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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

BDS roundup: Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op’s BDS initiative gains support

In this week’s roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, Palestinian BDS campaigners urge writers not to participate in the upcoming International Writers’ Festival in Jerusalem; Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op’s BDS initiative gets a boost of support from Israeli boycott activists; Polish boycott campaign call on television producers to abandon plans to film in Israel; and solidarity activists in New York and San Francisco say no to representatives of Israeli apartheid in their cities; and more.

PACBI appeals to international writers: Do not partake in celebrating apartheid Jerusalem!

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel posted a statement on their website urging participants to cancel their appearances at the upcoming International Writers’ Festival, to be held in Jerusalem in May.

In their appeal, PACBI states:

We are writing to you from the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) to urge you in the strongest terms to cancel your participation in the International Writers’ Festival to be held in Jerusalem (Mishkenot Sha’ananim) from May 13-18, 2012. Doing otherwise would inadvertently lend a stamp of approval to Israeli policies of colonialism, apartheid and occupation. This is especially given the festival’s ties to the Israeli political and cultural establishment, which uses the festival as an opportunity to rebrand Israel as a normal country by showing its “prettier face” — its vibrant cultural and artistic community. Israel, however, is not a normal country and should not be admitted into the global cultural arena until it respects international law and recognizes the Palestinian people’s right to freedom, equality and justice.

At a time when the international movement to isolate Israel is gaining ground in response to the escalation of Israel’s colonial and racist policies, we urge you to reflect upon the ethical implications of your accepting an invitation to take part in such a festival. Pertinent facts concerning this festival include the announcement that, in accordance with the tradition of previous festivals, the President of the state will preside over the festival s opening; that it expects to be funded by the Jerusalem Foundation, the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Jerusalem Municipality; and that the festival is envisioned by its organizers as a public-relations exercise to “improve the image of Jerusalem.”

… We urge you not to lend your name to this propaganda exercise. Jerusalem epitomizes, in the starkest terms, the colonial and apartheid regime now in place in the occupied Palestinian territory. We need not remind you of the ongoing and deepening Israeli campaign to confiscate Palestinian land and destroy more homes, to expand and build colonies in and around this city, and to block the access of Palestinians in the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza strip from their premier city by means of the apartheid Wall and other barriers to free movement. In short, Israel is blocking all avenues to self-determination and freedom for Palestinians.

… Your participation would function as a whitewash of Israel’s practices, making it appear as though business with Israel should go on as usual.

Jordanian boycott activists force Israeli lecturers to cancel lecture in Amman

Hundreds of students in Amman, Jordan, held a protest at the University of Jordan on 8 March, demanding that an Israeli professor’s scheduled lecture at a mental health conference be canceled.

Israeli online daily Ynet reported that the protesters “demanded that Dr. Gideon Anholt’s lecture be canceled and called on authorities to expel the Israeli ambassador from Jordan and cancel the 1994 peace treaty.”

Facing pressure from the students, the lecture from the Ben Gurion University professor was eventually canceled. Ynet added that a speech by another Israeli lecturer at the same conference was also canceled. The report added:

Officials at the University of Jordan tried to distance themselves from the Israeli experts and said they had no knowledge they had been invited for the conference. Dr. Anholt said that the event was organized by an American group and that it was unlikely that the university’s directors were unaware of the participants.

… Dr. Anholt told Ynet he was smuggled out of the university by security guards. “The protesters handed out fliers expressing outrage over the participation of Israeli occupiers in a Jordan conference,” he said. “As things heated up security officers eventually had to take us out of the back door.”

Ynet added that the professor returned via Allenby bridge, the only crossing point for Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli boycotters to Brooklyn, NY’s Park Slope Co-op: Stand for human rights, say no to exploitation and apartheid!

Israeli BDS activists with Boycott From Within wrote a letter in support of Brooklyn’s Park Slope Food Co-op’s initiative to boycott Israeli products, drafted in the same vein as the boycott policy at the Olympia Food Co-op in Olympia, Washington (which recently scored a legal victory to uphold their boycott after Israel lobbyists attempted to stop it).

The Park Slope Food Co-op Members for Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (PSFC BDS) write on their blog that the BDS referendum will be held on 27 March. The PSFC BDS website states:

We are members of Park Slope Food Coop who affirm, like its founders, that the coop as a community stands for human rights, food justice and positive global interdependence.

We are African-American, Arab, Asian, European-American, Latina/o, and South Asian. We are Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, & agnostics. We are educators, students, librarians, designers, non-profit workers, medical professionals, business people and artists. We are people of all ages. We are like you.

We believe that the PSFC should join the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS). BDS is a nonviolent tactic recently adopted by the decades-long Palestinian movement to end Israel’s violent and illegal occupation of their lands, gain equal rights, and achieve peace, freedom and economic stability. We think that joining the BDS movement will help send a message to Israel that it must honor international law and human rights. It will also make the PSFC a more welcoming place for all people who want justice realized in Palestine. And taken in a larger context, we believe that BDS is one of multiple ways to participate in the global struggle against all forms of oppression.

In support of the upcoming referendum at Park Slope Food Co-op, BFW’s letter states:

We support the initiative to boycott Israeli products from the Park Slope Food Coop and we are asking for your help in passing this initiative and more generally to help our struggle to change the Israeli government’s policies.

The decision to stop selling Israeli products in your co-op should be seen in line with the co-op’s decision to stop selling California grapes in solidarity with the United Farmworks’ Union, and boycotting products from apartheid South Africa. As in these cases, the call to boycott Israel comes from the oppressed people themselves, in this case, the Palestinians subjected to Israel’s system of apartheid and colonial oppression. Some of them are sheep herders who live in caves and own next to nothing except for their flock. In the southern part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank such Palestinian sheep herders, live in proximity to Israeli settlers who were settled there in violation of the Geneva conventions.

