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Barclays bank no longer listed as Elbit Systems shareholder

Wed, 04/22/2015 - 13:58

Groups across the UK occupied and held protests at Barclays banks as part of the campaign

UK high street bank Barclays is no longer listed as a shareholder in Elbit Systems, the major Israeli military company that manufactures drones used in Israel’s attacks on Palestinians and helps Israel build its illegal Apartheid wall.

The news follows a high profile campaign launched after Barclays emerged as the named owner of $2.9 million worth of shares in Elbit.

More than 1.7 million people signed a petition organised by Avaaz calling on Barclays to divest from Elbit Systems and campaigners have occupied and protested at bank branches across the UK.

On November 28 last year, campaigners held occupations and protests at more than 15 Barclays branches across the UK.

It recently came to light that Barclays is no longer a listed shareholder of Elbit. However, Barclays is yet to make a public commitment that it won’t own shares in Elbit in the future and still holds shares in other arms companies that supply Israel.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the Palestinian civil society coalition that leads and supports the BDS movement, said:

“The fact that Barclays is no longer listed as a shareholder in Elbit Systems is a welcome development. Elbit plays a key role in Israel’s brutal massacres of Palestinians and in the proliferation of drone technology across the world, and is helping Israel to construct and maintain its illegal apartheid Wall.”

Stickers about Barclays’ investment in the arms trade with Israel have been spotted across cities in the UK

“The creative campaign against Barclays, including the huge Avaaz petition and the occupations of its branches, has really tuned the heat up on the bank.”

“We hope that Barclays will now commit to not allowing clients to buy or sell Elbit shares on its platform and to making it clear to all its clients that Elbit is deeply complicit with Israeli violations of international law.”

“We call on Barclays to sell its shares in all other arms companies that supply the Israeli military, including Raytheon and BAE Systems.”

The Barclays shareholders meeting takes place on April 23.

Palestinian student unions send greetings to NUS conference and urge support for BDS

Sun, 04/19/2015 - 22:43

19 April 2015 – We the undersigned Palestinian student unions and youth groups wish you a successful conference. We salute your struggle for a more democratic form of education – one that is based on the needs and aspirations of its student body and faculty, and not on the needs of corporate power. As students whose education and lives are shaped and impacted by living under an oppressive colonial and apartheid regime, we share your appreciation of the value of education.

Since its inception in 1948, the state of Israel has systematically targeted Palestinian students, intellectuals and academic institutions. Israel’s recent military assault on Gaza killed more than 2,168 Palestinians, including many students and young people, and injured over 10,895 people, and also destroyed many university buildings, schools, and other educational buildings. Israel’s siege of Gaza makes it virtually impossible for students to continue their studies abroad or in the West Bank.

In the West Bank, Israel’s brutal military occupation presents grave problems for students, who face severe restrictions on their freedom of movement and arbitrary imprisonment. Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic discrimination in universities from their fellow students and from the university administration itself.

Israel is only able to maintain its illegal regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid because of international support. Governments fail to hold Israel to account, and corporations and institutions across the world help Israel oppress Palestinians. International solidarity is urgently needed.

Supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is one of the most important steps that student unions internationally can take to stand in solidarity with our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Students in the UK, Palestine and around the world have long been at the forefront of the struggle for justice and liberation. In the 1970s and 1980s, the NUS took a principled position in support of boycotts and divestment against the apartheid regime in South Africa and helped to build the anti-apartheid movement.

It has been heartwarming to see the huge recent growth of support for BDS within the UK student movement. More than 25 student unions have voted to support BDS in recent years. The NUS Executive Committee, Black Students Campaign, Women’s Conference and Postgraduate Conference have all voted to support BDS tactics in recent months.

This support for BDS is increasingly being matched with successful campaigns that have pressured universities to drop contracts with companies such as G4S and Veolia that participate in Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. We look forward to working with you to build even more successful and visible boycott campaigns in the months to come.

We ask delegates at the NUS conference to continue to stand in support of our struggle. Your solidarity and support for BDS strengthens our ongoing resistance to Israel’s repressive, apartheid and colonial rule and our struggle for liberation.

The Secretariat of Students’ Unions and Blocs – Gaza Strip
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
Palestinian Youth Struggle Union
Herak Youth Centre
Fateh Youth and Student Movement
Almubadara Youth
Alquds University Student Union
Hebron University Student Union
Al-Najah University Student Union
Birzeit University Student Union
Bethlehem University Student Union
Arab American University Student Union
Palestinian Students Liberation Front
Palestinian democratic Youth Union
Student’s Struggle Block
Palestine Polytechnic University Student Union
Students Unions in Al-Quds Open University in the following branches: Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus, Salfeet, Toubas, Qalqilia, Jenin, Toulkarem, Bedia, Doura, Yata, Biet Sahour, Alezarieh.

