Monday, November 30, 2009

Switzerland Bans Minarets, Gets Bad Press. Israel Bombs Minarets, Gets More Military Aid. What?

By now, I'm sure you've heard about the Swiss referendum banning mosque minarets--a blow to religious freedom that is getting global attention as a blow to religious freedom. Here's the Associated Press:

"Amnesty International said the vote violated freedom of religion and would probably be overturned by the Swiss supreme court or the European Court of Human Rights. The seven-member Cabinet that heads the Swiss government had spoken out strongly against the initiative but the government said it accepted the vote and would impose an immediate ban on minaret construction....Sunday's results stood in stark contrast to opinion polls, last taken 10 days ago, that showed 37 percent supporting the proposal."

Governments are supposed to protect rights--rights to freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom to live in peace and security. Often, though, it's governments that violate rights, and civil society that has to protect them. We're coming up on the one year commemoration of the beginning of Israel's "Operation Cast Lead," the multi-week, massive aerial and ground assault on the Gaza Strip. We're also coming up on the 2011 budget process, which is likely to include $3 billion in military aid to Israel. If mosque minarets shouldn't be banned in Europe, then they certainly shouldn't be bombed in the Gaza Strip. But while the Obama Administration is trying to re-brand the United States as more friendly to the Muslim world, we continue to send the bombs that are dropped on minarets--not to mention farms, houses, and fishing boats--in the Gaza Strip. It's up to us to end this. Activists around the globe will be planning actions in solidarity with the Gaza Freedom March from December 27-December 31. If you are interested in planning an action, email Organize in your Congressional District to end US Military Aid to Israel by clicking here. And register for the US Campaign/Interfaith Peace-Builders Grassroots Advocacy Training & Lobby Day, March 7-8 in Washington, DC, by clicking here.

Omar Barghouti and Nancy Kricorian talk BDS on WBAI

If you haven't heard this already, consider listening to the following excellent interview about the BDS movement. Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian BDS National Committee and Nancy Kricorian of US Campaign member group CodePink explain the international BDS movement to Mimi Rosenberg of WBAI. The interview, which you can listen to here, runs about 27 minutes

Nadia Hijab and Phyllis Bennis at the Palestine Center conference

US Campaign member group The Palestine Center held their annual conference on November 13, 2009. You can see video of the conference here. Check out the first panel, "Erasure Before and After 1967," which was moderated by US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab and features US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis (Bennis' contribution begins around 53:00):

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful for Campus BDS Organizers

I spent last weekend at Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine's national campus boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) conference and it made me realize how grateful I am for all of the amazing work done by Hampshire SJP and other campus groups across the country.
The Hampshire conference attracted representatives from about 50 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada. While less than a third of these campuses had active BDS campaigns before the conference, at least two thirds of conference attendees committed to launching campaigns after returning home from the conference.
Students and veteran activists participated in panel discussions, cultural presentations, and skill building workshops on a number of topics related to BDS. Conference participants were exposed to ideas about what "forgiveness" means during Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni's presentation and what identity has to do with activism in Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi's performance. Trainings in everything from media relations to legal issues around BDS to the role of anti-racism in our campaigns equipped conference participants not only to take on the technical aspects of BDS campaigning, but also the equally important public education components of successful campaigns. The conference also offered an important opportunity to network and share information. Some of the resources that conference participants had the opportunity to take advantage of include Divest Now!, the US Campaign's student divestment handbook, and our other divestment resources, which you can download from our website.
The Hampshire BDS conference both inspired and overwhelmed me. I know that the campaigns sprouting from the fertile ground of the Hampshire conference will bear fruit. I know they will be successful because of the wealth of resources and veteran activists willing to be mentors that was offered up throughout the conference. I know that we will be successful because we are already ahead of the curve when comparing how quickly BDS campaigns to hold Israel accountable have spread in relation to similar campaigns to end South Africa's apartheid regime. I know all of this most of all because of the dedication shown by students participating in the conference. This dedication was apparent not only from the organizers based at Hampshire College, but also from presenters hailing from campuses across the country.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to all of the Hampshire conference organizers and participants for enriching my experience and motivating me to move forward on the US Campaign's BDS work with even more gusto than before. I also encourage everyone to check out Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine's website for updates, including PowerPoint presentations used during conference workshops, resources distributed to conference participants, and videos of the plenary sessions.

