Rightist blog’s discovery: Palestinians buy Israeli goods!

Posted: July 19th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: The Right, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

US-based blog Elder of Ziyon has posted a somewhat Orwellian piece: The latest installment in the “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” Hasbara-project actually celebrates the fact that a new Gaza supermarket sells Israeli goods.

… if [passengers of the flotilla] do visit Metro [the new Gaza supermarket], they would be forced to protest the fact that it is not adhering to BDS because it sells so many Israeli products – and even features them prominently.

[photos of Israeli products in the supermarket]

It’s a terrible world when Israel boycotters can’t even convince stores in Gaza to stop selling Israeli goods.

Well, here is another scoop for EOZ, free of charge: all grocery stores in Bil’in have Israeli products in them, too. I also seem to remember spotting Israeli goods in Hebron and in Jericho. Come to think about it, EOZ’s story is much bigger than you think: it seems that almost every store in the Palestinian territories sells Israeli products – and yet the Palestinians call for the boycott of Israel! What hypocrisy! How naïve are those useful idiots who listen to them!

Back to planet Earth: Israel controls the economy of the West Bank and Gaza. Israel decides what goods are let in and out, just as it has most of the control over electric power and water in the territories. This is called “the occupation,” something that EOZ and the likes of him have yet to hear about.

Until last year, Israel allowed only a limited list of food products into Gaza. Changes to the list were made not according to the needs of the Palestinians, but to those of Israeli farmers and food companies. An investigative piece by Haaretz, published a couple of years ago, exposed the network of middlemen who chose the identity of Israeli businesses that were allowed to sell their products to Gaza’s captive audience – not a very affluent one, but still consisting of almost 1.5 million consumers.

A year ago, the IDF began allowing more goods into Gaza – a triumph of the first flotilla – yet most products still have to go through Israel, and in many cases – from it (though we should remember that Cairo has its share in the blockade of Gaza through Egypt’s control over the Rafah crossing). Some Israelis still make very good money out of the occupation.

The BDS call, which EOZ referred to, is a Palestinian request of solidarity from the international community. Palestinians are forced to buy Israeli goods – just as they are forced to work for Israelis in order to survive – but they ask others, who do have a choice, to avoid that.


Techno music scene dives into the BDS debate

Posted: May 30th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

DJ and Producer Ewan Pearson: “Musicians are not ambassadors with carte blanche to go where we like as we’re spreading an implicit  message of love. Too damn easy.”

British DJ and Producer Ewan Pearson (photo: SHAREconference / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

British DJ and Producer Ewan Pearson (photo: SHAREconference / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Last March, following a gig he gave in a Tel Aviv club, JD Twitch of Optimo posted this Tweet:

Such warm people in Israel. Great times! Thought long & hard about going but so glad I did. Daniel Wang nails it -http://tinyurl.com/5wel9ha

The link is to a text by DJ Daniel Wang from Berlin, who wrote in 2004 a long personal article is support of performing in Tel Aviv. His basic argument was that “music transcends national borders.”

Ewan Pearson, another well-known British DJ and producer, immediately tweeted a reply to JD Twitch:

@JDTwitch not convinced by Wang. It’s not the place to discuss here, but I wonder what changed your mind. I still won’t / can’t go.

French DJ Joakim Bouaziz joined the debate:

@ewanpearson @JDTwitch I agree with JD. When you meet some of the people there, you’d quickly change your mind. Most don’t agree w/ the govt

To that Pearson answered:

@joakim_bouaziz @jdtwitch and solidarity with the Palestinians. Crude and frustrating as it is a boycott is the only way I can do anything.

If you follow Pearson’s Tweeter feed, you won’t be surprised by his position; he seems to be more well-informed and political than others in his field. Following the exchange, Pearson promised to explain his positions regarding Israel/Palestine in more detail. Last month, he published this article on Groove magazine (which led to another Twitter debate over Israel, this time with DJ Kirk Degiorgio). Pearson even cites Haaretz’s journalist Gidon Levy:

Groove Column: on not DJing in Israel (April 2011)

by Ewan Pearson on Sunday, 08 May 2011 at 14:33

A funny old day on Twitter. A quick message applauding Beatport’s donation of a day’s profits towards Japan’s relief effort is re-tweeted a hundred times. Simultaneously, I am arguing with friends about the ethics of DJing in Israel. When the earth buckles and the seas surge victims quickly have our sympathy. But with political disasters it’s much trickier to find a consensus. Some kinds of solidarity are easier than others.

