Bearing Witness

Week 8 in Gaza > Photo recap of my first 2 months in Gaza

Well today marks the end of my first two months in Gaza, it has been at times wonderful and inspiring and at others frustrating, emotional and even heart breaking. So as I struggle with the written word at the best of times, I have decided to let my photo’s do the talking this week – by posting some of my favourite photo’s of the last two months. However one thing I have learnt over the years, its people who make somewhere special. So in that spirit I have not just selected photo’s of the  cool things I have done, but also photo’s of some of the people who made them special. Sukran ictir my Gaza peeps, this blog is dedicated to you.

What it is journey is all about, Gaza's Ark > the anchor from the Ark, insharalla one day soon it will be dropped in a European port.

Insharalla one day soon Gaza’s Ark will be dropping anchor in a foreign port.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza's Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

Meeting the inspirational Dr Mona El Farra to hand over some medicine donated by Gaza’s Ark to the Red Crescent Society in Gaza.

In the buffer zone, the sign say's it all > BDS now yella !

In the buffer zone, the sign say’s it all > BDS Israeli Apartheid now yella !

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

In the buffer zone, where existence truly is resistance.

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Hanging with the Gaza Ark Youth Committee

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

Getting ready to speak at a PPP protest in support of Palestinian prisoners

The optimism of youth

The optimism of youth

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza's Ark > that's a wrap !

Filming a fundraising video for Gaza’s Ark > that’s a wrap !

Sunset over Gaza

Sunset over Gaza

Kevin Neish inspecting the Ark

Kevin Neish inspecting one of the possible Ark’s

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Heading out to sea with my peeps from the PPP

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Translator extraordinaire Awni

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas.

Palestinian fishermen > who have seen there numbers halved in the last decade due to Israeli restrictions to Palestinian maritime areas

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF.

Rally in Rafah to commemorate the 10th anniversary of Rachel Corries murder by the IOF

Gaza Ark's nautical brains trust

Gaza Ark’s nautical brains trust Mahfouz and Nizar in their element at the port

Norma from PSC and Laila from Snad Charitable Society at the Gaza Women's Trade Fair

Norma from PSC, Laila from Snad Charitable Society and myself at the Gaza Women’s Trade Fair

Sunset over the Mediterranean

Sunset over the Mediterranean

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March 29, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Week 6 in Gaza > Fundraising > IAW > BDS > Tunnels > Products

My 6th week in Gaza started with a Skype hook up to a Free Gaza Australia [FGA] fundraising dinner in support of Gaza’s Ark [GA], the fundraiser was held at Plunge No.46 in Summer Hill in Sydney. From all accounts it was a huge success with over 50 supporters in attendance and raising over $2500 for the Gaza Ark project. Thanks to everyone who attended for showing their support, the FGA crew for putting it all together and the peeps at Plunge No.46 for their generosity and hospitality. However there is one person who deserves a special mention and that is James Godfrey, the driving force behind FGA, his commitment, focus and attention to detail are second to none > so a big thank you to James, not just for all the effort he put into the fundraising dinner, but for everything he does for FGA and GA. Thank you my friend : ]

While my Arabic is improving its definitely not up to the level needed to translate the GA leaflet, so this week I had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful young activist from Gaza, who has volunteered to undertake this task. Mahmoud Hammad is an English graduate from al-Aqsa University in Gaza that works closely with Dr. Haidar Eid, associate professor of English at Gaza’s al-Aqsa University, founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and is also on the GA Advisory Committee. They were both involved in putting on Israeli Apartheid Week [IAW] in Gaza, which I attended where my GA commitments would permit. I attended the opening session which featured a welcoming speech by the Boycott National Committee member Mr. Mohsen Abu Ramadan, a Skype interview with Jeremy Karodia from South African Artists Against Apartheid, a few short films and some traditional Palestinian music. The only other session I made it too was another Skype hook up with another South African activist Muhammed Desai on BDS.

The campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions was featured heavily during IAW in Gaza, and while the movement is growing here, it is not as widely know as I would have thought. However in saying that, Gaza is not the easiest place to maintain the boycott. Due to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, Gaza is heavily reliant on Israeli imports and this has only been made worse with the recent clamp down on the tunnel trade by Egypt. I have read that in the last month since the tunnels were flooded by the Egyptian military there has been a concerted campaign by the Egyptians to close as many tunnels as possible, with 60% now inoperable – however I have heard from local sources that figure is more like 80%. Cairo’s decision to flood and close the tunnels has cut a lifeline to around 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip – around 30 percent of all goods that reach the enclave come through the tunnels, according to estimates.

Finally this week I had a wonderful afternoon with the ladies from the Palestinian Women’s Union, looking at their amazing Falahi embroidered tablecloths and serving trays – which will be available soon through the Gaza Ark project. However for those that can’t wait GA’s first release of products that will be exported aboard the Ark are now online. There are eight products in our first release and they are from two Gaza based producers: Atfaluna Society for Deaf Children, and Al-Ahlyia Association for the Development of Palms and Dates. Atfaluna offers some amazing traditional Palestinian arts and craft products, while Al-Ahlyia provides Palestinian Ajwa (pressed dried dates) and Makhtom (delicious date and nut preserves). Check the link > http://www.gazaark.org/products/ with your help the hope of Palestinians in Gaza for an independent economy and an end to Israel’s inhumane siege can seem just that bit closer.

My Skype hook up with the Sydney fundraiser at Plunge No.46 > Photo by Kate Ausburn

My Skype hook up with the Sydney fundraiser at Plunge No.46 > Photo by Kate Ausburn

March 14, 2013 Posted by | Gaza's Ark | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fiona Byrne for PM

Hello Fiona,
 
You are truly a rare breed, a politician who has the courage to follow your convictions – even when they are not political expedient convictions. The way you stood up and were counted even in the face of such strong opposition, even though the majority of it was illogical and ill-informed – was impressive and while the BDS motion was voted down, you and your fellow councillors have helped put BDS  on the public agenda and for that I thank you whole heartedly.
 
Cheers : ]
 

April 23, 2011 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dark Corners

Since returning from the Middle East I have set up The Dark Corners [TDC], a fundraising organisation to support small NGO’s around the world that have no existing support networks in Australia and are working with marginalised young people – giving them services, opportunities, skills and most importantly hope for the future. TDC will rase funds by putting on events “Music for the Dark Corners” and “Dinners for the Dark Corners”. Each event will promote awareness of the circumstances and issues facing the young people that the NGO works with, while also rasing funds to help with their valuable work.

It has been a longer process than I expected, setting up TDC, however it would have taken even longer with out the help of Anne Cregan from Blake Dawson. Anne has helped me navigate each step of the way and supported me through an incredibly step learning curve. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Anne and every one at Blake Dawson for their advice and support.

For more information on TDC and to stay informed about up coming events join “The Dark Corners” Facebook group @ http://www.facebook.com/home.php#/group.php?gid=113511167451

In recent news the US has back flipped on its demand that Israel stop all expansion of its settlements in occupied West Bank before peace talks could resume. This is disappointing news as Barack Obama promised a change, not more of the same. As Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz, ”U.S. presidents seem to treat the settlements just like the weather: an interesting topic for conversation, but impossible to change”.

The need for a holt to settlement expansion is clear to anyone who followed the, so called “peace process”, during which Palestinians were willing to negotiate an end to the occupation, while Israel continued to change the demographics of the land under negotiation and annex more of the land planned for a future Palestinian state. That is how we have gone from 109,000 settlers – not including East Jerusalem – when the Oslo Accords were signed 16 years ago to more than 300,000 today.

The US backflip on settlement expansion has only strengthened my view that the best hope for an end to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine is the BDS campagin. The BDS campagin is modeled on the strategy that the anti-apartheid struggle used against South Africa very successfully in the 1980s.

“The way I see BDS is that this is a tactic that we are resorting to because of Israeli impunity. There is an absolute unwillingness to apply international law to the Israeli state. Our governments have failed, the United Nations has failed, the so-called international community is a joke. We have to fill the vacuum” – Naomi Klien.

For more information on the Global BDS campagin check out: http://www.bdsmovement.net/

November 9, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Tel Aviv Party Party Stops Here

This column by Naomi Klein was first published in The Nation www.thenation.com

When I heard the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) was holding a celebratory “spotlight” on Tel Aviv, I felt ashamed of Toronto, the city where I live. I thought immediately of Mona Al Shawa, a Palestinian women’s rights activist I met on a recent trip to Gaza. “We had more hope during the attacks,” she told me. “At least then we believed things would change.”

