Thursday, December 28, 2017

Why is the West praising Malala, but ignoring Ahed?
Shenila Khoja-Moolji by Shenila Khoja-Moolji

Ahed Tamimi, a 16-year-old Palestinian girl, was recently arrested in a night-time raid on her home. The Israeli authorities accuse her of "assaulting" an Israeli soldier and an officer. A day earlier she had confronted Israeli soldiers who had entered her family's backyard. The incident happened shortly after a soldier shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head with a rubber bullet, and fired tear-gas canisters directly at their home, breaking windows.

Her mother and cousin were arrested later as well. All three remain in detention.

There has been a curious lack of support for Ahed from Western feminist groups, human rights advocates and state officials who otherwise present themselves as the purveyors of human rights and champions of girls' empowerment.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices.

Their campaigns on empowering girls in the global South are innumerable: Girl Up, Girl Rising, G(irls)20 Summit, Because I am a Girl, Let Girls Learn, Girl Declaration.

When 15-year-old Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by a member of Tehrik-e-Taliban, the reaction was starkly different. Gordon Brown, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, issued a petition entitled "I am Malala." The UNESCO launched "Stand Up For Malala."

Malala was invited to meet then President Barack Obama, as well as the then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and addressed the UN General Assembly. She received numerous accolades from being named one of the 100 Most Influential People by Time magazine and Woman of the Year by Glamour magazine to being nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014 when she won.

State representatives such as Hillary Clinton and Julia Gillard as well as prominent journalists such as Nicholas Kristof spoke up in support of her. There is even a Malala Day!

But we see no #IamAhed or #StandUpForAhed campaigns making headlines. None of the usual feminist and rights groups or political figures has issued statements supporting her or reprimanding the Israeli state. No one has declared an Ahed Day. In fact, the US in the past has even denied her a visa for a speaking tour.

Ahed, like Malala, has a substantial history of standing up against injustices. She has been protesting the theft of land and water by Israeli settlers. She has endured personal sacrifice, having lost an uncle and a cousin to the occupation. Her parents and brother have been arrested time and again. Her mother has been shot in the leg. Two years ago, another video featuring her went viral - this time she was trying to protect her little brother from being taken by a soldier.

Why isn't Ahed a beneficiary of the same international outcry as Malala? Why has the reaction to Ahed been so different?

There are multiple reasons for this deafening silence. First among them is the widespread acceptance of state-sanctioned violence as legitimate. Whereas hostile actions of non-state actors such as the Taliban or Boko Haram fighters are viewed as unlawful, similar aggression by the state is often deemed appropriate.

This not only includes overt forms of violence such as drone attacks, unlawful arrests, and police brutality, but also less obvious assaults such as the allocation of resources, including land and water. The state justifies these actions by presenting the victims of its injustices as a threat to the functioning of the state.

Once declared a threat, the individual is easily reduced to bare life - a life without political value. Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has described this as a time/place sanctioned by sovereign power where laws can be suspended; this individual can therefore now be made a target of sovereign violence. Terrorists often fall within this category. Thus, the execution of suspected terrorists through drone attacks without due judicial process ensues without much public uproar.

11-year-old Ahed cries during the funeral of her relative Rushdi Tamimi, who was shot by Israeli forces during a protest in November 2012 [Reuters/Mohamad Torokman]
The Israeli police have deployed a similar strategy here. They have argued for extendingAhed's detention because she "poses a danger" to soldiers (state representatives) and could obstruct the functioning of the state (the investigation).

Casting unarmed Palestinians like Ahed - who was simply exercising her right to protect her family's wellbeing with all the might of her 16-year-old hand - in the same light as a terrorist is unfathomable. Such framings open the way for authorising excessive torture - Israel's education minister Naftali Bennett, for instance, wants Ahed and her family to "finish their lives in prison."

Ahed's suffering also exposes the West's selective humanitarianism, whereby only particular bodies and causes are deemed worthy of intervention.

Anthropologist Miriam Ticktin argues that while the language of morality to alleviate bodily suffering has become dominant in humanitarian agencies today, only particular kinds of suffering bodies are read as worthy of this care.This includes the exceptionally violated female body and the pathologically diseased body.

Ahed's father Bassem Tamimi stands inside a waiting cell ahead of the verdict in his trial at Israel's Ofer military court near the West Bank city of Ramallah on May 20, 2012 [AP/Diaa Hadid]
Such a notion of suffering normalises labouring and exploited bodies: "these are not the exception, but the rule, and hence are disqualified."

Issues of unemployment, hunger, threat of violence, police brutality, and denigration of cultures are thus often not considered deserving of humanitarian intervention. Such forms of suffering are seen as necessary and even inevitable. Ahed, therefore, does not fit the ideal victim-subject for transnational advocacy.

Relatedly, girls like Ahed who critique settler colonialism and articulate visions of communal care are not the empowered femininity that the West wants to valourise. She seeks justice against oppression, rather than empowerment that benefits only herself.

Her feminism is political, rather than one centred on commodities and sex. Her girl power threatens to reveal the ugly face of settler-colonialism, and hence is marked as "dangerous". Her courage and fearlessness vividly render all that is wrong with this occupation.

Ahed's plight should prompt us to interrogate our selective humanitarianism. Individuals who are victims of state violence, whose activism unveils the viciousness of power, or whose rights advocacy centres communal care, deserve to be included in our vision of justice.

Even if we don't launch campaigns for Ahed, it is impossible for us to escape her call to witness the mass debilitation, displacement and dispossession of her people. As Nelson Mandela said, "We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians."

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Friday, December 22, 2017


from The Intercept
Naomi Klein, Opal Tometi

December 21 2017, 11:18 a.m.

SO, WHICH SIDE are you on? #TeamWest or #TeamCoates?

Choose fast, preferably within seconds, and don’t come to this gunfight with a knife. No, like some nerdy Rambo, we want you greased up and loaded with ammo: your most painful character smears, your most “gotcha” evidence of past political infractions, a blitzkrieg of hyperlinks and, of course, an aircraft carrier of reaction GIFs.

That’s pretty much how the online debate has played out ever since Cornel West published his piece in The Guardian challenging Ta-Nehisi Coates, an article you either regard as an outrageous injustice or an earth-shattering truth bomb, depending on which team you have chosen.

We see it differently. We see this debate as a political opportunity, one that has far less to do with either of these brilliant men and everything to do with how, at a time of unfathomably high stakes, we are going to build a multiracial human rights movement capable of beating back surging white supremacy and rapidly concentrating corporate power. As women, both Black and white, both American and Canadian, we see the question like this: What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders? A warming world wracked by expanding and unending wars that our governments wage, finance, and arm — a world scarred by unbearable poverty and forced migration?

Though West directed his criticisms at Coates, these are by no means questions for Coates alone. They are urgent challenges for all of us who see ourselves as part of social movements and intellectual traditions that yearn for a world where justice and dignity abound.

What are the duties of radicals and progressives inside relatively wealthy countries to the world beyond our national borders?
So before this goes any further, let’s yank this fight away from the poisonous terrain on which it is currently unfolding — that of two famous men with healthy egos duking it out while the Twitterverse divides into warring camps — and instead dig into the substance.

Let’s also take it as a given that West’s piece was flawed and painted Coates with too broad a brush. It accuses him of silence on some subjects where he has, in fact, been vocal (like the financial sector’s role in entrenching Black poverty). And as the New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb pointed out, the man who has done more to revive the debate about Black reparations than any writer of his generation cannot blithely be written off as a neoliberal tool.

But that does not change the fact that West raises crucial points when he critiques Coates for having too little to say about the impact of U.S. military and economic policies abroad, for failing to place U.S. experiences in a broader context of U.S. imperial power, and for casting Barack Obama as the continuation of the legacy of Malcolm X (whom West describes as “the greatest prophetic voice against the American Empire,” while Obama is “the first Black head of the American Empire”).

Where we differ is that we don’t think these criticisms apply just (or even especially) to Coates. Nor do we think this debate should be viewed as an exclusively Black discussion, as some have argued (which is why we decided to write this together). Rather, these questions about our relationship to empire and transnational capital are ones that every progressive movement and intellectual across North America should urgently confront, and we are convinced that if we do, we will be stronger for it.

To be clear, we are not saying that every writer has a duty to write about everything. No one does. Nor do we think that the subject matter for which Coates is known — Black life in the United States — is somehow insufficient. It isn’t. And yet hard questions remain that cannot be dismissed simply become some dislike the messenger or the form of the message.

Such as: Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons? Is it possible to have a credible critique of Wall Street’s impact on Black and other vulnerable communities in the U.S. without reckoning with the predatory and neocolonial impacts of the global financial system (including Washington-based institutions like the International Monetary Fund) on the debt-laden economies of African countries?

Is it even possible to be a voice for transformational change without a clear position on the brutal wars and occupations waged with U.S. weapons?
Even when our work is primarily focused nationally or hyperlocally, as it is for most organizers and writers, there is still a pressing need for an internationalist conception of power to inform our analysis. This is not a contradiction. In fact, it used to be foundational to all major radical and progressive movements, from the socialist internationals to Pan-Africanism and the global campaign to end apartheid in South Africa, from the “alter-globalization” movement to the international women’s movement. All understood that resistance needed to be global in order to win. Marcus Garvey, for instance, drew ideas and inspiration for Black liberation from the Irish struggle for independence. And Malcolm X famously observed that when racial minorities in the U.S. saw their struggle in a global context, they had the empowering realization that they were, in fact, part of a broad and powerful majority.

We are not saying that this internationalist tradition is entirely absent in contemporary North American movements — there have been Black activist delegations to Colombia, Brazil, and Palestine in recent years. The climate justice movement is linked to frontline fights against fossil fuel extraction in every corner of the globe. And the immigrant rights movement is internationalist by definition. So are parts of the movement confronting sexual violence. We could go on.

