Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"Boycott Israel" bus advertisement is back in the news:

Some of the public is commenting on the fact that AATA Board Chairman Bernstein is a board member of
Michigan Israel Business Bridge--

"AATA Preps Stage for Future Transit Choice"
ANN ARBOR CHRONICLE (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
December 26, 2011

'...Comm/Comm: Bus Advertisement Lawsuit

'By way of background, the AATA currently faces a lawsuit over its rejection of a proposed advertisement that included the text, “Boycott ‘Israel’ Boycott Apartheid.” [For a detailed account, see Chronicle coverage: "Bus Ad Rejection Affirmed"]

'Before approaching the podium, Henry Herskovitz asked if it was appropriate to speak to the lawsuit that had been filed against the AATA about the rejection of a bus advertisement. Herskovitz noted that public speaking at the start of the meeting is intended to be limited to agenda items, and while the lawsuit was not an agenda item, it was included as part of the meeting minutes that were in the board’s information packet for that evening’s meeting. Board chair Jesse Bernstein told Herskovitz it was fine for him to speak on that topic.

'Herskovitz introduced himself as a taxpaying supporter of AATA and a frequent rider. Three board members had conflicts of interest, he contended, in making a decision to reject the advertisement. He emphasized that he supported the right of anyone to join any group they like. However, he said it merits pointing out that Bernstein is a board member of Michigan Israel Business Bridge. MIBB is a nonprofit created “to facilitate business and investment opportunities between Michigan and Israel for their mutual economic benefit.”

'Herskovitz contended that a second conflict was the fact that Jerry Lax is legal counsel for the AATA and also a member of the Jewish Federation of Ann Arbor. Board member David Nacht is member and supporter of the Anti-Defamation League, he said. [Nacht's profile on Linked In also lists membership in the American Civil Liberties Union, the group that is providing legal counsel for the plaintiff in the lawsuit against the AATA over the bus advertisement.]

'The three men, Herskovitz said, support the State of Israel – they’re free to do that. But they had a conflict of interest when polled for their vote on the ad – an ad that was critical of the state of Israel, which they support, he said....'


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Demonstration for the boycott of Israel, in Johannesburg, South Africa:

January 2009 in Johannesburg.
A good example for the boycott movement today.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

"Activists hold third annual conference on Boycott of Israel in Hebron"

"Activists hold third annual conference on Boycott of Israel in Hebron"

author Sunday December 18, 2011 06:52author by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC News

At: http://www.imemc.org/article/62688

The Palestinian branch of an international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel held its third annual conference in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Saturday, with several hundred Palestinian and international activists gathering for the event.

The conference was organized by the BDS Movement in an attempt to expand Palestinian civil society’s active implementation of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions as an effective and popular strategy of civil resistance that is deeply rooted in the Palestinian struggle. The economic campaign to pressure Israel to change its policies began with a call from hundreds of Palestinian non-governmental organizations in 2005, and gained momentum after the massive Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip in 2008-9.

According to organizers of the conference, “The conference embodies the unified and determined Palestinian will to secure our legitimate rights, the most important of which are liberation, self-determination and right of return. It also expresses our gratitude to people of conscience around the world who stand on the side of justice in the face of Israeli occupation and apartheid.”

Among the speakers at Saturday’s conference were the Governor of Hebron Mr. Kamil Hmaid, Thobile Ntola, Central executive committee member, Congress of South African Trade Unions- COSATU, Adam Horowitz, an American journalist and BDS activist, Student activists Mukhtar Al-Ja’bary and Fajr Harb, and Haitham Arar & Badera Jaradat representing the Union of Palestinian Women.

They focused on issues like resisting ‘normalization’ efforts, which are events, activities and coalitions which aim to normalize the existing system of segregation and discrimination, often under the banner of ‘peace’ or ‘dialogue’ between Israelis and Palestinians. Speakers also targeted Palestinian businesses and business owners in their critique, challenging a recent report that Palestinian business leaders have over $6 billion invested into Israel, much of it in Israeli settlement activity.

The conference encouraged Palestinian activists to work to implement the boycott according to the criteria adopted by Palestinian civil society, particularly in terms of economic disengagement from Israel; and demanding that international institutions and organizations end their complicity in perpetuating Israeli occupation and apartheid.


Saturday, December 17, 2011

"It is time for Palestine at the University of Michigan"

--University of Michigan students speak:

The students of the University of Michigan speak against oppression:

"It is time for Palestine at the University of Michigan"

By Bayam Founas and Noor Haydar
ARAB AMERICAN NEWS (Dearborn, Michigan)

Saturday, December 17, 2011, page 12

Brief quotes:

"We are committed to standing with the disenfranchised and are staunchly against the sugarcoating of oppression...."

