Showing posts with label Steering Committee. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steering Committee. Show all posts

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why Is "Terror Expert" Attacking US Solidarity Groups?

US Campaign Steering Committee member Kristin Szremski picks apart Steven Emerson's discredited campaign against American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) in this investigative article, published in Electronic Intifada. Why do well-funded figures like Emerson attack groups like AMP and Students for Justice in Palestine? Because they're effective, says Szremski.

Why is "terror expert" attacking U.S. solidarity groups?

Kristin Szremski 
January 5, 2012

Discredited journalist Steven Emerson, who traded in a career with national news outlets for the his Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), is trying to entangle an American non-profit organization in a shroud of secretive conspiracy theories intent on branding it a “supporter of terrorism.”

Emerson has crowned himself the “expert” on terrorism through his production of scurrilous blog posts and videos that he tries to pass off as credible reports. Now he’s targeting the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the organization for which this writer works, and by extension, Students for Justice in Palestine.

After students convened their a national SJP conference in October 2011, Emerson posted an article on his blog, calling SJP a “radical student organization” (“SJP’s ‘Dialogue’ Goes Nowhere”) The accompanying graphic shows a large iceberg labelled with SJP at the top connected to AMP, which is shown lurking under the surface with the bulk of the iceberg.

A concerted effort is underway in the US to silence critics of the
Israeli occupation and US aid to Israel. (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)
“AMP’s support for Students for Justice in Palestine is troubling, given AMP’s radical rhetoric and its ties to extremist groups,” Emerson writes. And after AMP concluded its national convention in November, Emerson posted yet another attack, whose headline borrowed from the convention theme — with a dangerous twist. Emerson changed “A New Era of Activism” to a “New Era of Terror Support” (“American Muslims for Palestine’s Web of Hamas Support”).

Emerson attacks SJP and AMP because of their success in raising awareness about Israel’s continual violations of international law and abuses of Palestinians’ human rights. AMP was co-founded by Dr. Hatem Bazian, a professor of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. Bazian also co-founded the first SJP chapter at Berkeley in 1993.

AMP is now on the radar of Zionist groups such as the Anti-Defamation League and the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). Bazian, an outspoken advocate of Palestinian human rights, has been under attack for much longer.

Emerson, whose articles are quickly picked up and parroted around the Internet by sycophantic bloggers, cannot argue the facts with AMP and that’s why he resorts to inflammatory, deceptive and dangerous rhetoric to smear the organization and its founder.

Meanwhile, Emerson makes millions of dollars falsely branding Muslims and pro-Palestine advocates with the deadly label of “terrorism supporters.” Though he calls himself an expert on Arabs and terrorism, Emerson’s background is in sociology and he does not know Arabic. He was all but run out of the field of journalism after his “expert analysis” on the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 turned out to be dead wrong, after he told CBS News it had a “Middle Eastern trait” because it “was done with the intent to inflict as many casualties as possible” (“Steven Emerson’s Crusade,” Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, January/February 1999).

“Pervasive bias”

Peer review of Emerson’s works would ring the death knell for any self-respecting journalist, whose career is almost solely dependent upon the reliability of his or her reporting.

Adrienne Edgar, reviewing Emerson’s book Terrorist: The Inside Story of the Highest Ranking Iraqi Terrorist Ever to Defect to the West in May 1991 for The New York Times, was one who questioned Emerson’s objectivity. The book offers “a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias,” she writes, adding that “Palestinian violence is invariably portrayed as terrorist, while Israeli violence is always characterized as self-defense.”

Journalist Jane Hunter complains of the same pro-Israel bias in Emerson’s work in an article published by the media watchdog group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting in 1992. Emerson’s work “is sometimes nimble in its treatment of facts, often credulous of intelligence sources, and almost invariably supportive of the Israeli government,” according to Hunter (“Steven Emerson: A journalist who knows how to take a leak,” October/November 1992).

Even Ethan Bronner, who can hardly be described as partial toward the Palestinians, criticized Emerson’s book, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us. In 2002, when Bronner was assistant editorial page editor, he wrote, “In truth, it is hard even now to know exactly what to make of Emerson’s contentions.”

Though he viewed some parts of the book favorably, Bronner wrote, “Emerson may not be a scholar, and he may sometimes connect unrelated dots. He may also occasionally be quite wrong” (“Suspect thy neighbor,” 17 March 2002).

It was in American Jihad where Emerson first planted a lie about Bazian that, despite the Berkeley professor’s repeated refutation, has survived in several forms and mutations to this day.

Manufacturing anti-Semitism

In Appendix C of American Jihad, Emerson contends that in May 1999, Bazian told a gathering, “In the hadith [saying], the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews. They are on the west side of the river, which is the Jordan River, and you’re on the east side until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him! And that’s in the hadith about this, this is a future battle before the Day of Judgment.”

Throughout American Jihad, Emersion makes copious use of citations to back up his assertions. Appendix C alone has 79 footnotes. However, Emerson does not include one citation for the 1999 event or for the hadith Bazian allegedly quoted. There is no indication that Emerson attended the event and heard the quote himself or that someone else reported it. Bazian has repeatedly refuted Emerson’s allegation, most prominently on The O’Reilly Factor with Bill O’Reilly in 2004.

“It’s a fabrication,” Bazian told O’Reilly. “I would never use that statement. It’s a statement that comes from Islamic historiography. It’s a part of hadith collections, references to the end of time. And I in general don’t use that in any type of speech or discussion.”

The Detroit News’ Nolan Finley, in October 2002, repeated Emerson’s lie. From there, the fabrication has taken on a life of its own and is often trotted out in attempts to vilify Bazian and discredit his work.

But the hadith doesn’t just plague the Berkeley professor. It’s also a statement that Islamophobes like to attribute to Muslim leaders in general, as a sure-fire way to discredit them. The money trail Emerson never lets the facts get in the way of a good story. The same is true when it comes to the image he’s crafted of himself as a selfless crusader, who declined marriage to pursue his “vocation.” He’s a man so intent on his mission that “the unused portion of his bed at home is strewn with court documents, telephone records and bio-terror updates,” The Washington Post reported in 2001 (“The man who gives terrorism a name,” 14 November 2001).

At least two profiles by The Jerusalem Post and The Washington Post paint Emerson as a selfless individual who is bent on exposing “Middle East terrorism” out of a sense of duty to the American public. Emerson has claimed that he chose to “remain independently poor,” instead of accepting a lucrative three-year contract with CNN.

Roughly two months after the 11 September 2001 attacks, The Washington Post ran a profile on Emerson that perpetuated the selfless persona by calling “The copper-haired Emerson, 47 … an unpaid consultant-in-chief.” Emerson may be many things. Unpaid is not one of them.

According to IRS 990 forms, which are required by the US federal tax agency to show an organization’s eligibility for tax-exempt status, Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) paid him nearly $5 million through his SAE Productions in 2008 and 2009. Emerson is SAE Production’s sole employee.

