Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Join IFPB African Heritage Delegation to Palestine/Israel

In 2011 Interfaith Peace-Builders, a US Campaign member group, sent their first ever African Heritage Delegation to Israel/Palestine. Based on its success and the feedback from the 14 participants, they will send another African Heritage Delegation from October 21-November 3, 2012

Your on the ground experience will enrich your understanding of the conflict as you meet courageous Israelis and Palestinians working for peace and justice, and witness the current realities of life in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Participants on IFPB delegations return to North America energized and transformed. 

Apply today to learn directly from Israelis and Palestinians, be an eyewitness to the reality of the occupation, support those working for peace, and enrich your education and advocacy efforts in your home community. 

IFPB combines experienced leaders from the US with professional multilingual guides from Israel/Palestine who bring a range of knowledge, perspectives, and expertise. 

The delegation leaders are: 

Darryl Jordan has been an organizer for more than 30 years, working on issues of hunger and food security, neighborhood security, voter education, peace, justice, apartheid, immigration, union/labor, health and political empowerment. He is immediate past director of the American Friends Service Committee’s Third World Coalition. During his organizing life, Darryl has had the benefit of learning from many activists, community leaders and organizers, and tries to incorporate all that he has learned in his work. He currently sits on the Interfaith Peace-Builders Board of Directors. Prior to joining the Board, Darryl co-led the people of color delegation IFPB co-sponsored with the Third World Coalition in 2008 and served on the ad-hoc organizing committee for the African Heritage Delegation in 2011. 

Huwaida Arraf is a Palestinian with American and Israeli citizenship. She holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of Michigan, and a Juris Doctor from the American University Washington College of Law, where she focused her studies on international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2001 Huwaida co- founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She previously taught at the Human Rights Law Clinic at Al- Quds University in Jerusalem (the first legal clinic in the Arab World) and was one of the organizers of a delegation of American lawyers to Gaza in February 2009. Huwaida has led 5 successful sea voyages to the Gaza Strip and was one of the primary organizers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was lethally attacked by Israeli forces in May 2010.  She was also a member of the Palestinian Freedom Riders, challenging segregated bus lines in the West Bank during a November 2011 action. 

Cost and Logistics

The cost of this delegation is $2100 + round-trip international airfare. Interfaith Peace-Builders and our partners and allies are doing fundraising in the hope that we can offer some participants financial help to make the delegation possible. 

Space is limited, apply today at
www.ifpb.org/africanheritage/applications.html. Applications due August 15.

Contact IFPB at 202-244-0821 and/or office@ifpb.org for more information.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Divestment Debate Highlights Shift in Mainstream Opinion

Phyllis Bennis is a member of the US Campaign Steering Committee. She will be on the opening panel of our National Organizers' Conference in St. Louis Friday, September 21 at 7:00pm discussing the Arab uprisings and how changes in the region affect our organizing to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Register today

The mainstream U.S. press, paying unusual attention to U.S. corporate complicity in Israel's occupation, wrote quite extensively about last week's Presbyterian campaign for corporate social responsibility. Virtually all the headlines focused on the two million-strong Presbyterian Church (USA) decision not to divest from multi-national corporations profiting from the Israeli occupation and settlement policies. 

"In Close Vote, Presbyterian Church Rejects Divesting in Firms That Aid Israeli Occupation,"
said the New York Times. The Associated Press reported, "US Presbyterians Reject Israel Divestment." According to the Christian Science Monitor, "Presbyterians Reject Call to Divest over Israel's West Bank Occupation." 

It took Ha'aretz, the leading Israeli daily, to get it right: "
Presbyterian Church in U.S. votes to boycott Israeli settlement goods," their headline read. 

The voting at the Pittsburgh meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) -- PC (USA) -- was the latest step in an eight-year campaign to bring the Church's investment policies into line with its commitment to social justice. It had tried for those eight years to persuade the multinational corporations to stop enabling Israeli violations of international law -- an effort that Church leaders overwhelmingly agreed had failed. Presbyterian corporate responsibility activists, led by their Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee, had moved from studying, to attempting to engage with corporate leadership, to shareholder actions, all aimed at pressing for accountability in those corporations in which the Church had invested millions of dollars. 