Al Shawa explained that while Israeli bombs rained down last December and January, Gazans were glued to their TVs. What they saw, in addition to the carnage, was a world rising up in outrage: global protests, as many as 100,000 on the streets of London, a group of Jewish women in Toronto occupying the Israeli Consulate. “People called it war crimes,” Al Shawa recalled. “We felt we were not alone in the world.” If Gazans could just survive, it seemed that their suffering could be the catalyst for change. But today, Al Shawa said, that hope is a bitter memory.

The international outrage has evaporated. Gaza has vanished from the news. And it seems that all those deaths-as many as 1,400-were not enough to bring justice. Indeed, Israel is refusing to cooperate even with a UN fact-finding mission headed by respected South African judge Richard Goldstone.

Last spring, while Goldstone’s mission was in Gaza gathering devastating testimony, the Toronto International Film Festival was making the final selections for its Tel Aviv spotlight, timed for the Israeli city’s hundredth birthday. There are many who would have us believe that there is no connection between Israel’s desire to avoid scrutiny for its actions in the occupied territories and the glittering Toronto premieres. I am sure that Cameron Bailey, TIFF’s co-director, believes that himself. He is wrong.

For more than a year, Israeli diplomats have been talking openly about their new strategy to counter growing global anger at Israel’s defiance of international law. It’s no longer enough, they argue, just to invoke Sderot every time someone raises Gaza. The task is also to change the subject to more pleasant topics: film, arts, gay rights-things that underline commonalities between Israel and places like Paris, New York and Toronto.

After the Gaza attack, as the protests rose, this strategy went into high gear. “We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” Arye Mekel, deputy director-general for cultural affairs for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, told the New York Times. “This way, you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” And hip, cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, which has been celebrating its centennial with Israeli-sponsored “beach parties” in New York, Vienna and Copenhagen all summer long, is the best ambassador of all.

Toronto got an early taste of this new cultural mission. A year ago, Amir Gissin, Israeli consul-general in Toronto, explained that the “Brand Israel” campaign would include, according to a report in the Canadian Jewish News, “a major Israeli presence at next year’s Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.” Gissin pledged, “I’m confident everything we plan to do will happen.” Indeed it has. Let’s be clear: no one is claiming the Israeli government is secretly running TIFF’s Tel Aviv spotlight, whispering in Bailey’s ear about which films to program. The point is that the festival’s decision to give Israel pride of place, holding up Tel Aviv as a “young, dynamic city that, like Toronto, celebrates its diversity,” matches Israel’s stated propaganda goals to a T.

Gal Uchovsky, one of the directors in the spotlight, is quoted in the festival catalog saying that Tel Aviv is “a haven [Israelis] can run away to when they want to forget about wars and the burdens of daily life.” Partly in response, Udi Aloni, the wonderful Israeli filmmaker whose film Local Angel premiered at TIFF, sent a video message to the festival, challenging its programmers to resist political escapism and instead “go to the places where it’s hard to go.” It’s ironic that TIFF’s Tel Aviv programming is being called a spotlight, because celebrating that city in isolation – without looking at Gaza, without looking at what is on the other side of the towering concrete walls, barbed wire and checkpoints – actually obscures far more than it illuminates.

There are some wonderful Israeli films included in the program. They deserve to be shown as a regular part of the festival, liberated from this highly politicized frame. It was in this context that a small group of filmmakers, writers and activists, of which I was a part, drafted The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration Under Occupation. It has been signed by the likes of Danny Glover, Viggo Mortensen, Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Jane Fonda, Eve Ensler, Ken Loach and more than a thousand others. Among them is revered Palestinian director Elia Suleiman, as well as many Israeli filmmakers.

The counterattacks-spearheaded by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and the extremist Jewish Defense League – have been at once predictable and inventive. The most frequently repeated claim is that the letter’s signatories are censors, calling for a boycott of the festival. In fact, many of the signatories have much-anticipated films at this year’s festival, and we are not boycotting it: we are objecting to the Tel Aviv spotlight portion of it. More inventive has been the assertion that by declining to celebrate Tel Aviv as just another cool metropolis, we are questioning the city’s “right to exist.” (The Republican actor Jon Voight even accused Jane Fonda of “aiding and abetting those who seek the destruction of Israel.”) The letter does no such thing.

