BDS roundup: Los Angeles activists urge city to “Dump Veolia!”

In this week’s BDS roundup, LA activists demand the city “Dump Veolia”; an international campaign urges product designer Yves Béhar not to collaborate with Sodastream; university students in Pennsylvania protest the Jewish National Fund’s award gala; boycott activists tell the Red Hot Chili Peppers why they should cancel their upcoming Tel Aviv gig; and more.

LA activists to City Hall: Dump Veolia

Activists in Los Angeles tell the city to “Dump Veolia” on 30 March, 2012. 

Dump Veolia
Dozens of activists in Los Angeles participated in a march and rally at the steps of City Hall on 30 March, demanding that the city stop doing business with French urban systems company Veolia.

Veolia is the target of an international boycott campaign as the company is heavily involved and invested in the Jerusalem Light Rail project, which aims to link Jerusalem with illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem.

The action was deliberately tied in to the international boycott day of action, which is held on 30 March every year in conjuction with Land Day in Palestine — an annual commemoration in remembrance of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces during the 1976 protests against Israeli land confiscation.

In a press release, activists with the Dump Veolia coalition say that they demanded that Los Angeles not renew contracts with Veolia for the downtown DASH bus routes.

The press release added:

Veolia employees looked on as the group assembled in front of the Veolia bus yard for a short rally before beginning a march through Chinatown to LA City Hall. Carrying their two mock “Freedom” buses and leafleting pedestrians along the way, the group crossed Cesar Chavez Street (signed in English and Chinese) and stopped on a freeway overpass to face the oncoming traffic with their “buses” and signs and were greeted by lots of honks.

Gathered on the iconic west steps of LA City Hall, the short rally there concluded with singing Sweet Honey and the Rock’s “We who Believe in Freedom Cannot Rest.”

In a preceding press statement sent to The Electronic Intifada, Marsha Steinberg, a retired union activist and medical technician said:

Veolia epitomizes the apartheid system in Palestine/Israel. While it transports Angelenos to and from work everyday here in LA, using our tax dollars, it runs an ethnically segregated bus system in the middle of one of the world’s biggest human rights crises.

… If boycotts were a just strategy for ending racial segregation in Montgomery, Alabama, then they are here too. If LA’s boycott of companies doing business with apartheid South Africa helped bring down that system, then LA should dump Veolia to help end that system in Israel.

Pennsylvania students protest Jewish National Fund’s award ceremony

Palestine solidarity activists organized a protest outside the Jewish National Fund’s Tree of Life Award gala on 28 March, where the University of Pennsylvania’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees, David Cohen, received the award.

In an article in the Daily Pennsylvanian, Cohen reportedly received the award for his “outstanding community involvement, dedication to the cause of American-Israeli friendship, and … devotion to peace and the security of human life.”

The article added:

Cohen wrote in an email that he was honored to receive the award and praised the organization.

“JNF is an organization to a safe, secure, and developed Israel, and those are goals that I share,” Cohen wrote. He added that JNF has played a major role in Israel’s economic development.

According to Susan Landau, a founding member of Philly BDS, JNF plants non-indigenous trees over ruined Palestinian villages.

To protest this, the BDS protesters held leaves to symbolize Palestinian orchards and wore costumes made from painted cardboard boxes to represent houses. They then held a painted cardboard cut-out of a bulldozer and “bulldozed” the houses and trees to the ground.

“We have to bring what happens every day under the watch of the JNF … to the streets of Philadelphia,” said College freshman and PennBDS member Sahir Doshi with a megaphone. “They have not made the desert bloom, they have made the desert bleed.”

… “It’s our intention to shine light on the misrepresentation of facts and the history and present actions of the JNF,” Landau said. At the JNF gala this time last year, Philly BDS also organized a protest.

Philly BDS also disputes JNF’s tax-exempt status in the US.

