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.
The British-born director of Sydney’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies is being threatened with a prosecution for racial discrimination. His offence was to have refused to sponsor an application for a fellowship from an Israeli academic at the Hebrew University. As a supporter of BDS he did not believe there should be support for an institution that was implicated in the occupation. The complaint has been made by a strange Israeli law centre and taken up as an instance of antisemitism by The Australian, amongst others who like life to be simple.
Film director Ken Loach is a veteran of film-making and of radical politics. Here he talks about his last film, Jimmy’s Hall, why we all have to engage in politics, why he must stand up for Palestinians and why boycott works (because Israel presents itself as a cultural beacon). His reference to Northern Ireland takes Notes and Links on an interesting detour.
The success of the BDS movement in persuading a wide range of people not to work in Israel prompted the 2011 formation of Creative Community for Peace. CCfP are a group of wealthy executives who have allied with StandWithUs (for tax purposes) to ensure the stars they manage will accept lucrative gigs in Tel Aviv and not to be put off by the argument they are endorsing an apartheid or colonial system. The stars believe they can overcome reality with their charisma of love and peace.
Are intellectual products different from other products exchanged in the international market? Should national academic associations, such as the AAUP, take a position on which countries should be subject to boycott and on what criteria? Which is more likely to persuade Israelis to end the occupation – reading intellectuals’ arguments, or being immured in their desert fortress? The US Journal of Academic Freedom devotes an issue to these questions, plus notice of the Beyond the Stalemate conference, London October 13th.
In a tense article, David Rosenberg takes a few pops at Roger Waters (Pink Floyd) and other cultural boycotters in order to state why it’s the decision by Dutch engineering firm Royal HaskoningDHV to withdraw from a waste water contract in E. Jerusalem that matters. This is Dutch government policy – as it should be the policy of all EU governments following the EC guidelines.
A highly litigious and belligerent French zionist, in his role as president of a bureau against antisemitism, has lost another case he initiated against BDS campaigners in France. With the backing of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Sammy Ghozlan sees all such campaigns, indeed any criticism of Israel, as evidence of antisemitism and racial hatred. So far, French judges have not shared his view though he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur.
Political, consumer and now EU opposition to Israel’s control and exploitation of Palestinian land are having effects. Here Bloomberg reporters look at what those effects may be. Although Ahava, long a target of a BDS campaign, moved its HQ into Israel proper before the guidelines in an attempt to procure a proper Israeli address, its works are still in an illegal settlement on the Dead Sea. And it wants an EU grant.
Every year a jazz festival is organised at the tourist resort of Eilat on the Red Sea. It boasts sponsorship by the Israeli ministries of culture and tourism although searches on those websites return ‘No results found.’ The likelihood of this being a sophisticated, international venue seems shaky (Africans are usually termed ‘infiltrators’). A plea to boycott it has been made by Israeli citizens for boycott and there is a Causes petition to sign.
The University of California has appointed the first Muslim to be a student regent (the 26 regents are the governing body). Sadia Saifuddin, who enjoys a high reputation for engagement and openness, is a supporter of divesting the university’s funds from any company connected with the Israeli military. This was the reason given for opposing her appointment by several Jewish bodies including, predictably, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and David Horowitz. Simone Zimmerman is shocked at the hateful propaganda.
The Shuni Amphitheater, Binyamina, Israel was just one stop in the international tour for ageing rock star Eric Burdon of the Animals. Now he has cancelled it following either threats or pressure depending on what you read. As Israel is good at, if nothing else, security, it is unlikely his management feared his life would be in danger in Binyamina, where the Roman amphitheatre has been restored by the Jewish National Fund.
Despite attempts to brand Israel as the progressive, liberal youthful start-up nation, no brand-maker can blot out the more powerful image of Israel’s primary identity – retrograde military occupation. Nor, writes Daniella Peled, can the IDF quell or dispel the symbolic allure of the non-violent, civilian campaigns like those for boycott and divestment.
Establishment Jewish bodies say the movement for BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) is puny and ineffectual. So why is one of the most right-wing and powerful of all putting all its might into a campaign to convince young American Jews to desist as BDS ‘delegitimises’ Israel? Do they believe something they’re not telling us? UPDATE Netanyahu and ‘Jewish millionaires’ join in.
From the few reports available the Palestinian BDS conference held at Bethlehem university on June 8th was a packed and lively affair. It had successes to celebrate (Veolia, G4S), arguments to press – controversially, against ‘normalisation’ and dropping the term ‘occupation’ in favour of ‘apartheid’ – and strategic decisions to be made. How far BDS can be made THE national resistance campaign of Palestinians is also on the table.
Two companion articles in Mondoweiss raise properly disturbing questions about Jews who engage in solidarity work for Palestinian causes. Heike Schotten asks if it’s really a way for Jews to manage their connection with zionism, thus accepting the dominance of zionism in Jewish discourse. Sandra Tamari asks Jews to hold back, recognise that this struggle must be led by Palestinians and Jews would help by opening up spaces for Palestinians to do this.
We Believe in Israel, spawned from BICOM to counter the growing disaffection with Israeli policy in the UK is run by Labour Councillor Luke Akehurst. He is particularly exercised by the BDS movement and has been active in trying to get local councils, which decide on contracts, to resist campaigns such as Dump Veolia. Here, Councillor Grahame, JfJfP signatory, crisply tells him why she is no longer a believer.
BDS is a two-target tactic – aiding Palestinian self-determination and engaging supporters in their campaign. Liberal Zionist opponents have found many reasons to justify their stance, from ‘it will lead to the extermination of Israel’ to the Palestinian right of return is totally unacceptable..
Rachel Shabi takes George Galloway to task for his refusal to debate with an Israeli student although he was not a representative of the Israeli state. Nor should he dress up his refusal as being in accord with the principles of the Palestinian BDS movement whose national committee has issued a statement saying its approach is based on universal human rights and not boycotting individual Israelis. Joan Smith is not impressed either.
As we posted last week it seems impossible to have a ‘civil’ and rational discourse about Israel in the USA. Apart from saying supporters of the peaceful anti-Occupation campaign for BDS are trying to ‘delegitimise’ or annihilate Israel, the vociferous pro-Israeli faction present their opponents as an extremist loony fringe. Well, they must take their comfort where they can.