March 21, 2014
This photo comes from a protest at the Hewett-Packard shareholder’s meeting on March 19th.  Yolanda Beck captions:

"Stop HP", a coalition that includes members of the American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace, amongst others, introduced a proposal at the Hewlett Packard Shareholders’ meeting in Santa Clara, California yesterday. That proposal, calling for an in-depth look at HP’s dealings with the Israeli military, was defeated by a majority. However, speakers in favor of the proposal pushed the issue, forcing HP CEO Meg Whitman to acknowledge it; Whitman said that the company "will look into this." A member of Sabeel, a group working for justice and reconciliation in Palestine-Israel, demanded a meeting be held to discuss the coalition’s concerns and the head of HP’s current human rights commission agreed to a sit-down.
Outdoors in front of the Santa Clara Convention Center on March 19, dozens of protesters called out Hewlett-Packard for its business dealings with the Israeli military. They sang, “Biometric ID cards at checkpoints in the West Bank restrict the People’s movement”. They expressed to TV news reporters on hand that HP is complicit in oppressing Palestine because it makes the technology for the biometric cards that contain large amounts of data on the card carrier. The cards are used by Israel to segregate and discriminate against Palestinians. 

h/t Jewish Voice For Peace

This photo comes from a protest at the Hewett-Packard shareholder’s meeting on March 19th.  Yolanda Beck captions:

"Stop HP", a coalition that includes members of the American Friends Service Committee and Jewish Voice for Peace, amongst others, introduced a proposal at the Hewlett Packard Shareholders’ meeting in Santa Clara, California yesterday. That proposal, calling for an in-depth look at HP’s dealings with the Israeli military, was defeated by a majority. However, speakers in favor of the proposal pushed the issue, forcing HP CEO Meg Whitman to acknowledge it; Whitman said that the company "will look into this." A member of Sabeel, a group working for justice and reconciliation in Palestine-Israel, demanded a meeting be held to discuss the coalition’s concerns and the head of HP’s current human rights commission agreed to a sit-down.

Outdoors in front of the Santa Clara Convention Center on March 19, dozens of protesters called out Hewlett-Packard for its business dealings with the Israeli military. They sang, “Biometric ID cards at checkpoints in the West Bank restrict the People’s movement”. They expressed to TV news reporters on hand that HP is complicit in oppressing Palestine because it makes the technology for the biometric cards that contain large amounts of data on the card carrier. The cards are used by Israel to segregate and discriminate against Palestinians. 

h/t Jewish Voice For Peace

March 21, 2014
Female Israeli activists stage a protest against the siege of Gaza at the Erez Crossing on International Women’s Day.
+972

Female Israeli activists stage a protest against the siege of Gaza at the Erez Crossing on International Women’s Day.

+972

March 9, 2014
Israeli teens tell Netanyahu: We will not take part in occupation | +972 Magazine

From the article:

Dozens of Israel teenagers signed a letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu on Saturday, in which they announced that they would refuse to serve in the Israeli army come draft time.

According to the letter, the teenagers are refusing to enlist in the army due to their “opposition to the military occupation of Palestinian territories,” where “human rights are violated, and acts defined under international law as war-crimes are perpetuated on a daily basis.” Aside from the ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian citizens of Israel, army service is mandatory for all Israelis (three years for males, two for females).

The letter goes on to decry the effect of the occupation on Israeli society itself, especially the way it “shapes the educational system, our workforce opportunities, while fostering racism, violence and ethnic, national and gender-based discrimination,” and promotes and perpetuates “male dominance” and oppressive gender structures within the army itself.

[…]

When asked about the possible consequences, [17-year old Elza Bugnet] says “We know that the outcome might be problematic, but we cannot be a part of an army that takes upon itself to occupy another people.” “I am sure there will be a big price to pay,” adds Segal, “but I don’t really want to live in a community that measures me by whether or not I served in the army.”

March 7, 2014
A group of Israeli women hold protest signs that say “Stop The Occupation” in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, respectively.  Activestills captions:

In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills pays tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in the main squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at, cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.

