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BDS roundup: Major divestment victory at UMass Boston

This week in BDS news around the world: UMass Boston’s undergraduate student government unanimously passes a divestment resolution against Boeing; the US’ largest Latin@ youth association continues to endorse BDS across the country; Moroccan activists say no to orientalist Israeli belly dancers; and more!

UMass-Boston passes resolution to divest from Boeing

This week, the University of Massachusetts-Boston’s student government passed a resolution to divest from Boeing, a US corporation that profits from the Israeli military’s human rights violations.

With this major divestment victory, the UMass Boston’s local Students for Justice in Palestine chapter stated that they hope that the passage of this BDS resolution “will pave the way for a broader campaign asking the University of Massachusetts to divest from any and all companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of the indigenous people of Palestine.”

In a press release dated 18 April, UMass Boston-SJP added that:

the UMass Boston Undergraduate Student Government unanimously passed a bill demanding that the UMass foundation, the university’s investment fund, divest from Boeing and other companies profiting from war crimes and/or human rights violations.

This motion is a resounding victory for student activists nationwide and contributes to broader international solidarity movements, including the movement for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel (BDS) as called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005.

The press release continues:

Building on UMass’s tradition of student protest and ethical divestment, a coalition of concerned students, student groups, and faculty presented the bill to the Undergraduate Student Government.

As one of the first American Universities to divest from apartheid South Africa in 1978, and having recently divested its funds from Sudan in protest of the genocide transpiring in Darfur in 2007, students sought to continue this tradition of ethical integrity by demanding divestment from Boeing, a company that has actively manufactured and sold weapons, which have been used in direct attacks on Palestinian civilians, a violation of international humanitarian law and human rights.

The bill argues that the University’s investment in Boeing, a company profiting from war crimes, dramatically conflicts with the University’s mission to serve “the public good of our city, our commonwealth, our nation, and our world”.

In addition to demanding the University’s immediate divestment from Boeing and other companies which profit from war crimes, the bill calls for the establishment of a Responsible Investment Committee to further uphold the University’s refusal to invest in companies which profit from violations of international law, human rights and other injustices.

The bill was sponsored by the president of the Undergraduate Student Government, the Speaker of the Undergraduate Student Senate, the incoming undergraduate Student Trustee, nine student groups, and 33 faculty.

… The bill specifically highlights the connection between Boeing and Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 3-week military onslaught against the Gaza Strip in 2008-09, during which 1,300 Palestinians were killed, most of them civilians, including 412 children. Boeing produces the Hellfire missile and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, both of which are documented to have been used in Operation Cast Lead. Israel’s actions during Operation Cast Lead have been condemned by multiple international NGOs and humanitarian organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Sponsoring students and organizations intend this resolution to build a framework for further divestment work on campus, up to and including a call for the University of Massachusetts to divest its funds from all companies profiting from war crimes anywhere in the world.

In particular, UMass Boston’s Students for Justice in Palestine, a sponsoring student group, hopes that this resolution will pave the way for a broader campaign asking the University of Massachusetts to divest from any and all companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of the indigenous people of Palestine.

SJP considers the passage of this bill to be a proud victory for the Palestine solidarity movement and is offered as a response to the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel. Incoming Student Trustee Alexis Marvel expressed her resolve to force the bill through the board of trustees.

Pacific Northwest Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán (MEChA) Regional Conference endorses BDS

Coming off the heels of last month’s overwhelming endorsement of BDS by M.E.Ch.A., the largest association of Latin@ youth in the US, the Pacific Northwest Chapter followed suit and publicly announced its endorsement of BDS as well (Latin@ is a gender neutral term for Latino and Latina).

In a press release, Olympia, Washington-based organizers with M.E.Ch.A’s Pacific Northwest conference, including MEChA de Evergreen and TESC-Divest!, stated:

The Regional Conference was hosted by the Evergreen State College MEChA chapter. Evergreen State College has recently been an epicenter of Palestine solidarity.

In 2010, students voted overwhelmingly for divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation, such as Caterpillar, Inc. Caterpillar has been the focus of calls for boycott at Evergreen since the death of Evergreen student Rachel Corrie in Gaza. Corrie was crushed under a Caterpillar D9 weaponized bulldozer operated by the Israeli military as she attempted to non-violently prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home.

More recently TESC Divest! launched the We Divest! campaign to pressure investment giant TIAA-CREF to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation, including Caterpillar and Elbit Systems.

MEChA de Evergreen stated that “As a chapter, we endorse and support the global call for BDS … We recognize that our peoples’ historical and present struggles against deportation, occupation, exploitation, and dehumanization — in Arizona, in the border, and in the United States — not only coincide, but are also connected to Palestinians’ struggle against Israeli military occupation and settlement of Palestine. Elbit, the company that provides surveillance equipment on Israel’s illegal apartheid wall in the West Bank, was also contracted by the US government to perform the same services for the 700-mile militarized Mexico-US border. This is why we believe it is important to build cross-movements between all indigenous peoples’ historical and continuing struggles against colonization, dehumanization, and cultural imperialism.”

TESC Divest! member Austin Nolen also drew a parallel between the Palestinian struggle and indigenous struggles in the Americas, noting that “Companies that TIAA-CREF invests in, like Elbit Systems, profit from the annexation of indigenous lands not only in Palestine, but here as well. TIAA-CREF, which handles the retirement funds of Evergreen faculty, should not force educators to build their futures upon these oppressive structures.”