The Assembly approved a call to boycott all Israeli settlement-made goods (stronger than the original proposal), and to urge all other countries to boycott such goods. The Church had earlier called for suspending U.S. military aid to Israel. The proposal calling for divestment from specific corporations profiting from occupation and militarism, was ultimately taken off the table when a razor-thin majority (333-331 with two abstentions) approved a substitute motion calling for a vote on investment in Palestinian enterprises instead. 

Continue Reading on The Huffington Post

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Investment without Divestment Entrenches Occupation

When the Presbyterian Church USA passed a resolution earlier this month encouraging "positive investment" in the Palestinian economy instead of divesting from Caterpillar, HP, and Motorola Solutions for profiting from Israel's military occupation, it highlighted a continued major flaw in thinking about how to end Israel's military occupation. 

The idea that economic development alone can help bring about peace may have gained traction a few years ago when the Palestinian Authority and its supporters were boasting of the various state development projects taking place in the West Bank. But as Palestinian-American business development consultant Sam Bahour points out in his piece "Palestine's Investments Require Divestment," today various international organizations including the World Bank and International Monetary Fund admit that Israeli control over all aspects of Palestinian life severely restricts economic development. "Over the years, not only has Israel prohibited the emergence of a new Palestinian economy -- it structurally and systematically has made certain that even the buds of such a productive economy would never see the light of day," he writes. 

The idea of an economic peace, which Bibi Netanyahu insisted back in 2008 would help make a political solution more accessible, seems even more ludicrous today. Settlements continue to expand and an Israeli-government appointed commission recently declared that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is actually not occupation. About 85 percent of the apartheid wall, which Israel started constructing ten years ago, will be within the West Bank when it is completed, annexing 530 sq km of Palestinian land- the area of Chicago- and trapping 350,000 Palestinians between it and the Green Line. And the blockade on Gaza continues, keeping 1.4 million Palestinians entrapped in an open-air prison.

The Presbyterian Church and others can continue investing in Palestine, but without pressure on Israel to end the occupation, no amount of investment will actually bring peace and justice. "After all, we don't want a more beautiful prison to live in," Sam writes. "We want the prison walls dividing Palestinians from Palestinians to come down, and that won't happen unless economic pressure is placed on Israel to end the occupation."

Read Palestine's Investments Require Divestment on The Huffington Post

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Thank Disney for Denouncing Ahava!

Our member group CODEPINK is asking supporters to sign their e-card to thank Abigail Disney for disowning her share of her family's investment in Ahava cosmetics. Shamrock Holdings, owned by the Disney family, is believed to have an investment worth around $12 million in the company. 

“I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources and the company’s situating its factory in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank," she said. Make sure to send her a thank you!

This is just the latest victory for the
Stolen Beauty Campaign and BDS. Earlier this month the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church-USA passed a resolution to boycott all Israeli settlement products, specifically naming Ahava products. 

The campaign's next target is Nordstrom, and you can send a letter demanding the department store stop selling Ahava products

And make sure to
register to join us at our National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University to celebrate this and many other recent BDS victories. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Israel to Demolish Eight Palestinian Villages

Yesterday Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills, displacing some 1,500 residents. The order came after the Israeli High Court of Justice issued its decision supporting the move, agreeing with a 2000 finding by the Israeli Civil Administration that “there were no permanent residents in the area” and that those present were merely seasonal residents.

The IDF has argued since 1999 that the villages needed to be destroyed because their presence has prevented the IDF from performing live fire drills in the zone. They also claimed that Palestinians in the zone could collect intelligence on Israeli tactics or gather weapons left over from training exercises and then "use them for terror purposes."

Village residents as well as Israeli human rights activists from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) and B’Tselem argued in court that the villages in question have been inhabited since at least the 1830s and represent natural outgrowths of cave-dwelling communities found throughout the region. Activists also argued that residents lived undisturbed in the region until 1997, indicating that Israel has recognized them as permanent residents.