It is, instead, a simple message of solidarity, one that says: We don’t feel like partying with Israel this year. It is also a small way of saying to Mona Al Shawa and millions of other Palestinians living under occupation and siege that we have not forgotten them.

September 14, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Naomi Klein Shows You Can Boycott Israel Without Cutting Off Dialogue Over Palestine

* Article written by Cecilie Surasky for AlterNet, posted on September 1st, 2009.

 Few global-justice campaigns are more polarizing, even explosive, than the effort to use international boycotts, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its 42-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Just ask Neve Gordon.

Recently, Gordon, head of the political science department at Ben-Gurion University and a longtime peace activist, published a wrenching op-ed in the Los Angeles Times endorsing the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).

After initially opposing the tactic, he became convinced, he wrote, that outside pressure “is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself.”

He was braced for a backlash, but nothing like what he has faced over the past few weeks — members of the Israeli Knesset from a range of political parties called for his immediate sacking, the education minister called his article “repugnant,” and his university president threw him under the bus saying, “Academic personalities who feel this way are invited to look for an academic and personal home elsewhere.” She then hinted that his statement might have been an act of treason.

Clearly, BDS, part of the so-called South Africa strategy, crosses a line in the sand for many who believe that putting economic pressure on Israel is necessarily anti-Jewish.

But for proponents, BDS is a proven, nonviolent tactic that can pressure Israel to abide by international law, making an impact where various government efforts have failed and failed miserably.

Although Palestinian Civil Society made the BDS call in 2005, it gained momentum after Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza this past December and January.

Now it is undeniably growing, particularly in the arts world. Respected writers such as John Berger, Eduardo Galeano and Adrienne Rich have all endorsed it; and Israeli film festivals have faced a string of boycotts.

Most recently, the Toronto International Film Festival’s announcement of a special “city-to-city” celebration of Tel Aviv is threatening to turn the second most important film festival in the world (after Cannes) into a site of angry protests.

One of the most high-profile figures to endorse the call for BDS is Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, who typically enjoys overflow crowds, extensive media coverage and brisk book sales when she goes on international book tours.

When it came to publishing her latest best-seller, The Shock Doctrine, in Hebrew and Arabic, Klein decided the political situation in Israel and Palestine called for an entirely different approach.

In opposition to Israel’s occupation, she chose not to sign a traditional book deal with advances and royalties. Instead, she donated the book to Andalus, a publishing house that works actively against the occupation. It is the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew, something its founder Yael Lerer describes as “publishing as an act of resistance.”

Klein and Lerer also set out to craft a book tour that would honor the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel while also showing that boycotts need not cut off much-needed communication and dialogue.

With this in mind, Klein and Lerer, used the tour to draw attention to the boycott and the Palestinian struggle and to spark an internal Israeli dialogue about boycott as a way to pressure Israel to live up to international law.

Last month in Tel Aviv, I sat down with Klein and Lerer to ask about the goals, meaning and nuts and bolts of implementing a cultural boycott, and also why Lerer, a Jewish Israeli, is telling the world, “Please, boycott me.”

Here are some excerpts from that interview. — Cecilie Surasky

* * *

Cecilie Surasky: What is the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions? Why are you supporting it?

Naomi Klein: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: It’s a tactic with a very clear goal, to force Israel to comply with international law.

The call [for BDS] was made in 2005 by an extraordinarily broad range of Palestinian civil society groups, political parties, and trade unions. But it didn’t really start to gain an international profile until the Israeli attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006.

In the midst of the war, the writer John Berger sent out a letter, signed by many prominent artists, mostly European, declaring their support for the boycott strategy. When that letter surfaced, I was in the middle of writing The Shock Doctrine, and I made a personal decision at the time that when the book came out, I wouldn’t do what I had done with the Hebrew translations of my previous two books, which was to publish with a fairly traditional commercial publisher.

Instead, I planned to do what John Berger was calling for, which was to find a way to publish in Hebrew that directly supports groups that are working to end the occupation. So that’s how I met Yael, who is anything but a traditional Israeli publisher, and who has been outspoken in her support of BDS, at genuine professional cost.

