Monday, June 24, 2013

Keep the Pressure on Alicia Keys!

Check out all the amazing actions activists and organizations have taken to convince Alicia Keys to cancel her show in Tel Aviv on July 4:

You can help keep the pressure on Alicia Keys by tweeting often! Use #AKFAM and tweet to @aliciakeys, @IDTweeps, and @keepachildalive.

Also help spread the petition urging her to cancel, which already has more than 15,000 signatures! Petition link:

  • Over 50 orgs ask @aliciakeys to boycott apartheid and cancel Israel cc @IDTweeps #BDS (Tweet Now
  • Going ahead with ur show @aliciakeys will be used by Israel to whitewash its oppression of Palestinians cc @IDTweeps (Tweet Now)
  • Due to Israeli oppression, vast majority of Palestinians will be unable to join u in Tel Aviv @aliciakeys @IDTweeps (Tweet Now)
  • Over 15,000 people are asking Alicia Keys to cancel her concert in Tel Aviv cc @IDTweeps @keepachildalive (Tweet Now)  
  • Since 2000 Israeli forces responsible for deaths of over 1,300 Palestinian children cc @aliciakeys @keepachildalive (Tweet Now)  
  • Some people want it all. Palestinians just want justice, freedom & equality. @aliciakeys @IDTweeps @keepachildalive (Tweet Now
  • Hey #AKFAM let @aliciakeys know she should boycott aprtheid cc @IDTweeps @keepachildalive (Tweet Now)
  • Be a Superwoman @aliciakeys & boycott #apartheid for all mothers fighting for better days to come cc @IDTweeps (Tweet Now)  
  • Hey Alicia Keys, Israel is accused of abusing Palestinian children- again cc @keepachildalive (Tweet Now
  • Dear @aliciakeys, help @keepachildalive by canceling that apartheid gig! UN report: Israel tortures Palestinian kids (Tweet Now
  • Learn about Boycott Divestment Sanctions #BDS movement for #Palestine rights & why Alicia Keys urged to cancel Israel (Tweet Now)
  • Why are activists asking Alicia Keys to cancel her concert in Israel? #AKFAM (Tweet Now)

Friday, June 21, 2013

More United Methodists Divest From Companies Supporting Israel’s Occupation

Press release from our member group United Methodist Kairos Response. 

Four United Methodist annual or regional conferences (New England, Minnesota, Pacific Northwest and Upper New York) have voted this month to divest or have their funds divested from companies involved with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land. They joined five other conferences (West Ohio, New York, Northern Illinois, California Nevada and California Pacific) which had already taken similar action, bringing the total to nine regional bodies representing thousands of churches.  

The companies targeted in the recent resolutions included Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard and, in one case, General Electric. All play significant roles in the occupation. 

In addition, at least five other conferencesi have asked the denomination’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to divest its holdings in companies that profit from the occupation.  Two more conferences, Susquehanna and Eastern Pennsylvania, established official task forces this month to examine the issue. 

As United Methodists learn about Israel’s land confiscation, home demolitions, and the segregated systems of transportation, water, and laws that discriminate against Christians and Muslims, there is a strong sense that the church must act.  Palestinian Christians have called on churches around the world to help end the occupation of their land.ii 

According to John Wagner of United Methodist Kairos Response, “Our denomination has a long history of upholding human rights around the world. The question now is whether we will bring the same resolve to the situation in the Holy Land, where our fellow Christians have asked for our help.”

The divestment movement has gained momentum as illegal Israeli settlements expand on Palestinian land and Israeli attacks on Christians and Muslims increase.  In 2012, Friends Fiduciary Committee, which handles investments for the Quaker denomination, divested from Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Veolia Environnement because of their involvement in the occupation. This spring, the Mennonite Church and the American Friends Service Committee declared twenty nine companies profiting from the occupation ineligible for investment.

Divestment is a nonviolent form of economic protest long used to encourage companies to end unjust practices.  The church has engaged for yearsiii in dialog with Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola Solutions about their role in Israel’s occupation. Those calling for divestment say it will strengthen the church in future negotiations by providing a consequence for ignoring the church’s concerns.  

In 2012, Caterpillar stock was downgraded by MSCI, a prestigious ratings agency, and then dropped from the socially responsible portfolios of the giant US pension fund, TIAA CREF, which divested $72 million of Caterpillar stock.  At that time the company’s role in the occupation was given as a reason.iv  Large European pension funds have also divested from companies involved with the occupation.  According to Susanne Hoder of the New England Conference, “Divestment is a good move financially and an essential move morally for the church.”