Palestinian appeal to legal scholars: Boycott INjustice conference at Hebrew University

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel issued an appeal to legal scholars and professionals not just to boycott the Minerva Jerusalem Conference on Transitional Justice, planned for October 2012, but to “consider the symbolism of the venue of this conference … The Hebrew University is itself implicated in serious violations of international law. Specifically, the University illegally acquired a significant portion of the land on which its Mount Scopus campus and dormitories are built.”

In the statement, PACBI adds:

The basis for the illegality of the Hebrew University land confiscation deal is that this land is part of East Jerusalem, which is an occupied territory according to international law. Israel’s unilateral annexation of occupied East Jerusalem into the State of Israel, and the application of Israeli domestic law to it, are violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and have been repeatedly denounced as null and void by the international community, including by the UN Security Council in its Resolution 252 (21 May 1968). By moving Israelis (staff and students) to work and live on occupied Palestinian land, the Hebrew University is, therefore, in grave violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions.

At a time when the international movement to boycott Israeli academic and cultural institutions is gaining ground in response to Israel’s flagrant and persistent infringement of Palestinian human and political rights, we urge scholars and professionals to reflect upon the implications of taking part in a conference at a complicit institution, and to refrain from such participation.

As legal scholars, you are acutely aware that Israel has flouted international law for several decades. Since the hegemonic world powers are actively complicit in enabling and perpetuating Israel’s colonial and oppressive policies, we believe that the only avenue open to achieving justice and upholding international law is sustained work on the part of Palestinian and international civil society to put pressure on Israel and its complicit institutions to end this oppression.

… The Minerva Center’s call for papers for this conference is a classic case of the sanitized Israeli academic discourse on rights, justice, and democracy, deflecting attention away from the concrete reality of the regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid by framing Israel as a democracy, and at worst a “conflicted” democracy. On your part, your participation would appear to be cynical when we consider the content of the conference, related as it is to transitional justice, and how it is then being held in an Israeli institution complicit in the continuation of oppression and injustice. Would you have participated in a conference on justice in apartheid South Africa before there was any commitment from its government or its hegemonic institutions to end apartheid?

Israeli academic institutions, including Hebrew University, have always maintained very close links to the Israeli army, contributed to its development and taken for granted its actions as legitimate, regardless of the amount of death and destruction it wreaks upon the Palestinians.

Human rights groups to European designer Yves Béhar: Stop collaborating with Sodastream

BDS Italia and Stop Sodastream-Italia have drafted a letter, signed by numerous international Palestine solidarity groups, BDS organizations and human rights groups, to acclaimed product designer Yves Béhar, calling on him to terminate his collaboration with Israeli settlement company Sodastream.

Stop Sodastream-Italy also issued an action alert for Twitter users, urging Palestine solidarity activists to tweet about Sodastream’s practices directly to Béhar at @yvesbehar.

The letter states:

Dear Yves Béhar,

We recently learned of your collaboration with Sodastream, the Israeli producer of home carbonation devices, and that you will be presenting a new design for the company at MOST in Milan.

As human rights activists and supporters of the BDS campaign, the 2005 Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, we feel compelled to inform you that behind the image promoted by Sodastream of a socially responsible, eco-friendly business is actually a company operating in blatant violation of human rights and international law.

As evidenced in the company’s own annual report, Sodastream’s main manufacturing facilities are located in an Israeli settlement built illegally in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Since 1996, Sodastream has been directly supporting the illegal settlement of Ma’aleh Adumim, via municipal taxes it pays, taxes used exclusively for the settlement’s growth and development.

… Sodastream has become the [subject] of an international boycott campaign, from North America to Europe and Oceania. In Italy, a letter calling on retailers to suspend sales of Sodastream has been signed by over 1100 individuals, together with over 30 groups, NGOs and associations.

Italy’s largest environmental organization, Legambiente, which had previously agreed to sponsor Sodastream products, canceled the contract in 2010 upon learning of the company’s grave violations. In February of this year, following the continued improper use of the organization’s logo, Legambiente sent formal notice to Sodastream warning that legal action would ensue if use of their logo did not cease immediately.

