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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Boycott committee: Palestinian “Rawabi” tycoon Bashar Masri “must end all normalization activities with Israel”

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Bashar Masri with Leocadia Zak, Acting Director of the United States Trade Development Agency, after signing an agreement at Rawabi, March 2010.

(Haytham Othman / MaanImages)

The Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, the steering group of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign issued the following statement today condemning the “normalization” activities of Palestinian-American tycoon Bashar Masri whom it accused of advancing “personal interests and profit making at the expense of Palestinian rights.”

Masri is renowned as the developer of “Rawabi,” a Qatari-financed luxury housing development built on West Bank land confiscated from three Palestinian villages by the Palestinian Authority and handed over to Masri’s private firm. The Electronic Intifada has previously reported on some of Masri’s activities in relation to Rawabi.

Palestinian civil society denounces Bashar Masri’s normalization with Israel as undermining the struggle for Palestinian rights

Occupied Palestine, 10 September 2012 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that includes Palestinian political parties, unions, NGOs and grassroots organisations and leads the global BDS movement, strongly condemns the participation of Palestinian businessman Bashar Masri in the Israeli High Tech Industry Association (HTIA) annual conference taking place between the 10th and 12th of September in Haifa and Jerusalem.

Other speakers to the conference include Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Nir Barakat, the Israeli mayor of occupied Jerusalem. Masri will be speaking at a panel with Israeli businessman in a conference that is supported by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, among other Israeli state bodies. Masri’s participation in this conference constitutes an act of normalization with Israel that helps it whitewash its ongoing occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people and that undermines the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination.

The institutions and individuals at the helm of this propaganda conference that aims to promote Israel to the world as a “high-tech haven” are active participants in the oppression of Palestinians and persistent violators of international law. Israel’s high-tech industry is a major partner of the Israeli military-security complex and depends on it for its growth and success. Exports from the Israeli high-tech industry help sustain the military budget. It is therefore unsurprising that the conference enjoys the full backing of Israel’s ruling elite with the high-tech industry accounting for one-third of Israel’s GDP and constituting a key pillar to Israel’s hegemony in the region.

The symbiotic relationship between Israel’s high-tech industry and military complex is built in part on the back of Palestinians since Israel uses its military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to battle-test, or field-test, its technological advances and invest that in promoting its international military sales. In one such instance, Amnesty International found evidence of victims dying of unusual wounds during Israel’s 2008/9 assault on Gaza due to use of unspecified new weapons. This practice provides the starkest example of Israel profiting directly from the lives of Palestinians, which Israel makes no secret in considering dispensable and of inferior value. All this has led the BNC to call for a comprehensive military embargo on Israel, including on high-tech companies that are complicit in its violations of international law.

“Shameless act of normalization of the worst type”

Masri’s support for this conference despite the public nature of these facts constitutes a shameless act of normalization of the worst type that trivializes the sacrifice of those Palestinians that on a daily basis struggle to defend their rights and dignity. These include the Palestinian prisoners currently risking their lives on hunger strike in Israeli jails and Jerusalemites who are facing a vicious and escalating Israeli campaign of ethnic cleansing advanced by the apartheid Jerusalem Municipality of Nir Barakat.

To make matters worse, this year’s HTIA conference will commemorate the centennial of Israel’s Technion University, an institution that plays an active role in the dispossession of Palestinians. To cite just one example among many, Technion has led in the development of the armoured Caterpillar-manufactured D9 remote-controlled bulldozer used by the Israeli military to demolish Palestinian houses. Technion is target of an international boycott called for by Palestinian academics and international solidarity groups in Canada and the US, among other countries. It is disconcerting to see a Palestinian breaking the boycott, as Masri is deliberately doing, when hundreds of academics worldwide have adhered to it as an act of principled solidarity and have even put their careers on the line to stand up to its detractors.

Actions “in harmony” with Israeli policy

Bashar Masri’s commitment to this conference is not out of line with his other dealings with Israel in subversion of the Palestinian-led global BDS campaign to isolate Israel, an effort that has enjoyed unprecedented success worldwide and constitutes one of the most effective tools Palestinians have for accountability and justice in the face of growing Israeli criminality and impunity. Contrary to Masri’s claims to be working for “building Palestine” through his business dealings, his actions have in fact been more in harmony with Israel’s declared policy of “economic peace” for the West Bank, that is, the sidelining of basic Palestinian rights, including the right to self determination of all Palestinians, in favour of economic gains for an elite minority, part of Israel’s carrot and stick approach that rewards obedience to Israeli dictates. The failure of this policy, spearheaded by Netanyahu, has manifested itself in the abject poverty, growing malnutrition, and joblessness that have prevailed among Palestinians in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly in the besieged Gaza Strip and the so-called Area C of the West Bank, controlled by Israel.

