean is spearheading the Blood Diamonds campaign and is the author of the original report on the Israeli diamond industry and its relevance to BDS (reference 1).  Sean will discuss the Israeli diamond industry and relevance to BDS, the campaign to date and opportunities for the future.

Israel is one of the world’s leading exporters of cut and polished diamonds accounting for $20B in exports in 2008.  This industry presents significant opportunity to further BDS efforts and 2012 presents a significant opportunity for activists in the US to influence this campaign since the US takes the chair of the Kimberly Process in 2012.

Conference call:  Sunday December 18th, 9am PST (12pm Eastern)

Contact Emmet Whittaker (palestineactiongroup@gmail.com) for call in details.

Background:

Israel is one of the world’s leading diamond exporters and the diamond industry represents by far Israel’s largest export item in $’s, $20B in 2008 (reference 1). In a presentation to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, Israeli economist Shir Hever estimates that up to $1B annually funnels from this industry to the Israeli military (reference2). This campaign argues that Israeli processed diamonds are de facto blood diamonds.

The diamond campaign essentially looks to raise awareness of the fact that diamonds crafted in Israel are funding gross human rights violations and should be regarded as blood diamonds. The campaign works to expose the double-standard in the diamond industry which regards diamonds that fund war crimes in Africa as blood diamonds but diamonds that fund war crimes in Gaza are labeled conflict free.

The campaign has many powerful levers that can be used to exert pressure on the diamond industry and thereby indirectly exert pressure on Israel and the Israeli economy which is highly dependent on the diamond industry as it accounts for about 30% of Israel’s exports (3)  and 5% of Israeli GDP.

Jewelers claim that their diamonds are conflict free but when asked if any of their diamonds are cut and polished in Israel where “revenue from the diamond industry” funds the nuclear-armed Israeli military that stands accused of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity by the UN HRC their claims are shown to be false and grossly misleading.

Diamonds are a luxury fashion commodity and anything that tarnishes the public perception of diamonds can cause irreparable damage to the brand image in a relatively short period. The diamond brand image suffered badly in the 90s as a result of the exposure by Global Witness of diamond-funded gross human rights violation in some African countries. The term “blood diamonds” became widely know and the a film of that name starring Leonardo di-Caprio cemented the public association between diamonds and gross human rights violations. In response, the industry introduced regulations known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP) which purports to end the trade in “conflict diamonds”.  However, the KP was seriously flawed from the outset as it only regulates “rough diamonds used by rebel groups….” As a result of this sleight of hand the Israeli diamond industry evades the regulations, and regardless of what human rights violations they may be funding, Israeli diamonds cannot be classed as “conflict diamonds” and are sold to unsuspecting consumers worldwide as conflict free diamonds. Fifty percent of the diamonds in dollar terms sold in America come from Israel.

The diamond campaign has the potential to bring the boycott campaign to a whole new global audience, who are largely not politically aware but who are fashion conscious and demanding of products of proven ethical provenance. If they public begin to associate diamonds from Israel with images of blood-drenched hospital floors and war crimes  in Gaza, jewelers will be forced to provide diamonds that are cut and polished in countries that respect human rights and international law.

To date the campaign has focused on raising public awareness about this issue by exposing the gaping hole in the KP regulations which allows diamonds that fund gross human rights violations by government forces to evade the regulations and be labeled as conflict free. The Campaign is spreading information about Israeli blood diamonds via the internet to the global Palestine solidarity community and is pressurizing national and International Jewelers associations to end the trade in diamonds from Israel, calling for an introduction of a hallmarking system for diamonds so the public can identify where a diamond was crafted.

In Europe the issue has brought this to the attention of members of the European Parliament, who have tabled questions to the European Commission calling for a reform of the KP definition of a conflict diamond.   Actions in the street to raise awareness with the public have taken place in Ireland and in Hatton Garden, London. A Facebook page dedicated to the diamond campaign has been set up. It has many very informative links going back months.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Boycott-Israeli-Blood-Diamonds/159257804168987

Israeli brand image is utterly toxic for the diamond industry. Any association with Israel’s deplorable human rights record is extremely bad for the diamond brand image. The diamond industry is very much aware of this and react immediately to any linkage between Israeli diamonds and war crimes. One example here: - http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8654956/IMG_0190a.jpg

Blue Nile, the NASDAQ listed, world-leading online diamond retailer has blocked access to their Facebook page (www.facebook.copm/bluenile) to all residents in Ireland. Many people there kept asking if any of their conflict-free diamonds are cut and polished in Israel – the company never answered the question and altered their page blocking over 100,000 fans from posting.  That facility has been restored but people in Ireland are still blocked (4).

