Posts Tagged ‘boycott’

Pilger: For Israel, a reckoning

January 16, 2010

John Pilger,  New Statesman, January 14, 2010

A new global movement is challenging Israel’s violations of international law with the same strategies that were used against apartheid

The farce of the climate summit in Copenhagen affirmed a world war waged by the rich against most of humanity. It also illuminated a resistance growing perhaps as never before: an internationalism linking justice for the planet with universal human rights, and criminal justice for those who invade and dispossess with impunity. And the best news comes from Palestine.

The Palestinians’ resistance to the theft of their country reached a critical moment in 2001 when a UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, identified Israel as an apartheid state. To Nelson Mandela, justice for the Palestinians is “the greatest moral issue of the age”. The Palestinian civil society call for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions (BDS) was issued on 9 July 2005, in effect reconvening the great, non-violent movement that swept the world and brought the scaffolding of African apartheid crashing down.

Continues >>

United Kingdom: TUC votes Yes to Israeli boycott

September 18, 2009
Morning Star Online, Thursday 17 September 2009
by Paddy McGuffin in Liverpool
SUFFERING: A boycott would demonstrate to the Palestinian people that the rest of the world cared, FBU president Mick Shaw said

SUFFERING: A boycott would demonstrate to the Palestinian people that the rest of the world cared, FBU president Mick Shaw said

TUC reports 2009

Campaigners have hailed a “landmark decision” at the TUC after Congress voted to support a boycott of goods from “illegal” Israeli settlements along with a call for an end to arms sales to the country.

Congress also condemned Israeli trade union federation Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza – which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks – and called for a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut.

Continues >>

Israeli academics must pay price to end occupation

September 8, 2009

Anat Matar, Haaretz/Israel, Sept 9, 2009

Several days ago Dr. Neve Gordon of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev published an opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times. In that article he explained why, after years of activity in the peace camp here, he has decided to pin his hopes on applying external pressure on Israel – including sanctions, divestment and an economic, cultural and academic boycott.

He believes, and so do I, that only when the Israeli society’s well-heeled strata pay a real price for the continuous occupation will they finally take genuine steps to put an end to it.

Continues >>

Author Naomi Klein Calls for Boycott of Israel

June 26, 2009
Published on Friday, June 26, 2009 by Agence France Presse

BILIN , West Bank – Bestselling author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters.

[Bestselling Canadian author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters. 'Boycott is a tactic . . . we're trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,' she said. (Photograph by: John Kenney, National Post)]Bestselling Canadian [Jewish] author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters. ‘Boycott is a tactic . . . we’re trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,’ she said. (Photograph by: John Kenney, National Post)

“It’s a boycott of Israeli institutions, it’s a boycott of the Israeli economy,” the Canadian writer told journalists as she joined a weekly demonstration against Israel’s controversial separation wall.”Boycott is a tactic . . . we’re trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,” said Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

“It’s an extraordinarily important part of Israel’s identity to be able to have the illusion of Western normalcy,” the Canadian writer and activist said.

“When that is threatened, when the rock concerts don’t come, when the symphonies don’t come, when a film you really want to see doesn’t play at the Jerusalem film festival . . . then it starts to threaten the very idea of what the Israeli state is.”

She briefly joined about 200 villagers and foreign activists protesting the barrier which Israel says it needs to prevent attacks, but which Palestinians say aims at grabbing their land and undermining the viability of their promised state.

She then watched from a safe distance as the protesters reached the fence, where Israeli forces fired teargas and some youths responded by throwing stones at the army.

“This apartheid, this is absolutely a system of segregation,” Klein said adding that Israeli troops would never crack down as violently against Jewish protesters.

She pointed out that her visit coincided with court hearings in Quebec in a case where the villagers of Bilin are suing two Canadian companies, accusing them of illegally building and selling homes to Israelis on land that belongs to the village.