But it is also true that the atmosphere of intense political crisis in the United States is breeding a near myopic insularity among progressives and even some self-described radicals, one that is not just morally dangerous but strategically shortsighted. By defining our work exclusively as what goes on inside our borders, and losing touch with the rich anti-imperialist tradition, we risk depriving our movements of the revolutionary power that flows from cross-border exchanges of both wisdom and tactics.

For instance, if U.S. President Donald Trump is seen in isolation from the rise of far-right forces around the world, we lose opportunities to learn from people in Brazil, Argentina, the Philippines, South Africa, India, Turkey, and Togo about how they are resisting their various strongmen. Because if we have learned anything over the past years of left-wing setbacks and disappointments, from Syriza in Greece to Maduro in Venezuela to the dashed dreams of the Arab Spring, it should be that the forces shaping national destinies are global. International lenders, Western military support for despots, or even a sudden drop in oil prices can all thwart or derail a liberation project that has defined itself too narrowly.

Which is why it’s high time to change the subject from West vs. Coates, and begin the much more salient debate about what we all can do to rediscover the power of a genuinely internationalist, anti-imperialist worldview. A power that our movement ancestors well understood.

Because there is simply no way to fight for a world in which Black lives truly matter without reckoning with the global forces that allow Black lives to disappear under waves in the Mediterranean, or to be mutilated and enslaved in countries like Libya, or to be snuffed out by debt imposed by Washington-based financial institutions.

The same is true of climate change, which is hitting people in the global south first and worst. It has been reported that of the top 10 nations most impacted by climate change, six are on the continent of Africa. Similarly, there is no way to fight for the full funding of public schools and free universal health care inside the United States without confronting the vastly expanding share of the budget that goes to feeding the war machine.

The immigrant rights movement is the most internationalist of our movements, but we still need to do more to connect the dots between rights and justice for migrants within countries like the United States and Canada, and the drivers of migration in places like Mexico and Ghana, whether it is pro-corporate trade and economic policies that destabilize domestic industries, or U.S.-backed wars, or drought deepened by climate change.

Our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility.
The unending misery in Haiti may be the most vivid illustration of how today’s crises are all interrelated. On the island, serial natural disasters, some linked to climate change, are being layered on top of illegitimate foreign debts and coupled with gross negligence by the international aid industry, as well as acute U.S.-lead efforts to destabilize and under-develop the country. These compounding forces have led tens of thousands of Haitians to migrate to the United States in recent years, where they come face-to-face with Trump’s anti-Black, anti-immigrant agenda. Many are now fleeing to Canada, where hundreds if not thousands could face deportation. We can’t pry these various cross-border crises apart, nor should we.

IN SHORT, THERE is no radicalism — Black or otherwise — that ends at the national boundaries of our countries, especially the wealthiest and most heavily armed nation on earth. From the worldwide reach of the financial sector to the rapidly expanding battlefield of U.S. Special Operations to the fact that carbon pollution respects no borders, the forces we are all up against are global. So, too, are the crises we face, from the rise of white supremacy, ethno-chauvinism, and authoritarian strongmen to the fact that more people are being forced from their homes than at any point since World War II. If our movements are to succeed, we will need both analysis and strategies that reflect these truths about our world.

Some argue for staying in our lane, and undoubtedly there is a place for deep expertise. The political reality, however, is that the U.S. government doesn’t stay in its lane and never has — it spends public dollars using its military and economic might to turn the world into a battlefield, and it does so in the name of all of U.S. citizens.

As a result, our movements simply cannot afford to stick to our various comfort zones or offload internationalism as someone else’s responsibility. To do so would be grossly negligent of our geopolitical power, our own agency, as well as our very real connections to people and places throughout the world. So when we build cross-sector alliances and cross-issue solidarity, those relationships cannot be confined to our own nations or even our own hemisphere — not in a world as interconnected as ours. We have to strive for them to be as global as the forces we are up against.

We know this can seem overwhelming at a time when so many domestic crises are coming to a head and so many of us are being pushed beyond the breaking point. But it is worth remembering that our movement ancestors formed international alliances and placed their struggles within a global narrative not out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but because they understood that it made them stronger and more likely to win at home — and that strength terrified their enemies.

Besides, the benefit of building a broad-based, multiracial social movement — which should surely be the end goal of all serious organizers and radical intellectuals — is that movements can have a division of labor, with different specialists focusing on different areas, united by broad agreement about overall vision and goals. That’s what a real movement looks like.

The good news is that grassroots internationalism has never been easier. From cellphones to social media, we have opportunities to speak with one another across borders that our predecessors couldn’t have dreamed of. Similarly, tools that allow migrant families to stay connected with loved ones in different countries can also become conduits for social movements to hear news that the corporate media ignores. We are able, for instance, to learn about the pro-democracy movements growing in strength across the continent of Africa, as well as efforts to stop extrajudicial killings in countries like Brazil. Many would not have known that Black African migrants are being enslaved in Libya if it had not been for these same tools. And had they not known they wouldn’t have been able to engage in acts of necessary solidarity.

So let’s leave narrow, nostalgic nationalism to Donald Trump and his delusional #MAGA supporters. The forces waging war on bodies and the planet are irreversibly global, and we are vastly stronger when we build global movements capable of confronting them at every turn.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Yes, America, There Is a Class War, and You Just Lost It

from truthdig


The Republican Party did not just overhaul the tax code and they did not cut “your” taxes. They engineered a coup against the middle and working classes and they threw enormous amounts of public money to private billionaires and multi-millionaires.

Americans do not understand this sort of con game because mostly they don’t understand social class. They often don’t even believe in the latter. But really, not all households in the US are equal. Some have more income than others. Some have more power than others. And as with the Trumps, that wealth and power can be passed on to the next generation.

We’re not all middle class. That would make a mockery of the word “middle,” which implies that there are lower and upper classes. Some of us are working class, some are middle class, some are upper middle class, and some are rich. Policies that help the rich by cutting their taxes do not help the working and middle classes. They actively harm the latter by making less money available for government services and by devaluing the dollar.

The Republican Party mainly represents the rich. It also reaches out to rural people and claims to help them, but it is all lies. It mainly represents the rich.

Alabama routinely votes Republican. Alabama is one of the poorest states in the country. The Republicans aren’t actually doing anything for Alabama, except maybe making them feel good about themselves by buttering them up, or indulging them in their weird idea that fundamentalist Christianity should dictate social policy to 320 million Americans, who do not share those values.

The rich in the United States use American highways, and American wifi, and depend on the FBI to keep them from getting kidnapped. But they don’t want to pay for those things. They want you to pay for them even though they use them much more. I get angry when I see those trucks on the highway with the sign that they payed $9277 in tolls and fees last year to be on the highway. Trucks are the ones that tear up the highways and force us to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to rebuild. Their fees and tolls don’t come close to paying for the damage they do. So the costs are offloaded.

Onto us?

Onto us.

There are about 126 million households in the United States. One percent of them would be 1.26 million households. That is about the size of the city of Los Angeles. There are one hundred groups of 1.26 million households in the US, i.e. 100 Los Angeleses worth of households. Those one hundred groups are not equal in wealth. The bottom 100th of American households doesn’t have a pot to pee in.

The Republican Party slavishly serves the top 1.26 million households. That’s who they report to. That’s who sent them to Congress, through their campaign donations. They don’t care about you and they did not just now do you any favors.

The wealthiest one percent owns about 38 percent of the privately held wealth in the United States. In the 1950s, the top 1% only owned about 25 percent of the privately held wealth. A Republican was in the White House, Dwight Eisenhower. He was not a left wing guy. But he worried about corporations combining with government officials to become way more powerful. The last time wealth inequality was this high was just before the Great Depression. Think about that.

h/t Center for Budget & Policy Priorities

Americans’ wealth amounts to about $88 trillion. If you divided up all the privately held wealth equally, every household in the US would be worth $698,000. That is, they’d all have their own home plus substantial investments.

But needless to say, the wealth isn’t divided up equally. The top ten percent of households, 12.6 million households own 76% of the privately held wealth. That is, 10 of our notional 100 Los Angeleses own three-fourths of the wealth.

So just to be clear, of our 100 Los Angeleses worth of households, 90 of them own only 24 percent of the wealth.

So how did the top one percent go from having 25% of the privately held wealth to having 38%?

In some large part, it was tax policy. In the Eisenhower administration the top marginal tax rate was 91%, and the highest bracket of earners paid 90% in income tax. Progressive income tax was intended to keep the society from getting too out of kilter and to prevent wealth from becoming concentrated in a few hands.

h/t Fact and Myth.

There is no evidence, zero, that these tax policies hurt economic growth or hampered job creation.

Eisenhower’s tax policy was repealed over time, especially by Ronald Reagan. Reagan pulled the familiar scam of promising that tax cuts would pay for themselves by encouraging entrepreneurs to invest and to hire.

Instead, the government deficit ballooned (that’s what happens if you cut taxes but leave spending programs in place) .

And not only were all boats not lifted by Reagan’s rising tide, most of them were sunk. The average wage of an average worker is not higher now than it was in 1970.

The economy has grown enormously since 1970. So if workers did not get a share in the newly created wealth, who has it?

The 1%?

The 1%.

Think about tax policy as a snowblower aimed a a single point. Snow builds up at the point where the snowblower is facing. If you keep aiming at that point as you clean the snow, you’ll get an enormous hill of snow. There will be no snow to speak of on the driveway. There will just be an artificial mounta

So that is what the Republican Congress just did. They revved up the snowblower and they pointed it at a small mountain of already-accumulated snow, so that they will make the mountain larger.