… We urge you to live up to the principles of the Park Slope Food Coop’s mission statement which states that: “We seek to avoid products that depend on the exploitation of others.” The selling of Israeli products means more than the economic impact it has. More importantly it indicates a situation of business as usual and the message that Israel receives from that, even if not intended is that it can continue to deny Palestinians their rights without worrying about American pressure. On the other hand, a show of solidarity in respecting the Palestinian call for boycott empowers the oppressed people in their struggle. This kind of support sustains Palestinians in their daily struggles and gives hope to the popular struggle for Palestinian rights.

Polish boycott campaign calls on television producers to abandon plans to film in Israel

The Polish Campaign of Solidarity with Palestine (Kampania Palestyna) together with Israeli activists have called on the producers of a Polish television soap opera “to abandon plans to film two episodes in Israel under the sponsorship of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”

Kampania Palestyna’s English-language press release, as stated on its website, reads in part:

“For Better and for Worse,” a popular Polish soap opera about doctors is made by Artrama and broadcast by state television channel ‘Telewizja Polska SA (TVP). All appeals and protests registered in public domains including the programme’s home page and facebook have been removed.

The Polish campaign said: “State support for cultural projects, including those from the mainstream, is altogether laudable, but in Israel’s case, culture is treated as a tool to cover up violence, distraction of human rights and civil rights, absolute occupation and apartheid policies. We consider it unethical to take part in events organized or co-financed by the State of Israel, the occupier of Palestine, given the very fact of occupation, particularly its violent nature, and the deliberate violation of international law. We call for a boycott initiative, and to waive the implementation of the episodes of “For better or for worse” in Israel.”

Ten prominent Israeli academics and human rights activists wrote to the makers of “For better or for worse” requesting they visit occupied Palestine and meet with human rights activists before undertaking any decision to film. … They have received no response.

Kampania Palestyna urges people to register complaints over the Israeli state sponsored instrumentalization of “For Better or for Worse” to whitewash Israel’s image as a “democracy” and normalize apartheid and occupation in Palestine.

Protests in New York, San Francisco

Dozens of Palestine solidarity activists in New York City rallied outside the Brooklyn Academy of Music to protest Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company’s performance there on 7 March.

Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel stated in a press release that “eighty New York human rights activists and cultural workers” gathered outside the venue, calling on attendees to boycott Batsheva “due to its complicity with Israeli human rights violations” while singing, dancing, and playing music.

The press release added:

Parodying a piece of Batsheva’s newest show, Hora, Adalah-NY was joined by the Columbia University Palestinian Dabke Brigades and the Rude Mechanical Orchestra in a costumed Star Wars-themed dance representing the struggle between good and evil. Protesters chanted, “Their range of motion cannot hide / Their support for apartheid!” and “BAM, you’ve got to draw the line / Freedom for Palestine!”

Attendees were handed mock programs, whose cover identifies Batsheva as a “cultural ambassador for Israel.” Inside, the program explains why the group is being boycotted, and celebrates artists who have respected the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) call, including Gil Scott Heron, Roger Waters, and Cassandra Wilson. Upon reading the program, one attendee remarked, “If I had known, I wouldn’t have bought my ticket.” Dozens of others stopped to watch from the steps of BAM. At 7:35 p.m., five minutes after the performance was scheduled to begin, BAM staff informed protesters that the music and chanting had delayed the start of the show.

Batsheva was met with a similar protest in San Francisco on February 24, where activists explained Batsheva’s role in the Brand Israel campaign, launched by the Israeli government as a way to “show Israel’s prettier face” and divert the international community’s attention from Israel’s egregious violations of Palestinian human rights. Two previous Batsheva tours were met with similar protests and boycott actions in 2010 and 2009, and other protests are expected to take place during their current tour.

Last month, Adalah-NY exchanged letters with the Brooklyn Academy of Music, asking BAM to cancel the performance. BAM asserted that Batsheva is not performing to “further a political agenda,” and Adalah-NY responded that Batsheva was identified as “the best known global ambassador of Israeli culture” by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, from which it receives funding. Adalah-NY further noted Batsheva’s total silence in the face of the egregious actions being carried out by the Israeli government.

On February 21, 2012, thirty human rights organizations from New York, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago, Arizona, Montreal, and Toronto, locations on Batsheva’s current tour schedule, sent a letter to Batsheva demanding that they take a stand against the violations of human rights being perpetrated by their government that impact all segments of Palestinian society, including cultural workers. In the letter, Palestinian dancer Hana Awwad stated, “Exhibits and performances by Palestinian artists are systematically banned, sabotaged, and closed down by the Israeli occupation. Artists themselves are targets of violence, arbitrary arrests, and deportations.” The letter goes on to state that Batsheva’s silence in the face of such violations would continue to subject them to boycott initiatives. Batsheva did not respond.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, human rights activists protested the appearance of Israel’s president, Shimon Peres, who spoke inside a synagogue on 7 March. Organizers of the protest told The Electronic Intifada by email that more than 100 persons from a multitude of solidarity groups, faiths and backgrounds gathered together and held banners that read “Boycott Israel,” “Confront Zionism,” “Jews Say No to Apartheid” amongst others, including others that concerned Israel’s aggressive threats against Iran.

Mich Levy of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network wrote that there were a small number of Israel supporters opposing the protest, but that the main demonstration “was powerful and successful with great energy and clarity, opposing the presence of Peres in San Francisco and this war criminal speaking in a house of worship.”