The tax forms also state IPT receives private donations as the bulk of its funding. A recent report by the Center for American Progress showed seven foundations gave almost $43 million over ten years to five major disseminators of Islamophobia.

Three of those five — including Emerson and IPT — are staunch supporters of the pro-Israel Zionist agenda. In fact, IPT received about $560,000 from a small number of Islamophobic and right-wing sources, such as the Donors Capital Fund ($400,000), the Russell Berrie Foundation ($100,000), and from Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, which donated $250,000 in 2007 and 2008, states the 2011 Center for American Progress report “Fear, Inc: The Roots of the Islamophobia Network in America.”

In addition, IPT received large sums of money through the Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation.

“An examination of CTSERF’s 990 forms showed that, much like the Investigative Project, all grant revenue was transferred to a private, for-profit entity, the International Association of Counterterrorism and Security Professionals,” according to the Center for American Progress.

Links to Zionist outfit

The scope of Emerson’s work over the years, as well as the funding trail that emanates from Zionist sources, expose Emerson and the IPT as vociferous advocates for Israel and its racist occupation policies.

Nothing shows this more than a trail of emails between the Israeli consulate in Boston and the pro-Israel David Project, which collaborated in attempts to stop the construction of a mosque in Boston in 2004. The emails were part of the discovery of a lawsuit stemming from the incident.

In May 2004, Anna Kolodner, the executive director of the David Project, wrote she would ask Emerson for information relating to a lawsuit being planned against the Islamic Society of Boston.

On 4 August 2004, Kolodner wrote, “As a result of collaboration with Steve Emerson’s office, we have a comprehensive document regarding the individuals/organizations/history etc., of the mosque, which will be the backbone of the media campaign. … Filing the lawsuit would be the initial lead/newsworthy component of the media angles.”

Then in September 2004, Kate Frazer of the Israeli consulate’s political affairs office, sent an email verifying that she had been working on a number of documents, one that was to be a magazine article, and another, the “‘local proof’ document with bullet points and the sections we discussed, (i.e., people and associations, ideology, funding and actions).” This is the list purportedly Emerson supplied.

These emails have not been independently verified, but they were discussed in an article by Andrew Cochran, published by the IPT in 2008 (“Caught in the act: smear attempt on Steven Emerson boomerangs,” 13 March 2008).

The emails came to light because of a press release issued by Paul Kendall from the organization Justice and Liberty for All, also in 2008. Kendall contended the emails show Emerson worked directly with the Israeli consulate to stop the Boston mosque (“Paul Kendall: Did an ‘expert’ on terrorism conspire with a foreign government to violate the constitutional rights of American Muslims?”, PR Newswire, 4 March 2008).

The emails do not show direct communication between Emerson and the Israeli consulate. They do, however, show that the David Project was at the center of the efforts to stop the mosque. The David Project communicated with the Israeli consulate and with Emerson, but not necessarily at the same time.

Nonetheless, Kolodner’s praise of Emerson for his help seriously calls into question his motivations and suggests he is on a personal crusade. Over the years, Emerson’s mission has been to thwart Muslims in general and to defame and discredit anyone working to promote Palestinian human rights, specifically.

As long as there are advocates for Palestinian human rights, there will be Zionist-funded ideologues like Emerson trying to shut them down. The best protection against these scurrilous attacks is to educate ourselves about their motivations and funding trail and then expose them to the American public. The more we know about them, the less power and influence they wield.

Kristin Szremski is an independent journalist and currently the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine.


Obama's Real Israel Problem

US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis published a strong piece in the L.A. Times calling for equal rights for Palestinians and Israelis as the basis for a change in U.S. policy to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in a just and equitable way.

Check out her op-ed below and comment on it here.

Obama's real Israel problem -- and it isn't Bibi
Phyllis Bennis
January 6, 2012

Phyllis Bennis, director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, responds to The Times' Jan. 2 Op-Ed article, "Bibi and Barack." Bennis is the coauthor of "Ending the U.S. War in Afghanistan: A Primer" and the author of "Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer." 
If you would like to write a full-length response to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed, here are our FAQs and submission policy.
Photo credit: J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press
Aaron David Miller is right: President Obama does have an Israel problem. But Miller is wrong about the roots of the problem.

The problem isn't Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or his Likud Party, or even Israel's current extreme right-wing government. Israel's fundamental policy toward the Palestinians is the problem, and that policy has hardly changed, despite the seemingly diverse sequence of left, right and center parties that have been in power.

Just look at the occupation of the territories seized in 1967 -- the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. Settlement building, along with all the land and water theft that goes with it, began just weeks after the Six-Day War. And a right-wing government wasn't in power; it was Mapai, the left-wing precursor to today's Labor Party. The right wing wouldn't come to power until almost three decades after Israel's founding, when Menachem Begin led the Likud coalition to victory in 1977.

Settlement construction and expansion started right after the war and continued under all the leftist (in the Israeli context) governments. By the time Likud came to power 10 years after the 1967 war, there were already more than 50,000 Israeli settlers living in Jews-only settlements in the occupied territories, most of them in occupied East Jerusalem, with smaller numbers in the West Bank and Gaza. Settlement expansion advanced under Labor, Likud and Kadima-led governments. Now there are more than 600,000 settlers living illegally in Palestinian territory, divided between the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

As Moshe Dayan, a former defense and foreign minister, explained, the settlements were necessary "not because they can ensure security better than the army but because without them we cannot keep the army in those territories. Without them the [Israel Defense Forces] would be a foreign army ruling a foreign population."

The different parties, prime ministers and officials sometimes used different language. Some repeated the words the international community wanted, a "land for peace" deal and "two states"; others insisted that only "peace for peace" or "Jordan is Palestine" was acceptable. Some spoke loudly in defense of settlements, while others only whispered.

But there was no diversity of substance. What happened in the real world, the "facts on the ground," continued regardless of which party was in power.

Other things continued too -- settler violence against Palestinians, expropriation of Palestinian land and water, illegal closures, collective punishments including massive armed assault, arrest without charge, extra-judicial assassinations and the siege of Gaza.

Of course, that's just in the occupied territories. Inside Israel, Arab Israelis -- those who survived the dispossession of 1947-48 -- live as second-class citizens. They have the right to vote, but they are subject to legalized discrimination in favor of the Jewish majority. The Israeli human rights organization Adalah reported to the United Nations more than 20 such discriminatory laws, the most important of which deny Palestinian citizens equal rights on issues of immigration and citizenship as well as land ownership. And outside, the Palestinian refugees, now numbering in the millions, have been denied their internationally guaranteed right of return by Israeli governments of every political stripe.

The whole range of Israeli political parties has continued to implement these same policies. They may talk a different talk, but they all walk the same walk.