The plaintiffs claim that by building in the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, near Bilin, Green Park International and Green Mount International are in violation of international laws that prohibit an occupying power from transferring some of its population to the lands it occupies.

“I’m hoping and praying that Canadian courts will bring some justice to the people of Bilin,” Klein said.

Her visit was also part of a promotional tour in Israel and the West Bank for “The Shock Doctrine” which has recently been translated into Hebrew and Arabic. Klein said she would get no royalties from sales of the Hebrew version and that the proceeds would go instead to an activist group.

© Copyright (c) AFP

Wallerstein: Cuba and the United States: The Slow Thaw

May 2, 2009
Immanuel Wallerstein, Commentary No. 256, May 1, 2009

After nearly 50 years of unremitting hostility to Cuba’s revolutionary government, the United States has taken its first steps towards a thaw in relations. The Cuban government has responded cautiously and skeptically, but has kept the door open to this possibility.

Some commentators have attributed this new situation to a change in leadership in both countries. The real explanation lies much more in the changed geopolitical situation – in the world-system as a whole and in Latin America in particular.

The Cuban revolutionaries came to power in January 1959. Relations with the United States deteriorated badly within a year. In March of 1960, President Eisenhower ordered the preparation of an invasion by Cuban exiles to overthrow the Cuban government. Shortly after John F. Kennedy became president, he approved a revised version of the Eisenhower plan in March of 1961. One month later, the plan was implemented. It is known as the Bay of Pigs (Playa de Girón) invasion. It lasted a very few days and was a military fiasco for the U.S.-supported invaders.

In January of 1962, the United States proposed at the meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) that Cuba be suspended from membership. The United States proposal was supported by 14 of 21 members, the bare two-thirds needed to pass it. Cuba voted no and six Latin American countries abstained. The principal ground for the suspension was the fact that Cuba had announced its adherence to Marxism-Leninism, which was deemed incompatible with membership. The United States in addition launched a total embargo on trade relations with Cuba and sought to get acquiescence in this boycott from its NATO allies in western Europe and from Latin American states.

October of 1962 marked the very dramatic Cuban missile crisis. The Soviet Union had placed nuclear missiles in Cuban sites. The United States demanded they be withdrawn. The world feared it was on the brink of a nuclear war. In the end, the Soviet Union withdrew the missiles, presumably against a secret pledge by the United States that they would not support a further invasion of Cuba. The Cuban government indicated its disagreement with the Soviet Union’s decision, but maintained its good relations with that government.

As is evident, the main element in U.S. hostility to the Cuban government was Cold War considerations. From that point on, the U.S. government placed constant pressure on its NATO allies and Latin American states to cut all links with Cuba, which one by one most of them did.

At the same time, there were an increasing number of Cuban exiles in the United States. These exiles were determined to overthrow the Cuban government, and organized politically to ensure very strong support for this idea by the U.S. Congress and government. Over the first thirty years, this effort was increasingly successful.

Against this hostility, the Cuban government sought alliances not only with countries in the so-called socialist bloc but with revolutionary governments and movements in the so-called Third World. It “exported” to Third World countries its human capital in the form of well-trained physicians and schoolteachers. It offered crucial military assistance to the government of independent Angola, when it was fighting against invaders from the apartheid government of South Africa. Cuban troops helped defeat the South Africans at the crucial battle of Cuito Carnavale in 1988.

The entire situation changed in the 1990s in three crucial ways. The first new element was the collapse of the Soviet Union. This meant that Cold War considerations had now become irrelevant. It meant also that Cuba suffered great economic hardship in the 1990s because of the ending of Soviet/Russian economic assistance, and had to adjust its internal program.

The second new element, especially evident under the presidency of George W. Bush, was the acute decline of U.S. geopolitical power. This unleashed a serious reversal of Latin American politics, with the coming to power, in one country after another, of left-of-center governments. One by one, these countries all began to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba and to call for both the ending of the U.S. boycott and Cuba’s reintegration into the OAS.