This tax bill won’t create jobs, won’t spur investment, and won’t bring companies back home. It will make the 1.26 million households even more fabulously wealthy than they already are, and ensure that the rest of us get poorer.

When you cut taxes, you are cutting government services. There will be less money for the things the government does– education, funding science, dealing with national health crises, road building, dealing with interstate crime, etc.

And the super-wealthy who bought the politicians and made them pass this law? They just got ‘way richer and have every reason to be jubilant.

Friday, December 15, 2017

New York students ask court to end ban on Palestine club

from the electric intifada
Nora Barrows-Friedman Activism and BDS Beat 13 December 2017

Students are fighting the Fordham University administration in court and in the streets over its decision to ban Students for Justice in Palestine. (Fordham SJP Facebook)
Students at Fordham University in New York have taken a new step in a legal battle to lift a ban on a Palestine solidarity group.

In a lawsuit filed with the New York state supreme court, activists at the Jesuit college are demanding that it overturn a unilateral decision by the dean of students, Keith Eldredge, to ban Students for Justice in Palestine in December 2016.

His decision, which students and lawyers say was based on the students’ political views, vetoed the student government’s approval of an SJP chapter a month earlier.

During the year-long application process, students seeking to found the club were questioned repeatedly about their personal political opinions, affiliations with outside human rights and Jewish organizations and their views on the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

Students sued the university in April of this year, alleging that the private university violates its own free expression policies and is engaged in viewpoint discrimination.

In June, the university tried to block the students’ lawsuit, prompting students to file a motion weeks later in opposition.

The new order, which was filed in early November, seeks to force the university to recognize SJP as an official club. It also asks the court to allow the students’ legal team to gather testimonies from Eldredge and other administrators, and to have administrators disclose documents, including emails and notes, related to their decision to deny SJP its club status.

Unless the court overturns the ban, students will graduate “before their right to advocate for Palestinian human rights on campus can be vindicated,” states Palestine Legal, a firm which is representing the students along with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Prevented from making flyers
While the SJP chapter is banned, students cannot organize speaking events, reserve meeting spaces, distribute or post materials or solicit potential members through group fairs, the legal group adds.

“We’ve been fighting so hard to become a club,” student Julie Norris told The Electronic Intifada. “All we’re trying to do is be able to invite a speaker to campus, or make a flyer.”

The court filing reasserts that the Fordham administration’s veto of the student government’s approval of SJP was “arbitrary and capricious,” say the attorneys.

The university has attempted to justify its ban on the club by claiming that SJP’s existence could lead to “disruptive” conduct.

Fordham “disregarded evidence” that countered these claims, the attorneys say, “instead basing its decision on materials from individuals hostile to SJP’s views.”

“Last resort”
“Filing a lawsuit is definitely a last resort,” attorney Radhika Sainath of Palestine Legal told The Electronic Intifada.

Students would much rather “go forward and be organizers and activists and put on their educational programming. No one wants to be in court,” she said. “But Fordham gave these students no choice.”

Sainath explained that the legal filings send a strong message to the Fordham authorities to show that they cannot violate their own rules just because they don’t like the message of students’ speech, and to other universities considering similar measures against SJP chapters.

“Students supporting Palestinians’ rights are going to take their rights seriously and they’re going to enforce them in court if their rights are violated,” Sainath said.

Norris said that despite the legal hurdles, the students remain optimistic. “I think about the way that Palestinians have had to have that optimistic spirit for so long – where they know that Palestine will be free eventually and they’re not giving that up for anything,” she said.

“No matter how many classes of students it takes, we’re going to eventually win. If the majority of us have graduated or not, we will make it.”

A hearing on the court order is set for early January.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

ACLU files suit against Arizona anti-BDS law

from the electric intifada
Nora Barrows-Friedman Activism and BDS Beat 12 December 2017

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a second federal suit challenging state law which seeks to repress the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) measures against Israel.

A 2016 law in Arizona creates a blacklist of companies, organizations and other entities which boycott Israel and bans the state from contracting with them.

The lawsuit, which asserts that the Arizona anti-boycott law violates the First Amendment, was filed last week on behalf of an attorney who contracts with the government to provide legal advice to incarcerated persons in Coconino County Jail, according to the ACLU.

The attorney, Mikkel Jordhal, told the ACLU that he is an active participant in a consumer boycott of Israeli goods and wishes to “extend his boycott to his solely owned law firm” and provide legal services to organizations engaged in boycotts.

First Amendment violation
When Jordhal renewed his contract with the county in October last year, “it included an extra form that he had to sign to certify that the firm ‘is not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel,’” according to the ACLU.

He signed the form under protest and has excluded his boycott activities from his business. He was asked to sign the form once again in order to renew his contract this year.

“If he agrees, Jordahl will have to limit his boycott participation,” the ACLU stated. “If he refuses, he will put a great deal of his income at risk.”

Jordahl said that the state has no business telling private companies how to act when it comes to boycotts.

“Whatever your stance on the boycott issue, everyone has a right to express their opinions on it and act accordingly,” Jordahl stated.

The ACLU says Arizona’s anti-boycott law violates the First Amendment and is calling for the legislation to be stricken down.

“The First Amendment squarely protects the right to participate in political boycotts,” ACLU attorney Brian Hauss stated.

Arizona is one of more than 20 states to adopt measures condemning or attempting to restrict the BDS movement.

The US Congress is meanwhile considering the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which opposes a United Nations database of companies involved in Israel’s settlement colony enterprise.

The bill would allow the government to impose sanctions on companies complying with calls from the UN Human Rights Council to boycott Israeli settlement goods.

The Israel Anti-Boycott Act currently has 268 cosponsors in the House and 51 in the Senate.

Kansas lawsuit
In October, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Kansas on behalf of Esther Koontz, a public high school math teacher who boycotts Israeli goods.

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA, which passed a resolution in July in support of divestment from companies that profit from Israeli violations of Palestinian rights.

When seeking to renew a state teaching contract, Koontz refused to sign a form certifying that she does not participate in a boycott of Israel, as required by state law passed earlier this year.

Attorneys for the state of Kansas failed to provide arguments defending the constitutionality of the law during a federal court hearing earlier this month.

The judge remarked that “I didn’t see, in all candor, that [the Kansas law] is constitutional.”

A ruling has not yet been made in the Kansas suit to block the anti-BDS legislation.

Legal advocates say that the right to boycott remains a protected form of political expression, despite state and federal attempts at silencing Palestine rights activism.

“Anti-BDS laws don’t have a bright future,” said Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal, a US firm supporting activists who advocate for Palestinian rights.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The world’s anger toward Trump gives Palestinians a clear path for action

from mondoweiss
Haidar Eid on December 9, 2017

US president Donald Trump has taken a decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Forget about international law, UN and Security Council Resolutions, Arab and Muslim reaction! The President of the United of Sates of America does not give a damn. If the world doesn’t like it, it can bang its head against the “wailing wall!”

What is Jerusalem?

Jerusalem is Zarnouqa, the village from which my family together with thousands of villagers, were ethnically cleansed in 1948 in order to make room for Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe, a pure Jewish state, similar to Apartheid South Africa and other settler-colonies, one that does not grant you citizenship unless you are born to a Jewish mother.

Alas, my mother was not Jewish and, therefore, I am expected to live in a refugee camp, accept my low status, and never think of praying in one of the holiest sites of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.

President Trump, with all sincerity, believes that we are biologically born different and, therefore, some of us have no right to exist and survive on this piece of land unless we choose to be slaves and be grateful for that!

What should we do?

First, we must not seek the consent of Zionist Israelis. More than 23 years of negotiations, ala Oslo, have led us nowhere. Rather, these so-called negotiations have prolonged the occupation and given Israel every opportunity to make the establishment of even a semi-Bantustan an impossibility.

In fact, we want to work hard to isolate Israel through resistance and the demand that the international community implement the resolutions of international legitimacy, and force Israel to respond to these international decisions. Therefore, we must not take into account the demands of the colonizer because, unfortunately, they are even more than the white demands of South Africa during the Apartheid era. They ultimately will lead to the total elimination of the indigenous population in Palestine. This is a systematic ethnic cleansing process that has been taking place since 1948.

So, we must work on making this moment our South African turning point by intensifying #BDS. We must translate all this anger worldwide into a plan of action that takes Boycott, Divestment and sanctions as its leading torch towards peace with justice in Palestine.

It is time to get rid of the racist two state solution, renounce the Oslo Accords, and come up with a democratic alternative, one that does not deny the humanity of the inhabitants of historic Palestine regardless of their religion, race and gender!

President Trump is not expected to agree with those democratic ideals, but who cares? Weren’t those the ideals for which Nelson Mandela was prepared to die, as he made it absolutely clear at the Rivonia trial? We have 12 million Mandela’s in Palestine.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

From one coup to another: Honduras under siege

from Investigative action
04 Dec 2017 ALEX ANFRUNS

What happened to the democratic rights of the Hondurans who voted in the presidential elections on November 26th? The country is now in the hands of the armed forces. Human rights groups on the ground speak of murders, disappearances and many wounded as a result of the brutal repression at the hands of the police and the military.

The first results published by the Electoral Court on Monday, November 27, gave a clear lead to opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla. Then a second count radically inverted this tendency, putting incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández as the victor. With protests of fraud, the court decided to suspend the final publication of the results. Both candidates called on their supporters to defend victory on the streets.

Voting tendency change: the plot shows Nasralla’s lead as the votes were being tallied

But in the following days, Nasralla denounced that opposition protests were being infiltrated by outside elements, thus creating an image of a country in chaos. It was the perfect excuse for minister Jorge Ramón Hernández, who took no time in announcing the suspension of constitutional rights on Friday night, for a period of 10 days. However, as constitutional law experts have stressed, this decree could only be approved by the President in a cabinet meeting.