20 businesses across South Africa join G4S boycott

Fri, 04/17/2015 - 11:02

Over 20 South African businesses have terminated their contracts with G4S Security over its involvement in Israeli prisons and human rights abuses. The SA businesses terminated their contracts, totalling more than R7 million ($500,000) per year, after approached by representatives of the human rights and Palestine solidarity organisation BDS South Africa as well as the KZN Palestine Solidarity Forum. BDS South Africa makes this announcement on the eve of the international Palestine prisoners day due to be commemorated on 17 April.

In 2007 G4S was contracted to provide and maintain Israeli prisons, torture centres and detention facilities. In 2010 Palestinian prisoners and prisoner support organziations called for a boycott of G4S as part of the larger international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign. Last year the Methodist Church together with Amnesty International and the European Union were among some of the organisations that terminated their contracts with G4S. In June 2014, Bill Gates withdrew his R1.9 billion stake from G4S after being called on by BDS South Africa and the larger BDS movement. Locally in South Africa the Trauma Centre in Cape Town ended its relations with G4S in 2013. This was followed by South Africa’s ruling party, the ANC, in November 2014 resolving that G4S (among other companies that do business in the Israeli occupied territories) be excluded from doing business with the South African Government.

The over R7 million worth of cancelled G4S Security contracts include contracts for more than 140 sites across the country ranging from restaurants, factories, supermarkets and other stores.

Piet Modiba, representing a nationwide manufacturing company said on the cancelling of their G4S contracts: “We come from a very dark and painful past, part of the pain was inflicted by companies that insisted on aiding the apartheid regime. G4S today is doing the same by maintaining relations with the Israeli Government.”

Moosa Sabir, general manager of a chain of hardware stores said: “We were contacted by customers and the general public who saw G4S vehicles at our store. They complained that G4S was complicit in Israel’s torture and illegal detention of Palestinian children. When we investigated the matter we found that G4S was guilty and we could not continue the business relationship in good faith. All and any businesses complicit with Israeli Apartheid should be shunned by peace and justice loving people. We hope more businesses follow our lead.”

Nkosikona Madikizela, a manager of one of the stores that ended their G4S relations said: ” We are fed up with the attitude of Israel and multi national companies like G4S that think they can act with utter impunity. The BDS Movement is proving to hold these international companies accountable for their trade and involvement with Israel. Companies such as G4S, Woolworths and others choosing to trade with Israel, in violation of the nonviolent BDS boycott, must realise that there is a price to pay. ”

Aziz Ismail, owner of a Limpopo hardware store in Polokwane said: “Palestine needs us now more than ever, we must intensify the non-violent boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. If we are being called by the BDS movement to boycott Woolworths, we should. If we are being called to end relations with G4S we should. The strategic and focused boycott of Apartheid South Africa contributed to our liberation, we can do the same now in the BDS boycott of Israel.”

Welcoming the announcement by BDS South Africa of the G4S boycott victories were the Palestinian Embassy in South Africa as well as the anti-Apartheid icon, Ahmed Kathrada:

Tamer AlMassri of the Palestinian Embassy said: “ In 2012, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights added G4S as one of the international companies that should be boycotted for their illegal involvement in Israel, Israeli settlements and prisons. We welcome the announcements of these South African companies ending their relations with G4S and supporting the BDS campaign. It is also encouraging that South Africa’s ruling party the ANC has called for G4S to be excluded from Government and State contracts.”

Ahmed Kathrada and his Foundation, the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, said: “That the annoucenment of cancelled G4S contracts comes on the eve of the international Palestinian political prisoner day should not be understated. We hope to see the release of all political prisoners such as Marwan Barghouti from Israeli prisons secured by G4S. Over 750 000 Palestinians (roughly 40% of Palestinian men) have been imprisoned by Israel at one point in time. About 100 000 Palestinians have been held by Israel in “administrative detention” (the equivalent of Apartheid South Africa’s “Detention without trial”). Similar to the experience of Black families under Apartheid, almost every Palestinian family has been affected by the Israeli imprisonment of a relative.”

Currently, there are over 6000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel; 454 of them are being held under Israel’s “administrative detention” (Apartheid South Africa’s “Detention Without Trial”) and 163 of them are children. In the last 11 years alone, more than 7500 Palestinian children have been detained in Israeli prisons and detention facilities (including being held in solitary confinement) with Muhammad Daoud Dirbas, at the age of six, being the youngest Palestinian child to have been detained by Israeli soldiers. Last year Ahmed Kathrada together with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Novelist Alice Walker; Linguist, philosopher and author Noam Chomsky; Author and Activist Angela Davis; Poet, painter and former South African political prisoner Breyten Breytenbach; Actor Miriam Margolyes; Author John Berger; and various others wrote an open letter to the Management of G4S calling on the company to end its Israeli contracts including those contracts with Israeli prisons holding Palestinian political prisoners.