Read More

A group of Israeli women hold protest signs that say “Stop The Occupation” in Hebrew, English, and Arabic, respectively.  Activestills captions:

In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills pays tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in the main squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at, cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.

Read More

February 23, 2014
Is Foreign Aid To Palestine Prolonging The Occupation?

Menachem Klein raises an interesting argument:

Israelis do not acknowledge that foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority – mainly by the EU – helps Israel maintain its rule over the Palestinians, as well as to keep Israeli citizens’ high standards of living. Since 1994 the international community has donated more than $30 billion to the PA as humanitarian relief and emergency assistance, most of it after the outbreak of the Second Intifada in 2000. The huge sum helps the PA to survive the present, but due to Israeli restrictions it cannot use it for capacity and infrastructure buildings.[3] Without this aid Israel would have to take on the daily life needs of more than 4 million Palestinians. Donor assistance in maintaining basic services and meeting humanitarian needs of the occupied Palestinian population has freed Israel from these responsibilities, and allowed it to avoid making hard political decisions regarding its legal, moral and political responsibilities toward the Palestinians. In other words, donor countries indirectly facilitate Israel’s rule over all of historical Palestine. Israel can expand settlements, prevent any Palestinian economic recovery, seize Palestinian land, cut the Palestinian territories to disconnected areas, increase socio-economic fragmentation to avoid the foundation of a viable Palestinian state, and in 2000-2003 it was able to carry out destructive army operations inside Palestinian cities, all while donors foot the bill for reconstruction and emergency aid.

Klein’s argument raises the prospect of “benign neglect.”  Should foreign governments concerned with the plight of the Palestinians stop foreign aid to Palestine in order to force Israel to make difficult political decisions it has been able to put off for some time?  Is doing so worth the inevitable human cost in Palestine?  Or perhaps more importantly, would it be worth the human cost not to?  Perhaps there’s a third way.  But if foreign aid if actually enabling the Occupation, then foreign powers who claim to be serious about peace between Israel and Palestine have some hard choices to make in the future.

February 18, 2014
"

There is no question that Charles H. Manekin is a rarity. Not because he is an Orthodox Jew who keeps the Sabbath, refraining from driving, turning on lights, even riding in elevators on Saturdays. Rather, this philosophy professor at the University of Maryland is rare because he believes that his Orthodox faith calls him to take stands against Israel.

Professor Manekin, 61, became Orthodox in college and became an Israeli citizen in the 1980s. Yet in an interview this week, he denounced Israel’s “excessive reliance” on military force, its treatment of Arab citizens and its occupation of the West Bank. Although not a member of the American Studies Association, he was pleased when the group voted in December not to collaborate with Israeli academic institutions — the “academic boycott.” He is “sympathetic” to B.D.S., as the global movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is known.

“As a religious Jew,” he said, “I am especially disturbed by the daily injustices perpetrated against the Palestinians.”

"

Mark Oppenheimer.  Oppenheimer also interviewed Corey Robin, a Jewish Political Science professor at Brooklyn College, who writes, “There are lots of ways to be Jewish, but worshiping a heavily militarized state seems like a bit of a comedown from our past…I love being Jewish. I just don’t love the state of Israel.”

February 5, 2014
"By some accounts, the Palestinians who work at SodaStream are well treated by the standards of occupation enterprises. But suggesting that those Palestinians don’t have much choice about their employment because the West Bank is entirely aid dependent, and because it’s hard to have a vibrant economy under foreign military control — that’s not delegitimizing Israel either. That’s the truth as pro-Israel progressives worldwide see it."

Naomi Paiss, Vice President of Public Affairs for The New Israel Fund.

February 5, 2014
SodaStream, Palestine, & Benefitting In the Context Of Oppression

The recent controversy over Scarlett Johansson’s relationship with SodaStream has raised a classic historical conundrum: how do you react when an oppressed populace benefits from the acts of the oppressor?

