New Jersey lawmakers are set to vote Monday on a bill that seeks to punish activists and businesses that engage with the boycott of Israel to support Palestinian human rights.But there has been significant pushback. The bill has already been “watered down as a result of activist pressure,” according to Palestine Legal.These bills are part of a growing wave of legislation promoted by state and federal lawmakers – and encouraged by Israel lobby groups and the Israeli government – to suppress activism related to the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
February 23, New York, NY—Human rights advocates welcome the decision by PEN America to hold PEN’s annual World Voices literary festival without funding from the Israeli government.
The decision followed a campaign and a call supported by leading literary figures asking the organization to reject Israeli government sponsorship. PEN America accepted Israeli government support for the World Voices Festival four of the previous five years, and despite writers’ opposition in 2016. The leading US free expression and literary organization announced its program last week for the May 2017 World Voices Festival in New York.
PEN America did not, however, offer a reason for the absence of Israeli government support for World Voices in a February 2017 email exchange with Adalah-NY and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Since March 2016 over 240 well-known writers, poets, and publishers have signed onto a call for PEN America to reject Israeli government support. They include Susan Abulhawa, Nicole Aragi, Russell Banks, Angela Davis, Carl Dennis, Junot Díaz, Louise Erdrich, Richard Ford, Naomi Klein, Laila Lalami, Lucy Lippard, China Miéville, Eileen Myles, Michael Ondaatje, Claudia Rankine, Wallace Shawn, Raja Shehadeh, Gillian Slovo, Ahdaf Soueif, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Alice Walker, Cornel West, and Jacqueline Woodson. Twenty-two writers explained in more detail why they had supported the call. Over 17,000 other concerned individuals had also joined the call.
PEN International, the organization’s global hub, has criticized the Israeli government in the past for "the killings and the reported deliberate targeting of certain journalists, media organizations, and their infrastructures” and “the practice of administrative detention against journalists and other writers."
In a February 8 email to Adalah-NY and JVP, PEN America Executive Director Suzanne Nossel wrote regarding World Voices, “Our support this year will come from contributions from a variety of private funders, as well as the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Poland.” Ms. Nossel explained, “Each year, our sources of funding for the Festival change depending on a wide range of factors.” In a February 17 follow-up email Ms. Nossel added, “Our approach to this centers on discussion and deliberation rather than formal policies.”
Allison Brown from Adalah-NY explained, “PEN America’s decision not to accept Israeli government support in 2017 is a victory for Palestinian rights, and for the Palestinian-led BDS movement, which calls on institutions to reject cultural partnerships with the Israeli government because Israel attempts to use these partnerships to legitimize its apartheid rule. For example, Israel has held Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour in prison or under house arrest for 16 months for a poem, and has jailed Palestinian journalists like Mohammed Al-Qiq and Omar Nazzal without charges or trial.”
Shalva Wise, JVP Artist Council Coordinator, commented, “Despite this victory, the lack of a public statement and a clear explanation by PEN America, or any formal policy, leaves us concerned that PEN America is leaving the door open to future partnerships with Israel and other repressive governments. PEN America should put in place a transparent policy prohibiting partnerships with governments like Israel that routinely violate the freedom of expression of writers and journalists. PEN America cannot mobilize actions against the Trump administration’s repressive policies with one hand, and burnish the image of other repressive governments with the other.”
At least one Israeli writer is participating in the 2017 World Voices Festival. In line with the Palestinian boycott call’s support for freedom of expression, letter signers called for the rejection of Israeli government support, and not for barring the participation of individual Israeli writers.
After PEN America dismissed the initial appeal from writers to reject Israeli government support, human rights advocates protested at the World Voices opening event in April 2016. Adalah-NY, JVP and writers then continued collecting signatures to the letter, including at several PEN America events this winter. With the 2017 festival approaching, Adalah-NY and JVP asked for an emailed update from PEN America on the status of Israeli government funding.
2017 marks the first time in recent years that PEN America did not list the governments supporting the festival on the World Voices website. PEN America had accepted Israeli government support for World Voices in 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016 – making the Israeli government, with the French government, the most frequent governmental sponsors of the World Voices Festival between 2012 and 2016.