About UMKR: United Methodist Kairos Response is a global grassroots network of laity and clergy within the United Methodist Church working to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.  Responding to an urgent call from Palestinian Christians, UMKR advocates principled investment decisions and consumer choices that will have an impact on the occupation.  Through research, education and advocacy, UMKR supports non-violent means of securing a just peace for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine. For more information, see 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Occupied Palestine, an Interview with David Koff

On June 5th 2013, at the Jerusalem Fund, I had the luck to watch the documentary by David Koff “Occupied Palestine”. This documentary was one of the best I watched about the colonization of Palestine.

Koff’s documentary offers an analysis of the Israeli occupation that is still today rare to find. The documentary is interesting to watch because it gives a visual representation to what the Palestinian scholars Walid Khalidi and Rosmary Sayigh have written in the 1970s. Koff in his documentary presents the Zionist project of the conquest of Palestine. It is close to Walid Khalidi’s work because it debunks the Zionist myth stating that Palestinians chose to leave. The documentary shows that they were forced to because of the extreme violence used by the Haganah. It is close to the work of Rosemary Sayigh because it shows how Palestinian peasants, deprived from their land, decided to resist. It explains therefore how the resistance in Palestine started from the bottom up.
The documentary does not leave out any aspect of the Israeli occupation. It shows how Israel steals water from the Palestinians, how villages and houses were and are destroyed by the Israeli and how Palestinians are imprisoned arbitrarily. It also mentions the tortures in prison, for instance, how some prisoners are force-fed
The documentary was first shown in 1981 at the San Francisco festival. A few minutes into the documentary, the building where the film was shown received a bomb threat and had to be evacuated. This documentary could have been the call of conscience for many individuals sympathetic to Israel. The rampant occupation of Palestine might have been stopped if individuals around the world saw images of the Zionist colonial project at the end of the 1970s. Koff’s documentary is still relevant today because it shows that contrary to what leaders and medias are asserting and have asserted, Israel never had any good attention, and that from the beginning, it was a vast colonial project. 

US Campaign: Why was your documentary not shown in other festivals across the United States after the San Francisco festival of 1981? What were the justifications that were given to you to justify it?

David Koff (DK): At the time the film was released, in the early 1980s, there was little public knowledge in the U.S. of the Palestinian movement and the resistance of Palestinians to colonization and occupation. Because the film doesn’t shrink from the realities of the confrontation between Zionism and the Palestinian resistance it was considered “controversial” and beyond the limits of reasonable discourse.  So, for example, when the film had its U.S. premiere at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 1981, the screening was interrupted for more than an hour by a bomb threat. The consequences of that were immediately manifest when a theater-owner in San Francisco who had shown my previous films, and who came to the premiere with the intention of doing the same with Occupied Palestine, told me afterwards he would not show it.  I had a similar experience in London, where another theater owner, who compared the film to The Battle of Algiers, also refused to program it. Both these reactions were driven, in my opinion, by fear of audience reactions and public opinion.

US Campaign: Why did you not try to show your documentary after a certain amount of time? Was your documentary censored in the United States? 

DK: The film was not formally “censored” in the US because there was no “official” attempt to suppress it by the state or state agencies. It was effectively censored, however, by the unwillingness of distributors to represent or show it. One major distributor of films in the US refused to represent the film on the basis of the title alone - “I don’t have to see it,” he said, “to know we don’t want to have it in our catalog.” 

The film has been shown over the years on a limited basis in the U.S., mostly on college campuses where it has been used by instructors and more often by student organizations active in Middle East political issues. A shorter version of the film was shown on some public television stations in the U.S. in 1986 but the major stations in New York and Washington DC refused to air it. Depriving the audiences in those cities of a chance to see the film was definitely a form of censorship.

US Campaign: Why did you decide to make this documentary about Palestine?

DK :Long before I began making films I was a student of colonialism and national resistance. I had lived and worked in Africa and had traveled around the world observing and writing about colonialism and independence movements. The first films I made were in Africa, focused on African resistance to colonial rule.  I had always had an interest in Israel, having grown up in a Jewish (but not Zionist) home, and by the late 1970s I wanted to learn more about what was actually happening on the ground in Israel and the occupied territories.  I realized that the Palestinian experience of Zionism was missing from much of what was written, and almost completely absent from what was shown on the cinema screen. When I set out to make the film in 1979 it was soon after the Camp David Accords. There was a lot of talk about ‘land for peace’ and the possibility of resolving the conflict. I wanted to make a film that went beyond the current events and paid attention to the deeper currents that drove the conflict between Zionism and the Palestinians.

When you went to Palestine in the late 1970s did you remember which American companies were present? Which ones were benefiting from the Israeli Occupation?

DK:In the film itself you see a Mack earth moving truck and a Caterpillar tractor.

US Campaign: According to the Guardian, you stated that you were surprised that your documentary was shown. Why were you surprised?