But this failed to convince the High Court as the displaced villagers will be relocated to the town of Yatta and only allowed to return to their homes to work the land and graze flocks on a limited number of dates specified by Israel.

Home evictions and demolitions such as these present an ongoing challenge for Palestinians as Israel continues its colonization of the Palestinian Territories through settlements and military land grabs. Such a policy is not only inherently unjust, but stands as an obstacle to peace in the region. Israel must end its colonization of the Palestinian territories if a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians is to be attained.

Israel orders demolition of 8 Palestinian villages, claims need for IDF training land

Residents of targeted villages will be moved to the West Bank town of Yatta and its environs; state claims that most of those evacuated have permanent homes in the area.

By Amira Hass Jul.23, 2012 | 12:29 PM |  128

The West Bank town of Yatta. Photo by Nir Kafri
Defense Minister Ehud Barak has ordered the demolition of eight Palestinian villages in the South Hebron Hills because the territory is needed for Israel Defense Forces training exercises, the state told the High Court of Justice on Sunday...

Read more here

Demanding an End to Administrative Detention

Israel's use of administrative detention drew the attention of solidarity activists worldwide the past few months as thousands of Palestinians illegally imprisoned by Israel without charge went on hunger strike in protest, some winning their release after activists highlighted their cases through grassroots actions

The release of Khader Adnan, Hana Shalabi, Mahmoud Sarsak, and others should not overshadow that fact that hundreds of Palestinians continue to be held without charge by Israel. Walid Abu Rass is one such case. The press release below is from two activists who started a petition to highlight his case and that of all Palestinian political prisoners. 

Over 600 Petitioners Demand Release of Palestinians Held in Administrative Detention

Outraged by the most recent example of Israel’s capricious extension of administrative detention terms for Palestinian activists, two Southern California human rights activists decided to act. When she read the story about Walid Abu Rass’s experience, written by his friend Sam Bahour, Carolfrances Likin said: “This sounds like a petition campaign!”

Recalling how shocked she was by the military’s kangaroo court proceedings that she observed during the first intifada, long-time activist Sherna Gluck, immediately jumped in, and together with Carolfrances and Sam, launched an Avaaz petition calling on the Military Judge Advocate and the Commander of Ofer Prison to release Abu Rass and all prisoners held in administrative detention. As noted in Amnesty International’s demand that Israel end the use of administrative detention, this practice is a breach of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

The initial US signers of the petition were joined by supporters of human rights from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, England, Finland, France, Greece, India, ltaly, Palestine, Poland, Portugal, Spain, South Africa- and even Israel.

Walid Hanatsheh Abu Rass (ID # 9-9702819-6), is the Finance and Administration Manager for the Health Work Committees (HWC), one of the largest community health service providers in the occupied Palestinian territory. Like so many other human rights advocates, he has been in and out of Administration Detention for the past five years, without once being formally charged. For more details on his case, visit Addameer's website

Abu Rass’s experience in not unique. Rather, in a scene repeated regularly throughout the Occupied Territories, and one reminiscent of police states, soldiers raided his home at 1:30 in the morning on November 22, 2011. He was blindfolded and dragged off as his terrified family looked on. And, like the 24 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, the four journalists and the countless human rights advocates, university students and academic staff - not to mention dozens of children - he did not receive a fair trial. Rather, with no proof or official charges filed, following a closed session from which he and his lawyer were barred, he was sentenced by the Occupying army. Since then, despite appeals, his sentence has been repeatedly extended.

Speaking of his friend’s most recent experience, Sam Bahour said, “I couldn’t make up what happened to him even if I was a word-class fiction writer.” 

Abu Ras was initially surprised by the news that he would be freed one month before his scheduled release date and his family was already planning a celebration. Instead, just when he thought his release was imminent, on June 25th the military judge informed him that his term had been extended for three months- and then reduced to two!