Settlement Freeze, Schmettlement Freeze (or "We've heard this one before")

The following media release was sent out this afternoon by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation: U.S. Must Hold Israel Accountable for Lack of Real Settlement Freeze Washington, DC - The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation welcomed today Special Envoy for Middle East Peace George Mitchell's statement that Israel's partial settlement moratorium "falls short of a full settlement freeze." Speaking at the State Department, Mitchell reiterated that "United States policy on settlements remains unaffected and unchanged. As the President has said, America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements." According to Josh Ruebner, National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, "The United States must continue to push Israel for a complete freeze of settlements, including in East Jerusalem. All Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal and must be dismantled. The Obama Administration should counter Israel's intransigence on settlements by cutting off U.S. military aid to Israel at least until it complies with U.S. policy and international law." While welcoming the Obama Administration's continued insistence on the illegitimacy of Israeli settlements, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation challenged its assertion that the partial settlement moratorium "is more than any Israeli Government has done before," noting that Israeli Prime Ministers and governments have pledged at least five times since 1978 to freeze settlements (see below for documentation). According to David Hosey, National Media Coordinator of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, "Previous Israeli governments have often pledged to freeze settlement construction, yet they all have continued to expand them. Today's partial moratorium falls into this same pattern. Unless the United States puts its money where its mouth is by ending military aid to Israel there is no incentive for Israel to stop settlement construction." Previous Israeli promises to freeze settlements include: * As part of the 1978 Camp David Accords negotiating process, President Jimmy Carter stated that "Prime Minister Begin pledged that there would be no establishment of new settlements until after the final peace negotiations were completed." Source: * In July 1992, the Israeli government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared a settlement freeze. Source: * Israel accepted the Mitchell Report of April 2001, which stated "The GOI [Government of Israel] should freeze all settlement activity, including the "natural growth" of existing settlements." Source: * Israel agreed to the "road map" of April 2003, which stipulated that "Consistent with the Mitchell Report, GOI [Government of Israel] freezes all settlement activity (including natural growth of settlements)." Source: * At the Annapolis Conference in November 2007, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed "to immediately implement their respective obligations under the performance-based road map to a permanent two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, issued by the Quartet on 30 April 2003 -- this is called the road map." Source: Read other US Campaign press releases on our website by clicking here.

BDS Movement Keeps on Movin'

Here at the US Campaign we're feeling thankful for all the signs that the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end Israeli occupation and apartheid is growing and working. Here are just a few recent stories that illustrate this exciting growth: 1) US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz posted this article at Mondoweiss on the "administrative detention" (Israeli-occupation-speak for arbitrary imprisonment without trial or charge) of Palestinian BDS and anti-apartheid activist Mohammad Othman, including this quote from Middle East analyst Arthur Nelsen:
"The Othman case indicates a fear of the BDS movement among Israel’s political and security elite, particularly when it has the ear of foreign governments....Locking up nonviolent opponents suggests a stunning lack of confidence among Israel’s leaders in their ability to argue their case, still less win it. It bears all the hallmarks of an authoritarian campaign to silence nonviolent critics of the occupation."
You don't lock people up for promoting a nonviolent tactic unless you are convinced that that nonviolent tactic is working. Check out our last post to take action on behalf of Mohammad Othman! 2) The full spectrum of Palestinian trade unions have reasserted their support for the BDS call, in reaction to reports alleging that a Palestinian trade union official has stated reservations about BDS. These allegations, it should be noted, emerged from a small delegation of British headed by Steve Scott, who is the director of Trade Union Friends of Israel (TUFI). The Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) issued a statement in response to these allegations:
"The Israel lobby groups in the UK and elsewhere have felt quite desperate lately in their abortive attempts to stop the spectacular growth of the BDS movement, particularly among major international trade unions....The BNC, including all three federations representing the Palestinian trade union movement, warmly salute all international trade unions who have endorsed BDS, confirming that this is the most effective and needed form of solidarity with the Palestinian people and the strongest challenge to Israel's criminal impunity and exceptionalism. As in the struggle against South African apartheid, Israel's occupation, colonialism and apartheid will only come to an end when international civil society shoulders the moral responsibility by holding Israel to account before international law and universal principles of human rights, and by treating it as a pariah state, as apartheid South Africa was, deserving comprehensive and sustained BDS campaigns."
You can read the full statement here. 3) Check out this great article written in the Macalester College student newspaper about divestment efforts on campus, led by Mac Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER). The article focuses on the important issue of endowment transparency--the idea that students have a right to know who and what their campus is invested in:
"The Israel divestment issue is part of a broader student movement calling for more transparency and responsibility in Macalester's endowment investments. Dean of Students Laurie Hamre said the students lobbying the Social Responsibility Committe SRC fall into three general categories: "[Some] have some specific interest in divestment from any companies that might support Israel military operations. Then there are some other students who I think are interested in the endowment supporting more sustainable initiatives. And then I think there's a third group that just wants to have a sense that students can have more knowledge about what our investments are so that they can make sure that Macalester is being socially responsible," Hamre said."
Read the full article here. 4) We mentioned the Hampshire College BDS conference in a previous post. We'll have commentary and video of the presentation given by US Campaign National Organizer Katherine Fuchs posted soon; in the meantime, check out the keynote address by Ali Abunimah. BDS is growing and it is working--on campus, within trade unions, in churches, in grocery stores and corporate board rooms and state investment boards. Join the movement today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From Jewish Voice for Peace: Tell the US Consulate in Jerusalem about Mohammad Othman before his hearing tomorrow!