The curfew specifically forbids people from going out on the streets between 6PM and 6AM. Soon after the images of the first dead people started circulating on social media. But that is not enough for some people to lose sleep…

The long road towards democracy

As soon as the Electoral Court announced the vote swing favouring Juan Orlando Hernández, Nasralla announced that the elections were “being stolen” and that this time he would not allow it, referring to the 2013 elections in which he also ran, garnering 13% of the vote. Nasralla was then the candidate for the Anti-Corruption party that he had co-founded.

In September 2014, the director of the Honduran Institute for Social Security was seized by the police for a theft estimated at 335 million dollars. The government of Juan Orlando Hernández declared that fighting corruption was to become a priority and signed agreements with several international organisations dedicated to transparency.

Meanwhile, the period after the 2009 coup has been extremely hard on Hondurans, who have valiantly resisted against the repression and the impunity of state agents. In 2015, the Honduran people marched every week with torches to protest against the dictatorship they faced, but the state carried on assassinating social leaders. The Honduran people have been subjected by the system to extreme violence, but there seem to be no alternative sight, as an opposition movement had yet to be unified.

Nasralla next to Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted after a coup in 2009

In early July 2017, after months of waiting and only a day before the deadline, the Electoral Court registered the candidacy from the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship. This coalition, coordinated by the ousted former president Manuel Zelaya, rallies multiple political forces around a social and democratic program: transparency and rooting out corruption; an alternative economic system with restructured productive sectors; investment in public services such as education, healthcare and housing; environmental protection, etc.

In the elections inside the Anticorruption Party earlier this year, the party did not choose its co-founder Salvador Nasralla as general secretary. Then Nasralla became the candidate for the Opposition Alliance due to his popularity as a former sports journalist.

Are democracy and impunity compatible?

It is important to take into account the difficulty in mobilising voters in a country immersed in extreme, structural violence. Honduras is one of the most dangerous countries in the world. Its murder rate is only comparable to the situation of countries during wars, such as Iraq! In the run-up to the elections there has been an escalation of violence. In the weeks leading to the November 26 poll, activists from both Opposition Alliance and the governing party were attacked.

The murder of activist Berta Cáceres in March 2015 became engraved in the minds of an entire generation. Since then, banners, murals and posters have multiplied to commemorate the courage she showed in her struggle against all odds. The slogan “Berta lives, she has multiplied” has spread beyond the borders of this small country. Berta had become renowned around the world for her role in the struggles of her organisation, COPINH. Her case is far from unique: for years, environmental activists have been harassed and attacked with impunity.

In this context, the daughters of Cáceres, Laura and Bertha Zúñiga, quickly moved to the spotlight and denounced the responsibility of Juan Orlando Hernández’s government: “the oligarchic groups have great influence, they mobilize the army to repress people. We should point out that since the 2009 coup many military people have become shareholders in extractive industry projects (hydroelectric, mining, and others). But the corrupt mafias also allow for the organization of criminal groups that work in coordination with major corporations…”.

In early November, an independent report rattled a lot of cages. Finally the complicity of the state in Berta Cáceres’ assassination was confirmed, in line with the strong suspicions held by relatives and friends from the very beginning. The report’s authors are adamant:

“Among the chat exchanges between DESA staff members, the experts could detect that there was permanent contact between the company and state security forces, such as the Seguridad y Policía Preventiva. For example, only 14 hours after Berta’s murder, there were messages between DESA managers and staff members revealing that they had asked public officials for help in being shielded from any investigation”

Consequently Juan Orlando Hernández had every interest in hiding the incestuous links between the state and multinational corporations. It is no coincidence that during his term the security budget was increased and special military forces were created. The $17.3 million provided in security aid by the United States seem to pose no problem to our democracies.

But the plot thickens: the president of the Constitutional Court, David Matamoros, is a relative of Dennis Matamoros Batson, a legal counsel of a company that provides services for DESA, the company accused of playing a role in the assassination of Berta Cáceres.

One of the things at stake in the current Honduran elections is to get rid, once and for all, of this culture of political impunity.

Venezuela, an ever present scarecrow in elections all over the world

The media campaign for the Honduran elections was another opportunity to attack Venezuela. The Spanish CNN channel posed the crucial question of our time to Nasralla: “What is your position concerning Venezuela?”. And he responded “the Venezuelan problems should be solved by Venezuelans, just like Honduran problems should be solved by Hondurans” … and adding that should Venezuela sell oil at low prices Honduras would not complain…

To prove Venezuelan interference in the electoral process, secretary of the right-wing National Party Juan Diego Zelaya showed in the same program a photo of Manuel Zelaya, now coordinator of the Opposition Alliance, in a car next to Nicolás Maduro. But he did not mention the context of said photo, which is almost 10 years old! After the coup against Zelaya in 2009, Maduro was one of the few Latin American foreign ministers who committed personally to taking Zelaya to the Honduran border and risking his life to defend democracy in Honduras. But this is about taking advantage of the media propaganda of him being a dictator to demonise the Opposition Alliance…

The National Party tried to use Venezuela as a scarecrow

For the dominant ideology, raising the Venezuelan scarecrow is a tactic to draw attention away from the shortcomings of governments that embrace economic policies that hinge on the almighty “free market”. Cultivating amnesia and distorting the historical examples of social achievements that challenge powerful elites is a tried and tested propaganda technique, which in this case has the virtue of ignoring the needs of the Honduran population! The most surreal moment happened when the government of Juan Orlando Hernández expelled the Venezuelan band Los Guaragaos, who were going to play at an opposition rally. Has Latin American folk music become a weapon of mass destruction against elites in power? (1)

The lesson of the Honduran people

The Opposition Alliance had demanded total transparency in the special tallying process announced by the Electoral Court, and sent a letter detailing 11 necessary conditions for them to accept the result. But the Court did not respect these conditions, and the Alliance has called on people to defy the curfew and defend the victory stolen via electoral fraud. Nasralla has pointed the finger at president Juan Orlando Hernández and Electoral Court president David Matamoros as the ones responsible for the situation.

It is true that elections are just a single moment in people’s lives. But in Central America, where institutions have done nothing to defend quality public services, representatives have destroyed whatever was left by raiding social security funds, there are crucial matters at stake. People would have plenty of reasons to adhere to fatalist ideas of “all politicians are the same”. If we add to this the trivialisation of violence and judicial impunity, we would believe that nothing could be done. But this is a vision that underestimates people.

History has shown, in contrast, that resistance is necessary and inevitable. The day after the 2009 coup, in spite of their suffering, the Honduran people did not sit idly by. First it created a Resistance Front against the coup government. Then it focused efforts in the struggle against corruption and continuity, especially since Juan Orlando Hernández bypassed the law to run for re-election, something that is illegal under the current Constitution. Finally, it is equally important to emphasise that these movements have understood that struggles, in order to be effective, also should bring about a change of government, even if that is not the final goal. As such, they have formed an Opposition Alliance to take on the current political opponent, and not shying away from openly describing the government of Juan Orlando Hernández as a dictatorship.

Hondurans protesting against fraud and the imposed curfew

From Saturday, December 3rd, to Sunday, Hondurans again protested against electoral fraud, the curfew and repression by banging pots and pans. In this context, the announcement of new results by an Electoral Court which is suspected of colluding with the government offers no prospects of exiting this deep political and institutional crisis. Only adhering to the conditions demanded by the main opposition party and putting a stop to repression will do.

In light of the challenges posed by Honduran events, the reactions from international bodies such as the OAS (whose president Almagro is obsessed exclusively with Venezuela) and the media have been timid or non-existent. This shows that the big powers are more than comfortable with failed states so long as they help advance their geopolitical interests.

The Honduran people are providing a brave lesson of hope for the oppressed peoples of the world. Let us join them in their struggle.


(1) The group Los Guaragaos became known by their rendition of Ali Primera’s “Casas de Cartón”, a song that denounces structural poverty in Latin America.

Photos: La Prensa de Honduras, El Tiempo de Honduras

Source: The Journal of Our Americas (to appear) / Investig’Action

Trump intends to move US embassy to Jerusalem, Palestinian president says

from Mondoweiss Allison Deger on December 5, 2017

This morning President Donald Trump called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to notify him of his intention to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, according to a spokesperson for President Abbas. Trump also called Jordan’s King Abdullah to notify him, according to reports out of Jordan.

Israeli press is also reporting Trump made additional calls to Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman, to relate his plans.

Trump is expected to announce his plans tomorrow.

Channel 2’s Dana Weiss, the reporter who broke the story that Trump plans to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital this week, commented on social media that Trump and Netanyahu coordinated the move in advance, intentionally leaving Abbas and Arab heads of state in the dark until today.

Late this afternoon, Netanyahu’s office emailed reporters that the Israeli prime minister will make a speech at Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria tomorrow, immediately following Trump’s remarks.

Responses from Ramallah reflect shock. Abbas had a frenzied morning after his talks with Trump, reaching out to U.S. allies and foreign influencers, including Vladimir Putin, in a last-ditch effort to change the course of U.S. policy. The Palestinian leader also phoned pleas to Morocco and Jordan, according to the Palestinian outlet Wafa.

Earlier today, Wafa reported details about Trump’s call to Abbas stating his intention to move the embassy. Abbas “warned of the dangerous repercussions of such step on the [long-stalled] peace process, security and stability in the region and the world,” according to his spokesperson Nabil Abu Rudeineh.