It is conceivable to think that Sodastream chose to engage your talents not only for the unquestionable quality of your award winning designs, but also for your commitment to “creating projects that are deeply in-tune with the needs of a sustainable future,” using your commendable convictions to greenwash the company’s complicity with the Israeli government’s brutal occupation.

If you truly believe “design is a real agent of change,” then we call on you to be that agent of change and terminate your relationship with Sodastream.

VIDEO: Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council praises divestment efforts by Methodist and Presbyterian churches

Jewish Voice for Peace released a video from their Rabbinical Council in which members “speak out in support of the United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church USA to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett-Packard—three companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.”

In a related open letter, the Rabbinical Council writes:

Several Christian denominations have taken brave, constructive decisions to investigate whether their churches’ investments contribute to violence and oppression in Israel and Palestine. Churches are reviewing investments as a means to ending the humiliation and brutality faced by Palestinians under occupation—an occupation that causes great harm to Israeli society as well.

As long as one nation occupies another, neither can enjoy true peace and security. These churches understand that investing in corporations that profit from the occupation is unethical. Examining the impact of their investments is a practical, effective way for American Christians to do good rather than cause harm.

Actress Emma Thompson calls for boycott of Israel’s national theater company

Academy Award-winning British actor and longtime social justice activist Emma Thompson is a recent addition to a growing list of people calling for the boycott of Habima, Israel’s national theater company, which is scheduled to perform at the Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London in May.

The Jewish Chronicle reports:

In January activists from Boycott From Within, formed by Israelis who back the boycott movement, urged Globe directors to stop the performance. The Globe said “active exclusion was a profoundly problematic stance to take.”

Now 37 people have signed a letter calling for Israel to be removed from the roster, including the prominent Jewish anti-Israel [sic] activists Miriam Margolyes, David Aukin, Jonathan Miller and Mike Leigh. Also on the list is the star of the play Jerusalem, Mark Rylance.

Writing that Habima should be boycotted because it had performed in Israeli settlements, the signatories said: “By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.”

The signatories said they had no problem with the Globe including a Hebrew-language performance. “But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practiced by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company,” they said. “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.”

The writers added that “Inclusiveness” is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it.”

Boycott From Within to Red Hot Chili Peppers: Please cancel your Tel Aviv gig

Israeli activists with Boycott From Within drafted an open letter appealing to the US rock group Red Hot Chili Peppers to cancel their upcoming performance in Tel Aviv.

The letter states:

As we have recently learned about your planned gigs in Tel Aviv in September of 2012, we write in order to ask you not to come. Our letter is also premised on what we have learned about your activism for human rights throughout the years.

Israel’s attempts to mask systematic human-rights abuses and decades-long oppression against the Palestinians largely rely on its ability to maintain a progressive and democratic image in the eyes of the international community. Israel often promotes itself as “the only Democracy in the Middle East.”

However, Israel’s apartheid policies are inherent even to something as seemingly light-hearted and joyous as rock concerts: Palestinian fans of your music living in the West Bank, in a land governed by Israel, are under martial-law and will not be permitted to come to Tel Aviv and enjoy your performance.

… We have learned that not performing is very effective in promoting justice in the region, as Israeli policy makers are coming to understand that the international community does not approve of their brutal policies towards the Palestinian people. Therefore, we are asking you to re-consider your decision to perform in Israel.

It is with great admiration of your art and activism that we suggest that a people oppressing another should not have the benefit of enjoying it or cynically using it as a tool of self-justification. In view of the aforementioned facts, you can make a difference and promote justice and human rights, by deciding not to play in Israel at this time!

If you are interested in what a group of Israeli citizens who support BDS have to say, please let us know. We would be happy to address any comments or questions you may have. We would also recommend going straight to the source and speaking to representatives of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI).



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).