Jewish National Fund (Winter-Spring 2010)
In this issue of al-Majdal, we look at the Jewish National Fund from various vantage-points. Joseph Schechla examines the ideological roots of Zionist organizations such as the JNF. He shows how the conflation of religion, race, nationality and citizenship, and its incorporation into Israeli law and statutes of Zionist agencies constitutes the pillar of the colonial apartheid regime that harms not only Palestinians but also Jews worldwide. Alaa Mahajna situates the JNF in Israel’s legal regime over land, analyzing recent changes to Israel’s land laws in this light. Mahajneh’s analysis is supplemented by a useful diagram prepared by attorney Usama Halabi that provides a visual map of Israel’s legal regime over land.
Ahmed Abughoush, Vivian Tabar, and Yeela Raanan provide us with case studies from both sides of the green line. These are complimented by a photo-story that describes what one would see on a visit to the JNF’s Menachem Begin park built on the ruins of the Palestinian villages al-Qabu and Ras Abu Ammar. Dan Freeman-Maloy attempts to untangle the workings of the JNF within the web of Zionists lobby, community and fundraising organizations operating in North America. Finally, Sofiah Macleod and Sara Kershnar provide us with an overview of already existing campaigns to challenge the JNF, providing a starting point for discussions on how to develop such campaigns in the near future.
For anyone taking a road trip along the highways of the part of Palestine that became Israel in 1948, one is bound to spot a blue and green structure in the shape of a bird marked with the Hebrew letters KKL, which stands for Keren Kayemeth L’Yisrael, the Hebrew name of the Israeli branch of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). All around the bird one will see expanses of forests planted sometime in the past few decades. A walk through one of these forests will take the visitor past fruit trees, cactus plants, terraced hillsides, and the ruins of buildings. In some cases, these ruins are explained in a JNF brochure pointing to their ancient history, in other cases, one is left to the devices of one's imagination. In all cases, these sites are what remains of some of the more than five hundred villages depopulated and destroyed through the course of Israel’s establishment, the homes of millions of Palestinian refugees struggling to return to them for over sixty years. By walking through a JNF park or forest, one inhales the fresh smell of the green-washing of Palestine’s Nakba.
This open letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was first published in Arabic by Ma’an News, Palestine, in early March 2010.
Since the adoption of the strategy of the “peace of the brave” which seeks to achieve Palestinian rights through negotiations, Palestinian officials have never missed an opportunity to raise the demand for the international community to intervene and ensure respect of its international law and UN resolutions. And while the Palestinian leadership had limited its own strategic options in the public relations battle around the peace negotiations, the demand for enforcement of international law preserved a certain “logic” in midst of the general deterioration, in particular the disintegration of the Palestinian political system.
Much has been written, forgotten and written again over the past century on the subject of Zionism and Israel’s unique civil status categories and corresponding practices. For a person with a long life and memory, it may be surprising to find that the crucial distinction between nationality and citizenship in Israel is news to so many people concerned with the conflict and problem of Zionism. Understandably for observers not regularly engaged in the conflict, such as human rights treaty body members, the concept has been a revelation.1
The Palestinian village of Imwas, together with the villages of Yalu and Beit Nuba, were razed to the ground in the 1967 war. In the mid-1970s, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) used donations from its Canadian branch to establish Canada Park on the lands of the three villages. We spoke with Ahmad Abughoush, president of Lajnet Ahali Imwas (Imwas Society) about the plight of the village, the villagers, and their attempts to return home.
The Jewish National Fund and the Coretta Scott King Forest
In recent years, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) has announced its plans to rebuild a section of the Birya forest, located in the Galilee, and to name it after the late Coretta Scott King, the renowned civil rights and anti-apartheid activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr. The Coretta Scott King Forest is being built as part of ‘Operation Northern Renewal,’ a $400 million JNF campaign that aims to rebuild its forests in the North that were destroyed during Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon the summer of 2006.
One of the most prominent results of the Nakba, which befell the Palestinian people in 1948, is the drastic change that occurred in respect to the control of land in Palestine. The military occupation of territory on one hand, and the expulsion and forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land on the other, led to effective Israeli control over the majority of the land in the newly established state.
In this explanatory diagram, attorney Usama Halabi attempts to chart Israel's regime over land by situating the key institutions (Israel Lands Authority, Jewish National Fund, Israeli Development Authority) as well as the most important of Israel's laws over land in relation to one another.
The Role of the Jewish National Fund in Impeding Land Rights for the Indigenous Bedouin Population in the NaqabWritten by Yeela Raanan
I grew up Jewish in the Naqab (Hebraized as Negev). As a child I enjoyed picnics in the Yattir forest, located in the northern Naqab. I asked how it could be that the man-made forest of Yattir is thriving, yet there were no natural forests in the surrounding area. I was told that it was because of the black goats of the Bedouin. They ate all the vegetation, making the land a desert.
The Zionist project has, from its inception, been a cross-continental enterprise. Early Zionist settlement and proto-state formation, the seizure of Palestine in 1948 by the force of arms, and the consolidation of this conquest were all carried out with the crucial participation of important sectors in Europe and North America.