What none of these governments is prepared to acknowledge is what it will take for a real solution, one that is lasting, comprehensive and just: human rights and equality for all based on international law. It shouldn't be more complicated than that. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights specifies everyone has the right to return to their home country, no exceptions; that everyone has the right to live in safety, no exceptions; that everyone has the right to an equal say in the government that rules their country, no exceptions.

Every law should treat all citizens the same, no exceptions. Every government has the obligation to live up to the treaties it has signed, including the U.N. conventions on human rights, against racism, the Geneva Conventions and more. Israel has signed them all. Yet not one Israeli government, of any party, has implemented them.

As long as the United States provides the Israeli government more than $3 billion in aid every year, regardless of those violations, and protects Israel from being held accountable in the U.N., regardless of those violations, no Israeli prime minister has much reason to change. That's Obama's Israel problem -- not Netanyahu. Changing U.S. policy should provide the solution.


Bibi and Barack

Middle East states of mind

Settlement outposts at root of Jewish violence in West Bank

-- Phyllis Bennis


Friday, January 6, 2012

Anti-BDS campaigner out of step with pro-BDS consensus of her Catholic order

As Mondoweiss' Alex Kane reports, in upcoming assemblies of the national United Methodist and Presbyterian church bodies, leading the fight against resolutions of divestment from companies profiting from Israel's occupation and settlements will be Sister Ruth Lautt, the national director of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East (CFWME), and a member of the Dominican sisters order of nuns (Roman Catholic).

Kane's investigation of donation tax records to CFWME show that the organization's funders are also linked to illegal West Bank settlements. The settlement-funders who contribute to CFWME stand in stark contrast to the Dominican order's position on Israel/Palestine. The order's "call to justice" which Lautt's New York-based branch signed onto, calls for prayer and support for the Palestinian United Nations bid for statehood. It also expresses firm support for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. The website Dominican Life USA provides access to US Campaign resources.

Kane gathered some insight from David Wildman, who serves on the US Campaign's Steering Committee and as Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice with the United Methodist Church's Board of Global Ministries:
“It gears itself, I think, towards otherwise liberal congregations” ... Wildman, a critic of CFWME, also described the organization as an “attack group” that seeks to “block other efforts at achieving a just peace.”

Christian group dedicated to derailing divestment bankrolled by settler-funding philanthropy

by Alex Kane on January 5, 2012

When United Methodists converge on Tampa, Florida this Spring, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) holds its general assembly in early July, the question of divestment from companies that profit off of the Israeli occupation will once again attract significant attention. Delegates at these church wide meetings will be confronted by an array of attacks on any resolution that promotes divestment as one route to pressure Israel and its control over the occupied Palestinian territories. And a familiar face to the delegates will be leading the fight against these resolutions: Sister Ruth Lautt, the national director of Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East (CFWME).

Lautt is a member of the Dominican sisters order of nuns (Roman Catholic) and a former lawyer. Her organization, which she runs on her own (though there is a board), says it “advocate[s]” for “fairness” in American church dealings related to Israel/Palestine. In practice, this has meant leading delegations to Israel, promoting “positive investment” in the region instead of divestment, and working “behind-the-scenes” at religious conventions, “helping opponents of divestment draft motions [and] applying persuasion at the subcommittee and committee levels,” as the New York Times has reported.

But an analysis of donations to the organization reveals a much more complicated picture that raises questions about CFWME’s professed mission and their role in church politics on Israel. My investigation of donation tax records to CFWME show that the organization's budget has more than doubled since its founding through the support of funders linked to illegal West Bank settlements and promoting Islamophobia in the U.S.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

"Newt Gingrich puts Israel interests first" - Kristin Szremski

Our Steering Committee member Kristin Szremski writes that Newt Gingrich is forwarding a Zionist agenda at the expense of Americans. In trying to "out-Romney" Romney, and align himself to the pro-Israel element, the potential GOP frontrunner is not only selling off the values and safety of the United States for his shot in the Oval Office -- and still failing to impress the pro-Israel Jewish voters he was trying to court -- he's also inflaming tensions in the Middle East, where U.S. neutrality and integrity are already is viewed with suspicion and hostility. He's proven he does not care about the people whom he'd be sworn to protect as President.

Szremski faults Gingrich with helping to inflame Islamophobia by using the pro-Israel entities behind it. Millions of dollars are being funneled into organizations bent on helping Israel maintain its occupation of Palestine, thanks to figures like Gingrich demonizing Islam in the United States by planting outrageous and false innuendos of a "stealth jihad" here, and insinuating a connection between American Muslims and overseas groups on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations.

Newt Gingrich puts Israel interests first

Gingrich will abandon US values and safety for a chance at the White House.

By Kristin Szremski
December 19, 2011

Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the House who faded into obscurity after resigning in 1998 amid a sex scandal, is back and seemingly ready to say anything to become the next president of the United States - even if it means making sycophantic statements that pander to the pro-Israel lobby but that oppose US policy and the best interests of the American people.

Gingrich apparently revised history when he told Jewish reporter Steven Weiss recently that the Palestinians are an "invented" people. He willfully obfuscated the fact that Palestinians' roots in the Holy Land go back thousands of years. He ignored that Palestinians and Palestine are mentioned in the Torah and the Bible; that they are referred to in many historical documents, including the 1917 Balfour Declaration, which gave British support for "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".

Gingrich re-invented history when he said the
Palestinians are an "invented" people
The potential GOP frontrunner is far from alone in his pandering to the pro-Israel lobby. Mitt Romney, running a close second to Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman, also have made concerted efforts to undermine President Barack Obama's Middle East policy while emphasising their own loyalty to Israel in attempts to gain the votes of Tea Partiers and Christian evangelicals, who are strongly pro-Israel. During the GOP debate in Des Moines, it appeared as if it were an open season on Palestinians.

That Gingrich would intentionally contradict stated and long-standing US policy, which recognises the Palestinian people and their right for a state of their own, for his own self-interest is extremely troubling. But even more problematic is the fact that Gingrich told Weiss he would consider granting clemency to one of the most notorious spies ever to infiltrate our national security agencies: Johathon Pollard.

Pollard's release

Pollard was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 after he confessed to spying for the state of Israel. Pollard, who was a civilian research analyst with high security clearance for the US Navy, had agreed to spy for Israel for 10 years in exchange for more than $500,000.

According to a January 1999 article in the New Yorker by Seymour Hersh, Pollard "betrayed elements of four major American intelligence systems". He caused extensive damage to US intelligence and US national security because of the nature of the highly sensitive documents he sold to Israel. According to Hersh, Pollard gave up data dealing with specific American intelligence systems and how they worked, a "most sensitive area of intelligence". The espionage was so great that successive presidents have rejected Israel's pleas for Pollard's release.

Gingrich told Weiss he'd consider granting clemency if Pollard were no longer a security threat and also had served time within the range of people with "similar problems". To be sure, seasoned politicians often have to compromise goals - sometimes even ideals - to achieve their own. But when a potential presidential candidate so easily panders to the interests of a foreign country and its lobby here, in the United States, over the interests of his fellow countrymen, he is clearly not fit to hold public office.

