Showing posts with label Anna Baltzer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anna Baltzer. Show all posts

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Baltzer: BDS Movement Strategic, Flexible, Diverse and Inclusive

Below is an article in The Jewish Week covering the talk our National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave this past weekend in New York on "The Jewish-American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads" with Norman Finkelstein. You can read Anna's remarks here

Has Norman Finkelstein, long reviled in the Jewish community as a vitriolic hater of the Jewish state, morphed into a defender of Israel’s legitimacy? And what does Finkelstein’s newfound “moderation” say about the current state of the anti-Israel left, exemplified by the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement?

Over the course of three decades, Finkelstein achieved superstar status on the anti-Zionist left by writing a myriad of books and articles in which he declared Israel to be “an insane state” and charged Elie Wiesel and other pro-Zionist Jews with exploiting the memory of the Holocaust as an “ideological weapon” in support of Israel.

Given that stormy history, it was strange to attend an unabashedly one-sided discussion last Saturday afternoon at the New School in Manhattan titled “The Jewish-American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads,” and to hear Finkelstein denounce the BDS movement for refusing to affirm Israel’s right to exist within the 1967 Green Line border. Sitting next to him on the panel was Anna Baltzer, national organizer of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a top leader in the BDS movement.

Finkelstein argued that the movement’s failure to take a clear stance on that issue will prevent it from bringing aboard the growing number of young American Jews who, he believes, have concluded that Israel’s occupation is morally wrong and must be ended.

But while the overwhelmingly anti-Israel crowd of about 500 heard Finkelstein out respectfully, they ardently applauded Baltzer when she argued that BDS movement is growing in strength and stature despite its unwillingness to take the steps Finkelstein demands; those include official embrace of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

The talk, which was moderated by Adam Shatz, an editor at the London Review of Books, and which took place before the end of the Sabbath, was supposed to have also included anti-Zionist avatar Noam Chomsky, who cancelled because of laryngitis. The event seemed conceived as an opportunity for Finkelstein to showcase the argument laid out in his recently published book, “Knowing Too Much: Why the American Jewish Romance with Israel is Coming to an End” (Or Books). In it he argues that a critical mass of young American Jews have concluded that Israeli policy toward the Palestinians is morally indefensible and that many of them can be brought into the BDS movement on behalf of Palestinian rights — as long as the movement makes clear its commitment to Israel’s survival.

However, the afternoon came to feel like a symbolic changing of the guard on the anti-Israel left.

Much of the audience appeared dubious of Finkelstein’s moderation and enthralled with Baltzer; she is an articulate and attractive 33-year-old St. Louis native who turned sharply to the left and made pro-Palestinian advocacy her top cause after being disillusioned with what she saw in Israel during a Birthright Israel trip in 2000. Her polished speaking style served to temper the impact of her full-throated advocacy for the right of Palestinians to return to within the borders of pre-1967 Israel (code to pro-Israel supporters for the destruction of the Jewish state), and her defense of Palestinian-Americans and others who refuse to affirm the right of Israel to exist.

Read more at The Jewish Week

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Palestinians Cannot Be Relegated to Margins of Own Liberation Struggle

Anna Baltzer is National Organizer at the US Campaign. She gave this talk at an event entitled "The Jewish American Relationship with Israel at the Crossroads."

Thank you so much to OR Books, Vera List Center, Adam Shatz, and the others who organized this event. It’s an honor to be here. I’m excited to be here and by the topic of this event because I believe we are at a crossroads, not just in terms of Jewish American feelings towards Israel -- as Dr. Finkelstein has meticulously documented in his book -- but also the place of Jewish voices in the movement. There is no question that there is a monumental shift happening among American Jews, with increasing
numbers coming out against Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies against the Palestinian people. This is largely a generational shift, driven by young people, who have become allies to the cause even as their parents repeat the same tired arguments they did decades ago about Israel’s moral superiority and lack of a partner for peace.

People like Dr. Finkelstein, Dr. Chomsky, and many other deserve credit for decades of speaking out against Israel’s abuses of Palestinians when so few Jewish -- or other -- Americans did. Palestinians, of course, have always been speaking out as long as they have been oppressed, though nobody listened. The courage of all these voices in the dark paved the way for many of us today.

Today, many synagogues can no longer even talk about this issue because it is so divisive. The traditional gatekeepers of the conversation are in crisis. For example, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was living the past year, is suffering a very clear downward trajectory. More than 90% of its donors are over 40 years old. The organization says it represents the Jewish community but won’t publish the list of synagogues because, in fact, the number is very few.

Meanwhile, organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace are growing in leaps and bounds. Its mailing list now boasts more than 125,000 subscribers. There are explicitly anti-Zionist organizations like the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Young, Jewish, and Proud, the youth wing of Jewish Voice for Peace, is growing particularly quickly with more and more young Jewish Americans reclaiming American Jewish identity as rooted in support for equality and justice rather than unconditional support for a state across the world that does not represent them.