Co-authored with Sofiah MacLeod & Sara Kershnar
[W]hen the JNF Committee sought legal advice from England in 1905 as to the possibility of registering as a charity, their legal advisors were unanimous that it would be impossible: “We therefore conclude that the purpose of the Fund will be a political rather than a charitable one and that limiting the Fund’s use to strictly charitable purposes would run counter to the main purpose of the Fund.”
On a trip to find the Palestinian village of al-Qabu, destroyed and depopulated by Israeli military forces in October 1948, one encounters the ways in which the Jewish National Fund's parks and forests have altered the Palestinian landscape. The following photographs give a small sense of how this is done.
Eyal Weizman Hollow Land: Israel’s Architecture of Occupation London, Verso, 2007
One of the main challenges in trying to analyze the Palestinian-Israeli context is the ever-changing dynamics taking place on the territorial-political level. Time and space are complementary elements of the complex apparatus shaping and re-shaping the “reality on the ground.”
In the two years since the book was first published in English and the three years since it was written much has taken place. If you have taken this book into your hands you must surely know the order of events: Hamas winning the Palestinian elections at the beginning of 2006, the War in Lebanon half a year later in the summer of 2006, Hamas taking power in Gaza in the summer of 2007, the War on Gaza in 2008/2009.
Michael Dumper, The Future for Palestinian Refugees: Toward Equity and Peace (Boulder and London: Lynn Rienner, 2007)
This book offers an introduction to the Palestinian refugee question in a format geared primarily towards policymakers and academics. It covers a broad range of ground and for that reason the book can be a useful tool for activists as well.
Badil’s International Advocacy in January-March 2010
Follow-up on the Goldstone Report, UN, New York - in November 2009, the UN General Assembly had endorsed the report of the Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (“Goldstone Report”) and called upon the Israeli and the Palestinian sides to conduct investigations into the serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in line with the Goldstone recommendations. Since then, Israel has not implemented investigations in conformity with international standards, and the Palestinian authorities have equally failed to comply with the requirements of the UN. In February 2010, three of the six months alloted to the domestic investigations had lapsed and an initial assessment was due by the UN Secretary-General. The latter, however, failed to assess the measures carried out by the parties of the conflict, and the General Assembly decided to extended the period for the investigations at the domestic level for another five (instead of the initial three) months.1
Follow-up on the Goldstone Report, HRC, Geneva - on 22 March 2010, the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), which originally dispatched the Goldstone Mission, also convened a follow-up session on the implementation of the Goldstone Mission’s recommendations. Badil, together with 14 NGOs,2 lobbied the Council inter alia to: (1) Use all means at its disposal to hasten the process of accountability and achieve justice for the victims as indicated in the Mission’s Report; (2) Call upon the GA to establish an independent committee of experts to monitor and assess the effectiveness and genuineness of domestic investigations carried out by the parties to the conflict; (3) Call upon the GA to establish an escrow fund for Palestinian victims as called for in the Goldstone Report; and (4) Continue to review the implementation of the Mission’s Report.3 The Human Rights Council eventually passed a resolution calling upon the High Commissioner to explore and determine the appropriate modalities for the establishment of an escrow fund for the provision of reparation to the Palestinian victims. Moreover, the Council decided to establish a committee of independent experts in international humanitarian and human rights law to monitor and assess any domestic, legal or other proceedings undertaken by both parties to the conflict.4
HRC resolution on Israel’s violations in the OPT - Badil, together with PCHR and WACLAC, intervened with another oral statement on ongoing forced internal displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian population, while emphasizing that the land confiscation, settlement expansion, house demolition, forced evictions and the construction of the Wall are measures used by the Israeli occupying power to illegally change the demographic composition in the OPT. The Human Rights Council condemned Israel’s continued construction of settlements in the OPT, including East Jerusalem, and reaffirmed that settlements, the separation Wall, as well as demolition of homes and evictions are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to the peace and threaten to make a two state solution impossible. Moreover, it demanded Israel to “immediately stop its illegal decision to demolish a large number of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem, including in the neighborhood area of Al-Bustan in Silwan, and the evacuation of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem, which is resulting in the displacement of more than two thousand resident Palestinians of East Jerusalem.”5
Lobbying against PLO/PA deferral of the Falk Report - another item scheduled for discussion by the Human Rights Council was the periodical report of Prof. Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967.6 Shockingly, this report was removed from the agenda of the Council following the request of the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN in Geneva. In his report, Professor Falk supported the full implementation of the recommendations of the Goldstone Mission’s report, yet he addressed some of the shortfalls in the findings of that report. For instance, he criticized the Mission for failing to make a finding of aggression in Israel’s act of launching the attack on the Gaza Strip, and that it took for granted the dubious proposition that Israel was entitled to act against the Gaza Strip in self-defense. Falk also questioned whether the rather restrictive legal framing of the fact-finding mission’s inquiry was suitable for this one-sided or asymmetric encounter, in which the Palestinian side lacked any substantial weaponry to defend itself against one of the world’s most powerful armies, while Israel defined its military targets as extending to the civilian infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. Falk also urged the members of the Human Rights Council to convey to their governments a call for the implementation of the Goldstone report in relation to the exercise of universal jurisdiction. In addition, he addressed Israeli settlement activities in the OPT and its impact on the enjoyment of human rights and the continuing blockade of Gaza.