And that is only one of the ways in which Gingrich is forwarding a Zionist agenda at the expense of Americans, which is readily seen in his "Clash of Civilisations" narrative that became prominent in 2010 during the controversy surrounding the Park 51 mosque project. During the controversy, the country's favourable attitude towards Muslims fell 10 points (from 40 per cent to 30 per cent), according to a study co-authored by the Centre for Race and Gender at the University of California, Berkeley, and the Council on American Islamic Relations.

Islamophobic rhetoric

That same report says Gingrich was one of those at the forefront of fuelling mistrust and hatred of Muslims. In other words, a former Speaker of the House was working against American unity by bringing divisive Islamophobic rhetoric into mainstream discourse.

The Constitution founded the United States as a pluralistic society; the First Amendment grants the free expression of religion. Yet Gingrich behaves as if allowing Muslims that right would lead to the loss of American values and liberty.

Other credible reports - "The Great Isamophobic Crusade", by Max Blumenthal and "The Roots of the Islamophobic Network in America", by the Centre for American Progress - have exposed the link between Islamophobia and the pro-Israel entities behind it. Millions of dollars are funneled into organisations bent on helping Israel maintain its occupation of Palestine.

One way they accomplish this is by smearing anyone trying to raise awareness about Israel's continued violations of international law. Another way is to demonise Islam in the United States by planting outrageous and false innuendos of a "stealth jihad" here. Or they insinuate that there is a connection between American Muslims and overseas groups on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organisations. These fallacies are then taken up and trumpeted about by unprincipled people like Gingrich.

Gingrich seems to have no qualms allying himself to pro-Israel element and selling the values and safety of the US for his shot in the Oval Office. But based upon published reports, he's failed to impress the pro-Israel Jewish voters he was  trying to court. Instead, he's inflamed tensions in the Middle East where the neutrality and integrity of the US already is viewed with suspicion and in some cases hostility, and he's proven he does not care about the people who, if he were elected president, he'd be sworn to protect.

In trying to "out-Romney" Romney, Gingrich may have passed Israel's litmus test, but he hopelessly failed to show his loyalty to the US or the American people.

Kristin Szremski is the director of media and communications for the American Muslims for Palestine, a national grassroots organisation. Follow her on Twitter: @kristin_scribe


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

US Campaign Co-chair addresses U.N. General Assembly

This morning Peter Miller, Co-chair of the US Campaign's Steering Committee, gave the following address at the United Nations General Assembly, at the invitation of the U.N. Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

Solemn Commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity With the Palestinian People

United Nations 
New York
November 29, 2011

Remarks by Peter Miller 
President, Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights
Co-Chair, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Secretary-General, Mr. President, Excellencies:

I am honored to speak to you today on this solemn commemoration of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. I am but one voice among many from global civil society who are deeply concerned about the plight of Palestinians resulting from Israel's policies of occupation, settlement, siege and the denial of Palestinian rights. Many civil society activists around the world have dedicated their lives seeking a just resolution to the Palestine-Israel conflict. Some have paid a huge price for their efforts. And why must civil society pay such a high price? It is because of the failure, your excellencies, of the United Nations and governments to implement international law.

As an American, I am deeply disturbed, as are many Americans, by the role the my government plays in preventing Palestinians from achieving their aspirations and their human rights. The U.S. unconditionally gives Israel $3 billion every year in military aid and ignores Israel's many systematic and continuing human rights violations. Those include the illegal use of military weapons against civilian populations and the ever  expanding Israeli settlements, the expansion of its separation wall on Palestinian lands, the treatment of its Palestinian citizens as second class human beings and the denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees. One of the challenges to the UN and the international community, if you truly are committed to upholding the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, is to confront the deeply negative role of the U.S. in perpetuating injustice and enabling Israel to continue to violate international law and destroy the possibility of realizing Palestinian aspirations.

The admission of Palestine into the UN Organization UNESCO is a great victory for the UN and the voice of people around the world. 107 countries, representing over 75% of the world's population voted to include Palestine, truly “We the Peoples of the United Nations.” Unfortunately, the Obama administration was eager to enforce archaic U.S. laws, and cut off U.S. dues to UNESCO. Also unfortunate is the fact that the Obama, and earlier U.S. administrations, have failed to uphold other U.S. laws conditioning military aid to countries, such as Israel, which use U.S. supplied weapons against civilian populations. The UN is challenged to uphold its Charter in the face of all the various anti-democratic pressures the US brings to bear, whether it is spying on UN officials, pressuring independent countries economically and politically, or threatening the UN itself with economic sanctions. The UN must defend its founding principles despite these pressures and the global community must be ready to increase economic and diplomatic support for the UN and UNESCO.

One of the great advancements of civilization has been the development of the concept of the rule of law, that human beings have universal rights, and that there should be international institutions that work to safeguard these rights, especially in times of conflict and military occupation. The principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and other laws lay out this framework. The challenge for the UN is not to develop new laws or to express new sentiments, but to implement these existing universal principles and its existing resolutions to protect Palestinian human rights. The whole concept of universal rights and protection of civilians is endangered when powerful nations can pick and chose, in defiance of international bodies and global opinion, to whom these laws apply and for whom they are ignored. The law should be universal.

So far, the UN and other established institutions have failed to implement these universal principles, and have been unable to hold the powerful accountable for their oppression of the weak. So it has become necessary for global civil society to step into the void. This is what is happening around the world, including in the United States, on behalf of Palestinian human rights. This is why there is a growing movement of boycott, divestment, and sanctions to bring non-violent pressure on the State of Israel to end its systematic violations.

The Russell Tribunal is yet another expression of global civil society responding to the failure of the UN and governments to uphold the law. One of Bertrand Russell's last accomplishments was the establishment, with French philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, of the Russell Tribunal to investigate the role of the United States in the war in Vietnam. The tribunal was established as a means for civil society to bring to the light the evidence of war crimes ignored by the United States government and by other nations and international institutions. Russell declared “May this Tribunal prevent the crime of silence.”

A new Russell Tribunal on Palestine has been reconvened with three sessions to date to examine Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. The most recent session was held November of this year in South Africa, with judges including Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, emeritus judge of Spain’s Supreme Court José Antonio Martin Pallin, African-American poet Alice Walker and South African writer and activist Ronald Kasrils.  They examined the question of whether Israel is engaged in the crime of Apartheid. Israeli human rights activist Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions said,

“States, along with the United Nations, are obligated to enforce international law and human rights conventions. When they don't, as in their failure to apply to Israel and its Occupation the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, the people themselves must rise up and demand that they do. Civil society forums such as the Russell Tribunal may not carry formal authority, but they represent millions of people the world over who believe that simply leaving governments free to pursue their narrow agendas driven by power, sectarian ideology, militarism and the profits of a few is to doom us all to continued war, bloodshed and injustice.”