I have always quietly turned gigs in Israel down, appalled by the accounts I’ve read of the Occupation, the mistreatment of its Palestinian population and recently the blockade on Gaza. The systematic manner in which one set of citizens is being de-humanised parallels the South African Apartheid era when I first heard music and political protest linked and became aware of musicians refusing to travel in order to draw attention to a political situation.

But music transcends politics doesn’t it? Not at all. If music is of and about the world it has to engage it. Musicians are not ambassadors with carte blanche to go where we like as we’re spreading an implicit  message of love. Too damn easy. Sometimes we have to say tougher and less palatable stuff, in this case that the actions of a purportedly democratic government in the name of a decent people are doing them massive harm, and the rest of us too as we sit idly by.

Art and politics at their best are about imagining yourself in someone else’s place, trying to feel what someone in quite different circumstances is experiencing. This is where solidarity comes from. I have more in common with a left-leaning cosmopolitan raver in Tel Aviv than a Palestinian in the occupied territories, but to go there and DJ is to say the status quo is fine, that it’s OK to forget about what’s happening for a moment. To paraphrase Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, it’s buying an alcoholic friend a bottle of scotch when you should be phoning AA.

House music’s most famous political message – that one day the oppressed will be emancipated and find the Promised Land – is derived from the Torah, from the laments of Jews exiled in Egypt and Babylon. Today it seems more appropriate to the plight of their Palestinian brothers and sisters. Until that’s no longer the case, I have to write stuff like this over playing records, smiling and telling everyone “It’s Alright”.

A couple of weeks ago, Pearson posted this article on his website, adding this paragraph, in which he expressed his full support of the BDS movement.

A note:

Above is the original text that was published in Groove magazine this month. I avoided referring to the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement;  the campaign since 2005 to boycott cultural and academic exchange with Israel while the occupation and discrimination against Palestinians continues. This was a mistake. By doing so I suggested that the decision to go to Israel or not should be a matter of individual conscience, made on a personal basis in isolation. It isn’t and it shouldn’t be. The fact is that over 170 Palestinian civil organisations have joined together to call for this boycott as one of a number of non-violent methods of putting pressure on the the Israeli government and they have been joined in the campaign by many individuals, groups, unions, churches and peace advocates around the world. It is not about me deciding whether I should go to Israel or not, but rather whether I am going to listen to the wishes of the Palestinian people at a time when not nearly enough others are doing so. I hope it goes without saying that I long dearly for a time when this is no longer the case.

If you would like to read more about the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign then you can do so here:

http://www.bdsmovement.net/call

I guess this won’t be the last word in this debate.

————————————

On this note, Gil Scott-Heron (“The Revolution will not be Televised”) passed away this weekend; this is what I wrote when he chose to cancel his Tel Aviv gig last year. And here is my post regarding Macy Gray’s decision to come here after all.

(h/t to music blogger Idit Frenkel)


Rebecca Vilkomerson thinks that BDS is both legitimate and effective

Posted: March 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 21 Comments »

Earlier this week, an Israeli security company named Hashmira has announced it will stop supplying equipment to the West Bank. Hashmira is owned by Danish giant G4S, which was under considerable pressure due to its projects in Israel. This was another success for the boycott campaign, which seems to gain momentum, especially when it targets activities directly involved in the occupation.

The Boycott is extremely controversial in Israel. While there is some tolerance, especially on the left, for the boycott of the settlements, supporting the BDS is a political taboo. Furthermore, a new Knesset bill would make it illegal for Israelis to support all kind of political boycotts against the occupation.

I would like to bring here things said by Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rebecca Vilkomerson during J Street’s panel on BDS. Rebecca makes some very good points, especially with regards to the nature of the boycott as a none-violent, grassroots action (Bernard Avishai, who also spoke at the J street Panel, makes the case against BDS here).

.

I want to take a moment to make sure we all are clear about what BDS is.  BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. It’s a Palestinian led, globally active, non-violent movement in support of equality and freedom for the Palestinian people.

As Kathleen mentioned, I lived in Israel from 2006 to 2009.  My husband and children are Israeli, so obviously I am deeply invested in what will happen in Israel.  I actually learned about BDS largely through Israeli activists and friends, who had increasingly come to support it, especially in the wake of the Gaza War. I find it to be the most hopeful strategy that we can engage in — a way to act on principles of equality and human dignity that I value as a Jew and as a human being.

In the last month or so, three events, in particular, have reinforced this for me.

