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Apartheid Israel doesnt speak for us

July 24th, 2014

July 24, 2014

As the people of Gaza face the Israeli government's latest barbaric assault, activists around the world are seeking ways to show solidarity with the Palestinians and voice their outrage. Jews for Palestinian Right of Return is circulating this petition to send a message.

San Francisco marchers show their solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza (Jeremy Tully | SW)

ON JULY 12, 2014, Gaza civil society issued an urgent appeal for solidarity, asking: "How many of our lives are dispensable enough until the world takes action? How much of our blood is sufficient?"

As Jews of conscience, we answer by unequivocally condemning Israel's ongoing massacre in Gaza, whose victims include hundreds of civilians, children, entire families, the elderly and the disabled. This latest toll adds to the thousands Israel has killed and maimed since its supposed withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005.

In response to this crisis, we urgently reaffirm our support for a ban on all military and other aid to Israel.

In 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. opposed the Vietnam War with his famous declaration: "For the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

Today, we cannot be silent as the "Jewish state"--armed to the teeth by the U.S. and its allies--wages yet another brutal war on the Palestinian people. Apartheid Israel does not speak for us, and we stand with Gaza as we stand with all of Palestine.

In the face of incessant pro-Israel propaganda, we heed Malcolm X's warning: "If you're not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed, and loving the people who are doing the oppressing."

For Israel's relentless war on Gaza is no more an act of "self-defense" than such infamous massacres as Wounded Knee (1890), Guernica (1937), the Warsaw Ghetto (1942), Deir Yassin (1948), My Lai (1968), Soweto (1976), Sabra and Shatila (1982) or Lebanon (2006).

Rather, it is but the latest chapter in more than a century of Zionist colonialism, dispossession, ethnic cleaning, racism and genocide--including Israel's very establishment through the uprooting and displacement of over 750,000 Palestinians during the 1947-1948 Nakba. Indeed, 80 percent of the 1.8 million people sealed into Gaza are refugees.

Like any colonial regime, Israel uses resistance to such policies as an excuse to terrorize and collectively punish the indigenous population for its very existence. But scattered rockets, fired from Gaza into land stolen from Palestinians in the first place, are merely a response to this systemic injustice.

To confront the root cause of this violence, we call for the complete dismantling of Israel's apartheid regime, throughout historic Palestine--from the River to the Sea. With that in mind, we embrace the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which demands:

-- An end to Israeli military occupation of the 1967 territories
-- Full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel
-- Right of return for Palestinian refugees, as affirmed by UN resolution 194

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Initial Signers
(list in formation; organizations, schools and other affiliations shown for identification only; * indicates co-founder of Jews for Palestinian Right of Return)

