The Berkeley student debate on divestment
Rather than charge in with our own position, Tikkun decided that we would be most helpful by respecting the intelligence of our own readers to decide on their own what they think of the current debarte about the Student Senate Bill calling for divestment from two companies that help Israel maintain the Occupation of the West Bank.
(To the materials belowmake sure to add the Magnes Zionist´s subsequent analysis 13 Reasons Why Liberal Zionists Should Give Guarded Support to the BDS Movement )
As you will see, this is a debate that has strong opponents of the Occuaption on BOTH SIDES of the issue. The first statement comes from J street and is signed by the New Israel Fund as well. They are important voices for peace and justice in Israel. Then we present the resolution being debated. On the other side we present statements from Jewish Voices for Peace, Bishop Tutu, Naomi Klein, and others. Since their side of the argument is typically given less space in the media, following the Tikkun practice of airing views that we do not necessarily agree with but which have been absent from serious media presentation (that is, a presentation by articulate representatives of their position), we give them more space.
We are now planning a roundtable discussion among voices on all sides of the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions debate that we will tape, edit and run in either the July or September issue of Tikkun (if you still don’t subscribe, please do so now at www.tikkun.org).
If you wish to read the general position of Tikkun on these BDS issues, please consult Rabbi Lerner’s 2008 statement which can be found at www.tikkun.org/article.php/20090617013141275. How to apply that statement to the particulars of the debate in Berkeley is for YOU to decide.We think we can be more helpful by being a place where others can present their views than by pushing our own perspective, at least for the moment.
J Street Blog
Troubling UC Berkeley Student Senate Bill on Israel
JStreetU, J Street’s student arm, joined with a coalition of groups to send a letter to the University of California at Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost in response to the recent anti-Israel bill passed by the UC Berkeley Student Senate.
J Street U joined the following groups in signing this letter: American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Berkeley Hillel, Chabad Jewish Student Center at UC Berkeley, Hasbara Fellowships, Israel Campus Coalition, Israel Peace Initiative, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marina and Sonoma Counties, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Jewish National Fund, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), MASA Israel Journey, New Israel Fund, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel, The David Project, and USD/Hagshama World Zionist Organization.
A version of the following letter was read during debate on the resolution:
Dear University of California, Berkeley Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost George Breslauer:
We are a broad-based coalition representing a wide range of perspectives on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, local and national Jewish community organizations that support and partner with students on college and university campuses throughout Northern California, including the University of California, Berkeley. We are writing to you with deep respect and admiration for the commitment that the UC Berkeley student body, faculty and administration has always had for universal human rights and equal opportunity.
We are deeply troubled, however, to learn that the ASUC Student Senate has passed a dishonest bill, based on misleading and contested allegations, that unfairly targets the State of Israel while also marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel.
While the bill states that it is “in support of ASUC divestment from war crimes,” it focuses solely on one country, Israel. Though it states that the “ASUC resolution should not be considered taking sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict,” the exclusive focus on Israel suggests otherwise. Furthermore, the bill’s call for the University Regents and the ASUC to divest exclusively from Israel contradicts the bill’s own claim by, in fact, explicitly taking sides.
We request that the administration at UC Berkeley strongly and unequivocally condemn the ASUC Student Senate resolution. Furthermore, we urge you to state firmly your intention not to divest university holdings from any company doing business with Israel. While the ASUC is a separate entity, its actions affect the atmosphere on campus for which the Chancellor’s office has primary responsibility. Your voice is needed now.
The students associated with our coalition of organizations are deeply committed to securing human rights around the world. For this reason they have suggested that the ASUC Student Senate adopt a single, standard, socially responsible investment policy which would be applicable across the board. A single standard would allow students to fairly question the actions of anyone engaged in behavior that threatens and diminishes human dignity anywhere, without doing so under a pall of apparent lop-sided motives.
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is complex and goes back decades. It is tempting to look exclusively at one side or the other to shoulder the blame, to judge one discrete incident without consideration of the larger picture, and to respond with full force. But one-sided reactions do not serve to improve complicated circumstances, rather they exacerbate them.
We believe that this complexity should be reflected in the dialogue on campus rather than singling out one side or another for condemnation and punishment. This open debate, conducted civilly, will lead to a healthier environment on the Berkley campus for students with a range of political views. Thank you for your time and consideration. If you would like to discuss this topic further with any one of our agencies, please contact Rabbi Adam Naftalin-Kelman, Executive Director of Berkeley Hillel at (510) 845-7783 ext. 11 or email@example.com.
American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, Berkeley Hillel, Chabad Jewish Student Center at UC Berkeley, Hasbara Fellowships, Israel Campus Coalition, Israel Peace Initiative, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marina and Sonoma Counties, Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Federation of the East Bay, Jewish National Fund, Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa (JIMENA), JStreetU, MASA Israel Journey, New Israel Fund, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs/SF Voice for Israel, The David Project, and USD/Hagshama World Zionist Organization.
