As Israel fires on activists, BDS movement claims victories

A home in Nabi Saleh village is occupied by Israeli soldiers, 22 October 2010. (ActiveStills)


At least fifteen Palestinians were injured in the occupied West Bank village of Nabi Saleh on Friday, 22 October, when Israeli forces opened fire at a demonstration against the wall and ongoing land confiscation.

Villagers “marched alongside Israeli and international supporters towards the village lands, where Israel is building the wall,” the Palestinian News Network (PNN) reported. “Soldiers fired rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas at them, injuring 15 civilians, one critically. Troops also fired tear gas into homes, burning three houses. Soldiers took a fourth house and told the owner they would use it as a military post for 45 days” (“Fifteen injured, Three Homes Burned In Nabi Saleh Village,” 22 October 2010).

That same day, in the village of al-Masara near Bethlehem, one international activist was wounded and two others were arrested by Israeli soldiers during a similar weekly protest against the planned construction of the wall. “Israeli soldiers stopped the protesters near the local school and used tear gas and sound bombs to force them back. A French activist sustained head injuries from a tear gas bomb and soldiers arrested two other internationals,” according to PNN. (“One Injured, Two Arrested, During Wall Protest Near Bethlehem,” 22 October 2010).

Elsewhere in the occupied West Bank, PNN reported that three Palestinian youths were injured that same day by Israeli-fired tear gas canisters during a protest in the village of Bilin. Villagers have waged regular, nonviolent demonstrations for several years against the encroaching Israeli wall and the nearby settlement colonies. Eight-year-old Lamma Abu Rahma, 17-year-old Muhammad al-Khatib and 17-year-old Ahmad Burnat were hit in the legs and feet by the tear gas grenades. (“Three Civilians Injured During Weekly Bil’in Anti Wall Protest,” 22 October 2010).

In related news, EU representatives and consuls general in Jerusalem released a statement on 20 October condemning the imprisonment of Abdallah Abu Rahme, a leader of the nonviolent resistance movement in Bilin who was recently sentenced by a military court to one year in Israeli prison. “The EU considers Abdallah Abu Rahme a human rights defender who has protested in a peaceful manner against the route of the Israeli separation barrier through his village of Bilin,” said the statement. “The EU considers the route of the barrier where it is built on Palestinian land to be illegal. The EU supports the key role of human rights defenders in promoting and furthering of human rights” (“EU Representatives Regret Israeli Military Court Sentence,” 20 October 2010).

Meanwhile, around the globe, solidarity activists accelerated efforts to hold Israel accountable for its repressive policies, as well as corporations that profit from Israel’s human rights abuses.

Ireland

The Irish government has officially refused to grant weapons manufacturer Israel Military Industries a contract to supply 10 million bullets to the Irish Defense Forces, the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) confirmed. Organizers had waged a seven-month campaign of lobbying, letter-writing and protesting outside the constituency offices of Ireland’s defense minister Tony Killeen.

In an 11 October press release, the IPSC National Chairperson Freda Hughes stated “We commend the Irish government’s actions in this instance. For the Irish government to have bought bullets from Israel — the same bullets that have been used to murder thousands of Palestinians over the past decade — would have given succor to that rogue state, and given the impression that it can do what it likes to the Palestinian people and not suffer any consequences. The IPSC is proud of our campaign around this issue, and have no doubt that it played a role, albeit unacknowledged, in bringing about this decision” (“Victory as Palestine campaigners welcome Government scrapping of ‘Israeli bullets’ deal, warn against future deals,” 11 October 2010).

Scotland

On 6 October, student activists in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh were able to shut down a career fair at Edinburgh University in protest of the inclusion of a major weapons manufacturer, BAE Systems, which produces and sells arms and equipment to the Israeli military. According to a press release issued by Edinburgh University Students for Justice In Palestine, a dozen students entered the career fair, holding the Palestinian flag and banners that read “BAE - Blatant Absence of Ethics” and “BAE sells - Israel kills” (“Students Shut Down Careers Fair in Protest,” 7 October 2010).

“Upon being asked to leave by security, the students held a ‘die-in’ in front of the stall, to symbolize all the people killed by BAE’s weapons,” the press release stated.

BAE Systems is the world’s second-largest arms producer,” the the students’ statement added. “It makes fighter aircraft, armored vehicles, artillery systems, missiles, munitions and much more. In 2008, company sales exceeded £18.5 (USD $29) billion, with about 95 percent of these being for military use. BAE has been under investigation for corruption and was, as a result, forced earlier this year to pay a £30 (USD $40) million fine in the UK and one of $400 million in the US. BAE’s arms are sold indiscriminately around the world, with military customers in over 100 countries. These countries include Israel.”

Norway

In Norway, a petition calling for a widespread institutional cultural and academic boycott of Israel has quickly gathered a hundred signatories, following major divestment actions by the Norwegian government (“Call for an academic and cultural boycott of the state of Israel”). Norway’s state sovereign wealth fund — which is the third-largest in the world, holding more than $300 billion — recently moved to divest from both Elbit Systems and Africa Israel. The two Israeli corporations are deeply involved with the construction of Israel’s wall and the ongoing settlement industry in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law.