UPDATE FROM JVP: Please call US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and ask her to get involved. We are simply asking for a stop to the harassment of Mohammad Othman. He should either be tried in a court of law where he can defend himself or he should be released. You can call her office at this number: +1-202-647-5291. After your call, please take a moment to let JVP know how it went by clicking here. Urgent action from US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace: On November 23, 2009, after 61 days in jail, Mohammad Othman has received his first administrative detention order for a three month period -- a period where Mohammad will be held without charge or trial. The judicial review of the order is scheduled to take place tomorrow, November 25th, at the Military Court of Administrative Detainees in Ofer Military Base, near the West Bank city of Ramallah, and we need you to take action right now. Tell the US Consul General in Jerusalem to send a representative to the hearing. His harassment must stop. He should either be tried in a court of law where he can defend himself or he should be released. Take action by clicking here. Learn more about Mohammad Othman here.

Sky News Covers Settler Attack on US Campaign Member Group

Check out this piece from Britain's Sky News about settlers intimidating and attacking schoolchildren and internationals, including members of US Campaign member group Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT), in the South Hebron Hills (thanks to Sam Nichols of CPT for posting this) :
"On Wednesday this week, two female volunteers - one Italian the other American - were attacked and robbed by settlers as they escorted a Palestinian couple with three small children near Havat Ma'on."
The report also includes video footage of the Israeli army escorting Palestinian schoolchildren passed the settlement outpost of Havat Ma'on, a 'service' the army is mandated to provide by the Israeli Knesset due to consistent attacks and intimidation of the children by settlers. The army often fails to arrive for the patrol: Help stop settler violence and settlement expansion by boycotting Motorola, which provides surveillance and communications equipment for Israeli settlements, and by working to end U.S. military aid to Israel, which aids and abets settlement construction.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Goucher College Doesn't Want Us (unless you ask the students)

Hide all of your impressionable students, folks: the US Campaign is here to corrupt the youth. Or at least that's what you'd think from the reaction of Goucher College president Sanford Ungar, who last week blocked an invitation that Goucher students had extended to US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner and Rabbi Brian Walt of Jewish Fast for Gaza. Ungar is apparently terrified that students--who supposedly cannot be trusted to think for themselves--might be tainted by a "pro-Palestinian" (read: pro-human rights, international law, and equality for all) perspective. Or maybe it has nothing to do with that. Here's Ungar, quoted in the Goucher College newspaper, The Quindecim:
"We don't want Goucher to end up on a list of schools with a reputation of bringing vehemently pro-Palestinian and anti-Israeli [sic] speakers to campus," said Ungar. "I don't think it would be good for enrollment."
Goucher students are understandably upset at this infringement on their right to invite speakers to campus. They held the event anyway, without official school sanction, attracting a standing-room-only audience of 75 students shoved into a tiny classroom, and proceeded to file official complaints to the school. Cecilie Surasky of US Campaign member group Jewish Voice for Peace describes the incident as the "latest dumb act of McCarthyism, aka Deploying Israeli-Exceptionalism While Claiming That It’s Everyone Else Who is Singling Out Israel" and points out the irony of Ungar's position on free speech:
"Sanford Ungar, Goucher’s president, and a former journalist and All Things Considered host, actually teaches a course this semester called, natch, Free Speech, in which Ungar promises to “examine constraints on free speech in our daily lives, and the debate in this country over what it means to be patriotic and whether patriotism requires us to, or prohibits us from, saying certain things.”"
And Philip Weiss writes at Mondoweiss that "students will lead us on this issue." That's for sure. The Electronic Intifada is carrying a story, entitled "Palestinian students cross barriers to discuss boycott," which covers a video conference held between students in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that focused on the right to education. And this past weekend, our National Organizer Katherine Fuchs joined students from over 40 campuses across the United States and Canada at the National Campus Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Conference held at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz reports on the conference at Mondoweiss:
"The students I met at Hampshire didn’t amaze me by how idealistic they are, but by how grounded. Yes, they are casually comfortable with ideas that are considered kryptonite to the the mainstream discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - namely equality and justice for Palestinians - and to these activists those values are simply common sense. But what really stood out was how strategic, mindful, and smart these leaders are. This is a movement prepared to win. And they know how to do it."
You can watch the keynote address by Ali Abunimah courtesy of Palestine Video. Keep an eye on the website and blog for more information about the conference and how you can get involved in BDS work in your community! Educational and governmental institutions might be holding on to the old "defend Israel at any cost" consensus, but the discourse among students and grassroots forces is quickly outdistancing them. The students who gathered in the classroom at Goucher and the conference at Hampshire are demanding that their educational institutions stand up for justice and accountability. It won't be long before institutions will have to alter their stances to keep up with the changing discourse--or become obsolete.