Along with the growth of Jewish support for Palestinian rights, however, comes a dangerous phenomenon; that is, Jewish voices eclipsing Palestinian ones. Palestinian voices have long been dismissed as angry, irrational, and biased. Even people supporting justice for Palestinians often say they’d rather have a Jewish speaker come to their community because our voices are more “credible.” They would rather have me telling Palestinian stories than a Palestinian -- the expert -- telling her or his own stories. Events like today’s draw larger crowds than a panel of Palestinians speaking about their own struggle would. 

Intentional or not, what happens is that just as we are trying to break down the imbalance of power and privilege in Israel/Palestine, we are recreating the same power imbalance in the U.S. context. We must challenge not only Israel’s abuse of Palestinians but the underlying racism at its core that somehow Jews are more important than Palestinians. We must acknowledge that privileging Jewish American voices rather than featuring and listening to Palestinian voices is rooted in racism.

Let’s take an analogy. Imagine an all-male speaking tour in the late 1960s promoting the feminist movement. Imagine people inviting panels of men to speak about feminism because, well, women are so angry and irrational -- they won’t be heard as credible. Any half-politicized person would rightly have called this out for what it is: misogynistic. Because the feminist movement was not and is not just about an end goal of getting women certain rights; it’s about empowering women, women being able to speak for ourselves; it’s about transforming society overall. Speaking for myself, the same goes for this movement. As we speak about freedom and justice for Palestinians, their voices must be at the center. And I’ll talk about what that means in practice a little later.

But meanwhile, what is the role of Jewish Americans on this issue? I would argue that an honest analysis of the situation shows that mainstream Jewish American institutions are among the traditional gatekeepers on this issue, and Jewish voices are uniquely placed to challenge and disrupt those institutions’ hegemony. We must be present in coalitions challenging those institutions, defending allies from claims of anti-Semitism that are used to stifle legitimate discussion about Israel and to suppress action. The more of us that speak out, the harder it becomes for pro-occupation Jewish institutions to claim to be in any way representative. By showing that the Jewish community is not monolithic, we show that this is not an identity-based struggle between Jews and Palestinians but a struggle for human rights like any other.

To put it another way: It’s not about Jews leading the way; it’s about stepping out of the way.

I’ll give you an example: This past summer in the Bay Area, I was part of a hearing by the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights regarding an upcoming local bus contract renewal with Veolia, a company that is also deeply implicated in the Israeli occupation. It was standing room only, with testifiers overflowing out the door waiting to speak. Defending the local bus contract were representatives of Veolia Corporation and some members of the Jewish community. On the other side were a diverse group of community members and others from the Jewish community. In other words, it was only the Jewish community that was divided. What was the effect? Our voices countering those from the JCRC helped the commissioners -- and all the
media and witnesses there -- to see plainly the situation for what it really was: a struggle of people vs. power and corporate impunity.

We made space for others to be heard. As Jews, we can use our voices particularly to help lift up the voices of Palestinians that have been silenced for so long. By the way, and I’m speaking for myself here, this does not mean we give people permission to listen to Palestinian voices. Historically, the role of Jewish American allies has been to show that it’s okay to criticize Israel, to support boycott and divestment, etc. But what’s really needed is a complete paradigm shift; it’s the concept that you, whoever you are, do not need permission from Jews -- or anyone else for that matter -- to do what you believe is the right thing to do. 

It’s not that we do not participate -- we should, of course… we must, enthusiastically! -- but we must also make sure that Jewish American voices are not, as they have in the past, regulating the terms of the discussion, including when it comes to the vision of the future of Israel/Palestine and the means of their freedom struggle. Our particular mandate to challenge U.S. institutional support for Israel -- most notably the roughly $3 billion dollars in military aid awarded Israel with tax-payer dollars annually -- is clear and always has been. Meanwhile, we must carry an extra sense of humility when it comes to an indigenous movement, particularly when we come from the oppressing group -- in this case both as Jews and as Americans. And that means listening when we are given the opportunity to support the oppressed.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and (1) ends its illegal occupation, (2) implements full equality for Palestinians inside Israel, and (3) promotes the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Behind this call stands the largest breadth and broadest consensus of Palestinian voices to my knowledge. It has been signed by more than 170 organizations representing all segments of Palestinian civil society, including unions, all major political parties, human rights organizations, and more.

The growing global BDS movement is a thriving, diverse, and inclusive movement. It is strategic in nature, empowering groups around the world to choose targets and tactics that are appropriate within each particular context. It stands on three pillars -- freedom, equality, and justice, representing the three rights articulated in the call, the three minimal components to fulfilling Palestinians’ must fundamental rights.