Stop G4S factsheet

Thu, 04/09/2015 - 21:18

Veolia sells Israel businesses targeted by Palestinian-led boycott campaign

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 13:37

  • BDS campaign has cost Veolia billions of dollars in eavingost contracts
  • But Veolia remains involved in Jerusalem Light Rail, boycott campaign set to continue

Palestinian civil society activists have heralded the decision by French corporate giant Veolia to sell off nearly all of its business activity in Israel as a huge victory for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The sale follows a worldwide campaign against the company’s role in illegal Israeli settlements that cost the firm billions of dollars of lost contracts.

The boycott Veolia campaign was launched in Bilbao, the Basque Country, in November 2008, to pressure the company to end its involvement in illegal Israeli projects that serve settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT).

​Under BDS pressure, Veolia has failed to win massive contracts with local authorities across Europe​,​ the US​ and Kuwait​​. City councils across Europe have passed resolutions ​excluding the firm from ​tenders ​due to its involvement in Israeli human rights violations.

Veolia executives have admitted that the campaign has cost the company “important contracts”, and financial analysts have repeatedly spoken about the financial cost of the campaign to Veolia.

Veolia has now reported that the sale of its water, waste and energy contracts to Oaktree Capital, a Los Angles based investment firm, has been completed, leaving its stake in the ​illegal ​Jerusalem Light Rail as its only business interest in Israel.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), a broad Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the global BDS movement, said:

“Grassroots BDS activism across the world made it very difficult for Veolia to win public contracts in some parts of Europe, the US and the Middle East, leaving the company no choice but to significantly scale back its involvement in illegal Israeli projects.”

“The BDS movement is showing that there is a price to pay for participating in Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land. One of Europe’s biggest companies has been forced to sell its businesses in Israel that violate international law.”

Around 10 authorities in Ireland and the UK introduced official policy barring Veolia from public contracts. Councils in at least 25 cities including London, Stockholm and Boston opted not to award or renew contracts with Veolia following public campaigns that were backed by local community leaders, churches, trade unions and mainstream political parties.

Many investors including the Dutch ASN Bank and the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation have divested from Veolia over its role in Israeli settlements, while other major banks and the Swedish AP pension fund have issued public statements condemning Veolia’s role in the settlements. Several “socially responsible investment” information providers have told campaigners they have listed the firm as having serious human rights concerns.

Veolia continues to remain involved in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail that links Israeli colonies to west Jerusalem through its holdings in Veolia Transdev, but has announced its intention to sell its holding in the railway.

In 2014, Veolia stated in letters to BDS organizers that it had also “terminated its involvement in the Tovlan landfill … over three years ago.” Tovlan processes waste from Israel and its illegal settlements in the OPT. This claim was proven to be false, however, by official records obtained from the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection in September 2013, which show beyond doubt that the operator of the illegal Tovlan landfill at the time was still Veolia’s subsidiary, T.M.M. Integrated Recycling Services.

Ownership of the Tovlan site and wastewater treatment contracts for illegal Israeli settlements is now expected to transfer to Oaktree.

“By buying up these businesses, Oaktree has become an active accomplice in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law,” Nawajaa added.

Mainly due to boycott pressure on it in the US and Europe, and particularly the campaign’s focus on its “apartheid bus operations,” which served Israel’s illegal settlements, Veolia had sold its entire bus operations in Israel in 2013.

Nawajaa explained that the campaign against Veolia would continue because the firm remains a shareholder in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project.

“The sole purpose of the Jerusalem Light Rail is to increase the appeal and facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements through the theft of Palestinian land. We will continue to boycott Veolia until it ends its participation in the Light Rail project and pays reparations to those Palestinian communities impacted by its support for Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land. International corporations cannot simply profit from Israel’s war crimes and then leave when the going gets tough, without being held accountable,” Nawajaa added.

“We warmly thank the impressive number of principled activists and civil society organizations around the world whose dedicated and strategic efforts have made the campaign against Veolia such a success,” Nawajaa concluded.

French firms pulls out of Jerusalem cable car after government warning

Wed, 03/25/2015 - 20:16

Palestinian activists today welcomed the news that two French firms, Safege and Puma,  have canceled their participation in a Jerusalem cable car project that aims to connect illegal settlements to Israel after being warned about the legal risks involved by the French finance and foreign ministries​.

Solidarity networks across Europe had urged the two firms to pull out of the deal.

Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that works to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, said:

“Safege and Puma has taken the only sensible decision and have avoided participating in Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land. By doing so they have also avoided becoming targets for the international BDS movement.”

“The BDS campaign against two other French companies, Veolia and Alstom, which has led them to lose billions of dollars worth of contracts worldwide established a precedent for other multinational companies that complicity with Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land will come at a heavy cost.”

“The proactive role that the French government has played in this decision is especially welcome, coming off the back of coordinated action last year by EU governments to warn businesses about the risks of doing business that supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”

“To be consistent with its own policies and legal obligations, the French government should now publicly oppose the participation of Veolia and Alstom in the Jerusalem Light Rail, which has been declared illegal by the UN Human Rights Council.”

“We urge any company considering getting involved in this cable car project not to put the interests of profits above human rights and adherence to international law and reiterate our call.”

“We urge all national and local governments to not contract and end existing contracts with Veolia and Alstom, and call on shareholders to divest from these companies, until they end their participation in these clear breaches of international law.”

 

Palestinian students call on Sussex University to vote for BDS

Tue, 03/24/2015 - 01:08

The Secretariat of Student Unions and Blocs in the Gaza Strip, a coordination of 12 student unions in Gaza, and the Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel‎, a Gaza based student group, are writing to strongly urge students at the University of Sussex to vote in favor of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) during the upcoming student union referendum.

Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid policies has enormous impacts on our right to education and on Palestinian youth in general. Israel’s recent military assault on Gaza killed more than 2,168 Palestinians and injured over 10,895 people, and also destroyed many university buildings, schools, and other educational buildings. Restrictions on the freedom of movement and Israel’s brutal military occupation presents numerous challenges for Palestinian students in the West Bank. Palestinian students living inside Israel face discrimination at the hands of the Israeli universities at which they study. Israel’s control of borders makes it incredibly difficult for Palestinian students to take up offers to study overseas, especially for Palestinians living in Gaza, who are not allowed even to study at the universities of West Bank.

Support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is one of the most important steps that student unions internationally can take to stand with us in our struggle for our right to education and for freedom and justice.

By deciding not to sell Israeli products in student union shops, and by campaigning against European companies such as Veolia that help Israel to maintain its apartheid system, Sussex student union would be taking practical steps in solidarity with Palestinian students and youth, and making important contributions to efforts to end international support for Israel’s crimes.

As Palestinian student unions, we reject attempts by those that seek to defend Israel’s crimes to present their opposition to BDS as ‘progressive’ or based on ‘protecting the interests of Palestinians’. These attempts to undermine effective solidarity, including those that seek to promote the voices of those very few individual Palestinians that oppose BDS as somehow representative, are colonial in nature in that they seek to silence the voice of the overwhelming majority of Palestinian student unions and civil society as a whole, which is clear and unambiguous in its support for BDS.

We also wish to express our admiration and respect for student campaigners at the University of Sussex who have done so much to support BDS. When Sussex student union voted to boycott Israeli goods in 2009, it was one of the first student unions in the UK to do so. We hope that the student union at Sussex will continue to stand alongside the National Union of Students and the more than 20 other individual UK student unions that also support BDS and our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Israel votes for permanent occupation and apartheid – it must face international isolation

Thu, 03/19/2015 - 17:36

The far-right in Israel may have given prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu his election victory after he officially promised not to recognize any Palestinian state and his racist remarks on Palestinian citizens, but the victory margin of Likud and other extremist Zionist parties that deny basic Palestinian rights are further evidence of a decisive shift among Jewish-Israelis to the far-right camp, dropping any pretense of seeking a just peace, leading Palestinian civil society activists said today.

Israel’s final ditching of the so-called “peace process” sham should deny world governments any excuse for not imposing sanctions against Israel, starting with a long overdue military embargo.

The convincing victory of the so-called “national camp,” a coalition of settler movements, Likud and their fanatic right partners, is seen by most Palestinians as a strong vote for perpetual Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid. It is also an opportunity to further isolate Israel, mainly through the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as well as prosecution of Israeli war criminal at the International Criminal Court.

Mahmoud Nawajaa from the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads the global BDS movement, said:

“The true face of the Israeli establishment has been revealed to the world. By rejecting Palestinian statehood and declaring he will not enter into any meaningful negotiations with Palestinians, Netanyahu has removed any excuse for governments not to impose sanctions on Israel and end their support for its colonial and apartheid regime.”

“This is a victory of apartheid and colonialism that should be met with sanctions against Israel by world governments and the UN.”

“European and other governments have consistently excused their lack of meaningful action to hold Israel to account by saying they did not want to damage prospects for a ‘two-state’ solution. How can governments defend their inaction now that Netanyahu has effectively buried the two-state solution?”

