History is repeating itself! Berkeley University of California played a central role in the Civil Rights movement, the Free Speech movement, and in protests against the Vietnam War. These young people have a history of leading their country in matters of social justice, and now they are spearheading the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign (BDS) against the Israeli government!
This story also reveals how seriously the Zionist lobby considers this development. Despite the fact that one university’s divestment is only a drop in the bucket, enormous amounts of money and energy are being poured into opposing the move, and the University’s Student President is understandably feeling the pressure!
UC Berkeley Student Senate passes divestment measure, but pro-Israel opponents pushing hard for veto
The UC Berkeley Student Senate has passed a bill that calls upon the university to withdraw nearly $12 million in investments from corporations that do business in the Palestinian West Bank, including Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, and Hewlett Packard Company. The bill, SB 160, passed at 5am April 18 by a slim 11-9 margin after 10 hours of emotional debate.
When the final vote count was announced, some students cheered and others broke down in tears. While the measure is largely symbolic and unlikely to change university policy, Israel’s biggest supporters take such divestment votes very seriously and they were actively trying to influence the outcome of this measure.
The fate of the bill is now in the hands of student President Connor Landgraf, a senior bioengineering major who promised student leaders during his campaign that he would not veto any divestment measure. But now, with the bill sitting on his desk, Landgraf is waffling and supporters of the measure say that may be partially because a pro-Israel group appears to have sponsored his trip to Israel last year.
“During my campaign I did say I wouldn’t veto, but now I have different responsibilities,” Landgraf told the Bay Guardian. Since Thursday’s vote, Landgraf said his phone has been ringing off the hook. “I’ve received literally hundreds of emails, and I’m under a lot of pressure.”
read the rest of this article here: www.sfbg.com…
The following press release from the ‘We Divest Coalition’ reflects how seriously many Zionists take the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ (BDS) campaign.
If the recent case heard in London is anything to go by, the legal fraternity is ruling increasingly in favour of the right of individuals and companies to express their opposition to the Palestinian Occupation through this non-violent avenue, and it’s hard to imagine any court forbidding shareholders the right to vote on a matter of company policy. Even so, the question is whether the threat of legal action will be sufficient to intimidate the company into taking the BDS proposal off the agenda.
Israel Law Center Threatens Suit Against TIAA-CREF
If It Doesn’t Deny Vote To Shareholders
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 12, 2013
Press Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org…
Pension fund giant TIAA-CREF is seeking permission from the Security and Exchange Commission to allow it to deny shareholders the opportunity to vote on what would be the largest Israel/Palestine referendum to date in the United States. The resolution, filed by 200 CREF shareholders, urges TIAA-CREF to divest from companies that substantially contribute to or enable egregious violations of human rights, including companies whose business supports Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
It was recently disclosed that CREF is being threatened with a lawsuit by Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) if CREF should submit the shareholder proposal for a democratic vote. Shurat HaDin claims that the resolution violates U.S. and New York state anti-boycott laws even though these laws have no application to human rights-inspired boycotts or to divestment resolutions. These peaceful forms of political pressure, central to the U.S. civil rights movement, have long been understood to be protected by the First Amendment’s free speech provision.
Shurat HaDin is using a practice known as “lawfare.” This is a tactic of intimidation, using threats of legal action to coerce students, and now also TIAA-CREF, to refrain from using democratic processes to resolve issues. Shurat HaDin seeks to bar discussion of the serious human rights abuses associated with Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. It is deeply disappointing to see TIAA-CREF embrace that same perspective.
Steve Tamari, a Palestinian-American educator and member of the St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, on behalf of hundreds of CREF filers who signed onto the resolution said:
“TIAA-CREF has not only ignored our moral concerns, but now refuses to let us vote or have any voice on the issue. We are hundreds of investors who are deeply troubled that we are forced to support segregation and other abhorrent human rights violations in order to maintain our retirement accounts.”