This is precisely the kind of scenario that Amnesty International documents discussed in its recent report, noting that detainees “must live with the uncertainty of not knowing how long they will be deprived of their liberty and the injustice of not knowing exactly why they are being detained”

“We are pleased with the response to our petition,” Gluck said, “especially since any actions seeking justice for Palestinians is such an uphill battle. And although we don’t really expect the Israelis to respond to petitioners like us, as more and more people around the world take small steps like this, there can be change.” 

Likin couldn’t agree more, noting: “In the meantime, we hope that it gives heart to the Palestinian prisoners to know that we are here, outside, fighting for them, just as they are inside because they were fighting for justice.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Maps of Palestine Stir Controversy

Fifty ads at commuter rail platforms around New York state have caused quite a controversy over the past week. The ads, set to run for 30 days, feature maps of shrinking Palestinian territory from the foundation of Israel in 1948 to 2010.  Henry Clifford, chairman of the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine, a member group of the US Campaign, paid for the ads. He says that the maps are "historically and geographically the truth" and can only serve to inform people of facts. 

The ads have come under attack from NY council member Robert Castelli, who described them as "anti-Israel" and argued that they would not contribute to peace in the region. Ron Meir, New York regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely complex and cannot be summarized in a series of four maps."  To such criticism, Clifford has responded: "Those who disapprove of these ads, if they want to show they're inaccurate, they should bring that proof forward."  

The ads, run by CBS outdoor, come in the wake of that company's removal of Los Angeles billboards questioning U.S. military aid to Israel last month.  Despite the opposition, Clifford thinks the ads will not be removed since he has a contract, and he can take legal action of its terms are violated.   

What do you think of these ads? Should they be removed? Contribute to the conversation by voting in a poll by the Chappaqua Daily Voice. 

Backer of NY ads exposing Palestinian land-loss says response has been ‘astounding’ and news ‘coverage is pouring in’

by Philip Weiss on July 13, 2012

Henry Clifford's advertisement at the Chappaqua Metro-North train station July 10, 2012.
(Photo: Seth Harrison / The Journal News )

"Last night I talked to Henry Clifford, the 83-year-old Connecticut man who paid for the smashing ads on New York commuter train platforms that describe the dispossession of Palestinian lands over the last century...."
Read more here

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Boycot Israeli Occupation Dates

During Ramadan, which begins tomorrow, Muslims around the world will break their daily fast on dates.  Our member group American Muslims for Palestine just launched a campaign to ensure that this tradition does not inadvertently support the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Over half of the world's medjool dates, the most popular commercial variety, are grown in Israel, primarily in illegal West Bank settlements built on occupied Palestinian land. Moreover, Israeli dates are often harvested by Palestinians who suffer from unfair labor practices.  Marketed by the Israeli company Hadilklaim under brand names including Jordan River, Jordan River-Bio Tops and King Solomon, these dates are exported around the world, providing Israeli exporters with annual profits of $265 million.

In accordance with Palestinian civil society's 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), people of conscience around the world are boycotting Hadilklaim dates in solidarity with the millions of Palestinians oppressed by Israeli apartheid.  Join us in refusing to support the Israeli occupation by boycotting Hadilklaim dates! Learn more about dates, the Israeli occupation, and BDS here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Josh Ruebner on Negotiating Peace and Redefining Refugees

Last Wednesday, US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner spoke on the Palestine Center's panel of "Negotiating Peace" regarding President Obama's strategy toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Mr. Ruebner, despite changed rhetoric, Obama's actual efforts at promoting peace have been no different than those under previous presidents.  Ruebner argues that Obama has continued to try to “sell” Israeli ideas to Palestinians, promoted negotiations for the sake of negotiations, and held that the U.S.-led "peace process" is the sole means to conflict resolution with alternatives shoved aside.  Ruebner also suggests that the continued inability to the United States to provide Palestinians with fair negotiations under Obama has led to a Palestinian effort to bring the conflict back to an international stage for mediation.  

