Saturday, February 4, 2012

Two US Delegations Endorse BDS and Call for Action in the US

The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel has been endorsed by two US delegations recently returned from fact finding missions to occupied Palestine and Israel.

US Campaign member group US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) organized a delegation of five distinguished scholars for a trip to Palestine and Israel in January. The delegation, composed of professors working at US universities, witnessed firsthand how Israel routinely denies the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students. According to a press release issued by USACBI, the delegation noted:

… Israel has consistently closed Palestinian universities under security pretexts and restrictions on freedom of movement mean that it is often very difficult for students to attend universities; international and Palestinian scholars living abroad are denied visas for faculty appointments in the occupied territories.  Furthermore, some 80 students from Birzeit University are held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, 10 of whom are currently being held without charge or trial. The delegation also reported that Israel thwarts Palestinian research capacities by restricting imports of equipment necessary for teaching basic science and engineering. It is all but impossible for Gaza students to attend West Bank universities, or for scholars from Ramallah, Gaza City, and East Jerusalem to meet in the same room.

While the primary focus of the trip was on educational discrimination, the delegation also had the opportunity to visit the 5,000 person Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, as well as hear testimony from Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah who were forcibly evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem by the Israeli military. After witnessing how the "subordination, humiliation, and suspicion" of the occupation regulates the daily lives of Palestinians, as well as numerous violations of Palestinian civil and legal rights, the delegates urged their academic colleagues to support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. In a brief statement included in USACBI's press release, the delegates stated:

We believe that the perpetuation of the international travesty of colonial occupation in a post-colonial world must be brought to an end.  For it ultimately threatens the rights, dignity and security of everyone who believes in self-determination, equal justice and human rights.
Read USACBI's full press release here. 

LGBTIQ Activists Call for an End to US Aid to Israel and Endorse BDS

A diverse group of academics, artists, and cultural workers from the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, interest, and queer) community also traveled to Palestine/Israel in January. Upon their return to the US, the delegation released an open letter and petition emphatically endorsing BDS and calling on the queer community and its allies to "stand in solidarity with queer and other Palestinians and progressive Israelis who are working to end the occupation; oppose the state of Israel's practice of pinkwashing; and support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination including building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement."

In their open letter, the delegates strongly reject Israel's practice of pinkwashing -- using the issue of gay rights to deflect attention away from the daily violations of Palestinian human rights:

Key to Israel's pinkwashing campaign is the manipulative and false labeling of Israeli culture as gay-friendly and Palestinian culture as homophobic. It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate - homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society - and that this is beside the point: Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian queer organizations like Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (PQBDS) whose work continues to impact queer Palestinians and all Palestinians.

… We urge LGBTIQ individuals and communities to resist replicating the practice of pinkwashing that insists on elevating the sexual freedom of Palestinian people over their economic, environmental, social, and psychological freedom. Like the Palestinian activists we met, we view heterosexism and sexism as colonial projects and, therefore, see both as interrelated and interconnected regimes that must end.

As queer activists in the US, they condemn US complicity in maintaining the occupation and call for an end to US aid to Israel and support for the BDS movement in the US:

We name the complicity of the United States in this human rights catastrophe and call on our government to end its participation in an unjust regime that places it and us on the wrong side of peace and justice.

We support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination, such as building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the fulfillment of three fundamental demands:

The end of the Occupation and the dismantling of the Wall
  (jidar).
The right of return for displaced Palestinians.
The recognition and restoration of the equal rights of citizenship for Israeli     citizens of Palestinian descent.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by supporting all Palestinian efforts that center these three demands and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation.
Read the open letter in full and sign the petition here 


 Testimonials from the Delegates Published on The Feminist Wire


Darnell L. Moore, who traveled to Palestine as part of the LGBTIQ delegation and is an editorial collective member of The Feminist Wire (TFW), solicited reflections and commentaries from US-based scholars, activists and cultural workers about their experiences in Palestine. Those writings have been collected and published online at TFW Forum on Palestine. Several participants from the USACBI and LGBTIQ delegations contributed moving and thoughtful pieces to the forum, including powerful commentaries from Neferti X.M. Tadiar and Jasbir K. Puar. Tadiar calls upon us to "forge new relations beyond the province of interests and inherited forms of social belonging to which we might have become tethered and, for those of us not already called, to feel the suffering and aspirations of Palestinians as also our own," in  "Why the Question of Palestine is a Feminist Concern." Puar's piece, "The Golden Handcuffs of Gay Rights: How Pinkwashing Distorts Both LGBTIQ and Anti-Occupation Activism," offers insightful analysis of Israel's pinkwashing agenda, homonationalism and the radical impact of Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) on Palestinian society. She argues that by "foregrounding the Occupation as its primary site of struggle, PQBDS is slowly, strategically and carefully insisting upon and creating systemic and thorough changes in the terms of Palestinian society itself. "