Avigail Abarbanel, Psychotherapist; editor, Beyond Tribal Loyalties: Personal Stories of Jewish Peace Activists(2012, Cambridge Scholars), Inverness, Scotland
Noa Abend, Boycott From Within
Stephen Aberle, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver, BC
Lisa Albrecht, Ph.D. Social Justice Program, University of Minnesota
Anya Achtenberg, novelist and poet; teacher; activist; International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Mike Alewitz, Associate Professor, Central CT State Unversity; Artistic Director, Labor Art & Mural Project
Zalman Amit, Distinguished Professor Emeritus; Author, Israeli Rejectionism
Anthony Arnove, International Socialist Organization
Gabriel Ash, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Switzerland
Ted Auerbach, Brooklyn for Peace
Anna Baltzer, author and organizer
Ronnie Barkan, Co-founder, Boycott from Within, Tel-Aviv
Judith Bello, Administrative Committee, United National Antiwar Coalition
Lawrence Boxall, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada; Vancouver Ecosocialist Group
Linda Benedikt, writer Munich, Germany
Nora Barrows-Friedman, journalist; Oakland
Prof. Jonathan Beller, Humanities and Media Studies Graduate Program in Media Studies, Pratt Institute, Brooklyn
Medea Benjamin, co-founder, CODEPINK
Rica Bird, Joint Founder, Merseyside Jews for Peace and Justice
Audrey Bomse, Co-chair, National Lawyers Guild Palestine Subcommittee
Prof. Daniel Boyarin, Taubman Professor of Talmudic Culture, UC Berkeley
Lenni Brenner, Author, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators
Elizabeth Block, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
Max Blumenthal, Author, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel; and Senior Writer for Alternet.org
Mary P. Buchwald, Jewish Voice for Peace-New York
Monique Buckner, BDS South Africa
Maia Brown, Health and Human Rights Project-Seattle & Stop Veolia Seattle
Estee Chandler, Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles
Rick Chertoff, L.A. Jews for Peace
Prof. Marjorie Cohn, Thomas Jefferson School of Law; past president, National Lawyers Guild
Ally Cohen, Ramallah, Palestine; International Solidarity Movement media coordinator
Ruben Rosenberg Colorni, Youth for Palestine, Netherlands
Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
Margaretta D'arcy, Irish actress, writer, playwright, and peace activist
Natalie Zemon Davis, Historian
Warren Davis, labor and political activist, Philadelphia, PA
Eron Davidson, filmmaker
Judith Deutsch, Independent Jewish Voices Canada; Science for Peace
Roger Dittmann, Professor of Physics, Emeritus California State University, Fullerton; President, Scholars and Scientists without Borders Executive Council, World Federation of Scientific Workers
Gordon Doctorow, Ed.D., Canada
Mark Elf, Jews Sans Frontieres, London, UK
Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor and human rights activist; St. Louis, MO
Marla Erlien, New York NY
Shelley Ettinger, writer/activist, New York, NY
Inge Etzbach, Human Rights Activist, Café Palestina NY
Richard Falk, Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University; Former UN Special Rapporteur on Occupied Palestine, 2008-2014
Malkah B. Feldman, Jewish Voice for Peace and recent delegate to Palestine with American Jews for a Just Peace
Deborah Fink, Co-Founder, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods UK
Joel Finkel, Jewish Voice for Peace-Chicago
Sylvia Finzi, JfjfP; Jüdische Stimme für gerechten Frieden in Nahost, EJJP (Germany)
Maxine Fookson, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner; Jewish Voice for Peace, Portland OR
Richard Forer, Author, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear Into Compassion--A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine
Sid Frankel, Associate Professor, University of Manitoba
Prof. Cynthia Franklin, Co-Editor, Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, University of Hawai'i
Racheli Gai, Jewish Voice for Peace
Herb Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
Ruth Gamberg, Independent Jewish Voices, Canada
Lee Gargagliano, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Cheryl Gaster, social justice activist and human right lawyer, Toronto ON
Alisa Gayle-Deutsch, American/Canadian Musician and Anti-Israeli Apartheid Activist
Jack Gegenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton NB
Prof. Terri Ginsberg, film and media scholar, New York
David Glick, psychotherapist; Jewish Voice for Peace
Sherna Berger Gluck, Emerita Professor, CSULB; Israel Divestment Campaign
Neta Golan, Ramallah, Palestine; Jews Against Genocide; Co-founder, International Solidarity Movement
Tsilli Goldenberg, teacher, Jerusalem, Israel
Steve Goldfield, Ph.D.
Sue Goldstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Canada
Marty Goodman, former Executive Board member, Transport Workers Union Local 100; Socialist Action
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow, Fellowship of Reconciliation
Hector Grad, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Spain
Prof. Jesse Greener, University of Laval
Cathy Gulkin, Filmmaker, Toronto ON
Ira Grupper, Bellarmine University, Louisville, KY
Jeff Halper, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)
Larry Haiven, Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Halifax
Evelyn Hecht-Galinski, publisher, Germany
Stanley Heller, The Struggle Video News TSVN
Shir Hever, Jewish Voice for Just Peace, Germany
Deborah Hrbek, media and civil rights lawyer, NLG-NYC
Dr. Tikva Honig-Parnass, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return
Adam Horowitz, Co-Editor, Mondoweiss
Gilad Isaacs, Economist, Wits University.
Selma James, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Jake Javanshir, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
Riva Joffe, Jews Against Zionism
Val Jonas, attorney, Miami Beach
Sima Kahn, MD; President of the board, Kadima Reconstructionist Community
Yael Kahn, Israeli anti-apartheid activist
Michael Kalmanovitz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (UK)
Dan Kaplan, AFT Local 1493
Susan Kaplan, J.D. National Lawyers Guild
Danny Katch, activist and author
Bruce Katz, President, Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), Montreal, Canada
Lynn Kessler, Ph.D., MPH, psychologist/social justice activist
Janet Klecker, Sonomans for Justice & Peace for Palestine, Sonoma CA
Prof. David Klein, California State University, Northridge; USACBI
Emma Klein, Jewish Voice for Peace, Seattle WA
Sara Kershnar, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Harry Kopyto, Legal activist, Toronto ON
Richard Koritz, veteran postal trade unionist and former member of North Carolina Human Relations Commission
Yael Korin, PhD., Scientist at UCLA; Campaign to End Israel Apartheid, Southern California
Dennis Kortheuer, CSULB, Israel Divestment Campaign
Steve Kowit, Professor Emeritus, Jewish Voice for Peace
Toby Kramer, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Jason Kunin, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Dr. David Landy, Trinity College, Dublin
Jean Léger, Coalition pour la Justice et la Paix en Palestine, membre de la Coalition BDS Québec et de Palestiniens et Juifs Unis
Lynda Lemberg, Educators for Peace and Justice, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
David Letwin,* activist and teacher, Al-Awda NY
Michael Letwin,* former President, Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325; USACBI; Al-Awda NY
Les Levidow, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG), UK
Corey Levine, Human Rights Activist, Writer; National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Joseph Levine, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Lesley Levy, Independent Jewish Voices, Montreal
Mich Levy, teacher, Oakland CA
Abby Lippman, Professor Emerita; activist; Montreal
Brooke Lober, PhD candidate, University of Arizona, Gender and Women's Studies Department
Antony Loewenstein, journalist, author and Guardian columnist
Jennifer Loewenstein, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Alex Lubin, Professor of American Studies, University of New Mexico
Andrew Lugg, Professor Emeritus, University of Ottawa, Canada
David Makofsky, Jewish Voice for Peace, Research Anthropologist
Harriet Malinowitz, Professor of English, Long Island University, Brooklyn
Mike Marqusee, Author, If I Am Not for Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew
Miriam Marton, JD
Dr. Richard Matthews, independent scholar, London ON
Daniel L. Meyers, Former President National Lawyers Guild-NYC
Linda Milazzo, Writer/Activist/Educator, Los Angeles
Eva Steiner Moseley, Holocaust refugee, Massachusetts Peace Action board member and Palestine/Israel Working Group
Dr. Dorothy Naor, retired teacher, Herzliah, Israel
Marcy Newman, independent scholar; Author; The Politics of Teaching Palestine to Americans
Alex Nissen, Women in Black
Dr. Judith Norman, San Antonio, TX
Henry Norr, retired journalist, Berkeley CA
Michael Novick, Anti-Racist Action-Los Angeles/People Against Racist Terror
Prof. Bertell Ollman, NYU
Karin Pally, Santa Monica, CA
Prof. Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and socialist activist
Karen Platt, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albany CA
Dr. Susan Pashkoff, Jews Against Zionism, London UK
Miko Peled, writer, activist; Author, The General's Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine
Prof. Gabriel Piterberg, UCLA
Mitch Podolak, Founder, Winnipeg Folk Festival and Vancouver Folk Music Festival
Karen Pomer,* granddaughter of Henri B. van Leeuwen, Dutch anti-Zionist leader and Bergen-Belsen survivor
Lenny Potash, Los Angeles CA
Fabienne Presentey, Independent Jewish Voices, Montréal
Diana Ralph, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Roland Rance, Jews Against Zionism, London
Karen Ranucci, Independent Journalist, Democracy Now!
Ana Ratner, Artist, Puppeteer, Activist
Michael Ratner, President Emeritus, Center for Constitutional Rights
Prof. Dr. Fanny-Michaela Reisin, Jewish Voice Germany
Diana M.A. Relke, Professor Emerita, University of Saskatchewan
Prof. Bruce Robbins, Columbia University
Stewart M. Robinson, retired Prof of Mathematics
Professor Lisa Rofel, University of California, Santa Cruz
Mimi Rosenberg, Producer & Host, Building Bridges and Wednesday Edition, WBAI 99.5 FM; Association of Legal Aid Attorneys/UAW Local 2325
Lillian Rosengarten, Author, From the Shadows of Nazi Germany to the Jewish Boat to Gaza
Prof. Jonathan Rosenhead, British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
Yehoahua Rosin, Israel
Ilana Rossoff, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Martha Roth, Independent Jewish Voices; Vancouver BC
Marty Roth, Emeritus professor of English, University of Minnesota
Ruben Roth, Assistant Professor, Labour Studies, Laurentian University; Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Emma Rubin, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Cheryl A. Rubenberg, Middle East Scholar; Editor, Encyclopedia of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict; Author, The Palestinians in Search of a Just Peace
Josh Ruebner, Author, Shattered Hopes: Obama's Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace
Mark Rudd, retired teacher, Albuquerque NM
Ben Saifer, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Evalyn Segal, Rossmoor Senior Community
Sylvia Schwarz, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Yossi Schwartz, Internationalist Socialist League; Haifa
Carole Seligman, co-editor, Socialist Viewpoint magazine
Yom Shamash, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver, Canada
Tali Shapiro, Boycott from Within; Israel
Karen Shenfeld, Poet, Toronto ON
Sid Shniad, National Steering Committee, Independent Jewish Voices Canada
William Shookhoff, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto ON
Melinda Smith, Jewish Voice for Peace, Albuquerque NM
Kobi Snitz, Tel Aviv
Marsha Steinberg, BDS-LA for Justice in Palestine, Los Angeles
Lotta Strandberg, Visiting Scholar, NYU
Carol Stone, Independent Jewish Voices, Vancouver BC
Miriam (Cherkes-Julkowski) Swenson, Ph.D.
Matthew Taylor, author
Laura Tillem, Peace and Social Justice Center of South Central Kansas
Peter Trainor, Independent Jewish Voices, Toronto
Rebecca Tumposky, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Darlene Wallach, Justice for Palestinians, San Jose CA
Dr. Abraham Weizfeld, JPLO
Bonnie Weinstein, Co-Editor of Socialist Viewpoint magazine; Publisher, Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Sam Weinstein, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network-Labor; former President, UWUA Local 132
Judith Weisman, Independent Jewish Voices; Not in Our Name (NION); Toronto ON
Paul Werner, PhD, DSFS Editor, WOID, a journal of visual language
Noga Wizansky, Ph.D., artist, instructor, and researcher; Administrator, Institute of European Studies, UC Berkeley
Marcy Winograd, public school teacher, former congressional peace candidate
Bekah Wolf, UC Hastings College of Law Student; Co-founder, Palestine Solidarity Project
Sherry Wolf, International Socialist Organization
Dave Zirin, Author, Game Over: How Politics Have Turned the Sports World Upside Down