Adalah-NY and JVP support the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel to fulfill its obligations under international law and fully recognize the Palestinian people’s right to live in full equality in their homeland.
Letter to PEN America with Signatories: /web-action/1450/tell-pen-america-don-t-partner-israeli-government
Email Exchange between PEN America and Adalah-NY/JVP, February 2017: /document/1460/email-exchange-between-pen-america-and-adalah-ny-jvp-february-2017
BDS Movement- 24/02/2017
SOME MEMBERS OF CONGRESS are trying to criminalize supportfor the campaign to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel for its occupation of Palestinian territories.
A community college in Cupertino, California, has become the first educational institution of its kind in the US to support a resolution in favor of divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.A resolution, which the student senate passed on 15 March, urges the De Anza College’s board of trustees to pull the college’s investments from three US-based corporations that enable Israel’s rights violations – Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar – as well as from G4S, the largest private security firm in the world.
G4S has provided equipment and services to Israeli military checkpoints and inside prisons where Palestinians have been tortured.
Due to mounting international boycott pressure, G4S announced last December that it was exiting most of its businesses with Israel, but remains co-owner of a police training center.
The resolution also calls on the community college to implement a socially responsible investment policy.
In authoring the resolution, members of Students for Justice at De Anza investigated and discussed themes of mass incarceration, state violence and settler-colonialism from the US to Palestine, according to Sara Elzeiny, a Students for Justice member.
The resolution points out that Hewlett-Packard not only provides equipment to Israeli checkpoints which “restrict the freedom of movement of Palestinians, facilitate discrimination against Palestinians, and reinforce a stratification of citizenship,” but also profits from mass incarceration and the detention of undocumented persons in the US.
“You have border patrol and stop-and-frisk [laws] in the US, and in the occupied territories, you have border patrol and checkpoints and the Israeli army,” Elzeiny told The Electronic Intifada, adding that US police and Israeli soldiers have partnered in militarized training exercises.
Students for Justice works on a number of human rights and environmental issues, Elzeiny said, from mobilizing against police violence and resisting military recruitment on campus to campaigning for fossil fuel divestment. They are also joining the movement to resist the Dakota Access pipeline and support indigenous rights at Standing Rock.
The decision to support Palestinian rights was a clear one, she explained.
“Divestment takes a concrete step that pushes against the status quo that says we should normalize military intervention and occupation in a region,” Elzeiny said.
The vote to divest passed 12-1, with four student senators abstaining, according to the campus newspaper.
The push for divestment at De Anza College is part of the growing student campaign in support of Palestinian rights.
Students for Justice at De Anza worked with other activists, including members of Students for Justice in Palestine at nearby San Jose State University, which in 2015 passed a resolution demanding the university divest from companies that profit from Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
San Jose State became California’s first state university campus to pass a divestment resolution regarding “companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine,” while seven out of nine undergraduate campuses of the University of California have passed resolutions urging the UC’s governing body to pull its investments from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation.
Israel-aligned groups, meanwhile, are pushing for state and federal legislation aimed at silencing and criminalizing boycott activism.
Last month, the state senate of New York fast-tracked three separate bills that create a blacklist of BDS activists, prohibit student-led boycott campaigns and threaten academic associations supporting the academic boycott.
Palestine Legal called these bills “blatantly unconstitutional attacks on First Amendment rights to protest and dissent.”
At De Anza, students know they “have a lot of work ahead,” Elzeiny said, as they take the resolution to the college’s financial governing board.
Even if the board rejects the students’ demands, she said that the resolution – and the larger campaign of education on Palestinian rights – starts a necessary conversation on campus.
“Trying to make our organization the face of this discourse has made other activists want to learn about Palestine,” she said.
In 2015, a broad coalition of students brought a resolution to divest all 112 community colleges in California from companies that profit from Israel’s rights violations. The resolution was defeated.
The Electronic Intifada- 07/04/2015
17 Churches around the U.S. have signed a pledge to become HP-Free after calls from Palestinian Christians to boycott.
July 19, 2017 — Seventeen churches around the United States, representing seven different denominations, have signed a pledge to boycott Hewlett-Packard (HP), joining an international boycott movement meant to pressure the tech company into ending its complicity in Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Last week, I wroteabout a symposium at Brown University’s Cogut Center for Humanities entitled “The Humanities in Israel/Palestine: Reflections on the State of Knowledge.”