Professor Falk’s courage in upholding human rights is exceptionally prominent in the two final sections of the report. The first of these is one in which he called upon those engaged in the peace process to muster the will to address the Palestinian refugee question and uphold the rights of Palestinian refugees. The second is one in which he called on the members of the Human Rights Council to consider the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as a means of implementing human rights, including the right of self-determination, and to provide guidelines for such campaign.
Instead of supporting the Special Rapporteur’s report and lobby state members to endorse its recommendations, the PLO representative to the UN lobbied for the deferral of the report to the June 2010 session for reasons that can at best be described as incoherent. A letter signed by almost twenty NGOs was sent to President Mahmoud Abbas expressing concern about the PLO’s stance regarding the Falk report. It also called upon the PLO to withdraw its request for deferral.7 Similar letters were sent to the members of the PLO Executive Committee and the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Legislative Council.
In addition, Badil, together with twelve Palestinian and international NGOs, sent letters to each member state of the Human Rights Council, the Council’s President, and the High Commissioner expressing concern over the removal of the Special Rapporteur’s Report, and stressing the urgent need to defend the independence of UN Special Procedures. The letter asked the member states to act immediately to ensure that the report be kept on the Council’s agenda. Without the support of the PLO representative, however, the civil society request and concerns were ignored, and the Council did not discuss the report.
Mamilla petition and BADIL side-event at the HRC - on 18 March 2010, Badil organized a side-event to the Human Rights Council’s session in Geneva’s Palais des Nations titled Palestinian cultural rights and religious freedoms in light of Israel’s persistent violations of international law. The main purpose of the side-event was to raise awareness and lobby the seventy governmental and NGO delegates who attended the side-event, includeding the Palestinian Deputy Ambassador, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs special envoy to the session of the Human Rights Council, the Ambassador of the League of Arab States, as well as the ambassadors of Greece and Egyptian and Saudi Arabian diplomats.
Professor Georges Abi-Saab, Honorary Professor of International Law at the University of Geneva, was one of the panelists, and spoke about the status of Jerusalem in international law and ways to make the HRC more effective in addressing Israeli violations of cultural and religious right. Ms. Huda Al-Imam, Director of the Center for Jerusalem Studies at Al-Quds University shared her personal experience in Jerusalem and addressed the denial of cultural and religious freedoms under Israeli occupation, presenting the cases of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi, Al-Haram Al-Sharif and the Mamilla Cemetery. The third panelist was Ms. Rania Madi, Badil’s representative in Geneva, who used her detailed knowledge of the Human Rights Council and related legal instruments and processes to place religious and cultural issues in the broader human rights context, linking them to the question of displaced persons, evictions, protection of refugees and the Judaization of Jerusalem. During the presentations, Badil presented a slide-show of 100 new and captioned photographs of settlers roaming through Haram al Sharif under military escort (immodestly dressed in some cases), flags over the city walls, tunneling, the new Hurva Synagogue and other settler outposts in the old city, preventing worshipers from reaching holy sites.
In the same vein, Badil endorsed the petition led by the US Center for Constitutional Rights that called for urgent action on human rights violations in Ma’man Allah (Mamilla) Cemetery in Jerusalem by Israel. This petition is a response to the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court that the construction of the “museum of tolerance” on Mamilla Cemetery was lawful, thereby allowing the excavation of ancient tombs and removal of hundreds of human remains from part of the historic cemetery.8 The UN Human Rights Council expressed its grave concern regarding the above and called upon Israel to immediately desist from such illegal activities therein.9
1. UNGA, Follow-up Report of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (II), A/64/L.48, 23 February 2010.
2. Adalah - The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association;Al Mezan; Al-Dameer Association for Human Rights-Gaza; Al-Haq; Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA); Defence for Children International (DCI) - Palestine Section; International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild; Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR); Physicians for Human Rights- srael; The Gaza Community Mental Health Program; The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; The National Center for Community Rehabilitation; and Women's Center for Legal Aid and Counseling (WCLAC).
3. Badil and others, More than One year after "Operation Cast Lead": Distressing Lack of Accountability and Justice for the Victims of the Conflict, Joint Oral and Written Statements to the Human Rights Council, March 2010.
4. UNHRC, Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, A/HRC/13/L.30, 22 March 2010.
5. UNHRC, The Grave Human Rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, A/HRC/13/L.29, 19 March 2010.
6. UNHRC, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/HRC/13.53, January 2010.
7. Badil and others, The Palestinian Position regarding the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories occupied since 1967 A/HRC/13/53, A letter to President Mahmoud Abbas, 25 February 2010 (in Arabic).
8. HCJ 52/06., Al Aqsa Association for tge Development of the Assets if the Muslim Waqfin the land of Israel ltd. V. The Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum Corp., 29 October 2008.
9. UNHRC, The Grave Human Rights violations by Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, A/HRC/13/L.29, 19 March 2010.
Joint submission to HRC: Distressing Lack of Accountability and Justice for the Victims of the ConflictWritten by BADIL Staff
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL
1 – 26 March 2010
Joint written statement by Adalah - The Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel; Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association;Al Mezan; AL-Dameer Association for Human Rights-Gaza; Al-Haq; Arab Association for Human Rights (HRA); Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights; International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild; Palestinian Center for Human Rights; Physicians for Human Rights-Israel; The Gaza Community Mental Health Program; The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions; The National Center for Community Rehabilitation; Women’s Center for Legal Aid and Councelling (WCLAC).
