With Gaza war, movement to boycott Israel gains momentum in Europe

The New York Times reports: A branch of Sainsbury’s grocery store removed kosher products from its shelves, it said, to prevent anti-Israel demonstrations. The Tricycle Theater in north London, after hosting a Jewish film festival for eight years, demanded to vet the content of any film made with arts funding from the Israeli government. George Galloway, a member of Parliament known for his vehement criticism of Israel, declared Bradford, England, an “Israel-free zone.”

Mr. Galloway, in comments being investigated by the police, said, “We don’t want any Israeli goods; we don’t want any Israeli services; we don’t want any Israeli academics coming to the university or college; we don’t even want any Israeli tourists to come to Bradford.”

The war in Gaza and its aftermath have inflamed opinion in Europe and, experts and analysts say, are likely to increase support for the movement to boycott, disinvest from and sanction Israel, known as BDS.

“We entered this war in Gaza with the perception that the Israeli government is not interested in reaching peace with the Palestinians,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli analyst at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, a private university. “Now, after the casualties and the destruction, I’m very worried about the impact this could have on Israel. It could make it very easy for the BDS campaign to isolate Israel and call for more boycotts.”

Gilead Sher and Einav Yogev, in a paper for the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, warn that Gaza means Israel pays “a much heavier price in public opinion and in erosion of support for its positions in negotiations with the Palestinians.”

Along with reports of “familiar anti-Semitic attacks on Jews,” they said, “the movement to boycott Israel is expanding politically and among the public.”

Daniel Levy of the European Council on Foreign Relations points to the debate over halting arms exports to Israel, which has been given new momentum in Britain and Spain by the asymmetry of the Gaza war.

“You’re beginning to see the translation of public sympathy into something politically meaningful,” he said. He noted two tracks — the governmental one, which distinguishes between Israel and the occupied territories, and the social one of academic, commercial and artistic boycotts. [Continue reading...]

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People are blocking cargo ships to protest Israel

Vice News: The Israeli Zim Piraeus cargo ship arrived at the port in Oakland, California for its usual weekly offloading last Saturday—but it was unable to unload any of its cargo. The ship’s crew had to wait four days at sea before faking a departure and then sneaking back into a new terminal to evade hundreds of activists who had created a picket line the longshoremen’s union wouldn’t cross. Even when the ship finally left, many believe it still had most of its cargo.

The ship’s acrobatics were induced by a coalition of Palestine solidarity activists and organized labor, with activists originally intending to delay it for just a day as a way to send a message that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians should make it an international pariah.

The Zim Integrated Shipping Services is Israel’s largest shipping company, but its appeal as a target for the growing Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement goes beyond its mere financial value. With Israel’s ability to drop thousands of tons of explosives on the captivated and densely packed population of Gaza and then sail into international ports without consequence, Zim vessels embody Israel’s enduring impunity. [Continue reading...]

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#BDS: Protesters block Israeli-owned boat from unloading at Port of Oakland

KTVU reports: Dockworkers at the Port of Oakland honored a picket line this evening marking the second day in a row that an Israeli-owned commercial vessel was unable to unload cargo at the port, event organizers said.

For the second time this weekend, Bay Area protesters gathered at the Port of Oakland to stop a Zim Integrated Shipping Services vessel from docking and unloading in an act of protest against recent Israeli military action in Gaza.

The ship, identified as Piraeus by the online ship tracking service Marine Traffic, was moored at the Port of Oakland area as of 5:30 p.m. this evening, according to the website.

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Anti-Israel boycotts are spreading across Britain and they’re here to stay

BuzzFeed reports: “We’re not planning on stopping our actions, because the siege of Gaza still goes on,” Clare Essex, a spokeswoman for London Palestine Action (LPA), said. “People can’t have medicine. The one power plant in the city has been destroyed. More than ever, we need to keep pushing that into people’s consciousness.”

