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Saturday, February 20, 2010

[Updated] Adalah-NY strikes a blow for "human rights" and against Zionist ballet

Protesters led by Adalah-NY, struck their version of a blow for "human rights" and "justice" by disrupting a performance of the Israel ballet in Vermont. According to Ynet news, the self-proclaimed forces of justice and freedom under Adalah claimed that "anyone who watched the performance was "supporting Israel's apartheid policy."'

Update - Originally, this story claimed, based on the Ynet story, that the protest against the Israel ballet was led by the New Israel fund supported Adalah group. Adalah, it will be remembered is the group that proposed a constitution that would abolish Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and allow "right" of return for Palestinian refugees.

However, Ben Murane of New Israel Fund has written to protest that Adalah of Israel supported by NIF had nothing to do with the disruption of the Israel ballet, which is part of a campaign by a group called Adalah-NY. It seems Adalah in Israel only agitates for return of refugees and abolition of the Jewish state locally. NIF seems to have no qualms about supporting these goals. The NIF-supported Adalah does not disrupt ballet performances in the United States, according to Murane.

Indeed there is an Adalah-NY group ( that is funded by the WESPAC foundation. Ynet has not corrected or retracted their story, however. Neither the NIF nor the Israeli Adalah NGO have issued statements clarifying relationship, or lack thereof, between Adalah, and Adalah-NY. It is strange that New Israel Fund has not not contradicted the YNET story or tried to correct it.

Muqata Web log writes:

Update: Many have been claiming that the YNET story is factually incorrect in [that] the Israel Ballet performance was disrupted by "Adalah-NY" and not by "Adalah" in Israel which is NIF funded. YNET has not changed or updated their story. Despite the YNET report, the Muqata blog notes this, and states that we don't know of a connection between the anti-Israel Adalah-NY organization and the NIF-funded Adalah organization in Israel.

Verdict : NIF role in funding disruption of ballet, "not proven." We have probably been taken in by a canard. NIF role in funding advocacy of ending the Jewish state: proven. If you want to donate to disruption of Israeli ballet in the USA, you'll have to give to WESPAC. If you just want to support right of return for Palestinian refugees and boycotts of Israel, contributions to NIF will support Mossawa, Adalah (in Israel) and Machsomwatch, all organizations that further these goals.

Ami Isseroff

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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Costco Targeted by anti-Israel boycott - your help needed

The Israel Boycott people are at it again. There is no doubt about their objective, since the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) group Web site states that they are against "Imperialism, Colonialism and Zionism" a sentiment endorsed indirectly by Jewish Voice for Peace and the American Friends Service Committee.
This time they are targeting Costco for selling Israeli fruit. You can help by contacting Costco and thanking them for ignoring the boycott as described below and by buying Israeli products at Costco stores, and by investing in Costco stock and telling them why.

...[According to boycotters] Costco is guilty of selling Israeli grown clementines. The boycott has a home on the Web and it has volunteers recruiting and instructing people on what they can do to encourage Costco to stop the sale of Israeli goods. Below is the body of a mass circulating e-mail which offers advise on who to contact at Costco:


Such a simple action! I called 425-313-8100 and spoke with Mark DeCosta in produce. I told him that I was calling because I saw that Costco was selling clementines from Israel. I explained very politely that there is an international boycott against Israeli products because of the ongoing genocide there. I mentioned the attack on Gaza a year ago, that 1,400 people were killed there, and that Israel restricts food, electricity and drinking water. Mark was very receptive, and said he would pass the message o the buyer in California, and also gave me her number. I'll call her tomorrow and would be happy to hear that other folks might do the same.

Buyer: Pat Burlinguette

Do not underestimate the consequences if a boycott like this has any success. If friends of Israel do not let Costco know that they support the sale of Israel[i products] it would not be a surprise if the company decides to forgo selling Israeli products.

We need to contact Costco and let them know that we will shop there because they sell Israeli products. When I told my wife about the boycott, she immediately responded that she was getting a Costco membership and she will buy the clementines "Even though I don't like clementines. "

Information about contacting Costco can be found here.

This boycott is part of an international cultural and academic boycott of Israel.