The Students’ Resolution:
A Bill In Support of UC DIVESTMENT FROM WAR CRIMES
Authored By: Emiliano Huet-Vaughn and Tom Pessah
Sponsored By: Senators Gaurano , Carlton, Kwon, Oatfield
1. WHEREAS, the ASUC notes the complexity of international relations in all cases, including the Middle East, and recognizes the inability of a body such as the ASUC to adjudicate matters of international law and human rights law, or to take sides on final status issues on wars and occupations throughout the world. Yet, we do note the following findings from the United Nations and other leading human rights organizations regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, and use it as a case study; and,
1. WHEREAS, prior and subsequent to the bombing the Israeli government has engaged in collective punishment of the whole of the Palestinian population, in the view of the human rights community,3 as exemplified by the ongoing 32 month blockade on Gaza, of which Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has written, “the prolonged siege imposed by the Israeli government on Gaza, the closing of its borders, the tightening of policies regarding permission to exit Gaza for medical purposes, and the severe shortage of medications and other medical supplies all severely damage the Palestinian health system and endanger the lives and health of thousands of Palestinian patients,”4 and of which the Red Cross has said “the whole strip is being strangled, economically speaking” making life in Gaza “a nightmare” for the civilian population, with essential supplies, including electricity, water, and fuel, being denied to the 1.5 million inhabitants 90% of whom depend on aid to survive;5 and
1. WHEREAS, within the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Israeli government continues a policy of settlement expansion that, in the opinion of the United Nations Security Council, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and numerous other organizations concerned with enforcement of international law, constitutes a direct violation of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the 4th Geneva Convention which declares “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”6; and
2. WHEREAS, in the context of this bill, “occupation” refers to the current state of Palestinian life under Israeli’s military control in the West Bank and Gaza; a definition that is consistent to commonly-held international law; and
1. WHEREAS, student research9 has revealed that, according to the most recent UC investment report10, within the UC Retirement Program fund and the General Endowment Program fund there exist direct investments in American companies materially and militarily supporting the Israeli government’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, including American companies General Electric and United Technologies; and
1. WHEREAS, General Electric holds engineering support and testing service contracts with the Israeli military and supplies the Israeli government with the propulsion system for its Apache Assault Helicopter fleet, which, as documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has been used in attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, including the January 4, 2009 killings of Palestinian medical aide workers11; and
1. WHEREAS, United Technologies supplies the Israeli government with Blackhawk helicopters and with F-15 and F-16 aircraft engines and holds an ongoing fleet management contract for these engines, and, Amnesty International has documented the Israeli government’s use of these aircraft in the bombing of the American School in Gaza, the killing of Palestinians civilians, and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian homes;12 therefore, be it
* RESOLVED, that the ASUC will ensure that its assets, and will advocate that the UC assets, do not include holdings in General Electric and United Technologies because of their military support of the occupation of the Palestinian territories; be it further
* RESOLVED, that the ASUC will further examine its assets and UC assets for funds being invested in companies that a) provide military support for or weaponry to support the occupation of the Palestinian territories or b) facilitate the building or maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes, or c) facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories; be it further
* RESOLVED, that if it is found that ASUC and/or the UC funds are being invested in any of the abovementioned ways, the ASUC will divest, and will advocate that the UC divests, all stocks, securities, or other obligations from such sources with the goal of maintaining the divestment, in the case of said companies, until they cease such practices. Moreover, the ASUC will not make further investments, and will advocate that the UC not make futher investments, in any companies materially supporting or profiting from Israel’s occupation in the abovementioned ways; be it further
* RESOLVED, that this ASUC resolution not be interpreted as the taking of sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but instead as a principled expression of support for universal human rights and equality; be it further
* RESOLVED, that the ASUC Senate engage in education campaigns to publicize the divestment efforts and violation of international human rights law, and that furthermore, a committee of 5 members, 2 senators selected by the senate body as a whole, 2 members of or students selected by the UC Berkeley Divestment Task Force, and the ASUC President or a representative from his/her office, form at the end of this semester to monitor and promote university progress in regards to the above mentioned ethical divestment goals; and,*
BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that this Committee will recommend additional divestment policies to keep university investments out of companies aiding war crimes throughout the world, such as those taking place in Morocco, the Congo, and other places as determined by the resolutions of the United Nations and other leading international human rights organizations
Why Are American Jewish Groups So Intent on Defending Illegal Israeli Settlements and Other Human Rights Violations?
by Sydney Levy and Yaman Salahi
A coalition of nearly 20 Jewish groups, ranging from the right-wing David Project and the Jewish National Fund to the liberal J Street, is distributing a misleading statement condemning a Student Senate bill at UC Berkeley. The ground-breaking bill calls for divestment from companies that profit from the perpetuation of the Israeli military occupation in the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza. They refer to the bill as “dishonest” and “misleading” and “based on contested allegations.”
Yet it is their letter that is both dishonest and misleading.
The bill, available here, is based on extensive, footnoted research.
Yet this coalition of Jewish groups does not contest any of the facts. Without offering any evidence, they dismiss findings by reputable organizations like the Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. Instead of condemning these human rights violations, they prefer to misinform the public by suggesting that it is somehow wrong to “take sides” against universally recognized injustice. In so doing, they effectively defend illegal Israeli settlements and the Israeli military occupation that continues to disrupt everyday features of Palestinian life: education, health care, economic life, and art and culture.
Further, they claim that the Berkeley bill calls on the University “to divest exclusively from Israel.” They imply that the bill calls for divestment “from any company doing business with Israel.”
But this is simply not true.
The Berkeley bill focuses specifically on the Israeli occupation, not on Israel. While a vibrant and necessary debate on the merits of a total boycott and divestment from Israel continues around the world, it is not at issue here.
In reality, the bill divests only from two American companies that make money by equipping the occupation, General Electric and United Technologies — but no Israeli companies. It also announces an intention to divest from any company — whatever the nationality, and only after further research — that similarly profit from the occupation.
These groups choose to deliberately misreport the language of the bill, which refers specifically and exclusively to companies that:
a) provide military support for or weaponry to support the occupation of the Palestinian territories or
b) facilitate the building or maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes, or c) facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories;
By condemning the humane and ethical policy of what is essentially morally responsible investment, do these groups mean to encourage investing in companies that provide the weapons of occupation, build the settlements of colonization, and render thousands of innocent Palestinians homeless?