In the last few weeks, hundreds of thousands of people have been protesting in the streets of London, Manchester, and Edinburgh against the government’s stance on the conflict in Gaza. Alongside larger actions, there have been protests inside supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s, and shopkeepers have claimed to have faced intimidation on the high streets of Manchester.

But despite a short-term end to hostilities in Gaza, the campaign shows no signs of winding down. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s (PSC) chair, Hugh Lanning, said the organisation plans to build on the momentum it has gained. There will be another national day of action next Saturday, when activists will target high street stores that sell the products of SodaStream, a manufacturer of DIY carbonated-drink machines that has its headquarters in an Israeli settlement. [Continue reading...]

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#BDS: Boycott #Israeli products app gets 350,000 supporters

International Business Times: An app that allows users to search for a product linked to targeted companies or countries in order to boycott them has seen a significant surge in users signing up to anti-Israel campaigns.

Buycott catalogues brands and their affiliations and lets users set up campaigns to either help or avoid funding certain causes. By scanning a product’s barcode with their smartphone camera, consumers are able to determine which brands are associated with which campaigns.

The two most popular campaigns currently on Buycott are Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel and Avoid Israeli Settlement Products. Between them they have close to 350,000 supporters, over a quarter of which have joined in the last 12 hours (at time of publication).

Included on the list of companies implicated by the Long Live Palestine Boycott Israel campaign are McDonald’s, Intel, Nestle and Marks & Spencer. [Continue reading...]

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As the Gaza crisis deepens, boycotts can raise the price of Israel’s impunity

Rafeef Ziadah writes: After 21 days of bombing, Israel still refuses a comprehensive ceasefire that meets the minimal, unified demand of all Palestinians – to let people lead normal lives. This is not a war, let alone one of self-defence, but a punitive expedition aimed at maintaining the siege and illegal military occupation. Civilians, hospitals and residential blocks bear the brunt of the attack because the only “military” aim of onslaught is to cower Palestinians into complete submission.

In July 2004, the international court of justice ruled that Israel’s wall and the associated regime in the occupied West Bank of settlements, land confiscation, segregated roads and movement restrictions is illegal under international law, and that governments have a legal duty to act. However, 10 years on, the international community still averts its gaze, failing to lift a finger to hold Israel to account. EU foreign ministers, even after they heard news of the massacre of Shuja’iya, demanded the disarmament only of Gaza. Yet it is Israel’s hi-tech arsenal, funded by US aid, generous EU research grants and the flourishing multibillion arms trade, that rains down horror on civilians.

Lip-service aside, western governments support the siege of Gaza, the building of settlements and therefore Israel’s periodic massacres. The impunity granted to Israel is completely at odds with the democratic will of the people, as the current international outpouring of solidarity with Gaza shows.

If governments refuse to act, then the vast international support that Israel enjoys must be tackled by international grassroots civil society, using the methods that isolated South Africa during apartheid. [Continue reading...]

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Call for an international military embargo on Israel

Israel has once again unleashed the full force of its military against the captive Palestinian population, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip, in an inhumane and illegal act of military aggression. Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world. Over the period 2008-19, the US is set to provide military aid to Israel worth $30bn, while Israeli annual military exports to the world have reached billions of dollars.

In recent years, European countries have exported billions of euros’ worth of weapons to Israel, and the EU has furnished Israeli military companies with research grants worth hundreds of millions. Emerging economies such as India, Brazil and Chile are rapidly increasing their military trade and cooperation with Israel, despite their stated support for Palestinian rights. By importing and exporting arms to Israel and facilitating the development of Israeli military technology, governments are effectively sending a clear message of approval for Israel’s military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity.

Israel’s military technology is marketed as “field-tested” and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and systematic denial of Palestinian rights. We call on the UN and governments across the world to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel, similar to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid.