The PLO’s Hanan Ashrawi said moving the embassy would “guarantee the destruction of the two-state solution.” She chided Trump for ignoring “repeated words of advice and caution from all concerned and from global leaders.” She went on:

“President Trump seems to be hell-bent on annihilating the chances of peace and destroying the stability and security of the entire region and beyond, provoking violence and playing into the hands of extremists and terrorists around the world. He is willfully committing an act of the utmost folly which is not only illegal but also designed to inflame religious and spiritual sentiments, and raise the specter of sectarianism and religious strife.”

For the Palestinian leadership, Trump’s Jerusalem gambit would constitute a betrayal of agreements signed during the Oslo peace process in the 1990’s. Palestinians were promised that the status of the capital, Jerusalem, was part of negotiations that would ultimately give them sovereignty.

With the exception of Russia, which recently recognized West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, no country acknowledges Israel’s claim to sovereignty over Jerusalem. No country has an embassy in Jerusalem.

That U.S. commitment on Jerusalem was circulated on social media in the hours after Trump and Abbas’ call by spokesperson for the PLO, Xavier Abu-Eid, who posted a copy of a 1991 letter from James Baker that has guided American policy for nearly three-decades in brokering Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

“The United States understands how much importance Palestinians attach to the question of east Jerusalem,” Baker wrote, “Thus, we want to assure you that nothing Palestinians do in choosing their delegation members in this phase of the process will affect their claim to east Jerusalem, or be prejudicial or precedential to the outcome of negotiations. It remains the firm position of the United States that Jerusalem must never again be a divided city and that its final status should be decided by negotiations.”

Baker also said in no uncertain terms that the U.S. does “not recognize Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem” and encouraged “all sides to avoid unilateral acts that would exacerbate local tensions or make negotiations more difficult or preempt their final outcome.”

Today in Washington State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert declined to state Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s position on moving the embassy and skirted questions about a travel warning issued by the U.S. Consul-General in Jerusalem barring government employees from visiting Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank, in anticipation of “widespread calls for demonstrations.”

Many journalists posited that Trump will not move the embassy, and instead through a statement will recognize it as Israel’s capital. Although, no sources are on the record to confirm this.

On MSNBC, White House correspondent Michelle Kosinski reported that Trump will sign the latest waiver, meaning that the U.S. Embassy will stay in Tel Aviv for another six months, but that he will recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and announce his intention to move the embassy there ultimately. Bloomberg is reporting the same.

Aaron David Miller described such an outcome as disastrous: it will “set the stage perhaps for violence” and undermine the U.S. role as a broker in a peace process that is “comatose” anyway.

“Jerusalem is a tinderbox waiting for a match,” Miller said. The President could seek to balance his announcement by saying that the U.S. intends to recognize a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, but “that would drive the Israelis crazy” and antagonize the political forces Trump is seeking to placate with the announcement.

Martin Indyk postulated that Trump’s strategy is to: “sign waiver for last time; order relocation of embassy in next 6 months; recognize J’m as Israel’s capital; and recognize Pal aspiration to have east J’m as their capital, to be decided in negotiations.”

The liberal Zionist group J Street issued an alarmed statement saying the reported plan is a “profound mistake” that reverses longstanding U.S. policy, and only 20 percent of US Jews support the idea.

The effect of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem or of declaring that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital prior to a negotiated agreement will be to anger key Arab allies, foment regional instability and undermine nascent US diplomatic efforts to resolve the larger conflict.

Americans for Peace Now has called the plan “pyromaniacal” and a gift to those looking “to blow up a peace process before it begins.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition is excited by the news.

Obama’s ambassador to Israel approved the plan but said Trump should use the shift to “make clear the context in which our (still-delayed, but impending) embassy move will take place: US determination to achieve a conflict-ending two-state solution in which both parties have capitals in a unified city of Jerusalem.”

This article was updated at 5:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Liberal Zionists confront, or deny, the ‘Doomsday settlement’

Philip Weiss on November 29, 2017

Liberal Zionism is in crisis. The occupation is more permanent than ever. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated the settlement project’s 50th anniversary in a settlement and announced many more settlements in recent weeks. The Israeli left is marginalized to the point that Labor politicians parrot the right. While U.S. politicians have failed to openly criticize the occupation, even Democrats– till they are leaving office. All signs are that the dream of a Palestinian state is over.

Here are two responses by liberal Zionists to the crisis. In the first case, Alon Ben-Meir, a long time negotiator, pleads with Americans to hold on tight, the left is still alive in Israel, and p.s., Israelis will never accept one state between the river and the sea.

In the second case, Danny Seidemann in a Peace Now podcast is more realistic about Israeli politics. Everything looks grim, he says, including approval of a “doomsday settlement” that would kill a Palestinian state; but Seidemann holds out hope that Israel might still be saved from itself.

Ben-Meir, a professor at NYU, appeared at the Palestine Center on November 17, and said the Israeli left is alive and well.

There is a very strong, well-operating left in Israel today. But you don’t hear much of the left because there is no election going on today. All you have to do is, read the Israeli newspapers, read the commentaries in Haaretz… The public is very sick and tired– the majority … are sick and tired of the conflict. They need to see an end to it. They talk openly about the two-state solution. There are scores and scores of organizations in Israel that’s all they do, promote peace peace peace, based on a two state solution.

The one state solution is never going to happen because no Israeli government from the extreme left to the extreme right will never allow to have one state and be governed eventually by a Palestinian majority. That’s not going to happen.

That’s not going to happen, plain and simple.
Ben-Meir called on the audience to “appeal to the segment of the Israeli population that wants to end this conflict.”

Danny Seidemann of Terrestrial Jerusalem spoke in a Peace Now podcast on November 15, and expressed far more pessimism than Ben-Meir.

Seidemann described an unprecedented “major surge” in new settlements in East Jerusalem since the summer. For the first time in a long time there is a “major surge in the number of settlements:” 1300 apartments on the fringes of existing neighborhoods. He pointed to four settlement plans in Sheikh Jarrah, approved in November, including a yeshiva. When these settlements are complete, Seidemann said, they will transform Sheikh Jarrah into an extension of Jewish, pre-67 Israel far east of the Green Line.

“This is a game changer because it’s a border changer.”

Seidemann also cited a “Doomsday settlement” on the south side of Jerusalem, given that nickname because it would end the two-state solution.

Secondly we’ve learned that one of the Doomsday settlements, Givat Hamatos, has been greenlighted by Netanyahu even though there’s no confirmation of that publicly. We’ve heard behind the scenes that the previous restraints have been removed by Netanyahu and the first tenders are going to be expected in the first quarter of 2018.

Givat Hamatos, on an empty hill near Har Homa, would cut off all connection between Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Palestinians.

Seidemann also described “massive infrastructures” that have erased the Green Line, integrating East Jerusalem settlements and West Bank settlements into Israel proper.

It’s possible to go from Tel Aviv to Etzion bloc [far south of Jerusalem] without hitting a traffic light, something you can’t do to my house in Jerusalem.

His conclusion :

So it really cuts to the quick… the authoritative question as to whether the two state solution is alive or dead.

Seidemann said that if there were a peace agreement, Israel would need to remove 163,000 settlers who do not live in the major settlement blocs, or about a quarter of more than 600,000 settlers east of the Green Line. That number used to be 116,000 when Netanyahu took office in 2009, but it goes up 6,000 or 7,000 a year, he said.

So if Israel has the capacity and the will to relocate 163,000 settlers, the two state solution is alive. And if it doesn’t, it’s dead.

He went on to say that Israel clearly has “the capacity” to remove those settlers, “because we absorbed 1 million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.” But Israel doesn’t have “the will to relocate one.”

Now, here are several critical comments on the liberal Zionist crisis.

Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada responded to Alon Ben-Meir at the Palestine Center, and said that if Israelis are pressured, they could change their approach:

The claim we always hear that Israelis will never accept democracy, they will never accept equal rights for Palestinians, I think is underestimating the capacity for people to change. When I studied South Africa I looked at all the opinion surveys through the years from the 1980’s to the 1990’s… where solid majorities of whites said we will never accept a one person one vote system, that that would be suicide for us. FW de Klerk [former president of South Africa] said we will never accept one person, one vote, at the beginning of negotiations to end the racist system. And lo and behold within a couple of years, they accepted it. And no one says South Africa is utopia, but they accepted the thing they said they would never, never, never accept.

Historian Avi Shlaim explained in an interview at Jadaliyya that the left in Israel was killed by Labor Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Having failed to negotiate a deal with the Palestinians in 2000, Barak convinced the public that there was no Palestinian partner for peace:

This was a tragic mistake and it had a real impact on Israeli politics, because if there is no Palestinian partner for peace then negotiations are pointless and hopeless. If there is no Palestinian partner for peace, Israelis don’t need to vote for a party like Labour that believes in negotiations. And rather than a moderate leader, a man of compromise, they would look for a strong one who is good at killing Arabs…. There was a Likud victory in 2001 and either it or an offshoot of the Likud, Kadima, which is also a right-wing party, has been in power ever since.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party is a shadow of its former self and no longer represents a clear alternative to the Likud. It has become a nationalistic party, and has changed its name from the Labour Party to the Zionist Union, which tells you everything. So it’s a Zionist party which believes in the land of Israel, that Jerusalem is the unified and eternal capital of the Jewish people, and that Israel should keep all the major settlement blocks in the West Bank in a final settlement. It is therefore not a moderate party, it is not a socialist party, it is not a left-wing party, it is a hybrid sort of centre-left party with no coherent ideology and with no clear alternative to the policies of the Likud.

Seidemann foresees Israel holding on to those settlement blocs. They contain about 200,000 settlers in the West Bank, in addition to the 200,000 or so settlers in East Jerusalem.