Surasky: You must have grappled with this idea of a cultural boycott. Many critics would say that it shuts down communication rather than opening it up. What brought you to take this step?

Klein: Well, it has to do with the fact that the Israeli government openly uses culture as a military tool. Though Israeli officials believe they are winning the actual war for land, they also feel that the country suffers because most of what the world hears about the region on the news is about the conflict: militarization, lawlessness, the occupation and Gaza.

So the foreign ministry launched a campaign called “Israel Beyond the Conflict,” which involves using culture, film, books, the arts, tourism and academia to create all kinds of alliances between Western countries and the state of Israel, and to promote the image of a normal, happy country, rather than an aggressive occupying power. That’s why we are always hearing about film festivals and book fairs with a special “Israel spotlight.”

And so, even though in general I would totally agree that culture is positive — books are positive and film is positive and communication is wonderful — we have to understand that we are dealing with a state strategy to co-opt all of that to make a brutal occupation more palatable.

There are other things that also fall into that category: the state of Israel has an open strategy of enlisting gay and lesbian rights and feminism into the conflict, pitting Hamas’s fundamentalism against Israel’s supposed enlightened liberalism as another justification for collective punishment of Palestinians (never mind the ever-growing power and intolerance of Israel’s ultra-orthodox Jews). It’s a very sophisticated strategy.

That means we have to come up with equally sophisticated strategies that defend culture and human rights on the one hand, but that, on the other, reject all attempts to use our work and our values to whitewash the ugly reality of occupation and segregation.

Surasky: You’ve done a book tour unlike any other book tour. Yael Lerer, your company, Andalus, published the book in Hebrew. On the face of it, there’s an inherent contradiction in coming to Israel-Palestine and doing a book tour while supporting a boycott. Yet you’ve managed to make that work. Can you explain?

Yael Lerer: Andalus has been dealing with this contradiction from the very beginning. We publish Arab writers that oppose “normalization” of the occupation — like we do. And we always try to find ways to deal with these contradictions.

Actually, this is the first time we have had a book tour, because our normal way of dealing with these contradictions is to translate the books but not hold any celebrations. Our writers never come here. So here we had this challenge for the first time.

We made the big launch of the Hebrew edition not in Tel Aviv but in Haifa, at an Arab theater, where our hosts were not Israeli official institutions, but Palestinian minority institutions. (As you know, there is a minority of 20 percent Palestinian within Israel.)

But this event was not aimed only at this community — we invited Israeli Jews to come as well. One could read everywhere in Hebrew, “Naomi Klein is coming to Haifa, come and hear her.”

At the same time, it was important to have the first book events in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, with the Arabic edition, and that before all the book events, Naomi participated in a demonstration in Bi’lin against the separation wall.

So we spoke to the Israeli public at the events and through the Israeli media. The book is available in Hebrew. But, at the same time, we expressed a strong anti-normalization position. We were not doing it like everything is normal.

Klein: And that’s the point. This is not a boycott of Israelis. It’s a boycott of pretending that everything is normal in Israel, because that’s what cultural producers are usually invited to do.

There has been a huge amount of misrepresentation about the boycott campaign, claiming that it is a boycott of Israelis, or Jews, or that it’s anti-Semitic. We are trying to address those misconceptions with this tour. There are some clear rules: We’re not going to work with a state-sponsored book fair, for instance. I have refused invitations to come to Israel, to speak at state-sponsored film festivals and things like that.

But If I were boycotting Israelis, I wouldn’t be in Israel engaging with Israelis. I would have stayed home.

One of the things we are trying to draw out with this tour is that for foreigners like me, however you choose to come to Israel, you are making choices, and you are taking a side. It’s possible to pretend that you are not, but that’s only because of Israel’s success in making the conflict invisible inside a carefully constructed bubble.

In my book there is a long chapter about Israel and the construction of the homeland security state. It looks closely at the companies that build the high-tech walls and fences and checkpoints and that keep Palestinians in the Occupied Territories in a state of constant surveillance.

It is because of the effectiveness of the homeland security sector that it’s possible to come to cities like Tel Aviv and be almost completely oblivious to what is happening in Ramallah, in Gaza. This state is like a giant gated community. It has perfected the art of constructing a security bubble, and that is, in a sense, its brand.