References/Further Information:
1. Report on the Israeli diamond industry by Sean Clinton of the Irish Palestine Solidarity Campaign which initiated the campaign:  http://electronicintifada.net/content/israels-blood-diamonds/8754
2. Russell Tribunal presentations. Shir Hever’s comments that are referenced are at approx. minute 34:  http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/1087/video-day-2-afternoon-part-1-of-london-session
3. Graph of Israel’s top 30 export commodities  http://dl.dropbox.com/u/8654956/Israel%27s%20Top%2030%20small.jpg
4.  The diamond industry’s double standard in relation to Israel http://electronicintifada.net/content/diamond-industrys-double-standard-israel/10102

Other:
• Articles on the BNC website:
http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/tell-kimberly-5414
http://www.bdsmovement.net/2010/israels-blood-diamonds-673
• Omar Barghouti writes in BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights “......I cannot overemphasize the significance of effective BDS campaigns to raise awareness about Israel’s violations of human rights and international law and to convince diamond buyers to boycott Israeli diamonds”

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How Did Your Members of Congress Do This Year?

Did YOUR Representative sponsor a resolution encouraging Israel to annex the Palestinian West Bank?

Did
YOUR Senators vote to sanction Palestinians for seeking UN membership?

Find out now on our new interactive
112th Congressional Report Card.
 

We've had Congressional Report Cards for ten years now, but you've probably never seen one like this before. It lets you "slice and dice" all the details as you want to see them.
Check it out now!


Our report card confirms what's already known by anyone who saw Members of Congress madly cheer during Benjamin Netanyahu's rejectionist address to Congress earlier this year: Congress on the whole horribly and unapologetically supports Israeli occupation and apartheid against Palestinians.

After viewing our report card,
sign up to become a Congressional District Coordinator and help us organize and mobilize in your Congressional District to educate these Members of Congress who obviously need to be schooled.

We'll be updating this report card frequently so bookmark it and refer back to it often. And make sure to share it with your friends by posting it to Facebook, Twitter and other social media you use!

Give Bibi a Thumbs Down!

On the eve of International Human Rights Day, Bibi Netanyahu declared: “Israel will continue to proudly raise the torch of freedom and human rights.”




Of course what Netanyahu fails to mention is that the Israeli military uses U.S. tax dollars to force millions of Palestinians to live under a brutal occupation.

You can challenge this blatant misrepresentation of Palestinian suffering by taking these three steps:


1.
Give the speech a "thumbs down" on YouTube. 

2.
Tell Congress that you reject Netanyahu's false statements. Between 2009-2018, the United States is sending $30 billion in military aid to Israel. U.S. tax dollars should not be bankrolling the occupation and denial of Palestinian human rights.

3. Sign up to help organize opposition to military aid for Israel.


And remember to share with all your friends and followers!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Coalition member discredits Gingrich claim of "invented" Palestinians


The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee is a coalition member of the US Campaign. It distributed the following news release today.

"Invented People" or Invented History?

ADC rejects Gingrich's offensive comments. Download our letter

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | December 12, 2011 – The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is stunned and appalled at Newt Gingrich’s simplistic and strange assertion that the Palestinian people are an "invented people", which offends hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Americans and millions of Arab Americans. At the same time, ADC dismisses Mr. Gingrich's assertion, and urges him to acquaint himself with the basic concept of nationhood to spare his campaign further embarrassment and ridicule. Nations are not defined by the existence of states, as Mr. Gingrich, who is not a specialist in Middle Eastern history and has not held an academic post since 1978,  incorrectly suggests. The modern states of Israel, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Libya and dozens of others around the world did not exist at the turn of the twentieth century. These historical circumstances do not negate their inhabitants' national identities or fundamental human rights; the same is true of Palestinians.

Gingrich
In a second attack against Palestinians, during the Republican debate, Mr. Gingrich stated that “[Palestinians] are terrorists. They teach terrorism in their schools.” ADC condemns Mr. Gingrich’s rant against Palestinians as baseless, reckless, offensive and utterly unbefitting a candidate for President of the United States. Such indiscriminate language from prominent public figures leads to hate crimes and discrimination against Arab Americans, and ADC strongly urges Republicans to repudiate it.

ADC President Warren David stated, "I am appalled that a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and a candidate for the Republican nomination for President of the United States could make such insulting statements about the Palestinian people. Our members are outraged by Mr. Gingrich's remarks. Rather than attempt to negate the Palestinian people's national identity with irrelevant and antiquated pseudo-arguments and collectively defame Palestinians as "terrorists", Mr. Gingrich should insist that the United States of America defend their legitimate rights to (a) freedom from 44 years of oppressive Israeli military rule and (b) equality in the face of institutionalized Israeli discrimination.”

Finally, on Saturday night, Mr. Gingrich stated, “It's fundamentally time for somebody to have the guts to stand up and say, enough lying about the Middle East.” We couldn’t agree more. So, please, Mr. Gingrich, enough lying about the Middle East.

###

NOTE TO EDITORS: The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), which is non-profit, non-sectarian and non-partisan, is the largest grassroots Arab-American civil rights and civil liberties organization in the United States. It was founded in 1980 by former Senator James Abourezk. ADC has a national network of chapters and members in all 50 states.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

"This Is Apartheid" Poster Contest

Art has always been an important part of liberation struggles. It can inspire and convey concepts beyond words. Itisapartheid.org and its primary partner, Lajee Center, are sponsoring a competition for artists and graphic designers who are invited to submit posters on the theme of “Israeli Apartheid.” These posters should reflect the nature, realities, and/or consequences of apartheid policies in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Posters will be judged by a panel of distinguished activists and artists. The winning entries will be featured in an online poster gallery and disseminated widely on the internet and various other venues. Youth from refugee camps in Gaza and the West Bank will participate in the contest.