The movement has had tremendous success thus far, with victories announced weekly or sometimes daily from around the world, growing in size and significance. Most recently in the U.S., for example, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation, which manages investments for more than 250 Quaker institutions around this country, decided to divest from Caterpillar, Veolia, and Hewlett Packard corporations following concerns expressed by a Palestine Israel Action Group and their local Friends meeting. Earlier this year, Morgan Stanley Capital Investment (MSCI) delisted Caterpillar from its list of socially responsible investments, prompting financial giant TIAA-CREF to divest close to $73 million from their Social Choice Fund. These are just two of the most recent examples.

But the greatest success of the BDS movement is its effect on the discourse. Here in the U.S., campaigns playing out in mainstream churches, shopping centers, university campuses, and city councils have fundamentally shifted the question from whether or not Israel is committing crimes to what are we going to do about it. The gatekeepers of the occupation are suddenly on the defensive where they never were before. And more than any book or speaker (and I am speaking as an author and a public speaker) ever could before, BDS campaigns -- whether they win or lose -- are changing the way people think about Israel and the Palestinians. I believe the success of BDS is behind some of the exciting phenomena that Dr. Finkelstein writes about in this book. This shift in discourse will also be key to forcing an end to U.S. military aid and other U.S. institutional -- including corporate - support that enables Israel’s abuses.

In part through BDS, the Palestine solidarity movement has transformed from talking about Palestinian self-determination to manifesting it. Palestinians are no longer relegated to the margins of their own liberation struggle, but are in fact the leaders of it. This, of course, makes speakers like myself much less important, and that’s okay with me, in fact, I’m happy about it.

Freed from the old paradigm, the result is quite beautiful: “It’s clear what the future looks like” -- to quote Cecilie Surasky of Jewish Voice for Peace in her article written after the first night of the University of California at Berkeley hearings on divestment. She noted -- and I have seen as well from Sonoma County to the United Methodist and Presbyterian churches’ recent divestment hearings to the many others playing out on campuses from New York City to San Diego -- that while on the one side you had a small group of isolated Jewish students and leaders, holding onto each other fearfully; on the other you saw a diverse group of Jews, Palestinians, Muslims, Israelis, Arabs, African Americans, Latina and Latino community members, queer allies, feminists, and others; interconnected, holding hands in friendship, solidarity, and anticipation. As a young Jewish American, this is what I want my community and place in the movement to look like. Thank you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Those Defending Israel’s Actions are Fighting a Losing Battle

Anna Baltzer is National Organizer with the US Campaign. 

There is a moment, just before a pendulum changes direction, when it is perfectly still. It is precisely that moment that marks the end of an old way and the beginning of a new one. That is what happened for divestment at the 2012 Presbyterian Church USA (PC(USA)) General Assembly in Pittsburgh. 

At the General Assembly, a coalition of groups
rallied to support the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) in its efforts to pass a recommendation from the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard due to the companies’ profiting from the Israeli occupation. The IPMN also sought to pass an overture to boycott settlement products Ahava Dead Sea Mineral Skincare and Hadiklaim Israel Date Growers in addition to other pro-justice overtures

The week began with
a historic victory in the Middle East and Peacemaking Issues Committee considering divestment and boycott. The committee voted overwhelmingly—by a more than three to one margin—to recommend both measures to the General Assembly.  The deliberations lasted more than ten hours and included a sincere and often times difficult discussion about what it meant to them to stand with the oppressed, to withstand accusatory bullying, and to vote according to their conscience. 

When it came to the boycott overture, the committee decided that boycotting Ahava and Hadiklaim simply was not enough to address the abhorrent nature of occupation. Instead,
it amended the resolution to boycott “all Israeli products coming from the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” and calling on “all nations to prohibit the import of products made by enterprises in Israeli settlements on Palestinian land.” The amended boycott overture passed in plenary by a huge margin, seventy-one percent. In doing so, the PC(USA) joins the United Methodist Church in endorsing a boycott of all Israeli settlement products. This is a major victory. According to Jeff Deyoe, Advocacy Chair of IPMN, as recent as two years ago, the word “boycott” could not even be uttered in the Church. 

The boycott victory was bittersweet. While the Church supported boycott, its vote on divestment proved more difficult. The vote to substitute divestment from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard with investment came out split 50-50, 333 to 331 to be exact. The divestment option failed by one vote, as the investment substitution needed a majority to pass, and thus it would have been defeated by a tie.
One woman subsequently approached the microphone to say she had accidentally voted against divestment and wanted a recount, but by then it was too late. 

To describe it as a close vote is an understatement, as indicated by a breakdown of the overall votes. The majority of the 221 advisory delegates, who advise the commissioners but do not have an official vote, voted against the substitution. They included the Young Adult Advisory Delegates, who represent the future leadership of the Church. Virtually all Church leadership and advocacy groups supported divestment including the General Assembly Mission Council, the Advocacy Committee on Racial and Ethnic Concerns, and key members of the Board of Pensions demonstrating institutional support within the Church for divestment. In other words, the voting commissioners may have been split, but the Church, overall, supports divestment. 