They claim that the bill “unfairly targets the State of Israel.” But Israel is the country building the settlements and administering the occupation. And it is one of the world’s best known human rights abusers that is not already sanctioned by the United States –which provides Israel with over $3 billion annually. Who else should the bill address?
There is no reason not to name Israel when it violates human rights, but these groups suggest that students should instead pass a bill with no teeth, a bill that merely condemns human rights violations in general without referring specifically to Israel. But it is absurd to suggest that students do not already condemn those violations in the abstract — or have not already worked to apply similar standards to countries like Sudan and South Africa and will not apply them similarly to other countries in the future.
The bill merely applies widely held principles to a particular situation.
In effect they are calling on students not to apply the same principles applied elsewhere to Israel. These groups want us to ignore reality and to allow Israel to be the one and only human rights violator that escapes accountability and condemnation. Perversely, they themselves are guilty of singling out Israel in order to defend occupation and the unjustifiable oppression of the Palestinian people.
The statement acknowledges no wall, no home demolitions, no Israeli settlements, no Palestinian suffering. All of these, the letter calls “discrete incident[s] without consideration of the larger picture.” How many more decades of occupation and dispossession will it take for our nation’s major Jewish organizations to issue a statement calling these injustices what they are, an inhumane and morally indefensible system of occupation?
By reducing these coordinated events to isolated incidents, they diminish their significance, aid the settlement efforts, and obstruct Palestinian freedom and human rights.
Most perniciously, they refer to the bill as “marginalizing Jewish students on campus who support Israel.” The fact that they mention only Jewish students and not other students who might hold similar political positions reveals the true meaning of this statement: This is an intellectually dishonest and misleading accusation of anti-Semitism that cannot be taken lightly. The bill does not target any students: it only targets corporations that facilitate occupation.
In fact, the Berkeley bill was co-authored by an Israeli Jewish student on campus and is supported by many Jews who have testified in favor of the bill and have written thousands of letters of support to the student senators.
Ironically, these groups’ statement actually marginalizes both Jews and non-Jews who oppose the Israeli occupation. It especially harms American and Palestinian students who may be harmed by such investments when studying, conducting research, or visiting relatives in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The misinformation campaign targeting UC Berkeley follows the same script that was used in 2008 to defame similar efforts by the Presbyterian Church, which endeavored to ensure that it was “invested only in peaceful pursuits.”
Then, a similar coalition accused the Presbyterian Church of “one-sidedness” and, in much more explicit terms, anti-Semitism. In other words, they re-cast the very idea that one should be “invested only in peaceful pursuits” in Israel-Palestine as biased or racist.
This year the Presbyterian Church is considering divestment from Caterpillar because of the company’s refusal to take responsibility for the destruction its bulldozers create in the West Bank and Gaza. The Simon Wiesenthal Center cast all logic aside and accused the church of engaging in “nothing short of a declaration of war on Israel.” This kind of hyperbolic language is untrue, harms civil discourse, and only serves to hamper the efforts of those rightfully opposed to the demolition of Palestinian homes and the uprooting of Palestinian orchards.
Now in Berkeley, a constellation of Jewish organizations has regrettably mobilized its resources to stand in the way of yet another progressive victory. The letter’s deliberate distortions call into question whether the signers would support any method of monitoring, discouraging, and preventing Israeli human rights violations.
Instead, the letter’s signers suggest that Americans should act with their hands tied behind their backs, without the full toolkit of nonviolent resistance tactics that have been an essential part of all successful human justice movements.
However, not engaging in morally responsible investment when faced with the clear findings of human rights organizations and the international community would be morally indefensible.
Choosing to do something about Israel’s human rights violations does not require turning a blind eye to other injustices in the world as these groups suggest; but refusing to take action because of other examples would indeed turn a blind eye to this one. Now is the time to support Palestinian freedom and human rights. Berkeley students have done the right thing. Others should follow suit and divest from the occupation, as part of their general commitment to ethical investment policies.
• Naomi Klein: Open Letter to Berkeley Students on Their Historic Israeli Divestment Vote
• Yaman Salahi: Singling Out Israel Is the Right Thing to Do
• The Magnes Zionist: Invest AND Divest: Where the Liberal Zionists Get BDS Wrong — and What Their Position towards It Should Be
Sydney Levy is the Director of Campaigns for Jewish Voice for Peace, a national grassroots organization dedicated to full equality between Israelis and Palestinians. Yaman Salahi, a UC Berkeley alumnus and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, is currently a student at Yale Law School. This article was first published on the Web site of Jewish Voice for Peace; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.
Statement by Naomi Klein
On March 18, continuing a long tradition of pioneering human rights campaigns, the Senate of the Associated Students of the University of California, Berkeley (ASUC) passed “A Bill In Support of UC Divestment from War Crimes.” The historic bill resolves to divest ASUC’s assets from two American companies, General Electric and United Technologies, that are “materially and militarily supporting the Israeli government’s occupation of the Palestinian territories” — and to advocate that the UC, with about $135 million invested in companies that profit from Israel’s illegal actions in the Occupied Territories, follow suit.
Although the bill passed by a vote of 16-4 after a packed and intense debate, the President of the Senate vetoed the bill six days later. The Senate is expected to reconsider the bill soon; groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace are asking supporters of the bill to send letters to the Senators, who can overturn the veto with only 14 votes. Here is the letter I just sent:
Dear members of the ASUC Senate, I am writing to urge you to reaffirm Senate Bill 118A, despite the recent presidential veto.
It comes as no surprise that you are under intense pressure to reverse your historic and democratic decision to divest from two companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. When a school with a deserved reputation for academic excellence and moral leadership takes such a bold position, it threatens to inspire others to take their own stands.