More than One year after “Operation Cast Lead”: Distressing Lack of Accountability and Justice for the Victims of the Conflict
1. The UN Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict (the Mission), determined that Israel and Palestinian armed groups committed serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law and possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. The UN called on both parties to take all steps to launch appropriate independent investigations in conformity with international standards. In resolution S-12/1, the HRC also stressed the urgent need to ensure accountability for all violations of international law to prevent further violations.
2. Under international law, proper investigations into suspected violations of international law must be independent, impartial, effective, transparent and prompt. However, the information and material available suggest that the domestic investigations carried out by the parties to the conflict have not met these standards.
I. The State of Israel
a. Lack of legal protection for Palestinians under the Israeli legal system
3. Since 2003, the Military Advocate General (MAG) has pursued a policy of not opening criminal investigations into the killing and injury of Palestinians civilians in the OPT. The same year this policy was challenged at the Israeli Supreme Court, yet the petition remains pending.1 Available evidence indicates that the Israeli army maintains that violations of international humanitarian law and international crimes are restricted to cases of intentional attacks as opposed to reckless or negligent acts against civilians. This contradicts Israeli and international criminal law.2
4. Israel's Supreme Court upheld a 2005 law, which provides that no compensation is payable to “a citizen of an Enemy State and an activist or member of a Terrorist Organization” for damages caused during military operations since September 2000. This means that Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip remain barred from legal redress for the wrongdoings of Israeli soldiers during “Operation Cast Lead,” and clearly violates international law.
b. Israel’s Investigation
5. Israel’s investigations are an internal military process, which suffer from lack of independence, impartiality, effectiveness and transparency. According to the State of Israel, 150 incidents have been examined, the majority of which are examined through so–called “operational debriefings.” 36 have been referred for criminal investigation by the MAG, and many cases were closed allegedly on the basis of “lack of evidence.”3
6. Operational debriefings are a tool to review incidents and operations that are conducted by soldiers together with a superior officer, without testimony from victims or witnesses being sought. Such debriefings are confidential and not designed to identify criminal liability, but only serve operational purposes.4 No criminal investigations have been opened in the vast majority of cases despite existing prima facie evidence that international crimes were committee.
7. While the majority of the serious violations of international law committed during "Cast Lead" were a result of questionable broader policies and orders, Israel’s investigations merely address misconduct of individual soldiers, and treat all complaints as isolated incidents. To date, Israel has refused to investigate these broader policies, strategies, procedures, regulations and objectives, or the continuation of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, contrary to the Mission’s explicit recommendations.
8. MAG and the Attorney General (AG) are responsible for making decisions regarding examinations and criminal investigations. MAG provided legal advice to the army during the planning stages of the operation in Gaza and throughout its execution.5 The AG also advised on “punitive collective sanctions.” These facts call for carrying out an investigation of MAG and the AG, and should disqualify both from impartially investigating suspected violations of international law by the military.
9. Israel’s investigations raise serious doubts about their credibility. For example, the Israeli claim that the only operating flour mill in the Gaza Strip was hit by Israeli ground shells is inconsistent with documented evidence that supports the Mission’s findings that aerial bombardment caused its destruction.6
10. Only one criminal investigation has thus far led to prosecution and conviction of a soldier – and this dealing with a case for theft of a credit card. The only other disciplinary cases involved two officers who fired explosive shells into populated areas, in violation of orders from superiors. However, the Israeli Army has denied this.
c. The Blockade
11. The longstanding Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip is designed to achieve political objectives, including compelling the Gaza population to not support Hamas. The blockade deprives the Gazan population (66% of whom are refugees) from sustenance, employment, health care, housing and water, and denies them freedom of movement and the right to leave and enter one’s country, as well as limits access to courts of law and effective remedy.7 The Mission has noted that the above could amount to persecution, a crime against humanity.8
12. HRC has acknowledged that the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip, including its closure of border crossings and cutting means of subsistence, constitutes collective punishment,9 and urged Israel to lift the blockade.10 Nevertheless, Israel continues to tighten the siege and disregard its legal obligations under international law, and HRC’s resolutions.
II. The Palestinian Authorities
13. Information available on the investigations carried out by the Palestinian authorities provides no evidence of compliance with required international standards. The de facto government in Gaza issued a statement asserting that rocket attacks against Israel were directed only at military targets, a claim disproved by all available evidence. In the West Bank, the responsible Palestinian authority has equally failed to comply with the requirements of the recommendations of the Report, its action to date being limited to the appointment of an investigatory committee.
III. The Role of the UN and International Community
14. Mechanisms listed in the Mission’s recommendations call attention to the responsibilities of the parties to the conflict as well as to those of other actors, such as UN bodies and States. In resolution S-12/1, HRC called upon all concerned parties, including UN bodies, to ensure implementation of the Mission’s report in accordance with their respective mandates.
