Monday, March 23, 2009

Boycott-Israel campaign enters its 3rd year.

2009 Campaign to Boycott Israeli Goods--

--at the People's Food Co-op, Ann Arbor, Michigan:

Cast your vote for Henry Herskovitz

2009 People’s Food Co-op Board Elections

Campaign flyer on the Web at:

Candidate Statement

On the Web at:

February 27, 2009

"I was very impressed with the efforts of the Boycott Israel Group, whose dedication and hard work brought a petition to the Board of Directors of PFC in 2007 and enabled the Co-op to conduct a vote on whether to boycott products made in Israel. Though I played no part in that very successful effort to raise awareness of the atrocities committed by the state of Israel, I felt that what was lacking was a sympathetic ear of a Board member to their cause. I plan to be that ear, and voice for the Palestinian people.

"The wonderful part about our Co-op is that it promotes the value of social consciousness, as evidenced by Bob Schildgen’s message in this month’s Connection. And given the massacre of Gaza just committed over the holiday season by Israel, nothing could be more timely than a second effort by a socially conscious group like BIG, to commit our social energies into achieving a just peace in Palestine.

"I note that of this writing the 15,000 member Park Slope Food Co-op in Brooklyn, New York is considering a ban on Israeli products, and I would like our Co-op to be one of the leaders in this movement. It is time that the Ann Arbor political and co-operative communities came together to demand an end to the ethnic cleansing in Palestine. Boycotts, like the one proposed in 2007, is a peaceful means to achieve this goal; it is what I hope will be the main priority of the Board in 2009-2012.

"Voters should consider that I have been a participating member in the People’s Food Co-op since about 2002, well prior to my advocacy for Palestinian self-determination.

"I also bring 32 years of experience in working for a major manufacturing firm in southeast Michigan. When I retired, I was manager of the Design/Drafting group of this $1.8 billion corporation, responsible for the work of 12 CAD designers, and reported directly to the Vice President of Engineering and Manufacturing. I understand corporate organizations, budget imperatives, business plans, and worked closely with associates in Human Resources."

Henry Herskovitz


Thursday, March 12, 2009

"Israelis are said to have dropped 1.5 million tons of explosives on Gaza — one ton for each inhabitant."

"Intervention from below"


March 8, 2009


On the Web at:

In a show of solidarity with Palestinians, dockworkers in Durban refused to unload a ship carrying Israeli cargo.

Photo: Reuters

Learning from the past:
South Africans protesting Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Something special took place in Durban last month when dockworkers, members of the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), refused to unload a ship carrying Israeli cargo. It was an intervention from below in global politics, drive n not by national, ethnic or religious affinity but by principle, experience and common humanity.

The dockworkers were responding to the call for a boycott of Israeli goods issued by a broad coalition of Palestinian (and some Israeli) civil society organisations, including human rights groups and trade unions. That call had already been endorsed by the Congress of South African Trade Unions, of which SATAWU is an affiliate, and the dockworkers knew that they had the backing of the wider movement.

Immediately and concretely, the dockworkers were responding to Israel’s three-week attack on Gaza, which left more than 1,300 Palestinians dead, including 431 children, as well as 5,300 injured, including 1,870 children and 1,600 permanently disabled. Israel’s losses were of a different order: three civilians and 10 soldiers killed, 113 soldiers and 84 civilians injured. Gaza’s infrastructure was battered.

120,000 houses were damaged and 4,000 demolished. In the course of the operation, the Israelis are said to have dropped 1.5 million tons of explosives on Gaza — one ton for each inhabitant.

The dockworkers were also responding to — and respecting — the call and lesson of their own history. They remembered the importance of international support in the battle against apartheid. Initially, the international campaign had been little more than a small-scale irritant, reliant on the patient, sometimes lonely labours of grass-roots activists. An early success came when dock workers in various countries refused to unload South African goods. In time, the boycott grew and took a material toll on the apartheid regime.

South African trade unionists know this history well. That was seen last year when they turned away a Chinese ship carrying arms to the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe.

They also know that throughout the course of their struggle against apartheid, Israel was engaged in intensive military, economic and technological (not least nuclear) collaboration with the white minority regime, whom it saw as an ally in a global conflict.

Similar experience

Significantly, in explaining their action in Durban, union leaders and members have stressed the similarity between Palestinians’ experience of Israeli rule and their own experiences under apartheid. Supporters of Israel object fiercely to this analogy; for suggesting it, even as prestigious a figure as former President Jimmy Carter was anathematised: speaking engagements cancelled and funds removed from his charitable foundations. But how will they resist the analogy now, when it is being drawn by those with most authority and right to draw it?