We must do all that we can to help Israel fight back.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

TIA -CREF Pension Divests from Africa Israel over West Bank Ventures

Remember the vote notice you got in the mail? The one you didn't bother with? ...
Someone else did bother with it, of course...Time to divest from TIA-CREF, if you can.
Last update - 20:02 12/09/2009
U.S. pension fund divests from Israel firm 'over West Bank ventures'

The U.S. pension fund giant, TIAA-CREF, confirmed in statements to the media on Friday that it divested from Africa Israel Investments, owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, earlier this year.
A pro-Palestinian group reported Friday that the move was in protest against the firm's business ventures in the West Bank.
The statements came in response to a letter initiated by Adalah-NY (the New York office of the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel) and signed by TIAA-CREF clients.
The fund's investment in Africa Israel amounted to only $257,000, so the financial effect of the divestment is minimal. The news of the divestment came as the Israeli firm was suffering a deep financial crisis, having recently announced that is unable to meet its liabilities to its bondholders.
Officials at Adalah-NY claim that TIAA-CREF made the decision after the organization presented data on Africa Israel's activities in the West Bank.
Adalah NY noted in its press release that "Despite the recent divestment from Africa-Israel, the new June 30th TIAA-CREF report indicates that the fund continues to invest clients' money in a number of companies supporting Israeli settlement activity including Israel Discount Bank, Cellcom Israel, Bezeq Israeli Telecommunications Corp, Bank Leumi, and Motorola, among others."
Earlier this month the Norwegian government announced it was pulling all of its investments from Elbit Systems, which manufactures the monitoring system installed on several parts of the West Bank separation fence.
Norwegian Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen said that the decision was based on the recommendation of her ministry's council. "We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international
humanitarian law," Halvorsen was quoted as saying, explaining that the separation barrier impinged on the freedom of movement of West Bank residents.