15. Nevertheless, the UN and international community have failed in exerting effective pressure on the parties to achieve accountability and justice for the victims. This is demonstrated by the failure of the domestic investigations; the reluctance of the Security-Council to address the Report and establish an independent committee of experts to monitor investigations; the disinclination of the Secretary-General to assess the implementation of the Mission’s report by the parties to the conflict;11 and the non-establishment of an escrow fund by the UNGA for Palestinian victims.12
In light of the above, we urge the HRC to:
1.Call on Israel to immediately lift the blockade on the occupied Gaza Strip;
2.Use all means at the HRC’s disposal to hasten the process of accountability and achieve justice for the victims as indicated in the Mission’s Report;
3.Call upon the GA to establish an independent committee of experts on international law and criminal investigations to monitor and assess the effectiveness and genuineness of domestic investigations carried out by the parties to the conflict;
4.Call upon the GA to establish an escrow fund for Palestinian victims;
5.Continue to review the implementation of the Mission’s Report;
6.Recommend the Government of Switzerland, in its capacity as depositary of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (GCIV), to promptly undertake necessary steps to reconvene the Conference for the High Contracting Parties on measures to enforce the GCIV in the OPT.
European BDS Organizations Campaigning to” Give Israel the Red Card”
7 October 2009 – 18 European organizations involved in the BDS campaign launched an effort calling on FIFA to live up to the letter and the spirit of its statutes and to seize this opportunity to prove to the world that it stands for a more just world by sending Israel an unmistakable threat of exclusion. This would be an important victory for human rights -- not only for the Palestinian people, but also for the international football community.
United in Struggle against Israeli Colonialism, Occupation and Racism Conference, Bethlehem
24-25 October 2009 – the Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI), together with the Alternative Information Center (AIC), organized an international seminar which gathered Palestinian, international and anti-colonial Israeli activists, researchers, and others interested in promoting justice for the Palestinian people. The seminar placed a special emphasis on the economic interests behind the occupation and the potential impact that the international campaigns for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) can make in promoting justices for the Palestinian people. Among other demands, the conference participants called for: firm opposition of the politics and projects of normalization with Israel in the Arab world by activating the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine campaign (BDS); emphasising the 2005 invitation extended by Palestinian civil society to conscientious Israelis to support the call for BDS for the sake of justice and genuine peace; and reinforcing a stronger and more efficient position in the Arab states and societies to defend Jerusalem, in addition to boycotting all political, economic and cultural activities complicit with Israeli efforts to Judaize and isolate Jerusalem.
Bahraini Parliamentarians Pass Law to Ban Ties to Israel
27 October 2009 – Bahraini Parliamentarians proposed new law bills entrenching the boycott of Israel. The bills include a penalty of up to five years in jail for any Bahraini who deals directly with Israel; banning any form of relations with Israel or its people at all levels - government, business or private. Penalties would include fines of up to BD10,000 and businessmen dealing with Israel, selling or promoting its products would lose their licenses for up to 10 years. The proposed law would also revive the Israeli Boycott Office, closed to make way for the Free Trade Agreement with the US, and would also ban the government by law from setting up any diplomatic mission in Israel.
Sussex University Students Vote to Boycott Israeli Goods
30 October 2009 – Following a landmark referendum, students at Sussex University have voted to boycott Israeli goods. The decision follows the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel, which calls upon the Israeli state to respect international law and end the occupation of Palestine. The referendum result mandates the Students’ Union to remove all Israeli produce from its stores, and review its sources for food outlets. This makes Sussex Students’ Union the first in the UK to implement a full boycott of Israeli goods through referendum. The vote was one of the largest and closest contested in the Union’s history, with 562 votes for and 450 against the boycott.
New Booklet on Palestinian BDS Campaign
31 October 2009 – The Ma’an Development Center produced an information booklet on the BDS campaign entitled “Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions: Lessons Learned in Effective Solidarity.” The booklet can be downloaded from: http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/574
French Workers’ Union CNT Joins BDS Campaign
1 November 2009 – Through the intermediary of its international Secretary, the National Work Confederation (ConfÃ©dÃ©ration Nationale du Travail or CNT), a French anti-capitalist internationalist union involved in social class struggles, has joined the BDS campaign. The union committed itself to take an active part in the initiatives organized in France. The CNT’s international secretary has also invited every union and federation within its confederation to sign on to the BDS campaign individually and to take concrete actions in their own field of activities (education, social work, health, culture, trade, media…) and in their various regions.
Boycott of Ahava cosmetics launched in Montreal
2 November 2009 – Members of Middle East solidarity groups Tadamon! , Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights (SPHR) and the QuÃ©bec BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Committee launched a campaign demanding that the Canadian department store “The Bay” take products of Ahava Dead Sea cosmetics off its shelves. Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories is a privately held Israeli cosmetics company that manufactures products using minerals and mud from the Dead Sea. Ahava’s products – such as Grape & Avocado Body Wash, Dead Sea Mineral Mud, and Mineral Foot Cream – are widely available in high-end department stores and pharmacies throughout the United States, Europe and Canada.
British Activists Carry Out Week of Action to Boycott of Israeli Settlement Products
9-15 November 2009 – As part of the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK implemented a week-long boycott against several large supermarket chains in the UK that carry Israeli products. The week-long boycott targeted the Waitrose and Morrisons supermarket chains, in an attempt to pressure the stores to discontinue the sale of fruits and vegetables grown and processed on Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The week of action came after activists tried other tactics, such as petitioning the stores to stop selling what they call ‘apartheid products’, but the stores’ managers were unresponsive.