Adolfo Peres Esquivel Nobel Peace Laureate, Argentina, Archbishop Desmond Tutu Nobel Peace Laureate, South Africa, Betty Williams Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland, Jody Williams Nobel Peace Laureate, US, Mairead Maguire Nobel Peace Laureate, Ireland, Rigoberta Menchú Nobel Peace Laureate, Guatemala, and others.

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BDS: Pressuring Israel, Presbyterian church divests from firms tied to occupation of Palestinian land

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Methodists to sell shares as a protest over Israeli occupation

The New York Times reports: The pension board of the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, the United Methodist Church, has decided to divest its shares in a British company that supplies security equipment to Israel for use in prisons and in the occupied West Bank.

The move comes as Israel has been trying to fend off resolutions by academic institutions, businesses and church groups to divest from companies that do business with Israel.

The Methodist Church’s investment in the company, G4S, involves only about $110,000 worth of stock holdings, said David Wildman, executive secretary for human rights and racial justice for the church’s General Board of Global Ministries. But the action is intended to have a larger symbolic impact, adding to the pressure on Israel to stop building settlements and end the occupation. [Continue reading...]

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How J Street ended up supporting the occupation

Larry Derfner writes: What is J Street doing? Why is it acting in concert with right-wing Zionist organizations like AIPAC and StandWithUs in fighting against boycott, sanctions and divestment, while offering no alternative of its own for ending the occupation?

Because the truth is that J Street offers no alternative anymore; now that the Kerry talks have failed, and all the secretary of state has to show for them is a footprint on his pants seat courtesy of the Netanyahu government, America is through trying to make peace between Israel and the Palestinians. And everybody seems to acknowledge this except J Street. Which is not a surprise, because without America in the peace process, J Street’s reason for being is gone.

That’s tough; the organization is going to have to change or close shop. And I hope it does change successfully by finding a new way to advance the two-state solution. Moreover, I hope it finds a less antagonistic way than BDS to accomplish this. And if it does find such a way, I will join J Street in a minute, because as an Israeli I don’t particularly enjoy supporting the boycott of Israel – but I do it because I see no other way anymore to end the occupation and allow the two-state solution to come into being. And nobody else has come up with another way, either. So as far as anyone can see, it’s either BDS or occupation forever.

Yet J Street, by default, has thrown in on the side of occupation forever. With nothing left to offer except hollow pep talks about the peace process, it’s fighting BDS – together with the pro-Netanyahu, pro-occupation American Zionist right. [Continue reading..]

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After Kerry, only BDS may save the two-state solution

Larry Derfner writes: Now that the Kerry peace talks have failed and everyone has given up hoping that Netanyahu will change, what’s the new plan for ending the occupation one day? For liberal Zionists – people who want Israel to become a Jewish state that respects Arabs – it would seem to focus on Isaac Herzog, head of the Labor Party. Unlike fellow centrist party leaders Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, Herzog hasn’t been in a position of leadership long enough yet to fail or sell out, so he’s the one. The hope is that he can get elected in the coming years to head a coalition government of the center, left, maybe an ultra-Orthodox party, maybe even an Arab party for once, and do what prime ministers going back to Yitzhak Rabin 20 years ago tried but were unable to do – reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.

Putting their hopes on Herzog is a natural progression for liberal Zionists. After all, they can’t just throw in the towel and resign themselves to the occupation being permanent; it’s unthinkable, psychologically insupportable. Besides, who can tell the future? Herzog seems solid; he’s very smart, competent, likable, the son of a beloved army general and president – a consensus-type figure. And now that the Kerry initiative has failed, and even the timid Obama administration is blaming the Netanyahu government for it while exonerating the Palestinians (off the record), clearly the thing to do is replace the Netanyahu government. Then there will be a fighting chance for peace again (unless of course the Republicans get elected).