David Shulman writes in the latest New York Review of Books that we have now entered the period of a struggle for equal rights within a single country, as a minority of Palestinians now believe in the possibility of a Palestinian state. He is dismissive of the traditional liberal Zionist position. Labor Zionists started the settlement project and have never changed their minds about anything. “Inhabiting a mythic cosmos tends to reduce reality to a manageable set of indubitable equations,” he said.

Finally, Scott Roth points out that equating Israel’s ability to absorb the immigrants from the Soviet Union with removing settlers is a false equivalence because in fact those settlers are doing what the Soviet immigrants did: fulfilling the Zionist ideology. In fact many of the immigrants became settlers in illegal settlements out of the state’s Zionist impulse.

About Philip Weiss
Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of
Other posts by Philip Weiss.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Israeli Labor sells out African refugees, as ‘infiltrators’

from Mondoweiss
Jonathan Ofir on November 21, 2017

”What has become of you? Are you the Zionist Union or the expelling union? Have you gone mad? In your tactics for wooing votes, you’ve abandoned your fundamental values and ability to tell right from wrong.”

Tamar Zandberg, a lawmaker from the leftist Meretz Party, shouted that at the left-bloc Zionist Union members who yesterday backed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s draconian legislation to forcibly deport the remaining roughly 40,000 African asylum seekers to a third country – Rwanda.

Zandberg’s party leader Zehava Gal-On, added that the Zionist Union leader, Avi Gabbay, has “forgotten what it means to be human” – playing a bitter pun on the Gabbay’s recent echoing of Netanyahu, where he said that “the left has forgotten what it means to be Jewish.”

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the cabinet on Sunday that it is time to “increase the pace of deporting African migrants”, as the Jerusalem Post reported, introducing a bill which passed 53-10 on Monday – much thanks to Gabbay’s support of a policy that is contrary to Labor’s former position.

Jerusalem Post Gil Hoffman yesterday summarized Gabbay’s many shifts rightwards since his being elected chair of Labor this summer:

Gabbay said recently that there would be no need to evacuate settlements in a peace deal, that he would not sit in a coalition with the Joint (Arab) list, that he was not sure if there was a partner on the Palestinian side, that “the Left forgot what it means to be Jewish”, and that “the whole land of Israel is ours, because it was promised to our patriarch Abraham by God”.

Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, from her Twitter feed.

Indeed, with an opposition like this, who needs Netanyahu? As Meretz leader Gal-On put it, Gabbay was moving so far right, that he could even “outflank Bayit Yehudi [Jewish Home] leader Naftali Bennett”.

Netanyahu’s legislative move comes after a Supreme Court ruling two months ago that limited the state’s practice to coerce refugees to accept being deported to a third country, through indefinite imprisonment. At that point Netanyahu, together with Culture Minister Miri Regev (who has earlier called African refugees “a cancer in our body”), went on a major incitement tour against African refugees in southern Tel Aviv, saying that “We are here on a mission to give back south Tel Aviv to the Israeli residents”.

Netanyahu was making clear that he will not be deterred by the court ‘limitation’:

“We’ll have to enact new laws that will enable us … to send the illegal infiltrators out of our country”, he said.

As the Times of Israel rightly noted at the time, “expulsion to a third country is largely unprecedented in the Western world. Italy and Australia signed similar agreements with third-party countries — Italy with Libya, and Australia with Malaysia — but both proposals were shot down by local courts. In both cases, courts ruled the bills inconsistent with international law and the 1951 UN convention on refugees — to which Israel is also a party.”

But the court did, in fact, not rule against Israel’s practice of deportation to a third country – which is now known to be Rwanda. It merely limited the state’s practice of indefinite detention aimed at putting pressure on refugees to agree to be deported. It limited the imprisonment period to 60 days. In other words, refugees who seek to hold on to their human rights could still be imprisoned for it, but ‘only’ for 60 days.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked was clear at the time about the necessity of this coercive measure, in her statement condemning the Supreme Court decision:

“The High Court removed from the state the ability to pressure the illegal infiltrators,” she said. “It turned the [migrant’s] lack of cooperation into a reward. We will fight this until we achieve the necessary results,” she said.

So Israel is now working on moves that would simply legalize what the court has struck down, and let’s see how far it goes before it’s challenged. As Ilan Lior reported in Haaretz on Friday, “The border authority will formally announce within a few weeks a new policy, under which asylum seekers will have to return to their countries of origin, agree to be sent to Rwanda or be jailed indefinitely in Israel.”

Gabbay’s recent push to support Netanyahu’s bill has divided the Labor leaders, and even Shelly Yachimovitch of Labor– the one who demanded immediate pardon for medic-killer Elor Azarya– said that it’s “morally impossible to support this.”

Labor lawmaker Zouheir Bahloul said, “I don’t understand how the party can support such an immoral move by the right, which seeks to throw refugees to hell.” He added: “Angela Merkel was willing to take the political risk until Election Day and take her moral stance of accepting thousands of refugees, and we hesitate and squirm here. Israel can handle a few tens of thousands of refugees and spread them across the country.”

In the end, most of the Zionist Union MKs who are against refugee rights (and that’s the plurality of the 22 Zionist Union members) were absent from the Knesset vote. But the measure still passed, as mentioned, 53-10.

With all the dissent, let’s look at what the leaders of the Israeli left say in the end:

Gabbay’s predecessor Isaac Herzog (still leader of Zionist Union in Knesset as Gabbay isn’t MK), said that “The infiltrators took Israeli Arab jobs.” Wow. The ‘infiltrators’. Netanyahu uses the same term. And is Herzog’s concern now really about ‘Arabs’ – the one who warned the Israeli center-left not to be seen to be ‘Arab lovers’?

Think about it – “Arab jobs”. Does anyone in Israel even notice the vile, blatant, racism here?

And Labor’s Merav Michaeli, (who recently said that “a lot of the BDS movement is good old anti-Semitism”), backed Herzog’s line, just a touch more “liberally”, without the ‘Arabs’ and substituting “infiltrators” with “migrants”:

“Residents have been left at home with no work, because of the migrants”, she said. “There are MK’s in the opposition who cannot look in[to] the eyes of residents who are screaming for us to save them”, she added.

Gosh, what empathy. The Israeli residents are screaming to be saved. Nonetheless, the cries of the refugees, who at best are called “migrants” and commonly regarded as “infiltrators”, even by the left, appear inaudible.

Gabbay is no doubt wooing votes from the right, and he said behind closed doors yesterday that “this is not an issue of right or left”. Already assuming his future constituency, he said that “we would pay a price for arguing with the public”.

So whilst not wanting to argue with “the public”, Gabbay apparently didn’t mind arguing with his own party leadership to support Netanyahu’s bill.

The Israeli Labor is further shedding masks. But let us not forget, that this is also the movement whose leaders contemplated genocide in Gaza in 1967, as newly declassified documents show. This is the same political movement that was responsible for the major ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948, subsequent major ethnic cleansings in 1967 and on, and the settlement project since 1967.

The movement that has so arduously created such a great Palestinian refugee crisis for the sake of the Jewish State– what is the meaning to Labor of another 40,000 African refugees after all?

Monday, November 13, 2017

How Avi Shlaim moved from two-state solution to one-state solution

from Mondoweiss 11/11/17
Avi Shlaim

Jadaliyya has posted an excellent interview with the British-Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, in which Shlaim states that he is an “Arab Jew” because he was born in Iraq and describes the long history of Jewish-Muslim coexistence in the Arab world before the rise of Zionism in the 20th century.

Palestinians, Shlaim says, were not the only victims of Zionism.

[T]here are other victims of Zionism—the Jews of the Arab lands. There was a Jewish community in Iraq which had been there for two and a half millennia, and had no wish to leave. It is only because of the rise of nationalism in the twentieth Century that peaceful coexistence was no longer possible.

Shlaim has no faith in Donald Trump’s ability to resolve the conflict. Trump is only listening to Netanyahu. Shlaim points out that President Obama promised to treat Palestinians fairly in Cairo in 2009 and did not follow through at all, but failed to pressure Israel, instead increasing aid. When will U.S. establishment voices begin to echo this truth:

The American-sponsored peace process, which began in 1991 after the Gulf war, is all process and no peace. It is a charade. It is pretence. It is worse than a charade because the peace process gives Israel the cover it needs to pursue its aggressive colonial project on the West Bank.

Shlaim is proud of his Israeli background, including his serving in the Israeli armed forces in the 1960s. He used to be for partition, but today he has given up on the two-state solution. He describes his progress as he observed Israel’s steadfast refusal to allow a Palestinian state.

I was a proponent of a two-state solution for most of my life because there can never be absolute justice for the Palestinians. I believe that the creation of the state of Israel involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians but I don’t want to go a step further and say that Israel should be dismantled in order to deliver justice to the Palestinians. I accept the reality of Israel within its original borders, I accept the legitimacy of Israel within its original pre-1967 borders.

Edward Said described the two communities as two communities of suffering. We have to take into account the tragic history of the Jews as well as the suffering of the Palestinians. The two-state solution seemed to be not a perfect solution but a reasonable solution. The PLO by signing the Oslo Accords gave up the claim to 78 percent of Mandatory Palestine in the hope that they would get an independent Palestinian state on the remaining 22 percent, on the West bank and Gaza. So I supported the two-state solution but Israel under both Labour and Likud governments continued to expand settlements. This is incompatible with a two-state solution.