"...Dialogue can only work when two parties are on the same playing field and have significant differences between them. In the case of Israel-Palestine, we have one party, Israel, that boasts the Middle East’s most powerful military (including hundreds of nuclear warheads, illegally held and undeclared) and enjoys limitless material and diplomatic support from the world’s lone superpower, the United States. The Palestinians, on the other hand, are stateless and without basic human rights. They are also victims of the worst of crimes: they’ve had their history and existence denied by those who continuously assert that Palestine was 'a land without a people for a people without a land....' ”

-- End --



"ACLU sues over censorship of ‘Boycott Israel’ Ad"

Published in FREE AL-QUDS
December 15, 2011


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Free speech on Palestine is smothered by University of Michigan student government:

See today's article from the local media:

"Michigan Student Association accused of stifling speech on Israel-Palestine"

Dearborn, Michigan

December 10-16, 2011; page 15:

ANN ARBOR — A resolution passed by the Michigan Student Association aimed at quelling "vulgar or offense language" or "hate speech" was utilized on Dec. 6, 2011 against an activist who has worked for years with others in the area for the passage of a divestment resolution against products supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine at the University of Michigan.

An offense against Blaine Coleman was issued by Assembly Speaker Matt Eral according to a report in The Michigan Daily after the activist compared the Israeli military to the Ku Klux Klan.

"Anyone wearing the Israeli army uniform is a Ku Klux Klansman who does not deserve any place at any table in polite society because they are racist killers trying to break the back of Palestine, and they have succeeded," he reportedly said.

Coleman recently made headlines after his ad proposing a "Boycott of Israeli Apartheid" on Ann Arbor buses was denied, prompting the ACLU to file a lawsuit against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority.

Offenses are used to prevent speech at the meetings, with the second one leading to the end of allotted speaking time and the revoking of speech privileges for that meeting. Five offenses results in being banned from the meetings.

Omar Hashwi, a board member, defended the rights of Coleman and his wife Mozghan to speak at the meeting last week. Mozghan was given three offenses for saying that "there is a fan of the Israeli military among you," in reference to an assembly representative who wore an Israeli army sweatshirt.

"She simply pointed out that there is a fan of the Israeli military in the room which was a fact and the rest were silenced as she attempted to give her reasoning," Hashwi said.

His motion was denied, but not before he spoke up in favor of their speech.

"I can't even begin to express to you how mad I am right now that somebody here just got completely silenced for pointing out that somebody's wearing a certain shirt. Somebody's wearing a shirt, so they weren't allowed to talk even further. I'm so mad. I knew this was going to happen when we passed these rules," Hashwi said.

"Saying that somebody in the room is wearing a shirt bans them from speaking? I'm here shaking because I'm also afraid but I will express my opinion. I will always express my opinion to support Palestine and to support people that have been treated unfairly here today and in the past."

Daniel Cobert, another representative, said that the first two speakers at the meeting who spoke about Palestine and Israel spoke civilly but said that Mozghan did not, and that she continued to fight the objection and speak out of turn.

E-mails to other representatives who supported the offenses against her were not returned as of press time.

Hashwi said he didn't agree with the methods of Coleman and his wife but said he did not believe that the comparison between the Israeli army and the KKK constituted a violation of the rules.

"There will always be people who disagree but that gives us no right to take away their speaking privileges," he said.

At the beginning of the current group's terms, a student organization on campus called "Practice What You Preach" authored a resolution urging the University to not make any future investment in what were deemed to be socially unjust companies. They targeted four companies including Hanes Brand, Northrup Grumman (which was alleged to provide military weaponry to Israel to be used against Palestinians), BP, and Monsanto.

The resolution fell two votes short of passing, however.


"Michigan Student Association accused of stifling speech on Israel-Palestine"

Arab American News (Dearborn, Michigan), December 10-16, 2011, page 15:

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

University of Michigan student government effectively outlaws anyone who compares the Israeli army to the Ku Klux Klan.

"MSA issues offense against anti-Israel activist"

A blog of the Michigan Daily (University of Michigan student newspaper)

December 7, 2011

Local anti-Israel activist Blaine Coleman received a second offense at last night’s Michigan Student Assembly meeting after he compared the Israeli army to the Ku Klux Klan.

“Anyone wearing the Israeli army uniform is a Ku Klux Klansman who does not deserve any place at any table in polite society because they are racist killers trying to break the back of Palestine, and they have succeeded,” Coleman said.