Continue Reading on Jadaliyya

Monday, July 9, 2012

"If you truly want to help the Palestinian people, I urge you to listen to what they are asking for."

Our National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave the following testimony to the Presbyterian Church (USA) Middle East Peacemaking Committee on Monday, July 2, 2012 regarding divestment. She was serving as a Resource Person for the Advocacy Committee on Racial & Ethnic Concerns. 

If you are interested in learning more about church divestment efforts as well as other BDS campaigns in the United States, please register for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference taking place September 21-23 at St. Louis University. 

Thank you, Mr. Moderator. 

I defer to the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee to answer your questions regarding the internal process of engagement with the companies leading to the recommendation to divest. Coming from my perspective as a Jewish American who has lived in Palestine, I can speak to the two other main concerns I have heard regarding Jewish-Christian relations and investment being a positive alternative to divestment. 

Friends, I am not up here as a Jew to tell that it’s okay for you to divest. Because you do not need my permission to do whatever you think is the righteous thing to do. You don’t need anybody’s permission. 

I realize that divestment is controversial. That’s okay. Slavery was controversial. The Church was divided. Desegregation was controversial. Especially in the South, people were afraid of damaging relationships if they spoke out for desegregation. But the Presbyterian Church supported an end to segregation before it was common. I urge you to honor that legacy by acting today out of love and compassion rather than fear of what others will say.

You are being told that action against the occupation will estrange you from the Jewish people. But the occupation is fundamentally contrary to our shared values of equality and justice. 

There is nothing Jewish about racial profiling with Hewlett Packard bioscanners.

There is nothing Jewish about protecting stolen land with Motorola technology.
There is nothing Jewish about demolishing Palestinian homes with Caterpillar bulldozers.
And to claim that ending cooperation with these human rights violations means ending cooperation with Judaism, or Jews, draws a very dangerous parallel. There is a sea change happening. Jews are divided on this issue. You have to follow your own conscience. 

Regarding the idea of investment as a positive alternative to divestment, let me point out first that there is nothing neutral about profiting from the destruction of Palestinian homes and schools, as you are today. To stop profiting from those things, to divest, is not negative -- it’s positive. 

Investment can also be positive, but it should be practical. No Palestinian economy can endure without access to land, water, goods, or labor. Checkpoints using HP bioscanners prevent workers from reaching work or transporting products. Settlements surrounded by Motorola cameras make it impossible for Palestinians to reach their land and resources. And anything you build can be destroyed in a flash with Caterpillar bulldozers. 

For 170 years, your church has chosen the model of mission in partnership rather than missionary work, recognizing the importance of listening to the voices and choices of those you are trying to help. Why do mission in partnership in Africa and South America, but not in the land where Jesus walked? 

Right now, the Palestinians are not asking for you to invest in their economy. They are asking you to stop investing in and profiting from their suffering. They are asking you to engage in divestment, a time-tested, nonviolent, faithful act of love. 

Giving charity can also be loving. But dismissing Palestinian voices is not loving. It’s patronizing.

If you truly want to help the Palestinian people, I urge you to listen to what they are asking for. 

Thank you. 

Thank you to the
Israel Palestine Mission Network and Jewish Voice for Peace for ideas on some of the above talking points.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Anna Baltzer on United Methodist Divestment

Anna Baltzer is National Organizer at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and author of "Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories." To learn more about this divestment resolution being considered by the United Methodist Church in 2012, visit

Friday, March 16, 2012

Dozens of US Campaign Member Groups Participate in 2012 Israeli Apartheid Week!

Two weeks ago, activists from US Campaign member groups and other organizations joined organizers in 115 cities worldwide for the 8th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW)!

From Olympia, WA to New Brunswick, NJ; from Burlington to Boston; US Campaign member groups in more than a dozen U.S. cities held IAW actions and events during the global week of action to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid state and to build campaigns for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Exposing Israel's apartheid policies and challenging corporations that profit from the Israeli occupation are central to the US Campaign's mission of ending U.S. institutional support for the Israeli occupation and promoting freedom, justice, and equality.

The actions -- including guerrilla theater, mock walls, mock checkpoints, new billboards, walk-outs, and street theater -- and participating cities are too many to name here. (For a complete list of participating cities and their activities, visit the official IAW website.)

Here is just a small sampling of some of the inspiring, creative actions and events by US Campaign coalition member groups and others around the country:

Above: Students at Antioch University set up a mock checkpoint with signs reading "Palestinians Stop" and "Israelis (and everyone else) Pass."

Students at Antioch University in Seattle and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley erected mock Israeli checkpoints, while students at Boston University, Brandeis University, Rutgers University, the University of Pennsylvania, and beyond constructed mock Israeli apartheid walls on their campuses.

At the University of Minnesota, Students for Justice in Palestine joined community members working on the Minnesota Break the Bonds campaign at a "Visualizing Inequality" event, where they served different sides of the room a different quality and quantity of food to represent the inequality of resources and quality of life between Israeli and Palestinian families under Israel's apartheid laws.