Indeed, Berkeley — the campus and the wider community — has provided this kind of leadership on many key issues in the past: not only apartheid in South Africa but also sweatshops in Indonesia, dictatorship in Burma, political killings in Nigeria, and the list goes on. Time and again, when the call for international solidarity has come from people denied a political voice, Berkeley has been among the first to answer. And in virtually every case, what began as a small action in a progressive community quickly spread across the country and around the world.
Your recent divestment bill opposing Israeli war crimes stands to have this same kind of global impact, helping to build a grassroots, non-violent movement to end Israel’s violations of international law. And this is precisely what your opponents — by spreading deliberate lies about your actions — are desperately trying to prevent. They are even going so far as to claim that, in the future, there should be no divestment campaigns that target a specific country, a move that would rob activists of one of the most effective tools in the non-violent arsenal. Please don’t give into this pressure; too much is on the line.
As the world has just witnessed with the Netanyahu government’s refusal to stop its illegal settlement expansion, political pressure is simply not enough to wrench Israel off its current disastrous path. And when our governments fail to apply sanctions for defiant illegality, other forms of pressure must come into play, including targeting those corporations that are profiting directly from human rights abuses.
Whenever we take a political action, we open ourselves up to accusations of hypocrisy and double standards, since the truth is that we can never do enough in the face of pervasive global injustice. Yet to argue that taking a clear stand against Israeli war crimes is somehow to “discriminate unfairly” against Israelis and Jews (as the veto seems to claim) is to grossly pervert the language of human rights. Far from “singling out Israel,” with Senate Bill 118A, you are acting within Berkeley‘s commendable and inspiring tradition.
I understand that there is some debate about whether or not your divestment bill was adopted “in haste.” Not having been there, I cannot comment on your process, though I am deeply impressed by the careful research that went into the decision. I also know that in 2005 an extraordinarily broad range of Palestinian civil society groups called on activists around the world to adopt precisely these kinds of peaceful pressure tactics. In the years since that call, we have all watched as Israeli abuses have escalated dramatically: the attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006, a massive expansion of illegal settlements and walls, an ongoing siege on Gaza that violates all prohibitions on collective punishment, and, worst of all, the 2008/9 attack on Gaza that left approximately 1,400 dead.
I would humbly suggest that when it comes to acting to end Israeli war crimes, the international response has not suffered from too much haste but from far too little. This is a moment of great urgency, and the world is watching.
Yours sincerely, Naomi Klein
Singling out Israel is the right thing to do
By Yaman Salahi
Thursday April 08, 2010
Two weeks ago, UC Berkeley‘s student senate made a historic 16-4 decision to divest from General Electric and United Technologies, two American companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. A week later, the student body president vetoed the bill, citing its “focus on a specific country,” Israel. His veto echoed identical claims by Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, that “in a world filled with human rights abuses across Africa, Asia and the Americas, the UC Berkeley students vote to single out Israel for censure is hypocritical.”
As the international movement calling for Palestinian freedom and urging boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel grows, this particular defense will likely become more pronounced. Thus, it merits a response so that its troubling implications for people who organize for justice and human rights can be cast aside once and for all. So: what does it mean to “single out Israel,” and is it really “hypocritical” to do so?
Under one meaning, it is unclear how anyone could ever do, say, or think anything pertaining to Israel without necessarily “singling out” Israel. Anytime one talks about Israel one must, by definition, “single out” Israel — whether cognitively or linguistically. In that sense, “singling out” means focusing in some way on its actions. For example, for decades the US Congress “singled out” Israel to receive the largest share of the United States’ foreign aid budget, amounting over the past half-century to more than all aid to sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean combined. 
Under another meaning, the critic might be claiming that divestment “singles out” Israel unfairly. In order to assess that claim, one must look at the merits of criticisms toward Israeli policy to see if they are fair. What are these criticisms? Namely, that Israel repeatedly engages in gross violations of human rights and international law. The evidence for such claims comes from sources as numerous, varied, and reputable as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee on the Red Cross, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, B’Tselem, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, the Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the United Nations Commissioner on Human Rights, Reporters Without Borders, the European Union, and finally, the United Nations General Assembly. In the face of such evidence, any claim that there is no basis on which to fairly “single out” Israel requires a remarkable amount of self-delusion or deliberate ignorance.
Under a third meaning, the critic could be saying that “singling out” Israel for criticism is unfair because while Israel is under scrutiny, other human rights violators are off the hook. But is it really true that those who report on Israel never hold other violators to task for their actions? In addition to extensive documentation of Israeli human rights abuses, every single organization above, without exception, has also documented and investigated claims about other parties. Some even have reports about nearly every country in the world. These organizations are not above criticism or scrutiny, but they also do not have reputations for dishonesty. While these organizations are routinely cited when discussing human rights violations in Darfur, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Burma, Russia, and China, just to name a few – it is only their criticism of Israel that is deemed “unfair,” “biased,” or “one-sided.” Who, then, is “singling out” Israel, and why?
There are certainly anti-Semites who criticize Israel because they are racist, but these marginal people simply do not characterize those organizations mentioned above, the Palestinian people, or those of us in the international movement to boycott Israel for its long-standing human rights abuses. Indeed, refusing to address fair claims because of the occasional unfair accuser removes the anti-Semites from the margins and sacrifices the entire system of rights and the majority who support it at their altar.
Under a final meaning, the critic could be claiming that “singling out” Israel for divestment is unfair, because divestment does not target every other country that also violates human rights. This argument is disingenuous. On its face, it appears to advocate for greater action on more human rights issues. In practice, however, it is deployed in order to silence those who would call for greater action in the face of Israeli war crimes and other violations of Palestinian rights under international law. Indeed, many of those who argue that divestment “singles out” Israel have no similar reservations when applying economic and political pressure to other countries and conflicts, such as Darfur.