1) The Palestine Papers revealed that the “peace process,” which has been going on for 19 years now, is bankrupt.  The U.S. is not an honest broker, Israel is not willing to compromise, and the PA is too weak to fight for Palestinian rights, willing to make enormous concessions –which still were not considered enough by Israel.  Throughout this almost 20 year process the settlements have grown enormously, creating de facto bantustans that make a two state solution hard to imagine.

2) The U.S. vetoed a resolution at the U.N. which was an exact reflection of its own foreign policy.  The U.S. is simply unwilling to use any of the many tools it has at its disposal to force Israel to stop violating international law, to stop violating human rights, and to stop violating U.S. policies.  Obama stood in Cairo and said that settlements must end—and yet he has proven that in this case he believes only in words, not action.
Frankly,  we need to be realistic about the current power dynamics.  The strategy of relying on governments –our government—to bring about change on its own has shown itself to be completely ineffective.

3) In contrast: the Arab uprisings. Many of us watched in awe as Egyptians took to the streets in their millions, to non-violently call for freedom, democracy, and dignity.  Now from Bahrain, to Libya, and Yemen, thousands more are doing the same.  Last night, Mona Eltahawy’s call for solidarity for Arab struggles for freedom and dignity got a standing ovation.  The Palestinian BDS movement is part and parcel of the Arab Spring sweeping the region, and deserves the same respect.

So on the one hand we have government-driven processes that have shown themselves to be corrupt and hypocritical, and on the other we have a movement rooted in civil society, in principles of non-violence, which draws on the long and noble history of BDS efforts against apartheid, for civil rights, for many other righteous struggles.  These are the tools of our heroes—Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Cesar Chavez.

BDS is an opportunity for each of us, personally, to act on our values.  To express, directly, our support for freedom, democracy and dignity.   It can create—is creating—the pressure that will eventually be much more successful than current lobbying tactics have been to create a true change in U.S. foreign policy, to create the conditions for negotiations that are between equals.

I want to highlight just one company that is being targeted in a global boycott campaign as an illustration.
Veolia is a French company, one of the largest in the world, which manages transportation systems, waste systems, and water treatment around the world (including here in D.C., where it manages the bus lines).  It operates a land fill in the West Bank (using Palestinian land and resources to serve the settlements), runs bus service to the settlements on road 443, which was built on Palestinian land but is only open to Israelis, and had a contract to build and manage the light rail to connect West Jerusalem to the settlements around it, effectively annexing Palestinian territory.

Veolia has been the target of a boycott and divestment campaign worldwide , and as a result Veolia has lost literally billions of dollars in new contracts.  In June, 2009, Veolia announced that it was withdrawing from its contract to build the rail, though it is still managing its implementation, and continues to lose contracts because of it.

The campaign against Veolia is a great example of why BDS is so exciting and so effective:

It works.

It educates people about the way corporations are implicated in the settlement project and in building and expanding the infrastructure of occupation

It enables people to take action once they understand what is happening—Veolia is in local communities all over the country, collecting garbage, operating buses and trains, and all over the country people are organizing campaigns  in their own cities and campuses to build the pressure on Veolia to stop profiting from the Occupation.

This is just one example.  One of the strengths of the BDS movement is that it is both loose and broad, all sorts of campaigns and targets fit within it, depending upon local priorities and conditions.

BDS movement is inspired by a call that was put out by Palestinian civil society in 2005, but it is a very diverse movement of acts of nonviolent resistance occurring every day in ways big and small.

Some just do it quietly by bypassing settlement goods at the store-which is common in Israel among my friends and family, and I would guess in this room. Israeli artists boycott performances in Ariel, and U.S. artists, like Steven Sondheim, Tony Kushner, and Mandy Patinkin, support them. Some picket in front of stores, or ask artists not to play in Israel, or like JVP, focus only on companies that profit from the Occupation.

We have groups in Israel like Boycott from Within, that have been supporting the full Palestinian call, and groups like Peace Now that ask supporters not to invest in the occupied territories.. Here in the U.S., Meretz USA, recently put out a statement supporting BDS in the occupied territories.

It really varies and not everyone agrees on every campaign. But we all have in common a belief that Israel must abide by international law, must be a true democracy for all of its citizens, and cannot continue to subjugate another people.  That stand for democracy and freedom is what motivates the BDS movement, just as it motivated the movement for civil rights in the U.S. in the 1960s, and what we are seeing today in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

One of the beautiful things about watching those movements unfold has been watching people under dictatorial regimes who suddenly found the courage to take their governments, and their lives, back.  The BDS movement strives to fulfill these same basic human needs and in the same spirit of non-violence.  After years violent attacks on civilians that were rightfully condemned, how could we not respect and encourage these non-violent means, that bring together Palestinian, Israeli, and international activists in common cause?