There are many who think of international labour solidarity as something belonging to a distant past. True, far too often it has amounted to little more than empty rhetoric. But what we saw in Durban was international labour solidarity not as a slogan or admirable ideal or bit of wishful thinking but as a living practice, a pointer to the future. In a world of over-hyped spectacle, this was the real thing.

Most importantly, it is not an isolated event. The Western Australian section of the Maritime Union of Australia endorsed the boycott and has urged its members not to handle Israeli goods. In January, the Norwegian Locomotive Drivers Union stopped all trains in the country for a two minute protest against the Israeli onslaught.

In fact, Durban was really a crest in a wave of protest that has followed Israel’s all-out military assault on a captive, besieged, largely defenceless population. In Britain, students at more than 21 universities have mounted occupations demanding an end to their institution’s ties with Israel and support for Palestinian education. Victories have been secured: scholarships for students from Gaza, reviews of investment policies, and in some cases cancellation of contracts with Israeli-based corporations.

For the students as for so many others, Gaza epitomised basic divisions, basic choices. Between the powerful and the powerless, between the “war on terror” and respect for human rights and human life. Between Western interests and the interests of the world majority. Between passively standing by and actively engaging — whatever the odds — in the pursuit of justice.

Gathering momentum

The wave of protest has washed well beyond academia and the trade unions. A convoy of more than 100 vehicles carrying £1 million of aid assembled in the north of England and is now making its way across North Africa to Gaza. A crude attempt by British police to smear the convoy by arresting some of its participants (all later released uncharged) under anti-terrorism laws deterred no one.

The pro-Palestinian activists, obviously small in number in the greater scheme of things, draw strength from the fact that they represent an increasing proportion of public opinion, in Britain and elsewhere. On this issue, there is a growing fissure between governments and peoples. International support, whether from dockworkers of Durban or students in Britain, is critical for the Palestinians: a vital counterweight to the powerful forces arrayed against them, which include the U.S. government and the European Union, due to sign a new preferential trade agreement with Israel.

India is also one of the major culprits. In recent years, commercial, military and intelligence links with Israel have burgeoned, under both BJP and Congress-dominated governments — links justified by a drastically misconceived paradigm in which Israel and India share a common enemy in the “war on terror”. In this context, the issue is not as peripheral as it may seem to many in India.

The international boycott and divestment campaign has, of course, a long way to go. As yet, the pressure on Israel is symbolic, not material. The bulk of the public there regards the Gaza assault as a success. The big vote for the Right-wing parties in the recent election suggests they have turned their backs, for the moment, on any compromise with the Palestinians. It is sobering to note that the U.S. Congress voted to support Israel’s actions in Gaza by a majority of 390 to 5. Meanwhile, Gaza remains under Israeli blockade, even minimal humanitarian aid is often blocked, and it has been impossible to start reconstruction. On the West Bank and in east Jerusalem, Israel gobbles up more territory and makes wider claims.

In these desperate circumstances, economically strangled and violently assaulted, the Palestinians at least know that they are not alone, that there are people out there aware of and angry about their plight.

Common assumptions about the limits of human solidarity have become routinely and excessively pessimistic. It is taken for granted that our loyalties — our willingness to sacrifice — are confined to family and close friends, and beyond that, to ethnic, communal or national groups, somehow also assumed, like the family, to be “natural” categories. Anything wider is weighed as too abstract, too remote, too theoretical to motivate human activity. In their uncompromising, far-reaching and at the same time concrete universalism, the Durban dockworkers and their global allies have shown that this is not the case.


"Israeli soldiers don't ask what class you belong to at a checkpoint, they see that you're Arab and have full power to... take your life."

"What will win justice for Palestine?"

On the Web at:

THANKS FOR your excellent coverage on the rising boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement ("A new movement against Israel's apartheid").

I am encouraged that this movement can grow significantly today in the wake of Israel's most recent atrocities in Gaza.

At Hunter College, where I am an activist in the Campus Antiwar Network, we were surprised to come across socialists who believe that the BDS movement is counterproductive because it would alienate the Israeli working class. I believe this is very dangerous for socialists to argue, because we end up conceding to the Zionist movement and criticizing the just Palestinian fight for liberation, which puts us squarely on the wrong side.

When I first became a socialist, I, too, initially believed that the Israeli working class would be central to the fight against Zionism. I was new to Marxism and thought it fit into the general formula as I understood it.