Bashar al-Masri has been an active supporter and participant in the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce (IPCC), an Israeli-established and controlled body based in Tel Aviv designed to advance the economic exploitation of Palestinians and Palestinian resources under occupation. One of the stated goals of the IPCC is to provide business intelligence and facilitate deals for Israeli businessmen in the Palestinian market. The organization is headed by Israeli Lt. Col (ret) Avi Nudelman, an Israeli military official who spent most of his career in the intelligence apparatus or as a high-level commander for the Israeli military. Masri participated in the opening gala of the IPCC and lectured before its [Israeli] members at least once about the prospects of investing in the Palestinian economy. According to Masri himself, “Israeli businessmen come to me time and time again seeking help in entering the Palestinian market and the Arab world.”

Rawabi

The BNC had publicly condemned this blatant economic normalization, in particular through the construction of the planned city of Rawabi, north of Ramallah, as news became known that Israeli companies were “invited” to bid for contracts. More recently, Masri was quoted as warmly inviting Israelis themselves to “buy apartments” in Rawabi. Indeed, in 2009 there was outrage when Bayti Real Estate, which Masri jointly owns with the Qatari Diar group, had accepted a donation of trees for Rawabi from the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Zionist entity that “pioneered” the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians since before the 1948 Nakba and is now involved in an effort to displace thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel from the Naqab. The trees had remained in place months after Masri had committed to replace them in response to public pressure.

To conceive Rawabi, Masri sought the services of Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, who reportedly took Masri on a tour of one of his projects, the planned city of Modi’in. Part of the Modi’in complex is in fact a West Bank settlement, Modi’in Illit, illegally built on the lands of the village of Bil’in for which weekly protests are organized at the cost of violent Israeli repression. Safdie, who is a main architect of an illegal Jewish settlement in the Old City of Jerusalem, has also conceived the design for the Mamilla Mall in the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem and owns a house built over property belonging to Palestinians as a settler in the Old City.

Hired Ariel Sharon’s former advisor

Masri was in the news last year as a bidder for the financially troubled illegal Israeli settlement of Nof Zion, built in the middle of the Palestinian neighborhood of Jabal Mukabber in the eastern part of occupied Jerusalem. For both of these endeavors, Rawabi and Nof Zion, Masri hired the services of his counterpart, businessman Dov Weisglass, Ariel Sharon’s former advisor, widely quoted for his summing up of Israel’s siege of Gaza. Weisglass said, “ ‘the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.” This policy has been confirmed in practice through a court petition whereby Israel counted minimum calories each Palestinian in Gaza was entitled to. That Masri would partner with someone accused of complicity in war crimes against the Palestinian people to forward his business interests is inexcusable.

More recently Masri entered into partnership with Maurice Levy, the French Zionist owner of the multinational advertising corporation Publicis. Levy purchased a stake at Masri’s firm – Zoom Advertising – and acquired at the same time the Israeli ad agency BBR group, in effect merging the two. With this move, Levy declared his intention of building peace “through strong economies.”

As is typical in the discourse of so-called “liberal Zionists,” Levy never mentioned Palestinian rights or Israel’s role in denying them. One of Levy’s “peace” projects includes a partnership with the Peres Center for Peace to get Israelis and Palestinians to donate blood to each other, presumably to bring both sides closer together, a particularly detestable idea given Israeli apartheid policies and the scope of Israel’s killing and injuring of Palestinians on a daily basis.

Participated in Israeli “Presidential Conference”

Last June, Masri participated as a speaker in the Israeli Presidential Conference, an event “inspired by the vision of the President of the State of Israel Shimon Peres.” This “vision” could have been the development of Israel’s nuclear weapons program for which Peres is credited or the Qana massacre in 1996 that killed 102 Lebanese civilians seeking refuge at a UN building. Peres is one of Israel’s “demographic threat” soothsayers, warning against the threat of Palestinian babies to the Jewish character of Israel. Despite this, Masri is known to maintain open relations of cordiality not just with numerous Israeli businessmen but with Peres himself.

Other normalization initiatives conducted through the auspices of Masri’s multi-million dollar business ventures include efforts to take Palestinian farmers to learn from Israelis “desert farming techniques.” With Israel appropriating almost 90 per cent of the water from the West Bank, these initiatives could be seen as teaching Palestinians to adapt to Israeli occupation instead of challenging these illegal measures.

Advancing profits at expense of Palestinian rights

These are just a few of Masri’s dealings with Israeli political and business elite as a means to advance personal interests and profit making at the expense of Palestinian rights. The achievements and continuing growth of the Palestinian-led BDS movement worldwide in raising the price of Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid and refocusing on the comprehensive, UN-sanctioned rights of all Palestinians, including of the millions of refugees who are denied their right to return, have necessitated an honest commitment to the principles of the Palestinian cause over which a national consensus is built upon. The fact that Palestinians are now taking to the streets protesting economic policies is testament to the failed model advanced by Masri and promoted by Israel.