Here is my heartfelt, urgent advice: forget it. It’s a waste of time. Electoral politics in either Israel or America, as far as it concerns the peace process, is a waste of time – hopefully not forever, but certainly for now and for the next several years. And maybe forever. This is what liberal Zionists are going to have to face, or they’re going to continue wasting their time, which will make it that much more likely that the peace process will not just be dead for now, and not for the next several years, but indeed forever. [Continue reading...]

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A boycott can jolt Israelis from their somnolence on Palestine

Harriet Sherwood writes: The Rolling Stones have confirmed they will play a gig in Tel Aviv in June as part of their 14 On Fire tour. Inevitably, they are already under pressure to cancel their appearance in “apartheid Israel” by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement,a campaign that has had mixed success. The academic rock star Stephen Hawking and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters are firmly in the boycott camp, while the author Ian McEwan and the musician Alicia Keys have resisted pressure to pull appearances.

But there’s little doubt that the drive for a boycott of Israel in protest at its 47-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza is gathering steam. The latest body to back a boycott is Riba, Britain’s leading architectural association, which last month called on the International Union of Architects to suspend Israeli membership on the grounds of “complicity in the construction of illegal settlements and other violations of international law”. The boycott movement was boosted earlier this year by publicity surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s endorsement of SodaStream. How many people before then even knew that SodaStream was based in Israel, let alone that its main manufacturing plant was in a West Bank settlement?

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, performed a similar service when he warned Israeli leaders of the consequences of a failure of current peace talks. “The risks are very high for Israel,” he said. “People are talking about boycott. That will intensify in the case of failure.”

Kerry is right: more people are now talking about boycotting Israel than ever before. The issue is gaining traction even among US academic bodies, previously thought impervious due to the oft cited “unbreakable bond” between the two countries. [Continue reading...]

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Why Israelis are content to live in a bubble of denial

o13-iconJonathan Cook writes: The 24-hour visit by German chancellor Angela Merkel to Israel this week came as relations between the two countries hit rock bottom. According to a report in Der Spiegel magazine last week, Ms Merkel and Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netan­yahu have been drawn into shouting matches when discussing by phone the faltering peace process.

Despite their smiles to the cameras during the visit, tension behind the scenes has been heightened by a diplomatic bust-up earlier this month when Martin Schulz, the president of the European parliament and himself German, gave a speech to the Israeli parliament.

In unprecedented scenes, a group of Israeli legislators heckled Mr Schulz, calling him a “liar”, and then staged a walkout, led by the economics minister Naftali Bennett. Rather than apologising, Mr Netanyahu intervened to lambast Mr Schulz for being misinformed.

Mr Schulz, who, like Ms Merkel, is considered a close friend of Israel, used his speech vehemently to oppose growing calls in Europe for a boycott of Israel. So how did he trigger such opprobrium?

Mr Schulz’s main offence was posing a question: was it true, as he had heard in meetings in the West Bank, that Israelis have access to four times more water than Palestinians? He further upset legislators by gently suggesting that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was preventing economic growth there.

Neither statement should have been in the least controversial. Figures from independent bodies such as the World Bank show Israel, which dominates the local water supplies, allocates per capita about 4.4 times more water to its population than to Palestinians.

Equally, it would be hard to imagine that years of denying goods and materials to Gaza, and blocking exports, have not ravaged its economy. The unemployment rate, for example, has increased 6 per cent, to 38.5 per cent, following Israel’s recent decision to prevent the transfer of construction materials to Gaza’s private sector.

But Israelis rarely hear such facts from their politicians or the media. And few are willing to listen when a rare voice like Mr Schulz’s intervenes. Israelis have grown content to live in a large bubble of denial. [Continue reading...]

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Why is the American elite scared of BDS?

f13-iconTithi Bhattacharya and Bill V. Mullen write: Since the American Studies Association (ASA) voted overwhelmingly to boycott Israeli academic institutions in December, more than one hundred and fifty U.S. University Presidents have come out in support of Israel and condemned the ASA’s vote. Some of these administrators, such as the Presidents of IU and Kenyon College, have withdrawn their institutional membership from the ASA, and all of them have made their public pronouncements without any consultations with their faculty or elected university bodies.