The Tribunal concluded that Israel does indeed engage in the crime of Apartheid:

"Israel subjects the Palestinian people to an institutionalized regime of domination amounting to apartheid as defined under international law.... The Palestinians living under colonial military rule in the occupied Palestinian territory are subject to a particularly aggravated form of apartheid. Palestinian citizens of Israel, while entitled to vote, are not part of the Jewish nation as defined by Israeli law and are therefore excluded from the benefits of Jewish nationality and subject to systematic discrimination across the broad spectrum of recognized human rights. Irrespective of such differences, the Tribunal concludes that Israel's rule over the Palestinian people, wherever they reside, collectively amounts to a single integrated regime of apartheid."

The Russell Tribunal is not the first time Israeli apartheid has been identified. In 1961 Hendrik Verwoerd, then president of South Africa and considered the architect of the system of apartheid, stated, “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.” Both Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela have expressed concerns that Israel's behavior was similar to what they experienced under South African apartheid. Mandela remarked that:

“The UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa issued a report concluding that Israel practices both Apartheid and colonialism. In 2010, Henry Siegman, former national director of the American Jewish Congress said, "Israel has crossed the threshold from 'the only democracy in the Middle East' to the only apartheid regime in the Western world."  Now in 2011, we can add the conclusions of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine.

Palestinian rights must no longer be held hostage to the domestic politics of the United States. Israel should not escape UN censure simply because it refuses to cooperate with international institutions. International law demands condemnation of Israel's violations and crucially, Your Excellencies, decisive action to reverse them. Palestinian dignity is assaulted on a daily basis. Both the Palestinian and Israeli people are diminished each passing day as you allow these Israeli policies to continue. Every day, a tree is destroyed or a home is demolished. Every day, a Bedouin village inside Israel is ground down by bulldozers or Palestinians in the West Bank are attacked by settler pogroms that turn their lives into lives of fear.  Every day, critical medicines go lacking in Gaza, and Gazans are forced to drink brackish water unfit for human consumption.

The so-called “Quartet” has failed.  But while many question whether the UN should have ever agreed to participate in such sham diplomacy, you can still play a constructive role by moving quickly to implement the necessary pre-conditions for serious and honest negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians based on the enforcement of international law. Excellencies, you must separate Israel’s legitimate security concerns from its illegitimate political agenda. The International Court of Justice ruling on the illegality of Israel's wall made just this sort of distinction: determining that Israel may build its wall on Israeli land, but Israel cannot build its wall on Palestinian land, destroying Palestinian farms and homes, and separating Palestinian villages and towns from each other. It is illegal, not simply “unhelpful,” for Israel to build settlements on Palestinian lands. Israel violates international law when it imposes collective punishment on the people of Gaza. UN-based solutions must be found to mitigate all of these issues.  The international community must demand that Israel end its assaults on Gaza that kill and injure civilians, and destroy civilian infrastructure in an endless cycle of  international development assistance repeatedly destroyed by Israel's U.S. supplied bombs and missiles and Israel's U.S. supplied Caterpillar bulldozers. All that is lacking is your will to impose solutions rooted in international law.

One of the great privileges of working within civil society for Palestinian justice is witnessing the coming together of people from many origins working together for justice. In my own small group, we have Jewish Americans, Palestinian Americans, Christians, Muslims, and secular people who recognize in each other our common humanity. This is replicated around the world. We in global civil society seek to rise above narrow national and tribal self interest and truly believe that peace is possible when our common humanity is recognized and justice is implemented. We honor the efforts of those Israelis who recognize that peace for Israel comes through justice for Palestinians, we honor the efforts of activists and UN workers from around the world, many who have risked their comfort and sometimes their lives in the name of justice. Though there are wide ranges of opinion about what the various solutions might be, we are united in the recognition of our common humanity and our dreams of living together, as equals, on this small blue planet.

Thank you.

-- END --

Friday, November 4, 2011 publishes US Campaign member's analysis of UNESCO debacle recently published the following article, written by US Campaign Steering Committee member and director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, Phyllis Bennis. The US Campaign has been organizing around the issue of Palestinian membership in the UN in recent months, and has assembled educational material on the subject which can be found here.

Defunding UNESCO for the 1 percent
Putting Israeli interests ahead of American interests begins to backfire

We’ve been hearing a lot lately about the 1 percent — the rich, the powerful, the ones who buy off our government, impose their wars, avoid paying their taxes, you know the ones. The 99 percent — the rest of us - are the ones who pay the price.

But there’s another 99/1 percent divide: over U.S. policy toward Israel and the whole world. Here the 1 percent are really on a roll. Right over the rest of us.

This struggle concerns the American people’s support for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization known as UNESCO. The organization does a lot of important work, including identifying and protecting World Heritage Sites, working to broaden educational opportunities around the world and helping poor countries get access to scientific information.

One could certainly argue that for a self-interested American, UNESCO isn’t crucial to U.S. national interests. One might say it does nothing more than make sure that tourist sites like the Cambodian temples of Angkor Wat or Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are still there when you want to see them. In fact, during the Cold War, Ronald Reagan pulled the U.S. out of UNESCO altogether; no one except maybe the historians, anthropologists, educators, cultural workers and a few insignificant others seemed to mind. It was almost a decade later that George Bush rejoined the organization.

And here we are again. This time the U.S. Congress announced it is withholding this year’s UNESCO dues, within hours of the global organization welcoming a new member: Palestine. In certain basic ways, UNESCO (like the United Nations itself) is like every little kids’ club: You don’t pay your dues, you’re out. In her press briefing just after the Paris vote, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as a member is “regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of accomplishing a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. The United States remains steadfast in its support for the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state. But such a state can only be realized through direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians.”


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Work With Us to Seek Justice

Above from left:
Shakeel Syed, Grace Said, Rabbi Brian Walt

We, leaders in the Muslim, Christian and Jewish communities, write to you at the start of the month of Ramadan, a time when practicing Muslims deepen their spiritual experience. Among other virtues, empathy toward the oppressed and the indigent is especially exercised.

At the end of August, Jews begin a 40-day period of repentance, when we examine our wrongdoing, concluding on the holiest day of the Jewish year, the fast of Yom Kippur. On that day Jews read the words of the prophet Isaiah: "This is the fast that God desires: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, to share your bread with the hungry, to take the wretched poor into your home."

Christians often turn to fasting and repentance as a spiritual discipline in the face of injustice that draws one closer to God and to one's neighbor suffering from injustice. Think of Cesar Chavez's fast for justice for farm workers and Witness Against Torture's fasts to protest detention and torture at Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.  

This Ramadan we express our empathy with the Palestinians' decades-long quest for freedom, and work together to help end U.S. support for Israel's denial of Palestinian human rights.

As faith leaders active in interfaith alliances, we urge you to please include the US Campaign in your special giving this Ramadan and in the coming seasons of Jewish and Christian celebrations.

