BDS takes hold, opponents try to dislodge with smears and inventions
This statement was issued at the third national BDS meeting in Italy, held January 21 and 22 in Bologna, Italy
By Stephanie Westbrook, Mondoweiss/ BDS ITALIA
Over the weekend of January 21-22, the third national meeting of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel was held in Bologna, Italy. Roughly 80 activists from over 20 Italian cities representing groups, associations and political parties throughout Italy participated. The scope of the meeting was to evaluate the progress of ongoing campaigns, establish strategic objectives and shared work methods, exchange information between the various Italian groups working on BDS and reassess organizational aspects of the BDS movement in Italy.
The atmosphere of the two-day meeting was one of enthusiasm and collaboration, where information and practices were shared and future strategies and objectives of the movement were outlined. The four most prevalent national campaigns, Stop Agrexco, Stop Sodastream, Stop That Train and academic and cultural boycotts, were examined. For each campaign, material, strategies, legal implications and a specific action plan were identified. It was decided to temporarily suspend the campaign against Agrexco pending clarification on the future of the company, which was ordered into liquidation in 2011. In the months ahead, work will be carried out nationally on the three remaining campaigns, for which a clear action plan was detailed, to be launched in parallel on both the local and national level.
A fourth workshop sought to identify new campaigns to be developed in the coming months, based on work already being carried out by local groups. Three potential areas in which to concentrate efforts were selected, with three respective working groups tasked with furthering research and laying out a plan of action to be launched in September 2012:
– The arms industry and military research (weapons, technologies related to systems of repression and control and military agreements and training exercises);
– The Israeli pharmaceuticals industry, with specific reference to Teva, the world leader in generic drugs;
– Tourism and cultural propaganda used to promote the image of Israel, with particular reference to initiatives aimed at the LGBT community (pinkwashing) and schools (educational trips to Israel).
In addition, a series of events were identified in which the Italian BDS movement will be present in order to denounce Israeli violations of human rights and international law.
Sunday’s session was opened by Hind Awwad of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), who presented an assessment of BDS campaigns around the world, describing winning practices and strategies, and successes as well as weaknesses that have emerged. Hind Awwad underlined that identifying a limited number of strategic campaigns with clear and concrete objectives, developing a long-term action plan and the ability of each campaign to work within a broad base of partners and alliances were fundamental aspects of the victories to date. The Arab Spring and the proliferation of movements struggling for greater social justice and equality around the world (Occupy Wall Street in the US as well as similar Italian movements such as the NoTav and October 15) have made clear the need and opportunity to create new alliances, highlighting the ideals and principles that link the BDS movement with these struggles. In conclusion, the priorities of BNC for the coming year were presented to Italian activists: participation at the World Social Forum Free Palestine to be held next November in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and support and improvement of the network of collaboration among European activists. And congratulations were expressed for the progress on the Stop Sodastream campaign and the victories against Agrexco.
In the afternoon, solutions to enhance both internal and external communication as well as garner visibility at the local and national levels and attention from the media were identified. In particular, a new web site will be created for the Italian BDS movement, integrating information on the various campaigns and initiatives.
The meeting concluded with a commitment to further intensify the BDS movement in Italy, linking with movements in Europe and around the world. We call on all Italian activists and people who hold dear issues of justice and peace to join us in the struggle for civil, political and human rights of all the Palestinian people.
Bologna, January 27, 2012
The BDS movement
In 2005, Palestinian civil society, inspired by the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, adopted a unified proposal for international solidarity movements: determine ways to boycott Israeli goods, disinvest from commercial activities in Israel, place sanctions on the State of Israel and apply an academic and cultural boycott of Israelis who do not take a stand against the occupation and apartheid. All these requests were articulately formulated in the BDS campaign (www.bdsmovement.org). The BDS movement has already chalked up many successes (eg against Agrexco, Deutsche Bahn, Veolia, Alstom, Motorola) and has gained endorsements by organizations of civil society, academia and trade unions around the world, Israel included. The very same trade unions representing the Palestinian workers exploited as cheap labor in the Israeli settlements and plantations are among the promoters of the BDS campaign.
Websites with more information on ongoing campaigns in Italy:
Stop Agrexco – http://stopagrexcoitalia.org/
Stop That Train – http://stopthattrain.org/
Stop Sodastream – link to stopagrexcoitalia.org
Academic and Cultural Boycott – link to www.ism-italia.org
By Alex Kane, Mondoweiss
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is playing a leading role in the escalating debate over the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and this week’s pro-BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania. Over at the organization’s “Access ADL” blog, the ADL has begun to publish what they call are highlights from “five of the most anti-Israel individuals scheduled to speak at the conference.” But they completely miss the mark in their attack on Helena Cobban, and instead attribute a quote to Cobban that she says she never said and for which there is no evidence of.
Cobban, an expert on the Middle East who is speaking at the BDS conference, was attacked
‘Today we profile Helena Cobban, an anti-Israel writer, publisher and the former executive director of the Council for the National Interest, an organization that regularly sends delegations of its supporters to meet with Hamas and Hezbollah representatives in the Middle East.