Coleman attends the assembly meetings almost every week and calls for the University’s divestment from Israel.

The decision to issue the offense was made by assembly speaker Matt Eral. Two representatives said the language Coleman used was offensive and inappropriate, and two people voiced concerns that the assembly’s rule was not being properly utilized because an offense should not be issued for making people feel uncomfortable.

The assembly ultimately voted to uphold Eral’s issuance of the offense.

The resolution that passed in the assembly on Oct. 25 states that offenses may be issued to speakers during the Community Concerns portion of the assembly’s agenda if they use “vulgar or offensive language” or “hate speech.” A second offense results in the expiration of allotted Mspeaking time and the revocation of the speaking privileges for the current meeting. After five offenses, speakers are considered “ineligible” to address the assembly and to attend the meetings.

MSA president DeAndree Watson said on Oct. 25 that the resolution was brought to the table after two meetings last semester when another resolution concerning divestment from Israel was before assembly and offensive language was used.

During the time allotted last night for representatives to speak freely before the assembly, the subject of Coleman’s offense arose again when a representative said she felt uncomfortable and threatened by his comments. MSA representative Peri Silverman, an LSA junior, resigned and said the assembly shouldn’t continue to deal with such contentious and external issues week after week because it was divisive to the organization.

Echoing representatives’ comments made during the meeting, MSA president DeAndree Watson said after the meeting that he saw the importance of listening to community members’ concerns but also that he thought representatives should feel safe and comfortable in attending the meetings.

“Personally I’m not letting this stop me from doing what I’ve been elected to do … and I think we can continue to move forward and try and make life better for students even with this distraction,” Watson added.


Henry Herskovitz

Could someone from the MSA provide a legal definition of "hate speech"? Since I sometimes address the Assembly, I'd appreciate some guidelines in this regard, so that I may tailor my language appropriately. Perhaps the definition exists within the Oct. 25 resolution mentioned in Hall's article, but I was unable to locate the document.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Arab American News:

"ACLU of Michigan files lawsuit over refusal of 'Boycott Israel' ads"

"ACLU of Michigan files lawsuit over refusal of 'Boycott Israel' ads"

ARAB AMERICAN NEWS (Dearborn, Michigan)
Saturday, December 3, 2011


DETROIT — Charging a violation of First Amendment rights, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan filed a federal lawsuit on Monday, November 28 against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority for refusing to allow a local activist to purchase a bus ad calling for the boycott of Israel and its apartheid system.
Ann Arbor activist Blaine Coleman hoped to run an advertisement with the words "Boycott Israel, Boycott Apartheid" with a picture of a spider-like creature with a skull for a head on the side or back of an AATA bus to raise awareness.

The ACLU, which wrote a letter to AATA explaining their stance in August, is charging that the AATA's policy of prohibiting ads that are "likely to hold up to scorn or ridicule a person or group of persons" is unconstitutional, hile saying that the policy used to determine which ads to run is vague and overly broad. The lawsuit asks for a court order requiring AATA to treat Coleman's ad the same way it treats all other ads.

"In a free and democratic society, we cannot allow the government to suppress political speech, even if it is controversial, makes some uncomfortable, or stirs our emotions,said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. The solution is never to censor unpopular speech, but to allow others the same opportunity to speak."

The AATA rejected Coleman's ad because it allegedly violates its advertising policy, which also states that "all advertising must be considered in good taste...."

...The AATA's attorneys finally responded in November saying that they will not run Coleman's ad.

Coleman said that he had been trying to get the ad published for almost a year but did not receive a response to his emails for months. He is thankful for the support from ACLU in defending his free speech rights but had hoped it wouldn't have been needed.

"It should not be necessary for the ACLU to defend your rights to demand a boycott of Israel; it is the most elementary of free speech rights, period," he said.

"After Israel massacred Palestine as well as Lebanon that should be elementary, of course.

"For generations, boycotts have been an effective tool to raise awareness and effect change, and I personally believe that a call to boycott Israel is the best way to empower the Palestinian people, said Coleman. However, you can't have a boycott if the government won't allow you to speak like everyone else."

The AATA has told various local news outlets that it will not comment on the situation due to the pending litigation.

The ACLU also obtained public records showing that the AATA accepts advertisements about many important issues, including local politics, race, and religion and has run the following ads: “In Washtenaw County black babies are 3x more likely to die than white babies," two political ads supporting candidates for district judge, “Breastfeeding makes babies smarter," and an ad for NorthRidge Church that reads: “NorthRidge Church is For Hypocrites. NorthRidge Church is For Fakes. NorthRidge Church is For Liars. NorthRidge Church is For Losers.”

