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In a twilight zone, where an established state needs protection from grassroot communities, we have the Buycott campaign. Who are these people and how have they sprung up over night?
Encouraging Consumerism and Faking Tolerance
I got to the official Buycott page through Wikipedia, where two lines and two links were thrown together in haste, in order to give the campaign more Google juice. The site has a clean Getty Image-esque design, and considering how quickly this whole campaign was erected, I say touché to my opponents- you may not be worthy, but you know your shit.
The hope invested by many in Barack Obama has dissolved. Dare I sing ‘I told you so’? I do. The audacious hope of Obamamania was always faith-based, founded on the believer’s premise that the handsome candidate didn’t mean what he actually said, that we should read his words esoterically, as code for profound radicalism. Now reality bites, and we discover that his promises to AIPAC and the military were solid and literal.
It’s certainly something that a black man has become president of a country built by African slaves, although we must place this in the context of the fierce racist backlash since his election (would those guardians of the constitution raving about the tree of liberty being watered by the blood of tyrants be quite so eager to wear their guns on their sleeves if the president were white and not a jumped-up negro? I doubt it). But that’s the achievement of Obama’s skin colour, not his policy; in fact it’s the achievement of the people who voted for him. Another achievement is that – in the company of war criminals such as Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin and Henry Kissinger – Obama has already won the Nobel peace prize. Hooray!
The israeli group, BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within, have circulated a call to action, asking Israeli citizens to contact officials at the University of Trondheim, and express their support for a decision in favor of an institutional boycott against Israeli universities. The letter sent by the group itself follows.
Boycott the Israeli Academy Now! – Open Letter from Israeli Citizens to the Board of Governors of Trondheim University
Dear Trondheim University Officials,
We, Israeli citizens, activists and supporters of BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within, an Israeli group in support of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, applaud faculty members at the University of Trondheim and University College of Sør-Trøndelag in Norway for their principled support for the cause of justice in Palestine by proposing a motion to boycott Israeli universities. We support this historic step in the direction of applying effective pressure on Israel and holding it accountable for its occupation and apartheid policies, which violate international law and fundamental human rights.
I’m very satisfied that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement conducts itself with the utmost ethical consistency and respect to international law (if it didn’t, I wouldn’t advocate it). It’s true that it’s following the South African model, but at the same time it’s setting an example of its own. As a young activist, it’s a pleasure learning from its outspoken leaders. In my involvement in the movement, every step presents us with an ethical challenge. Avoiding the pitfall of a sweeping, uncommunicative action, the Global BDS movement, led by the Palestinian people, is employing guidelines of a “smart boycott”, differentiating institutions from individuals and Zionists from Jews. It’s never simple and dedicated research and much debate goes into every initiative. As a student of the boycott tactic, it’s just as important for me to learn what not to do, and examples are ample.
When we decided to pull our film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne film festival following our discovery that the festival was in part sponsored by the Israeli state we wrote to the Director Richard Moore with our detailed reasons. Continually he has dishonestly misrepresented us and does so again (Comment is Free 27th Aug ‘09) by stating that “to allow the personal politics of one film maker to proscribe a festival position…..goes against the grain of what festivals stand for.” Later “Loach’s demands were beyond the pale”. Once again Mr Moore, this decision was taken by three film makers, (director, producer, writer) not in some private abstract bubble, but after long discussion between us and in response to a call for a cultural boycott, including film festivals, from a wide spectrum of Palestinian civil society, including writers, film makers, cultural workers, human rights groups, journalists, trade unions, women’s groups, student organizations and many more besides. As Moore should know by now “The Palestine Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel” (PACBI) was launched in Ramallah in April 2004, and its aims, reasons, and constituent parts are widely available on the net. This in turn is part of a much wider international movement for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction” (B. D. S.) against the Israeli State.
I always talk about Israeli pacifists and their inability to see the barriers they place on the Palestinian road to justice, dignity, and human rights. Today I’d like to talk about a much more appalling occurrence; Amnesty International supporting Leonard Cohen’s breach of the boycott of Israel.
The Leonard Cohen Myth
Personally, it’s hard for me to understand the disillusionment of pro-Palestinian Leonard Cohen fans. In the history of his involvement with Israel, Cohen has always sided with Israel, or made statements of officially taking no sides, when his side was rather obvious:
I don’t want to speak of wars or sides … Personal process is one thing, it’s blood, it’s the identification one feels with their roots and their origins. The militarism I practice as a person and a writer is another thing. … I don’t wish to speak about war.
In case I’m misconstruing my information, I’ll repeat the quote I’ve embedded on my front page and have, personally, had no choice but to live by:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. (Desmund Tutu)
If you live in the UK, check the rubbish skips used by your place of worship and local shops and businesses: if they are using Veolia Environmental Services, Onyx or Cleanaway get them to switch to another contractor. All these indicate Veolia, the multinational company aiding and abetting Israeli war crimes. For contracts with local councils, where Veolia has a contract expiring within the next two or three years we can be sure that Veolia will bid for the replacement contract, so these are the key councils to challenge to exclude Veolia.
So how is Veolia involved in apartheid Israel? A large French multinational employing 320,000 people, Veolia is helping build and operate a tramway linking illegal Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Not only do the settlements contravene article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention, but in most cases their establishment involved war crimes too. The tramway tightens Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem, ties the settlements more firmly into Israel and undermines chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people. So don’t let your local authority give Veolia Environmental Services contracts for waste management or Veolia Transport contracts for bus services. Ask local businesses using Veolia to switch to another rubbish collector.
This decision does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.
Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns are succeeding all around the world, and the boycott of Veolia is having an impact in France, the Netherlands and Sweden. Following on the heels of a successful four month campaign to boycott Connex as Melbourne’s rail provider in Australia, Ruth Tenne turns our attention to efforts to apply pressure on UK councils such as Camden to behave ethically and reject Veolia due to its direct involvement in building light-rail to link illegal Jewish settlements.
In his visit to Israel and the OPT in November 2008, the Foreign Secretary spoke out against settlement activity and has said on numerous occasions that continued settlement construction is an obstacle to peace. The British Foreign and Commonwealth Office clearly states on its website that “The UK considers that Israeli settlement building anywhere in the OPTs is illegal under international law. This includes settlements in both East Jerusalem and the West Bank”. Yet, local authorities in Britain defy the declared policy of the FCO by employing Veolia – a multi-national French waste company. Veolia Environment is a leading partner in the CityPass consortium which is contracted to build a light rail tramway system linking Israel to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem.
Ali Abunimah, author of “One Country,” discussed here, exposes One Voice, a Zionist organisation posing as pro-peace pollsters, and shows that the supposed consensus among Palestinians and Israelis for the mythical two-state solution does not exist. The one-state solution seems increasingly viable to Palestinians, and this reality may panic ‘realist’ Zionists to arrange a formal bantustan settlement during the Obama term. This is a fertile moment, argues Ali, “when no vision carries a consensus among Palestinians, underscoring the urgent need for an inclusive debate about all possible democratic outcomes.”
How do Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation and siege see their world, especially after Israel’s massacre of more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in the occupied Gaza Strip three months ago?
Two recent surveys shed light on this question, although one — published on 22 April by the pro-Israel organization One Voice — appears intended to influence international opinion in a direction more amenable to Israel, rather than to record faithfully the views of Palestinians or Israelis (“OV Poll: Popular Mandate for Negotiated Two State Solution,” accessed 30 April 2009). The other — a more credible survey — was published in March by the Oslo-based Fafo Institute for Applied International Studies and funded by the Norwegian government (“Surveying Palestinian opinions March 2009,” accessed 30 April 2009).