Motorola Droid Wins Most Ironic: New Droid commercial involves bombing farms, fishing boats

Well, the [tragic] irony has hit the fan. In a surreal move reminiscent of the Israeli cell phone company Cellcom's ad depicting the apartheid wall, the latest commercial for Motorola's new 'Droid' phone literally depicts a squadron of Stealth bombers delivering Droids like bombs onto unsuspecting farmers, motorists, and fishing boats. It's been a few months since Motorola announced its decision to sell its Israeli bomb fuze department, and Moto continues to produce communication and surveillance equipment for the Israeli army and settlers as well as components for UAV drones. So it's apropos that they would advertise the new 'Droid' phone as a form of aerial assault: Motorola technology helps the Israeli military drop real bombs--on real farmers, real motorists, and real fisherman. In fact, after last year's assault on the Gaza Strip, researchers from Human Rights Watch found shrapnel marked with Motorola serial numbers at the sight of the bombing of a police academy graduation. Find out more about the boycott of Motorola here, and learn the latest ways that you can take action against Motorola's complicity in Israeli occupation and apartheid by clicking here. You can also comment on the irony of Droid bombshells on forums where people are discussing the new phone, such as this one. Let fellow consumers know that the new Motorola phone really is the bomb.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

"A Dangerous Situation": US Campaign member groups take on settlements, settlers (and you can too)

The Obama Administration yesterday said that it was "dismayed" by Israel's announcement that it would approve 900 more housing units in the settlement of Gilo, and warned that settlement expansion could create a "dangerous situation." Last night, US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey was interviewed by Rhod Sharpe of BBC Radio's "5 Live" on the topic of Israeli settlement expansion. You can listen to the interview here--it starts around 1:10:00. Of course, in addition to the violation of international law and the expropriation of Palestinian land that settlements represent, Israeli settlers have a certain expertise at creating "dangerous situations" in the West Bank. Yesterday, members of US Campaign member group Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) were attacked by Israeli settlers in the South Hebron Hills while accompanying a Palestinian family home past the settlement of Havat Ma'on to the Palestinian village of Tuba. CPT issued the following press release about the incident, which was also covered by the Israeli daily YNet:
"On Tuesday, 17 November, in the South Hebron Hills of the West Bank, five Israeli settlers harassed a Palestinian family walking home, then beat and robbed two internationals who accompanied them. The two young parents and their three small children were returning from the nearby city of Yatta to their home village of Tuba. At 11 a.m. they encountered two members of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) just south of the village of At-Tuwani. After the CPTers warned the Palestinians about the settlers seen earlier in the morning, the family chose a longer path toward Tuba, accompanied by the CPTers. As the group crossed Mashakha Hill, they saw four settler men on a ridge 50 meters above them. The settlers ran toward the Palestinians and began to circle them. A fifth settler, masked and hooded, appeared from the valley below. When the Palestinian man told them he was only trying to walk home, a settler shoved him. As the CPTers attempted to step between the Palestinians and settlers, the settlers pushed them to the ground, hit and kicked them, and stole their two video cameras. The settlers then walked to the illegal settlement outpost* of Havot Ma’on (Hill 833), where they disappeared among the trees 20 minutes later. The Palestinian family reached their home safely. For decades, residents of Tuba Village had a direct road to the village of At-Tuwani, and onward to the regional economic hub of Yatta. The Israeli settlement of Ma’on and its neighboring illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on were built directly on that road, blocking all Palestinian traffic and forcing villagers onto long dirt paths through the hills, taking as much as two hours. CPT has maintained a continuous full-time presence in At-Tuwani since 2005, supporting Palestinian freedom of movement under the threat of settler violence. CPT places trained volunteers in locations of violent conflict around the world at the invitation of local peacemakers. [*Note: According to the Geneva Conventions, the International Court of Justice in the Hague, and numerous United Nations resolutions, all Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories are illegal. Most settlement outposts are considered illegal under Israeli law.]"
Meanwhile, US Campaign member groups Adalah-NY, CODEPINK, Jews Against the Occupation, and Jewish Voice for Peace are organizing a protest today calling for the cancelation of a fundraiser for Hebron's settlers slated to be hosted at the New York Mets' stadium. You can find out more about the protest here, read Mondoweiss' report on the protest here, and watch this clip from New York Channel 1: Want to learn more about how you can oppose Israeli settlement expansion and acts of violent extremism committed by Israeli settlers? Click here to take action!

Omar Barghouti on Academic and Cultural Boycott

Omar Barghouti, who spoke at the US Campaign's 8th Annual National Organizers' Conference in Chicago, IL in September of this year, spoke in November at the University of Minnesota on the topic of academic boycott. The principle of academic and cultural boycott was endorsed by the US Campaign at its 8th National Conference: Thanks to Palestine Video for the link.

U.S. military aid, Palestine, Iraq, and Jordan's "Green Zone"

Electronic Intifada is carrying a fascinating article by John Elmer, entitled "The 'green zone' called Jordan." The article covers the connections between U.S. military aid and training of Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese security forces in Jordan:
"In the bleak and seemingly endless desert expanse that unfolds east of Jordan's capital city, Amman, lies a crucial cog in the ambitious regional designs of the US and its allies in the Middle East. Commonly known by its acronym JIPTC, the Jordan International Police Training Center is ground-zero for the transformation of US-allied security forces not only for the Kingdom of Jordan, but also for Iraq, Lebanon and the Occupied Palestinian Territories."
Palestinian security forces are being trained to suppress Palestinian dissent, in connection with U.S. military aid to the region:
"Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama announced in June a $150 million military aid increase to Jordan, bringing the annual total to more than $513 million. The increase came on top of the Bush Administration's 2007, ten-year, $50 billion military aid package to the region's allied regimes, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the pliant Gulf states. The deal included a $30 billion weapons package to Israel through 2017."
To read the full article, click here. Oppose U.S. military aid that is used to violate Palestinian human rights by clicking here.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Aid, Settlements, and the Obama Administration