Students at UCLA and UC Irvine staged peaceful and powerful walk-outs from presentations by Israeli soldiers organized to counter IAW.

Above: Click to view a marching band, mock wall, and street theater protesting Batsheva Dance Co.

More than a hundred activists protested performances by the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company in San Francisco and New York City with banners, guerrilla theater, marching bands and street theater, calling attention to the dance troupe's role in the Brand Israel campaign to whitewash Israeli apartheid.

The Seattle Middle East Awareness Campaign launched a series of advertisements on local King County Metro buses with billboards calling for equal rights for Palestinians.

These actions came on the heels of film screenings, protests, panel discussions, and so much more that happened across the country earlier this month.

But it's not over yet! If your US Campaign member group did not get to take part in IAW, or if you want to build on your IAW activities, remember that the Global BDS Day of Action is right around the corner on March 30th, Palestinian Land Day!

This year, Land Day happens to fall on César Chávez Day, commemorating the late American farmworker and civil rights activist. This coincidence presents a wonderful opportunity for US Campaign organizations to connect the struggles and tactics (including boycotts) of farmers and workers who have advocated for justice from grape orchards in the United States to olive groves in Palestine.

Click here for more information and ideas for taking action on Land Day, and be sure to send the US Campaign your photos, links, videos, and reports back!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Vote for Anna in People’s Choice Award!

Our National Organizer Anna Baltzer has been nominated for a Global Exchange People's Choice Award!

The People's Choice Award is meant to honor the Human Rights activists who inspire you. Global Exchange aims to shine a light on the Human Rights heroes working to build a better world-on your street, in your community and beyond. 

Vote for Anna today-  voting closes 5pm March 19- and please make sure to share with your friends and followers!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Educate & Mobilize Your Community During Apartheid Week 2012!

By Anna Baltzer, National Organizer

Are you looking for opportunities to educate your community and advance a campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel? Or are you gearing up to launch such a campaign? Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 is a fantastic opportunity to do so, and it's just three weeks away!

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is an annual international series of events held in cities and on campuses across the globe. The aim of IAW is to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid state and to build BDS campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement. Last year's IAW was incredibly successful with participants in 97 U.S. cities! The eighth annual IAW is February 26 - March 3, 2012.  

Click here to email the U.S. IAW coordinators now if you plan to participate in IAW 2012!

Local initiatives during Israeli Apartheid Week span a wide variety. You need not organize an entire week of events, and you can decide what kind of event best advances your work within your means. Here are some ideas for activities:

1.Organize a teach-in to educate the community about the definition and the reailty of Israeli apartheid, how U.S. aid to Israel scaffolds Israeli apartheid, and the importance of BDS as a strategy to end Israeli apartheid. The IAW and US Campaign websites have dozens of fact sheets illustrating Israel's apartheid policies in the occupied territories and Israel itself. One of the best resources illustrating the former is a booklet by US Campaign member group Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions - USA, entitled "Is Israel an Apartheid State?", based on a legal study coordinated by the government of South Africa. There are also films about Israeli apartheid that you can screen.

2.Pass a resolution to endorse BDS and the BDS National Committee's statement "Occupy Wall Street, Not Palestine!" at your nearest #Occupy General Assembly, as #Occupy Oakland did last week! Organizers compiled data from to show how many local tax-dollars are being spent on military aid to Israel, and how that money could otherwise be spent in the local community. You can also pass a resolution to call for an end to U.S. aid that supports Israeli apartheid. The apartheid framework is a great tool to coalition-build with allies at #Occupy who are working on other anti-racism struggles.

3.Be creative! Draw attention to Israeli apartheid and BDS with a Mock Apartheid Wall, a BDS flash mob, a concert or poetry reading, street theater, and anything else that energizes and builds your efforts. 2012.

Organizing for IAW comes on the heels of an exhilarating National BDS Conference at the University of Pennsylvania this past weekend. Kicking off with a video of support from Archbishop Desmond Tutu, hundreds of activists and academics gathered for two days of workshops, analysis, and entertainment, undeterred by a barrage of attacks by BDS opponents who attempted to smear organizers and speakers alike. Click here to hear a press briefing with keynote speaker Ali Abunimah and me, refuting the bogus charges. You know the old saying by Mahatma Gandhi:

"First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win."

Let us continue to challenge U.S. aid to Israel and Israeli apartheid as part of this movement that can no longer be ignored. Part of what makes IAW so powerful is that it is internationally coordinated around the same goal to build the global BDS movement. Please click here to contact the U.S. IAW organizers as soon as possible if you plan to participate, so they can get your events up on the international website for this exciting week of action! 
Click here to contact the U.S. IAW organizers now if you plan to participate, so they can get your events up on the international website for this exciting week of action!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

PennBDS: Hate-fest or Human Rights Conference?

Posted today by the Institute for Middle East Understanding...