Now, while by no means finished studying Marxism, I do believe that we have to see it as more than a "pat" formula into which we force reality. For example, we can't just say, well, working-class struggle will defeat capitalism, so the solution to the Israeli occupation of Palestine is to unite their working classes.

This doesn't actually explain the class nature of Israel or Palestine, nor does it explain why this hasn't yet happened, nor is the struggle headed in this direction. In fact, the Israeli state is heavily subsidized, and as Israeli Marxist Moshe Machover points out in his article "The Class Character of Israel":

Israel is not a country where foreign aid flows entirely into private pockets; it is a country where this aid subsidizes the whole of society. The Jewish worker in Israel does not get his share in cash, but he gets it in terms of new and relatively inexpensive housing, which could not have been constructed by raising capital locally; he gets it in industrial employment, which could not have been started or kept going without external subsidies; and he gets it in terms of a general standard of living which does not correspond to the output of that society.

Although written decades ago, these words remain true: Jews in Israel have special rights and privileges regardless of class. And while some Jewish Israelis will eventually be convinced that Zionism is a brutal and oppressive movement, we cannot deny the fact that Israelis overwhelmingly support their government's war policies, because they benefit by living subsidized on stolen land.

Rather than moving leftward, the elections directly following the cease-fire showed that Israelis have shifted even further to the right, reviving the extreme-right movement Yisrael Beitenu.

As socialists we believe that the global working class is the agent of change, but this does not pre-empt movements led by, or that include, other classes.

The other side of the argument defending the Israeli working class is that Hamas is a bourgeois party that doesn't merit our support. While there are class divisions within Palestinian society, the overwhelming division is racial. Israeli soldiers don't ask what class you belong to at a checkpoint, they see that you're Arab and have full power to deny you passage and goods, and even to take your life.

Lenin argued in What Is to Be Done that the Social Democrat's ideal should be acting as:

the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.

If, instead of heeding this call, we instead mechanically define the working class as the solution in every situation and distance ourselves from the very people fighting for their liberation, we will not be true to our rich history of struggle, and we will hold back the socialist movement, perhaps fatally.

We must side with the Palestinian fight for liberation, including by supporting the BDS movement. If Israeli workers decide to join us, all the better, but we must side with the oppressed and not see that as a contradiction to our overall goal of building a working class capable of overthrowing capitalism.

--Hannah Fleury, New York City


Thursday, March 5, 2009

"New York Times":

A boycott demonstration, against Israeli dance troupe, due to "Israel's actions in Gaza".

"Israeli Dance Troupe May Draw Protest"

Published: March 4, 2009


On the Web at:

The Brooklyn Academy of Music is bracing for protests of the Batsheva Dance Company, an Israeli troupe, this week.

In recent weeks during a North American tour, Batsheva, which was to begin a run of performances on Wednesday night, has been dogged by small demonstrations and calls for a boycott over Israel’s actions in Gaza.

Fatima Kafele
, a spokeswoman for the Brooklyn Academy, said a “small group” had asked the police for a permit to demonstrate on Thursday. She said she did not know the group’s identity. Batsheva and its artistic director, Ohad Naharin, are prominent in the modern dance world and are respected by many critics.

Mr. Naharin, through Ms. Kafele, declined to be interviewed but issued a statement on Wednesday saying he forgives and understands “the frustration” and people who “want to fight for human rights.” But he said that boycotting a dance company could not make a difference, and that such energy should be channeled “into getting moderate powers and people on both sides to talk to each other.”


"Israeli Apartheid Week" demands boycott against Israel:

"If you condemn others, condemn Israel"

"Israeli Apartheid Week comes to Guelph:

"University has not responded to event's calls to boycott Israel"

by Aaron Levy

THE ONTARION (University of Guelph; Canada)

March 5, 2009

On the Web at:

"We're not asking for anything revolutionary -- just do what you would do in all other situations. If you condemn others, condemn Israel" -Rami Alhamad, co-organizer of Guelph Israeli Apartheid Week

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) came to Guelph this week featuring various events about Israel and the Palestinians. IAW was started in Toronto five years ago as a means of encouraging support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to put pressure on the state of Israel to end what some call the oppression of Palestine.

BDS refers to how external groups can lend their support to Palestine by taking away financial contributions to the state of Israel, boycotting business with Israel, and urging sanctions against the state.

"We're not asking for anything revolutionary -- just do what you would do in all other situations. If you condemn others, condemn Israel," said IAW Guelph co-organizer Rami Alhamad.