On Monday, Mr. Ruebner was interviewed by the Institute for Palestine Studies regarding a recent U.S. Senate motion seeking to redefine Palestinian refugees. The Senate unanimously passed an amendment to an appropriations bill asking that the State Department determine how many Palestinian refugees were born before the Nakba in 1948 and how many were born after. The State Department argued, in Ruebner's words, that such a definitive status could “prejudice who is considered a Palestinian refugee," which in turn "Would affect final status negotiations,” and refused to make this distinction.  In itself, Mr. Ruebner says, this amendment is insignificant.   But he believes that it is part of a larger “deliberate campaign to undermine the status and rights of Palestinian refugees,” which includes an eventual right of return to their homeland.  According to Mr. Ruebner, the Israel lobby and Members of Congress seek to undermine the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the international body tasked with caring for displaced Palestinians, despite its apolitical mandate. 

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 16, 2012

BDS Win! Disney Renounces Investments in Ahava

The Stolen Beauty Campaign, a project of our member group CODEPINK to boycott Israel's Ahava cosmetics, announced today that Abigail Disney, a principal investor of Shamrock Holdings Incorporated, the Roy E. Disney family fund, is disclaiming her share of Shamrock's investment in Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories. Ahava, an Israeli cosmetics firm with its factory and visitors center in an illegal West Bank settlement, is a privately held corporation. Shamrock owns about 18.5% of the company. 

In a press release, Disney states:

“Recent evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration documents that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories sources mud used in its products from the Occupied shores of the Dead Sea, which is in direct contravention to provisions in The Hague Regulations and the Geneva Conventions forbidding the exploitation of occupied natural resources. While I will always hold my colleagues and coworkers in the highest regard, I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ or ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources and the company’s situating its factory in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied West Bank. Because of complicated legal and financial constraints I am unable to withdraw my investment at this time, but will donate the corpus of the investment as well as the profits accrued to me during the term of my involvement to organizations working to end this illegal exploitation.”

Just last month the Stolen Beauty Campaign celebrated its three-year anniversaryAccording to Haaretz: "Stolen Beauty’s activity in the United States and elsewhere has helped make Ahava cosmetics one of the first mentioned in any discussion of products that are produced in settlements or in industrial zones operated in settlements but are marked 'Made in Israel.'" 

We congratulate CODEPINK on this victory and hope you will join us at our
National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University to celebrate! 

Silencing pro-Palestinian voices on US Campuses

Remi Kanazi is a poet, writer, and author of Poetic Injustice: Writings on Resistance and Palestine. He will be performing at our National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University so register today!  

On July 9, 2012, the University of California's Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion presented its fact-finding report and recommendations on Jewish Student Campus Climate. According to a letter written by UC President Mark Yudof, the report was launched
in response to the 2010 Berkeley student government vote to divest from companies selling weapons to the Israeli military and the 2010 UC Irvine protest against Israeli ambassador Michael Oren. 

The "climate report" was tasked with "fact-finding about the challenges and positive campus experiences of Jewish students at UC and to identify steps needed to make campuses more inclusive and welcoming for Jewish students." The council also presented a fact-finding report on Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate. 

From the outset, the Jewish Student Campus Climate report focuses on non-violent protests and speeches critical of Israel, a state in clear violation of international law, not anti-Jewish bigotry. In fact, nearly 50 per cent of the report (excluding the introduction and recommendations) covered "the Anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel Movement and its Impact on Climate." 

Specifically, the use of the words "ethnic cleansing" and "apartheid" to describe Israel's policies are presented as problematic, while anti-Zionism and the
Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel are referred to as "manifestations of anti-Israel sentiment on campus." 

What is the definition of "anti-Israel?" We are never told. Imagine a UC report referring to protests against the war on Iraq as "manifestations of anti-American sentiment on campus." One of the three key demands in the BDS call is equality for all Palestinians living inside the state of Israel. Imagine referring to the Montgomery Bus Boycott as an "anti-American" period in our history. 

