- With the new campaign by Palestine to gain the world's
official recognition 63 years after the fact, BDS activities in Europe
and North America -- the main holdouts -- have gained new momentum, reports
- The Boycott, Divests and Sanctions (BDS) movement is
growing relentless. On the boycott front, Natacha Atlas, who won a 2007
BBC Music award for her fusion of Arabic and Western styles, cancelled
a planned concert in Israel: "I had an idea that performing in Israel
would have been a unique opportunity to encourage and support my fans'
opposition to the current government's actions and policies, but after
much deliberation I now see that it would be more effective a statement
to not go to Israel until this systemised apartheid is abolished once and
- Atlas, who grew up in Belgium, is of Egyptian, Moroccan
and Palestinian ancestry and has Jewish roots. She was appointed a Goodwill
Ambassador for the United Nations Conference Against Racism in 2001, which
was boycotted by the United States and Israel, for raising issues about
US treatment of African Americans and Israel's treatment of Palestinians.
- The flip side of cultural boycotts of Israel is to prevent
Israeli cultural figures from presenting a false image of Israel abroad.
Idan Raichel, "Israel's most popular dread-locked musician" according
to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, prominent in Masa (Journey)
Israel tours to recruit young Jews from American and Europe to Israel,
is more than just a musician, seeing Israel's cultural icons as "ambassadors
of Israel in the world, cultural ambassadors, hasbara ambassadors, also
in regards to the political conflict".
- Raichel's hasbara message prompted American Jews to protest
a recent Masa "journey" across the US, using the Internet to
coordinate leafletting at the concert tour sites. His recent album "Open
Door" prompted signs at the demos entitled "Does 'Open Door'
include Palestinians?" and "Don't entertain apartheid."
"Idan Raichel can't support apartheid," countered one concert-goer,
"He sleeps with a black woman!" Raichel is part of the Brand
Israel campaign, which aims to bring arts to the world in order to, in
the words of an Israeli foreign ministry official, "show Israel's
prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war".
- A Finnish campaign is under way to cancel a new deal
to purchase Israeli drones. Like Canada, the US, Turkey and Russia, Finland
has been attracted by Israeli know-how in lethal weapons. The Finnish Defence
Ministry recently signed an agreement on drone purchases, in defiance of
EU regulations. This prompted Foreign Minister Erkki Tuomioja to break
ranks with his colleagues and declare, in reference to Israel, that "No
apartheid state is justified or sustainable." Earlier while in opposition,
Tuomioja himself signed a petition calling for an end to the arms trade
with Israel. As foreign minister, Tuomioja could demand the suspension
of EU-Israel Association Agreement, which gives Israel special trade access
to EU markets, but on condition that Israel respects human rights.
- The EU's "common foreign policy" has been a
bitter disappointment, especially with respect to Israel, as consensus
prevents principled nations within the EU from acting, and attempts to
enforce EU regulations are easily buried in bureaucratese. For instance,
the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7) provides research funds for universities
and companies from Israel as a result of the Association Agreement. Despite
IsraelZs consistent violation of the AgreementZs human rights clause, Israeli
companies such as Ahava, "academic" institutions such as Technion,
and worse, Elbit Systems and Israeli Aerospace Industries receive European
funding through FP7 on an equal footing with EU member states.
- EU Scientific Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
insisted that there was no reason to exclude Israel's Motorola company
from EU-related activities since she did not have "any information
about any radar systems Motorola Israel might or might not have installed
in the West Bank". Geoghegan-Quinn is not reading her inbox, where
she would have found reports to the European Commission by the Palestinian
Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and "Stop
the Wall" documenting Motorola's work in Israeli settlements in the
- An ambitious boycott-divestment effort by the newly launched
KARAMA (Keep Alstom Rail And Metro Away) and the ongoing "Derail Veolia
and Alstom" campaign, celebrated an important victory. Alstom lost
the bid for the second phase of the Saudi Haramain Railway project linking
Mecca with Medina, worth $10 billion, due to its involvement in Israel's
Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) project. Alstom also suffered when the Dutch
ASN Bank and the Swedish national pension fund AP7 excluded it from their
investment portfolios. Veolia has lost more than $12 billion worth of contracts
following boycott activism in Sweden, the UK, Ireland and elsewhere.
- A national conference of Students for Justice in Palestine
(SJP) took place from 14-16 October at New York's Columbia University,
bringing together 400 American student activists from a hundred campuses.
SJP activists have made famous their mock checkpoints, walls, and die-ins
on campus, to bring home the reality of Israeli persecution of Palestinians.
- Delegates brainstormed about divestment campaigns and
how to counter the power of AIPAC. Codepink's Medea Benjamin, who gained
world celebrity status for interrupting Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's
speech to Congress in May, explained how to lodge a complaint with the
Office of Congressional Ethics against the American Israel Education Foundation
Congressional trips to Israel, which violate Congressional Ethics Rules.
- Columbia University grad student Dina Omar said the conference
helped create a "solid network and apparatus to help protect students
from being systemically targeted by institutional power." A week before
the conference, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported on the "growing
strength" of SJP. Ironically, it was a 2010 ADL statement calling
SJP one of the top 10 "anti-Israel" groups in the US that pushed
67 chapters to unite. Max Ajl said: "The timing was key everywhere
there was the buzz that we are part of a broader mobilisation, the Occupy
Wall Street movement. There is now both the opportunity and the incentive
to link these struggles."
- Interestingly, there is division in the anti-BDS ranks
over how hard to crack down on BDSers by claiming that Jewish students
might be made "uncomfortable". While the ADL lauded the US Department
of Education's 2010 decision to expand the 1964 Civil Rights Act to include
"anti-Israel and anti-Zionist sentiment that crosses the line into
anti-Semitism", the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) cautions
Jewish groups against suppressing free speech by invoking civil rights
laws. "Lawsuits and threats of legal action" should only be used
"for cases which evidence a systematic climate of fear and intimidation
coupled with a failure of the university administration to respond with
reasonable corrective measures."
- Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Intifada and author
of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian, argues
that the ADL strategy is "inherently anti-Semitic because it assumes
incorrectly and ahistorically that all criticism of Israel equals criticism
of Jews", and thus condemns all Jews for the racism practiced by Israel.
"It seems that at least some in the pro-Israel community fear that
this aggressive campaign of censorship and intimidation may do more to
cast Israel's defenders as thugs, than to improve Israel's image on campuses."
- In interview with Time, Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan questioned why sanctions are promoted by the US when dealing
with Iran and Sudan, but are taboo with regards to Israel. Sanctions imposed
by the United Nations on Israel would have resolved the issue of Mideast
peace long ago, he said. "Until today, the UN Security Council has
issued more than 89 resolutions on prospective sanctions related to Israel,
but they've never been executed." The reason the international community
had stood by without sanctioning Israel was that the Quartet which
includes Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the UN
was not genuinely interested in resolving the Mideast conflict or "they
would have imposed certain issues on Israel."
- Eric Walberg writes for Al-Ahram Weekly http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/
You can reach him at http://ericwalberg.com/ His Postmodern Imperialism:
Geopolitics and the Great Games is available at http://claritypress.com/Walberg.html