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Home arrow Blog arrow September 2009 arrow September 18, 2009

September 18, 2009
September 18, 2009: BDS: The Winds of Change Blew from the UK and the Blow Back 

Within hours of the courageous landmark decision by Britain’s trade unions that voted overwhelmingly to commit to build a mass BDS movement on Israel as the way to negotiate for justice for Palestinians; Peter Benjamin Mandelson, Britain's current First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, President of the Board of Trade and Lord President of the Council, announced that boycotts are "unhelpful and polarize the debate." [1]

According to Wikipedia, Baron Peter Benjamin Mandelson was one of the very first people in Britain to be labeled a "spin doctor" is referred to as the "Prince of Darkness" and "Tam Dalyell, while Father of the House of Commons, claimed Mandelson formed part of Blair's 'Jewish cabal' in May 2003. In response Mandelson stated, "Apart from the fact that I am not actually Jewish, I wear my father's parentage with pride." [2]

It has been written that pride always goes before a fall.

I am not 'legally' Jewish either but my grandfather was a Polish Jew who died before I could learn how many of my relatives were gassed and fried because good people did nothing for too very long.

I also am in solidarity with the boycott, divestment and sanction movement of Israel on moral grounds.

During one of my seven trips to Israel and Occupied Palestine, Mohammad Alatar, film producer of “The Iron Wall” informed me:

"I am a Muslim Palestinian American and when my son asked me who my hero was I took three days to think about it. I told him my hero is Jesus, because he took a stand and he died for it.

"What really needs to be done is for the churches to be like Jesus; to challenge the Israeli occupation and address the apartheid practices as moral issues. Even if every church divested and boycotted Israel it would not harm Israel.

"After the USA and Russia, Israel is the third largest arms exporter in the world. It is a moral issue that the churches must address."

What a wonderful world it could be, if all politicians and religious leaders had the same moral backbone demonstrated on September 17, 2009, at the 2009 Trades Union Congress/TUC Annual Congress in Liverpool.

Unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK were addressed by Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who stated:

"This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights. We will be working with the TUC to develop a mass campaign to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank."

The motion also called for the TUC General Council to "put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. Unions are also encouraged to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel’s illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank and condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks." [3]

The courageous Fire Brigades Union also called on the General Council to carry out a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut. The FBU also seeks to:

Pressure their Government to encourage campaigns of disinvestment from companies who make money by continuing the occupation of Palestine

To Condemn the Israeli military aggression and end the blockade on Gaza

End all arms trading with Israel

Impose a ban on the importing of goods produced in the illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories

And to Support moves to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement.

Ynet quoted Baron Mandelson that "The UK does not support boycotts against Israel as they are unhelpful and polarize the debate."

This American dissident states that polarization is exactly what is needed!

Webster's defines polarity as "any tendencies to turn, grow, think, feel, etc. in a certain way or direction"

"Well I'm looking the world over, looking far off into the East…I feel a change coming on…Some people they tell me I got the blood of the land in my voice…I feel a change coming on." -
Bob Dylan, Together Through Life, 2009

Most encouraging is that TUC's annual conference also called for an end to arms trading with Israel.

Israel is the largest recipient of USA military aid, and it uses it to enforce its ILLEGAL occupation and commit human rights abuses against the indigenous people of the so called holy land-which is in pieces: bantustans!

Back in 2002, White House Spokesperson Ari Fleischer described Israel’s missile strikes in Gaza City using U.S.A F-16 fighter jets as “a deliberate attack against a building in which civilians were known to be located” and that it was done with the knowledge “that innocents would be lost.”

The U.S. Arms Export Control Act (U.S. Public Law 90-829) prohibits the use of U.S. weapons against civilian targets and although Palestinians have attacked Israeli civilians with their dirty bombs, those weapons were not provided by the USA!