Growing Jewish support for boycott and the changing landscape of the BDS debate

June 18th, 2014

A couple of weeks ago Jerusalem-based think-tank, the Jewish People Policy Institute, released the findings from its study “Jewish & Democratic: Perspectives from World Jewry”. The key findings demonstrate a growing trend towards a concern for the current Zionist policies of the Jewish state from the core of its international supporters—Jews themselves. This reveals a more critical portrayal of Israel’s “implementation of Jewishness” than ever before, including a growing tension associated with the idea of a state that is both a “Jewish” and “democratic”. Participants of the study said that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and “the continued building of Jewish settlements”, as well as its treatment of minorities falls seriously short of behavior expected from a democracy. The Jewish-only settlements are of course not only frowned upon by a growing number in the Jewish community, but also considered illegal by a large majority of states (as most recently demonstrated in UN General Assembly Resolution 68/82). Although Israel and its chief ally the United States continue to contest this, even U.S. officials blame Israeli settlements for the collapse of the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. There also appears to be an emerging consensus among government officials in Israel, Palestine, and the U.S., as well as among legal experts, that Israel and especially the Palestinian territories are in—or are rapidly heading towards—a situation of apartheid.

Unfortunately the extent of this new reality of Jewish criticism of Israel’s policies towards Palestinians that is taking hold appears largely unreported by mainstream media. One place where opposition to Israel’s policies finds concrete expression amongst Jews both within Israel and internationally is in a wide range of boycotts and divestments activities aimed at promoting legal equality and human rights in Israel-Palestine. Though not necessarily always explicitly linked to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, these activities do fall within the scope of the movement and help to advance its goals. The call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions came in 2005 from an unprecedented coalition of over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations including NGOs, unions, professional associations, religious groups, human rights organizations, refugee networks, youth, and cultural organizations. The BDS campaign has three goals: an end to the occupation of Arab lands occupied by Israel since 1967, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the right of Palestinian refugees displaced or expelled during conflict in the region to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. The BDS movement was launched on the one year anniversary of the landmark 2004 International Court of Justice case that found that Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory is illegal under international law. In addition to the large majority of the world’s countries, a wide range of legal experts and Israeli and international NGOs concur on the illegality of the occupation.

In this article we explore the growing Jewish support for both the BDS movement and other civil society boycott activities which advance the human rights goals of the movement. While not all of the individuals and organizations we mention actively support every aspect of the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, they represent a multi-faceted approach to applying international pressure on Israel to abide by international law and human rights treaties.

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In the United States where debate over the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is heavy and heated, Jewish Voice for Peace, a coalition of Zionists, anti-Zionists, and non-Zionists, states clearly that it aligns itself with the methods as well as “the aims of the Palestinian Boycott National Committeeending the occupation, achieving equality for Palestinians now living in Israel, and recognizing Palestinian refugees’ right of return.” Others in the U.S. who support the full goals and strategy of the BDS campaign include, both Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb and Rabbi Brian Walt, from the Jewish Voice for Peace’s Rabbinical Council. New York-based group, Jews Say No!, founded by Jewish boycott, divestment and sanctions advocate Donna Nevel,also takes a stance in full support of the BDS call. Other organizations include American Jews for a Just PeaceBreaking the Law of Return and the Committee for Open Discussion of Zionism, which “unequivocally” supports the movement.Jewish-American scholar and LGBT activist, Sarah Schulman has publicly declared her support for the BDS cause by advocating for the implementation of the boycott in its entirety. Udi Aloni, Israeli-American filmmaker also promotes BDS and the full goals of campaign. Similarly Jeremiah Haber (thenom de plume of Charles H. Manekin), an orthodox Jewish studies and philosophy professor dividing his time between Israel and the United States, backs BDS.

Elsewhere in North America, Canadian group Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) has resolved to support the BDS call and urges the Canadian government to disengage from “its one-sided and uncritical support for Israel”. Naomi Klein, Jewish-Canadian journalist and author has likewise added her full backing to the BDS movement.

The UK group, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods claims solidarity with any individuals or organizations who share our anti-racist agenda in pursuing the non-violent goals of BDS”. European Jews for a Just Peace also shares this support for the methods and goals of the campaign.

Australia-based Jews Against the Occupation also actively promote the BDS movement. Sydney-based Jewish academic Peter Slezak supports the BDS call, as does Jewish-Australian journalist and author Antony Loewenstein, who is highly critical of attempts to label the nonviolent movement anti-Semitic. The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network echoes these sentiments, declaring that BDS is neither anti-Semitic nor anti-democratic and that the international body “stands firm” in support of the full BDS call.

Even within Israel, prominent individuals and organizations have pledged their support to the BDS movement and its vision of equality for Arab citizens of Israel, recognition of the Palestinian right of return, and ending the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. The prominent group of Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel, BOYCOTT!, offers support for the Palestinian BDS call from within the Jewish state. The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and the Alternative Information Center likewise fully support the movement. Israeli Journalist, writer, and founder of the Alternative Information Center, Michel Warschawski, actively promotes BDS and has reiterated the call to Israelis to “boycott from within”. Rachel Giora, Israeli feminist and professor of linguistics at Tel Aviv University has also responded to the BDS call in a letter addressed to her colleagues at the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine, expressing full support for the movement. Other Jewish-Israeli academics in support of the campaign include historian and activist Ilan Pappé, anthropologist Uri Davis, political scientist Marcelo Svirsky, and anthropologist Jeff Halper.

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The most widely adopted mode of targeted support for BDS from within Israel and by Jewish individuals and organizations worldwide is a boycott of the Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem). This can include a boycott of products manufactured or grown within the settlements, or businesses and academic institutions located in settlements or actively supporting their perpetuation.

Reasons for why a narrow settlement boycott is preferred over a broader BDS include that international law is less ambiguous regarding the illegality of settlements (as compared to the BDS goals of the right of return, or legal equality in Israel) and that it is easier to consistently boycott settlements (rather than boycott broader Israeli or international organizations involved in abuses of Palestinian human rights). However even among Zionists who still support legally mandated disadvantage for Israel’s non-Jewish ethno-religious groups (required for Israel to be fixed as a “Jewish state”), the settlement boycott is gaining ground. As noted above, a recent survey by the Jewish People Policy Institute appears to show a growing tension within the international Jewish community regarding the idea that Israel can be both fundamentally Jewish and a democracy.  Zionist boycott supporters typically differ from other boycott supporters in that they contend that even with the legally entrenched dominance of one etho-religious group (ie Jews) the state of Israel is still able to function as a “democracy”. These groups typically argue that the  realization of the third goal of the BDS movement, the Palestinian right of return, would spell an end to the demographic and political dominance of Jews in Israel. For similar reasons they are also less supportive of the BDS movement’s goal of equality for Israel’s Arab citizens. These Zionist groups call for a more narrow boycott, of Israel’s Illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), in line with the first goal of the BDS movement. The rationale generally advanced by Zionists is that it is only with the end of the occupation of Palestinian territory that Israel can preserve both its Jewish and ostensibly “democratic” character.