The US Campaign is the only national coalition that brings together a diverse membership of nearly 360 groups and 50,000 individuals to work for change in U.S. policy.

Breaking the fast with family and friends is a centuries-old tradition that Muslims around the world are able to celebrate. But many Palestinian Muslims cannot. Their families and friends are dispersed across the globe, prevented by Israel from returning to their homes and lands.

Many cannot even break their fast (Iftar) at sunset with loved ones from neighboring villages and towns bisected by Israel's Apartheid Wall and roads, and by hundreds of checkpoints. And the Palestinians of Gaza have had year-round "fasting" imposed on them by Israel's draconian siege, now in its sixth year.

Muslims traditionally give charity (zakat) to the poor in the blessed month of Ramadan. Palestinian Muslims give too, but most have been forced into dependency on foreign aid, either by Israel's blockade of Gaza or by the tight border controls around all occupied Palestinian territories. Still others are deprived by Israel's rejection of the refugees' right of return -- in violation of international law.

Working together through our nationwide coalition, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, we can help change U.S. policy and break the long fast for Palestinian freedom.

Our three traditions -- Islam, Judaism and Christianity -- all uphold justice. No religion's faithful want to see injustice done in any part of the world, and especially not for so long in a land so dear to our three faiths. We salute the commitment by people of faith from all over the world to support freedom, justice and equality for the Palestinian people.  

Please donate now, and help us to work for U.S. policy that ends our country's support for Israel's denial of Palestinian freedom and human rights.

Shakeel Syed
Steering Committee
US Campaign
Grace Said
Board Member
Friends of Sabeel
North America
Rabbi Brian Walt
Jewish Fast for Gaza

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Well... It Is an Occupation!

Bill Fletcher, Jr., is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee, Editorial Board member of, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum, and co-author of Solidarity Divided: The Crisis in Organized Labor and a New Path toward Social Justice (University of California Press), which examines the crisis of organized labor in the USA. 

by Bill Fletcher, Jr.

I recently returned from North Africa and Palestine.  I found myself giving a talk to a group in the USA where I mentioned my trip as a way of discussing the manner in which events can unfold very rapidly.  I mentioned that I had been to North Africa and the occupied Palestinian territories.

Barely had I finished speaking than an individual rose from their chair and moved toward the front of the room.  When the session broke the individual approached me and challenged my use of the term “occupied Palestinian territories,” claiming that that terminology is inflammatory and that I should have used a more neutral term like “West Bank” or “the disputed territories.”

I looked at the individual and listened to what they said.  I then responded:  “Well…it IS an occupation!”

It is difficult to describe the Occupied Territories.  I have followed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict since the June 1967 War and I have been an advocate for peace and justice for the Palestinians since the spring of 1969.  I have studied countless documents, articles, speeches, etc.  I have seen pictures of the so-called settlements and the apartheid separation Wall.  Yet, to be honest, I still was not prepared for what I actually experienced.

I was part of a labor delegation.  When we crossed from Jordan into the Occupied Territories we immediately experienced the arrogance of the Israeli occupiers.  While waiting on line to go to the first passport control I was watched by an Israeli security person.  I somehow knew that this was not a good sign.  When my delegation awaited clearance to actually enter the Occupied Territories this same security person came up to me and me alone (in my delegation) and proceeded to ask me all sorts of questions about the objectives of my visit.  Perhaps it was my naturally curly hair, or perhaps it was that I am told that I look North African, but in any case, there was nothing approaching politeness in this exchange.  The Israelis held us at the border for about two hours for no apparent reason and then let most of my delegation through.  They then held one member of my delegation - not me - for an additional hour, again for no apparent reason and without explanation or apology (when they were released).


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Protesters gather outside TIAA-CREF shareholder meeting

David Matos is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee.

By Beck Bereiter
July 19th, 2011

With organized chants and giant signs, dozens gathered outside TIAA CREF's annual shareholder's meeting in Charlotte Tuesday.

The group, Jewish Voice for Peace, is calling on the Fortune 100 financial services company to cut ties with companies in its investment portfolio they say are profiting from the Israeli occupation. They referenced companies like Caterpillar Inc. and Veolia.

"It's so important what we do with our money, especially money that's for people's retirement," said Jerry Markatos, who came all the way from Pittsboro to attend the demonstration.

Earlier this year, a group of shareholders say they tried to get the resolution on the agenda but that request was denied.

David Matos, US Campaign
Steering Committee member
"We have some people inside who are going to bring it up during the open question and answer period but they are trying their hardest not to talk about it at all," said Rebecca Vilkomerson, with Jewish Voice for Peace.

"TIAA CREF's slogan is 'For the greater good.' It is not for the greater good to keep their money in the Israeli occupation," added fellow organizer David Matos.

According to the company's website, TIAA CREF is a leading retirement provider for those who work in the academic, research, medical, and cultural fields.

While security did not allow cameras inside the meeting, a spokesperson emailed the following statement on the matter:

“Our investment committee makes decisions that are guided by our corporate governance policies. We are always listening and determining how best to serve clients according to our guidelines.”

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Flash mob targets New Seasons’ ethical image, Israeli products

By Peter Miller, US Campaign Steering Committee member and President of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR) a US Campaign member group
May 29, 2011

Portland, Oregon -- Shoppers at Portland’s Concordia New Seasons were greeted with an unexpected performance this afternoon when about two dozen Portlanders broke into song and dance. “New Seasons, you say you’re local but you buy into Israeli occupation,” participants sang, referencing the 19 Israeli products New Seasons carries. The flash mob, coordinated by the Portland BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanction) Coalition, was part of an ongoing campaign calling on New Seasons to stop selling Israeli products.

“New Seasons cannot claim to be friendly and local while it continues to stock products made by Israel, a gross violator of international law,” said Wael Elasady, member of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights and flashmob participant. “There’s a glaring discrepancy between their ethical image and the products they profit from.”

The now-burgeoning BDS Coalition, endorsed by groups such as Jews for Global Justice and the ILWU Local 5, has submitted a petition with over 500 signatures from New Seasons shoppers. The petition asks New Seasons to respect the boycott call issued by Palestinian civil society in 2005, and stop selling Israeli products until Israel complies with international humanitarian and human rights law. Additionally, hundreds of customers have submitted “comment cards” supporting the boycott.

New Seasons has been under recent scrutiny for its decision to remove photographs by Jewish artist Stephen Kerpen. Images of Palestinians and Bedouins from Kerpen’s recent trip to Israel and the West Bank were removed by New Seasons management just hours after being installed in the Seven Corners’ local artists gallery. Kerpen was told that the abrupt reversal came in response to the complaint of a single customer.

“New Seasons immediately removed Stephen’s images after one complaint, yet refuses to address the hundreds of customers who have supported the boycott,” said Elasady. “The store chose to stop selling Rockstar energy drink on ethical grounds, so the precedent for this type of action has been set. It’s time for New Seasons to live up to its image and respect the demands of hundreds of customers.”