The report further presents Palestine Awareness Week as a "negative experience" for Jewish students, a framing that disregards the viewpoints of many Jewish students involved in organizing and planning the event. 

Israeli apartheid 

When asked about his reaction to the report, UCLA Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) member Rahim Kurwa said, "it reflects an attempt to put the brakes on campus discussion that is rapidly shifting from whether Israel is practicing apartheid to what we should be doing about it, namely divesting from companies profiting off of Israeli apartheid." 

Another extremely troubling aspect of the report is the clear conflict of interest of one its two advisory council members: Richard D Barton. Barton is the National Education Chair of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), an organisation
infamous for smearing groups working on Palestinian rights and for attacking American Jews who don't fit within their narrow ideological framework

Under its "
Top 10 Anti-Israel Groups in America", the ADL lists SJP, Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organisation with more than 100,000 members that "believes that peace in the Middle East will be achieved through justice and full equality for both Palestinians and Israelis", and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a coalition boasting 380 member organisations, including California-based Jewish groups such as LA Jews for Peace and the Tikkun Community. 

It is important to note that SJP, a campus group that often bears the brunt of attacks from right-wing, pro-Israel outside agitators, clearly states on its
website that it "categorically opposes any form of prejudice or discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation." 

The choice of Barton is not without consequence. While UC students have
consistently complained that anti-Semitism is cast about to stifle critique of Israel’s policies, the council members dismiss their concerns that "the charge of anti-Semitism is used in a manner to suppress that criticism." 

Continue Reading on Al Jazeera

Friday, July 13, 2012

Caterpillar Failing to Meet Its Own Code of Social Responsibility

In a recent letter to the editor in the Journal Star newspaper of Peoria, Illinois (home of heavy machinery giant Caterpillar Corporation's headquarters), Mike Coogan of the US Campaign argues that "Caterpillar's inability to live up to its own social responsibility code is starting to pose serious problems for the company's bottom line."  Citing the recent removal of Caterpillar from the World Socially Responsible Index by MSCI Inc., a leading investment decision support provider, and subsequent divestment by TIAA-CREFF, he suggests that Caterpillar's business can only be harmed by the corporations continued complicity in Israeli human rights abuses.  Currently, D9 bulldozers manufactured by Caterpillar are used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes and civilian infrastructure. As a result, according to Coogan, Caterpillar is "in the business of civilian displacement and flagrant human rights abuses," and their shares will continue to lose value due to the divestment of socially conscious investors.

Forum: Caterpillar is not being social responsible

Caterpillar's inability to live up to its own social responsibility code is starting to pose serious problems for the company's bottom line. MSCI Inc., an investment decision support firm, just announced that Caterpillar Inc. would be excluded from the World Socially Responsible Index, a benchmark for socially responsible investment...

Read more here

Want to help stop Caterpillar's support of Israel's demolition of Palestinian homes?  Join our campaign and TAKE ACTION to let Caterpillar know that their complicity in Israeli human rights abuses is unacceptable!

Tell TIAA-CREF: Divest from the Israeli Occupation!

On Tuesday, July 17 several of our member groups are planning actions around TIAA-CREF's shareholders' meeting to demand that TIAA-CREF live up to its motto "For the Greater Good" and divest from all its holdings in companies profiting from the violation of international law and Palestinian human rights. 

Adalah-NY is planning a 
street action with songs, music, dancing, and chants from 12:30-2:30pm at TIAA-CREF headquarters in New York (730 3rd Ave, between 45th and 46th Sts). Find more information and RSVP on Facebook

In Chicago several groups, including American Friends Service Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace, and 
Committee for a Just Peace in Israel and Palestine, are holding a rally and protest. Rally will begin at 12:00pm with speeches by Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, community leaders, and shareholders at the Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph Street). There will then be a protest at 12:45pm in front of the TIAA-CREF office (200 N. LaSalle St.). Find more information and RSVP on Facebook.

5 Broken Cameras Screening and Discussion

Our member group Jewish Voice for Peace DC Metro Chapter is sponsoring the following event this Sunday in DC.