My interest was not so much for the content, but for the politics around it: PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, condemned the symposium as a violation of its boycott guidelines.
Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush has promised that if he is elected president next November he will deploy the full might of the US Department of Justice to crack down on the movement to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel.
The Freedom2Boycott in Maryland coalition (USA) won a significant victory when the 2016 Maryland legislative session ended April 11 with no anti-boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) bill being introduced into the General Assembly.
Before the commencement of the legislative session, the Baltimore Jewish Council — a leading opponent of BDS — identified anti-BDS legislation as “its major policy issue”. However, due to intense opposition from the public and state legislators, this plan was abandoned and no bill was even introduced.
A law being proposed in New York would create an official blacklist of supporters of the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
The following press release was issued by Students for Justice in Palestine at San Jose State University:
San Jose State University Students Pass Resolution to Divest from Corporations that profit from the Israeli Occupation.
On Wednesday November 18, 2015, San Jose State University became the first California State University to pass a student government resolution to divest from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This was achieved in a 10-5-0 vote (10 yes, 5 no, 0 abstained).
Members of Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate passed a resolution calling for Tufts to divest from four companies that it says are involved in the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories. The resolution, which drew an audience of more than 100 students, passed with 17 in favor, six opposed and eight abstentions.
Several audience members held pieces of paper with a crossed-out image of a table, which urged Senate to vote on the resolution rather than tabling it, while others held signs reading “I support Palestinian Human Rights,” “Stand with Israel” and “Divest from these companies profiting off of the occupation.”
TCU Parliamentarian Adam Rapfogel introduced the resolution and reviewed the resolution process for students in attendance. Then TCU Historian Rati Srinivasan read the text of the resolution. Following non-substantive changes related to the grammar and spelling of the resolution, the meeting entered the discussion phase.
Several authors spoke to provide background for the text of the resolution, which calls for Tufts not to invest in Elbit Systems, G4S, Northrop Grumman and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and to screen its investments for human rights compliance. According to the resolution, it is unclear whether Tufts currently invests in those four companies.
The authors stressed that the goal of the resolution is to make a statement that Tufts should not profit from human rights abuses. Others argued that the resolution’s political statement is beyond the scope of TCU Senate.
The meeting then entered a question-and-answer period, during which students in the audience were allowed to direct questions to the authors of the resolution.
Some students raised concerns that attendance at the meeting could be impacted by the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. To address this, comments were collected online from students and Rapfogel, a sophomore, read a selection.
A motion was raised to move to debate and it passed. After ten minutes, a motion to table the resolution was raised but was denied 13-4. Following another 30 minutes of debate, another motion to table was raised and the rules were suspended to debate the motion to table, after which the motion failed.
Five amendments were proposed to the resolution. The first was deemed friendly and integrated into the resolution, and the other four were deemed unfriendly and not included.
Finally, a vote was held and the resolution passed with 17 in favor, six against and eight abstentions.
The Tufts Daily - 10/04/2017
The National Women’s Studies Association is the newest scholarly group to back the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
In a vote that involved 35 percent of the association’s total membership, 88.4 percent, or 653 individuals, voted in favor of a boycott measure.
Members of the NWSA’s executive committee then took their own vote on Friday to approve the membership’s recommendation that the association support BDS.
THE CRIMINALIZATION OF political speech and activism against Israel has become one of the gravest threats to free speechin the West. In France, activists have been arrested and prosecutedfor wearing T-shirts advocating a boycottof Israel. The U.K. has enacted a series of measuresdesigned to outlaw such activism.
UE, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers, held its national convention in Baltimore August 16-20.
Delegates acted on 37 resolutions on collective bargaining, organizing, and political issues, and they upheld UE’s long tradition of courageous stands on foreign policy issues when they adopted the resolution on Palestine and Israel. It points to Israel’s long history of violating the human rights of the Palestinians, starting with the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1947-48 that turned most of Palestine into the State of Israel. It calls for cutting off U.S. aid to Israel, U.S. support for a peace settlement on the basis of self-determination for Palestinians and the right to return. The resolution also endorses the worldwide BDS movement – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – to pressure Israel to end its apartheid over the Palestinians just as similar tactics helped to end South African apartheid in the 1980s. UE is now the first U.S. national union to endorse BDS.