Ari Kohen points to a recent article from USA Today in which Palestinian workers who work at the SodaStream factory are just glad to have jobs.  These workers would suffer if the factory were to close due to pressure from the BDS movement:

On a visit to the factory, USA TODAY found that the [BDS] movement’s allegations were not on the minds of many of the plant’s 1,300 workers, of which 500 are Palestinian and 450 are Arab Israelis and 350 Jewish Israelis.

Israeli Arab Zafid Abu Aballah, 28, has been a machine operator at the factory for four years.

"I have an Israeli passport, if the firm closed I could find another job, but Palestinians would not be able to, there are no jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank.

"This is political, just political but the people here just want to work and live, they don’t have an interest in the politics between Palestine and Israel."

Similar articles have been written at The Christian Science Monitor and The Telegraph.  But those articles also point to a more complicated picture:

[L]awyers and labor activists say the picture is not that clear. While Palestinians earn roughly twice as much working at Israeli businesses in the West Bank, they lack labor rights and undermine Palestinian national aspirations. But many have little option; the Palestinian Authority has failed to leverage billions of dollars of aid to create more job opportunities.

"There has been little effort, whether on the part of the Palestinian Authority (PA) or the international community, to shut down Israeli factories and provide Palestinians with humane, dignified work," says Diana Buttu, an international human rights lawyer and former adviser to the Palestinian negotiations team. 

And not every Palestinian worker who works at SodaStream is quite so happy:

One of the workers waiting for the SodaStream bus this morning says he hates the fact that he’s working in an Israeli settlement, and lies to people when they inquire about his work.

“I’m ashamed I’m working there,” he says. “I feel this is our land, there should be no [Israeli] factory on this land.”

He feels like a “slave,” working 12 hours a day assembling parts – drilling in 12,000 screws a day, he adds.

Palestinian workers who benefit from the SodaStream factory are facing an ethically complicated situation that has repeated itself throughout history: one in which an occupying nation improves the lives of the citizens living in the occupied territory.  The two most prominent examples would be The Roman Empire building infrastructure improvements in conquered nations, and the British Empire’s efforts to “civilize” India.  There is no doubt that the lives of a substantial number of citizens who lived in these nations were improved to some degree when the occupying sovereign brought the resources of their home country to bear.

But in none of the cases did the benefits gained by occupied citizens create anything resembling a just relationship.  For people opposed to ongoing injustices in the cases above, the question always remained: what is the most effective form of activism for a person who wants to see things change?

The BDS movement, despite its flaws, has been one of the only (if not the only) non-violent political movement that has caused Israeli authorities to blink over their policies in the Occupied Territories.  Decades of efforts to negotiate peace through official channels have failed, and attempts to shame the government into action only result in retrenchment, exemplifed by the fact that the Israeli Government continues to ignore calls to halt settlement expansion despite repeated criticism from multiple quarters.   The electoral process has also failed Palestinians, both in israel and the Palestinian Authority.

Given these realities, I agree with Larry Derfner when he writes that the desperation of Palestinian workers should not be used to defeat the controversy surrounding SodaStream:

To understate things, it is rather cynical using those Palestinian workers as a weapon against the boycott and, by extension, on behalf of the settlements and occupation. Cynical because those Palestinians don’t support the settlements or occupation in the slightest. Some put the issue out of their minds, some are reluctant to talk about it out loud, but most of them, if the boss isn’t looking, will tell you that of course they’re against the settlements and Israeli rule, but they have to feed their families.

The reason why Palestinian workers are so attached to the SodaStream  factory is because the Israeli Government has ensured that it’s the only game in town for workers who live nearby.  As Zafid Abu Aballah noted in the USA Today article above:

"I have an Israeli passport, if the firm closed I could find another job, but Palestinians would not be able to, there are no jobs for Palestinians in the West Bank.

It should come as no surprise that Palestinians without Israeli citizenship are essentially at the mercy of Israeli employers in the Occupied Territories.  The Israeli Government has ensured that Palestinians are financially dependent on Israeli businesses by isolating the former economically, and by destroying the business capital, educational opportunitiesreal property, and natural resources of Palestinians.  Going back to the CSM article:

Per capita GDP in Israel is more than 10 times that of Palestinians, while Palestinian unemployment (23 percent) is more than triple the Israeli rate (7 percent), according to figures provided to the Monitor by the Manufacturers Association of Israel.