More recently, bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives titled “The Protect Academic Freedom Act” would, if passed, strip all federal funds from any institution of higher education that boycotts Israel.

The bill follows close by legislation put forward by the New York State and Maryland State legislatures that would punish individual academics for engaging in political boycotts. New York Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver in announcing the bill explained that the ASA boycott was a “blatant assault on the academic freedoms that New York and its students have come to hold dear.”

What the University Presidents and legislators also have in common in this joint enterprise is a total silence about Palestinian human rights and academic freedom, the basis of the ASA resolution. The ASA Resolution was premised in part on the well-documented fact that “there is no effective or substantive academic freedom for Palestinian students and scholars under conditions of Israeli occupation, and Israeli institutions of higher learning are a party to Israeli state policies that violate human rights and negatively impact the working conditions of Palestinian scholars and students.”

Supporting documentation for the resolution detailed how bombings, school closures, visa restriction, restricted movement in and out of Palestinian territories, and Israeli control of funding for Palestinian universities all significantly erode both human rights and academic freedom for Palestinian scholars.

Given the American state’s well-established “special relationship” to Israel, how can we best understand this ideological convergence between the heads of academic institutions and the US Government?

In this essay, we argue that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement has helped to expose the historical complicity not just of Israeli Universities with an illegal, militarized occupation, but of American Universities in the supportive exercise of U.S. military and political power in the Middle East. Specifically, we argue that the U.S. university since 9/11 and under neoliberalism has leaped to project American imperial power in the Middle East and across the world. The ASA Boycott has been confronted by this reality, and confronted it, head on. The success of the BDS movement against Israel does, however, present new opportunities for challenging this militarization not just of Israel’s occupation and U.S. universities, but the wider social arena under capitalism. [Continue reading...]

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BDS: A campaign that is gathering weight

n13-iconThe Economist: Once derided as the scheming of crackpots, the campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel, widely known as BDS, is turning mainstream. That, at any rate, is the fear of a growing number of Israelis. Some European pension funds have withdrawn investments; some large corporations have cancelled contracts; and the American secretary of state, John Kerry, rarely misses a chance to warn Israel that efforts to “delegitimise” and boycott it will increase if its government spurns his efforts to conclude a two-state settlement of its conflict with the Palestinians. Israel, says Yair Lapid, Israel’s finance minister, is approaching the same “tipping point” where South Africa found itself in opposition to the rest of the world in the dying days of apartheid. “Let’s not kid ourselves,” he told a conference of security boffins recently in Tel Aviv. “The world listens to us less and less.”

BDS has begun to grab the attention of some of the world’s largest financial institutions. PGGM, a big Dutch pension fund, has liquidated its holdings in five Israeli banks (though the Netherlands’ largest has affirmed its investments). Norway’s finance ministry has announced that it is excluding Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, a big building firm, from a government pension fund.

The campaign is drawing support from beyond northern Europe. Romania has forbidden its citizens from working for companies in the West Bank. More churches are backing BDS. An American academic association is boycotting Israeli lecturers. The debate turned viral after Scarlett Johansson, a Hollywood actor, quit her role as ambassador for Oxfam, a charity based in Britain, in order to keep her advertising contract with SodaStream, an Israeli drinks firm with a plant on the West Bank.

Mr Lapid, who favours a two-state solution, reels out figures to show how sanctions could hit every Israeli pocket. “If negotiations with the Palestinians stall or blow up and we enter the reality of a European boycott, even a very partial one,” he warned, 10,000 Israelis would “immediately” lose their jobs. Trade with the European Union, a third of Israel’s total, would slump—he calculates—by $5.7 billion. [Continue reading...]