Nawajaa said that Netanyahu’s use of racism and incitement in the closing stages of the election campaign unmasked the Israeli establishment:

“Netanyahu race baiting and fear mongering among Jewish Israelis have revealed how deeply seated and prevalent racism has become in Israel. More than any previous Israeli leader, Netanyahu has clearly shown that he only represents Jewish Israelis, considering the indigenous Palestinian citizens an enemy that must be feared, hated and combated.”

“Today, we call once more on supporters of freedom and justice across the world to join us in intensifying our efforts to boycott Israel and to push governments to impose sanctions against Israeli apartheid, just as South African apartheid was isolated.”

Omar Barghouti, a Palestinian human rights activist and a co-founder of the BDS movement, added:

“Israel, a belligerent nuclear power that completely disregards international law and basic human rights, will soon have its most fanatical government ever, with grave consequences for Palestinians as well as for world peace. Israel has dropped the mask.”

“The UN and world governments must take part of the blame for this victory by the far right. They have failed to hold Israel accountable to international law by imposing sanctions on it as was done against apartheid South Africa. They rejected pressure from world public opinion to stop Israel’s latest massacre in the besieged Gaza Strip in the summer of 2014 and its ongoing feverish colonization of the West Bank, especially in and around East Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley. They were apathetic when Israel adopted even more extreme, racist laws that have further entrenched its regime of legalized and institutionalized racism which meets the UN definition of apartheid.”

“The biggest losers in the Israeli election are the Israeli right parties that wear left masks, like Labor and Tzipi Livni’s party. Both are guilty of cementing the occupation, the settlements and the apartheid regime, and both are guilty of grave war crimes against the Palestinian people. While rejecting the basic right to equality for Palestinians, both have managed to maintain a false façade of ‘moderateness’ and even ‘left’ tendencies. The mask has fallen. There is a Zionist consensus, with no exceptions, against equality for Palestinians in Israel, against the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their lands and homes from which they were ethnically cleansed, and against a real end to Israel’s unique system of occupation, colonization and apartheid.”

Palestine Power Generation Company withdraws from Israel gas deal

Sat, 03/07/2015 - 17:03

Occupied Palestine, 4 March 2015 — The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) welcomes the announcement by the board of directors of the Palestine Power Generation Company (PPGC) about the company’s “withdrawal a few months ago from the agreement with the developers of the [Israeli] Leviathan natural gas field” and the emphasis instead on using the “Palestinian natural gas off the coast of Gaza, out of its commitment to “national independence in the energy sector.”

PPGC had signed in early 2014 a memorandum of understanding with the Israeli-American “Delek-Noble” consortium to buy “Israeli gas” for the planned power plant near Jenin in the occupied Palestinian territory for a period of 20 years, at $ 1.2 billion.

The BNC, the largest coalition in Palestinian society and the reference for the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, considered this MOU as a strategic mistake that would further entrench Palestinian economic dependency on Israel and legitimize prospective Israeli gas deals with other Arab countries, particularly Jordan and Egypt.

In the absence of any public position by the Palestine company in regard to cancelling the deal with Israel, the BNC held a press conference on February 17, 2015 with the participation of leading political, legislative and civil society figures, demanding that the company and the Palestinian Authority end all efforts to import Israeli gas on national and strategic, economic and security grounds.

After the BNC press conference, key Palestinian business and political figures added their voices to those calling for the cancellation of the Israeli gas deal, a demand that has won wide popular support as well.

The BNC reiterates its principled and unwavering support for the large alliance in Jordan calling for cancelling efforts by the Jordanian government to import Israeli gas. This Jordanian alliance, in which Jordan BDS plays a pivotal role, has mobilized support from all the major trade unions, a majority of members of parliament and leading activists and civil society organizations against the gas deal with Israel.

The BNC also confirms that ending the Palestinian gas deal with Israel pulls the rug from under the feet of any Jordanian official supporting the purchase of “Israeli gas” under the pretext of “we shall not be more Palestinian than the Palestinians themselves.”

Mahmoud Nawajaah, BNC General Coordinator, commented: “The import of Israeli gas would contribute to entrenching our economic dependency on Israel and strengthen the Israeli economy at a time when Israel’s international isolation is growing.”

He added, “Israel is facing growing boycotts and divestments in the academic, cultural and even economic spheres with the steady and impressive mainstream spread of the global BDS movement. We appeal to our brethren in Egypt and Jordan to stop the Israeli gas import negotiations to deprive the Israeli regime of occupation and apartheid of this strategic windfall. “

SOAS vote for the Academic Boycott of Israel – stand on the right side of history

Mon, 02/23/2015 - 16:04

We the undersigned Palestinian student and academic unions, with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), strongly urge all the University of London, SOAS community to vote for the institutional academic boycott of Israel in the campus wide referendum taking place 23-27 February. We take this opportunity to salute all campaigners who have worked tirelessly to promote the Yes vote and explain to the wider student, faculty and staff body both the necessity and urgency of a boycott of Israel’s academic institutions.