Moroccan BDS activists successfully help to pressure orientalist Israeli bellydance festival to cancel

The second Mediterranean Delight International Belly Dance Festival, due to be held in Marrakech in May, has been canceled due to apparent intervention by Moroccan authorities, who were pressured by Palestine solidarity groups across Morocco’s religious and cultural spectrum (even though the Festival’s Israeli producer, Simona Guzman, flagrantly blamed “Moroccan Islamists [sic] movements” and cited safety concerns as her reasons for cancellation).

The blog Kadaitcha reports that:

The Festival has now relocated to Loutraki, Greece in June. … While the Festival site is available in English, Hebrew and other languages, there is no Arabic version, highlighting the exploitative orientalism of the Festival.

An added angle to this story is that the Belly Dance Festival is partly sponsored by the Israeli business Sea of Spa, which has ties to Ahava, the cosmetics company based in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. Kadaitcha adds that the Arad-based website:

is owned by Yuval Yarin Dead Sea Ltd. Sea of Spa claims to be “a family business that was founded in 1998, though its activities at the Dead Sea began at the end of the end of 1980s.” YYDS Ltd also owns seaofspa.biz.

Sea of Spa products are marketed, along with Ahava’s, on deadseaofspa.com “founded in 1999. Dead sea of spa.com is a web store dedicated for dead sea and other products related to Judaism and the state of Israel.” Seaofspa.com and deadseadeal.com market Sea of Spa products too, and have the same domain owner information which coincides with the contact information on the aforementioned storefronts. Ahava.co and seaofspa.us are also owned by the same organization.

Egypt Football Association to boycott Adidas due to company’s sponsorship of Jerusalem marathon

The Egyptian daily newspaper al-Ahram reported that the national football association will immediately boycott Adidas, a major supplier of sportswear to footballers worldwide, in compliance with an earlier decision of the Arab Youth and Sports Ministers to boycott the company.

The decision to boycott followed Adidas’ sponsorship of the Jerusalem marathon; an event which, as EI’s correspondent Emily Lawrence reported, “contributed to normalizing Israel’s control over the city and its discriminatory policies towards Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.”

In December 2010, as The Electronic Intifada reported, three Jerusalem city councilmembers authored a letter to Adidas urging it to reconsider its sponsorship of the International Jerusalem Marathon. Our report added:

The public figures called on the corporation to withdraw its sponsorship if the city did not remove illegal Israeli settlement colonies in occupied East Jerusalem from the planned route.

City council members Pepe Alalu, Laura Wharton and Meir Margalit warned Adidas that the company could expect calls of international “opposition” if the current route of the marathon remains, and if Adidas subsequently maintains its sponsorship.

A year and a half later, that international opposition remains. Ahram reported on 19 April:

“We will boycott the company whatever the consequences. It is not my call, this is a ministerial decision and I cannot ignore it,” [Egypt Football Association (EFA) president Anwar] Saleh was quoted as saying on Ahram Sport.

Earlier this month, Saudi Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal, chairman of the Arab Council of Youth and Sports Ministers, announced during the council’s meeting in Jeddah that “all companies that have sponsored the marathon in Jerusalem, including Adidas, will be boycotted.”

Sports apparel manufacturer Adidas was the only non-Israeli sponsor of the race that the sports council consider to be an attempt by “Israel to mislead public opinion into believing that Jerusalem is its capital which is a violation of all UN resolutions.”

EFA marketing manager Amr Wahbi has warned of heavy losses that will harm the national team and the EFA if the decision is enforced.

“We will see about 1.7 million euros in losses per year because of this decision. We won’t be able to find another sponsor at such a short notice and also because of the current circumstances in Egypt,” he said.

Cultural boycott campaigns to urge international musicians to cancel Israel performances

Various campaigns are currently underway to encourage international musicians and artists to respect the Palestinian call for boycott and cancel their upcoming gigs in Israel.

Along with the ongoing campaign to urge US rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers to cancel their performance, scheduled for September in Tel Aviv, two groups from Spain and Brazil are the focus of similar campaigns by BDS supporters and activists.

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel released a statement this week calling on Spanish songwriters Joan Manuel Serrat and Joaquín Sabina to cancel their scheduled performance in late June.

PACBI states:

It is with great disappointment that the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) has learned of your scheduled performance in Israel set for June 21st. Given that Israel is involved in grave violations of international law and human rights we urge you to cancel this gig until the time comes when Israel is in compliance with its obligations under international law and fully respects Palestinian rights.

You both struggled under the oppressive and fascist regime of Franco in Spain, and must know what it means to resist oppression, and not to entertain it on its terms. We ask you in this spirit to stand with the oppressed Palestinians who are appealing to you to reconsider your performance.

RESCOP, a Spanish BDS and Palestine solidarity group, has also drafted an open letter (in Spanish) to the musicians, asking them to cancel their performance.

Additionally, on the group’s tour’s Facebook page, activists have been posting information about the BDS movement and asking for them to cancel.

And dozens of Brazilian civil society organizations have called on Daniela Mercury, a famous Brazilian singer and songwriter, to cancel her upcoming performance in Tel Aviv.

Translated from Portuguese, the letter states:

A show in Israel is not a neutral act: it has a political message. If an artist participates in this event, [s/he] will be supporting violations of the international law and will project a false image of normality. No excuse will hide the fact that [s/he] will cross an international picket supported by the civil society in Palestine and by peace loving peoples.

Actually, a message of fair peace given by the cancellation of your show will reach many more people, including Israelis.

Comments

Will the BDS movement be at the Boeing sponsored science fair in DC to protest?