The settlements represent land-grabbing, and land-grabbing and peace-making don’t go together, it is one or the other. By its actions, if not always in its rhetoric, Israel has opted for land-grabbing and as we speak Israel is expanding settlements. So, Israel has been systematically destroying the basis for a viable Palestinian state and this is the declared objective of the Likud and Netanyahu who used to pretend to accept a two-state solution. In the lead up to the last election, he said there will be no Palestinian state on his watch. The expansion of settlements and the wall mean that there cannot be a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity. The most that the Palestinians can hope for is Bantustans, a series of enclaves surrounded by Israeli settlements and Israeli military bases.

So a two-state solution is no longer a viable option and that is why I have become a supporter of the one-state solution, a single state with equal rights for all its citizens. Ideologically, I don’t have any problem with a one-state solution. Ideologically, it is very attractive, it is a noble vision of two communities living in harmony in one space with equal rights for all its members. But, I am not naïve enough to think that the one-state solution is a realistic prospect because there is no support for a one-state solution in Israel. And if pushed really hard I think Israel would withdraw to the wall on the West Bank and annex whatever bits it wants of the West Bank. It would annex the main settlement blocks in Ma’ale Adumim, and the whole area around Jerusalem, and it would do so unilaterally rather than have a one-state so I am not in the least bit optimistic that the one-state solution is a viable proposition. But this is where I stand and I blame Israel for eliminating the alternative of a two-state solution.

Note that the one-state solution is the idealistic alternative, two peoples sharing sovereignty democratically. And if you object that it is not realistic, alright– but neither is two states.

Shlaim also endorses BDS, Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, saying that it frightens Israel and it is the only hope Palestinians have of making progress globally.

BDS is a global grass-roots movement which has been gathering support at a very impressive pace and it has had a large number of successes with major companies divesting from Israel. It has also had considerable impact on public opinion throughout the world, delegitimising the Israeli occupation. The Israelis take it very seriously. They have formed a unit with a budget of GBP 40 million in order to fight BDS by launching personal attacks on individuals and delegitimising them rather than engaging with the arguments of BDS. And it seems to me that there is now hope that western governments will change their policy of support for Israel….

So going back to BDS, there is no hope for the Palestinians to bring about the end of occupation through the support of western governments or the UN, the only hope that the Palestinians have is through BDS.

That is not to say that in the foreseeable future BDS could bring about an end of the Israeli occupation. But that is the only hope the Palestinians have of making progress.

It’s amazing that these simple straightforward ideas are not reflected in the U.S. discourse. Though I would say that progressive Americans readily accept these ideas, and that is why the Democratic Party establishment is today running scared of these ideas entering the mainstrea

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Roger Waters Slams Trump and Israel, Lauds BDS and Black Lives Matter at Desert Trip

Donald Trump's face appears on massive video screen above the stage with 'Charade' across it as Waters performs the Pink Floyd song 'Pigs (Three Different Ones).'

The Associated Press Oct 10, 2016 8:16 PM

Roger Waters performs at Desert Trip music festival at Empire Polo Club in Indio, California U.S., October 9, 2016.
Mario Anzuoni, Reuters

Roger Waters sets the record straight: I hate apartheid, not Israel

Roger Waters made his feelings about Donald Trump and Israel abundantly clear during a politically-charged performance at the Desert Trip music festival Sunday night.

The 73-year-old singer-songwriter also denounced war and addressed the Black Lives Matter movement in his 2.5-hour set that closed out the three-day classic rock concert in Indio, California.
Waters blasted the Republican presidential candidate in music and images. Trump's face appeared on the massive video screen above the stage with the word "Charade" across it as Waters performed the Pink Floyd song "Pigs (Three Different Ones)." Subsequent images showed Trump wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood.

Meanwhile, a parade-sized balloon shaped like a pig floated above the audience. It had Trump's face painted on the side with the words "Ignorant, lying, racist, sexist pig." And in case that wasn't straightforward enough, giant letters flashed across the big screen reading "Trump is a pig."
Waters followed up with "Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)," during which 15 school-age children came onstage wearing T-shirts that read, "Derriba el muro" — Spanish for "Take down the wall."
While other Desert Trip performers mentioned the presidential election, Waters was the only one who brought up the Black Lives Matter movement in front of the overwhelmingly white audience. As he performed "Us and Them," the big screen showed pictures of protest signs. "White silence is violence," read one. "I cannot believe I still have to protest this (expletive)," another said.
Waters told the crowd that he's been working with wounded warriors in Washington, D.C., and brought a young American veteran who lost his legs onstage to play lead guitar with the band on "Shine on You Crazy Diamond."

"Working with these men has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done in my life," Waters said. He dedicated the song to all victims of war and violence.
His set also included "Time," ''Money," ''Wish You Were Here" and "Dark Side of the Moon."
The former Pink Floyd frontman waited until near the end of his performance to voice his support for the BDS movement, which calls for boycotts and sanctions against Israel.
"I'm going to send out all of my most heartfelt love and support to all those young people on the campuses of the universities of California who are standing up for their brothers and sisters in Palestine and supporting the BDS movement," he said, "in the hope that we may encourage the government of Israel to end the occupation."
Before closing with "Vera" and "Comfortably Numb," Waters told the audience, "It's been a huge honor and a huge pleasure to be here to play for you tonight."

The Who took the stage earlier Sunday and rocked through hits from their discography for just over two hours. Frontman Roger Daltrey grinned and danced with guitarist Pete Townsend, who bantered with the audience.
"We love you for coming to see us," he said, dedicating "The Kids Are Alright" to "the young ones" in the crowd.
The Who's set also included "My Generation," with Daltrey stuttering the vocals just right, "You Better You Bet," ''Eminence Front," ''The Acid Queen" and "Pinball Wizard."
Townsend said "I Can See for Miles" was the band's first hit in the United States, back in 1967.
"Such a long (expletive) time ago," he said with a laugh. "We were 1967's version of Adele or Lady Gaga or Rihanna or Bieber."

It's been 49 years since then, but the rockers maintained their classic sound and trademark moves: Daltrey swung his microphone cord around anytime he wasn't singing, and Townsend exaggerated his windmill move as he strummed.
"Roger and I are so glad to be out here at our age," Townsend said. "And I couldn't do it without Roger."
After seeing Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones on Friday, Neil Young and Paul McCartney on Saturday, concertgoers deemed the event a success. While there were some traffic snarls and shuttle-bus issues on Friday, things smoothed out by Sunday, and many attendees said they'd come to Desert Trip again if they liked the lineup.
Held at the same venue where Coachella takes place each spring, Desert Trip aimed at an older and more moneyed crowd than other music festivals, earning it the nickname "Oldchella."
The event repeats next weekend.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

‘A legal shield for the Palestine movement in the U.S.’

from +972
Posted On October 18, 2017

Pro-Israel organizations are increasingly using the law to target Palestinian solidarity groups in the United States. Dima Khalidi, head of Palestine Legal, speaks with +972 Magazine about the ‘Palestine exception’ to free speech, and what her organization is doing to fight back.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit last week on behalf of a Kansas public school teacher who, as a condition for taking her job, was required under a new state law to declare that she would not engage in boycotts of Israel. The law is just one in a growing list of measures in recent years aiming to counter the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in the United States.

Political boycotts in the U.S. are meant to be stringently protected under the First Amendment. “The state should not be telling people what causes they can or can’t support,” Esther Koontz, the Kansas teacher, said about her lawsuit.

That’s not necessarily the reality these days, however. “It’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right,” says Dima Khalidi, founder and director of Palestine Legal.

Established in 2012 in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), Palestine Legal has been one of the key players holding the frontline against efforts to suppress BDS activity and speech about Palestine across the U.S., from state legislatures to university campuses. Khalidi and her staff responded to 650 such incidents between 2014 and 2016.

Just last month, Palestine Legal responded to false legal threats sent to activists and professors by a group called “Outlaw BDS New York,” which accused them of violating an anti-BDS law that never actually passed the New York State legislature. Along with its legal work, the organization also tracks anti-BDS laws in all 50 states (21 have already enacted such laws) and at the federal level.

I spoke with Khalidi last month about Palestine Legal’s work and to hear her perspective on the various threats to – and signs of hope for – Palestine activism in the U.S., including BDS. The following was edited for length.

Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi (Courtesy photo)
Palestine Legal Director Dima Khalidi (Photo courtesy of Palestine Legal)
How and why was Palestine Legal created? What compelled the need for its existence?

“The idea started with conversations among lawyers and activists who were thinking about what we could do legally on Palestine in the U.S. This was in the context of largely unsuccessful attempts – including by CCR, where I interned and co-counselled – to seek accountability for Israel’s violations of international law through domestic and international legal mechanisms.

“This was also happening in the context of a rise in Palestine activism after the 2008-2009 Gaza war – a mobilization that we hadn’t seen in decades. And at the same time, there was an escalation in the backlash against that movement: 11 students at the University of California, Irvine were being criminally prosecuted for protesting a speech by the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., and the Olympia Food Co-op was being sued for passing a resolution to boycott Israeli goods.

“What I kept hearing from people was the need for help: that talking about Palestinian rights, and challenging Israel’s actions and narrative, opened people up to a huge amount of risk, attacks, and harassment – much of it legal in nature, or with legal implications.

“So with the support of a handful of people – including the instrumental vision of the legendary human rights lawyer Michael Ratner, who passed away last year – I established Palestine Legal. Our work is meant to provide a legal shield for the Palestine movement, to protect and expand the space to advocate on this issue. As an organization dedicated to movement lawyering, we don’t consider ourselves part of the movement per se, but as supporting the movement’s efforts to challenge the status quo, whatever their tactics.”

That can be a tricky distinction to make – being part of a movement versus supporting a movement.

“It is a tricky balance. Movement lawyering requires us to recognize that it’s not the lawyers that lead or dictate the movement, even if we personally disagree with their tactics or know they’ll land people into trouble. All our staff are deeply political people with their own activist and personal histories, but we try to step back from that role and focus instead on responding to the legal needs of activists on the ground.”