‘Cobban consistently tries to portray Israel as the only guilty party in the conflict and has alleged that Israel’s military engages in “voluntary ethnic cleansing” of the Palestinians. In January 2009, shortly after the Gaza War ended, Cobban spoke at an event at Georgetown University where she harshly criticized Israel and Israelis, saying she can’t believe “how stupid Israelis are” and claimed that Israelis are “incapable of empathy and compassion for other people.” ‘
But the ADL provides no source or link for the claim that Cobban said that Israelis are “incapable of empathy and compassion for other people.” That’s because there isn’t one.
The alleged Cobban quote was also used in an anti-BDS press release by the right-wing Zionist organization Stand With Us that Ali Abunimah and I debunked.
When the Stand With Us press release was first published, I emailed Cobban for comment:
‘Throughout my 17-year career as a columnist for the Christian Science Monitor, pro-Israeli discourse-suppression groups made repeated attempts to smear my name with fabricated quotes and inaccurate claims. They always failed. I see that this organization ‘Stand With Us’ is now continuing that tradition. But they are as incapable of authenticating their current claim as any of their predecessors. My record of standing for the equal rights of all human persons, be they Palestinian or Israeli, and my opposition to all forms of violence, including the very harmful systemic violence embodied in the system of military rule that Israel’s government has maintained over the occupied territories for nearly 45 years now, speaks for itself.’
The use of a fabricated quote to discredit Cobban, and by extension the BDS conference she is speaking at, is part of a larger smear effort to derail the UPENN conference. As Ali Abunimah notes here, one professor called Omar Barghouti’s book on BDS the movement’s “version of Mein Kampf,” and compared BDS to the Nazi boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. The professor, Ruben Gur, also compared Jewish supporters of BDS to “Capos in the extermination camps” in an article he wrote for the campus paper.
Alex Kane is a staff reporter for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.
BDS is Nazism and Omar Barghouti is Hitler says UPenn professor in shocking smear
By Ali Abunimah, electronic intifada
Whenever you think that smears against the Palestinian solidarity movement cannot get more inflammatory or sickening, something new appears. In the latest shot against the upcoming boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) conference at the University of Pennsylvania next weekend, the movement is being openly compared to Nazism by a University of Pennsylvania professor.
I have written to University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann asking her to speak out against these smears and noting that I wish to quote her response in my conference speech.
Ruben Gur, a professor in the Departments of Psychiatry, Radiology & Neurology at UPenn, writes in The Daily Pennsylvanian:
“The purpose of BDS as presented seems similar to what was apparently stated intheir version of “Mein Kampf” (I am referring to Omar Barghouti’s book titled “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions”) and base my understanding of it on the article in the Harvard Crimson.
“Notably, true to Crimson’s standards the referenced piece by Mr. Don is written in a way that does not slander any of Penn’s esteemed faculty. By contrast, your Guests from BDS are allowed to introduce our esteemed colleague Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz as a ‘notorious Israel apologist’. And this passed your editorial review under the guise of an ‘Explanation’?
“The aim of the hateful and discriminatory BDS rhetoric is to delegitimize Israel in preparation for the ultimate goal of its destruction. A relevant precedent for such a movement is the groups organized by the Nazis in the 1930’s to boycott, divest and sanction Jews and their businesses. Sadly, now as then, there are Jews among the posse in the assault on their own people. The macabre sight of the likes of Stella Kübler, (arguably Hannah Arendt) and the Capos in the extermination camps is about to be replayed here at Penn.”
Gur is apparently a former Israeli soldier and served as an expert witness in the defense of Ramzi bin al Shibh, a Guantanamo detainee whom the US accuses of involvement in the 11 September 2001 attacks.
I understand that The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run newspaper, but even that is no excuse for such poor judgment in publishing such outrageous and sickening smears. Comparing Omar Barghouti to Hitler and Jews and others who support human rights for Palestinians to Jewish collaborators at Nazi extermination camps is sickening.
There is no place for this kind of rhetoric. It is not only deeply defamatory against its targets but I consider it a form of Holocaust denial. Comparing a student conference at UPenn to a Nazi death camp says effectively that Nazi death camps were nothing more harmful than a student conference.
Asking UPenn President Gutmann to speak out
University of Pennslyvania president Amy Gutmann wasn’t shy to express her disapproval of BDS. That’s her right. She also has a responsibility to speak out against this kind of hateful and inciteful rhetoric.
I wrote her the following email this morning:
“Dear President Gutmann,
I am scheduled to speak at the BDS conference at your university next weekend. I am aware that you have expressed your opposition to BDS. That of course is your right. However, since you have not refrained from commenting on matters of substance, I would like to ask you now to condemn in the strongest terms the inflammatory rhetoric by a University of Pennsylvania professor, Ruben Gur, comparing leading Palestinian human rights proponents to Hitler, Jewish speakers and students to extermination camp capos, and the movement in general to Nazism.