We who endure the brunt of Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid policies in the academic sector can attest not only to  Israel’s deliberate, decades-long policies of stifling Palestinian academic life and repressing Palestinian academic freedom, but also to the deep complicity of Israel’s academic institutions in planning, implementing and whitewashing this regime of oppression.

During Israel’s latest military assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014, that left entire neighbourhoods levelled to the ground, destroyed schools, university buildings and UN shelters, as well as killed more than 2,168 Palestinians and injured over 10,895 people, Israel’s academic institutions came out in support of the Israeli military while it deliberately bombed universities and other civilian infrastructure in the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip.

Hebrew University specifically, with whom SOAS has an institutional link, is partially built on stolen Palestinian land and has an army base on its campus; its complicity in Israeli violations of international law are well documented. Hebrew University stood by the Israeli army during the attack on Gaza; a notice circulated at the university announced a collection of goods including hygiene products, snacks and cigarettes “for the [Israeli] soldiers at the front according to the demand reported by the IDF [Israeli army] units.” Hebrew University maintains close ties to the Israeli military industry and collaborates with the Israeli army in training officers and recruits. Further, staff from the Hebrew University take part in the supervision and promotion committees of students and staff at the colony-college of Ariel, which was established on confiscated Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank. These are only some of the most obvious reasons that the SOAS community should vote for ending such tainted collaborations with Hebrew University.

We restate that our call for an academic boycott is an institutional one. It targets the privileged status of Israel’s academic institutions and the image of normality they project while being deeply complicit in a colonial context built on the subjugation of the Palestinian people. The Palestinian academic boycott against Israel does not target individuals, so it clearly does not target the very few courageous Israeli academics that have come out in support of Palestinian rights. On the contrary, we strongly support their academic freedom and stand against the censorship and intimidation they face from their own institutions when they express dissenting views that support Palestinian rights, let alone any form of boycott to achieve those rights.

We are thankful to all campaigners who opened up this important discussion and debate at University of London, SOAS. While opponents of the academic boycott of Israel’s institutions often complain that it infringes on open dialogue, in reality it is clear that such referendums open up space for debate on a topic often side-lined and silenced on university campuses. We know that the wider SOAS community has a long history of backing Palestinian rights, including one of the first positive votes in a UK student union in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). The first conference calling for the academic boycott of Israel was held at SOAS in 2004. We are happy to see the continuation of this tradition with dynamic, practical and effective campaigns.

Finally, we reiterate that Israel’s academic institutions, far from being “bastions of liberalism,” are a pillar of Israel’s system of colonial oppression. The least that people of conscience can do to support our struggle for freedom, justice and equality is to end all complicity in these institutions’ role in our oppression.

We strongly urge the SAOS community to vote Yes to end such complicity and to stand on the right side of history, as was done against apartheid South Africa.

Sincerely,

  • Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
  • Palestinian Federation of University Unions of Professors and Employees (PFUUPE)
  • University Teachers’ Society in Palestine (UTSP)
  • Abnaa el Balad Student Movement
  • Almubadara Youth
  • Al-Najah National University student union
  • Alquds University Student Union
  • Arab American University Student Union
  • Beirziet University Student Union
  • Bethlehem University Student Union
  • Fateh Youth and Student Movement
  • Hebron University Student Union
  • NDA Student Movement
  • Palestine Polytechnic University Student Union
  • Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
  • Palestinian Youth Struggle Union
  • Palestinian Democratic Youth Union
  • Palestinian Students’ Liberation Front
  • Student Department of CPI (Communist Party of Israel) & DFPE (Democratic Front for Peace and Equality)
  • Student’s Struggle Block
  • Students Unions in Alquds open university in the following branches : Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Ramallah, Nablus, Salfeet, Toubas, Qalqilia, Jenin, Toulkarem, Bedia, Doura, Yata, Biet Sahour, Alezarieh,

 

Palestinian civil society letter to the people of Greece following the victory of Syriza

Mon, 02/09/2015 - 16:11

Occupied Palestine, February 9 2014

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that works to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is following with solidarity the latest developments in Greece and want to congratulate Syriza for the victory in the recent elections.

The Greek people have made a choice not to accept foreign domination over their own decisions. We admire their courage and determination to vote for an end to EU-imposed policies of austerity and to defend their dignity and rights.

For the Palestinian people, the election of the Greek government sparks new hope because we know that among the fundamental principles and projects of Syriza stands solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for justice, freedom and return.