DK: I wasn’t so much surprised that the 2013 London Palestine Film Festival decided to show Occupied Palestine, but rather that the organizers of the festival chose to feature it for the opening night Gala. I had hoped the film would simply be selected to be shown during the festival. This was a courageous decision on the part of the festival directors, given that the film was made more than thirty years ago. However, I think their decision was validated by the excitement the film generated and by the audience response at two separate screenings. The festival program called the film “trailblazing,” a “tour de force” and “a singular work of engaged filmmaking.” There was a vigorous Q&A with the audiences after the screenings, and there was also a substantial amount of media coverage.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Ask the State Department about Palestinian Refugees!

Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population,
Refugees, and Migration, will be interviewed by Cheryl Benton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, to discuss "Refugee Assistance, the Human Face of Foreign Policy" in recognition of  World Refugee Day, which is on June 20. The conversation is meant to highlight refugee assistance, U.S. refugee assistance policies and the concept of humanitarian diplomacy. 

They are asking people submit questions via Twitter to @EngageState using #RefugeeDay2013. This is an opportunity to pose questions about U.S. policy toward Palestinian refugees

You can use the sample tweets below and/or come up with your own. The discussion will be taped on Tuesday, June 18 so make sure to submit your questions before then! 

Note: If you do not use Twitter, you can submit questions via the State Department's blog ( in the Comments section. 

  • Palestinians are largest refugee population in the world @EngageState What will U.S. do to ensure their right of return? #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

  • UNRWA estimates there are 5 million Palestinian refugees @EngageState What will U.S. do to ensure their right of return? #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

  • Palestinians made refugees by Israeli ethnic cleansing in '48 @EngageState What will US do to ensure their right of return? #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

  • Israel agreed to Palestinian refugees' right of return when joining UN. Shouldn't Israel have to implement it? @EngageState #RefugeeDay2013 (Tweet Now)

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

University of Washington Community to Graduation Speaker: Stop Bulldozer Sales to Israel

Press release from our member groups Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights- University of Washington and The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice. You can read the open letter to Jon Huntsman signed by more than 100 groups here

Republican presidential hopeful, governor of Utah, and board member of the company that manufactured the bulldozer used to kill Washington state college student and nonviolent protester Rachel Corrie, Jon Huntsman will address 45,000 attendants of University of Washington’s 138th graduation ceremonies. 

An open letter signed by over 100 student groups, alumni, faculty, and community organizations including the parents of Rachel Corrie explains CAT’s role in Palestine. Amin Odeh of Seattle group Voices for Palestine adds, “Caterpillar bulldozers in the Westbank and Gaza destroy homes, crops, and crush any hope for Peace.” The letter asks Huntsman to use his position on the board to “address the continuing harm caused by Caterpillar’s machines in Palestine” by “suspending sales to the Israeli military…until guarantees are received that their equipment will not be used to violate international law or commit human rights abuses.” The letter also asks Huntsman to meet with representatives of the Rachel Corrie Foundation and other signatories.

Member of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights at University of Washington Caitlin Palo says, “Our letter is not a protest of Huntsman, on the contrary we address him in good faith about what he can do to make a difference in Palestine.” Professor of Global Health Aaron Katz explains why he signed the letter, “Recognizing that human rights in Palestine are as important as human rights anywhere is the social justice issue of our time…Jon Huntsman has an opportunity to influence CAT’s role.” Graduating seniors will be congratulated outside of Century Link Field with fliers including more information about CAT’s role in Palestine and a message to hold up during Huntsman’s speech. Graduating Senior Aaron Lerner, who co-authored a letter in last week’s UW Daily News titled “Not all Jewish Huskies are ‘For Israel,’” was excited about the event at Graduation. “As a graduating senior I just want my university to invest symbolically and literally in companies that fall in line with the ethical values of the UW, companies that respect international human rights norms.”