It’s a brand that is sold to Diaspora Jews like me. It says: “We can keep you safe, we can create, in a sea of enemies, a bubble of safety for you to enjoy, to have a wonderful beach holiday, to go to film festivals and book festivals — even as we bomb Gaza, even as we turn the West Bank into a chain of mini-Bantustans, surrounded by walls and expanding settlements, and roads Palestinians don’t have access to.”

These are two sides of the same coin: the bubble of normalcy, the brutality of enclosure. So it is not a politically neutral act to partake of that bubble.

This is a very important dialogue to have, and that’s why it was so important for us to publish the book in Hebrew — both to get the information out there, and to challenge people who are misrepresenting this tactic as being a boycott of Jews or a boycott of Israelis. We’re not doing that at all.

I donated the royalties to Andalus so that I’m not personally profiting from this, and I chose to work with Andalus because it is an activist publisher with a clear anti-occupation stand.

If the book does well, then it helps them to continue their work. The boycott campaign doesn’t ask people not to come to Israel or the Occupied Territories to share ideas and art — it asks that we do so in clear opposition to occupation and discrimination.

Surasky: And how has the Israeli media responded to the first pro-boycott book tour?

Klein: Not well. One of the contradictions we’re facing is that we really wanted to spark a debate in Israel, because while BDS is being debated in Europe and Canada, it’s almost invisible inside Israel; there’s real censorship around this issue.

Virtually the only perspective you hear is, “Oh, they’re just a bunch of anti-Semites, they hate Israelis, they hate Jews” — very, very distorted.

So our idea was to make it harder to distort by putting some facts on the ground and saying: “Look, we’ve translated this book, I’m here in Israel. Let’s have some of that dialogue and communication Israel is supposedly so intent on defending.”

What we’re finding is a lot of interest from Israelis but a huge amount of resistance from the Israeli media to just having the debate — both about the role of the security sector in lobbying against peace and the possible role of a boycott movement in creating new lobbies for peace.

Once I made my boycott position clear in Ha’aretz, a lot of media canceled on us, which doesn’t say much for the spectrum of debate, but it’s not all that surprising either!

Surasky: What is the objective of this campaign? What would you like to see coming out of this?

Klein: It’s modeled on the South Africa strategy that the anti-apartheid struggle used against South Africa very successfully in the 1980s. It had academic boycotts, cultural boycotts, consumer boycotts.

But the really big key economic lever was universities and municipalities divesting from companies that were doing business in apartheid South Africa. The campaign started to be too costly for both South African firms and for Western multinationals with major investments in South Africa.

There was also a situation a little bit similar with Israel where you had a white minority in South Africa that very much saw itself as being part of Europe, of being part of the West. And suddenly they weren’t getting the American and European concerts they wanted, they weren’t getting the book fairs they wanted, and they didn’t like that.

So they put pressure on their government to make it stop, even though white South Africans felt self-righteous and enormously enraged by the boycotts and sanctions.

The hope is that these sorts of dynamics can work in Israel, because it is so important to the Israeli self-image that the country be seen as an honorary member of the E.U. or an adjunct to the United States.

When writers and artists stop participating in the Israeli government’s strategy to use culture to hide what’s on the other side of the concrete walls, Israelis may eventually decide that those walls are a liability and decide to take them down

Lerer: I completely agree. As an Israeli citizen, I need boycotts for two reasons.

First, I want Israelis to feel more strongly that everything is not normal. It means nothing for many self-identified left-wing Israelis to say, “It’s awful, what’s going on in Gaza and in Hebron,” while continuing their daily lives like everything is fine.

They go to the shows and they go to the concerts. These people are the elites in this country. These are the journalists that work at the newspapers. I want to move them. I want to shake these people up and make them understand they cannot continue their normal life when Palestinians in Qalqiliya [a West Bank city completely surrounded by the separation barrier] — only 15 minutes away from Tel Aviv — are in prison.

The second reason I need the boycott is because I lost the hope of creating change from within, which was what I tried to do as an activist for many years.

Twenty years ago, I could never have imagined this semi-apartheid situation. I care about the future in this place. I care about my fellow Israelis. I have a huge family here and many, many friends.