This weekend, the first national conference bringing together American supporters of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement takes place at the University of Pennsylvania.

We discuss the conference, the controversy surrounding it, and the growing international BDS movement, with guests Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada and conference keynote speaker, and Anna Baltzer, National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Listen to internet radio with IMEU on Blog Talk Radio


Friday, December 23, 2011

Anna Baltzer: "Will You Help Me Cultivate Justice This Season?"

By Anna Baltzer
National Organizer, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Just over one year ago, I began working as National Organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Having spent five years on my own educating everyday people about the occupation, Israeli apartheid, and the steadfastness of the Palestinian people, I realized I needed to do more than advise others to move from education into campaigning -- I needed to follow my own advice!

During my first 12 months at the US Campaign, my respect for the work and dedication of the organization has only grown. Whether it's providing trainings; creating new resources; setting up mass action alerts; coordinating and mobilizing for nationwide boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) campaigns and days of action; or promoting the work that you do in Campaign member groups, we spend every day working to support organizations and individuals around the country in challenging Israel's violations of Palestinian rights and the U.S. military, diplomatic and financial support that allows these violations to continue.

Believe me, we are a very small staff with an even smaller budget. The only way we can continue our work is through support from people like you. 

That is why I ask you to consider donating to the US Campaign this holiday season.

Above: We'll send you this personalized certificate when you donate to plant a tree.
Your gift not only supports the US Campaign, but also Palestinian farming families. For every $25 you donate, the US Campaign will plant one olive tree for a Palestinian farming family in the name or in memory of someone special to you. For every $100 you donate, we will plant five trees.

Hannukah has just begun. Christmas is this Sunday. Rather than rushing out for more shopping, why not give a deeply meaningful gift in the name of a loved one to help us cultivate justice here at home and in Palestine?

Of course, we know that planting olive trees will not end U.S. support for Israel's occupation and apartheid policies. We know that new trees cannot replace adult, fruiting olive trees that Israeli soldiers and settlers have uprooted from Palestinian groves.

But, in some ways, olive trees represent the past, present and future of Palestinian traditions and steadfastness.  Each tree planted sends a message to Israel that Palestinians will never give up their way of life and right to stay on their own land, and that people in the U.S. will not allow our government's support for Israel to go unchallenged.

Many of you purchase Christmas trees as a holiday tradition. Why not start another tradition with the olive tree? This year, with your help, we raised funds to plant 1,603 trees so far. Help us to reach our goal of 2,000 new olive trees by the year's end!

May 2012 be the year that brings desperately needed change in U.S. policy and an end to Israel's occupation and apartheid. Until that happens, help us continue to join and elevate voices and actions nationwide in support of Palestinian human rights.

Click here to donate to the US Campaign today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Take Action on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People

Above: Activists in Sacramento show solidarity with the Palestinian Freedom Riders.

Above: Click to watch Peter Miller, US Campaign Steering Committee Co-chair, address the U.N. General Assembly this morning (skip to 1 hour and 17 minutes after start).

By Anna Baltzer, National Organizer

In 1976, in commemoration of what is now 63 years of Palestinian dispossession and exile, the United Nations declared November 29 to be the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This year, Peter Miller, president of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights and co-chair of the US Campaign's Steering Committee, addressed the U.N. General Assembly. Peter's speech, which took place this morning at the U.N, can be viewed and read here (the speech begins at one hour and 17 minutes into the recording).

Today the Palestinian people's resilience and struggle for freedom continue. Bedouin families of Al-Arakib in the Negev Desert have rebuilt their homes more than 20 times to maintain their presence there. Villagers of Nabi Saleh in the West Bank continue to nonviolently protest settler and army violence and land confiscation, remaining steadfast in the face of the army's intimidation tactics and extreme brutality. Children in Gaza whose schools have been bombed attend makeshift classrooms, persisting to get an education. Survivors of the Nakba, the catastrophe of Palestinian dispossession in the 1947-48 war, continue to preserve and pass down their testimonies and the keys to their homes, refusing to forget or to give up their internationally recognized right to return to the homes and lands from which they were expelled.

Also today, Minnesota citizens from the exciting Minnesota Break the Bonds campaign gathered at the State Attorney General's office to serve a lawsuit on the state's Board of Investment, demanding that it divest from Israel Bonds, based on moral, ethical and legal grounds. 

MN BBC is asking for your support! Sign this letter telling members of the Minnesota State Board of Investments to stop investing in Israeli apartheid!

These are only two of the many actions by US Campaign member groups over the past two weeks. On November 15, activists in 15 cities across the United States organized actions and educational events in solidarity with the Palestinian Freedom Riders, who challenged the Jim Crow-style segregation inherent in the Israeli occupation. You can find an exciting play-by-play chronology of the Freedom Riders' actions at The Struggle, and a summary of the day's events--in the West Bank and the U.S.--here at Jewish Voice for Peace, a US Campaign member organization.