As Naomi Klein has written, divestment is not a dogma: it’s a tactic. Up against powerful state and corporate actors, civil society must focus its energies for collective actions such as boycott or divestment to succeed. Such was the case when companies that enabled the South African apartheid regime were targeted for divestment. A similar campaign succeeded regarding Darfur, and today another campaign is underway against Sri Lanka for its continuing oppression of the Tamil people. In all three cases those nations were or are singled out for divestment while at the same time other injustices loomed in the world. To do so made tactical sense while re-inforcing the principle that companies are legitimate targets for boycott and divestment wherever they are integral actors in a system of oppression. When all other measures fail, consumers and investors have one last recourse: to chose to spend and invest their money elsewhere. For many around the world, this is the best way to intervene against Israel’s systematized racism and oppression of the Palestinian people.
Those who believe that confronting Israel is unfair are themselves relying on an unacceptable double standard, “singling out” Israel, so to speak, as the one country expressly permitted to wantonly attack and persecute its minority citizens and subjects while the rest of the world passively watches. However, there can be only one universal standard of human rights. Privileging one state or actor over all others to remove it from accountability creates double standards that undermine the integrity of social justice activism all over the world. No one who chooses to engage in war crimes, colonization or human rights violations should expect the complicity of people around the world. Today, more than ever, is the time to single out Israel for criticism and boycott – not because it is the only purveyor of injustice in the world, or even necessarily the worst – but because no other international institution has succeeded in stopping the injustices against the Palestinians that continue to unfold before our eyes and in the full light of history.
”In fact, from 1949 through 1997, the total of U.S. aid to all of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean combined was $64,127,500,000-considerably less than the $71,077,600,000 Israel received in the same 1949 through 1997 time period. According to the Population Reference Bureau of Washington, DC, in mid-1999 the sub-Saharan and Latin American and Caribbean countries have a combined population of 1.142 billion people, while Israel’s mid-1999 population is 6.1 million people.” Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
Yaman Salahi, a UC Berkeley alumnus and member of Students for Justice in Palestine, is currently a student at Yale Law School.
Israel Divestment Assaults Democracy By: Reut Cohen
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, March 06, 2009
In the struggle to defeat Israel, those who support terror as a weapon against Israelis certainly have no difficulty in distorting the truth, even it is in the form of a divestment petition on a university campus. The purpose of boycott and divestment campaigns is not only to hurt Israel’s economy but to cast her as a pariah state. These campaigns are sponsored by anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups in the United States and around the world.
The Arab boycott of Jewish interests began in 1921, more than 27 years prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948. The boycott remains in effect today under the sponsorship of the Arab League and its Central Boycott Office in Damascus, Syria. Divestment and boycott efforts not only include products produced in Israel, but also companies that do business in or with Israel. Ships that have docked in Israeli ports regardless of the cargo’s point of origin or ultimate destination have also been blacklisted.
Congress passed a law creating the Office of Antiboycott Compliance within the Department of Commerce in 1977. This law disallows U.S. firms from partaking in actions in support of unsanctioned foreign boycotts against a country that is an ally to the United States. Because Israel is an ally of the United States and the government does not sanction the Arab boycott of Israel, the law prohibits actions that further or support the Arab League boycott of Israel. US legislation forbids participation in such boycotts in order to prevent private citizens from potentially generating a de-facto foreign policy.
These divestment campaigns have gained momentum since 2000, mostly on college campuses where movements have become more like street theater, but also in cities and towns, churches, businesses and non-profit organizations. These campaigns, moreover, were initially inspired by the Palestinian Authority, which is part of the official Arab League boycott of Israel.
Despite the best efforts of antisemitic and anti-Israel activists, including some gains among church groups, the divestment campaign’s main negative impact has been on Israel’s image. A divestment movement at Harvard University drew censure from Lawrence Summers, then the university president. Summers called the efforts to single out Israel for divestment as anti-Semitic “in their effect, if not their intent. In May 2008, the United Methodist Church rejected five petitions calling for divestment from companies which support or profit from Israel.”
Nonetheless, these divestment campaigns must be condemned as they perpetuate lies about Israel, including the lie introduced by the UN which asserts that “Zionism equals racism.” Zionism is a term coined in 1896 to describe an international philosophy maintaining that Jews should have a single national homeland in the Middle East where they would not have to worry about discrimination, pogroms, or other persecutions, but be able to live peacefully.
Today 22 countries are officially Muslim and 48 countries-and growing-maintain Muslim majority populations. Yet condemnation of Zionism is ridiculous when one recognizes that Zionism has created a country which is tolerant of all individuals and minorities, including Muslims. Arab Christian and Muslims today serve within the Israeli government and enjoy a higher standard of living than any other country in the Middle East. The few remaining Jews in Islamic countries live in fear of persecution, spurring them to leave their native lands if possible; only last week some Jews from the ancient Jewish community in Yemen had to flee from murderous al Qaeda-inspired attacks.
Israel accepted the notion of a Palestinian state back in 1948 when even the Arabs did not wish for it. In recent decades, Israel uprooted Jewish settlements and gave land to Egypt and Jordan in return for peace treaties. Under the Oslo Accords, Israel granted Palestinian autonomy and received non-stop terror in return. Furthermore, unlike Arab governments which have used Palestinians as scapegoats, Israel absorbed indigenous Jewish populations of the Middle East who today amount to more than half of the Israeli population.
The real reason for the lack of peace has everything to do with Arab Nationalism and Islamic radicalism. It has nothing to do with bogus charges of human rights violations against the Jewish state where the rights of all citizens, regardless of nationality or religion, are protected.