We Divest Campaign National Coordinator Rabbi Alissa Wise said:
“As in earlier campaigns to end human rights abuses by Sudan, South Africa, and the southern U.S., shareholders should be able to vote on whether their company should be profiting from Israel’s subjugation of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Commitment to such shareholder participation is assumed in a company, such as CREF, that is proud of its corporate transparency and democratic governance.”
We Divest National Coordinating Committee member, Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY said:
“This resolution is one example of dozens of such discussions taking place in conferences, corporate meetings, and on campuses around the country. The Methodists and Presbyterians have voted on resolutions similar to the one CREF shareholders filed. Student governments are taking up this question on campuses across the country. What is it that TIAA-CREF is so afraid of?”
Australia is hardly a key player in the struggle for Palestinian freedom and dignity, and yet the battle to silence proponents of the ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ campaign against the government of Israel (BDS) is as virulent here as anywhere in the world!
As Dr Lynch of Sydney University discovered, invoking the BDS opens a Pandora’s box of media fury, and images of the Holocaust and the history of anti-Semitism are invoked in order to demonize BDS proponents! It will be a happy day when the BDS campaign is assessed on its own merits but I don’t see that happening any time soon!
BDS campaign questions academics’ courage
By Stuart Rees
At the end of last year, The Australian newspaper spent days deriding Dr. Jake Lynch, Director of Sydney University’s Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies whose governing Council supports the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against the government of Israel. Consistent with his colleagues’ stance, Lynch refused to host an Israeli Professor, Don Avnon from Hebrew University, in his efforts to spend time at Sydney University examining civics teaching. Lynch’s principled refusal was positive about Avnon’s search but explained why he could not support the Israeli academic’s request.
This controversy raises two issues concerning professionals’ standards and responsibilities. The first concerns what passes for journalism. The second highlights the responsibilities of all academics in regard to human rights.
In attacking Dr. Lynch, journalists for The Australian demonised supporters of BDS and described the opponents of the campaign as full of sweetness and light. Such polarisation encouraged attacks from the blogosphere and from conservative politicians, such as Christopher Pyne and Julie Bishop, whom the newspaper knew they could rely on to endorse any view that defended Israeli policies.
Instead of the attack technique, the journalists could have analysed the BDS campaign and the extent of its support across Europe, North America and Africa. They could have explained that the rationale behind the boycott of academic institutions involves the complicity of a nation in the occupation of Palestine, in the continued siege of Gaza, the stealing by settlers of Palestinian lands and the decades of containment in camps of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees.
Complicity also involves privileged institutions, such as universities. However meritorious certain individual academics might be, the non-cooperation policy makes for no exceptions and some Israeli academics fully understand and accept that principle. To do otherwise is to pretend that Israel remains a normal country despite policies towards Palestinians . The BDS challenges claims about such normality.
That allegedly progressive Israeli academics are penalised by this boycott is part of the controversy. But the literature suggests that most Israeli academics are concerned with their own careers and turn a blind eye to the cruel policies of their State.
A more important point is that scholars such as Professor Avnon, work in privileged organisations, are free to travel and can enhance their prestige by attending other universities around the globe. By contrast, Palestinian academics and students have few resources, experience only containment and few chances to study overseas. The Israel High Court has even forbidden Gaza students from studying in West Bank universities.
In addition to the ‘ we always know’, ‘ we like to vilify’ techniques of some journalists from The Australian, questions also need to be raised about the responsibilities of Australian academics. It is misleading to perceive the controversy concerning Sydney University’s Centre for Peace & Conflict Studies as only about the supposed Lynch/ Avnon affair.
Many academics are interested in human rights, teach such a subject and even obtain human rights oriented research funds. But unless they make the link between theory and practice, they are, in the prophetic words of the American social scientist Robert Lynd, ‘Lecturing on navigation while the ship is going down.’
In the face of continuous human rights abuses affecting Palestinians, the time comes for citizens to find other ways to address these issues. The BDS movement provides one of the hopeful ‘other ways’.