5 Broken Cameras Screening and Discussion
4:45pm July 15, 2012
E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW, Washington, DC 

Buy tickets online.

Featuring discussion after film led by Noura Erakat
Sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace DC Metro Chapter and Busboys and Poets

Join us for a special viewing of the award-winning documentary 5 Broken Cameras with a discussion immediately following the film with Noura Erakat, adjunct professor of international human rights law in the Middle East at Georgetown University, and Legal Advocacy Coordinator for the Badil Center for Palestinian Refugee and Residency Rights.

5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements. Shot almost entirely by Palestinian farmer Emad Burnat, who bought his first camera in 2005 to record the birth of his youngest son, the footage was later given to Israeli co-director Guy Davidi to edit. Structured around the violent destruction of each one of Burnat's cameras, the filmmakers' collaboration follows one family's evolution over five years of village turmoil.

Co-sponsors of the July 15 film showing and discussion include Sabeel DC Metro Chapter and the Washington Interfaith Alliance for Middle East Peace (WIAMEP). 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Stifling free speech as a way of helping Israel

Shakeel Syed is on the board of American Muslims for Palestine and a US Campaign Steering Committee member. Jeff Warner works with our member group Los Angeles Jews for Peace.

Our message was simple: "Tell Congress: Spend Our Money at Home, Not on the Israeli Military."

We wanted people to understand how their tax dollars are spent. We contracted with CBS Outdoor for a 28-day campaign of 23 billboards. They erected them in Los Angeles and surrounding cities in June, and we thanked them publicly for allowing free speech. 

However, a week later, CBS Outdoor took down all our billboards, telling us laughably that our applauding them for allowing free speech was tantamount to their endorsement of our message. They wanted us to take our money and go away quietly. But we decided otherwise.

CBS Outdoor likely buckled to pressure from pro-Israeli groups and their paid shills in Congress. Rep. Howard Berman wrote a memo (available on his website) to the Coalition to Stop $30 Billion to Israel, the sponsor of the billboard campaign, condemning the billboards  and referring to alleged complaints from his San Fernando Valley constituents.  

In response, Berman received praise from pro-Israel groups such as the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Anti-Defamation League, organizations who called the billboards "provocative." 

So what if the billboards contained a message that Berman and these pro-Israel groups found provocative? Who are they to judge what political messages people in Los Angeles should be allowed to see? We believe that provocative discussions make democracy flourish and stifling discussion will kill democracy.

As taxpayers, we care how Congress spends our money. As citizens, we want our country to be generous but not reckless. Berman and vast majority of his Congressional colleagues continually demonstrate recklessness in wasting our treasure serving Israeli interests rather than fulfilling the needs of the American people.

Continue Reading at Daily News Los Angeles

Sign up to help organize opposition to military aid for Israel and make sure to register for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference September 21-23 at St. Louis University. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Join Us in St. Louis 9/21-9/23 for National Organizers' Conference!

Planning is underway for our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference and we want to make sure you are getting updates as soon as we have them so you can register to join us September 21-23 at St. Louis University! 

We will kick off our conference with a Friday night discussion on the Arab uprisings and how changes in the region affect our work to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel. The speakers will be
Dr. Hatem Bazian, Chairman of American Muslims for Palestine, and Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. Our Saturday night program features a performance by Palestinian-American poet and activist Remi Kanazi

Topics and workshops during the weekend will include next steps for church divestment efforts; building on recent
BDS victories; campus activism; academic and cultural boycott initiatives; organizing and coalition building; and member group workshops

It's been a busy past few weeks for the US Campaign and our member groups. The United Methodist Church and Presbyterian Church both passed resolutions calling for a
boycott of all products made in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. TIAA-CREF's decision to remove Caterpillar from its Social Choice Funds portfolio was a big victory for the We Divest Campaign. With the help of Jewish Voice for Peace, St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, and American Muslims for Palestine, we delivered more than 17,000 signatures to the State Department protesting U.S. and Israeli discriminatory policies

Register today
to help continue our efforts to change U.S. policy to support human rights, international law, and equality. Make sure you book your hotel room by August 21 to be guaranteed a special conference rate. Also invite your friends on Facebook and your followers on Twitter using #ETO2012

We look forward to having you join us in St. Louis September 21-23!