From March 1st to the 8th universities, both in the United States and the United Kingdom, will be pushing anti-Israel divestment campaigns on their campuses. These divestment campaigns will perpetuate lies about the state of Israel, painting the Jewish state as racist and a colonial usurper, all this despite the fact it’s no larger than the state of New Jersey and its territory doesn’t even amount to one percent of the Middle East.
Students are preparing to address the hypocrisy of Israel divestment campaigns. Utilizing resources from organizations like the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s campus division, i-Act, students on college campuses will have the ability to print flyers and coordinate events which point to how silly divestment campaigns are as they certainly don’t stop citizens of the Arab world from using technology developed in Israel.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, explained the motivations of Israel divestment and boycott campaigns. “The real goal of the boycotts, calls for divestment and sanctions is to cast Israel as the 21st Century version of the hated regime of Apartheid South Africa,” Cooper stated. “Israel is far from perfect but doesn’t deserve the vicious double standard applied to the Jewish state and her alone,” he stressed.
A flyer that defends Israel, which is available here for downloading and printing, points out that Israel is a leader in innovation that we all take for granted. Rabbi Aron Hier, the Director of campus Outreach, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about the campaign and how to get involved.
Other informative brochures, from groups like StandWithUs, demonstrate freedom and tolerance in Israel, comparing Israel to neighboring Arab nations in which shocking human rights violations occur without much international condemnation. Brochures and materials for students are available here and are designed to help students combat anti-Israel campaigns.
Divestment is an assault on democracy, the free market economy and US laws which protect our allies like the State of Israel-which also happens to be the only democracy in the entire Middle East.
April 10, 2010
On the Web at:
Dear Student Leaders at the University of California – Berkeley
It was with great joy that I learned of your recent 16-4 vote in support of divesting your university’s money from companies that enable and profit from the injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian human rights. Principled stands like this, supported by a fast growing number of US civil society organizations and people of conscience, including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the making, and it is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak truth to power.
I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, you are doing the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights, and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity of their fellow human beings.
I have been to the Ocupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid government.
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.
Students played a leading role in that struggle, and I write this letter with a special indebtedness to your school, Berkeley, for its pioneering role in advocating equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid. I visited your campus in the 1980’s and was touched to find students sitting out in the baking sunshine to demonstrate for the University’s disvestment in companies supporting the South African regime.
The same issue of equality is what motivates the divestment movement of today, which tries to end Israel’s 43 year long occupation and the unequal treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. The abuses they face are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally consistent, non-violent acts to oppose them. It is no more wrong to call out Israel in particular for its abuses than it was to call out the Apartheid regime in particular for its abuses.
To those who wrongly accuse you of unfairness or harm done to them by this call for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and dignity. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin or any other identity attribute. You, students, are helping to pave that path to a just peace.
I heartily endorse your divestment vote and encourage you to stand firm on the side of what is right,
God bless you richly,
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.
Selective Divestment from Companies that Profit from Human Rights Violations in Israel and Palestine:
A Campaign to End Apartheid and Promote Peace
In September of 1986, Georgetown students united to call for an end to our university’s ties to apartheid South Africa, initiating a campaign that led the university to divest from corporations tied to South Africa’s military and government. In April of 2008, Georgetown students successfully convinced the Board of Trustees to divest from companies that supported the Sudanese government in carrying out human rights abuses. On April 13, 2010, Georgetown students will unveil a campaign to encourage our university to divest from companies in Israel and the Occupied Territories that violate human rights and support apartheid.
With the decisions of the Presbyterian Church the Academic Union of Teachers in the United Kingdom, the Norwegian government, the Board of Trustees at Hampshire College, and many other organizations to pursue divestment from companies that violate international law and violate human rights in Israel and Palestine, a growing international movement is building to pressure Israel to reform its policies and end its illegal occupation of the Palestinian Territories. Georgetown Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) seeks to make Georgetown a relevant player in this grassroots movement for change. SJP encourages the Board of Trustees to acknowledge Georgetown’s commitment to social justice and human rights.
Coalition member Jackson Perry will formally present the case for pursuing selective divestment in the Israeli-Palestinian context. The event will also include a panel comprised of Father Raymond Kemp (Campus Ministry), Professor Mark Lance (Program on Justice and Peace), and Shelley Fudge (Jewish Voices for Peace). Join us as we launch this historic campaign at Georgetown to end apartheid and bring peace to Israel and Palestine!
Access » This event has been marked as open to the public.
Sponsors: Students for Justice in Palestine
For more information, see http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=107633695937918&ref=ts
Calendar Students for Justice in Palestine Events.
This calendar is maintained by a student group.
Brown University movement for divestment against the Israeli occupation of Palestine —
“Student group speaks out against profiting from Israel-Palestine conflict”
By Crys Guerra and Anne Artley
BROWN DAILY HERALD, AT:
Published: Friday, March 5, 2010
With the hope of building a campus-wide movement, Brown Students for Justice in Palestine held their spring kick-off event, Education without Occupation, on Wednesday, presenting their campaign for divestment from companies profiting from what the group called the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The presentation, an hourlong slideshow, focused on the terms and the reasons used to frame their position. As a part of a weeklong series, this event is in coordination with the 6th annual International Israeli Apartheid Week.
The members began by introducing themselves and their reasons for responding to Palestine’s call. Six of the members present – Dia Barghouti ’12, Janine Khraishah ’12, Francesca Contreras ’11, Rosi Greenberg ’10, Gavriel Cutipa-Zorn ’12 and Ghada Abdelqader GS – have all either lived or spent time in Israel or Palestine. They shared a common story of their personal experience viewing and in some cases living through the injustice as driving their support for the campaign.