The party and its members have been active in and supportive of solidarity movements and popular initiatives with our cause within Greece throughout Syriza’s history.

Already in 2012 Syriza has included the call for an end to all military cooperation with Israel in its program. This move supports the ever-growing popular movements for the implementation of the Palestinian call for military embargo against Israel. Slowly this call finds echoes as well in the corridors of power. We have a common interest in this: the costly arms deals and cooperation with Israel weighs on the Greek budget just as it fuels Israeli wars against our people by creating profits for weapons and technology tested upon the Palestinian people. The latest massacre in Gaza in July/August 2014 that killed over 2,200 people and left the besieged Strip even more in shatters than before, was just the latest show that Israel’s crimes won’t end as long as its ability to act with impunity remains.

As part of the parliamentary processes, Syriza members have repeatedly stood up for Palestine and for military and economic sanctions against Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Syriza MPs have been part of the Gaza Flotillas that have attempted to break the illegal Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. Last year Syriza MPs started opposition to the negotiations for the purchase of Israeli Airspace Industries Heron drones on the grounds that the would finance Israeli war economy and strengthen the militarization of Greek borders and xenophobic anti-immigration policies. Syriza’s members of the European Parliament have supported the recent call for an immediate end to the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Syriza has set out to introduce a new model of politics to Europe based on the rights, needs, solidarity and demands of the people and we trust we can continue this path together with you. It is not an easy task but if you succeed to translate your principles into practice we will all win.

Our solidarity and best wishes,

Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee – BNC

Palestinian civil society condemns Canadian government disinformation and repression against boycott movement

Thu, 02/05/2015 - 04:33

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, has condemned the Canadian government’s ramped up disinformation campaign and repressive measures against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

BDS is a global, Palestinian-led nonviolent human rights movement that aims to apply pressure on Israel, as was done on apartheid South Africa, to fully comply with its obligations under international law.

Canada and Israel signed a series of cooperation agreements recently, one of which included an unprecedented commitment to work jointly to counter the continued growth of BDS.

On January 22, Canadian public safety minister Steven Blaney gave a speech at a meeting on anti-semitism at the United Nations General Assembly, convened in the wake of the Paris criminal attacks, that smeared the BDS movement as “anti-semitic.”

Rafeef Ziadah, a secretariat member of the the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the broad coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that leads the BDS movement, said:

“Rather than seeking to hold Israel to account for its war crimes during the recent military assault on Gaza and its intensified colonization of the occupied West Bank, particularly in Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, the Canadian government is further deepening its collaboration with Israel’s occupation and launching a shameful, propagandistic attack on free speech in the process.”

“The Canadian government’s continued unconditional support for Israel’s colonial policies and its smear campaign against BDS highlight the deeply ideological and reactionary character of this government. Canada is sending Israel the message that it can act with total impunity in violating human rights and international law.”

“Sadly, while claiming to defend free speech the current Canadian government is among the most repressive in the west; it has gone farther than most in suppressing free speech and infringing the rights of its own civil society, including trade unions, community and faith groups, to participate in human rights campaigning, as in boycotts against Israel’s injustices.”

As a matter of principle, the BDS movement has consistently and categorically opposed all forms of racism, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia. The movement’s anti-racist, human rights platform is growing into the western mainstream and attracting growing support among Canadians, including many Jewish Canadians who join conscientious and progressive Jewish Israelis in rejecting Israel’s claim to commit its atrocities in their name.

In her 2009 article endorsing BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation and oppression, the world best-selling author Naomi Klein wrote:

“It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.”

The award-winning Canadian filmmaker John Greyson, who has produced some of the BDS movement’s most creative videos, has justified his support for BDS and boycott of the Tel Aviv queer film festival saying: “[BDS] is the only peaceful means right now that can have an effect on the Israeli state that has gone completely out of control. … A line in the sand has been drawn.”

South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, a great supporter of the BDS movement, after presenting a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council about an Israeli war crime in the occupied Gaza Strip in 2008 said:

“I think the West, quite rightly, is feeling contrite, penitent for its awful connivance with the Holocaust … . The West is penitent, the penance is being paid by the Palestinians. … I just hope that ordinary citizens in the West will wake up and say, ‘we refuse to be part of this’.”

Rafeef Ziadah concluded, “At a time when people of conscience the world over are joining the Palestinian BDS movement for freedom, justice and equality and connecting it with their own struggles for social and economic justice, equal rights, indigenous rights, minority rights, and environmental protection, the Canadian government is standing on the wrong side of history, supporting a pernicious regime of Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid.”

