The RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) has never been a conservative body since its origin in 1834. It is an influential body of international standing so the decision of its Council this week to pass a resolution for the suspension of the Israeli architects’ association from the international architects’ union (UIA) because of settlements will help to design the future. Desperate editorial from the Jewish Chronicle alleging an antisemitic conspiracy.
Students for Justice in Palestine are springing up in many American universities. They put on demonstrations of the Wall and military checkpoints, and join the movement for BDS. Enraged, the Jewish establishment is doing what it can to shut down or silence these activists. A handful of billionaires and the Israeli government fund re-education projects, professional advocates and legal cases – with little return on their investment.
In the latest of David Shulman’s illuminating reports, Ta’ayush volunteers try to engage in discussion the settlers and soldiers who are driving the Palestinian herders away. These men know nothing of international – or national – law; they live by the word of God (their unique interpretation) and of their commanding officer. In their ignorance of law, the soldiers terrify the shepherds by threatening to shoot them if they don’t go.
From isolated protests over several years at Israel’s participation in FIFA, which is a constitutionally anti-racist body, the protests have gained momentum and publicity. Red Card Israeli Racism has launched a petition to FIFA for the Israel Football Association to be suspended from membership. The issue is linked to the many obstacles Israel places in the way of Palestinians playing football.
An angry Uri Misgav writes in Haaretz about ‘why I no longer want to live in the most racist state in the free world.’ The state has developed a racist hierarchy of groups. The rankings and exclusions are ‘like the Nuremberg Laws, only in reverse’. For Jews who do not wish to be claimed as members by The Jewish State, One Democracy has launched a petition to make this public.
Europe is the most important destination of Israel’s exports and Europe is the place where demands for boycott are strongest. The German publication, DW, reports on the impact of the boycott on business dependent on trade relations with European companies; Time magazine reports on Palestinian support for boycott as the path to peace, but does not give new detail of who among the Palestinians supports boycott.
At the annual Israel-US love-in, the AIPAC conference, speakers politely refrain from uttering a critical word about Israel’s policies, preferring to reassure Americans, Israelis, that the country’s security is Americans ‘first concern’ (Kerry). Bibi has no restraint, delighting his audience with a no-holds-barred attack on BDS supporters as antisemites, bigots and in the tradition of those who used the blood libel. Robert Cohen and Ali Abuminah comment.
After Scarlett Johannson’s straw-sucking plug for Sodastream created mass free publicity for the opposition to illegal settlements, Sodastream’s share price plunged. Share-buyers may invest in all sorts of tacky enterprises as long as no-one makes a fuss. Its reputation may be a company’s most precious asset which is tarnished by a fuss. Targetting the shareholders may be the BDS’s movement most effective tactic.
Various forms of nonviolent resistance, which respect international law, universal values and principles and the requirements of a just peace, are gaining momentum in the international arena writes Hanan Ashrawi. In contrast, Israel claims exemption from international law and perpetuates its exceptional colonisation through destruction, imprisonment and contempt.
The publlicity about Scarlett Johansson and the bubble-maker has been a gift to the BDS movement, confirming it is a progressive and popular movement, even though its aims remain unclear to many. Richard Silverstein applies the model of the stages of grief to how the Israeli state is and its supporters are trying to fend off and falsify its aim (which is, uncontroversially, to make Israel comply with international law).
Divestment from companies operating in Israeli settlements is being seriously considered by a number of large pension companies following the decision by Dutch firms to withdraw their funds from Israeli companies with installations in the settlements. A new Labour government has ended the Netherlands ‘special friend’ status in Israel leading to a flurry of recrimination about superior NGO propaganda.
The logo, the secretariat, the organizing committee are all in place and this week the CEIRPP (see posting) will begin to work out its programme of events for this UN year of international solidarity with the Palestinian people. As Richard Falk points out, the year has received almost no publicity so far – though there is no reason why solidarity groups should not create some.
Before Israel, Palestine was part of the Ottoman empire, then the League of Nations gave Britain a mandate to govern the territory from the Mediterranean to Iraq (north) Saudi Arabia (south). Both Ottoman and British officials recorded land ownership claims in order to raise taxes and prevent land disputes. These show that the Negev, far from being an empty desert, had many Bedouin villages in which people owned land and engaged in agriculture and animal husbandry. Can this Israeli myth hit the dust before the Bedouin are forcibly moved to a ‘town’?
The decision endorsed by the American Studies Association to boycott Israeli academic institutions was not wrong because of ‘double standards’ argues Peter Beinart. As others have said before, the focus of the West’s Left has long been on the wrong-doing of the agencies within the west’s capitalist network, because this is ours. Israel is part of it too. The problem he says lies in the implied denial of Israel’s right to decide its own immigration policy and thus preserve its nature as a state for Jews.
But solidarity workers have to decide which voices to amplify, and create space for. Ben White discusses the difficulties and traps of such work. It is clear from his indictment of Pres. Abbas and the Fatah leadership and his praise for the democratic and effective nature of BDS what choice he thinks should be made. And more, well-sourced information from Palestinians, with good translation into European languages would help.
Lev Ginsburg cuts through the syrupy eulogies to Nelson Mandela to remind us that he gained his authority by initiating and leading an armed struggle: “terrorism”. There are a few candidates to be Palestinian leader- but would he find a partner for peace equivalent to FW de Klerk who could persuade his ‘own’ people to let go of their privileges?
The fate of the people of Gaza has been abandoned to NGOs, with Amnesty International in the lead. JfJfP adds its voice.Two neighbouring states, Israel and Egypt, and to some extent the PA, could act to transform the situation, by providing fuel for generators and desalination plants for water. Obdurately, they do not act. Hamas, with little income now the tunnels are closed, and scant authority over the sources of fuel and water can do little.It is left to civil society. JfJfP calls on Israel to recognise Gaza’s right to water and notes the role of the PA and Egyptian military in exacerbating the situation.
EU countries have taken the high ground about Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. But their remit seems to stop short of European companies which continue to accept Israeli contracts for demolishing Palestinian homes (Volvo, JCB), imprisoning Palestinians (G4S), importing goods from the settlements (Tesco, Waitrose) and servicing the settlements (Veolia). Such companies ease the functioning of settlements despite the formal position of their home countries.
According to Edward Said, serious discussion about Israel in the US was ‘the last taboo.’ Now that has been well and truly broken. This week the association of university professors held an open meeting (packed) to discuss BDS action against Israeli institutions complicit with the occupation. The large majority favoured such actions though this has not materialised in a decision – unlike the Association for Asian American Studies which did pass a resolution for boycotting Israeli academic institutions. Many attribute this great shift to student activism on campuses.
If anyone doubts the gross anachronism of the Israeli occupation, read this letter from the Villages Group which quotes a remarkable decision by the Civil Administration in the West Bank. It states that they are busy clearing the land of Palestinians for their own good; that without the fatherly concerns of the Israelis the Palestinians are doomed to a degenerate and impoverished life. They should be grateful.