“I witnessed the occupation firsthand and its progress,” said Khraishah, who said she supports the campaign because it addresses “the root of the problem: occupation of Palestine by the state of Israel.”
Though faith is sometimes perceived as dividing individuals on the issue, some members said their Jewish faith was the reason they took action.
“I realized that Israeli actions were not in line with my Jewish values,” Cutipa-Zorn said.
Identity, however, is not the only reason for the members’ solidarity with the movement against Israeli occupation of Palestine. Ruhan Nagra ’10, stated that “this isn’t about identity, its about fundamental human rights.”
The other group members present – Alysha Aziz ’12, Lindsay Goss GS, Michael Dawkins ’12, Osman Chaudhry ’11 and Herald Opinions Columnist Simon Liebling ’12 – referred to their support as a responsibility, stating their complicity in the issue as taxpayers through U.S. investment in companies profiting from the occupation.
The group’s campaign on divestment from Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is in solidarity with the 2005 call by “Palestinian civil society” as stated on the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Web site.
“We are basically focusing on initiatives that are specific and relevant to our complicity in Israeli’s human rights violations as Brown students,” Nagra said.
The group called for Brown to divest from “companies that provide products or services that: contribute to the maintenance of the Israeli military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem; that contribute to the maintenance, expansion and operations of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories; that contribute to the maintenance and construction of the Separation Wall; and that contribute to violent acts against Palestinian and Israeli civilians.”
The group compared the Separation Wall, which is often justified as necessary for security purposes, to South Africa’s Group Areas Act which reserved 87 percent of the land for the minority white population.
When questioned about the possibility of opposition to the demands, Nagra said the group’s “entire campaign is centered around basic human rights and international law.” She said she believes that “Brown students would want to uphold those values.”
Among the many American companies listed as facilitating Israeli occupation, according to the group, are General Electric, Caterpillar, Motorola and Raytheon, a major arms contractor for Israel which has also recruited on campus.
Emphasizing Brown’s divestment campaign from South Africa in 1985, the group noted the parallels between the two movements.
“There is no greater testament to the basic dignity of ordinary people everywhere than the divestment movement of the 1980s,” the students said, quoting South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. “These tactics are not the only parallels to the struggle against apartheid. Yesterday’s South African township dwellers can tell you about life in the Occupied Territories.”
Special attention was also paid to the use of the term “apartheid” to describe the situation in occupied Palestinian territories.
The group uses the 1973 United Nations definition of apartheid as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them,” according to their presentation.
Apartheid’s ultimate significance, Nagra said, is “a practice, not an experience. It’s a crime against humanity whose scope goes beyond South Africa.”
The group said divestment from companies profiting off Israel’s occupation of Palestinianterritories is their action of choice toward peace between Palestine and Israel.
“It is nonviolent, grassroots and effective,” Chaudry said.
The question-and-answer period prompted questions about the group’s evidence of Brown’s investment in the companies mentioned.
“We don’t know what Brown is invested in, but we can establish a criterion for investment,” Nagra said.
A question was also raised concerning Israel’s “right to exist” in light of the injustices presented during the event.
“That is not a productive question,” Greenberg said. “This is not an idea of how Israel (and) Palestine should be. It is not for us to decide. We are focusing on how we are complicit.”
The group said they plan to focus on “mobilizing the student body to approach the administration full force” and on creating a sustainable movement committed to the campaign, which according to them could take two to five years to succeed. This week’s events, so far, have given them hope.
“We have been tabling on the Main Green and already we’ve collected hundreds of signatures,” said Nagra. “The support has been incredible.”
The rest of the week’s events include Activestills, a photo exhibit, and a talk by Susanne Hoder on “Multinational Corporations and Israeli Apartheid.”
Vancouver demonstration for boycott against Israeli Apartheid
Ending MEC’s support for Israel’s war machine:
Global Day of Action for Boycott Divestment Sanctions against Israeli Apartheid targets Mountain Equipment Co-op
April 10, 2010
Haaretz Sunday, April 11, 2010
Last update – 07:51 11/04/2010
IDF order will enable mass deportation from West Bank
By Amira Hass
Tags: West Bank, IDF, Israel news
A new military order aimed at preventing infiltration will come into force this week, enabling the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank, or their indictment on charges carrying prison terms of up to seven years.
When the order comes into effect, tens of thousands of Palestinians will automatically become criminal offenders liable to be severely punished.
Given the security authorities’ actions over the past decade, the first Palestinians likely to be targeted under the new rules will be those whose ID cards bear home addresses in the Gaza Strip – people born in Gaza and their West Bank-born children – or those born in the West Bank or abroad who for various reasons lost their residency status. Also likely to be targeted are foreign-born spouses of Palestinians.
Until now, Israeli civil courts have occasionally prevented the expulsion of these three groups from the West Bank. The new order, however, puts them under the sole jurisdiction of Israeli military courts.
The new order defines anyone who enters the West Bank illegally as an infiltrator, as well as “a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit.” The order takes the original 1969 definition of infiltrator to the extreme, as the term originally applied only to those illegally staying in Israel after having passed through countries then classified as enemy states – Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.
The order’s language is both general and ambiguous, stipulating that the term infiltrator will also be applied to Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, citizens of countries with which Israel has friendly ties (such as the United States) and Israeli citizens, whether Arab or Jewish. All this depends on the judgment of Israel Defense Forces commanders in the field.
The new guidelines are expected to clamp down on protests in the West Bank.
The Hamoked Center for the Defense of the Individual was the first Israeli human rights to issue warnings against the order, signed six months ago by then-commander of IDF forces in Judea and Samaria Area Gadi Shamni.