Boycott the Muslim Leadership Initiative and similar attempts to “Faithwash” Israel’s Regime of Oppression

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 10:36

Occupied Jerusalem, 26 January 2015 — The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society, calls for a boycott of the Muslim Leadership Initiative (MLI) of the Shalom Hartman Institute and other such projects that bring international delegations, whether faith-based or otherwise, for visits to the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) in a manner that is complicit with Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

The MLI is part of a broader spectrum of political tours to the oPt designed to normalize and build acceptance to Israeli policies of oppression against Palestinians. Under the cover of “balance”, such initiatives rationalize Israel’s occupation, racism and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians as just another valid, and even ethical, perspective with complete disregard to precepts of freedom, justice and equality. They are premised on a false and deceptive symmetry between oppressor and oppressed, which is used to justify and prolong Israel’s denial of the full spectrum of Palestinian rights under international law.

Traditionally, such programs have mainly targeted politicians, students and journalists, but they have increasingly been aimed, recently, at constituencies with strong or growing support for Palestinian rights. It is no coincidence that the entities behind such projects are supported by Israel in their fight against the Palestinian-led global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) for Palestinian rights, a movement that Israel regards as a “strategic threat”.

The growth and effectiveness of BDS worldwide in holding Israel accountable has caused panic among supporters of Israeli occupation and apartheid. As former Israel prime minister Ehud Barak recently wrote[1], “The BDS movement is developing. Its name is derived from the movement that finally brought about the collapse of South Africa, which was economically and militarily stronger than the whole of sub-Saharan Africa together, but could not keep standing because it could not withstand international isolation.” The MLI and similar whitewashing initiatives aim at recovering some of the lost ground to BDS through co-optation, chiefly through tokenizing of Palestinians and going as far as dictating how Palestinians should resist their oppressors.

These tactics are a direct extension to Israel’s colonial logic, which seeks to crush the Palestinian collective agency. The 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS came partially in response to such colonial tactics of divide and conquer to redefine in a decisive way the politics of solidarity. BDS has put Palestinians back at leading their struggle for liberation under principles of human rights, respect for international law and in rejection of all forms of racism and bigotry.

The MLI is a textbook example of a seemingly innocent program that reeks of complicity with Israel’s racist regime and of contempt for Palestinian rights.   Whilst presenting itself as a “rigorous” academic program, the MLI makes cynical use of religion, or “faithwashing”, to provide cover for Israel’s racial supremacy used as justification for the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

The main premise of MLI is the deliberate blurring of the lines between Judaism, Zionism and the Israeli state. This logic serves to perpetuate the anti-Semitic claim that Jews are synonymous to the state of Israel and bear responsibility for its policies, no matter how oppressive these policies are, and that criticism leveraged against the state of Israel is, therefore, a criticism of all Jews. This conflation, which itself is anti-Semitic, as it reduces all Jews to a monolithic sum, has been used by opponents of Palestinian rights to muzzle legitimate opposition to Israel’s violations of international law and ignore growing dissent among Jews to such representations.

The MLI comes at a time when a strong multi-faith alliance in the United States of broad-based organizations such as American Muslims for Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, Friends of Sabeel North America, as well as several influential groups in the Presbyterian Church USA, the United Methodist Church, the United Church of Christ, among others, are working in harmony, in diverse but interconnected struggles from Ferguson to Palestine. This groundbreaking work, under the premise of shared values of equality, justice and human rights, is presenting an alternative to the deeply sectarian and racist establishment discourse on Israel in the US that projects Muslims and Jews as inherently antagonistic to each other. This discourse has served to build up an image of Israel as a garrison state for America’s interests and stoke Islamophobia and anti-Arab feelings.

As detailed in an Electronic Intifada expose, the Shalom Hartman Institute is at the forefront of this nefarious agenda bankrolled by an industry of hate.[2] The Institute maintains close ties with the Israeli military and runs indoctrination programs for soldiers responsible for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity against Palestinians. The organization espouses an open anti-BDS agenda, participates in several anti-Palestinian initiatives, and individuals at its helm are actively engaged in intimidation and muzzling of American citizens critical of Israel’s policies.

The BNC encourages visits from international delegations to the oPt premised on recognition of the full Palestinian human rights and without contact or cooperation with complicit entities. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI), a constituent member of the BNC, has devised a comprehensive set of principled and morally consistent guidelines for this purpose.[3] From our experience, principled delegations have provided a valuable contribution to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality

In short, the MLI is a BDS bashing project that seeks Palestinian fig leaves[4] to hide its dishonest agenda. The BNC strongly condemns the MLI and calls all people of conscience to boycott it.

[1] http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.635978

[2] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/islamophobia-bankroller-behind-organizer-israel-junket-us-muslim-leaders

[3] http://pacbi.org/einside.php?id=69

[4] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1645