On September 15, 2009, the UN Fact Finding Mission led by Justice Richard Goldstone released its report on Israel's Dec/Jan. assault on Gaza and "concluded there is evidence indicating serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law were committed by Israel during the Gaza conflict, and that Israel committed actions amounting to war crimes, and possibly crimes against humanity." [4]

The 574- page report analyzed, "36 specific incidents in Gaza, as well as a number of others in the West Bank and Israel…conducted 188 individual interviews, reviewed more 10,000 pages of documentation, and viewed some 1,200 photographs, including satellite imagery, as well as 30 videos. The mission heard 38 testimonies during two separate public hearings held in Gaza and Geneva, which were webcast in their entirety. The decision to hear participants from Israel and the West Bank in Geneva rather than in situ was taken after Israel denied the Mission access to both locations. Israel also failed to respond to a comprehensive list of questions posed to it by the Mission. Palestinian authorities in both Gaza and the West Bank cooperated with the Mission.

"The Mission found that, in the lead up to the Israeli military assault on Gaza, Israel imposed a blockade amounting to collective punishment and carried out a systematic policy of progressive isolation and deprivation of the Gaza Strip. During the Israeli military operation, code-named "Operation Cast Lead," houses, factories, wells, schools, hospitals, police stations and other public buildings were destroyed. Families are still living amid the rubble of their former homes long after the attacks ended, as reconstruction has been impossible due to the continuing blockade. More than 1,400 people were killed during the military operation." [Ibid]

The report concluded "that the Israeli military operation was directed at the people of Gaza as a whole, in furtherance of an overall and continuing policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population, and in a deliberate policy of disproportionate force aimed at the civilian population. The destruction of food supply installations, water sanitation systems, concrete factories and residential houses was the result of a deliberate and systematic policy which has made the daily process of living, and dignified living, more difficult for the civilian population [and] that Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country [and] underlines that the loss of life and destruction caused by Israeli forces during the military operation was a result of disrespect for the fundamental principle of "distinction" in international humanitarian law that requires military forces to distinguish between military targets and civilians and civilian objects at all times." [Ibid]

On September 17, 2009, Middle East Analyst Omar Barghouti wrote: "Given that TUC represents over 6.5 million British workers…The size and political significance of the British TUC's endorsement of BDS motions will surely add qualitatively to the impressive rise of the BDS movement after the Israeli massacre in Gaza, further confirming that our South Africa moment has arrived…It is worth remembering that in the struggle against South African apartheid the British trade union movement was among the very few in the vanguard of boycotts and divestment that eventually spread to the rest of the world, helping the democracy and freedom movement in South Africa bring down the racist regime." [5]

Richard Goldstone, the former chief prosecutor for war-crime tribunals on Rwanda who headed the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, wrote for the New York Times:
"Pursuing justice in this case is essential because no state or armed group should be above the law. Western governments in particular face a challenge because they have pushed for accountability in places like Darfur, but now must do the same with Israel, an ally and a democratic state. 

"Failing to pursue justice for serious violations during the fighting will have a deeply corrosive effect on international justice, and reveal an unacceptable hypocrisy. As a service to the hundreds of civilians who needlessly died and for the equal application of international justice, the perpetrators of serious violations must be held to account."  [6]

Britain’s trade unions have joined those of South Africa and Ireland in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that seeks justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

In paraphrase of Bob Dylan, this American dissident is calling on US senators and congressmen to wake up and heed that same call! Don't stand around like furniture for there's a battle outside and it is ragin! It's shaking your windows and rattling your walls: The times they have a-changed!







A turning point for the US solidarity movement
Nada Elia, The Electronic Intifada, 16 September 2009

This weekend at the eighth annual US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation national organizers' conference held in Chicago, delegates from the approximately 300 member groups that make up the US Campaign voted in favor of an academic and cultural boycott of Israel. The vote came on the heels of a presentation by Omar Barghouti and myself on behalf of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the US Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

The proposal that "the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation should endorse the principle of cultural and academic boycotts" passed by a landslide with one abstention and not a single objection. The quasi-unanimous vote, and the deep collective breath of relief that followed, will go down in history as the moment US-based Palestine solidarity activists overcame tactical differences that had long hindered us, to finally come together to confront Israeli apartheid.