On Saturday, 20 June, activists gathered at Trader Joe’s in Oakland and San Francisco, US to demand that the company stop carrying Israeli goods.
The US State Department this week joined the European Union, Sweden, Ireland and the Netherlands in recognizing the right to boycott Israel.
But whether this position will survive under the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump is an open question, given his history of erratic statements on the Middle East.
State Department spokesperson Mark Toner was asked on Monday if the US has a view on a bill introduced in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that would bar supporters of BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – from entering the country.
“Our strong opposition to boycotts and to sanctions of the state of Israel is unchanged and well known,” Toner said.
But then he added, “We value freedom of expression, even in cases where we do not agree with the political views espoused.”
This stance aligns with the formulations of the EU’s top foreign policy official and two of the bloc’s member governments – the Netherlands and Ireland.
By noting that “we don’t believe that individuals or groups that want only to express their political views should be prohibited from doing so,” Toner signaled the US government’s objection to the Israeli legislation.
When asked if he agreed that BDS “is actually a nonviolent, peaceful effort” in support of Palestinian rights, Toner was succinct in his response: “Yes.”
“The US is essentially saying that despite its unconditional support for Israel it cannot condone Israel’s desperate attempts to criminalize or prosecute support for the fast growing Palestinian-led BDS movement for Palestinian rights,” Garik Ruiz, North America liaison for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), told The Electronic Intifada.
“The administration is reiterating the long-standing position that boycotts are protected speech under the US Constitution, even if Israel is the target of these boycotts,” Ruiz added.
“Coming on the heels of the EU’s recent announcement that European citizens have a right to boycott Israel to support Palestinian rights … this official US position will further boost the BDS movement’s promising fight for the right to boycott Israel,” Ruiz said.
“Boycott, divestment and sanctions are tools for peaceful resistance to state violence, discrimination and injustice,” Naomi Dann, media program manager for Jewish Voice for Peace, told The Electronic Intifada. “More than ever right now it is crucial that our local and federal governments uphold these political rights.”
Defeated Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton had said she would make fighting BDS a key goal if she were president.
“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority,” she wrote in a July 2015 letter to Haim Saban, the billionaire donor and anti-Palestinian activist who poured millions of dollars into her failed presidential bid.
Trump is not known to have said anything about BDS himself, but the Republican Party platform takes a strong position against the nonviolent movement.
“We condemn the campus-based BDS campaign against Israel,” the platform states. “It is anti-Semitism and should be denounced by advocates of academic freedom.”
The party platform equates the BDS campaign with “terror” and “reject[s] the false notion that Israel is an occupier.” It adds that BDS “seeks to destroy Israel.”
The Palestinian call for BDS demands an end to Israeli occupation, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the full rights of Palestinian refugees.
The Republican platform also endorses Israel’s “right and obligation to defend itself … against alternative forms of warfare being waged upon it legally, economically, culturally and otherwise.”
This suggests possible Republican support for violent Israeli reprisals against activists pursuing nonviolent avenues to secure Palestinian freedom.
In April, Amnesty International felt it necessary to voice concern for the “safety and liberty of Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti and other boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists, following calls alluding to threats, including of physical harm and deprivation of basic rights, made by Israeli ministers.”
These threats, which are strikingly similar to the language in the Republican platform, were made at the “Stop the Boycott” conference in Jerusalem last March that was attended by EU and US diplomats.
The Republican Party’s determination to pursue legislation against the BDS movement – in which they are joined by many Democrats – is likewise no idle threat.
Palestine Legal notes that as of this month, 13 states have enacted anti-BDS legislation, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order instructing state agencies to divest from companies and institutions that adhere to BDS.
As dismal as President Barack Obama’s track record is regarding Palestinian freedom, Trump is now poised to be no less a stubborn obstacle to the fulfillment of Palestinian rights than the man he will replace in the Oval Office.
His resort to demagoguery and open racism during this campaign raises fears he could be even worse.
The Electronic Intifada- 09/11/2016
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