The demand is clear: Bashar Masri and his companies must end all normalization activities with Israel and its complicit institutions, beyond the bare necessity that all Palestinian businesses in the occupied territory must reckon with. Palestinian civil society has always stood – almost unanimously – behind boycotting normalizing businesses and institutions. We call for civil, peaceful, morally-consistent accountability measures against Masri’s businesses, especially Rawabi, and all other Palestinian businesses proven to be involved in undermining our struggle for our inalienable rights.

BDS National Committee (BNC)

Comments

It seems the EI have lost all it's credibility and started attacking others for personal reasons. EI keeps on repeating the same old news that was proven wrong many times before; which sounds to me a more propagandist, and more personal attacks on other especially by insisting on re-posting old non-credible and non-objective news, and also by quoting Israeli sources, while asking others to boycott israel!!!

John, This BNC statement was issued today, so it is not “old news” by any means. It is certainly newsworthy that a body with broad membership as the BNC felt a need to issue such a statement. Moreover we are unaware of any of the facts stated in the BNC statement or previous EI reporting being “proven wrong many times.” 

Regarding the two articles I wrote previously about Masri’s activities, in 2010 and early 2011, I was in direct contact with Masri, providing him an opportunity to respond each time. Mr. Masri has never indicated that anything we published is factually inaccurate. Of course if any errors are brought to our attention, we will of course correct them immediately. You haven’t done so.

What a pathetic article, stop slandering those who work toward Palestine and attack the real enemy, zionist occupation. Switching to 972 magazine.

يبدو ان الكتالوج الامريكى الذى تم تطبيقه فى مصر منذ توقيع معاهدة كامب ديفيد المشئومة للسيطرة على مصر
سياسياً و اقتصادياً منذ عام 1979 و حتى قيام ثورة يناير التى كان من أهم اسبابها الثورة على الكتالوج الامريكى ، واعتقد ان نفس الكتالوج تم تطبيقه فى فلسطين المحتلة بعد اتفاقية أوسلو الاكثر ظلماً و قهراً للشعب الفلسطينى. برجاء
الرجوع لمقال المهندس/ محمد سيف الدولة عن "الثورة على الكتالوج الامريكى" على مدونته http://www.zakerataloma.blogsp...
لمزيد من التفاصيل و ستكتشف ان رجال الاعمال من أمثال بشار مصرى هم ادوات الامريكى و الصهيونى لقتل
احلامنا فى الحرية و العدالة و خدمة للمشروع الصهيونى الذى يوظف لخدمة الهيمنة الامريكية على وطنا من المحيط الى الخليج.

B. Masri relations with Israel go beyond normalization, "economic peace" and even business as a whole. More light must be shed on what he is doing, especially in what so called "Rawabi". This is a good start.

using the israeli media, forums, veniews ... to achieve gains for Palestinians is not wrong , thats not called normalizatiobn, if you meet with an isreali decison maker and fighted for years to get a permit to pave a road , and you get it that is an accomplishment, if you need to go agressevily to the Israeli street and speak loudly about what does it mean to creat jobs for people - who are going out to street these days against the economical situation - this does not mean economic peace it means you are fighting but with your own weapon and you are making gains. if someone disagree its up to him/her but you cannot claim that your approach is the right and others are wrong. what the boycott policy has done to palestinians so far??? why when you mentioned all those stories you did not mention that that person was the first to boycott the settlements products for example ?? why when you mentioned dealing with Israelis - if you really have facts in hand - you did not mention that all contractors are palestinians and that Rawabi privdes jobs for 10,000 people or may be you dont know that, when you say luxury homes, do you have any idea about the prices? its healthy to show disagreement but its not healthy at all to highlight misleading and not complete information. you are mentioning Nof Zion and you are not clarifying that this was supposed to be a housing project for settlers and that when Masri tried to buy it all extreme Israelis stood against him because he wanted to build homes for Palestinians there...etc each piece of data you mentioned there is a part that has been cut, incomplete stories.. the fact part is always hidden....

Haneen. It’s simply not true to claim anything has been “hidden.” The BNC statement contains numerous links to original sources, many of which quote Masri in his own words. I encourage people to explore all of them and form their own judgment. My own story on Masri from January 2011, which is also linked in this post, does mention that he tried to by “Nof Zion,” an Israeli settlement. http://electronicintifada.net/content/rawabi-developer-masri-helps-deepe…

Masri himself told The Electronic Intifada that Rawabi is buying supplies from 12 Israeli firms (that was in December 2010), however he has refused to release the names of the firms so people could verify whether there were (a) Palestinian alternatives; (b) whether those firms are directly complicit in Israeli crimes of apartheid.

