BDS roundup: South Africa to consider Israel boycott; defending academic freedom; and more

While South Africa considers economic and cultural sanctions against Israel, Canadian radio broadcasters urge a Vancouver station to adopt a BDS resolution, boycott campaigners urge Cat Power to cancel her upcoming Tel Aviv performance, and organizers for the global Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 gear up for another successful schedule of events.

South Africa considers BDS against Israel

Invoking historic ties of solidarity between South Africans and Palestinians during South Africa’s historical struggle for liberation from apartheid, the country’s Minister of Arts and Culture announced over the weekend that the government has “no problem with supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel.”

As Al-Akhbar reported on Monday, Minister Paul Mashatile announced that “the government is seeking to increase support for the dispossessed Palestinian people,” and that it is “investigating a number of peaceful ways to upgrade this support.”

Al-Akhbar added:

Mashatile also announced a cultural agreement between South Africa and Palestine. He said the commitment was important to the Palestinian cause was particularly strong “because we count the people of Palestine among those patriots who stood by us in our struggle for national liberation.”

Omar Barghouti, human rights activist and co-founder of the BDS movement for Palestinian rights, welcomed the announcement.

“Mashatile’s public embracing of BDS indicates that the South African government is seriously considering imposing sanctions on Israel as a result of its intensifying destruction of Palestinian society and denial of basic Palestinian rights,” he told Al-Akhbar.

“By imposing meaningful sanctions against Israel, South Africa would establish itself as a world leader in upholding international law and holding to account states that are gravely violating it,” he added.

Important petitions from the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel

As part of its campaign to protect the free speech of academics in the US who criticize Israeli policy, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has set up a public petition in support of Dr. Terri Ginsberg, a professor who has been targeted by Israeli lobby groups and blacklisted from teaching positions after she began to discuss Israeli policies on campus. As The Electronic Intifada has reported, Ginsberg is now bringing a legal challenge to North Carolina State University on the grounds of violations of free speech and academic freedom.

USACBI’s petition and background on Ginsberg’s fight for academic freedom is online here.

In another campaign, USACBI is also collecting signatures to demand an end to the collaboration between Cornell University and Technion, Israel’s Institute of Technology, in the multi-million dollar NYCTech campus project in New York City.

Working with the British Committee for Universities for Palestine (BRICUP) and several other organizations, USACBI intends to build a movement to stop the joint project. More on this campaign, including the public petition, can be found here.

Madonna, Cat Power scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv

Israeli boycott activists with Boycott From Within have drafted an open letter to US singer/songwriter Cat Power (aka Chan Marshall), who is scheduled to play a show in Tel Aviv on 12 February. A Facebook page has been set up encouraging Cat Power to respect the BDS call and cancel her gig, just as many other performers have done in the recent past.

Boycott From Within’s statement to her reads:

Many artists have come to perform here with the good will and intention to use their art as a means of changing Israeli public opinion and spreading the message of peace. However, this has been far from successful (not even with Roger Waters, who now supports BDS). On the contrary; High profile performances, such as your scheduled concert, have served the government’s agenda of whitewashing its war crimes and creating an image of Israel as a “modern state”, where celebrities come to perform and see the sights. In reality, some of the sights are situated on occupied land, and over 3 million people, including Palestinian fans of yours, cannot attend concerts in Tel Aviv, even though they are living under Israeli control, namely the occupation.

In other performing arts news, pop superstar Madonna announced that her “MDNA 2012” world tour will kick off at Ramat Gan Stadium (near Tel Aviv) in late May. Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported on Tuesday that this will be the fourth performance in Israel since 1993.

The Jerusalem Post added:

The Material Girl will arrive in Israel two weeks before the concert, accompanied by an entourage of more than 300 people, to carry out intensive last minute rehearsals. While she will visit certain sites and take advantage of being in Israel, [producer Shuki] Weiss explained that Madonna is taking the show seriously and plans to spend most of her time preparing for the big event.

“It isn’t even a regular visit anymore when she comes,” the local producer said. “It’s as if she is the process of making aliya.”

Aliya is the term for Jewish immigration to Israel, based in Zionist ideology.

Apparently anticipating a major public relations (hasbara) opportunity, the Post also reported that “hundreds of foreign journalists will travel to Israel to see the Madonna kick off her world tour and will follow her every step of the way” and that “a number of travel companies will offer special packages for tourists who want to enjoy the event and a vacation in Israel.”

Call by Voice of Palestine to pass BDS resolution at Co-op Radio in Vancouver

The Palestinian Committee of the Canada Palestine Association (CPA) announced on 5 February that it “extends its full support to the Voice of Palestine (VOP) Collective in its endeavors to pass a resolution at Co-op Radio” that supports the BDS movement in solidarity with Palestinians. Last year, the National Campus and Community Radio Association (NCRA) resolved to support the BDS movement .

Co-op Radio is part of NCRA, but has so far refused to support the umbrella organization’s BDS resolution. In a statement posted after the rejection of the BDS resolution at Co-op Radio, VOP said that during the meeting on the resolution in November, Co-op members (including “supporters of Palestinian rights”):

rejected the draft resolution on technicalities that they did not see fit to raise with us in advance, showing blatant disregard for the strategic interests of the Palestinian-led BDS struggle and thereby contributing to the atmosphere of misunderstanding and confusion during the debate.

CPA states:

We call on Coop Radio members and programmers, and all progressive organizations in Canada and across the world, to endorse our call.

For more information on this petition, visit the CPA’s webpage on this issue.

Israeli Apartheid Week 2012

Preparations are well under way for the 8th annual Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), a global schedule of events happening during February and March which focus on strengthening the BDS movement. Last year, 97 cities participated in IAW.

IAW organizers have posted a calendar of IAW events happening at different times in North America, Europe, Africa, and the Arab world. They have also made a promotional video for the 2012 IAW, entitled “Call it as it is”:


Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).