The Norwegian petition, drafted by academics and activists in support of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, has been signed by academics, writers, musicians, cultural workers and sports figures, including Egil “Drillo” Olsen, the coach of the Norwegian national soccer team. Following the Israeli commando raid and deadly attack on the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in May, a national public opinion poll found that approximately 40 percent of all Norwegians had already begun to boycott Israeli products or were in favor of doing so.

Spain

After a broad-based grassroots campaign in the town of Cigales, a town in Spain’s Valladolid province, the city council voted to remove bottled water produced by the Israeli company Eden Springs Ltd. from all municipal buildings.

In a press release, activists with the Platform for Solidarity with Palestine-Valladolid stated that with this decision, “the City Council joins the international movement of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the State of Israel. The City Council of Cigales has taken this decision after a strong mobilization of its [residents], including demonstrations, signature event and public awareness campaigns” (“El Ayuntamiento de Cigales retira la marca israelí de agua embotellada Eden de sus dependencias,” 21 October 2010).

Activists say that this is the third successful boycott campaign against Eden products this year in the Valladolid province. In June, teachers and workers at a nursing school at the University of Valladolid pressured the administration to remove Eden water from vending machines; and the City Council of Villanueva de Duero, a nearby town, removed Eden from its municipal buildings as well.

Asia

The Asia to Gaza Caravan, a group of approximately five hundred activists from seventeen different Asian countries, plans to gather in New Delhi, India, on 1 December. Activists intend to march through 18 cities in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt in an effort to pressure Israel to lift the siege and blockade on Gaza.

Organized by Asian People’s Solidarity for Palestine, activists will be carrying humanitarian supplies intended for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, with the march culminating at the Rafah crossing into southern Gaza.

According to the campaign’s website (www.asiatogaza.net), organizers say that the caravan will coordinate with existing and new solidarity groups during the march. “The aim of this campaign is to build a diverse and inclusive Asian solidarity for the Palestinians and against the blockade that denies the Palestinians their rights,” state the organizers on the website.

The fifth Viva Palestina convoy arrives in Gaza, 22 October 2010. (Anne Paq/ActiveStills)


Egypt

In Egypt, more than three hundred activists affiliated with the “Viva Palestina” organization arrived in the port town of al-Arish with humanitarian aid — including more than $5 million worth of medical equipment and food supplies, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz (“Viva Palestina Activists Deliver Tons of Aid to Gaza Strip,” 21 October 2010).

United States

At Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the university’s undergraduate council, representing 6,700 undergraduate students, voted on 18 October to approve a bill calling on Harvard President Drew Faust “to establish a commission of concerned faculty, students and administrators to investigate” their decision to honor Martin Peretz. The council also “fully condemned” Harvard’s decision to accept a $650,000 fund for undergraduate social studies research named after Peretz.

Martin Peretz, a former Harvard professor, is the editor-in-chief of the Washington DC-based New Republic magazine, and recently wrote in an op-ed that “Muslim life is cheap,” and that Muslims should not be afforded free speech rights under the US Constitution. Peretz has also opined that Palestinians are “unfit” to govern their own country, and that Arabs in general are “genetically” predisposed to violence.

Peretz also wrote that many African-Americans “are afflicted by cultural deficiencies” and that “in the ghetto a lot of mothers don’t appreciate the importance of schooling.” He also claimed that “Latin societ[ies]” exhibit “characteristic deficiencies” such as “congenital corruption” and “near-tropical work habits.”

Protesting Peretz’ honoring by the university, more than four hundred students and faculty signed a letter written by student organizations including the Harvard Islamic Society, the Black Students Association, Latinas Unidas, the Society of Arab Students and the Progressive Jewish Alliance. “Such an invitation lends legitimacy and respectability to views that can only be described as abhorrent and racist in their implication that the rights guaranteed by the US Constitution should be withheld from certain citizens based on their religious affiliation,” the organizations stated (“Student Letter Criticizes Marty Peretz,” The Harvard Crimson, 20 September 2010).

The bill gained the support of both the university student president and vice president, and passed two council committees before reaching the student union floor and passing by a wide margin: 26-7, with four abstentions.

Canada

And finally, Palestine solidarity activists and groups convened last weekend in Montreal, Canada, for the BDS Conferénce Montréal. The conference, organizers state on the website bdsquebec.org, “aim[ed] to regain the momentum of the international BDS campaign in Quebec, and bring together organizations that stand in solidarity with the plight of Palestinians. Through a collaborative approach, organizations can work together to start building a popular BDS movement in order to educate and inform the Canadian public.” Community and international activists, such as Omar Barghouti, coordinator of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and the Palestinian Boycott National Committee, and members of the Congress of South African Trade Unions presented panel discussions and workshops over the weekend to hundreds of attendants.