Alhamad pointed to the sanctions elicited from the international community in response to the human rights violations of South African apartheid.

BDS was initiated by the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative in conjunction with IAW in 2005, and was instrumental to the initial British University and College Union boycotting of Haifa and Bar-Ilan Universities that same year.

The move has since been repeated by Britain's Association of University Teachers (AUT), and most recently, a boycott against Israeli academic institutions by Ontario's own Canadian Union of Public Employees.

At outset of the boycott, the University of Haifa issued a statement saying "the case against Israeli academia, in general, and the University of Haifa in particular, is devoid of empirical evidence and violates the principle of due process. Driven by a prior and prejudicial assumption of guilt, the AUT has refused to confront (sic) itself with facts."

In terms of the University of Guelph's stance, Alhamad says it has been studiously neutral. "We haven't had any problems [organizing the event], as opposed to other campuses," he said. But on the other hand, Alhamad notes that, "they're not [the university] taking up our call with regards to the boycott of academics."

Aside from universities themselves, Israeli Apartheid Week has met opposition from students.

"We don't feel that apartheid is the appropriate name for what's happening in Israel," said Lisa Bowmander, President of the Israel Affairs Committee. "And we feel that a university is a place for balanced dialogue. And we feel that using such an aggressive term, it jeopardizes the opportunity for a respectful dialogue on this campus."

Bowmander says that in response to IAW her organization has been attempting to facilitate discussions about peace and the need for coexistence in the Middle East.

This week, Guelph is one of 40 cities across the world, and 11 in Canada, where IAW events are taking place.

Films and speakers are planned for Mackinnon every day of the week, documenting the struggle of Palestinians, and the experiences of Israeli's who refuse to support the occupation....


Dearborn students push for Palestine in their student newspaper, beating back their school's censorship efforts.

"Online student article pulled:

"Senior's editorial on the effects on Gaza residents after military strikes by Israel taken off school paper's Web site"

by Karen Bouffard / The Detroit News

March 5, 2009

On the Web at:

DEARBORN -- School officials' decision to remove an article on the Middle East conflict from Edsel Ford High School's first online student newspaper has sparked a free-speech issue at the school.

An article written by senior Deanna Suleiman, 17, and the entire online edition was yanked following a flurry of criticism from online readers over her commentary on the effects on Gaza residents after the January military strikes by Israel, which came in response to Palestinian mortar attacks.

District spokesman David Mustonen said the article was only pulled because the site did not make it clear it was just one student's opinion. He said it was a problem with the site, not the article.

The district will post a copy of the printed version in its online archives by the end of the week, he added.

School officials eventually put the issue back online except the article, but some experts say it's unconstitutional to censor political speech, even online.

The article also appeared in the print version of the student newspaper, the Bolt.

"I think our students got caught in the middle of some peoples' political agenda," journalism teacher Keith Rydzik said Wednesday, adding the piece was met with an onslaught on Internet blogs and social networking sites. "Our students of all ethnicities look at this as a First Amendment issue and not a Hamas issue. Some people outside the school tried to make this an issue bigger than that."

Frank LoMonte, executive director of the Arlington, Va.-based Student Press Law Center, said censoring political speech in a student newspaper is unconstitutional, whether it's removed from a print edition or a Web site.

"There is widespread confusion about the scope of the First Amendment when you move from print publishing to online, but its all the First Amendment. A pure political viewpoint gets the absolute highest protection under the First Amendment."

Cheryl Pell, a Michigan State University journalism instructor, said newspapers are intended to spur discussion of current events. "Instead of shutting down discussion they should be ramping it up," Pell said.



As of March 5, the students' Gaza commentary was still missing from "The Bolt", at:


Columbia University:

"Panelists Push Divestment, Support Gaza"

"Panelists Push Divestment, Support Gaza"

March 5, 2009

COLUMBIA SPECTATOR (Columbia University; New York City)

On the Web at:

A “teach-in” organized by the Columbia Palestine Forum Wednesday night drew a crowd of supporters, dissenters, and interested students and faculty that filled the Hamilton classroom and spilled into the hall.

It came to light during the meeting that University president Lee Bollinger has agreed to meet with the faculty to discuss the issue.

The group, whose recent formation began with a demand for University divestment from companies profiting from the Gaza conflict and for protection of Palestinian academic freedom, hosted a discussion with a panel composed of four University faculty members, two speakers from the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, and a Barnard student representing the CPF.

