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.


Everything you (never) wanted to know about Israel’s anti-boycott law

Posted: July 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

A reader’s guide to democracy’s dark hour

knesset_bw

What does the law say?

Basically, the anti-boycott law allows all those who feel they have been harmed by a boycott, whether against Israel or an Israeli institution or territory (i.e. the settlements in the West Bank) to sue the person or organization who publicly called for it, for compensation. This definition is very broad—even a simple call not to visit a place falls under it—and most important, the prosecutor plaintiff doesn’t even have to prove damages.

You can read the full text of the law here (it’s not long). The important part is below (translation by ACRI):

Definition:

1. In this bill, “a boycott against the State of Israel” – deliberately avoiding economic, cultural or academic ties with another person or another factor only because of his ties with the State of Israel, one of its institutions or an area under its control, in such a way that may cause economic, cultural or academic damage.

Boycott – a civil wrong:

A.     Knowingly publishing a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel will be considered a civil wrong to which the civil tort law [new version] applies, if according to the content and circumstances of the publication there is reasonable probability that the call will bring about a boycott and he who published the call was aware of this possibility.

B.     In regards to clause 62 [A] of the civil tort law [new version], he who causes a binding legal agreement to be breached by calling for a boycott against the State of Israel will not be viewed as someone who operated with sufficient justification.

C.     If the court will find that an wrong according to this law was deliberately carried out, it will be authorized to compel the person who did the wrongdoing to pay damages that are not dependent on the damage (in this clause – damages, for example); in calculating the sum of the damages for example, the court will take into consideration, among other things, the circumstances under which the wrong was carried out, its severity and its extent.

Check out Roi Maor’s analysis of the implications of this law and what it will mean:

[The boycott law] will have a significant and immediate practical effect. As of today, a wide range of people and groups who once called for a boycott will cease doing so. The space for debate and discussion in Israeli society will shrink right before our eyes.

How come this law passed three Knesset votes?

The key moments in the legislation process was a decision by Binyamin Netanyahu’s government (and by him personally, as hetold the Knesset on Wednesday) to have the entire coalition back the law. This means that the law will have the automatic support of most of the Knesset members, and that even coalition members who oppose it won’t be able to vote against it. Once the bill passed Knesset’s Constitution, Law and Justice Committee—controlled by the right—it was clear for the two final votes, which took place Monday night.

So, how did Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak vote?

They didn’t. They avoided the vote. See the full roll-call from the Knesset vote.

When will the law take effect?

It already did. Starting yesterday (Tuesday), it is now illegal to call for a settlement boycott in Israel. The only part of the law which is not effective yet is article 4, which deals with the punishment of organizations that would support a boycott (they will be stripped of their special statutes). This article, which is seen as a backdoor way to persecute civil society and leftwing organizations (more on this issue here), will be made effective in 90 days.

Yesterday an Israeli Beitenu MK already threatened Arab MK Ahmed Tibi that he will be the first to feel the effect of the new law. “Whoever shows contempt for the law and stomps on it will be responsible for the outcome,” MK Miller told Tibi in the Knesset.

Is it really so bad? I heard there is a similar law in the US, and that in France, a court punished some group calling for boycott on Israel.

Those examples are very different from the Israeli law. The US legislation refers to boycott by foreign governments, and the French case had to do with a unique interpretation to a law concerning discrimination. In fact, a Knesset research report, prepared during the work on the boycott bill, concluded that it couldn’t find examples of similar laws in Western democracies, and resorted to citing examples from countries such as Venezuela, Eritrea and Ethiopia. As a result, the Knesset’s legal advisor filed an opinion stating that it would be very hard to defend this law in the High Court for Justice. The Government Attorney thinks it  is a “borderline case,” but he is willing to defend the law in court.

What about the High Court? I hear that it is likely to strike down the law as unconstitutional.

For that, Israel would need to have a constitution… But the answer is yes, many think that the court will kill the law or parts of it, and petitions on this issue has already been filed. Yet a verdict would take time, and more important, it might gravely hurt the Court’s own statues, as will be perceived as acting in against the will of the public (the right to override Knesset law is not formally granted to the Israeli high court, and therefore lies in the heart of a political controversy). Already, there are threats from leading politicians to the court not to intervene in this issue, or else they would limit the court’s power. This has become a true watershed moment for Israel.