The third element was a marked transformation of the U.S. political scene. For the first time, there began to be serious talk about the “failure” of U.S. policy towards Cuba. There was pressure from farm interests to gain the right to sell their products in Cuba. This gained support from many Republican senators, including notably Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

Even more important perhaps was the fact that, after fifty years, the Cuban exile community had evolved in its political views. Large numbers of younger Cuban-Americans began to argue for the right to travel to Cuba, to send money there, and to have free and open exchange.

When Barack Obama became president, he was thus under some pressure to launch a “thaw” in Cuban-American relations. He did this by various initial gestures, undoing the restrictions on family remittances and travel imposed by his predecessor. How far Obama is ready to go to improve relations is as yet unknown. But whereas a mere ten years ago, the internal U.S. political pressure was overwhelmingly in favor of the economic boycott, the public and the politicians are now divided. And given the evolution of Latin American opinion and the growing size of the Latino population in the United States, it is likely that U.S. public opinion will evolve further in the coming year or two.

Cuba’s reaction has been prudent. Fidel Castro explained it well on April 5. He said that Obama’s gestures and statements were destined primarily to a U.S. public and expressed the view of a U.S. president. He then said two things: “Undoubtedly he is much better than Bush and McCain” (something many left critics of Obama are unwilling to admit) but Obama is constrained by the realities: “The empire is much stronger than he and his good intentions are.”

So, Cuba is tentatively exploring how far the United States is ready to go. There are “low-level” diplomatic discussions currently going on. The Obama government is under internal pressures towards a “thaw.” The Castro government is under Latin American pressures in favor of a “thaw.” If geopolitical realities continue to evolve in the direction they have been heading in the last few years, it is not impossible that Cuba and the United States can achieve “normal” diplomatic relations. No doubt, both would continue to have different perspectives on the world, and pursue somewhat different objectives, but that is true of most bilateral relations. A situation in which the relations between Cuba and the United States were ones of dignity and mutual respect would be a great improvement over the relations of the past fifty years.

UN Race Conference Undermined by Western Withdrawals

April 20, 2009

US, Other Governments Cannot Take ‘Yes’ for an Answer

Human Rights Watch, April 19, 2009

“The sad truth is that countries professing to want to avoid a reprise of the contentious 2001 racism conference are now the ones triggering the collapse of a global consensus on the fight against racism. As these Western governments demanded, the negotiated text for the review conference upholds freedom of expression and avoids singling out Israel.

Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director

(Geneva) – The announcement by the US government that it would not participate in the upcoming UN Review Conference on Racism, followed by the decision of the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Australia to pull out and Germany to attend as an observer, strikes a blow at UN efforts to fight racism, Human Rights Watch said today. There is no justification for the decision because the draft declaration to be adopted at the conference on April 20-24, 2009, fully incorporates the legitimate concerns of EU and other Western governments.

“The sad truth is that countries professing to want to avoid a reprise of the contentious 2001 racism conference are now the ones triggering the collapse of a global consensus on the fight against racism,” said Juliette de Rivero, Geneva advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “As these Western governments demanded, the negotiated text for the review conference upholds freedom of expression and avoids singling out Israel. But these governments couldn’t take ‘yes’ for an answer and are boycotting the conference anyway.”

The draft document, adopted after preparatory negotiations, contains no reference to Israel or the Middle East and rejects the dangerous concept that religions, as opposed to individuals, could be defamed or have their rights violated. It also reaffirms the singular tragedy of the Holocaust and condemns anti-Semitism. In addition, it fully protects the right to freedom of expression as defined under international law, affirms and strengthens the call for the protection of migrants’ rights, and acknowledges multiple and aggravated forms of discrimination.

Some governments have argued against the document because it reaffirms the 2001 Declaration and Program of Action. However, with the exception of the US, the Western governments now planning to boycott the conference endorsed the prior declaration in 2001. Although the US government boycotted the 2001 conference, and had concerns about language in the proposed text regarding incitement, its concerns could easily have been met through reservations or parallel statements rather than a wholesale boycott of the conference and its important race agenda.