Notably, in 2006 the Israeli peace activism group headed by Uri Avnery, Gush Shalom, published “a list of several hundred products made in areas beyond the Green Line. The list, comprised of many food products, also included businesses operating in the Golan Heights.” In the face of the 2011 Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott passed by the Knesset, the group stated that it could no longer afford to continue publishing the list, for fear of the threat of lawsuits. The law would allow for lawsuits to be filed -without any proof of damages- against those who promote boycott tactics against people associated with the state of Israel or any “area under its control”. Gush Shalom appealed to Israel’s Supreme Court to rule the law as unconstitutional, and was joined by several other notable minority rights groups, including The Civil Rights Association, Yesh Din, Adalah, the Women’s Coalition for Peace, The Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, Knesset member Ahmed Tibi and The Arab Monitoring Committee. Israeli peace group Peace Now has published a similar list of settlement products and likewise calls for a boycott of the settlements. Israeli politician, Zahava Gal-On, head of the Meretz opposition party, has also publically declared that she boycotts the settlements in her own purchases and hopes that a boycott campaign on settlement goods would encourage Israelis to think critically about the “economic cost of the Occupation.”  There are signs that the boycott of settlements among Israelis, has begun to cause manufacturers and producers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem to “encounter obstacles” marketing goods “not just overseas, also in Tel Aviv”.

Support for a settlement boycott is also building among U.S. Jews. Distinguished Jewish-American jurist Richard Falk, as UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, has recently formally recommended that UN member states and businesses and civil society impose sanctions and boycotts against Israeli settlements and international corporations supporting the occupation of Palestinian territory. Back in 2011, the American Liberal Zionist  organization Partners for Progressive Israel (then Meretz U.S.A) issued a call to American Jews to boycott West Bank settlement goods through their campaign: “Buy Israel – Don’t buy Settlements”.   Americans for Peace Now, describing themselves as a pro-Israel, pro-peace, American Jewish organization,echo this support.  Similarly, even other Zionists, who ostensibly oppose the broader BDS campaign, do support a boycott of the settlements. Well-known American Liberal Zionist Peter Beinart for instance has repeatedly written in support of a settlements boycott in order to “save Israel”. Beinart advocates a targeted approach to boycotting West Bank settlements. Addressing American Jews, Beinart declared: “We should lobby to exclude settler-produced goods from America’s free-trade deal with Israel. We should push to end Internal Revenue Service policies that allow Americans to make tax-deductible gifts to settler charities. Every time an American newspaper calls Israel a democracy, we should urge it to include the caveat: only within the green line”. Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of the influential liberal pro-Israel lobby group, J-Street also recently announced that if the BDS campaign were restricted to a boycott of the settlements J-Street would support it. Similarly, National President of Ameinu Kenneth Bob has declared that while he does not support the BDS movement he is “extremely sympathetic to the settlement boycott approach”. The New Israel Fund, through a statement their Vice President of Public Affairs from Naomi Paiss, has also shown support for the same type of targeted approach, stressing that “boycotting settlements is not anti-Israel”. After a visit to the West Bank, Rabbi Ellen Lippmann issued a statement reversing her initial opposition to the settlement boycott and claiming solidarity with Israeli rabbis who also support a boycott of settlement goods. Jewish-American political scientist and activist Norman Finkelstein supports an economic boycott of Israel in order to compel Israel to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territory (also see the start of an interview with Finkelstein posted here). Prominent linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky has also publicly spoken out in support of BDS as a tactic, saying: “There is an interesting mythology that I have opposed the BDS movement. In reality, as explained over and over, I not only support it but was actively involved long before the ‘movement’ took shape…” Chomsky specifically supports boycott and divestment from companies that operate in the occupied Palestinian territories and also promotes forms of academic and military boycott.

Among the Jewish Diaspora in Australia, Ben Saul, Professor of International Law at Sydney University has written in favor of a targeted boycott approach focused on the Jewish-only settlements. What’s more, The Australian Jewish Democratic Society “has become the first Australian community-affiliated Jewish organization to adopt the view that some boycotts of Israel may indeed be justified.” The group supports “selected BDS actions designed to bring about an end to the Israeli occupation, blockade and settlement on Palestinian lands lying outside of the June 1967 Israeli borders.” The organization resolves to boycott settlement products as well as “specific academics openly supportive of the Occupation”.

Support for BDS methods also takes the form of refusal to perform in the Jewish-only settlements on occupied Palestinian territory. In 2010, over 50 Israeli actors, directors, and playwrights released a statement declaring that they would not perform at the new theatre in Ariel, Israel’s fourth largest settlement, or in any other settlement. In a show of support for that petition over 150 Israeli academics and university faculty from across Israel released their own open letter, vowing to likewise engage in a cultural and academic boycott of the settlements. The Israeli academics declared: “We will not take part in any kind of cultural activity beyond the Green Line, take part in discussions and seminars, or lecture in any kind of academic setting in these settlements.” Signatories include Zeev Sternhell, Anat Biletzki, Shlomo Sand, Neve Gordon, Oren Yiftachel, among others. The declaration was also supported by several prominent Israeli authors, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, David Grossman, and Sami Michael. A letter drafted by the authors, as well as by well-known Israeli memorial sculptor and Israel Prize laureate, Dani Karavan, expresses further solidarity with the actor’s boycott.  Theodore Bikel, a Jewish American actor, has also been vocal in the settlement boycott also joined a separate petition for the boycott of the settlements, signed by over 150 Israeli entertainment professionals.

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Another aspect of the BDS movement is the boycott of Israeli academic institutions: specifically, the withdrawal of support from Israeli academic institutions complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory and the violation of Palestinian human rights. This movement draws on a growing body of evidence detailing academic institutions support for the occupation of Palestinian territory and violation of human rights (including education rights) through a variety of military and public relations oriented research and training activities. One such in-depth report was released by the Israeli Alternative Information Center in 2009. The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was launched in 2004 to challenge the unethical policies of these institutions. However boycotts of Israeli academic institutions to promote Palestinian human rights also predate the PACBI call. In April 2002 a call “for a European Boycott of Research and Cultural Links with Israel” was signed by around 700 Europe-based academics, ten of which are Israeli academics from various universities. More recently, in 2013 in response to the PACBI call a group of Israeli, Palestinian and other oral historians and academics from Europe, South Africa, Oceania, Asia, and the Americas issued an international call for the boycott of the “International Oral History Conference” organized by The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In February this year, an international Jewish group, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, published a list of signatories endorsing and supporting the American Studies Association academic boycott. Israeli and international Jews have likewise joined the boycott of the 2014 Cinema and TV Studies Conference held at Tel Aviv University. Jewish-American academic, Colin Dayan has also written in support of a boycott of Israeli academic institutions as has Malcolm Levitt, professor at Southampton University and a fellow of the Royal Society in the UK. Levitt as well as Noam Chomsky joined a group of academics who successfully lobbied physicist Stephen Hawking to boycott the IsraeliPresidential Conference held in Jerusalem last year.