Supporters and critics of the Forum sounded off in a question-and -answer follow-up that mostly took the form of commentary on the recent and historic Gaza conflicts.

The faculty members speaking on the potential benefits of Israeli divestment were Bruce Robbins, Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities, Gil Anidjar, a professor of religion who also teaches in MEALAC, Mahmood Mamdani, Herbert Lehman Professor of Government and anthropology professor, and Brinkley Messick, anthropology professor.

Faculty first clarified the terms of CPF’s demands. Robbins said that “students don’t have academic freedom, professors do” and that the denial of education—a basic human right—rather than academic freedom—associated with tenure—is the heart of the matter. He added that because academic freedom is not a universal or democratic right, the conflict surrounding Gaza becomes more divisive when this terminology is used.

During the panel, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was continuously compared to the South African and Liberian apartheids, though this analogy was met with varying reactions from the audience.

It was noted that Columbia divested from South African companies during its apartheid. In this context, Anidjar advocated boycotting as an appropriate “exercise of freedom” and affirmed the group’s demands as “change we can believe in.”

Eric Heitner, CC ’05, spoke on behalf of the BDS and presented figures indicating how tax dollars and other expenses contribute to the profit of companies supporting what he considers the Israeli occupation of Gaza.

Messick expressed that an impending meeting between Bollinger and the faculty about the letter issued listing the CPF’s demands is an “historical moment” for the University.

A lively question-and-answer session allowed attendees to express their reactions to the panelists’ assertions. Critics condemned the lack of a more realistic approach to solving the issue and cited the need to incorporate Hamas into the discussion.

Some students felt the event was successful. “Everyone was calm and it was good to have perspectives from professors and activists and commentary from the community,” said Edna Bonhomme, MSPH ’10, and a member of the CPF. “A dialogue about the Israel occupation is central and people should be able to put their opinion on the table and figure out what could be the best option."


Israeli Apartheid Week, at Berkeley:

The Daily Californian

University of California at Berkeley

Thursday, Mar 5, 2009

Photo on the Web at:

Click on photo to enlarge it.

Protesters participate in an Israeli Apartheid Week event on Sproul Plaza yesterday, with students dressing as both prisoners and guards.


Massachusetts student government debates divestment from Israel.

"SGA debates UMass’ divestment from Israel"

by Nicole Sobel, Collegian Staff

DAILY COLLEGIAN (University of Massachusetts at Amherst)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

On the Web at:

Wednesday, March 4th the SGA gathered in the Campus Center at to vote on whether or not the University of Massachusetts should divest from companies who support Israel such as Caterpillar, General Electric, and Motorola.

The meeting concluded with the motion being tabled until March 25th, after, lengthy and controversial debate.

The main debate was between The Student Alliance for Israel and the Campus Anti-War Network debate over whether SGA should pass the bill.

Michael Feder spoke firest on the topic, representing a pro-Israel outlook. He said the bill contained a number of half-truths.

“Real decisions come from knowing the information on both sides,” said Feder.

Feder’s speech also had a strong emphasis on ‘war as a symptom.’ He claimed that, “An anti-war stance is a way to avoid thoughtful inquiry.”

The Student Alliance for Israel’s believed the bill should be treated as a starting point for dialogue, not for rash decision. The main qualm expressed by Pro-Israel students was their worry only one side of the issue was being seen, and more debate and dialogue was necessary on the matter.

Hannah Grossman from the Student Alliance for Israel was concerned that “This bill is going to polarize the campus and make it impossible for each side to understand each other.”

Other pro-Israel speakers at the meeting referred to the bill as an “unfair vilification of Israel,” and a “means for polarizing the campus.”

The campus Anti-War network, on the other hand, felt the bill should be passed.

The Anti-War network said that, “Divestment helps towards peace.” They claimed repeatedly that the bill was urgent, since many Palestinians were dying and starving by the minute.

“Palestinian Civil Society asked the U.S. to make this move.” network representatives said.

The Anti-War network claimed that Israel should not be portrayed as representing ‘democracy,’ considering their recent assault on the Gaza Strip. The Anti-War network felt that this bill would, “protect the Palestinians from being besieged.”

The Anti-War network referred to the Gaza Strip as, “an open air prison right now,” and said this bill needed to be passed in order to, “Divest from occupation of war, and invest in education.”

They were insistent upon this bill being passed quickly because of the urgent humanitarian crisis that was at stake in Israel concerning the Palestinian people.

--Nicole Sobel can be reached at