Fair Policy, Fair Discussion

July 20, 2010

Divesting from Israel

Filed under: American attitudes,Boycott etc,Discourse in America — Ayesha Yousuf @ 2:19 pm

Divesting from Israel is a strategy that has been practiced by many organizations for almost two decades.  The campaign has drawn the participation of various groups, including churches, students, and international non-governmental institutions.  It has also evolved into a greater general movement dubbed BDS (boycotts, divestment and sanctions.  Inspired by the success of similar campaigns against apartheid South Africa, the divestment campaigns aim to put pressure on the Israeli government to end occupation and human rights abuses of the Palestinians.

Just today, the Olympia Food Co-op in Rachel Corrie’s home town of Washington state decided it will no longer sell Israeli products in its grocery stores.  Rachel Corrie was an American student and International Solidarity Movement activist who was killed in Gaza in 2003 while protesting a home demolition.  She was run over by a bulldozer driven by an IDF solider.

Rob Richards, a board member of the co-op states: “I am trying to be realistic – the Olympia Food Co-Op boycott is not going to change the Israeli policy, but I believe that these small drops will eventually have an effect. I would like to see more co-ops joining the boycott and more voices involved.”

Also in the news for their divestment efforts is JVP, Jewish Voice for Peace.  JVP just held its annual meeting in New York City to deliver over 12,000 signatures to the company TIAA-CREF urging it to divest from companies such as Caterpillar, Northrop Grumman, and Motorola.  JVP wants TIAA-CREF to “stop investing in companies that profit from the
Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”

Though divestment is an ideal strategy, it may lack  economic effects that are significant enough to bring about change.  However, if such efforts are publicized enough, that may bring about the attention needed to pressure governments to change their policies.


June 1, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla

The international community is in a furor after yesterday’s events on the Gaza flotilla that left at least 9 activists dead by the hands of the IDF.  Major protests were sparked around the world, from Paris to Istanbul, against the actions of Israel.  Strong condemnation was elicited from the UN, though the U.S. had it watered down a bit, Turkish PM Erdogan, who called the raid a “massacre,” the EU, and many other nations.  It is clear that most of the world is united such condemnation of Israel, and the state is facing further isolation than ever before.

It is difficult to fathom what went wrong on this humanitarian mission, and the UN has called for an impartial inquiry into the raid.  Naturally, there are two differing narratives.  The Free Gaza flotilla left Cyprus with the intention of trying to open up three year blockade on Gaza by delivering  10,000 tons of aid.  Israel intercepted the flotilla 40 miles away from the Gaza coast, though its formal blockade of Gaza only extends 25 miles off the coast.  When the flotilla said its destination was Gaza and would not stop, Israeli forces proceeded to board the ships.  Under the UN Charter on the Law of the Sea, a vessel can only be boarded in international waters if it is suspected to be transporting weapons or weapons of mass destruction.  Seaborne special forces, which are trained for combat and not crowd control, proceeded to board. (more…)

May 27, 2010

The Gaza Blockade

Israel claims the borders of Gaza are closed in order to block out violent forces and ensure protection of Israeli citizens.  Why, then, does a Turkish-led convoy of international pro-Palestinian activists and humanitarian supply intimidate Israel?

Israel has said it would block the 9 fleet ship, which is carrying over 20 million Euros worth of supplies, and 700 activists.  If allowed, the supplies would be the largest amount given to the Palestinian territories.

The convoy is spearheaded by the Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) of Istanbul, and the fleet includes ships from Britain, Greece, Algeria, Kuwait, Malaysia and Ireland. The fact that the parties are international and non-political in their advocacy of human rights shows how paranoid Israel is through its decision to block the IHH. (more…)

May 18, 2010

Nonviolence: a feasible strategy?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.” But can nonviolence be the answer to the contentious issue of occupation in the West Bank?

Over the past few months, a grassroots boycott of settlement-produced goods has gripped Palestinians in the West Bank.  The boycott has recently become more organized, with volunteers (mostly students) campaigning door-to-door, distributing brochures, and burning settlement-products.  So far, the boycott of over one thousand products has resulted in the destruction of $5 million worth of settlement products.  It is estimated that $200 million worth of settlement goods are sold in the West Bank each year, which is a small portion of to Israel’s $200 billion GDP.  Although the economic effects of the boycott have been relatively minimal, it is the social and political effects that are crucial. (more…)

January 2, 2010

Belgian bank divests from settlements

Filed under: Activism,Boycott etc,European developments — Helena Cobban @ 3:01 pm

The worldwide movement for ‘BDS’– Boycott, divestment, and sanctions directed toward Israel in response to its misdeeds and crimes in the occupied territories– scored a significant, though still partial, victory in Belgium last June that got little notice in the U.S.

The victory concerned Dexia, a Belgian-French financial group that specializes in providing financing to municipalities and other public authorities.  In June Dexia announced that its subsidiary Dexia Israel would no longer provide financing for public authorities in the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Previously, between 2003 and 2007, Dexia Israel had granted loans to seven settlements and three regional authorities in the West Bank.

Though Dexia (Belgium) made that announcement in June, apparently the Israeli media only noticed it a few days ago.  And that disclosure provoked MK Uri Ariel from the hard-line pro-settler “National Union” party to demand that the finance minister take stern action against Dexia because of the “discrimination” it was exercising toward local authorities in “Judea and Samaria.”

Martijn Lauwens wrote on the International Solidarity Movement’s website (here), last June, that over the preceding year the discovery of Dexia Israel’s investments in the settlements had provoked


December 3, 2009

Yes, one person CAN make a difference!

Filed under: Activism,Boycott etc,Israeli settlements — Helena Cobban @ 11:13 pm

… And a big “thank you” to Didi Remez of the great Israeli blog Coteret, Adam Horowitz of Mondoweiss, and Peter Miller of Portland, Oregon…

On Nov. 30th, Remez published a post noting that Columbia Sportswear, a Portland-based manufacturer of fairly high-end outerwear, was running ads in The Jerusalem Post touting the value of their jackets “for active work in various regions, including outposts.”

Remez noted that,

If we have any doubt what “outposts” the ad is referring to, see the same ad in Hebrew, which ran on the same day in the Friday Political Supplement of Makor Rishon, a right-wing weekly. The Hebrew translation of “outposts” there is “gvaot” (hills) a euphemism for the illegal outposts populated by the “hilltop youth”, notorious for their violence against Palestinian civilians.

Remez noted, too, that Columbia Sportswear has “an impressive Corporate Social Responsibility portfolio and what appears to be a rather progressive domestic client base”.

The Remez post was  picked up and republished the same day by Adam Horowitz of Mondoweiss… At which point, as Horowitz reported today,

Peter Miller, described as a member of the Portland-based organization Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, took it upon himself to contact Columbia to voice his displeasure. To his surprise, Columbia responded the next day and announced they have decided to immediately discontinue the ad campaign.


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