Time columnist Joe Klein, writing at the Swampland blog, calls for a freeze of aid to Israel:
"The Obama Administration may have to be a bit less "grandiose" in dealing with Netanyahu's irredentist government. It should start by putting a hold on all economic and military aid to Israel; the aid should not be discontinued, just held, for a nice long review until the Netanyahu government comes to understand that Jerusalem must be the capital of both Israel and Palestine, and that if you actually want peace, you don't build illegal settlement colonies in the Palestinian capital."
Meanwhile, Ha'aretz is reporting that U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William J. Burns that the Obama Administration does not consider a partial settlement freeze to be enough, despite recent statements by Secretary of State Clinton that such a move would be an "unprecedented" step. Click here to read the full article. Last week, US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis spoke to Radio Islam in Chicago on the topic of Secretary of State Clinton's recent remarks and other developments in U.S. policy and discourse to Israel/Palestine. Click here to listen to the program, which begins around 28:30. Will the Obama Administration tie military aid to Israel with a settlement freeze? Will it hold Israel accountable to violations of Palestinian human rights committed with U.S.-provided weapons? Certainly not without a lot of work on our part! Click here to sign up as a Congressional District Coordinator and to organize in your community against military aid to Israel. And click here to find out other actions you can take to work against settler violence and settlement expansion.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"Remote Controlled Occupation," Killdozer, and the Attack of the Droids

The Israeli occupation is going remote! Check out this this clip from The Real News Network for more information on the latest in apartheid technology, including remote-controlled Caterpillar bulldozers (remember Killdozer?) that were heavily used during Operation Cast Lead: Closer to home, our old friend Motorola has also come up with some new technology--a new phone called the 'Droid,' which sounds creepily remote controlled to us (ironic considering Motorola's role in providing components for the Israeli military's unmanned drone aircraft). Find out how you can use the launch of the 'Drone' to launch your own campaign against Motorola's complicity in occupation and apartheid by clicking here. Sign up to organize against Motorola, Caterpillar, and U.S. military aid to Israel by clicking here.

New Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Resources

Check out new BDS resources on the US Campaign website:
  • Stop Caterkiller: Did you notice that D-9 armoured bulldozers are repeatedly described as tools of Israeli war crimes in the Goldstone Report? So did our Steering Committee member, Peter Miller of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights. Peter compiled all of the remarks about bulldozers from the Goldstone Report into one eight-page document, now posted on our website! Click here to download a PDF of this document. If you don't already have a local campaign going against Caterpillar's sale of these bulldozers to Israel, click here to order a campaign kit.
  • Campus BDS: There's a new section on our website devoted to campus BDS campaigns. Click here to view the new section, which includes a link to register for Hampshire SJP's upcoming National Campus BDS Conference, Divest Now! our handbook for student divestment, and power point presentations on various aspects of campus BDS campaigns.
  • General BDS Resources: Thanks to the National Lawyers Guild we now have a legal memo on BDS posted in our resources section. While this memo does outline how federal anti-boycott law might (not) apply to our work, it is not intended to substitute for advice from a lawyer - click here to download the memo. Precedent is constantly evolving, so remember to check the NLG's website for updates. We've recently added the Interfaith Peace Initiative's global BDS survey to our website, click here to view the survey, which is a comprehensive list of BDS campaigns and actions around the world. We've also updated the URL for the Seattle Divest from Israeli Occupation campaign. Send us links to your BDS campaigns and we will post them in our "BDS in Action" section.
Now for a sneak peak of future BDS resources. We're currently developing campaign kits for both campus BDS and the Ahava boycott. We've also started planning for spring semester campus BDS conferences - keep an eye on your email to find out when there will be a conference near you. We're also already preparing for the Caterpillar and Motorola shareholder meetings. Although these meetings aren't until the spring, we're coordinating how our supporters can protest inside the meetings by purchasing one share of stock in these companies.

Tell the Mets not to support Hebron settlers!