On how Israel Does its Best to Justify Occupation

      Israeli authorities claimed recently that labeling products made in Israel would harm Palestinians. This happens as the BDS movement continues to flourish across the globe.This is one of the most jejune and ridiculous claims Israel has made in regards to the current economic and political situation of Palestine and reaches new heights of irony. Israel, the occupying force, is completely dismissing its occupation of Palestine and explaining that harming its own economy might harm Palestinians. Israel has, and still is, ethnically cleansing Palestine, jailing activists arbitrarily, destroying homes and abusing human rights on a daily basis. It is now giving lessons about what would potentially harm Palestinians.
            Labeling products from Israel would make every individual worldwide politically responsible for their own decision to buy or to boycott Israeli products, and therefore to support or boycott an apartheid state. More than 170 Palestinians organizations called for BDS understanding that boycotting Israeli products is one of the nonviolent ways to inform the international community of the crimes committed by Israel and hold it accountable. It is a bottom-up solution to the occupation. It is a plan for peace and justice that is radically different from others promoted by certain powers that failed miserably. Contrary to the sanitized US foreign policy “economic peace” plan that John Kerry unveiled in order to improve economic conditions for Palestinians, a plan that that has been tried and proved to be unsuccessful, BDS targets the core of the problem: Israeli occupation and apartheid.
South African blacks living under apartheid knew the cost of boycott. They knew that because part of the population was in control of all the resources, it meant that their daily life would worsen. However, they also knew that the boycott would help denounce the suffering of their people.
            Palestinians too are conscious that they are the victims of a vast colonial project. Israel, as all colonial projects, makes the economy of the people it occupies dependent on its own. However, Palestinian activists understand that only real pressure on Israel, including economic, will help them achieve self-determination. By  arguing that Israeli products should not be labeled because it could harm Palestinians, Israel is acting as the “perfect” colonial power,. Only a colonial power believes that it is enlightened and superior to the indigenous people it colonizes and therefore knows what is in their best interest.

            Many companies like SodaStream that are benefiting from the occupation argue that they are providing Palestinians with much needed jobs. An article published on Electronic Intifada shows that the working conditions offered to Palestinians are close to slavery. Palestinian workers have denounced the living conditions that they were under. Palestinians do not need such jobs from SodaStream and others. They need these companies to stop exploiting their labor, land, and resources. Civil society across the world can pressure these companies to stop benefiting from occupation by joining the BDS movement. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Twitter Action for CAT Shareholder Meeting June 12!

Caterpillar will be conducting its 2013 annual meeting of stockholders on  Wednesday, June 12 at 8am EDT in  Greensboro, North Carolina. A number of groups are planning actions around the meeting and you can get involved as well by tweeting during the meeting about CAT selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel, house demolitions, and BDS. 

The meeting is from 8am-9am EDT, so plan your tweets to be posted then. Sample tweets below. You can also make your own using #stopCAT and @CaterpillarInc. 

  • Rachel stood in front of CAT bulldozer to protect Palestinian home & YOU can join Day of Action against @CaterpillarInc (Tweet Now)
  • Since 1967 Israel has demolished at least 25,000 Palestinian homes #stopCAT (Tweet Now
  • In March 2003 a Caterpillar D9 bulldozer operated by Israeli army killed peace activist Rachel Corrie #stopCAT (Tweet Now
  • Surprised @CaterpillarInc wasn't named to "25 Noteworthy Companies" profiting from occupation & #humanrights abuses (Tweet Now
  • Shame that @CaterpillarInc proudly supports Israel's brutal military occupation (Tweet Now
  • .@CaterpillarInc is the world's leading manufacturer of destruction equipment #stopCAT (Tweet Now
  • At Visitors Center u can experience Caterpillar. Don't worry, ur house won't be demolished by a bulldozer #stopCAT (Tweet Now)
  • .@OberlinCollege Student Senate voted to divest from @CaterpillarInc. Won’t TIAA-CREF do the same? #stopCAT @TC_Talks (Tweet Now)
  • 10 years ago Rachel Corrie blocked path of CAT bulldozer, protesting destruction of Palestinian homes #stopCAT (Tweet Now
  • Don’t you love shareholder meetings for corporations that support the Israeli occupation? #stopCAT @CaterpillarInc (Tweet Now
  • So what will it be? People or profit? Rachel Corrie chose people #stopCAT #RememberRachel (Tweet Now)  
  • Israeli demolition of Palestinian homes has killed 21 unarmed Palestinians since 1967 #stopCAT (Tweet Now
  • @CaterpillarInc bulldozers destroy Palestinian homes, build illegal settlements & walls, kill civilians #stopCAT (Tweet Now
Also Jon Huntsman, who is best known for being one the Republican presidential hopefuls of the 2012 elections but also holds a prominent position as a board member of Caterpillar, will be the commencement speaker at the University of Washington on Saturday, June 15. 

Students for Palestinian Equal Rights and The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice are organizing lots of ways to educate commencement-goers and graduates about the role of CAT in the Israeli occupation and to urge Huntsman to use his position to end sales of CAT bulldozers to Israel. Get involved here and follow #uwCATfree on Twitter. 
  • Hey @JonHuntsman, It's Time. CAT Out of Palestine via @uwsuper (Tweet Now
  • #Huskies Take Action and urge @JonHuntsman to end sales of CAT bulldozers to Israel #stopCAT (Tweet Now)
  • Congrats #uwgrad13! Use this occasion to tell ur commencement speaker @JonHuntsman to do right thing #uwCATfree (Tweet Now)