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

Uri Avnery on Neve Gordon's boycott call

Why Uri Avnery opposes a boycott, and why Israel is not like "apartheid South Africa."
Uri Avnery
HOW MUCH did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.
No one is better qualified to answer this question than he. Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel prize laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission which investigated the crimes of the regime. This week he visited Israel with the "Elders", an organization of elder statesmen from all over the world set up by Nelson Mandela.
The matter of the boycott came up again this week after an article by Dr. Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a world-wide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a world-wide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.
I have known and respected Neve Gordon for many years. Before becoming a lecturer at Ben Gurion University in Beersheba, he organized many demonstrations against the Separation Wall in the Jerusalem area, in which I, too, took part.
I am sorry that I cannot agree with him this time – neither about the similarity with South Africa nor about the efficacy of a boycott of Israel.
There are several opinions about the contribution of the boycott to the success of the anti-apartheid struggle. According to one view, it was decisive. Another view claims its impact was marginal. Some believe that it was the collapse of the Soviet Union that was the decisive factor. After that, the US and its allies no longer had any reason for support the regime in South Africa, which until then had been viewed as a pillar of the world-wide struggle against Communism.
"THE BOYCOTT was immensely important," Tutu told me. "Much more than the armed struggle."
It should be remembered that, unlike Mandela, Tutu was an advocate of non-violent struggle. During the 28 years Mandela languished in prison, he could have walked free at any moment, if he had only agreed to sign a statement condemning "terrorism". He refused.
"The importance of the boycott was not only economic," the archbishop explained, "but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue."
To show the importance of the boycott he told me the following story: In 1989, the moderate white leader, Frederic Willem de Klerk, was elected President of South Africa. Upon assuming office he declared his intention to set up a multiracial regime. "I called to congratulate him, and the first thing he said was: Will you now call off the boycott?"
IT SEEMS to me that Tutu's answer emphasizes the huge difference between the South African reality at the time and ours today.
The South African struggle was between a large majority and a small minority. Among a general population of almost 50 million, the Whites amounted to less than 10%. That means that more than 90% of the country's inhabitants supported the boycott, in spite of the argument that it hurt them, too.
In Israel, the situation is the very opposite. The Jews amount to more than 80% of Israel's citizens, and constitute a majority of some 60% throughout the country between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. 99.9% of the Jews oppose a boycott on Israel.
They will not feel the "the whole world is with us", but rather that "the whole world is against us".
In South Africa, the world-wide boycott helped in strengthening the majority and steeling it for the struggle. The impact of a boycott on Israel would be the exact opposite: it would push the large majority into the arms of the extreme right and create a fortress mentality against the "anti-Semitic world". (The boycott would, of course, have a different impact on the Palestinians, but that is not the aim of those who advocate it.)
Peoples are not the same everywhere. It seems that the Blacks in South Africa are very different from the Israelis, and from the Palestinians, too. The collapse of the oppressive racist regime did not lead to a bloodbath, as could have been predicted, but on the contrary: to the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Instead of revenge, forgiveness. Those who appeared before the commission and admitted their misdeeds were pardoned. That was in tune with Christian belief, and that was also in tune with the Jewish Biblical promise: "Whoso confesseth and forsaketh [his sins] shall have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13)
I told the bishop that I admire not only the leaders who chose this path but also the people who accepted it.
ONE OF the profound differences between the two conflicts concerns the Holocaust.
Centuries of pogroms have imprinted on the consciousness of the Jews the conviction that the whole world is out to get them. This belief was reinforced a hundredfold by the Holocaust. Every Jewish Israeli child learns in school that "the entire world was silent" when the six million were murdered. This belief is anchored in the deepest recesses of the Jewish soul. Even when it is dormant, it is easy to arouse it.
(That is the conviction which made it possible for Avigdor Lieberman, last week, to accuse the entire Swedish nation of cooperating with the Nazis, because of one idiotic article in a Swedish tabloid.)
It may well be that the Jewish conviction that "the whole world is against us" is irrational. But in the life of nations, as indeed in the life of individuals, it is irrational to ignore the irrational.
The Holocaust will have a decisive impact on any call for a boycott of Israel. The leaders of the racist regime in South Africa openly sympathized with the Nazis and were even interned for this in World War II. Apartheid was based on the same racist theories as inspired Adolf Hitler. It was easy to get the civilized world to boycott such a disgusting regime. The Israelis, on the other hand, are seen as the victims of Nazism. The call for a boycott will remind many people around the world of the Nazi slogan "Kauft nicht bei Juden!" - don't buy from Jews.
That does not apply to every kind of boycott. Some 11 years ago, the Gush Shalom movement, in which I am active, called for a boycott of the product of the settlements. Its intention was to separate the settlers from the Israeli public, and to show that there are two kinds of Israelis. The boycott was designed to strengthen those Israelis who oppose the occupation, without becoming anti-Israeli or anti-Semitic. Since then, the European Union has been working hard to close the gates of the EU to the products of the settlers, and almost nobody has accused it of anti-Semitism.
ONE OF the main battlefields in our fight for peace is Israeli public opinion. Most Israelis believe nowadays that peace is desirable but impossible (because of the Arabs, of course.) We must convince them not that peace would be good for Israel, but that it is realistically achievable.
When the archbishop asked what we, the Israeli peace activists, are hoping for, I told him: We hope for Barack Obama to publish a comprehensive and detailed peace plan and to use the full persuasive power of the United States to convince the parties to accept it. We hope that the entire world will rally behind this endeavor. And we hope that this will help to set the Israeli peace movement back on its feet and convince our public that it is both possible and worthwhile to follow the path of peace with Palestine.
No one who entertains this hope can support the call for boycotting Israel. Those who call for a boycott act out of despair. And that is the root of the matter.
Neve Gordon and his partners in this effort have despaired of the Israelis. They have reached the conclusion that there is no chance of changing Israeli public opinion. According to them, no salvation will come from within. One must ignore the Israeli public and concentrate on mobilizing the world against the State of Israel. (Some of them believe anyhow that the State of Israel should be dismantled and replaced by a bi-national state.)
I do not share either view – neither the despair of the Israeli people, to which I belong, nor the hope that the world will stand up and compel Israel to change its ways against its will. For this to happen, the boycott must gather world-wide momentum, the US must join it, the Israeli economy must collapse and the morale of the Israeli public must break.
How long will this take? Twenty Years? Fifty years? Forever?
I AM afraid that this is an example of a faulty diagnosis leading to faulty treatment. To be precise: the mistaken assumption that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict resembles the South African experience leads to a mistaken choice of strategy.
True, the Israeli occupation and the South African apartheid system have certain similar characteristics. In the West Bank, there are roads "for Israelis only". But the Israeli policy is not based on race theories, but on a national conflict. A small but significant example: in South Africa, a white man and a black woman (or the other way round) could not marry, and sexual relations between them were a crime. In Israel there is no such prohibition. On the other hand, an Arab Israeli citizen who marries an Arab woman from the occupied territories (or the other way round) cannot bring his or her spouse to Israel. The reason: safeguarding the Jewish majority in Israel. Both cases are reprehensible, but basically different.
In South Africa there was total agreement between the two sides about the unity of the country. The struggle was about the regime. Both Whites and Blacks considered themselves South Africans and were determined to keep the country intact. The Whites did not want partition, and indeed could not want it, because their economy was based on the labor of the Blacks.
In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common – not a common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture and not a common language. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers – on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a world-wide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.
In short: the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle, too, must necessarily be different.
BACK TO the archbishop, an attractive person whom it is impossible not to like on sight. He told me that he prays frequently, and that his favorite prayer goes like this (I quote from memory):
"Dear God, when I am wrong, please make me willing to see my mistake. And when I am right – please make me tolerable to live with."