A number of Jewish and Israeli academics and organizations support BDS activities in forms other than the academic boycott (such as through a settlement boycott, support on the grounds of free speech, or in support of the full BDS Call), signifying that there  other forms of boycott activity at play within the academic world. Two instances of this  last year were Kings College and the University of Southampton in the UK dropping their contracts with security firm G4S, in response to the British security firm’s role in supporting the Israeli occupation and abuse of human rights.

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Earlier this year human rights group Amnesty International published a report that recommended an international military boycott of Israel, citing the country’s “use of excessive force in the West Bank”. The conclusions of this report (and similar research efforts) lay out the rationale for the military boycott of Israel. One example of this is the  movement within Israel in opposition to the military draft. In March of 2014, The Israeli youth group, Conscientious Objectors of the Occupation, released an open letter addressed to Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu “declaring their refusal of compulsory service in the Israeli military” because of their opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Another boycott movement within the military sphere is the call for the disinvestment of international companies and organizations that are part of the Israeli military-industrial-complex (such as the efforts by Kings College and the University of Southampton noted above). This military boycott is often included within broader BDS policies. The Australian Jewish Democratic Society statement of support for targeted boycotts for example also advocates for “divestment from military Research and Development (R&D) and boycott of industrial/military activities unrelated to Israel’s defense and security.” Noam Chomsky has also called for an end to U.S. and other international military aid to Israel.

***

The status of the anti-boycott law opposed by Gush Shalom and other human rights groups in Israel is, as alluded to above, currently in legal in limbo through a challenge in the Israeli Supreme Court. Israeli human rights groups argue that the Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott aims to limit Israeli and Palestinian freedom of expression by threatening monetary sanctions on anyone who expressed support for the boycott of any Israeli organization or individual. Similar attempts to combat boycotts through legislation are also being made in the U.S.. In 2014 in a wave of right-wing reaction against the BDS movement several bills were proposed within state legislatures aimed at prohibiting academic institutions and individuals from engaging in boycotts of Israel. Following this a new flood of support has emerged both from within Israel as well as from Jewish supporters outside of Israel, advocating for the right of free speech in the face of these anti-BDS bills. The New Israel Fund, a U.S.-based group calling for social justice and equality for all Israelis, shows explicit support for the freedom of speech regarding BDS: “The New Israel Fund is committed to strengthening democracy in Israel, supports freedom of speech and promotes non-violent means of expression of belief and conscience. We oppose any attempt to criminalize the legitimate expression of support for any non-violent strategy or tactic, including those we do not ourselves support.” As noted above the New Israel Fund supports of boycott of the settlements, and they oppose the settlements outright, and as a matter of policy. Naomi Paiss, Vice President of Public Affairs for the New Israel Fund has also stated that her organization “will not disqualify organizations for funding if they support the boycott of settlement goods because we see it as entirely consistent with our opposition to the occupation, our defense of Israeli democracy and our support for a two-state solution.”

Elsewhere, in a letter opposing political censorship, over 150 U.S.-based academics, spearheaded by Jewish academic Judith Butler, and Rashid Khalidi, signed a statement condemning the “accelerating efforts to curtail speech, to exercise censorship, and to carry out retaliatory action against individuals on the basis of their political views or associations, notably support for BDS.” Calling on support from cultural and educational institutions to uphold and support “the principles of free expression”, the authors point out that “as non-violent instruments to effect political change, boycotts cannot be outlawed without trampling on a constitutionally protected right to political speech.” Even Israeli Foreign Ministry officials, “pro-Israel” lobby organizations such as Israel-based NGO Monitor, and most of the mainstream press in Israel have stated they oppose efforts to stamp out BDS through the courts. The Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and other senior Jewish leaders in Australia have made clear they oppose attempts to suppress BDS through litigation, which they view as counter-productive. Elsewhere in Australia other pro-Israel organizations the Zionist Federation of Australia and the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council have also refused to support anti-BDS efforts through the courts..

***

The growing support from Jews internationally for the BDS call and the boycott of Israel shows that the landscape of the debate around BDS and broader peace process in Israel-Palestine is shifting. Increasingly the question is no longer whether or not to boycott, but rather to what extent do we boycott? The emerging local and international constituency of Israeli Jews and the Jewish Diaspora, and their adoption and promotion of a range of methods that fall within the scope of the BDS campaign is significant. On the surface, this wide-ranging support of course reminds us of how non-sensical and futile it is to deploy classic anti-Semitic imagery in an attempt to delegitimize what is a growing international movement for human rights and legal equality. At a deeper level, however, this growing Jewish support is an indication that the spirit of the boycott call reflects a truly democratic vision that is shared by Jews internationally, a call that wants to see the preservation, not the demise, of a democratic Israel, an Israel that fairly represents all of its citizens, regardless of race or religion. Ignoring these efforts by Jewish organizations and individuals to promote democracy, human rights and a just peace in the Middle East is a dangerous mistake. Clearly in conflicts such as Israel-Palestine, governments don’t always have all the answers: free speech and open criticism of government policy is critical. Given the lack of success of official diplomacy in the region we should be encouraging, not dismissing, these growing local and international efforts.

The World Cup Soccer in Qatar (2022), Controversy over Appalling Migrant Worker Conditions

June 14th, 2014

By Stephen Lendman

 

Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani is Qatar’s Emir. He heads a despotic monarchical rogue state.

He maintains supreme power. What he says goes. Ordinary Qataris have no say.

State terror defines official policy. Qatar has one of the world’s worst human and civil rights record.

Torture and other forms of repression are commonplace. So is brutal worker exploitation. Foreign nationals suffer most.

According to the State Department’s 2012 human rights report:

“The principal human rights problems were the inability of citizens to change their government peacefully, restriction of fundamental civil liberties, and pervasive denial of expatriate workers’ rights.”

“The monarch-appointed government prohibited organized political parties and restricted civil liberties, including freedoms of speech, press, and assembly and access to a fair trial for persons held under the Protection of Society Law and Combating Terrorism Law.”

“Other continuing human rights concerns included restrictions on the freedoms of religion and movement, as foreign laborers could not freely travel abroad.”

“Trafficking in persons, primarily in the labor and domestic worker sectors, was a problem.”

“Legal, institutional, and cultural discrimination against women limited their participation in society.”

“The noncitizen “Bidoon” (stateless persons) who resided in the country with an unresolved legal status experienced social discrimination.”

Migrants comprise the vast majority of Qatar’s two million population. London’s Guardian ran a series of articles explaining more.

The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) chose Qatar to host the 2022 World Cup games.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter did so disgracefully. He ignored outrageous exploitation foreign construction workers face. More on that below.

Qatar is a key US regional ally. Doha hosts America’s forward CENTCOM (US Central Command) headquarters. It’s based at Al Udeid Air Base. It’s home for 5,000 US forces.

It’s a hub for US Afghanistan and Iraq operations. Qatar was instrumental in Obama’s Libya war. Its special forces armed and trained extremist Islamist militants.