Two weeks ago, Hamoked director Dalia Kerstein sent GOC Central Command Avi Mizrahi a request to delay the order, given “the dramatic change it causes in relation to the human rights of a tremendous number of people.”
According to the provisions, “a person is presumed to be an infiltrator if he is present in the area without a document or permit which attest to his lawful presence in the area without reasonable justification.” Such documentation, it says, must be “issued by the commander of IDF forces in the Judea and Samaria area or someone acting on his behalf.”
The instructions, however, are unclear over whether the permits referred to are those currently in force, or also refer to new permits that military commanders might issue in the future. The provision are also unclear about the status of bearers of West Bank residency cards, and disregards the existence of the Palestinian Authority and the agreements Israel signed with it and the PLO.
The order stipulates that if a commander discovers that an infiltrator has recently entered a given area, he “may order his deportation before 72 hours elapse from the time he is served the written deportation order, provided the infiltrator is deported to the country or area from whence he infiltrated.”
The order also allows for criminal proceedings against suspected infiltrators that could produce sentences of up to seven years. Individuals able to prove that they entered the West Bank legally but without permission to remain there will also be tried, on charges carrying a maximum sentence of three years. (According to current Israeli law, illegal residents typically receive one-year sentences.)
The new provision also allow the IDF commander in the area to require that the infiltrator pay for the cost of his own detention, custody and expulsion, up to a total of NIS 7,500.
Currently, Palestinians need special permits to enter areas near the separation fence, even if their homes are there, and Palestinians have long been barred from the Jordan Valley without special authorization. Until 2009, East Jerusalemites needed permission to enter Area A, territory under full PA control.
The fear that Palestinians with Gaza addresses will be the first to be targeted by this order is based on measures that Israel has taken in recent years to curtail their right to live, work, study or even visit the West Bank. These measures violated the Oslo Accords.
According to a decision by the West Bank commander that was not backed by military legislation, since 2007, Palestinians with Gaza addresses must request a permit to stay in the West Bank. Since 2000, they have been defined as illegal sojourners if they have Gaza addresses, as if they were citizens of a foreign state. Many of them have been deported to Gaza, including those born in the West Bank.
One group expected to be particularly harmed by the new rules are Palestinians who moved to the West Bank under family reunification provisions, which Israel stopped granting for several years.
In 2007, amid a number of Hamoked petitions and as a goodwill gesture to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, tens of thousands of people received Palestinian residency cards. The PA distributed the cards, but Israel had exclusive control over who could receive them. Thousands of Palestinians, however, remained classified as “illegal sojourners,” including many who are not citizens of any other country.
The new order is the latest step by the Israeli government in recent years to require permits that limit the freedom of movement and residency previously conferred by Palestinian ID cards. The new regulations are particularly sweeping, allowing for criminal measures and the mass expulsion of people from their homes.
The IDF Spokesman’s Office said in response, “The amendments to the order on preventing infiltration, signed by GOC Central Command, were issued as part of a series of manifests, orders and appointments in Judea and Samaria, in Hebrew and Arabic as required, and will be posted in the offices of the Civil Administration and military courts’ defense attorneys in Judea and Samaria. The IDF is ready to implement the order, which is not intended to apply to Israelis, but to illegal sojourners in Judea and Samaria.” :
Archbishop Desmond Tutu to UC Berkeley: Divesting is the Right Thing To Do
Sent from Emily Schaeffer, human right lawyer in Israel/Palestine, who asked
Archbishop Tutu to write the letter.
Dear Student Leaders at the University of California – Berkeley
It was with great joy that I learned of your recent 16-4 vote in support of
divesting your university’s money from companies that enable and profit from the
injustice of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and violation of
Palestinian human rights. Principled stands like this, supported by a fast
growing number of US civil society organizations and people of conscience,
including prominent Jewish groups, are essential for a better world in the
making, and it is always an inspiration when young people lead the way and speak
truth to power.
I am writing to tell you that, despite what detractors may allege, you are doing
the right thing. You are doing the moral thing. You are doing that which is
incumbent on you as humans who believe that all people have dignity and rights,
and that all those being denied their dignity and rights deserve the solidarity
of their fellow human beings.
I have been to the Ocupied Palestinian Territory, and I have witnessed the
racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions
we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have
witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait
hours at Israeli military checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most
basic of trips to visit relatives or attend school or college, and this
humiliation is familiar to me and the many black South Africans who were
corralled and regularly insulted by the security forces of the Apartheid
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our freedom and just peace without
the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means,
such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other
corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the Apartheid regime.
Students played a leading role in that struggle, and I write this letter with a
special indebtedness to your school, Berkeley, for its pioneering role in
advocating equality in South Africa and promoting corporate ethical and social
responsibility to end complicity in Apartheid.I visited your campus in the
1980’s and was touched to find students sitting out in the baking sunshine to
demonstrate for the University’s disvestment in companies supporting the South
The same issue of equality is what motivates the divestment movement of today,
which tries to end Israel’s 43 year long occupation and the unequal treatment of
the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. The abuses
they face are real, and no person should be offended by principled, morally
consistent, non-violent acts to oppose them. It is no more wrong to call out
Israel in particular for its abuses than it was to call out the Apartheid regime
in particular for its abuses.
To those who wrongly accuse you of unfairness or harm done to them by this call
for divestment, I suggest, with humility, that the harm suffered from being
confronted with opinions that challenge one’s own pales in comparison to the
harm done by living a life under occupation and daily denial of basic rights and
dignity. It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but
with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and
Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the
resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one
people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and
retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment
to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender,
national origin or any other identity attribute. You, students, are helping to
pave that path to a just peace. I heartily endorse your divestment vote and
encourage you to stand firm on the side of what is right,
God bless you richly,
Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town.