New Orleans Middle East Film Festival becomes the first in the US to Join the Cultural Boycott
12 November 2009 – “The first two years we had a very strong presence from Israel. This year, all of the films that deal with Israel are from the point of view of the Palestinians, I was reluctant [to do that] in the first few years of the film festival, because I wasn’t doing a Palestinian film festival, I was doing a Middle East film festival -- I was trying to get a very balanced point of view... But after the invasion [of Gaza] and Israel’s refusal to let rebuilding materials in, I decided to join the international call for a cultural boycott of Israel... I know I’m going to get heat from it, but ...” –Rene Broussard, Organizer of the New Orleans Middle East Film Festival
Dutch Government to Opens Inquiry that Could Lead to Boycott of Ahava
13 November 2009 – For months, a group called the Badjassen Brigade (Bathrobe Brigades) has worked to protest against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory by holding demonstrations outside the shops where AHAVA products are sold, under the campaign title ‘Gestolen Schoonheid’ (Stolen Beauty). The action group is also trying to prevent AHAVA from developing a network of sales points in the Netherlands. The campaign has begun to bear fruit as the Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen has agreed to begin an enquiry into the import of cosmetic products from AHAVA. The company manufactures cosmetics in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement on the West Bank, using minerals and mud from the River Jordan. The products are misleadingly exported under the label 'Made in Israel’.
BNC Calls on Arab States to Cancel Deals with Veolia and Alstom
16 November 2009 – The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) held a press conference releasing information on the illegality of the Jerusalem Light Rail project, and the role that the French companies Veolia and Alstom have been contracted to fulfil in the construction and management of the rail project. At the press conference, the BNC called on Arab states to cut any relations with these two companies until they divest from the rail project. In particular, the BNC called on Saudi Arabia to disqualify the companies from the bidding on the multi-million dollar Mecca-Medina railway contract.
Palestinian Trade Union Movement Unanimously Confirms Support for BDS
25 November 2009 – In reaction to reports alleging that a Palestinian trade union official has stated his reservations about the Palestinian civil society campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), the full spectrum of the Palestinian trade union movement issued public statements expressing solid and inequivocal support for the BDS National Committee (BNC) and for the global BDS campaign against Israel as an effective form of resisting its military occupation, war crimes and apartheid policies.
US Trade Unionists Call on AFL-CIO President to Boycott Israel
4 December 2009 – Thirty-three prominent US trade unionists issued an open letter to Richard Trumka, President of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), which represents 11 million workers. The letter came as a response to a speech by Trumka in which he denounced the BDS campaign, and stated that US trade unions must “divest from State of Israel Bonds; support workers’ refusal to handle Israeli cargo; break ties with the racist Histadrut; and oppose U.S. military and economic aid for Israel.”
French Appeals Court Confirms Jurisdiction over Alstom Case
17 December 2009 - The Court of Appeal of Versailles confirmed the jurisdiction of the Tribunal of Nanterre regarding the legal claim brought by the Association of French-Palestinian Solidarity (AFPS) against VÃ©olia transport, Alstom and Alstom transport regarding the construction and operation of the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project.
European Owned Israeli Bank Stops Cuts Funding to Settlements
1 December 2009 – The parent bank of Dexia Bank, owned by French and Belgian interests, notified regional councils in the West Bank that has cut off their lines of credit. The Israeli bank, which is the official supplier of credit to the regional councils, asked them to close their accounts.The Dexia Group bought the Israeli Municipality Treasure Bank and established Dexia Israel in 2001.Dexia has continued to reject anti-apartheid groups’ demands to stop lending money to settlements in Jerusalem.
“Pakistanis for Palestine” Launch BDS Campaign in Pakistan
24 January 2010 – A campaign to express solidarity with the Palestinian people was launched in Lahore under the name of “Pakistanis for Palestine.” Campaign organizers have focused initially on endorsing the boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, as called for by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI). The have also called upon Pakistani academics, artists, poets, writers, singers and filmmakers to join the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.
Demonstration in Malaysia Calls for Boycott of Israel
24 January 2010 - More than 100 members of Viva Palestina Malaysia (VPM), a coalition of NGOs participated in a five-kilometre demonstration in Kuala Lampur in support of the Palestinian struggle for self-determination. Demonstration participants wore white T-shirts bearing the words “Boikot Israel” (Boycott Israel) as part of a campaign to boycott the products of four multinational companies alleged to be strong supporters of the Zionist regime.
Danske Bank Divests from Elbit and Africa-Israel
25 January 2010 – Africa Israel Investments and Elbit Systems were added to Danske Bank’s list of companies that fail to adhere to its Socially Responsible Investment policy. The bank’s Socially Responsible Investment policy obliges it to examine the willingness of potential investments to follow international conventions in human rights and employment standards among others.The two companies have been added to the list, which contains 24 companies, based on their activities in the settlement areas of the Palestinian territories. Elbit Systems provides surveillance systems to the apartheid wall, while Africa Israel Investments has been involved in construction of Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank. Danske Bank’s move follows a similar decision from Norway’s Government Pension Fund Global to exclude Elbit last September for its involvement in the separation barrier. Danske Bank is the largest financial enterprise in Denmark.