They included the CIA affiliated Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG). They’re ideologically allied with Al Qaeda.

In December 2004, the State Department designated it a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). If doesn’t matter. America uses Al Qaeda and likeminded organizations as enemies and allies.

Qatar supports Obama’s war on Syria. It helps recruit extremist fighters. It provides funding, weapons and training. It’s part of Washington’s plan to oust Assad.

London’s Guardian headlined “Qatar: one migrant worker’s story.”

Nepalese worker Bhupendra Malla Thakuri “borrowed money to afford a recruitment agent’s fees (for) a job as a truck driver in Qatar”

It pays 1,200 riyals monthly (about $330). In June 2011, Bhupendra was severely injured. His leg was crushed on the job. He was hospitalized for months.

“When I was discharged,” he said, “the company only paid me for the 20-odd days I had worked that month, but nothing more.”

”They didn’t give me my salary. They didn’t give me anything. It was a very critical situation. I was injured and my leg had become septic.”

His company gave him a document in English to sign. It asked him to agree to return to Nepal. It declared all his benefits paid.

He refused to sign, saying:

”I had to return to the hospital frequently for checkups, but I didn’t have money for that. I needed money for transportation and medicine. There was no money for food.”

His indebtedness rose to about $4,400. He had no way repay. He sued. He was lucky. He got significant compensation. On July 29, he went home.

According to Amnesty International Gulf migrant researcher James Lynch:

“Bhupendra’s case illustrates both the callousness with which so many companies treat migrant workers in Qatar, but also the laborious and confusing processes which migrant workers are expected to navigate in order to get their rights.”

“It took him more than two years, and enormous stamina and courage, to get the compensation he deserved, during which time he was penniless.”

On September 25, the Guardian headlined “Revealed: Qatar’s World Cup ‘slaves.’ Exclusive: Abuse and exploitation of migrant workers preparing emirate for 2022.”

They endure outrageous human rights abuses. In recent weeks, dozens of Nepalese migrant workers died.

“(T)housands more (endure) appalling labour abuses, a Guardian investigation has found, raising serious questions about Qatar’s preparations to host the 2022 World Cup.”

During summer 2013, “Nepalese workers died at a rate of almost one a day.”

Many were young men. Sudden heart attacks killed them. Others died from accidents. Human life in Qatar is cheap.

Guardian investigators “found evidence to suggest that thousands of Nepalese, who make up the single largest group of labourers in Qatar, face exploitation and abuses that amount to modern-day slavery.”

From June 4 – August 8, at least 44 workers died. Heart attacks or workplace accidents took most of them.

Other damning evidence uncovered included:

  • forced labor on World Cup infrastructure;
  • withholding pay for some Nepalese workers for months; allegedly it’s to prevent them from running away;
  • confiscating worker passports; doing so reduces their status to illegal aliens; and
  • denying workers access to free drinking water in summer heat.

“About 30 Nepalese sought refuge at their embassy in Doha to escape the brutal conditions of their employment,” said the Guardian.

Rogue Qatari officials are very much involved in ruthless migrant worker exploitation.

“The overall picture is of one of the richest nations exploiting one of the poorest to get ready for the world’s most popular sporting tournament,” the Guardian added.

It shows FIFA’s complicity with brutal police state repression. It doesn’t surprise. Formula One’s governing body includes Bahrain on its calendar.

It does so despite the Gulf monarchy’s appalling human rights record.

Murder, torture, other forms of abuse, lawless arrests, kangaroo court trials, and longterm imprisonments don’t matter.

Bahrain Grand Prix races are held as scheduled. Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone operates like FIFA’s Sepp Blatter. Money, lots of it, prestige, and self-interest alone matter.

State terror is a small price to pay. Welcome to Qatar and Bahrain. They’re two of the world’s most repressive dictatorships. They’re valued US allies. They’re complicit in America’s imperial wars.

One migrant Qatari worker told Guardian investigators:

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. I’m angry about how this company is treating us, but we’re helpless.”

“I regret coming here, but what to do? We were compelled to come just to make a living, but we’ve had no luck.”

Guardian investigators found migrant workers sleeping 12 to a room. Filthy conditions made many sick.

Some were forced to work without pay. They were left begging for food and clean water. Ran Kuman Mahara said:

“We were working on an empty stomach for 24 hours; 12 hours’ work and then no food all night.”

“When I complained, my manager assaulted me, kicked me out of the labour camp I lived in and refused to pay me anything. I had to beg for food from other workers.”

Nearly all Nepalese migrant workers have huge debts. They accrued them to pay recruitment agents for their jobs.

They’re obligated to repay. They have no way to do so. They had no idea how brutally they’d be exploited.

They held against their will in forced bondage. They’re treated callously. Dozens are worked to death.

Nepalese ambassador to Qatar, Maya Kumari Sharma, called the emirate an “open jail” for foreign workers. It’s that and much more.

According to Anti-Slavery International director Aidan McQuade:

”The evidence uncovered by the Guardian is clear proof of the use of systematic forced labour in Qatar.”

”In fact, these working conditions and the astonishing number of deaths of vulnerable workers go beyond forced labour to the slavery of old where human beings were treated as objects.”

“There is no longer a risk that the World Cup might be built on forced labour. It is already happening.”

Qatar has the world’s highest ratio of migrant workers to domestic population. Over 90% of its workforce are aliens. From now until 2022, another 1.5 million will be recruited.

Based on current conditions, they’ll be held in forced bondage. They’ll be brutalized against their will.

They’ll be lawlessly held to build stadiums, roads, ports, and hotels, as well as other infrastructure and facilities in time for FIFA’s 2022 World Cup games.

Nepal supplies about 40% of Qatar’s migrant workers. In 2012, over 100,000 were recruited. They had no idea how brutally they’d be treated.

On the one hand, FIFA officials insist on acceptable labor standards conditions and practices. On the other, they turn a blind eye to appalling abuses.

It bears repeating. Money, lots of it, prestige, and self-interest alone matter. It doesn’t surprise. Olympism operates the same way.

It’s more about profiteering, exploitation, and cynicism than sport. In modern times, it’s always been that way.

It’s dark side excludes good will and fair play. Scandalous wheeling, dealing, collusion, and bribery turns sport into a commercial grab bag free-for-all.

Marginalized populations are exploited. Thousands are evicted and displaced. Disadvantaged residents are left high and dry.

Cozy relationships among government officials, corporate sponsors, universities, and IOC bosses facilitate exploiting communities, people, and athletes unfairly. It’s standard practice.

FIFA operates the same way. Denial of fundamental rights and freedoms is ignored. Readying venues for scheduled events come first.

Repression and worker abuses don’t matter. High-minded hyperbole conceals what demands condemnation.

CH2M Hill is a leading consulting, engineering, construction, program management firm. It “was recently appointed the official programme management consultant to the supreme committee,” said the Guardian.

It claims a “zero tolerance policy for the use of forced labour and other human trafficking practices.”

According to its engineering subsidiary Halcrow:

“Our supervision role of specific construction packages ensures adherence to site contract regulation for health, safety and environment.”

”The terms of employment of a contractor’s labour force is not under our direct purview.”

Nepalese worker explain otherwise. They’re virtual slaves. They want to leave but can’t. According to one unnamed migrant:

“We’d like to leave, but the company won’t let us. If we run away, we become illegal and that makes it hard to find another job.”