“You can read Professor Gur’s atrocious words in The Daily Pennsylvanian today.
“Do you believe that this kind of rhetoric has a place on your campus and are you comfortable with your students, faculty and guests being defamed in this manner?
“I look forward to your urgent response to which I would like to make reference in my keynote speech at the conference.
Submitted by moira ferguson (not verified) on Wed, 02/01/2012 – 16:27
thank you, ali, for speaking out about professor gur’s fascist comments. it is hard to imagine anyone referring to omar barghouti, a warrior for human rights if ever there were one, being compared to adolf hitler.
i know your speech at penn. will be as hugely informative, as subtly elegant, and as scintillatingly expressed as your speech last year at the university of london.
good, warm wishes,
Submitted by Oscar (not verified) on Wed, 02/01/2012 – 17:08
As an alumnus of Penn, I’m shocked that a professor who formerly served in the Israeli military would be permitted to spew hateful bigoted rhetoric on the pages of the DP. The editors should be ashamed to have published this histrionic, shrill, spittle-flying invective, which smears a student as a capo and diminishes the horror of the holocaust by cheaply using its horrific imagery to demonize a peaceful global movement.
Angrily comparing Barghouti to Hitler causes the reader to roll eyes and shake one’s head at the absurity of the screed. Even more absurd is that DP published this hasbara.
Submitted by Sherry Wolf (not verified) on Wed, 02/01/2012 – 17:16
As one of the speakers at this weekend’s conference who is Jewish and therefore deemed a Nazi collaborator by Professor Gur, I would like to echo Ali’s statements and simply add this.
I find it a fascinating extension of the denial of actual Holocaust history that Gur chooses to ignore the findings of Israeli courts in trials of Jewish collaborators with the Nazis — who were actually in cahoots with the World Zionist Organization. The most notorious case was that of Rudolph Kastner, a top official in the Israeli Labor Party, and the person in charge of the Rescue Committee in Hungary during the war, who actively collaborated with Nazi official Adolph Eichmann (the architect of the Holocaust) to get a approval for a “VIP train” of 1,685 Hungarian Jews to leave Hungary safely for Israel. In exchange for the safe passage of the train, Kastner agreed not to warn the tens of thousands of Jews of Hungary (whose rescue was in his hands) about Hitler’s plans for their extermination and not to take any action to protect them. Worse, he helped to deceive Hungarian Jews, convincing them that they were simply being relocated. Kastner had not acted alone, his plan for the VIP train had the support of the highest leaders of the Jewish Agency.
If Professor Gur would like to go head to head on such questions, he is welcome to present his case in person this weekend. I will happily obliterate him in any argument about Palestinian solidarity.
Submitted by Dorothy Naor (not verified) on Wed, 02/01/2012 – 20:30
I am a Jewish American-Israeli (I live in Israel) who wholly supports Omar Barghouti and BDS. I support bds not only because the occupation is inhumane to Palestinians but also because it is harmful to Jews, and because I support non-violent means of ending the occupation. BDS is a non-violent means of pressuring Israel’s governments to end the occupation and colonization of Palestine. Professor Gur by using ad hominem reveals his own character but does not convince. Had he had used reasoned arguments to oppose bds one might have agreed or disagreed. But ad hominem smears reveal that he has nothing of substance to say. Thus instead of reasoned argumentation, Professor Gur’s smears lead to the gutter. May he wallow in it in pleasure.
Submitted by Rev. Dr. F. Mark Mealing (not verified) on Wed, 02/01/2012 – 21:58
Shame on Professor Gur. I never expected to hear such obsessive virulence & paranoiac bigotry from someone qualified to teach at my Alma Mater of 40 years ago. Zionism & Judaism are not the same entity, any more than the Haridi best express the Divine Ruach; & Penn is not an extermination camp. To love Israel does not permit one to deny its failings, or how could they be amended? & he ignores the ongoing struggle of many Palestinians & Israelis to support each other together rather than as opponents. This is not the voice of Israel: it is merely the voice of one fearful, hateful & power-hungry party. Surely Israel is larger than that….
Rev. F. Mark Mealing, Ph.D. Penn. 1972
Submitted by Judith kazantzis (not verified) on Thu, 02/02/2012 – 19:00
I want to show my utter contempt for ex Israeli soldier Prof. Gur’s smear against Omar Barghouti and the worldwide BDs movement. How true the comment that it insults the memory of the millions killed by Hitler to compare a student conference to Nazism. This is not only delusional nonsense, but it bases itself on the worn notion that the Israeli politics of occupation and of feverish aggression towards anyone or any country who disagrees with that, most frighteningly shown towards Iran now, are held by Jews the world over. Israel knows perfectly well this is propaganda. Many Jews turn their back on Israel, and do not get involved, and many more, my husband among them, work to oppose the occupation through BDS and other means. I especially salute the brave Israeli Jews who oppose their country’s barbaric treatment of the Palestinians.