It is very encouraging to have this conversation in a Jewish space. It’s great that J Street has rejected the attempts of right wing groups to split progressive Jews from one another, and is not following the lead of groups like Hillel (and Ameinu, if I want to be brutal!), that are creating political litmus tests for inclusion in the Jewish community. Its exciting to be able to sit together and have this discussion about tactics—there should be room for all of our approaches.

But is also of utmost importance to recognize that to have this conversation only in this space is not enough.  Many of us in this room have been to Bilin or Sheikh Jarrah.  These places are inspiring, because though led by Palestinians, as is appropriate since it is the Palestinian’s struggle to be free, they are joint Palestinian-Israeli efforts. In those places you can imagine a future in Palestine and Israel where all people are free to be full citizens, and where life is richer for everyone for it.

One of the strengths of BDS is that it actually requires conversation and coordination. So as a next step, I would put out a plea and a challenge that we not have this conversation only among Jews, but respect the agency of Palestinians in this struggle.  They are the ones most affected, they are the initiators of the call, and they need to be able to represent themselves in this debate.

More on BDS:

Roi Maor: BDS is ineffective.

Joseph Dana and Max Blumenthal: BDS targets the right group in Israeli society.

Video of the BDS debate in Princton. Debating: Max Blumenthal, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Dan May, Daniel May.


Selling tickets to Macy Gray in Ramallah?

Posted: January 22nd, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: culture, In the News | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments »

The debate regarding the cultural boycott of Israel is framed around the wrong questions

Macy Gray. Would Palestinians be able to see her too? (photo: livepict.com / via wikimedia commons)

Macy Gray. Would Palestinians be able to see her too? (photo: livepict.com)

So Macy Gray decided to perform in Tel Aviv. After sharing her hesitation with her fans on Facebook, Gray apparently made up her mind not to cancel the gigs she planned to have in Israel. One of her tweets implies she was also turned off by some of the messages she got from the pro-Palestinian side. On Wednesday night, Gray posted a response to one of her followers: “@bahebakyagaza See I’m willing to listen – really listen – but some of you so called boycotters are just assholes.”

I guess some of the posts on Gray’s Facebook wall were indeed unpleasant, and too many were written in all-caps. For someone unfamiliar with the intensity of the Israeli-Palestinian debate, the language and tone on both sides can be shocking. But there is an issue here that goes deeper than style.

Many artists believe that music transcends political boundaries and everyday reality, so they are unwilling to submit their work even to political causes they believe in. Artists also tend to think that fans shouldn’t be punished for their governments’ actions, and some think that it’s not a good idea to mix politics and music. What’s more, most people were educated to believe that banning someone – anyone – is a bad thing, and they are inclined to think that this goes for states too. After all, the US and China commit atrocities as well, so if we ban Israel, why not ban them?

I don’t dismiss these arguments (I tried to deal with some of them here), but I do see a problem in the fact that they focus entirely on the Israeli side. In other words, they deal with one question only: Whether Israelis deserve to be boycotted. Some say they do, others say they don’t, or argue that in such a case everyone could be boycotted; still others claim that even if you could justify the boycott, it would be a counter-productive act that would only push Israelis further to the right.

But instead of discussing Israelis, I want to speak about Palestinians. After all, the main problem about the occupation is not the privileges of Israelis, but the way it affects Palestinians;  and so the political action in confronting the occupation is not about hurting Jews, but rather about helping Palestinians get their rights.

The same goes for the boycott issue: It’s not the fact that Israelis want to go to a music concert that should bother people, but rather that Palestinians can’t attend the same shows. Even though they live under Israeli rule and on the same territory, the Palestinians are locked in their towns and villages, unable to travel or to have anyone visit them without a special permit from Israel. The inability to come to the concert is a symbol of the bigger problem.

So, instead of engaging in the endless debate on whether Israelis are evil enough to have them punished by canceling a music gig – something most artists feel uncomfortable with – I offer a simple test: When booking a show in Tel Aviv, the artist should ask that some of the tickets, say 25 percent, would be sold exclusively to Palestinians and that all ticket holders would be admitted to the concert (naturally, there would need to be some adequate security measures, but if that’s what will help Israel fight the threat of the BDS, I am sure it could be arranged).

If the Israeli organizers of the show refuse or if they are unable to deliver – it will become much harder for them to claim that there is no political problem with the gig, or that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians shouldn’t be compared to Apartheid. And if they deliver, the artist gets to play a real part in bringing down the walls between Jews and Arabs. In any case, everyone would know where they stand.