The history of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, independence and human rights is sadly one of missed opportunities. Historically, Palestinian aspirations have not been achieved due to a corrupt and feckless leadership and petty internal divisions.

But we have also learned that change will not come from above. It will and must come from the grassroots, the people, those who have nothing to lose but their prison walls, the daily humiliation of life as a refugee, a second- or third-class citizen, or a non-citizen. Representing the broadest coalition of Palestinian society, from various parts of historic Palestine as well as the global Diaspora, these Palestinians are the ones who jointly issued the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), modeled off of the same call that helped bring apartheid in South Africa to an end, giving direction to a global movement in support of this boycott call.

Mirroring the limits of the Palestinian leadership, the history of solidarity activism is blemished by opportunities missed because of fragmentation and discord, where there should have been a shared vision for the good of the Palestinian people. However, as the participants of this weekend's conference voted in favor of heeding the Palestinian call to join the global BDS movement, they finally set this country on the path to justice. Citizens, organizations and even government officials the world over, from Bangladesh to South Africa to Norway, have already responded to this Palestinian- led movement.

After resistance to comprehensive BDS measures at previous meetings these organizers with the US Campaign have now responded with an overwhelming "yes," indicating that the tide has shifted in the US. This time around, these activists are not returning to their communities to tell them that the moment to heed the Palestinian boycott call is not yet right. The complicity of silence, of unwarranted self-censorship, has finally ended, and the US can join the global chorus clamoring: "no more!"

Indeed, it is past time for those in the US concerned with justice for Palestine to learn from history and acknowledge and challenge Israeli apartheid. Apartheid in South Africa was abolished through a successful global BDS campaign, and a successful BDS campaign can put an end to Israeli apartheid. Anyone who fears that ending apartheid in Israel would "destroy" that country probably believes, or logically should believe, that South Africa was "destroyed" in 1994.

This struggle will neither be quick nor easy. While the South African call for BDS was issued from a small basement apartment in London by a handful of Black South African students in 1959, apartheid wasn't officially abolished until 1994. As the title of Nelson Mandela's autobiography declared: a long walk to freedom. But history is on our side, as more and more activists are now responding to the Palestinian call.

The precedent is there, we are not reinventing the wheel, we are borrowing a model that led South Africa to freedom. Advisors from the South African BDS movement are working with the activists for Palestinian rights, because they see the similarities in the two struggles. Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Bill Fletcher Jr., to name but two prominent members of the South African BDS campaign, are also working with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI).

USACBI's wheels are in motion and there's no stopping us. We are on board the freedom train and we have endorsed the Palestinian call for BDS in all its forms. Last weekend, we bridged the gap in the US solidarity movement and I'm hopeful that the call will be propelled forward by the immense grassroots support the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has garnered over the years in this country.

Our coming together at the conference is galvanizing, as we can now respond in unison to the Palestinian call to end not just the occupation, but Israeli apartheid. It is not one moment too soon. We have nothing to lose but apartheid!

Nada Elia is an organizer with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (http://www.usacbi. org), and a member of the INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence taskforce on militarism and occupation (www.incite-national .org). She and Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel led two discussion sessions on the academic and cultural boycott at the 2009 organizers' conference of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.

Brazilian Parliament Calls for the Freeze of the Israel - Mercosur Free Trade Agreement
Palestine Monitor
12 September 2009

This decision is an enormous blow for Israel’s economy and foreign relations.

The Brazilian Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defense has recommended that the parliament should not ratify the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Mercosur and the State of Israel until “Israel accepts the creation of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders”. This decision is an explicit act of pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and a rejection of years of incessant Israeli lobbying, pressuring for a vote to ratify the agreement.