Above: Click to watch LA activists educate passengers on a Veolia bus as part of a campaign to end the city's Veolia contracts.

Here is just a small sampling of U.S. actions supporting the Palestinian Freedom Riders as part of the growing worldwide campaign to challenge Veolia, a French multinational corporation that profits from the Israeli occupation by operating buses on Israeli-only roads, among other things:

In Los Angeles, activists demonstrated and boarded buses run by Veolia to educate passengers about Israel's apartheid policies as part of a campaign targeting Veolia contracts with the city.

Boston activists launched a campaign challenging the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail Company's contract with Veolia by distributing fliers to educate and mobilize Boston residents.

In Baltimore, activists demonstrated at Penn Station during rush hour, singing a freedom song and drawing connections between the Palestinian and American struggles for equality and human rights, linking Veolia's profiteering from racism and exploitation in Israel/Palestine to the City of Baltimore's unequal government contracts.

There were also more actions in Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, Phoenix, Sacramento, Chico, Oakland, Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C.! Check out the photos on Mondoweiss and Flickr, and watch Jewish Voice for Peace's round-up video here.

Above: Click to watch video by Sana Kassem.

Palestinian filmmaker Sana Kassem put together this excellent video drawing parallels between the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the struggle of the Palestinian Freedom Riders.

Our National Advocacy Director, Josh Ruebner, published this article in Counterpunch supporting the Freedom Riders—just one of dozens of articles published recently worldwide.

Last Saturday, activists in 10 European countries staged more than 60 actions as part of a Day of Action calling on supermarkets and governments to "Take Apartheid off the Menu."

Today, on the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, let us celebrate Palestinian steadfastness and renew our commitment to ending U.S. complicity with Israeli occupation and apartheid as part of a growing, exciting, global movement for freedom, justice, and equality.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Power of an Insurrectionary Imagination

By Jody Scholz
US Campaign intern
I recently had the good fortune of attending a conference in Atlanta sponsored by US Campaign coalition member group Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA). The conference, From Birmingham to Bethlehem: The Power of Nonviolence in the US and Palestine-Israel, featured a variety of workshops and plenary speakers linking the nonviolent resistance of the US Civil Rights movement to the ongoing nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid. Legendary civil rights activist Dr. Bernard LaFayette implored conference attendees to join in solidarity actions with the Palestinian Freedom Riders, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall spoke of her trip to the West Bank in June as part of a US delegation of women of color feminists, led by US Campaign Advisory Board member Barbara Ransby, which subsequently endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Kennesaw State University Professor Jesse Benjamin led a packed workshop on whiteness in the Jewish-Christian Zionist embrace, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave a dynamic presentation chronicling expanding apartheid conditions on the ground in Palestine-Israel eloquently advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a powerful form of nonviolent resistance.
FOSNA has organized 33 regional conferences across the US over the last nine years and they have several scheduled for next year. If you have the opportunity to attend one, I would highly encourage you to do so. It was a challenging and richly rewarding experience.
In keeping with FOSNA’s mission of engaging North American Christians on the issue of a just peace in the Holy Land, many of the workshops focused on the moral, legal and theological basis from which US churches can work to end US complicity in the occupation. One of the recurring points of discussion throughout the conference was how US churches should respond to calls for “balance” when discussing the Palestine-Israel conflict. This is a particularly tricky issue for progressive US churches, many of whom feel a need to atone for Christian anti-Semitism and complicity in the Holocaust, and have admirably dedicated themselves to building relations with the Jewish community via interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.
While invoking the need for balance in discussing the conflict seems reasonable enough, it is almost always employed as way of normalizing the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. Several conference speakers, notably author and activist Mark Braverman, noted that in practice this means interfaith dialogue far too often results in Christian theologians refusing to condemn or even discuss Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians. And where there is criticism of Israel, it is almost always accompanied by recognition of Israeli suffering as somehow on par with the suffering of Palestinians living under the scourge of apartheid and occupation. The apparent reasonableness of entreaties for balance and dialogue helps explain why normalization is such an insidiously powerful and effective discourse.
The issue of normalization was also the focus of a skills-building workshop led by a Columbia University SJP member, cartoonist and solidarity activist Ethan Heitner, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer at last month’s National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. Columbia SJP and Adalah-NY, of which Heitner is a member, are both US Coalition member groups. Palestinian solidarity organizations on US campuses are often challenged by Zionist student groups to organize events together to present both perspectives of the conflict. In order to help student groups (and other solidarity activists) better understand and explain how normalization legitimizes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, Keilani and Heitner created a comic. The comic, titled “Nothing Normal About It,” does a great job of bringing to life how normalization misdirects attention away from Israeli crimes and frustrates our efforts to educate people in the US about the conflict.