“Governments boycotting the conference have decided to put the concerns of victims last,” de Rivero said. “Instead of isolating radical voices, governments have capitulated to them.”

The review conference taking place in Geneva represented a chance to move beyond the controversy that surrounded the race conference in 2001. The 2009 review should set a positive and constructive vision for the fight against racism. Instead, the boycott decisions took place despite US officials’ acknowledgement that the vast majority of their “red lines” had not been crossed. The Netherlands, New Zealand, Germany, and Australia pulled out of the conference a day before it is due to begin, although the final text produced on April 18 met the remaining demands of the EU states on protecting freedom of expression.

“The boycott plays into the hands of those who want the conference to fail,” de Rivero said. “The only ones celebrating will be those who want to undermine efforts to defeat racism and protect rights.”

Enough. It’s time for a boycott of Israel

January 12, 2009

The best way to end the bloody occupation is to target Israel with the kind of movement that ended apartheid in South Africa

It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on “people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”. The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause – even among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors in Israel. It calls for “the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions” and draws a clear parallel with the anti-apartheid struggle. “The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves … This international backing must stop.”

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can’t go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. But they simply aren’t good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tool in the non-violent arsenal: surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counter-arguments.

Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis.

The world has tried what used to be called “constructive engagement”. It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon, and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures – quite the opposite. The weapons and $3bn in annual aid the US sends Israel are only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first country outside Latin America to sign a free-trade deal with the Mercosur bloc. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45%. A new deal with the EU is set to double Israel’s exports of processed food. And in December European ministers “upgraded” the EU-Israel association agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s flagship index actually went up 10.7%. When carrots don’t work, sticks are needed.

Israel is not South Africa.

Of course it isn’t. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, backroom lobbying) fail. And there are deeply distressing echoes of apartheid in the occupied territories: the colour-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said the architecture of segregation he saw in the West Bank and Gaza was “infinitely worse than apartheid”. That was in 2007, before Israel began its full-scale war against the open-air prison that is Gaza.

Why single out Israel when the US, Britain and other western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the strategy should be tried is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less.

This one I’ll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus’s work, and none to me. I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, emails and instant messages, stretching between Tel Aviv, Ramallah, Paris, Toronto and Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start a boycott strategy, dialogue grows dramatically. The argument that boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at each other across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don’t I know that many of these very hi-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel’s Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, managing director of a British telecom specialising in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax: “As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company.”

Ramsey says his decision wasn’t political; he just didn’t want to lose customers. “We can’t afford to lose any of our clients,” he explains, “so it was purely commercially defensive.”

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it’s precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.

A version of this column was published in the Nation (thenation.com)

naomiklein.org

Want to End the Violence in Gaza? Boycott Israel.

January 10, 2009

By Naomi Klein, The Nation. Posted January 9, 2009.

To end the bloody occupation, Israel should become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to South Africa’s apartheid.

It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa.

In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on “people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.” The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions — BDS for short — was born.

Every day that Israel pounds Gaza brings more converts to the BDS cause, and talk of cease-fires is doing little to slow the momentum. Support is even emerging among Israeli Jews. In the midst of the assault roughly 500 Israelis, dozens of them well-known artists and scholars, sent a letter to foreign ambassadors stationed in Israel. It calls for “the adoption of immediate restrictive measures and sanctions” and draws a clear parallel with the antiapartheid struggle. “The boycott on South Africa was effective, but Israel is handled with kid gloves.… This international backing must stop.”

Yet even in the face of these clear calls, many of us still can’t go there. The reasons are complex, emotional and understandable. And they simply aren’t good enough. Economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal. Surrendering them verges on active complicity. Here are the top four objections to the BDS strategy, followed by counterarguments.