This week, the US Campaign joined many other organizations including member groups in a campaign to get the New York Mets to cancel a fundraiser for radical settler groups in the Palestinian city of Al Khalil (Hebron). US Campaign member group Adalah-NY is organizing the campaign: The New York Mets are allowing the Hebron Fund, a Brooklyn-based non-profit supporting violent and racist Israeli settlers living in the West Bank City of Hebron, to hold a fundraiser at Citi Field on November 21st. The Mets have to date refused to cancel the Hebron Fund dinner despite a letter from 11 US, Palestinian and Israeli organizations documenting that the Hebron Fund, by supporting Israeli settlements in Hebron, violates international law and the Obama administration’s call for a freeze in Israeli settlement construction in Occupied Palestinian Territory. The letter also demonstrates that the Hebron Fund actively promotes racial discrimination against Palestinians, and it supports, at least indirectly, violence and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Hebron. In a tragic irony, the Hebron Fund dinner is being held directly above the Jackie Robinson Rotunda at Citi Field. Jackie Robinson broke the barrier of racial discrimination in baseball and his legacy is actively promoted by the New York Mets and Major League Baseball. Send a letter to the New York Mets demanding that they cancel this event supporting Hebron’s settlers. Click here to send a letter to the Mets via the Adalah-NY website. Or click here to send a letter via the Jewish Voice for Peace website. In addition to sending an email to the Mets, please also consider phoning the New York Mets to register your concerns with their staff: * (718) 803-4032: Heather Collamore, Director Hospitality and Catering Events * (718) 565-4330: Jay Horwitz, Vice President for Media Relations Communications with the Mets should emphasize: * The Hebron Fund supports Israeli settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank in violation of international law and US foreign policy. The Hebron Fund may also be violating US nonprofit laws by supporting Israeli settlements while telling the IRS that its "primary exempt purpose" is "to promote social and educational well being." * Israeli settlers in Hebron have repeatedly been photographed and videotaped shooting guns at, beating, slapping, kicking, throwing stones and liquids at, and verbally harassing the Palestinian residents of Hebron, including women and children. Some Hebron Fund dinner honorees have been documented supporting violence and the terrorizing of Palestinians. * Hebron’s settlers support racial discrimination and driving Palestinian residents of Hebron from their homes. * Allowing the Hebron Fund to fundraise at Citi Field contradicts New York Mets and Major League Baseball’s commitment to equal opportunity and non-discrimination and is an insult to the legacy of Jackie Robinson. For more information see Adalah's letter to the New York Mets, signed by the US Campaign and member groups such as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Brooklyn for Peace, CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Against the Occupation, and WESPAC Foundation. And check out Adalah's video:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Is the “We Love Israel” Consensus on Capitol Hill a Thing of the Past?