Dan Korobkin, a staff attorney with ACLU-MI, agreed with Coleman's comments about free speech.

"Once a public agency decides to allow some people to speak, it can't pick and choose between the speech that it likes and the speech that it doesn't,said Korobkin. By allowing some messages, yet censoring Mr. Coleman, AATA is doing exactly what the First Amendment is designed to prohibit.

Coleman has attended various council and board meetings in order to persuade decision makers to join in the worldwide Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israeli products over their repeated violations of international law in the occupied territories.

He said he would like members of the Arab American community and supporters in Dearborn to join him.

"What I would like most to see come out of this case personally is for the Dearborn community to march into Dearborn City Council and demand a resolution to boycott all products from Israel," he said.


Friday, December 2, 2011

"ACLU of Michigan files lawsuit over refusal of 'Boycott Israel' ads"

"ACLU of Michigan files lawsuit over refusal of 'Boycott Israel' ads"

Arab American News (Dearborn, Michigan), page 15
December 3-9, 2011

(Click on image to enlarge it)

"American Civil Liberties Union files lawsuit against AATA for refusal to run anti-Israel ad"

"American Civil Liberties Union files lawsuit against AATA for refusal to run anti-Israel ad"

By Krista Gjestland
Heritage Media

ANN ARBOR JOURNAL (Ann Arbor, Michigan)

December 2, 2011



The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority Monday morning for its refusal to run an anti-Israel ad on AATA buses.

Ann Arbor resident Blaine Coleman submitted an ad that read, "Boycott Israel, Boycott Apartheid," in December 2010.

In February, AATA refused his request, saying the ad violated its advertising policy. According to the policy, AATA can deny an ad if it "contains false, misleading or deceptive material, promotes an illegal activity, advocates violence or crime, infringes copyright, service mark, title or slogan or if it defames or is likely to hold up to scorn or ridicule a person or group of persons."

AATA also can deny an advertisement if it states or implies product or service endorsement, is a political ad, promotes alcohol or tobacco, or if it contains obscene material.

In a complaint issued to AATA in August, Coleman's lawyers cite several advertisements that violated AATA policy, but were allowed regardless, including ads that advocated breastfeeding, HIV testing, domestic violence awareness and promoting Joan Lowenstein for 15th District Court judge in Ann Arbor.

ACLU-Michigan lawyer Dan Korobkin, who is representing Coleman in this case, said the ACLU got involved, asking for AATA to reconsider based on the complaint submitted.

"We contacted AATA and asked for them to reconsider their position and run the ad," he said. "The actual governing board of the AATA met to discuss the issue and ultimately decided to not run the ad."

After meeting, the bus authority reached the same conclusion, denying Coleman's ad. According to the ACLU's press release, "The ACLU of Michigan's lawsuit argues that AATA's policy is vague and overly broad and asks a judge to strike it down as unconstitutional for violating the First Amendment right to free speech and the 14th Amendment right to due process. The lawsuit asks for a court order requiring AATA to treat Coleman's ad the same way it treats all other ads."

"AATA should run Mr. Coleman's ad under the same guidelines and rules and policies that it applies to every other ad," Korobkin said. "AATA should not be allowed to reject the ad based on its content or the views expressed in the ad."

According to Coleman, it's "racist violence" in Palestine that he takes issue with, and inspired him to try to run the ad.

"It's my personal opinion that Palestinians are facing genocide," he said. "I believe that I have the right and the duty to ask for a boycott of Israel the same way that people asked for a boycott of apartheid South Africa."

Coleman said he could give three examples of why he believes as he does.

"The first example is that Israel massacred over 1,200 innocent, helpless Palestinians in Gaza three years ago," he said. "The second example is that Israel massacred over 1,200 innocent, helpless Lebanese people in 2006. The third example is that Israel was very closely allied with the apartheid state of Africa for many years."

The complaint issued to AATA cites a December 2010 Human Rights Watch Report, "Separate and Unequal: Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories" as support for Coleman's opinions.

The complaint states: "The report states that the Israeli government is responsible for a 'two- tier system of laws, rules, and services" in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.' It alleges that '(s)uch different treatment, on the basis of race, ethnicity, and national origin and not narrowly tailored to meet security or other justifiable goals, violates the fundamental prohibition against discrimination under human rights law.'"

Coleman said he is not against any group of people.

"Is it anti-anybody the demand an end to apartheid in occupied Palestine?" he said. "Of course not."

Korobkin said the ACLU took the case because it believes it's a violation of the First Amendment, and it often take cases it may not personally agree with....