Completely agreed Haneen!

how do you think a project such as Rawabi which is a DREAM for the PALESTINIANS to implement their existence on their homeland a tool for supporting zionists and Americans?
For your own information Bashar Masri is the only Palestinian I know who take the risk of putting such a huge amount of investments in Palestine where others refused to spend a penny in our homeland. Please before convicting people go and educate yourself about their deeds.

Most of the money for this “investment” comes from Qatar, not from Mr. Masri’s pocket. Financing for mortgages is guaranteed by the US government (OPIC), and the project has also received funding from USAID. So Mr. Masri has personally risked very little as far as I am aware.

certainly you are not aware but no problem because it seems that the nature of people is to criticize and run into conclusions without bothering themselves to dog in the truth ,for your own information the project cost exceeds the 1 billion usd Qatar contributed in 70% the remaining is
Masri's contribution simple math tells you that 30% of 1 billion is 300 million i doubt that 300 million is "very little"

I have been unable to locate any officially published account breaking down how much Massar International’s investment in Bayti (the company building Rawabi) is. I have only been able to find public statements saying that Qatari Diar is the major investor. If you have an official source for your claim that Masri is risking $300 million on this project, I would love to see it. 

Contrary to your statement, Massar International’s website claims the construction costs of Rawabi will be $500 million. So any solid information you have would be highly appreciated.

http://www.massar.com/real_estate.php#bayti-plestine

the mortage financing that is guaranteed by OPIC was not created only for Rawabi , its there for all housing projects, and the Qatari money was braught to Palestine by Masri and his credibility and vision and ability to build a city and to challange all obsticles on top of them is the occupation. and its so strange that you are highliting the US money as a negative thing while you are living in the US ... why dont you come back to Palestine , stay here and fight with people in your homeland?? why dont you try to live the same life that our people live?
why dont you come and tell all palestinians not use cars because the fuel is from Israel, not to use electricity, not to build homes because some important material can only be braught from Israel...etc its the normal palestinian citizen who suffer on daily basis from ther occupation, who seeks for a home , who seeks for a job can only tell ... this citizen is the one who is buyinga a home in rawabi, on top of the green palestinian hills putting facts on the ground and standing against the expansion of a nearby settlement ....

The OPIC financing is for 10 projects, but Rawabi is the largest and OPIC officials see it as the flagship and main beneficiary of their effort to turn Palestinians into debtors. Moreover, the land on which Rawabi is built is confiscated illegally and unethically from three Palestinian villages. Rawabi itself is modeled on the Israeli settlement of Modiin and therefore it does not “stand against” settlements but emulates them. Where I live and what I do is irrelevant to the issue. I did not write the BNC statement. Masri’s problem is not with me personally so it is silly to reduce it to that. Masri claims that Rawabi is a “national project” but the moment anyone scrutinizes it or criticizes it they are attacked personally. Masri is a public figure, and a recipient of US government and PA largesse. Therefore his activities are appropriately the subject of public and media scrutiny.

* Settlers are fighting Rawabi for fact,they still do
* Rawabi is the next Palestinian city, anyone in Palestine NOW can drive to it and see its all Palestinians building it, (for those who claimed otherwise).
* Financing is through Palestinian banks to Palestinians, now if OPIC or whoever is supporting banks, that doesnt relate to Rawabi, it relates to Palestine
* Who will end up owning Rawabi, are Palestinians mostly living now in Palestine,
* Funny thing is I looked up modeien on google maps, and Rawabi on its website, (anyone can do that too), I couldnt see how they are similar it is very strange by EI to make such note!!!
* Masri wanted to buy a land in Jerusalem, that is shameful!?? who should?
* Timing is really not in favour of BNC, specially municipal elections are on the way, and some people are taking advantage as part of their propaganda

You claim that the OPIC funding “doesn’t relate to Rawabi.” This is simply untrue. OPIC’s leaders specifically created and timed the mortgage financing program to support — first and foremost — Rawabi and this was discussed and decided at high levels of the US administration. Bashar Masri was in direct discussions with US government and OPIC officials all the way through the process, and Mr. Masri personally lobbied for USAID funding for Rawabi’s infrastructure. It might surprise you that I have done quite extensive research on Rawabi, which I will present in greater detail at the appropriate time, however much of this information is already in the public domain.

And do you now that? any proofs? or where you in the meetings with them or in direct contact with them?
and how about having a life and doing one tenth of what Bashar Masri is doing rather than spending your time attacking him and his huge projects in Palestine while drinking coffee in fancy restaurants in the US and living in luxury place? How about moving back to Palestine and living on visa like Bashar and try life under occupation, instead of choosing to live in the US and lecturing us on how to be real Palestinians?
walk your talk son!