This decision is an enormous blow for Israel’s economy and foreign relations. It poses a massive stumbling block for the enactment of the agreement, which since its signing in 2007, has been stalled due to a lack of ratification by Mercosur member countries. The Mercosur is one of the world’s most quickly expanding markets and the fifth largest economy in the world. Israeli exports to the Mercosur amounted nearly 600 million dollars in 2006.

Israel has invested heavily in pushing for the agreement, focusing particularly on Brazil, the Mercosur’s largest economy and most powerful political player. Brazil alone, even without an FTA, is Israel’s third largest export destination. In 2005, Ehud Olmert, the trade minister at the time, visited Brazil to get President Lula’s support for the agreement. A little over a month ago, Israeli minister of foreign affairs, Avigdor Liberman traveled to Brazil to urge the ratification of the agreement.

Since the beginning of the negotiations of the FTA, Mercosur civil society summits have rejected the trade deal. On behalf of the Palestinian National BDS Committee (BNC), the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign has worked together with Brazilian intellectuals, social movements, parties and politicians to block the ratification of the FTA. The Front for the Defense of the Palestinian people and the Parliamentary Front against the ratification of the FTA were formed to back the Palestinian call against the FTA. In January a letter by the BNC was handed over to President Lula.

As a result, the Commission agreed to listen to a public hearing before the voting process yesterday.

Oscar Daniel Jadue, vice-president of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, intervened and called for the rejection of the bill. He argued that the ratification of the agreement is a violation of international law, to the benefit of a country that does not respect the human rights of Palestinians.

"I invite reflection on what would reward the government of Israel and opens of the Latin American market to a country that annihilates the Palestinian people", said Jadue.

Arlene Clemesha, professor of Arab History at the University of Săo Paulo (USP) and part of the United Nations Coordinating Network on Palestine, argued against the tokenism of ratifying the agreement with the exclusion of settlement products, warning that it is impossible to separate the two as Israel has a history of marketing settlement products as Israeli ones. Instead, she said, the path to peace requires international forces to compel Israel to end the military occupation of Palestinian territory.

The members of the parliamentary commission agreed with Clemesha and Jadue and recommended the freezing of the agreement as a means of political pressure.

"It will be a small contribution, but be specific. The agreement can only be valid if approved by the Mercosur countries. As Uruguay has already approved, we will work with Argentina and Paraguay. The Lula government has been courageous and it has to say publicly that the agreement is frozen until the resumption of peace negotiations", said Mr Nilson Mourăo (PT-AC).

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign comments:

“After years of campaigning, we are extremely happy with this decision. It is a major victory that has been made possible only by large and determined civil society support in Brazil.

This decision has shown that Latin America’s democratic governments are allies for justice and are ready to take up a principled stand on Palestine, even when under Israeli pressure. Lieberman’s delegation tried to lure Brazil with the illusion they could become ‘mediators’ in the region if they would proof ‘impartial’ and backed Israeli interests with the FTA. However, Brazilian politicians did not fall into the trap.

We now ask the PLO and the Palestinian National Authority to ensure that the ‘No’ to the FTA will be a priority for their regional foreign policies.”

The struggle against the FTA is not over yet; the project will still be analyzed by the commissions on Economic Development and Trade and Industry, and the parliament. It will then head to the senate. However, yesterday’s decision is unlikely to be reversed and has turned the ratification process of the FTA by Brazil and other Mercosur into an effective instrument of pressure on Israel.

*Current members of the BNC are: Palestinian Non-Governmental Organizations Network (PNGO), Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI), Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), General Union of Palestinian Workers, Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities’ Professors and Employees, General Union of Palestinian Women (GUPW), Charitable Organizations Union, Independent Federation of Unions – Palestine (IFU), Palestinian Farmers Union (PFU), National Committee for the Commemoration of the Nakba, Civil Coalition for Defending the Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem, Coalition for Jerusalem, Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations, Palestinian Economic Monitor, Union of Youth Activity Centers - Palestinian Refugee Camps (UYAC)

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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

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The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

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