Furthermore, there are those on the left who believe that going to the court would play into the hands of those who initiated the boycott law, and ultimately strengthen the ability of the right to introduce such pieces of legislation. Read this though-provoking piece from Yossi Gurvitz on this issue.

What about the Israeli public? Does it support this law?

Right now, yes. A poll found 52 percent of the public supporting the anti-boycott law, while only 31 opposes it.

Mike Asks: Is full boycott illigal as well?

Yes. for example, if an Israeli writes a letter to an foreign artist and suggests he cancel his gig in Tel Aviv as long as the occupation goes on, he could potentially be sued by the producer, and any other person who thinks this act hurts him. I guess that even by the bartender could sue – and they won’t have to prove damages. Calls for boycott of academic institutions are illegal too.

Alex asks regarding Foreign nationals in Israel – does the law include them too?

Yes. When in Israel, one needs to obey Israeli laws, including ones concerning damages. From what I understand from ACRI (Association of Civil Rights in Israel, which has been in the frontline of the struggle against the law), the anti-boycott law would include foreign nationals as well - as long as they make the boycott call while in Israel. One reservation is that it’s not a criminal law, so you need someone to actually sue you for damages, and the court needs to be able to collect them. My guess is that if this law remains active,  rightwing and settlers’ organizations will become serial prosecutors plaintiffs of boycotts in order to silence dissent, and, of coarse, make some money on the way.

The law doesn’t apply to foreign nationals in the West Bank, which is under military rule and not Israeli civilian law.

how about Israelis abroad?

The law should apply to Israelis everywhere in the world, so theoretically, if a Boycott from Within activist gives a lecture in London, he could be sued by a fellow citizen upon his return to Israel. Still, it seems that suing over offenses done abroad will be more complicated; check out Woody’s comment from 12:51PM for a discussion of some of the problems it raises. I could only add that with every new law–not just this one–it’s hard to predict the outcome of such borderline cases. We can only wait the rulings of Israeli courts to see how they interpret the law.

Is discussing or repealing the law legal?

Yes it is. Remember that it is not a criminal law but a tort one, so as long as you don’t advocate boycott while repealing the law, nobody has “a reason” to sue you.

—————–

This article was cross-posted with 972 Magazine. The answers are to questions posted there.


Poll: Israeli public supports boycott law

Posted: July 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Polls, The Left, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

The anti-boycott law is already considered the most controversial to come out of the current Knesset, but it seems that this controversy exists mostly in the media, and outside Israel.

A recent poll, done for the Knesset channel and posted on the rightwing Srugim site,  52 percent of the Israeli public supports the law, and only 31 oppose it – not very different from the majority the law received in the Knesset. In that sense, the Israeli Parliament members represent their voters perfectly.

Srugim didn’t provide the data for the poll or the original questions asked, so we should take these numbers with a grain of salt. Also, the polls was apparently done in the morning following the vote, so the results might change with time.

According to the poll 43 percent of the public think the law will hurt Israel’s image in the world.


Boycott bill rollcall: How did they vote?

Posted: July 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Left, The Right, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The three most important ministers in the Israeli cabinet – Foreign Minister Lieberman, Defense Minister Barak and Prime Minister Netanyahu – didn’t bother to attend the deciding vote on the boycott bill

———————–

The anti-boycott law, perhaps the most important piece of legislation to come out of the Israeli parliament in recent years, passed with a 47-38 majority. This is how the Knesset members voted, followed by a few notes:

COALITION

Likud
Ofir Akunis – Yes
Ze`ev Binyamin Begin – Yes
Danny Danon – Yes
Yuli-Yoel Edelstein – Yes
Michael Eitan – Not present (*)
Zeev Elkin – Yes
Gilad Erdan – Not present
Gila Gamliel – Not present
Tzipi Hotovely – Yes
Moshe Kahlon – Yes
Ayoob Kara – Yes
Haim Katz – Yes
Yisrael Katz – Yes
Yariv Levin – Yes
Limor Livnat – Yes
Dan Meridor – Not present
Lea Nass – Not present
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – Not present (**)
Yossi Peled – Yes
Zion Pinyan – Yes
Miri Regev – Yes
Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin – Didn’t vote
Education Minister Gideon Sa`ar – Not present
Silvan Shalom – Not present
Carmel Shama – Yes
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz – Yes
Deputy PM Moshe Ya`alon – Yes