So Apparently There is No Occupation...

We at the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation work to end U.S. support for Israel's 45-year occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem. But according to a recent Israeli panel, we, and the international community, seem to have it all wrong.

"Dad, what's beyond that wall?" "I don't see any wall, dear son"
"Come on, it's right there" "Just shut up" (Amir Schiby)
An Israeli government-appointed commission of jurists said Monday that Israel’s presence in the West Bank was not occupation and recommended that the state approve scores of unauthorized Jewish settlement outposts there.
"The classical laws of 'occupation' as set out in the relevant international conventions cannot be considered applicable to the unique and sui generis historic and legal circumstances of Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria spanning over decades," the report stated, leading to the conclusion that "according to international law, Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria."
Perhaps to make it very clear how unconcerned the commission was with the reaction of the international community, the report was published on the anniversary of the July 9, 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, which determined that Israel’s construction of the wall deep into the West Bank violated international law. 

Of course who can blame the Israeli government for thinking it can flout international law without consequence? The commission's recommendation to legalize settlements goes against decades of
stated U.S. opposition to settlements. Since 1967 every U.S. administration has upheld the illegality of Israel's settlements, decried them as obstacles to peace, and urged Israel to not expand them. Yet for some reason the United States continues to send Israel billions of dollars in military aid as well as protect Israel from censure at the United Nations. 

When the issue was brought up at yesterday State Department
daily press briefing, the usual "concern" was shown. 
QUESTION: Just also on this topic, there’s an Israeli Government appointed committee which was looking into - was asked to look into the legality of the settlements and has come forth with a ruling saying that they believe that essentially these settlements should be authorized, which is the Prime Minister’s position. The Israeli Government hasn’t accepted this ruling yet, but that sort of stands ready to be accepted. Do you guys take any view on this sort of creeping legalization of the settlement process? And is this useful at this point ahead of Deputy Secretary Burns and the Secretary’s trip to Israel? Is this the kind of thing that you like to see happening? 
MR. VENTRELL: Well, I mean, Andy, you know where we are on - the U.S. position on settlements is clear. Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli Government appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.
QUESTION: So you would be - you would urge the Government of Israel not to accept this panel’s recommendation?
MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, my understanding is this is still - I’m not sure if this is in a draft form, but this is just a panel recommendation at this point.
QUESTION: And the Israeli Government can either accept it or not accept it. What do --
MR. VENTRELL: You know where the U.S. position is, which I just read out. So --
QUESTION: Is that going to be something that Deputy Burns brings up when he’s in Israel?
MR. VENTRELL: I’m not sure. I can’t read out his meetings in advance. But --
QUESTION: Understand. But you don’t think this rises to the level of a senior official discussing it with the Israeli --
MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t want to read out his meetings in advance. Let’s --
QUESTION: Well, is it something that you can say that you’re sufficiently concerned about that --
MR. VENTRELL: We’re concerned about it, obviously. The Deputy Secretary will be en route, and let’s see how his meetings go and see if we can report back to you when they’re over.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on this. When you express your concern, is it just done from this podium, or is it done officially? Does someone pick up the phone and talk to someone in the Israeli Government and say we express displeasure?
MR. VENTRELL: I don’t know if we have raised this directly with the Israeli Government. I just read out our position here from the podium. I can check and see if our Embassy has raised it.
The Israeli government may claim that there is no occupation, but there are millions of Palestinians suffering daily under Israeli military rule and it is U.S. money that funds their oppression. 
You see? I told you there's no occupation!
You can help end harmful U.S. policies by joining us at our 11th Annual National Organizers' Conference September 21-23, signing up to organize opposition to military aid for Israel, or supporting our work. 

You can find more "nonexistent occupation" memes here.