That has prompted about 69,000 Palestinian workers – 10 percent of the Palestinian labor force – to work in the Israeli economy, where those who manage to secure a permit or risk working illegally earn an average daily wage of 164 shekels ($47), compared to 84 shekels ($24) in the PA economy. 

So even though SodaStream may be providing good jobs to Palestinian workers, the fact is that those jobs exist in the context of an unjust relationship.  As Noam Sheizaf noted a couple days ago, it is a problem “when one party is completely dependent on the other’s good will.”  As Elesheva Goldberg, a writer in Israel notes, “If their other option is to go and pluck chickens, what does that say about the space they’re living in, the barriers they’re facing?”

So where does that leave us on BDS?  Here again, I agree with Larry Derfner:

I wish there were a way of ending the theft of the Palestinians’ land, and their freedom, and their pride by means other than the boycott. I have no desire to take away anybody’s job, Palestinian or Jew. But the boycott is working where elections, demonstrations, words, Palestinian non-violence and Obama all failed. If somebody can show me a way to bring down the occupation that doesn’t cost anyone his job – and that isn’t a proven failure – I will gladly support it. But no one has yet. So until then, I will see the boycott not as something to rejoice over, but as the lesser of two evils, the greater one being the humiliation Israel imposes on the Palestinians, even those who work at SodaStream.

February 2, 2014
Four bullets to the back of the head | +972 Magazine

From the article:

On January 20, 2011, Jalal Mahmoud Masri left his house in East Jerusalem and went to visit relatives in the village of Idna. Masri, a father of two and a truck driver, did not know that this was to be his last ride. Fate put Sharpshooter Avi in his path.

Avi and three of his friends had erected an emergency checkpoint after a white Peugeot 205 ignored a checkpoint near the Gush Etzion Junction. Avi, a sharpshooter, was in a nearby tower. Masri noticed the impromptu checkpoint made of soldiers waving flashlights and slowed down after seeing the first flashlight. As soon as he had passed the checkpoint, he suddenly accelerated. According to most of the testimonies, the commanding officer at the checkpoint fired three rounds into the air. Immediately afterwards, Avi fired four rounds at Masri’s head. He collapsed, mortally wounded, and died months later in hospital.

[…]

Hold on. Didn’t we all learn during our service in the IDF that if a vehicle storms through a checkpoint it must be fired upon? This is incorrect and contrary to orders. When the deputy brigade commander was asked about it, he unequivocally said that opening fire is permitted only if the soldiers’ lives are at risk. The deputy also admitted that Masri’s vehicle wasn’t the one the army was looking for, the one which had burst through the Gush Etzion Junction checkpoint. In his interrogation the impromptu checkpoint commander also stated that his men were not in danger.

Military prosecutors for the IDF closed the case, saying there was a “lack of evidence.”  Several people who investigated the scene said the shooting was clearly intentional, based on the position and angle of the bullet holes in Masri’s vehicle.

This case is another example of the culture of impunity that IDF soldiers benefit from when they kill Palestinian civilians:

Out of the 179 investigations the army opened, only 16 matured into indictments – and of these, only six ended in convictions related to homicide. Out of these, only one soldier served more than one year in prison: this is Taysir Hayb, who killed British activist Thomas Hurndall without any provocation. Hayb was convicted of manslaughter – not murder – and was sentenced to eight years in prison, which he did not serve in full (Hebrew). It’s important to note that Hayb had two factors against him: firstly, he killed a Western citizen, whose family refused to act as if nothing happened. A British inquest (which Israel, naturally, boycottedfound that Hurnfall was maliciously slain. Secondly, Hayb is not a Jew; he is a Bedouin. I dare to say, and the data backs me, that an ordinary Jewish soldier killing an ordinary Palestinian wouldn’t suffer such bad luck.