Yisrael Beitenu
Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch – Not present
Hamad Amar – Yes
Daniel Ayalon – Yes
Robert Ilatov – Not present
Fania Kirshenbaum – Yes
Uzi Landau – Yes
Sofa Landver – Yes
Orly Levi-Abekasis – Yes
Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman – Not present
Moshe Mutz Matalon – Not present
Anastassia Michaeli – Yes
Alex Miller – Yes
Stas Misezhnikov – Yes
David Rotem – Not present
Lia Shemtov – Yes

Shas
Chaim Amsellem – Yes
Ariel Atias – Not present
David Azoulay – Yes
Amnon Cohen – Not present
Yitzhak Cohen – Yes
Yakov Margi – Yes
Avraham Michaeli – Yes
Meshulam Nahari – Yes
Yitzhak Vaknin – Yes
Interior Minister Eliyahu Yishai – Yes
Nissim Zeev – Not Present

Haatzma`ut (Labor faction) (***)
Defense Minister Ehud Barak – Not present
Orit Noked – Not present
Shalom Simhon – Not present
Matan Vilnai – Not present
Einat Wilf – Didn’t vote

United Torah Judaism
Israel Eichler – Not Present
Moshe Gafni – Yes
Yakov Litzman – Yes
Uri Maklev – Yes
Menachem Eliezer Moses – Yes

Habayit Hayehudi – New National Religious Party
Daniel Hershkowitz – Yes
Uri Orbach – Yes
Zevulun Orlev – Yes

OPPOSITION

Kadima
Nino Abesadze – No
Rachel Adatto – No
Eli Aflalo – No
Doron Avital – No
Ruhama Avraham Balila – No
Ronnie Bar-On – No
Arie Bibi – Not present
Zeev Bielski – No
Avi Dichter – No
Jacob Edery – Not present
Gideon Ezra – Not present
Israel Hasson – No
Yoel Hasson – Not present
Shai Hermesh – No
Dalia Itzik – No
Opposition Leader Tzipi Livni – No
Shaul Mofaz – No
Shlomo (Neguse) Molla – No
Yohanan Plesner – No
Otniel Schneller – Not present
Nachman Shai – Not present
Yulia Shamalov Berkovich – Not present
Meir Sheetrit – No
Marina Solodkin – No
Ronit Tirosh – No
Robert Tiviaev – No
Majallie Whbee – No
Orit Zuaretz – No

Ha`avoda (Labor)

Binyamin (Fouad) Ben-Eliezer – Not present
Daniel Ben Simon – No
Avishay Braverman – No
Eitan Cabel – No
Isaac Herzog – Not present
Raleb Majadele – No
Amir Peretz – No
Shelly Yacimovich – No

Hadash

Afou Agbaria – No
Mohammad Barakeh – No
Dov Khenin – No
Hanna Swaid – No

Ra`am-Ta`al
Talab El-Sana – Not present
Masud Ganaim – No
Ibrahim Sarsur – No
Ahmad Tibi – No

National Democratic Assembly (Balad)
Said Naffaa – Not present
Jamal Zahalka – No
Hanin Zoabi – No

New Movement – Meretz

Zahava Gal-On – No
Ilan Gilon – No
Nitzan Horowitz – No

Ichud Leumi    (****)

Uri Yehuda Ariel – Yes
Michael Ben Ari – Not present
Arieh Eldad – Yes
Yaakov (Katzeleh) Katz – Yes

(*) The custom in the Knesset is that opposition and coalition members who cannot attend a vote can agree to essentially cancel each other out. In major votes, parties tend to limit mutual cancellations as much as possible; therefore it is not always clear whether a Knesset member who didn’t come to the vote was cancelled out or chose to be absent for other reasons.