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Bill in Congress would punish academic boycott of Israel

n13-iconElectronic Intifada reports: Weeks after Ambassador Michael Oren, Israel’s former envoy to the United States, suggested it, members of the United States Congress have introduced a bill to punish American universities if their members support the academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

The so-called “Protect Academic Freedom Act” would deny federal funding to any institution that participates in a boycott of Israeli universities or scholars or even whose departments issue statements in support of a boycott.

The proposed law defines “an institution of higher education to be participating in a boycott” if “the institution, any significant part of the institution, or any organization significantly funded by the institution adopts a policy or resolution, issues a statement, or otherwise formally establishes the restriction of discourse, cooperation, exchange, or any other involvement with academic institutions or scholars on the basis of the connection of such institutions or such scholars to the state of Israel.” [Continue reading...]

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On sanctions, Israel hasn’t seen anything yet

o13-iconDaniel Levy writes: Israel’s governing coalition has been much seized of late by the issue of potential boycotts and sanctions in response to its policies in the occupied Palestinian territories. The centrist and rightist wings of Netanyahu’s coalition have been trading accusations over how severe the threat is, and who is to blame – is it the Livni-Lapid camp for acknowledging that boycotts are a problem, thereby encouraging the phenomenon?

Or is the Bennett-Miri Regev camp to blame for shouting from the rooftops about annexing the territories rather than quietly building on Palestinian hilltops as all Israeli governments have done for four decades? Israel’s cabinet even considered convening to officially respond to this threat. Public ministerial statements have followed familiar lines around whether to play nice with the peace process and deflect criticism (the centrist position) or to conduct a more effective PR and hasbara push-back campaign (the rightist position).

In the short term the right is correct in downplaying any sense of imminent economic disaster due to a boycott tsunami. In the longer term, the centrists get it in asserting that the globally connected Israeli economy and lifestyle will prove unsustainable as sanctions slowly but inevitably advance. But both sides are promoting an ill-informed and misleading discussion, perhaps intentionally. Much of that misinformation revolves around Europe’s role, unsurprising given Europe’s position as Israel’s leading trade partner and as the likely source of most sanctions momentum.

Israelis need to know five things about this so-called boycott debate that are too often obscured. [Continue reading...]

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How activism is succeeding where negotiations have failed

o13-iconRami G. Khouri writes: If you think the controversy of actress Scarlett Johansson’s relationships with Oxfam and the Israeli company SodaStream is a minor side story about Hollywood celebrities, think again.

This is the latest signal of a major direction of Palestinian and global activism against Israeli settler-colonial policies in the occupied Palestinian territories, which reveals Israel’s weak spot globally and its growing isolation because of its occupation and treatment of Palestinians.

Johansson resigned her post Wednesday as a global goodwill ambassador for the developmental charity Oxfam after coming under intense international criticism for her contradictory role as a spokesperson for Sodastream, which manufactures carbonation machines in the Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumin in the occupied West Bank. The argument against her was simply that she could not feed the jailer and the prisoner at the same time – she could not support the good work of Oxfam in improving people’s lives around the world, while simultaneously promoting an Israeli company whose factory in the occupied West Bank perpetuates the subjugation of Palestinians and their denial of national and personal rights.

This highlights how Israelis and Palestinians confront each other in three principal arenas of conflict and conflict resolution: military attacks; diplomatic negotiations; and, grassroots activism based on legal and ethical principles. The first two modes of Palestinian-Israeli interaction – warfare and negotiations – have continued unabated since the 1930s, without achieving the desired goals of either side.

This is why the third option – populist activism on moral and legal grounds – has emerged recently on the Palestinian side as the most significant new development in decades, and continues to pick up steam and worry the Israelis, as it should. I refer mainly to the movement for the boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) of Israel for its denial of Palestinian human rights in three related arenas: the second-class status of Palestinian citizens of Israel; the Apartheid-like conditions Israel imposes on Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip; and the structural denial of rights to exiled Palestinian refugees living outside of historic Palestine. [Continue reading...]

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