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Israel Dropped the Ball on Human Rights, but We Won't!

by Anna Baltzer, National Organizer
October 18th, 2012

Sporting Boycott Launched, Student Organizing Conference & More...

Activists from Minnesota Break the Bonds organize first Israeli Sports Team Boycott in the U.S.


Last week, more than 100 organizations worldwide -- including dozens of US Campaign coalition members -- signed onto a letter of support for the first Israeli sports team boycott campaign in the United States, organized by member group Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC). The Israeli basketball team Maccabi-Haifa has been in the United States playing U.S. teams including the Minnesota Timberwolves.

When the Timberwolves refused to cancel their game with the Maccabi, almost two dozen activists protested inside the stadium calling on the team to "Stop Playing with Apartheid!" The protestors were ejected from the game for "disruptive and inappropriate messages" (meanwhile, counter-protestors waving Israeli flags were allowed to stay). According to a press release on the MN BBC website, a legal observer and civil rights attorney was assaulted and temporarily arrested by local security and police.

Africa's sports teams proved to be a particularly effective tool in the struggle to end oppression there. At the time, South African teams that had not taken a public stance against apartheid would not be invited by any self-respecting tournament or venue. It should be no different with Apartheid Israel today.

In the same way that South African teams were, almost all Israeli sports teams are cynically used as ambassadors of an apartheid state. Additionally, Maccabi is sponsored by Ya'akov Shahar, chairman of Mayer's Cars and Trucks Ltd., the official importer to Israel of Volvo. Both companies are heavily involved in the Israeli occupation, as documented by Who Profits?, an Israeli research project. Israeli sports teams like Maccabi are also notorious for racism and racial discrimination against Palestinians.

As the activists in Minnesota stated: "Love Basketball; Hate Apartheid."

The Palestinian call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) first made its way into U.S. basketball discourse when the US Campaign learned that legendary player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar canceled participation in an Israeli film festival following Israel's killing of twelve unarmed Palestinian refugees attempting to exercise their internationally-recognized right of return.

Students: Register now for the National Student for Justice in Palestine Conference!

Meanwhile, another Midwestern state is gearing up for another major organizing opportunity: the 2nd National Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) Conference in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Entitled "From Local Roots to Nationwide Branches: Bridging Student Movements," the gathering will focus on sharing valuable organizing skills across campuses, solidifying a national structure, and drawing connections between African-American, Latin@, and indigenous-American struggles and Palestine. There will be a particular focus on building reciprocal support with student group M.E.Ch.A. (Movímíento Estudíantíl Chícan@ de Aztlán), the largest association of Latin@ youth in the U.S., which endorsed the BDS call earlier this year.

Scholarships are available. Check out this action alert and consider helping a student attend this important gathering. Students, registration ends October 30th and this is an opportunity you don't want to miss! If you're still not convinced, check out these Top 10 Reasons to Attend the SJP Conference.

Jewish Voice for Peace - DC Metro launches campaign to Boycott Sodasteam!

These are just two of the exciting developments and opportunities in the U.S. movement to end U.S. institutional support for Israel's occupation and apartheid policies. The increased mobilization by member groups around coalition-endorsed campaigns like the We Divest Campaign, Stop Caterpillar, Derail Veolia, and Stolen Beauty is too extensive to document in full here. The massive increase in challenging and banning settlement goods and the new Chicago Divests video demanding that TIAA-CREF divest are just two examples. Meanwhile, new campaigns are springing up to boycott Israeli settlement product SodaStream and to protest G4S, a private security company that operates Israeli and U.S. prisons.

From basketball to beauty products, students and others around the country are making the message clear that
it's time to slam dunk Israeli Apartheid!