Canadian Students at Carleton University Launch Divestment Campaign
27 January 2010 – Through months of research, the group “Students Against Israeli Apartheid” (SAIA) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada discovered that the university’s Pension Fund currently invests $2,762,535 in five companies that are complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. In light of these findings, SAIA has launched a campaign calling on Carleton to immediately divest from the offending corporations: Motorola, BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, L-3 Communications, and Tesco supermarkets, as well as to adopt a socially responsible investment policy for all of its investments. In 1987, Carleton divested from all companies complicit in the apartheid regime in South Africa. The South African victory serves as an inspiring model for SAIA’s divestment campaign, which is the first Palestine-centred divestment initiative in Canada. Watch the video at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/630
Dutch BDS activists organize first BDS “Flash-mob”
28 January 2010 – At the sound of a whistle the whole group of activists took an Israeli product and froze, staring at the products in disbelieve that Albert Heijn (a large supermarket in Utrecht, Holland) still sells Israeli products! Other people in the supermarket were quite confused and noticed the green t-shirts saying: “Don’t buy Israeli apartheid.” The sound of a second whistle started the group to take all Israeli products in their carts and while whistling a song they all moved to the exit where the products were piled up and left with a strong message: We do not want Israeli products in OUR supermarkets. We cant do business as usual with Israel as long as it commits war crimes and doesn’t comply with international law. Watch the video at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/634
California Residents Call for Severing State Ties with Israeli Government
1 February 2010 – A group calling itself the Israel Divestiture Forum filed an initiative with the attorney general that would require state pension funds to sever ties with Israeli companies or the Israeli government. The measure would need almost 434,000 valid signatures from registered California voters to qualify for the November ballot. Under the proposal, divestment guidelines would be reversed if Israel pulls out of the territories seized during the 1967 war, or the Israeli and Palestinian governments “conclude a peace treaty that leads to the establishment of a Palestinian state that is recognized by the United States Government.”
Students Outraged at Invitation of Israel’s US Ambassador to Speak on their Campus
8 February 2010 - When Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren came to talk about U.S.-Israel relations at the University of California at Irvine, dozens of outraged students attended his talk and made their objections clear. Oren was interrupted 10 times while trying to give his speech before 500 people at the UCI Student Center, where there was heavy security. Oren took a 20 minute break after the fourth protest, asked for hospitality and resumed his speech, only to be interrupted again. After the 10th interruption, several dozens students who opposed Oren’s talk got up and walked out and staged a protest outside. Watch the video at: http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/641
Brussels BDS Activists Impersonate El Al Flight Attendants
7 February 2010 - Eight peace activists entered the Brussels Holiday Fair and impersonated flight attendants of the Israeli airline company El Al. They handed out fake free plane tickets to Israel, which referred to the fact that El Al contributes to the transport of arms to the country (160 million bullet parts, 17 million rounds of ammunition and tens of thousands cartridges, smoke shells and fuses in 2005 and 2006 alone). Upon discovery of the action, Israeli security agents observing the Fair reacted by getting all the “air hostesses” arrested.
University of Arizona Students Launch Divestment Campaign Targetting Motorolla
15 February 2010 – Students at the University of Arizona in the USA have launched a campaign calling on their university to divest from Motorolla corporation. The students of the “University of Arizona Community for Human Rights” have been engaged over the past few months in a campaign calling on their local police department to cancel a $203,000 contract with the Motorola Corporation for radio and communication equipment. The contract was signed in 1999 and is still active today.
Israeli Apartheid Week 2010 – The Biggest one Yet
1-14 March 2010 – Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) this year was the biggest yet, having spread to well over 50 cities across the globe. Since it was first launched in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 40 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, which took place in the wake of Israel’s brutal assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Lectures, films, and actions held during the week highlighted some of the successes of the BDS movement along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid. More information at: http://www.apartheidweek.org
Dutch Pension Fund Follows Scandinavian Divestment from Elbit due to BDS pressure
19 February 2010 -- ABP announced that it had sold its US $2.7 million shares in Elbit Systems. Following a similar decision by the Norwegian State Pension Fund, Kommunal Landspensjonkasse (KLP), one of the largest life insurance companies in Norway, also divested from Elbit. The move by heavyweights Halvorsen and KLP to divest led Danwatch, the Danish financial watchdog, to add last month Elbit to its blacklist of 35 companies that are disqualified from investments due to ethical considerations. The largest bank in Denmark and a leading player in the Scandinavian financial markets, Danske Bank followed suit a week later. The bank also blacklisted Africa-Israel, a company led by diamond mogul Lev Leviev which has been involved in the illegal construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Kjaergaard noted that the bank is determining whether other companies with activities in the Israeli settlements qualify for exclusion. Danske Bank’s decision was followed by PKA Ltd., one of the largest Danish pension funds, selling its shares in Elbit worth $1 million. Other major institutional investors in Scandinavia have also excluded Elbit from their portfolios due to ethical concerns. Folksam, Sweden’s largest asset manager, responded to an inquiry regarding its investments in either Elbit or Africa-Israel, that the fund did not have holdings in either company. The two largest Dutch pension funds, ABP and PFZW are the focus of a coalition of Palestine solidarity activists, organizations and concerned citizens who are currently pressuring the two pension funds to follow the Scandinavian example and divest from Elbit and other companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.