For the rest of this article: www.onlineopinion.com…
Boycotting settlement products is a democratic right and a legitimate expression of political views, which should not be outlawed
Tomorrow (Wednesday, December 5, 2012) at 9:00 am, The Supreme Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal filed by Gush Shalom against the “Boycott Law” which prohibits calling for a boycott of settlement products. The panel would be headed by Asher Grunis, President of the Supreme Court, and also include his colleagues Salim Jubran and Esther Hayut.
Gush Shalom will be represented by the attorneys Gaby Lasky, Neri Ramati and Limor Goldstein. They will ask the court to issue an order nisi, freeze the application of the law and preventing lawsuits against those calling for a boycott of the settlements, pending the end of the proceedings. They will also seek to transfer the appeal to a broader panel of judges, due to the basic constitutional issues involved.
The “Boycott Law”, passed in the Knesset a year and a half ago, allows the settlers and their supporters to file heavy claims for damages against anyone making a call for a boycott of settlement products. Likud Knesset Member Ze’ev Elkin presented this law as one of his main parliamentary achievements, in a propaganda disseminated recently during in the Likud primaries. In practice, however, not a single such damage claim has as yet been filed.
The Gush Shalom movement made a public call for a boycott of settlement products some ten years ago, and has published a detailed list of settlement products which its activists kept updating. At the time, settler leaders and right-wing Knesset Members made harsh statements against Gush Shalom.
And precisely after the law was passed in the Knesset, other groups made high profile calls for boycott of the settlements, including “Peace Now” which set up a Facebook page entitled “Prosecute me, I boycott settlement products.” Also peace activist Naftali Raz, editor of the online news site “On the Left Side” organized a petition signed by hundreds of people, making an explicit call to boycott settlement products. However, so far the settlers and their supporters did not take up the gauntlet.
“It’s probably not by chance that they do not start proceedings under this law, and neglect to go through the legal doors thrown wide open for them. They probably realize that attempting to attack peace activists through their pockets will work against them, and that even if they won in court they would lose in the court of public opinion,” says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson. “Nevertheless, this stain of anti-democratic legislation, violating the freedom of expression and of political activity, should be removed from the law books of the State of Israel. Individuals and organizations who consider the settlements to be illegal and immoral, constituting a serious threat to our future, have the right not to finance these settlements by buying their products. Those who wish to avoid buying settlement products are also entitled to do so in public and in an organized way.”
Keller added: “The boycott law created a situation of intolerable discrimination in Israeli law. Everybody may boycott anybody else – anybody but the settlers, who have immunity. It is allowed to boycott cottage cheese and other consumer goods in order to pressure producers to reduce their prices; such a boycott is praised – and rightly so – as an expression of civic involvement. Vegetarians and animal lovers may boycott fur or restaurants which serve meat, and observant Jews may boycott anyone who sells non-kosher food. Not only is this last permitted, but the Chief Rabbinate and City Rabbinates make generous use of public funds to run ads, publishing the names and addresses of shops and restaurants and urging the public not to go there – with the express purpose of hurting the livelihood of the owners and force them to follow every dictate of the religious establishment. Boycotts of all types and kinds are allowed by law – except for advocating a boycott of the settlements. We hope that the Court is will declare this blatant discrimination an unacceptable undermining of the foundations of democracy. “
“Tthis court session, on a date set a long time ago , takes place just as the settlements issue gets to the top headlines, not only in Israel but throughout the world. Right now, this issue causes a serious diplomatic crisis between Israel and the European countries of whose support Netanyahu boasted just two weeks ago. Since 1967, the issue of the settlements determinee to a great degree whether we will live in peace or at war, and in that also defining the conditions for any socio-economic policy, and what resources would be available for this.”
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson 054-2340749
Adv. Gaby Lasky 054-4418988
Adv. Nery Ramati 050-8648854