I know this idea must seem crazy to some Israelis. Selling tickets to Macy Gray in Ramallah? But didn’t we just say music transcends borders and walls? If so, let’s put this notion to a real test.


Major success for the anti-settlements campaign: Multilock to close West Bank factory

Posted: December 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Settlements | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments »

Maariv and the financial paper The Marker report that the Israeli company Multilock is leaving the West Bank because of human rights organizations’ pressure. The locks company will move from the Barkan industrial zone, located on the road to Ariel, to a site in the town of Yavne.

This is from Maariv (translation by Israel News Today):

About two years ago, Assa Abloy, the giant Swedish lock manufacturer which owns Multilock, announced its decision to close the factory in Barkan and relocate it within the boundaries of the Green Line.  The company’s public announcement came after human rights organizations and the Church of Sweden, whose representatives visited Barkan, issued a sharply-worded report warning the company’s management that Assa Abloy and its managers were liable to be personally persecuted for violating the international law that forbids building settlements on occupied territory.  After a few days, Assa Abloy announced that it had instructed Multilock to close the factory.

(…)

The Barkan industrial zone has about 120 Israeli factories of various sizes, and Multilock is not the only company that has encountered political trouble due to the location of its factories.  The international company Unilever faces a similar problem to that of Assa Abloy, because the Beigel Beigel factory, which it owns, is located in the Barkan industrial zone.

Unilever tried to sell its share of the factory (51%) for about two years unsuccessfully.  The sale attempts were also politically motivated, following criticism and boycott threats against Unilever.  Two months ago, Unilever announced that it was purchasing the share of the Beigel family in the company (49%) in order to move the factory to inside the Green Line.

The Barkan Wines company also left the Barkan industrial zone for similar reason at the beginning of the decade.  It wanted to expand its exports and therefore moved its activity to Kibbutz Hulda, which is located within the Green Line.


Israeli BDS activist detained by internal security upon entering the country

Posted: December 21st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Matan Cohen was informed he is classified as ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity’; he was released after three hours

Israeli activist Matan Cohen was detained by Israel’s internal security agency (ISA, or ‘Shabak’ in Hebrew) at Israel’s international airport yesterday. According to Cohen, his belongings were searched, and he was informed by a policeman that he is considered “a suspect of hostile terrorist activity.” (מוחשד פח”ע)

Cohen, 22, lost his sight in one eye five years ago after being shot by soldiers in an unarmed demonstration against the Separation Wall. He is active in the BDS movement and was one of the four protesters who heckled PM Binyamin Netanyahu during a speech in New Orleans (a video of the incident can be seen here).

Yesterday, Cohen returned to Israeli for the winter vacation. According to his report, two security people waited for him outside the plane and escorted him to passport control. Later, he was taken by a policeman to a side room, where he was held for three hours. Cohen was told by police that his detention was an order from the ISA.

“I wasn’t interrogated and wasn’t charged with anything,” said Cohen in a phone conversation. “They searched my stuff and then asked me to sign a form, on which it was written that I am ‘a suspect of hostile terrorist activity.’” Cohen says that he was told that this sentence doesn’t relate to a specific charge, but rather is a permanent status, determined by the ISA.

“In the past, I’ve gone through special interrogations before boarding planes, but I was never detained upon entering Israel,” said Cohen. “I feel this has to do with my activity in the BDS. I know of international activists who were questioned or denied entry to Israel because of BDS activity. Perhaps it [the detention] had also to do with New Orleans.”

Related Stories:

Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack might face 3-6 months in prison

Israel’s Security Agency holds warning talks with activists


Israeli BDS activist’s account of “a friendly talk” with the Shin Beit

Posted: July 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Former Israeli air force pilot and conscientious objector Yonatan Shapira was summoned today to “a friendly talk” with the Shabak (formally known as “Shin Beit”, Israel’s internal security agency). This is Yonatan’s account of the event, as posted on Facebook:

Yesterday Rona from the Shabak called me and asked me to come talk to meet her in the police station on Dizengof st. (Tel Aviv). She refused to tell me what was it about, but made it clear I wasn’t going to be arrested, and that this is just an acquaintance or “a friendly talk”…

At five o’clock I got to the Dizengof police station and was sent to the second floor of the rear building, where a guy who presented himself as Rona’s security guard waited for me. I was taken to a room and subjected to a pretty intimate search to make sure I didn’t install any recording device on my testicles. After I was found clean I was let into Rona’s room. She was a nice looking girl, apparently from a Yemeni origin, in her early thirties.