by Josh Ruebner National Advocacy Director On Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed H.Res.867, condemning the Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (known informally as the Goldstone Report) as “irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy,” by a vote of 344 to 36 with 22 abstentions. While this vote can hardly be characterized as a victory for all of us working hard to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality, it does reveal that the days of Capitol Hill’s nearly wall-to-wall “we love Israel” consensus appear to be over. The resolution began to run into trouble when a broad and diverse set of advocacy organizations—both within and outside of the US Campaign—either lined up against or refused to support the resolution. As we phrased it in a two-page fax we sent every Member of Congress:
H.Res.867 contains numerous ‘whereas’ clauses replete with inaccurate information about and misleading characterizations of the Goldstone Report. More significantly, its ‘resolved’ clauses undermine the commitment of the United States and the Obama Administration to the universality of human rights and the principle of holding accountable human rights violators.
Even more importantly, Judge Richard Goldstone himself sent Rep. Howard Berman and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Chair and Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a four-page letter pointing out the “serious factual inaccuracies and instances where information and statements are taken grossly out of context” in the text of H.Res.867. Strong grassroots opposition to H.Res.867 and Judge Goldstone’s critiques of the resolution seem to have emboldened Members of Congress to speak out against this attempt to shield Israel from accountability for the human rights violations documented by the Goldstone Report. Two Members of Congress who visited the occupied Palestinian Gaza Strip after “Operation Cast Lead”—Rep. Brian Baird and Rep. Keith Ellison—and who actually witnessed the aftermath of the war crimes documented in the Goldstone Report published strong op-eds against H.Res.867 in Capitol Hill publications. Rep. Baird, in an article published in the Nov. 2 edition of Roll Call and reprinted on his website, wondered: “Since scarcely a dozen House Members have actually been to Gaza, what actual first-hand knowledge do the rest of the Members of Congress possess on which to base their judgment of the merits of H.Res.867 or the Goldstone report?” Unlike most Members of Congress who condemned the Goldstone Report without reading it, Baird “read with care and interest the Goldstone report in its entirety and my firm conclusion is that, although the findings may be unpleasant and troubling, they are, unfortunately, consistent with the facts and evidence. In my judgment, far from meriting the obstruction called for in H.Res. 867, the Goldstone report is without question worthy of further investigation.” Meanwhile, Rep. Ellison, in Nov. 3 editorial in Politico, noted that
Congress is poised to oppose the Goldstone report without holding a single hearing on a document that few members of Congress, if any, have read. This is a mistake. The stance of this Congress will erode U.S. credibility in the post-Obama world, and it will tarnish our commitment to the principle that all nations must be held to the same standards. Rather than undermine the report or Goldstone, we are at risk of undermining Congress’s and President Barack Obama’s reputation as honest brokers.
By the time the resolution came to the floor of the House for a vote, it had managed to garner 202 cosponsors—a significant number to be sure, but far less than some of the other “pro-Israel” resolutions mindlessly endorsed by Congress in past years. More significantly, the floor managers in favor of the resolution—Rep. Berman and Rep. Ros-Lehtinen—clearly struggled to drum up enthusiasm amongst Members of Congress to speak on behalf of the resolution. They, along with Rep. Steny Hoyer, filled the bulk of their allotted time with long-winded diatribes against the United Nations, tired paeans to Israel, and unconvincing reiterations of the outright lies about the Goldstone Report contained in the resolution. Contrast their performance with Rep. Ellison, who ran a tight ship as the floor manager opposed to the resolution, doling out his minutes preciously to accommodate all the Representatives who lined up to speak against H.Res.867 and in favor of accountability, human rights, and justice. It was a watershed moment on the floor of Congress. Among the highlights of these speeches against H.Res.867 were: Rep. Ellison urged the rejection of the resolution “because it will undermine President Obama's commitment that all countries, including our own and our allies, should be accountable for their actions. This resolution complicates the President's current Middle East initiative.” Rep. Barbara Lee spotlighted the ongoing humanitarian crisis Palestinians face living under Israeli occupation: “Residents of Gaza and the West Bank continue to lack appropriate access to the most fundamental needs, including food, fuel, water, sanitation, education, health care, and the basic materials needed to rebuild their communities.” Rep. William Delahunt criticized the way in which the resolution was brought to a vote. “This resolution came to the floor on suspension without a hearing, despite the willingness of Judge Goldstone to come before the United States Congress and answer any questions that we might pose to him.” Rep. Brian Baird, in what may have been a precedent for the floor of the United States Congress, displayed a picture of a Palestinian father grieving over his three dead children, killed by Israel during “Operation Cast Lead,” and stated plaintively:
I have twin 4-year-old boys at home. When I kiss them goodnight, they look for all the world like these three little Palestinian children. I don't know that father, but I can imagine his grief. We must not say that this Congress will unequivocally oppose any consideration of a report by a jurist of this integrity and this reputation. Those children deserve someone to ask why they died, just as these children in Sderot deserve someone to say they must not be rocketed. And the Goldstone Report does both. It does both.
Rep. Brian Baird.
Rep. John Dingell called H.Res.867 a “bad resolution. It is unfair. It is unwise. It contributes nothing to peace. It establishes a bad precedent, and it sets up a set of circumstances where we indicate that we're going to just arbitrarily reject a U.N. finding and a U.N. resolution and that we're going to have that as a precedent. This is bad.” Rep. Dennis Kucinich stated: “Almost as serious as committing war crimes is covering up war crimes, pretending that war crimes were never committed and did not exist.” He termed efforts such as H.Res.867 “the triumph of Orwellian thinking.” Rep. Betty McCollum called attention to the fact that Israel used U.S. weapons to commit the war crimes documented in the Goldstone Report.
American-made white phosphorous shells were used by Israel in civilian areas, causing horrible burns to Palestinian children, yet this resolution refuses to seek the truth. The report Congress is burying today was led by a former chief prosecutor who has faced far tougher actors than the critics in this Chamber, critics who have not held one single hearing. There must be only one standard for respecting human rights, a single standard by which we must hold ourselves and our friends and our adversaries accountable.
Rep. Donna Edwards called H.Res.867 “just the wrong resolution yet again at this time.” Rep. David Price called the resolution a “disservice to a respected jurist who has devoted his life to upholding international norms of justice and human rights, and more importantly, it may damage future efforts to hold countries accountable through international investigations.” Rep. Lois Capps lamented that “Sadly, I think that in this body's haste, we've overlooked some of the depth of unspeakable tragedies that have occurred during the war on Gaza. Innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives were lost. We owe it to all victims' families to vow to do everything in our power to prevent further tragedy. Instead, we have a flawed resolution before us.” Rep. Jim McGovern criticized the resolution for “increasing the politicization and the polarization and the heated rhetoric so characteristic of the crisis in the Middle East.” In fact, in watching more than 10 years of debate on Israel/Palestine resolutions in Congress, I cannot remember one which featured such a robust performance by the opponents of a “pro-Israel” resolution and such a feeble performance by its supporters. Clearly the discourse on Israel/Palestine has changed in the general public and it seems like more Members of Congress are starting to get it. But don’t take my word about the tenor of the debate—watch it for yourself below. Fast forward to about 4:01:45 in the video to watch the debate on H.Res.867. You can also read it verbatim in the Congressional Record starting on page H12232. There was never any doubt that H.Res.867 would pass. However, when the votes came in, a surprising number of Representatives (36) opposed it outright with another 22 abstaining. In all, 58 Representatives refused to go along with the attempt to bury the Goldstone Report. Compare that to the vote count on H.Res.34 in January defending Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, when only 5 Representatives voted against it and 22 abstained, and it seems clear that momentum is slowly starting to build on Capitol Hill for a change in policy. The question is: How can we further this momentum and create additional pressure for policy change? Here are a few answers: 1) For the short-term, take action. “Thank or spank” your Representatives based on how they voted on H.Res.867 by clicking here. 2) For the long-term, join our Congressional District Coordinator (CDC) network. Sign up to be a CDC and help us coordinate future efforts to educate your Representative about Israel/Palestine policy issues by clicking here. 3) And, make a tax-deductible contribution to the US Campaign to support our ongoing advocacy efforts. From now through the end of the olive harvest in Palestine, we’ll replant one tree for every $25 you donate to support our work. For details and to make a donation, please click here.