Qatar’s labor ministry lied claiming it enforces strict standards and practices. According to the Guardian:

“The workers’ plight makes a mockery of concerns for the 2022 footballers.”

General Federation of Nepalese Trade Unions head Umesh Upadhyaya said:

“Everyone is talking about the effect of Qatar’s extreme heat on a few hundred footballers.”

“But they are ignoring the hardships, blood and sweat of thousands of migrant workers, who will be building the World Cup stadiums in shifts that can last eight times the length of a football match.”

They turn a blind eye to the appalling human rights abuses they endure. They’re held in forced bondage for Qatari/FIFA profits, self-interest and prestige.

Doing so makes a mockery of sport. Illusion substitutes for reality. Dark side truth explains best.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Nine far-right parties in European Parliament

June 5th, 2014

Nine far-right parties in European Parliament

One has a leader with a swastika tattoo, one wants to rid his entire country of Muslims, another has a founder who suggested releasing the Ebola virus on migrants. This is the class of 2014, the parties set to enter the European Parliament as part of the Union’s most eurosceptic, far right, anti-immigrant intake of all time.

 

Though the British National Party had their one MEP dismissed by voters, this year is the first time openly neo-Nazi parties will sit in Brussels as representatives of their nations.

The European fringe of what Boris Johnson described as “bizarre or downright potty” have flooded the chamber. Almost all are Eurosceptic, joining the mainstream anti-EU parties like Britain’s Ukip to make up around a third of the parliament.

Here’s the full rundown:

Marine Le Pen has had to work hard to de-toxify her far right Front National party, including censoring her own father and the party’s founder. Jean Marie Le Pen suggested only last month that “Monseigneur Ebola” could sort out Europe’s immigration issue “in three months”. He has regularly been convicted under France’s race hate laws, and has called the Nazi gas chambers a “small detail”. The party took a quarter of the vote in France, with its popular anti-immigration platform.

The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) in Germany has been campaigning on a platform of stopping immigration and been called racist and anti-Semitic. They have fought under the banner of slogans like “Money for granny instead of Sinti and Roma” and “the boat is full”, given interviews insisting Europe is “a continent of white people” and have marched with banners proclaiming the Nazi ideology of “National Socialism”.

The Greek ultra nationalist party Golden Dawn has swapped its jackboots for suits in the run-up to the elections and been rewarded with its first seats in the European Parliament. Its main spokesman has a swastika tattoo, and a good number of the party’s members are in prison for being part of a criminal organisation. Its slogans have been daubed on mosques, synagogues and cemeteries. In May 2012, Golden Dawn ran in Greek elections under the slogan “So we can rid this land of filth”, set up “Greek-only” food banks, and its spokesman has quoted from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in parliament. But the party insists it is neither criminal nor neo-Nazi. It is now the country’s third most popular party.

Finland’s anti-euro populist Finns Party has done less well than predicted, but still picked up two MEPs. It was previously known as the “True Finns”. Its MP James Hirvisaari was fined in 2011 for comments he made on his blog about Muslims, another declined an invite to the Independence Day ball because he did not want to see same-sex couples, but the party has repeatedly rejected accusations of racism and homophobia.

The Danish People’s party won nearly 27 percent of the vote and has doubled its number of MEPs. The party’s founder Pia Kjærsgaard holds the view that Denmark is not a country where immigration is natural or welcome. In response to criticism from Sweden, she retorted: “If they want to turn Stockholm, Gothenburg or Malmö into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honour killings and gang rapes, let them do it. We can always put a barrier on the Øresund Bridge.”

Dutch far-right “Party for Freedom” leader Geert Wilders will be disappointed with the results, as pro-EU parties topped the Dutch poll. His party has been dogged with controversy. Wilders is known for his vociferous criticism of Islam, and for saying “I don’t hate Muslims, I hate Islam”. He campaigns to end all Muslim immigration to the Netherlands and repatriate Muslims currently living there. “Islam is the Trojan Horse in Europe. If we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia and Netherabia will just be a matter of time,” Wilders once told the Dutch parliament. Last week, there was no difference in the rhetoric. “Do you want more or less Moroccans in this city and this country?”, he shouted to a rally, to chants of “Less! Less!” “We’ll arrange that,” he said. The party retains four seats in the EU parliament.

The right-wing nationalist Hungarian party Jobbik, one of the most obviously neo-Nazi parties in the European parliament, matched its 2009 EU election results, garnering 14.7 percent of the vote and three MEPs. Members have called for the country’s Jewish inhabitants to sign a special register. “I think such a conflict makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian Parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary,” the party’s deputy parliamentary leader, Márton Gyöngyösi said.

There were huge gains for the far-right Freedom Party in Austria, which wan around a fifth of the vote for its anti-immigration platform. It doubled the number of MEPs, from two to four and says it hopes to form an alliance with the Front National. “If there are immigrants, from Turkey, who complain there is a cross hanging in the classroom at school, then I say to them: ‘go back home’,” was the slogan from leader Heinz-Christian Strache. The party is fiercely anti-Muslim immigration, and believes Austria should not accept any more migrants. Strache says he himself is not a racist because he “eats kebabs.”

The far-right party gained six percent of the vote in Italy. “Africa hasn’t produced great geniuses as anyone can see from a Mickey Mouse encyclopaedia,” one of its ex-MEPs said,

Leader of the British National Party (BNP) Nick Griffin lost his seat in the European parliament, the far-right party’s only MEP after Andrew Brons quit the party. Out of breath and breathing heavily, Griffin said his reception at the town hall was “fairly typical”. He appeared to concede defeat saying his party had “no chance” tonight, before adding: “We will be back.” The BNP were the real “racist” party, he said, and those who had voted for Ukip had been mistaken.