Rona told me that I she knew I was active in the BDS (movement) and (calling for) an economical boycott of Israel, and she wanted to know what else do I do as part of these activities. I told her that everything (that I do) is well known and published in the internet and the media, and that I have nothing to add, and that I wasn’t going to talk to her.

Rona emphasized that there is a Knesset bill that might soon make my activities illegal. She went on and tried to get me into a political debate, asking if I know that the BDS is in fact a Palestinian organization.

Rona raised the issue of the graffiti in Warsaw and asked it was my own idea or another part of the BDS. She asked if I understood that I crossed a line and hurt many people’s feeling. Obviously the Shabak feeling’s (were hurt) as well… I offered her again to listen to interviews and read article on the issue. She said she did listen and read, but she wanted to know more. I told her I would be happy to give a public lecture to anyone who wants to hear, but not (talk about it) in a Shabak interrogation.

Apart from the BDS issue she asked me if I knew that the demonstrations in Bil’in and Ni’ilin are illegal, and that the entire area is closed for Israelis and internationals each Friday from 8.00 am to 8.00 pm. She went into length explaining how the soldiers feel in these demonstrations and that it irritates them when I talk to them and when I answer them.

Rona said she was there herself and that stones were thrown at her, and that it war really unpleasant. She said that the fact that Israelis are present there makes the Palestinians more violent, and that I have to think how the poor soldiers feel, and that all she is trying to do is for the good of the country and out of her will to defend the people living here.

I answered that all I do is out of a will to defend the people living here as well, and I asked where did she get all the information on my activities and whether they are listening to my phone. She said that she can’t answer this, but that generally speaking the Shabak has more important things to do, so I asked her whet I was doing here and why was I invited to a kind political interrogation if they have more important things to do.

I asked again if they are listening to my phone calls and Rona said she can’t answer that.

She asked me not to publish the content of our conversation because she wasn’t the type who wants publicity… I answered that as a person committed to a non-violent struggle against the occupation I would talk and publish anything I can, including the content of this conversation and future ones, if these will be such.

I documented the entire conversation on a piece of paper until Rona started discussing this paper and what I was writing down. Eventually she confiscated the dangerous piece of paper, claiming that I was not allowed to have any recording device in, and that what I was doing was illegal.

Luckily I remembered most of the conversation and Rona hasn’t confiscated my memory yet. Maybe (it will happen) in our next meeting.

That’s it. There might have been more details but from what I get these were the main issues. I understood that what they were after was our involvement in the BDS, and that they might even be preparing files for the moment the new law is passed.

Yonatan.

I find this account of the conversation very reliable, and similar to other accounts of political interrogations of Jewish activists I heard of. We should remember that political interrogations of Palestinians are not that friendly or polite.

I also think that Yonatan could be right in assuming the police or the Shabak is putting together files on Israelis involved in the BDS. One of the many anti-democratic aspects of the new Knesset bill [Hebrew document] is that it will be possible to enforce it on past actions as well.

Personally I found Yonatan’s graffiti in Warsaw to be of poor taste, but this is none of the Shabak’s business.


English translation of the new anti human rights organizations Knesset bill

Posted: June 17th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Israeli legislators increase their efforts to put limits the work of human rights organizations, and even ban them altogether. Last month I reported here on a new Knesset bill which, if passes, will enable the state to shut down any association or organization which provides information that is used in prosecutions outside Israel against IDF officers. In other words, all watchdog groups which deal with Israel’s security forces – from Amnesty to The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel -  are in danger.

The bill was introduced after the extreme right-wing group Im Tirzu launched a smear campaign against the New Israel Fund, falsely claiming that the NIF is responsible for most of the anti-Israeli evidences in the Goldstone report.

Ironically, it was announced this week that a former IDF infantry soldier might be charged with manslaughter during operation Cast Lead. The soldier shot at a group of Palestinian civilians carrying white flags, killing two women. B’Tselem, an NIF sponsored human rights organization, conducted an independent investigation that led to the charges in this case, which was also cited on the Goldstone report. The Israeli army ceased to conduct its own investigations into the killing of Palestinian civilians, unless a clear evidence of wrongdoing is brought before it.

If the new bill is passed, B’Tselem won’t be able to investigate such cases anymore, as the evidences it collects might be used to prosecute Israeli generals and government ministers.

Here are the two changes that will be put into the law concerning associations in Israel if the new bill is passed, followed by the introduction to the bill, as it was submitted to the Knesset not long ago.