File photo of a pro-BDS protest outside Target in Chicago. (Tess Scheflan/
File photo of a pro-BDS protest outside Target in Chicago. (Tess Scheflan/
Does Palestine Legal only deal with the right to boycott, or does it also address the substantive content or arguments of the BDS movement itself?

“We always go back to why people are motivated to speak out and engage in BDS, which are central to why we have the right to do it. Boycotts are a means for people who don’t necessarily have access to power to take collective action in order to influence change – as was done with the civil rights boycotts, boycotts of apartheid South Africa, and boycotts for farm workers’ rights. The U.S. Supreme Court itself recognized this as a legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment in 1982.

“In this case, the goal of boycotts is to achieve justice, freedom, and equality for Palestinians, who have been continuously dispossessed of their land, livelihoods, dignity, and agency for over seven decades. Those opposed to Palestinian rights try to claim otherwise; so it’s imperative to the legal argument that we return to the key issues that describe the Palestinian experience.”

This isn’t the first time in U.S. history that the right to boycott, or free speech in general, has been suppressed. Why is there still a “Palestine exception” to these rights today? What lessons do you take from the past when dealing with your cases?

“When we talk about the Palestine exception, it’s not to say that it’s the only exception. You can look at the anti-Communist hysteria of the Cold War, when people were forced to sign loyalty oaths and were subjected to witch hunts and blacklists. The response to that McCarthyist era was an eventual strengthening of First Amendment jurisprudence, which now provides better legal protections against ‘compelled speech,’ for example. This is also true of the Civil Rights era, when states tried to issue new laws to stop certain kinds of protests, and to use existing laws to indict people for boycotting – hence the Supreme Court ruling that recognized political boycotts as a right.

“Still, it’s clear that when it comes to talking about Palestine, there’s a suspension of the notion that the government has no authority to interfere in that right. We see all kinds of bogus justifications for strangling Palestine advocacy: it’s anti-Semitism, it’s support for terrorism, it’s propaganda, it’s discriminatory. Our position is to step in and say there’s no exception here. Talking about Palestine is exactly what the First Amendment is supposed to protect: it’s a dissenting view from what the vast majority of our politicians and officials espouse, and it is speech that the government most wants to censor, so it must be vigilantly protected.

“Another part of the reason why Palestine feels different is that the attacks pervade all aspects of our lives today. The backlash can be online (look at outfits like Canary Mission, which profile and harass people); from employers (look at Steven Salaita, fired for tweeting critically about Israel’s war on Gaza); from donors; from institutions (look at the students censored or punished at Fordham University, University of California-Berkeley, or at the Missouri History Museum). This is because there are influential domestic groups and individuals that are doing everything in their power to shield Israel from scrutiny on every forum, and to ensure that the U.S. continues to unconditionally support Israel.”

The head of a major Israel advocacy group was quoted in 2016 saying to BDS activists: “While you were doing your campus antics, the grown-ups were in the state legislature passing laws that make your cause improbable.” What do you take from that? Why is more of the anti-BDS backlash today coming in the form of legislation?

“That quote says a lot about the political dynamics in the U.S. On the one hand, you have an intersectional grassroots movement that’s driven by students and youth. On the other hand, you have a well-resourced and well-connected constituency that’s deeply entrenched in state and public institutions. The way that Israel lobby groups are successful in pushing such blatantly unconstitutional laws, and the way university heads face (and often succumb to) pressure from advocacy groups, alumni, donors, and state officials, further illustrates this top-down approach.

“There’s a growing and visible alliance between Zionist groups in the U.S., the right-wing Israeli government, and far right groups in the US. They believe that they can dictate the discourse on Israel-Palestine, and get around the First Amendment problem, by pandering to Islamophobic sentiment; by conflating nonviolent resistance with terrorism; and by undermining the motivation and rights of the entire Palestine movement. Even many in the Democratic Party and self-described “progressives” blindly support these agendas.

“At the same time, we’re seeing groups like Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) offering different paths. There’s an enormous pushback to the more established right-wing Jewish organizations – and that’s exciting. But at the moment, those organizations still have the ability to drive the narrative from above. We have a long way to go; but in the long run, it’ll become untenable to ignore a powerful and growing grassroots movement.”

In Israel we have an anti-boycott civil law and now another law to deny entry to foreigners who partake in BDS. The right wing seems to think that legislation is an effective way to achieve its goals.

“Indeed. Dissent becomes the exception the more authoritarian the regime is, and we see signs of this in both the U.S. and Israel as forms of protest are being punished. It’s also telling that the language in Israeli laws is showing up in anti-BDS legislation in the U.S., such as the phrase ‘Israeli-controlled territory’ to refer to West Bank settlements. It just goes to show that we’re dealing with the same forces – and ultimately, that translates into advocating for those same things domestically. How can you be for equality in the U.S. when you defend Israel’s discriminatory laws and apartheid policies? It doesn’t add up.”

Anti-Semitism is routinely charged against Palestine activism. How do you address those accusations?

“We’ve had success with this legally on some levels. One of the tactics advanced by pro-Israel groups is to codify a redefinition of anti-Semitism which encompasses the ‘three D’s’: delegitimization, demonization, and double standards toward Israel. You can imagine that any and all criticism of Israel can basically fall into those three categories. But when these things go to court or even government agencies, a clear distinction is made between discrimination on the basis of religion or national origin, versus criticism of states and state actions.

“For example, the U.S. Education Department received complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, claiming that universities are tolerating hostile anti-Semitic activities by allowing groups and events that criticize Israel. The Education Department dismissed the complaints and said that this is political speech, and that just because it might be offensive to some, it doesn’t mean that it’s harassment or discrimination.

“Moreover, the vast majority of Palestine advocates are unequivocal about their opposition to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. When we put these matters in the context not only of free expression, but also that the Palestine movement opposes all forms of oppression – that’s when we’re able to make the most impact.”

File photo of a pro-Palestine rally in downtown Boston. (Tess Scheflan/
File photo of a pro-Palestine rally in downtown Boston. (Tess Scheflan/
Do all the attacks feel coordinated or concerted?

“Undoubtedly. We see the same two dozen Israel advocacy groups engaging in the same tactics around the country, accusing activists of being threatening, violent, and anti-Semitic for engaging in Palestine activism.

“But it’s also clear that not all those groups agree on tactics. Some, like David Horowitz and Canary Mission, who publicly name and blacklist Palestinian rights advocates as ‘Jew-haters’ and ‘terrorist-supporters,’ are seen as going beyond the pale even among Zionist groups that actively engage in suppression in other ways. There are also disagreements about pursuing anti-BDS legislation, and about imposing the new definition of anti-Semitism mentioned earlier.

“But ultimately, the more ‘extreme’ tactics serve the same purpose as the others: they want to make it so costly to engage in Palestine advocacy that people just become exhausted, give up, and stay silent. I don’t think these tactics are going to work: more and more people are seeing that they can be successfully challenged, more people are learning about the horrors of Israel’s occupation and apartheid, and more people are refusing to stay silent about those policies and the U.S.’s role in enabling them.”

The ACLU recently came out in defense of the right to boycott Israel. How do you reach out to audiences that aren’t your conventional supporters, including those in the American mainstream?

“Palestine is still a lightning rod and there’s still a reluctance to come out on this issue. That said, the more egregious the measures against Palestine advocacy, and the more they attack our fundamental freedoms, the more we see the likes of ACLU being compelled to speak up – even though they still claim neutrality on the underlying political and human rights issues. We’ve worked in several states with ACLU chapters and other groups that typically wouldn’t be willing to step up publicly on these matters, and we’re now seeing them do so because of what’s at stake.

“Steven Salaita’s case is an example of this: when he was fired for tweeting about the 2014 Gaza war, it sent shock waves across academia. Thousands of professors around the U.S. pledged to boycott the university, and a dozen departments voted no confidence in the chancellor. That’s when you see more people being willing to step into the fray, saying that this is dangerous beyond just the matter of Palestine advocacy — that this threatens all our basic rights to dissent and to debate the most important issues of our time.”

What are your thoughts on the future of your work, and on Palestine advocacy in the U.S. in general? What new strategies are you considering?

“We feel like we’ve been on the defensive and putting out a lot of fires over the last five years, which also seem to be coming faster and faster. There’s no doubt that we’ll continue to help those who are under attack; but we’re also thinking about more proactive ways to tackle some of these issues.

“Our lawsuit with CCR against Fordham University – which refused to grant club status to Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) because some considered their views too “polarizing”– is an example. The attack on SJP aims to make Palestine activism so radioactive that universities won’t even allow such student groups to form – so it’s crucial that we prevent this from happening. We have a long way to go in enshrining a new narrative that views Palestine advocates as forces for freedom and justice, and their advocacy as protected political expression – but we’re on our way.

“Regarding legislation, our role is to explain to activists and the public what these laws do and don’t do. This is important because one of the main purposes of the legislation is to make people believe that Palestine advocacy is prohibited or criminalized – and that really isn’t the case with most of these laws. So it’s critical to make sure that activists aren’t scared off from their work, but instead feel empowered to confront its challenges.

“There’s also no question that grassroots mobilization has been successful in impacting the political arena, though we hear less about it. Look at the failure of legislative initiatives in states like Virginia, South Carolina, Maryland, and Montana. These victories are because of groups like the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, American Muslims for Palestine, JVP, church groups, and the US Palestinian Community Network. Anti-BDS measures have ultimately strengthened the networks of Palestine advocates across the country, and these coalitions outlast the lifespan of a bill. We believe that the power of these grassroots movements is what will effect change – and that’s what Palestine Legal aims to bolster.”

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