EU court: West Bank goods are not Israeli
25 February 2010 - In a ruling touching on the status of the West Bank, the European Union high court ruled that the area is not part of Israel and Israeli goods made there are subject to EU import duties. The court stated that the EU-Israeli Association Agreement has a defined territorial scope, and that Israeli goods made in the West Bank cannot enjoy duty-free access to the vast EU market.
500 Artists Issue Statement Israeli Apartheid
25 February 2010 - A broad spectrum of Montreal artists took a standing in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom and supporting the growing international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli state. Montreal artists are now joining this international campaign to concretely protest the Israeli state’s ongoing denial of the inalienable rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties, as stipulated in and protected by international law, as well as Israel’s ongoing occupation and colonization of the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza, which also constitutes a violation of international law and multiple United Nations resolutions. Read the statement at: http://www.tadamon.ca/post/5824
Historic Student Divestment Resolution Passed at University of Michigan, Dearborn
26 February 2010 – The University of Michigan at Dearborn Student Government issued General Assembly Resolution # 2010-003 which states that “the University is known to have several million dollars of investment in corporations that sell weapons, goods, and services to Israel—including BAE, Raytheon, Boeing, General Electric, United Technologies, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and Northrop Grumman, among others–whom in turn uses the weapons, goods, and services inhumanely … be it Resolved, (1) that the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government will lead a movement to collect petition signatures calling on the Board of Regents to form such an advisory committee, and … (2) that the University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government calls on the Board of Regents to create an advisory committee to determine if any University investments are questionable and in need of appropriate corrective actions, and … (3) that on behalf of the students at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, we will urge this committee to recommend immediate divestment from companies that are directly involved in the ongoing illegal occupation, because we deem these investments to be profoundly unethical and in direct conflict with the mission of this University.”
Russell Tribunal on Palestine calls for Sanctions on Israel
3 March 2010 – The Russell Tribunal on Palestine convened in Barcelona, Spain and issued its ruling on six questions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Tribunal’s judgments are not judicially binding but are meant to examine the complicity of the European Union in perpetuating what the Tribunal called Israel’s “policy of war, occupation, and colonization for 60 years.” The jurists were assembled from around the globe, and among theor conclusions, the jury stipulated that Israel practices a form of apartheid and that states are obliged to place sanctions on the apartheid state until it complies with international law.
Berkeley student government approves divestment against Israel
18 March 2010 - The ASUC Senate passed a bill urging the University of California to divest from companies who have supplied the state of Israel with materials used in alleged war crimes. BDS activists who pushed the bill forward described the bill as the first step in an expected long-term process to convince the UC Board of Regents to pull total investments of about $135 million from five companies currently supplying Israel with electronics and weapons, including Hewlett-Packard and General Electric. On 24 March 2010, UC Berkeley ASUC President Will Smelko vetoed the bill, and the university’s senate is expected to decide on whether or not they will allow the veto later this month.
Launch of South African BDS Coalition
28 March 2010 - A coalition of Palestinian solidarity movements joined forced to push forward the BDS campaign in South Africa. Choosing the global BDS day of action as their official launch, the coalition a “Guerilla Shopping” campaign, in which they spread awareness of the Israeli goods boycott. The newq BDS coalition includes: Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP). These include the Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSC), Palestinian Solidarity Committee (PSM), African National Congress (ANC), South African Communist Party (SACP), South African Council of Churches (SACC) and Cosatu’s trade union affiliates such as the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) and others.
Land Day marked across the world with actions calling for BDS against Israel
30 March 2010 - As Palestinians commemorated Land Day, solidarity activists around the world took to the streets to call for a comprehensive campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international and humanitarian law. Creative and bold actions took place in London, Toronto, New York, Paris, Rome, Cairo, Melbourne and dozens of other cities around the world. For videos and report-backs from creative actions of Land Day BDS actions, see: www.bdsdayofaction.wordpress.com
Swedish pension giant Divests from Elbit
31 March 2010 - Foersta AP-Fonden, Sweden’s largest pension fund banned investment in Elbit because it operates surveillance system for West Bank security barrier. Following the lead of Norway’s state oil fund, Foersta AP-Fonden said it had banned investment in Elbit because it had built and was operating a surveillance system for Israel’s Wall.
Jerusalem Quartet Protestors Cleared of Racism
8 April 2010 – The five Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) activists who faced charges of racially motivated conduct following their protest at a Jerusalem Quartet concert were cleared of all charges. The activists interrupted a concert held by the Jerusalem Quartet – who have historical links with the IDF and are renowned cultural ambassadors for the State of Israel – with shouts of “boycott Israel” and “end the siege on Gaza”. Sheriff James Scott ruled that “the comments were clearly directed at the State of Israel, the Israeli Army, and Israeli Army musicians” and not “citizens of Israel” per se. “The procurator fiscal’s attempts to squeeze malice and ill will out of the agreed facts were rather strained,” he added.