1. Punitive measures will alienate rather than persuade Israelis. The world has tried what used to be called “constructive engagement.” It has failed utterly. Since 2006 Israel has been steadily escalating its criminality: expanding settlements, launching an outrageous war against Lebanon and imposing collective punishment on Gaza through the brutal blockade. Despite this escalation, Israel has not faced punitive measures — quite the opposite. The weapons and $3 billion in annual aid that the US sends to Israel is only the beginning. Throughout this key period, Israel has enjoyed a dramatic improvement in its diplomatic, cultural and trade relations with a variety of other allies. For instance, in 2007 Israel became the first non–Latin American country to sign a free-trade deal with Mercosur. In the first nine months of 2008, Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent. A new trade deal with the European Union is set to double Israel’s exports of processed food. And on December 8, European ministers “upgraded” the EU-Israel Association Agreement, a reward long sought by Jerusalem.

It is in this context that Israeli leaders started their latest war: confident they would face no meaningful costs. It is remarkable that over seven days of wartime trading, the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange’s flagship index actually went up 10.7 percent. When carrots don’t work, sticks are needed.

2. Israel is not South Africa. Of course it isn’t. The relevance of the South African model is that it proves that BDS tactics can be effective when weaker measures (protests, petitions, back-room lobbying) have failed. And there are indeed deeply distressing echoes of South African apartheid in the occupied territories: the color-coded IDs and travel permits, the bulldozed homes and forced displacement, the settler-only roads. Ronnie Kasrils, a prominent South African politician, said that the architecture of segregation that he saw in the West Bank and Gaza was “infinitely worse than apartheid.” That was in 2007, before Israel began its full-scale war against the open-air prison that is Gaza.

3. Why single out Israel when the United States, Britain and other Western countries do the same things in Iraq and Afghanistan? Boycott is not a dogma; it is a tactic. The reason the BDS strategy should be tried against Israel is practical: in a country so small and trade-dependent, it could actually work.

4. Boycotts sever communication; we need more dialogue, not less. This one I’ll answer with a personal story. For eight years, my books have been published in Israel by a commercial house called Babel. But when I published The Shock Doctrine, I wanted to respect the boycott. On the advice of BDS activists, including the wonderful writer John Berger, I contacted a small publisher called Andalus. Andalus is an activist press, deeply involved in the anti-occupation movement and the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew. We drafted a contract that guarantees that all proceeds go to Andalus’s work, and none to me. In other words, I am boycotting the Israeli economy but not Israelis.

Coming up with our modest publishing plan required dozens of phone calls, e-mails and instant messages, stretching from Tel Aviv to Ramallah to Paris to Toronto to Gaza City. My point is this: as soon as you start implementing a boycott strategy, dialogue increases dramatically. And why wouldn’t it? Building a movement requires endless communicating, as many in the antiapartheid struggle well recall. The argument that supporting boycotts will cut us off from one another is particularly specious given the array of cheap information technologies at our fingertips. We are drowning in ways to rant at one another across national boundaries. No boycott can stop us.

Just about now, many a proud Zionist is gearing up for major point-scoring: don’t I know that many of those very high-tech toys come from Israeli research parks, world leaders in infotech? True enough, but not all of them. Several days into Israel’s Gaza assault, Richard Ramsey, the managing director of a British telecom specializing in voice-over-internet services, sent an email to the Israeli tech firm MobileMax. “As a result of the Israeli government action in the last few days we will no longer be in a position to consider doing business with yourself or any other Israeli company.”

Ramsey says that his decision wasn’t political; he just didn’t want to lose customers. “We can’t afford to lose any of our clients,” he explains, “so it was purely commercially defensive.”

It was this kind of cold business calculation that led many companies to pull out of South Africa two decades ago. And it’s precisely the kind of calculation that is our most realistic hope of bringing justice, so long denied, to Palestine.


Naomi Klein’s latest book is The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.


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