I thank Dena Shunra of Shunra Media, Inc. for translating the bill from Hebrew.

First: “No association will be formed if the Registrar has been persuaded that the association will be involved with or will convey to foreign elements information on the subject of law suits proceeding in instances operating outside of the Stated of Israel, against senior persosn in Israel or military officers, due to war crimes.”

Second [an addition to the close on shutting down associations]: “The association was involved in or will convey to foreign elements information in the subject of law suits being heard in instances operating outside of the State of Israel, against senior persons in Israel or military officers, due to war crimes.”

“Explanation:

As it stands today, the act prohibits the registration and activity of an association which denies the existence of the State of Israel or its democratic nature. Additionally, the association cannot be registered or would be stricken by force of an order by a District Court to the extent that its activity is unlawful.

In recent years the State of Israel has undergone upheaval which has not been easy, neither in terms of security nor in terms of statesmanship. Israel’s propaganda [hasbara] ability has been gravely damaged in light of the fierce and anti-Zionist opposition abroad to the defense actions by the state.

Palestinian propaganda has been influential in the public at large, and especially with youngsters and students at many academic institutes throughout Europe and the United States. Israel’s activity in the [occupied] territories, even if it is within the framework of a defensive military operation following attack and firing of missiles toward our state is perceived as not being legitimate.

The controversial and uni-dimensional United Nations report by Justice Goldstone about the actions of the Israel Defense Forces in Gaza in the course of Operation Cast Lead has brought Israel to an unprecedented nadir, in terms of propaganda.
In many countries, such as Britain, calls are growing stronger for the arrest of senior figures in the Israeli government and officers of the Israel Defense Forces, due to war crimes carried out against Palestinians.

The best leaders and officers find themselves anxious lest they be arrested in a foreign country, for crimes that did not occur and which are ascribed to them.

It is most regretful that especially in this era, when we ought to be united against those groundless accusations, we witness Israeli associations and organizations which act against Israel, below the surface.

These organizations provide assistance of one form or another to foreign organizations which wish to issue arrest warrants and indictments against senior Israeli figures. [punctuation sic] Be it by conveying information (which is mostly erroneous and also untruthful) to foreign elements who are our enemies, or be it by publicly agreeing or affirming that Israel is guilty of war crimes. They sometimes even provide substantial legal assistance in establishing the arguments.

The foundation for this proposed law is that this activity or any hint thereof must be outlawed (especially with regard to associations which receive much funding and some of which are also supported by the State), as they are in fact undermining the State and harming it, as though they had denied its existence.

For this reason, the proposed legislation proposes that the registration of an association about which there are reasonable grounds to suspect that it will act in a judiciary manner against senior figures in the government or in the Israel Defense Forces, in cooperation with foreign elements.

Additionally, it is proposed that any association whose activity is directed against senior figures in the government or in the Israel Defense Forces be dissolved. The dissolution will be in the manner set forth in the Associations Act 5740-1980, by way of expanding the causes of dissolving an association by court order, which would be filed by the Registrar of Associations or by the Attorney General.”

Last week, 20 lawmakers introduced another bill, that would  make it illegal for Israelis to take part in calls to boycott Israeli products or institutions. Both bills, whose intention is to limit the possibility to protest or fight government policy, received support from most Knesset parties, including members of dovish opposition party Kadima.


The only democracy? Israeli lawmakers seek to criminalize boycott, supervise “political bias” in academia

Posted: June 11th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

A new Knesset bill submitted by 25 Knesset members this week would make it illegal, if passed, for Israeli citizens to support or aid boycott on Israel or on Israeli products. Israelis who would initiate or help such boycotts – even if they deal only with the settlements – could be fined and forced to pay compensations to those hurt by the boycott.

The bill was initiated by Likud party members and supported by senior members of Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party, including party whip Dalia Itzik and Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tsachi Hanegbi.

This is from the report on Ynet:

As to individuals who are not citizens or residents of Israel, their right to enter the country will be deprived for at least 10 years should they be involved in a boycott. Another measure would ban foreign entities or anyone on their behalf from engaging in any actions using Israeli bank accounts, Israeli stocks, or Israeli land.

The bill’s initiators say the move aims to “protect the State of Israel in general and its citizens in particular against academic, economic, and other boycotts.”

Addressing the Palestinian boycott, MK Itzik said: “The Palestinians are causing harm with this attitude…issues of this type should be resolve at the negotiating table.”