(**) Many of the votes were those of backbenchers, and it seems that the leading ministers preferred not to be present at the vote, once it was clear that the law was going to pass. The three most important ministers in the government–Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman—chose not to attend the vote. Some leadership Israel has.

(***) The entire Ha’atzmaut faction, until recently a part of the dovish Labor party, chose not to oppose the boycott law nor to support it.

(***) Officially, the extreme-right Ihud Leumi party is not part of the government, but it supports much of its policies and all rightwing legislation in the Knesset.

Update: in response to a reader’s question, an MK who appears as “not present” wasn’t at the assembly during the vote. “Didn’t vote” simply means abstained. As you can see, Knesset members prefer not to be seen on TV refraining from voting, so unless they really have to (like in the case of the Knesset’s speaker), they simply disappear when an unpleasant vote approaches.
Update II: In response to more comments – almost all pieces of legislation don’t require ”an absolute majority” of 61 members. Still, if the coalition needed it, there would have been no problem to get 61 hands for this vote.
Aryeh: I regret to say I that don’t share your (limited) optimism. I tend to think that this vote was seen as a very major one – with a long filibuster and 87 members present (normally only 30-40 come to vote), from all the house’s parties. Plus, two MKs were too ill to vote; one had buried his mom on Monday, and most important, I think that the members who failed to show up did it on purpose. We know of two Kadima members who supported the bill (Schneller and Shamalov-Berkovich) and will be “punished” by their party today; several Likud MK opposed the law: House Speaker Rivlin, Minister Meridor and probably Eithan. One surprise came from Benni Begin, the son of the legendary Likud leader, who used to be considered a defender of personal liberties, and voted Yes. And there is, of coarse, Ehud Barak’s party, who fled the battleground. We should remember that this was a government-backed bill, so any party that would have voted against the law was signaling its desire to leave the coalition – yet I believe that had Barak taken a stand, Neatnyahu would have thought twice before approving this particular piece of legislation. In that sense, Barak’s absence is somewhat of a support.

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)


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 actors, directors and playwrights: we won’t perform in the settlements

Posted: August 27th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: culture, In the News, The Settlements | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Leading Israeli theater actors, playwrights and directors signed a letter announcing they refuse to perform or have their work shown in the Ariel Culture Hall in the West Bank.

Earlier this week it was revealed that the Culture Hall in Ariel, which is due to open in November, will host productions from all major Israeli theaters. This would be the first time such productions take place in the West bank.

Arab-Israeli actor Yousef Sweid immediately announced he won’t take part in shows in the occupied territories. He was joined by actor Rami Heuberger and playwright Shmuel Hasfari. Hasfari is one of the leaders of The National Left, a Zionist movement calling for the immediate evacuation of the West Bank and the establishing of a Palestinian state.

In a letter published today on Ynet, notable Israeli theater artist declared that:

We wish to express our disgust from the intention of the Israeli theaters to perform in the new hall in Ariel. The actors among us declare here that they won’t perform in Ariel, or any other settlement. We call the managing boards of the theaters to conduct their activities inside Israel’s sovereign territory.

The article on Ynet names 32 actors, composers and writers that signed the letter. Among them are Renee Yerushalmi, winner of the Israel prize, and Yehoshua Sobol, one of Israel’s most celebrated playwrights, and Prof. Gad Kinar, head of the theater department in Tel Aviv University. “I wouldn’t have signed my contract in the Cameri [theater] if I was told I’m about to perform in the occupied territories,” said TV and theater actor Dror Keren.

“It seems that the theaters will have to make major changes in their casts, if they want their work shown in Ariel,” the article on Ynet concludes. The writers are less of a problem, since the theaters can probably have the plays shown without their consent. Still, this is a major development, especially since under the new boycott bill, which stands a good chance of becoming a law in the one of the next Knesset session, any call to boycott Israel or the settlements could result in a fine of up to 30,000 Shekels (9,000 USD), without proof of damages.

So far, no theater has backed down from the intention to perform in the West Bank.

UPDATE: Culture minister Limor Livnat and PM Benjamin Netanyahu issued statements condemning the boycott letter. The pressure made four Cameri actors, including TV star Dror Keren, to announce they are withdrawing their signature from the letter, and that they will perform in Ariel after all.


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.