As we continue to confront the discourse of normalization in the US, we must remember the importance of speaking differently. Our challenge is to articulate narratives that move beyond the entrenched vocabulary of the dominant discourse. This discourse serves not only to limit the scope of permissible discussion, but it also works to demoralize our spirits (so aptly depicted in the comic) and lock our imaginations. Cultural activism of the kind embodied by Keilani and Heitner’s comic enables us to question the dominant ways of seeing things and to present alternative views of the world because it opens up our imaginations, or what Jennifer Verson has referred to as our “insurrectionary imagination”:
An insurrectionary imagination is at the heart of cultural activism. It is a sense of possibility that is not limited by copying a pattern or following a design that somebody else created, or by what Augusto Boal (2002) calls the “cop in the head.” We all have that voice, the one that tells us our ideas are stupid, they won’t work out, they are too difficult or are bound to fail.
Cultural activism relies on killing the cop in your head and expressly tries to develop this insurrectionary imagination to create performances and actions. This living practice addresses complicated questions about how we build the world that we want to live in. Insurrectionary imaginations evoke a type of activism that is rooted in the blueprints and patterns of political movements of the past but is driven by its hunger for new processes of art and protest.

Rafeef Ziadah’s spoken word performance of her poem “We teach life, sir,” exploded across the internet this past week because she creates a narrative which simultaneously unmasks the violence of the Israeli occupation and the complicity of a noxious discourse that excuses Israeli brutality by invoking that great racist colonial trope of the Palestinians as uncivilized barbarians who can only be tamed through brute force. In a mere four minutes, Ziadah turns that discourse, so often repeated in the media, inside out and exposes its moral shallowness. This is the power of the insurrectionary imagination.
As we move forward as a movement, we must be consciously open to seeing, speaking, listening and thinking differently. We must believe in the power of our imaginations to help dissolve the boundary between dream and reality to create a world of unbounded freedom for all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Anna Baltzer Raises Awareness of that Other Occupation at Occupy Demonstrations Across the US

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg ordered the eviction of occupation activists at Zuccotti Park. The eviction at Zuccotti Park comes after similar evictions in Oakland and Portland. While the eviction of Zuccotti Park was underway, the Occupy Wall Street media team issued a statement declaring, "You can't evict an idea whose time has come."

Despite increasing police repression, the #Occupy Movement in the US continues to flourish and gain momentum. This inspiring movement creates opportunities to link the struggle against corporate tyranny and militarism in the US to the Palestinian fight for freedom, justice and equality. In a statement of unity with the Occupy movement, the Palestinian BDS National Committee wrote:

"Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whethergreedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting fromwars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. Wemust unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rights, social andeconomic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace."
The US Campaign is working hard to raise public awareness of the counterproductive and unjust use of our tax dollars to fund Israel's brutal occupation. National Organizer Anna Baltzer has participated in occupations in Oakland, Wall Street, Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta, and beyond, where she has marched, spoken, sung freedom songs,
danced in a flash mob to “I Will Survive,” and more.

Be a part of the movement to reprioritize government spending and help us bring the cost of the Israeli occupation to the Occupy movement!

And be sure to check out Anna's pictures from various Occupy locations around the US!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Announcing Fall Olive Harvest Delegation with IFPB!

The US Campaign's National Organizer, Anna Baltzer, contributed the announcement below.  In Spring 2010 and 2011, Anna co-led international delegations to Israel/Palestine with the Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB), which is a coalition member of the US Campaign.

Having co-led two delegations with Interfaith Peace-Builders, I cannot recommend highly enough these powerful, transformative delegations. And there's no better way to experience both the beauty and tragedy of Palestine than picking olives with farmers and families defying unjust military rules and threats of settler attacks. The olive harvest is Palestinian popular resistance in action.
                          - Anna Baltzer

Apply Now for the Fall Olive Harvest Delegation!

October 29 - November 11, 2011

This delegation will provide an opportunity to participate in the Palestinian olive harvest season -- generally a time of great community activism, where people of all ages from Palestine, Israeli peace and justice groups, and international groups join farmers as they reap their harvest. It is international support that makes the harvest possible in many cases. You will hear from Palestinian farmers and learn of the importance of agriculture to the Palestinian economy and culture. As with other delegations, you will also meet additional Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and justice.

To learn more about the standard components of all delegations, click here.

DEADLINE TO APPLY: Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until early September, 2011 or until the delegation fills. Our last several delegations have filled up several months before departure, so please apply as soon as possible to reserve your space.


The cost of the Olive Harvest delegation will be around $2200.  This includes 13 days of the delegation, hotel and home stay accommodations, breakfasts and dinners, local transportation, guides, speaker/event fees, basic tips and gratuities. Partial scholarships may be available for those with demonstrable need (click here for more information).

... The cost does not include domestic and international airfare. Interfaith Peace-Builders works with a local travel agent in Jerusalem to secure the best group rates for the delegation to travel together on the same flight from Washington, DC to Israel/Palestine. Therefore, delegates do not need to book their own international airfare.

Click here to:
  • Learn much more about delegation specifics (including who we meet, cost, application information)
  • View photos from past delegations
  • Join the delegation email list
Apply today!