I know many people who don’t have any other passports and who don’t have any other options. I think that the solution for this place, the only possible future, is living together. Unfortunately, at this stage, I don’t see how this future can be achieved without international pressure.

And I think that boycott is a nonviolent tool that has already shown us that it can work. So I’m asking: Please boycott me.

Klein: I also think we need to be very clear: This is an extraordinarily asymmetrical conflict where the Israeli state is the biggest boycotter of all. The economy in Gaza and the West Bank has been utterly destroyed by closures.

Beyond shutting down the borders so producers in Gaza couldn’t get fruits and vegetables out, you had [over 200] factories in Gaza hit during the attack in late December and January. It was a systematic destruction of that economy to try to “teach Gaza a lesson” for having voted for Hamas. So, boycotts are happening.

The way I see BDS is that this is a tactic that we are resorting to because of Israeli impunity. There is an absolute unwillingness to apply international law to the Israeli state. Hamas has committed war crimes, but there is absolutely an international response to those crimes. [There is no response to Israeli war crimes, which are on an exponentially larger scale.]

We were just in Gaza. The thing that really struck me was the sense of shock among so many people that, even after the December/January attacks, even after hundreds of children were killed, there have been no actions taken by the international community to hold Israel accountable.

I mean, this was a display of utter impunity and disdain for international law, for the laws of war — which, by the way, were created in direct response to the Nazi atrocities of the second World War. And yet, not only are there no consequences for those crimes, but the illegal siege of Gaza is still on.

What BDS is saying is our governments have failed. The United Nations has failed. The so-called international community is a joke. We have to fill the vacuum.

I also believe this movement could be a game-changer in the United States. Let’s remember that a huge part of the success of the anti-apartheid struggle in the ’80s was due to popular education.

Once you said, “Our school or town should divest from apartheid South Africa,” you immediately had to have a big teach-in where you had to explain what apartheid was, and you had to make your case persuasively. And people were persuaded.

The Palestinian BDS call could play that kind of movement-building role today, giving people something concrete they can organize around in their schools and communities.

Whether he recognizes it or not, [President Barack] Obama needs the Palestinian struggle to be a popular, grassroots issue like the South African struggle was. He has taken very small steps to forge a new kind of deal with Israel, but he’s facing enormous push-back from the right. There has to be a counterpressure on Obama saying, “Actually, you’re not going far enough. Excuse me, no new settlements? How about no settlements, period?”

So the only hope of not just having him hold to this tentative position, but actually improving this position, is if there’s a popular movement that is very clear in its demands for Israel to abide by international law on all fronts, and that’s exactly what BDS is.

Surasky: How are Israelis on the left responding to the idea of a boycott?

Lerer: Something happened in the last war in Gaza in January. Five hundred and forty Israelis — including prominent academics, actors and filmmakers — signed a petition asking for international pressure on Israel.

One paragraph in this petition said that only boycott helped in the South Africa case. It was not yet a direct call for boycott, but it was a very important step. Now we are forming a new group of Israeli citizens who support the Palestinian call for boycott — Boycott From Within (BFW).

In 2005, we tried to arrange a group of artists to support the Palestinian call for academic and cultural boycott, and we failed. People told us, “How can we boycott ourselves? It is too difficult, it is too radical.” Many of these people have now signed the Gaza petition, and they are joining our new BFW group.

They understood that it’s not about boycotting ourselves, but about asking the international community, asking our fellow citizens everywhere in the world for action: Please help us by boycotting us.

Surasky: Let’s talk about specific examples of other people who are supporting this call.

Klein: Most artists do not know about the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions, even though it comes from hundreds of Palestinian groups. We’re working within a context where Palestinian voices are virtually inaudible in the West.

So people will come to Israel to accept an award or agree to play a concert in Tel Aviv, and they don’t know that they are essentially crossing a picket line. Most don’t even know a call has been made for nonviolent resistance by a people who, let’s remember, have been utterly vilified for using any kind of armed resistance. I mean come on: If you reject armed resistance, and you reject boycotts and sanctions, what’s left? Online petitions? Do we really think that’s going to end the occupation?

But yes, some filmmakers who are politically active have decided not to participate in Israeli or Israeli-sponsored film festivals.