The Hebrew version of the article cites MK Zeev Elkin (Likud), who innitiated the bill, explaining that the new law will specifically target Israeli professors who support academic boycott. But the problem with this bill goes far beyond the question of boycott. This is yet another attempt to limit political action in Israel and to prevent none-violent resistance to the occupation.

A few months ago Israel passed a law against mentioning the Nakba – the Palestinian disaster of 1948 – attacking the very core of freedom of speech, which is the right to hold one’s own historical narrative; now Israel is looking to forbid a universally accepted form of political action.

Most troubling is the fact that these measures enjoy the support of both coalition and opposition parties. It seems that there is an automatic majority in the Knesset for any bill that would criminalize ideas which are not well within the political consensus (and the public is only too happy to support these initiatives). Israel is becoming one of these democracies in which you are allowed to hold and express any sort of idea, as long as it’s the right one.

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Israeli lawmakers are looking to apply political supervision even on what was considered the symbol of Israeli freedom of speech. a few weeks ago, the Knesset Education Committee ordered the Committee for Academic Education (the supervising body on all Israeli universities) to look into “the anti-Zionist political bias” of courses in history and Political Science in Israeli Universities. Here is a link to the protocol of the Education committee’s meeting (Hebrew). No immediate measures were applied, but just having such a debate – the committee members are actually debating how to force professors to put more Zionist material on their students’ reading lists – is dangerous enough, especially in a country in which academic education is sponsored by the state. And as we saw in the case of the Nakba bill, those kinds of debates tend to lead to legislative action.

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Israel was never a democracy when it came too the Palestinians in the West bank and Gaza, who are subject to a separate legal system and have very limited civil rights. Now we are witnessing rapid erosion in the political rights of Israeli citizens as well. Personally, I get the feeling that Israel is following the steps of South Africa in the 80′s, where opposing Apartheid was considered as opposing South Africa itself, and dealt with accordingly. When an act like asking people not to buy settlements product becomes a criminal offense; and when even some of the stuff posted on this blog might be considered illegal, referring to Israel as the only democracy in the Middle East would look like a bad joke.

The real irony is that with every such measure, Israeli lawmakers are further justifying the very acts they want to ban.


Israel | 43 years of occupation

Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Left, The Settlements, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Flotilla dominating the protest as Palestinians and Israelis mark 43 years of Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza. Plus, one clip Israel wants the world to see, and one it doesn’t

Palestinians and Israelis marked today 43 years of occupation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The main rally today was near road 443, the Jerusalem-bound highway which goes through the West Bank and only a few Palestinians are allowed to travel on. Protesters wore T-shirts supporting the Gaza flotilla; the army used tear gas against them.

I was in Nebi Saleh, where the army arrested Ben Gurion University  professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir (pictures below), and shot tear gas at protesters. Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier.

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The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.

One thing that is worth noting is that the soldiers in Nabi Saleh fire the tear gas directly at the protesters (as can be seen here), and not in an arch, like army orders’ demand. Earlier this week, in a small demonstration against the raid on the Mavi Marmara, an American named Emily Henochowicz was hit in her eye from such a shot.

Here is a video of Emily being shot. I don’t often post such graphic images, but this week the IDF used every clip they could put their hands on to portray the soldiers who took over the Mavi Marmara as victims, so I think we need to put some things in perspective (shooting at 1:10 min. h/t: The Lede).

Later in the afternoon some 300 Israelis gathered in Sheikh Jarrah for the weekly protest. A coalition of leftwing organizations is planning an anti-occupation march tomorrow in Tel Aviv, and there are rumors that rightwing activist will try to confront it.

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Flotilla news:

●    It seems that the Rachel Corrie will be coming after all. Israel is warning that it “does not want to board the ship.” UPDATE: Israeli soldiers have boarded and taken over the Rachel Corrie today around noon, with no physical confrontation involved. The soldier led the ship to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Netanyhu: “This shows the difference between a Peace flotilla and that of Islamic radicals.” [Hebrew]

●    This bizarre “satiric” video was sent to all foreign correspondent by no other than Government Press Office head Daniel Seaman. After a few minutes came another e-mail, claiming the video was sent “due to a misunderstanding”, and that “contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the GPO or of the State of Israel”

It’s not the first time Seaman is trying to crack these kind of jokes. As the flotilla was heading to Israel, he sent an E-mail to all foreign correspondents offering them recommendations on Gaza’s restaurants [Hebrew].

●    British Rock group Klaxons canceled its planned performance in Tel Aviv, and so did Gorillaz Sound System. The gig’s organizers promised tickets holders a refund. Read the rest of this entry »