[…]

Yesh Din research department director Ziv Stahl commented on the shooting on Monday morning: “the data shows that practically, the chances of a soldier who killed a Palestinian civilian without justification being investigated, much less punished, are between low and nil. Such a reality encourages illegal use of arms by soldiers even in clearly civilian settings, such as demonstrations.”

This culture is the reason why an IDF sharpshooter can act contrary to IDF protocol by putting 4 bullets in a Palestinian man’s head at an impromptu checkpoint, yet remain untouched after a 2 year investigation. Palestinians are forced to live under the heel of a military force that is subject to different laws, and then when members of that  military force break those laws, they are nonetheless selectively enforced.   Imbalances like this cause extraordinary resentment, and only exacerbate the social and political tension that causes so much of the violence in the Occupied Territories and in Israel.  

January 17, 2014
Struggles With Zionism

Ned Rosch discusses why it was difficult for him growing up to not side with the State of Israel in the realm of politics:

Named after a Holocaust victim, I grew up in a family where commitment to traditional Judaism was only exceeded by our reverence for Zionism, and where Israel was the remarkable manifestation of a 2000-year-old dream come true.  Zionism was in the air, and Israel was a significant part of what it meant to be Jewish, for if the Holocaust broke our hearts, the creation of Israel was our redemption.

I thought I was being open-minded when I held to the conviction that there were two legitimate claims to the same land, and that was why it was so unsolvable. What was really unsolvable was the battle that raged in my heart. I had become a progressive on every issue, except one. I marched for civil rights, women’s rights, and an end to war.  But when it came to Israel-Palestine, internally I was torn up. [The Government of] Israel had ethnically cleansed the indigenous population, but how could I turn my back on my people after the thousands of years of suffering Jews had endured?

My dual-narrative world began to unravel when a friend challenged me to see not two conflicting narratives, but one history of what actually happened. His challenge took me on one of the great journeys of my life – the struggle to fundamentally reconcile my politics around Israel-Palestine with my values.

Rosch continues:

I came to understand that my liberation as a Jew is intrinsically bound up with the liberation of Palestinians, and that the Jewish tradition of “justice, justice thou shall pursue” required me to stand with Palestinians in their struggle. In doing so, I was not only not turning my back on my people, I was upholding Judaism’s highest values, and reclaiming them for myself in a deeply meaningful way.

Rosch also discusses the relationship between anti-semitism in criticism of Israel:

It is imperative to understand that being critical of Israel is not tantamount to anti-semitism. If people are engaged in this struggle because they dislike Jews, they likely are anti-semites. If, however, they do this work because they believe in justice, that is hardly anti-semitic. It’s called having a conscience. What part of supporting an oppressed people is against Jewish teachings?

A Progressive Jewish lawyer whom I studied under in law school recently wrote an op-ed that conveyed the same sentiment:

As a Jew, I reject the notion that criticism of the Israeli government constitutes anti-Semitism. Such a view trivializes the history of anti-Semitism.  The policies of the Israeli government — including illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank and limitations on the academic freedom of Palestinian students and academics — are wrong. The Israeli government does not speak for me. Their polices do not reflect the lessons I’ve learned from my Jewish heritage or from the historical persecution and genocide to which Jews have been subjected. There are strands of Jewish identity that have long stood for peace and justice and that have seen commonalities among different groups faced with oppression. This is represented today by groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, of which I am a member, and by the many Jewish organizations and individuals in Israel who support Palestinian rights.

I think it’s important to highlight these perspectives because it helps shed light on the struggles many people have with Zionism as it relates to Jewish identity.  Many people who dislike the Israeli government’s treatment of Palestinians nonetheless fervently believe in Israel’s right to exist.  And since there are people in the world who would like to see Israel wiped off the map, it can be difficult to criticize Israel’s policies without feeling like one is necessarily threatening Israel’s existence.  

Nonetheless, there must be room for legitimate criticisms of the Israeli Government, just as there must be room for a legitimate debate about whether those policies reflect Jewish values.  Without these vital strains of dialogue, Israel will risk becoming further isolated from the international community, and less likely to embody the democratic values that its government purports to uphold.

h/t Jewish Voice For Peace

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