Today: Media Action Day to End the Siege of Gaza

Today we commemorate one year since the Israeli military broke the ceasefire by bombing tunnels in the Gaza Strip, killing 6 Palestinians. We encourage our supporters to take action in the media by writing op-eds, letters to the editor, blog posts, blog comments, and anything else you can think of! Find out how you can get involved by clicking here. For a good example of how you can take action in the media, check out this op-ed entitled "A Grim Anniversary" in The Baltimore Sun, written by Amir Mohareb:
"Now, one year on, the nature and depth of the Gaza crisis has been formally recorded in a United Nations report by South African judge Richard Goldstone. Judge Goldstone himself is an international justice of impeccable record and thoughtful personal history. His report catalogs pervasive targeting and destruction of civilian infrastructure by the Israeli military, while also condemning armed Palestinian groups for firing rockets indiscriminately into Southern Israel. Its major shortcoming, according to a recent article he wrote in his defense, was the Israeli government's refusal to allow the UN fact finding mission to interview Israeli victims of rocket attacks."
In addition to being well-written and on point, notice how the op-ed mentions a Member of Congress by name. Include the name of your member of Congress in an op-ed or letter to the editor--for example, by thanking them for voting "NO" on H.Res. 867 or calling them out for voting "YES" on a resolution condemning a report that they didn't bother to read. This is a great way to get your Member of Congress' attention--Congressional staff monitor local media outlets for exactly this sort of mention. For more advice on taking action in the media, including talking points, tips on pitching stories, and more, click here.

Jewish Daily Forward asks, What does pro-Israel mean on college campuses

There's an interesting article in the Jewish Daily Forward today about the definition of "pro-Israel" on college campuses. Take a look:
"“If ‘pro-Israel’ means agreeing that Israel has a right to exist and wanting to do good things with the state, then we’re pro-Israel,” said Ari Fine, president of JSC. But “people had different connotations about what the word actually meant.”"
Read the full article here. Of course, for those more interested in being pro-peace or pro-human rights, one also has to wonder what those terms mean on campuses that invest in companies selling technology to the Israeli military. That's why the US Campaign has launched a new website with resources for activists working on boycott, divestment, and sanctions on college campuses. Check out a Student Divestment Handbook, information on the upcoming National BDS Conference at Hampshire College, and more on the US Campaign website by clicking here.

Phyllis Bennis: World Without Nuclear Weapons Still Possible

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis has an article in the Huffington Post about the importance of a nuclear weapons-free Middle East--and why Israel isn't excited about the prospect:
"A nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East would mean Israel would have to get rid of its nukes. Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and everyone else in the region would continue their current obligation not to create nuclear weapons. And the U.S. would be prohibited from sending nuclear weapons on ships, subs or planes into the no-nuke zone."
She notes that U.S. support for a Middle East without nukes not only exists, but in enshrined in international law:
"The great secret -- Obama's top officials may not even have been briefed about it -- is that support for such a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East is already U.S. policy. In 1991, the U.S. drafted the United Nations resolution that ending Operation Desert Storm, the first U.S. war against Iraq. Article 14 of that resolution calls for "establishing in the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and all missiles to deliver them." The whole region -- no exceptions. And Council resolutions are binding, so now it's the law -- for the U.S. and the whole world - enshrined in Security Council resolution 687."
Read more at:
Check out the full article here.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

US Campaign's Pittsburgh BDS Conference on Rustbelt Radio

Last week, the US Campaign's Pittsburgh BDS Conference was featured on Rustbelt Radio, the Pittsburgh Independent Media Center's weekly review of grassroots news. US Campaign National Organizer Katherine Fuchs, Aidan Kriese of Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine, and Remi Kanazi of Poets for Palestine were featured guests. Check it out by clicking here (the story begins around 21:30).

Phyllis Bennis on GRITtv: "Discourse has changed, but has the administration noticed?"

From GRITtv: "[US Campaign Steering Committee Member] Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies and the Transnational Institute wants politicians, particularly President Obama, to know that criticizing Israel is no longer political suicide. Despite Republican fearmongering, 78% of Jewish voters supported Obama, and the rise of the new, pro-peace J Street lobby, which held its first convention this week, did not happen in a vacuum. The discourse, she notes, has changed and Americans no longer wholeheartedly support militaristic policies in Israel. There is room for debate on these issues, and politicians should fear hiding from it more than they fear addressing the issues."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Call Congress TODAY: Support the Goldstone Report

As you may know, last week Ileana Ros-Lehtinen introduced H.Res.867, trashing the Goldstone Report on war crimes committed before, during, and after Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" assault on the Gaza Strip. Please join the US Campaign in our attempt to stop this terrible resolution
Please send an email to their Representative asking them to vote "no" on H.Res.867.
Feel free to forward this link to email Congress:
Join our national call in day, tomorrow, November 3rd. We believe that H.Res. 867 will be voted on tomorrow afternoon, so please get as many calls in as possible tomorrow morning. Call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)224-3121, then ask to be connected with your Representative's office. When you're connected with your Representative's office use our talking pointsto explain why s/he should "vote no on H.Res.867"