Ken Loach has pulled out of the Melbourne International Film Festival because it was sponsored by the Israeli government. The Canadian filmmaker John Greyson pulled a terrific film called Fig Trees from this year’s gay and lesbian film festival in Tel Aviv.

More recently, the Yes Men wrote a really thoughtful letter to the Jerusalem Film Festival explaining why they decided to pull their new film, The Yes Men Save the World, from the festival.

And now there is some talk of organizing a pro-BDS film festival in Ramallah, once again to boycott normalcy but to still get these films out there.

Surasky: I just read a criticism of BDS that said, “You’re not calling for a boycott of North Korea, or the United States for that matter because of Afghanistan or Iraq. So, that makes this anti-Semitic.” How do you address this criticism?

Klein: I’ve heard that too, but I’m not calling for a boycott of anyone. I am respecting a call for a boycott that has been made by hundreds of Palestinian groups.

I believe in the principle that people under oppressed circumstances have a right to self-determination. That’s at the heart of this struggle. This is a nonviolent tactic that has been selected by a broad range of civil society groups.

Iraqis, so far as I know, have not called for BDS tactics against the United States, though it would certainly be their right. And yet some people act as if I sort of made it up in my bedroom like, “who should I boycott today? Eenie-meenie-miney-mo, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma, Israel!”

Once again, the only reason this can happen is because Palestinian voices are so effectively marginalized in the Western press.

By the way, most of the examples that are trotted out in these debates are examples where there are very clear state sanctions against these countries. So we’re not dealing with impunity as we are with Israel.

In this case, you need a grassroots project to fill in where governments have completely abdicated their responsibility to exert pressure on behalf of international law.

Lerer: But not only that — these countries don’t have these film festivals, and Madonna is not going to have a concert in North Korea.

The problem here is that the international community treats Israel like it was a normal, European, Western state. And this is the basis of the boycott call — the special relationship that Israeli universities have with European universities and with universities in the United States, which universities in Zimbabwe don’t have.

I do believe that Israel could not continue the occupation for one single day without the support of the United States and the European Union. The Western community supports the occupation. Like Naomi was saying, not doing something is the active thing.

Surasky: Some say, “This is not going to help. Israelis see themselves under siege, we Jews see ourselves under siege. It’s actually going to make Israelis less open to peace.”

Klein: It’s inevitable that, at least in the short term, it’s going to feed this Israeli feeling of being under siege.

It’s not rational, because in fact, what we’re dealing with is a context where Israel has been rewarded. If we look at these key years since the election of Hamas, when the siege on Gaza became utterly brutal and just undeniably illegal, trade with Israel has actually increased dramatically. There have been new special agreements launched with the European Union and Israel, with Latin America. Last year, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent.

Even though Israel is being rewarded for this criminality and is getting away with just extraordinary violence, the feeling among many Israelis of being under siege is increasing.

The question is, do we just cater to this irrationality? Because if we just cater to it, that means we do nothing, we voluntarily surrender the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal.

Israel, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, believes that the whole world is against it and that all the criticism it faces flows from anti-Semitism.

This is simply untrue, and as activists, we can no longer allow one nation’s victim complex to trump the very real victimization of the Palestinian people.

 

Cecilie Surasky is the deputy director for Jewish Voice for Peace.

September 5, 2009 Posted by | Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Boycott L’Oreal

 Why Boyctt L’Oreal ?
 
L’Oreal donates to Israel’s Weizmann Institute, a center for research & development of Israel’s nuclear, chemical & biological weapons.
 
L’Oreal Israel (L’Oreal’s Israeli subsidiary) has a factory in Migdal Haemek, a Jews-only settlement built on lands belonging to the ethnically-cleansed (1948) Palestinian village of al-Mujaydal.
 
L’Oreal Israel manufactures Dead Sea mineral products sourced from the western shore of the Dead Sea (one third of which lies in the Israeli-occupied West Bank).
 
L’Oreal’s brands include The Body Shop, Garnier, Helena Rubinstein, Redken, Lancome, Matrix & Maybelline, Vichy, Softsheen, Carson & CCB Paris..
 
The Palestinian Boycott Divestment & Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on all people of conscience to boycott L’Oreal.
  
* For more information on the BDS Movement check out bdsmovement. net

September 1, 2009 Posted by | My Thoughts | , , , , | Leave a comment