The Portland BDS Coalition is part of the growing international movement calling for a boycott of Israel until it complies with international humanitarian and human rights laws. The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a moral, nonviolent campaign for human rights modeled on the worldwide boycott movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa.

Media contact: Wael Elasady (602) 446-9444


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Hundreds Have Just Faced Up To AIPAC, But Together We Can Do More.

By Felicia Eaves and Phyllis Bennis

Above: Steering Committee Members Felicia Eaves (L) and Phyllis Bennis (R).

On Saturday we both spoke at the fantastic events of Move Over AIPAC, the spectacular outpouring of creativity and commitment organized by CODEPINK and 100 endorsing organizations, including the US Campaign and many members of our coalition.

Hundreds of activists from across the United States challenged the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) by protesting outside its annual conference in Washington.

AIPAC's influence, along with that of U.S. arms manufacturers and the Pentagon, creates a stranglehold of pro-Israel policies that undermine democracy here at home and across the Middle East. 

Throughout the weekend activsts spoke about the kind of new U.S. policy needed toward Palestine/Israel -- a policy that upholds freedom, justice and equality -- not AIPAC's policy of securing U.S. support for Israel's  occupation of Palestinian land and violations of Palestinian rights.

With just 0.4% of AIPAC's budget, the US Campaign works tirelessly to challenge U.S. military aid to Israel, providing an umbrella and a channel for more than 350 member organizations.

Think how much we could do with just a few dollars more. Won't you click here to donate?

Here's just a taste of the work of the US Campaign:
We provide a strategic framework for local groups to run effective campaigns, and move their work from the local to the national level. Member groups throughout the country use the US Campaign as a platform to communicate and cooperate.

We create valuable resources for our member groups and 50,000+ supporters -- check out the Aid to Israel map that lets you organize with others to tell your elected representatives exactly how many of your community's tax dollars are going to military aid to Israel, and how you would rather spend them at home.

We organize grassroots training and advocacy days so that members and supporters can lobby their elected representatives for a different policy -- the US Campaign's National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner led yesterday's "Move Over AIPAC" workshop on ending military aid to Israel (see photo at right). And watch this space for the launch of our new city council campaign -- Fund Community Needs -- in June!

We challenge the discourse through well-placed op-eds, including by our staff, Steering Committee and Advisory Board members. Check out these three pieces in The Hill last week: by Josh Ruebner, Phyllis Bennis and Nadia Hijab.
Israel's intransigent prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, will again be standing against history and in the face of peace and justice when he addresses Congress today. We know what he's going to say. As Israel expands its racist laws against its Palestinian citizens, escalates its apartheid treatment of Palestinians under occupation, ramps up its colonization of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, prevents Palestinian refugees from going home, and keeps Gaza under siege, we can -- and must -- do so much more.

Last weekend shows how far our movement has come and how much stronger we are. We already do so much with so little. Won't you help us to do more? Donate now!

Make our voice even stronger and our actions more powerful. Donate now!

With thanks and solidarity,

Felicia Eaves & Phyllis Bennis

Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Seeds of the new movement": US Campaign Steering Committee member Sophia Ritchie reports from UC Berkeley

The following report on the divestment vote at UC Berkeley is shared by US Campaign Steering Committee member and UC Berkeley alum Sophia Ritchie: I am here again for another late night ASUC hearing, at my alma mater UC Berkeley, surrounded by hundreds of students and community members, most of who are here supporting the overturn of Will Smelko’s veto on SB118. It is the same place that we met two weeks ago, but this time it’s a bit more claustrophobic not only because they’ve cut the room in half, but also everyone’s speaking time. My head spins - as speakers rush through their prepared statements in the allotted minute and a half. I strain to hear them as they are left at the end attempting to continue and complete their points when their sound is cut. The anticipation is thick. People are nervous. We just want a decision; didn’t they vote 16-4 to pass this resolution already? That vote feels so long ago. By now we all know the outcome of last night: the veto was not overturned. I could focus on a lot of things: the weak arguments that proponents of the veto used and everything I heard that was presented to challenge their claims, but I think the videos of personal stories and testimony that will be online soon will say better what I could repeat here. I want to write about something else - on what happened after we heard that the veto was sustained and on what is happening at this moment. The now ubiquitous green stickers that read “Another (fill in the blank) for Human Rights. Divest from the Israeli Occupation” were taken off of shirts, coats and purses and placed instead over our mouths. A room full of people whose views and experiences and struggles have been silenced by this outcome. Senator Patel takes a moment to address the room. He directs those of us who support the resolution to raise our right fist, hundreds of arms stay raised in the air as he passionately talks about the “seeds of a new movement”. The seeds have been planted, our roots are deepening and we are growing. That to me is the most important outcome of this entire process. Something has shifted - in the discourse, in the sheer numbers of people who are concerned, in the solidarity work and coalition building amongst a broad and truly diverse range of student and community groups, in the energy around Palestine- that cannot be ignored. In this way, we are winning. After Senator Patel speaks we walk out collectively, silently. Outside, on the steps to the building, we stand around for a bit when someone starts the familiar “Free, Free Palestine” and the response echoes across Sproul Plaza, the home of so many demonstrations and pivotal historical moments, bounces off buildings, and settles deep in my heart. An elder from the Palestinian community addresses the crowd. Beautiful, poignant, raw and wise - he reminds us that this fight is not over. That truth and justice will prevail, even if it takes many more years. The continued chants of “When Palestine is under attack, what we do? Stand up, fight back” feed a growing circle of people on Sproul at 4:30am. It is a chilly bay area night, but I feel warmed and energized by the people, both friends and strangers, surrounding me - by their determination and by their love. More and more people address the crowd - youth, professors, Palestinian students and community members. I see many of the senators who spoke in favor of the resolution join the circle. I think these recent weeks have shown something - Palestinians and those who stand in solidarity with their struggle for justice, equality and freedom, are no longer willing to be silenced. It also shows that more people are hearing what we have to say. More and more of us are raising our voices. Palestine is in the vocabulary of more people. No, we’re not going to shut up and we’re not going away - in fact, we’re getting louder and stronger. As long as the Occupation continues and our tax dollars feed it, as long as there are massacres of innocent Palestinian civilians, as long as Palestinian land continues to be stolen, as long as Palestinian children are being held in Israeli jails without trials, as long as the madness continues we have no choice, but to speak out and work for justice. Alice Walker completes her new essay “Overcoming Speech-lessness: A Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and Palestine/Israel,” by writing, “The world is, at last, finding its voice about everything that harms it…Though the horror of what we are witnessing in places like….Palestine/Israel threatens our very ability to speak, we will speak. And, because almost everyone on the planet acknowledges our collective slide into global disaster unless we profoundly change our ways, we will be heard.” This is an analysis, but more importantly it is also a call to each and every one of us. Are we listening? -- Want to plant more movement seeds? Check out our campus divestment resources, and help grow the seeds that have already been planted by making a tax-deductible donation to the US Campaign!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Bill Fletcher, Jr. tells Bono what's what at