Why Ghana must not sign the EPAs in its current Form

May 28th, 2014

Why Ghana must not sign the EPAs in its current Form –

Kwabena Nyarko Otoo

There are plenty of reasons why Ghana must not sign the Free Trade Trojan horse packaged as Economic Partnership Agreement. Two reasons stand out as they encompass the rest. These are the history of Africa’s Development Cooperation with the European Union and the Future we must have for our countries. The present is important but we also know that it is a sorry present that has been shaped principally by the history we have shared with Europe. It is imperative that we move away swiftly from the present situation by building a future that bodes prosperity. We cannot do that by repackaging our shared history and using our present unenviable situation to justify a continuation of the past relationship. What has been the history of our relationship with Europe and the European Union? As we know, it began with slavery, moved on to centuries of colonialism and ended with paternalistic and obnoxious attempt at neo-colonialism, which is where we are. In the neo-colonial era, Europe knows too well what is best for Africa and Ghana for that matter. We have listened to them and done their bidding for half a century. This combined with our own mistakes at mis-governance has brought us to this unpleasant present. Colonialism had already done much of the grounds work on which the neo-colonial relationship had been anchored. Our economy had been assigned a unique role of hewers of wood and drawers of water, producing raw materials for the industry of the colonialists. In return, we received manufactured products from metropolitan industry. The great disadvantage of this colonial pact division of labour is that, as we have come to know it, at all times in the history of mankind the terms of trade between industry (manufactures) and agriculture (raw materials) has favoured the former. Thirty years ago, a ton of cocoa buys one VW. Today one needs more than twenty (20) of cocoa in order to buy one VW. This colonial set up was bound to be uprooted as colonialism drew to a close. Europe knew this better so it strategized. As usual, we failed to look ahead. Therefore, before the first black African country – Ghana – could walk out of colonialism in 1957, Europe put together the Treaty of Rome, signed between six European countries and the then independent countries of the Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). This involved a programme of economic and social development including structural reform in trade, monetary cooperation and technology transfer. The Treaty of Rome was replaced by, the two (2) Younde Conventions of 1963 and 1969. These were signed between European Economic Community (EEC) and 18 French-Speaking countries. The Younde Conventions covered trade, financial and technical cooperation. Slowly but steadily, the neo-colonial economic and political institutions were being set-up. In fact, the Younde Conventions were already being accused of reinforcing the colonial pact’s division of labour where the ACP countries produced raw materials in exchange for manufactures from the EEC. In 1973, the United Kingdom (UK) joined the EEC bringing along the Commonwealth group of countries. Two years later in 1975, the series of Lome Conventions commenced. Lome I was signed between nine (9) members of EEC and 46 ACP countries. The focus was on development cooperation and unilateral preferences for ACP exports to the European market. The Georgetown Agreement of 1975 institutionalized the ACP as a group with a permanent secretariat. Lome II was signed in 1979 and it involved 58 ACP countries. It reinforced the system of unilateral preferences for ACP exports. Unilateral in the sense that, ACP exports were exempted from custom duties in the EEC but ACP imports from Europe attracted custom duties. This notwithstanding, the ACP had by this time, realized that its export revenues were not only falling but also fluctuating badly. The trend decline of the terms of trade for primary products was beginning to bite. Even with this grim realization, Europe managed to outsmart the ACP. How they did it, is significant as the debate over the EPAs goes for the home stretch. Instead of encouraging and supporting the diversification of the production structure of ACP economies, Europe smartly proposed and ACP sheepishly accepted compensation for the revenue shortfalls and continued with its primary commodity exports. Thus, the first two Lome Conventions included the initiative called STABX – a System for the Stabilisation of Export Earnings. In fact, Lome II added SYSMIN, a mechanism of the same type as STABEX but relating specifically to mineral products. Our export revenues stabilize momentarily and we prodded on. Lome II was signed in 1984 between 10 European Countries and 65 ACP countries. This Convention focused on policy dialogue, progressive shift from project funding to sectoral funding and gave priority to infrastructure funding. Lome IV was signed in 1989, between 68 ACP states and 12 European countries. Lome IV dramatically changed the official portrayal of EU-ACP relationship as economic as the relationship became openly political with emphasis on human rights. The Berlin Wall was on its last wobbling leg and the end was insight for the communist empire, so Europe made no secret about its political intentions for the ACP group. In fact, Lome IV saw a deepening of the more liberal understanding and approach to development that had actually began in Lome III. Officially (with emphasis) it placed importance on diversification of ACP economies, promotion of the private sector, and the need for regional integration. In reality, however, the ACP’s reliance on raw materials became pronounced. The mid-term review of Lome IV led to the signing of a new agreement in Mauritius in 1995 between 15 European countries and 70 ACP states. At the end of 1995, after series of reviews, the European Commission produced what it called “Green Paper on relations between European Union and the ACP countries on the eve of the 21st century – challenges and options for a new partnership”. Among the key issues raised in the Green Paper were: • A modification of the geographical configuration with the cold war over • Addressing the shortcomings of the unilateral trade preferences in the light of the emergence of the WTO. • Addressing the increasing conflicts and humanitarian crisis in the ACP region. These considerations propelled the two parties – ACP and EU – to enter into the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA). The CPA was signed on 23rd June 2000 with a validity period of 20 years renewable every five years and was between 15 European countries and 77 ACP states. In broad terms, the CPA addresses two issues. First, that development is first and foremost political, and second, that globalisation cannot co-exist with poverty, inequality and exclusion. As indicated earlier, within the context of the Lome Convention, trade was based on the unilateral preferences by which ACP states could export everything to the EU duty and quota-free. It was unilateral in the sense that while ACP faced no tariff barriers on their exports to the European Union, European exports to the ACP faced tariffs. This unilateral preference system continued under the CPA, but it now required a waiver from the WTO to sustain it. Therefore, as part of the CPA, ACP and the EU agreed to formulate a new trade framework that is compatible with WTO rules. The new trade arrangement was to be completed by 31st December 2007 since the last waiver granted to the EU expired on that date. The CPA is not trade agreement in itself but a ‘commitment to agree’ at a later date on a new trade agreements, called Economic Partnership Agreement that is compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation. In the 12 years since the launch of the negotiations, the ACP and the European Commission (EC) have differed in no trivial terms on just how to operationalize WTO-compatibility. Part of the problem is that the WTO rules that govern regional and bi-lateral free trade agreements are unclear and frequently opened to different interpretations. The EU has exploited this to its advantage while we look on helplessly. Those of us in Civil Society who have followed the discussions since 2002 have sought at all times to interpret the different proposals put forward by the European Commission in the light of the broader historical context as enumerated above. We have endeavoured to do a historical reality check of what European countries did (and in some cases continue to do) in the area of trade policy when they were as poor as we are today. In the last three decades, Africa’s share of global trade has almost halved from over 6 percent to less than 3 percent. This is also the period Africa was made to abandon autarkic policies embedded in Import Substitution. Many countries including Ghana formulated and implemented export-led growth strategies. We also enjoyed preferential market access to the European market. In reality, however, that market access was contrived. As the tariff barriers came down on our exports they were rapidly replaced by a stream of non-tariff barriers including what the World Bank at one point referred to as “unreasonable” phyto-sanitary measures. The huge subsidies the European Commission doles out to European farmers and industries meant that our exports beside commodities are actually uncompetitive on the European market. Above all any attempt to manufacture was met with tariff escalation, where tariffs increase in proportion to the level of processing. All this meant that we could only export commodities, a return to our status as the hewers of wood and drawers of water. A reform of our trade relations with the EU seems inevitable in the long run in the light of WTO rules. But the EPA package as currently conceived is not inevitable for WTO-compatibility. The EPA as currently structured is dangerous for the future of our national development; it is simply another vehicle to carry forward neocolonialism. Any analysis of it that ignores the history is likely to yield the kind of recommendation put forward by IMANI in its “Evidence-based support for Ghana to ratify the EPA”. By history I am referring to the EU-ACP shared history of trade and development, the history of the negotiations since 2002 with all the twist turns and of course the history of the role of trade policy in national developments. I conclude with a quotation from the Republican campaign platform of 1896: “We renew and emphasize our allegiance to the policy of protection as the bulwark of American industrial independence and the foundation of American development and prosperity. This true American policy (protectionism) taxes foreign products and encourages home industry; it puts the burden of revenue on foreign goods; it secures the American market for the American producer; it upholds the American standard of wages for the American workingman; it puts the factory by the side of the farm, and makes the American farmer less dependent on foreign demand and price; it diffuses general thrift, and founds the strength of all on the strength of each”. By: Kwabena Nyarko Otoo/citifmonline.com/Ghana