Prizes
* Expert Jury Prize made up of distinguished artists and activists: $400
* Global Jury Prize from global internet voting: $400
* Palestinian Prize (winner must be Palestinian): $300
* 6 Honorable Mention prizes: $50 each

Deadline for submission of all posters is June 1, 2012.

Visit www.itisapartheid.info for more information and submission guidelines.

Co-Sponsors: Badil, Code Pink, Palestine Solidarity Committee of South Africa, Friends of Sabeel North America, American Muslims for Palestine, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Committee, Artists Against Apartheid International Alliance, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), Students Against Israeli Apartheid (Canada), Queers Against Israeli Apartheid , Palestine freedom Project, Australians for Palestine. Palestinian Network for Children’s Rights, Pontifical Mission, the Papal Agency for Middle East Relief and Development, The Alternative Information Center, Birzeit University, Defense for Children International, Palestine Section, Alhaq Organization, Defending Human Rights In Palestine, NGO Development Center, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, Faculty 4 Palestine

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

New poster series illustrates trade-offs in sending military aid to Israel


Above: Our new posters include
this QR code, scannable with
your smartphone, to take you
directly to a page where you
can take action to end U.S.
military aid to Israel.
Help us continue to shape the political landscape to end U.S. military aid to Israel by signing up today to educate and organize people in your community.

When you do so, you'll join more than 2,000 people in 49 states and more than 900 cities who have received an organizing packet with fact sheets, flyers, petitions, stickers, and more--everything you'll need to spark conversations in your community and identify more people who agree with us that we should be funding community needs, not Israel's misdeeds against the Palestinian people.

And, for the first time, we're excited to include in these organizing packets this sharp-looking series of posters (shown below) that illustrate the moral and economic costs of providing U.S. military aid to Israel. The four 11-inch by 17-inch (tabloid-size) posters include a code scannable with your smartphone's camera, bringing you directly to a page where you can take action and get involved.
Poster #1 shows trade-off:
school programs vs. weapons 

Poster #2 shows trade-off:
jobs vs. farm destruction

Poster #3 shows trade-off:
housing vs. apartheid wall

Poster #4 shows trade-off:
healthcare vs. more weapons

National Advocacy Director to be on Panel Discussing Anti-Zionist Rabbi

The National Press Club is hosting a panel this Thursday discussing the new book Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism which profiles one of the most well-known rabbis of the 20th century. 

The panel, sponsored by the Freda Utley Foundation, will be held on December 8 at 1:00 pm in the Murrow Room of the National Press Club (13th floor, 529 14th St. NW, Washington, DC 20045). A light lunch will precede the panel at 12:15 pm. Reservations are requested. 


The panel will include two of 
Rabbi Berger's former colleagues: Andrew Killgore, former diplomat and ambassador to Qatar and publisher of The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, and Allan Brownfeld, editor of Issues, published by the American Council on Judaism. 

Also on the panel is Josh Ruebner, writer for the
Huffington Post and former Middle East analyst for the Congressional Research Service, and the book's author Jack Ross, a columnist and writer from Brooklyn, New York. 

Rabbi Outcast: Elmer Berger and American Jewish Anti-Zionism
discusses the influence that Berger had in his lifetime, particularly from World War II through the 1967 Six Day War and its aftermath. 

The 233-page book, with 582 footnotes and an extensive bibliography, is a comprehensive account of American Jewish history. Ross places liberal Jewish anti-Zionism (as opposed to that of Orthodox or revolutionary socialist Jews) in a historical perspective. That brand of anti-Zionism was embodied by Rabbi Berger and his predecessors in the Reform rabbinate.

S
heldon Richman, a political writer and editor of the Freemanwrote recently that he knew Berger "and admired him greatly for his courageous work on behalf of what he called 'emancipation and integration' and against Jewish nationalism, or Zionism. He was truly the last great Classical Reform Jewish rabbi- Classical Reform Judaism having been founded in opposition to nationalism, to the ideas of diaspora and return to Zion. Berger was a founder and long time director of the American Council for Judaism, and later of the American Jewish Alternatives to Zionism."

M
urray Polner, author of Rabbi: The American Experience, calls Rabbi Outcast "a seminal book, nothing less than the rediscovery of American Jewry's dissenting tradition. Ostensibly about the fascinating and controversial Rabbi Elmer Berger, it is really much more - a nuanced and readable portrait of people and ideas undeservedly erased from American Jewish history." 

"In Jack Ross' new book, we see a fascinating history of Jewish resistance to Zionism- and warnings of its consequences for Jews and for America," commented Jon Utley of the Freda Utley Foundation. Freda Utley, the British historian and author, wrote extensively about Elmer Berger in her book
Will the Middle East Go West? 

"Rabbi Outcast is a tremendous resource for young American Jews looking for facts to back up their existing doubts," Utley said. 



For more information contact Fran Griffin at griffin@griffnews.com or call 703-255-2211 or 202-643-1048.