Remember when U2 lead singer Bono ignored the existence of Palestinian nonviolent resistance in the New York Times even as Palestinian grassroots activists like Jamal Juma', Mohammad Othman, and Abdallah Abu Rahmah were thrown in jail for their nonviolent resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid? Here's US Campaign Steering Committee member Bill Fletcher, Jr., speaking truth at
"It has become almost a cliché, yet people, including Irish rocker Bono, continue to wield King's name when they bemoan the alleged absence of his like among the Palestinians. It seems no matter what Palestinian activists do, they are condemned as terrorists....The condemnation of Palestinian activists as terrorists, no matter their approach, shares a great deal in common with the manner in which King and African-American freedom fighters (and their allies) were demonized and repressed. It was the basic cause that needed to be destroyed by the oppressor and not just the individuals. The same is true today as Palestinian activists, including those who have consciously and openly repudiated armed struggle, are sidelined so that the Israeli government can claim, with a straight face, that it has no Palestinian partner with which it can discuss peace."
Read the full article here, and write to thank CNN for publishing Fletcher's piece here. Of course, as Fletcher himself testified to the UN General Assembly in November 2009, it's not just the style of resistance that ties the struggle against Jim Crow in the U.S. to the struggle against Israeli apartheid--it's the style of oppression, too:
"As an African American in and from the United States, I am keenly aware of the similarities between the systems of Israeli apartheid, South African apartheid, and the home-grown apartheid in the United States of America once known as “Jim Crow segregation.”.... Notwithstanding the efforts of heroic individuals such as William Patterson, Paul Robeson and Malcolm X to bring the case of African Americans before the United Nations, the international ramifications of the oppression suffered here were often and conveniently ignored by the great powers of the global North. The South African apartheid system was, to a great extent, modeled on the Jim Crow system in the United States, a fact noted by many people in South Africa and in the global South. The United Nations failed to take up the challenge to racism in my own country a generation ago; it must not fail to take up the struggle against Israeli apartheid today."
Take up the nonviolent struggle against Israeli apartheid by participating in the 6th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week, March 1-7, 2010

Friday, December 4, 2009

US Campaign Steering Committee member tells Columbia Sportswear to stop marketing to settlers...and they listen!

Last week, US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz posted a report on Mondoweiss about Columbia Sportswear's efforts to market to settlers in Israel with an advertising campaign boasting that Columbia clothing is "Suitable for active work in various regions, including outposts." The term "outposts"--"gvaot" (or "hills") in Hebrew--is a code term, used to describe new "seedbed" settlements that are often started by the most extreme right-wing of the Israeli settler movement. All settlement colonies are illegal under international law; many such outposts are illegal even under Israeli occupation "law" : US Campaign Steering Committee member Peter Miller, who is part of Portland-based US Campaign member group Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, decided he couldn't give Columbia a pass on this one. He contacted Columbia with his concerns...and, to his surprise, they listened! Columbia responded the next day and announced that they will discontinue the ad campaign, effective immediately. Here are the emails:
"Customer (Peter Miller) 12/02/2009 07:36 AM December 2, 2009
Dear Columbia Sportswear -
I have purchased your products for many years. I was dismayed to learn recently that your clothing was advertised in Israel as "Suitable for active work in various regions, including outposts." The word "outpost" is rather unique to Israel and it means a specific thing: an illegal settlement colony planted, against international law and in violation of Palestinian human rights, right in the middle of Palestinian land. Outposts are created by radical, right-wing Jewish Israeli settlers. Unfortunately, these settlers have the tacit and often explicit support of the Israeli government. The outposts are a direct violation of the fourth Geneva conventions as well as the so-called "road map to peace" and numerous other documents and declarations. The UN Security council calls the Israel’s settlements "a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention." And the outposts represent the vanguard of these settlements. The "active work" these settlers are engaged in is increasing Israel’s hold on Palestinian land, making future peace and a just resolution impossible. The "active work" is part of Israel’s setting up of an Apartheid system, ruling over the Palestinians who are crowded into smaller and smaller areas, who are separated from each other by Settler roads, separation walls, settlements, military checkpoints, and forbidden zones.
I sincerely hope that Columbia Sportswear is not in the business of supporting these outposts and I ask that you investigate how your products are being promoted in Israel. I ask that you not promote your products in this manner and that you not attempt to promote your products in support of illegal activities and human rights violations. I, for one, don’t want to be associated with "outposts." I do not wish to wear clothing if it is being promoted as being "suitable for active work" in "outposts".
I would be happy to discuss with you the issues involved with these outposts. I give you some background information below including a links to an article depicting the offensive ad.
Peter Miller
"Israel’s settlements are on shaky ground" International law mandates that they must be removed and that the Palestinians should be compensated for their losses. By Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, from The LA Times
"Columbia Markets to the Active Settler on the Go" The Hebrew translation of outposts there is "gvaot" (hills) a euphemism for the illegal outposts populated by the "hilltop youth", notorious for their violence against Palestinian civilians. By Adam Horowitz"
And Columbia Sportswear’s response:
"Response 12/03/2009 04:20 PM Thank you for bringing this advertisement to our attention and for sharing your concerns with us.
We investigated and determined that neither the original Hebrew text of the ad created by our independent Israeli distributor, nor the erroneous English translation supplied by the newspaper, was submitted to or approved by Columbia Sportswear as called for by our standard practices.
Columbia Sportswear and our Israeli distributor have agreed to immediately and permanently discontinue the ad, as well as to reinforce our standard pre-approval practices pertaining to all marketing materials in order to avoid such unfortunate errors in the future.
We value your input and we take all customer feedback seriously. While we cannot always promise specific changes, we do consider and incorporate comments from customers like you when planning our marketing communications for the future.
Thank you for caring. We hope we can count on your ongoing support."
Of course, we all would love for Columbia's response to have been "Wow, this settlement stuff is messed up, what can we do about it?" But the fact that the ad was not approved, and was so quickly discontinued, seems to indicate a tacit admission that supporting such illegal apartheid activity in your ad slogans is beyond the pale for this company. We may never get the full on apology that we want from any corporate supporters of the Israeli occupation, but every victory for accountability counts! When we take the time to write letters, attend shareholder meetings, and do the tough work of holding corporations and governments accountable, we never know when our efforts will pay off. Good work, Peter! Now, let's make sure that no company can get away with supporting Israeli settlements and Israeli occupation--starting with Motorola. Take action today to let the U.S. Department of Energy know about Motorola's support for human rights abuses and violations of international law and demand that they end a $900,000 contract they are set to award to Motorola Israel. If one email can get Columbia to stop advertising to the worst of the settler movement, then civil society pressure can get Motorola and other corporate criminals to end their overt support of occupation and apartheid.