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Monday, August 24, 2009

Boycotting Israel

Benjamin Pogrund no doubt makes cogent points in his defense against Israel boycotts below, but there are some other very important points to be made. The first question to ask is "why boycott Israel?" Why not boycott regimes like Iran, Libya and Sudan that really do practise racism, repression of women, state supported terror and even genocide? Why not boycott China for occupying Tibet and suppressing human rights there, or for its excesses against its own Muslim population? Why not boycott Russia for its inhuman suppression of the Chechens?
The reason is that the Israel boycott show was invented as a means of delegitimizing Israel by anti-Israel activists. It is not part of a grass roots campaign that is concerned to improve human rights practices, but rather part of a campaign to destroy a member state of the UN, for racist reasons. It is not a rights campaign, but a wrongs campaign. Pogrund asks why Israel is compared to apartheid South Africa. The answer is simple - it was a conscious and cynical decision by anti-Israel activists looking for the worst slogan they could find to delegitimize Israel. The strategy is to artificially turn the struggle of Palestinian extremists to destroy Israel into a "legitimate" human rights issue, and to destroy Zionism in the same way that the South Africa apartheid regime was destroyed. Of course, any country could be vulnerable to the same tactics. Spain does not recognize the legitimate right of the ETA to resistance and to Basque self-determination. France "discriminates" against the Hijab. Australia and New Zealand are countries "stolen" from their original inhabitants. Every country can look upon the Israel boycott campaign and say "there but for the grace of God goeth I." Nobody is immune. This sort of campaign is, at a national level, equivalent to libel and slander campaigns carried on against individuals. Everyone may have something in their past, that, cast in the wrong light, might destroy them if not hidden.
Neve Gordon, whose polemic is mentioned in Pogrund's article, disingenuously gave the impression that he has come to the conclusion that Israel must be boycotted only now. But he has held essentially the same views for many years - at least ten as far as I know. The reason "boycotts only harden Israeli opinion" is that like the "ZIonism is Racism" resolution, it is clear that boycotts are not directed at making peace with Israe, but rather at making peace without Israel - at destroying Israel.
Ami Isseroff
Boycotts only harden Israeli opinion
Far from saving this traumatised nation, boycotts are a gift to the fearmongers – we must educate and persuade Israelis instead

Benjamin Pogrund, Monday 24 August 2009 11.35 BST
The most inaccurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state. That's the exact opposite of what Neve Gordon said on Cif last week. Level whatever criticisms you want against Israel – start with West Bank occupation and oppression of Palestinians, and go on to the domestic discrimination suffered by the Arab minority – but the simple fact is that none of it is the apartheid of the old South Africa. Abundant evidence of this is readily available, in the Guardian and elsewhere.
Why then is the comparison so often made? One reason, in a different context, is in the words of American comedian Stephen Colbert: "Remember kids! In order to maintain an untenable position, you have to be actively ignorant."
For some, the apartheid accusation is the way to destroy Israel. If Israel can be linked with apartheid then it can be denounced as illegitimate as was white-ruled South Africa and hence be wide open to international sanctions.
Those who pursue this couldn't care less about facts. They have an agenda and are unscrupulous about distortion, lying and exaggeration. Their ultimate purpose is exposed by how they answer a basic question: whether or not they accept the fact of Israel's existence.
Others use the apartheid label because they are genuinely affronted and angered by Israeli behaviour – from the occupation to the attack on Gaza – and it seems an easy way to reduce to digestible size the complexities of the national-religious struggle between Jewish Israelis and Palestinians over a small piece of land. It's wrong and it's lazy but that's how many people behave.
It is surprising, and disappointing, to find Gordon in these ranks. He is a professor of politics at a good Israeli university and one expects a more informed approach. I have never met him but see from his writing that he is a man of conscience. He condemns Israeli misdeeds and has long worked for peace, although to be sure he seems to be at the outer fringe of Israel's peace camp. So active is he that rightwing extremists rant at him and try to pressure his university to get rid of him.
Now, however, not only does he take over the apartheid line but he supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement aimed at Israel. That presumably includes the academic boycott that he has previously opposed; he thus becomes both the arrow and the target. He still has to explain how he will resolve this personal contradiction.
Equally the "double standard" which he rightly describes as a problem. Why not boycott China for its egregious violations of human rights, he asks. To which he could add the US because of its many human rights sins, Greece and Romania for mistreating their Roma people, India for Dalits, Turkey for Kurds, Lebanon's denial of rights to Palestinians, Cuba, Libya etc etc. He puts a good question, but does not give an answer.
The explanation for his new outlook is: "The Israeli peace camp has gradually dwindled so that today it is almost non-existent, and Israeli politics are moving more and more to the extreme right."
He is venting the left's despair. The left's influence has probably never been lower. Its efforts to foster peace with Palestinians are ignored. It has been ineffective in halting the rise of the right wing. It is powerless against an aggressively rightwing government whose leaders abusively blame it for Palestinian terrorism. Its warnings of settlement growth on the West Bank are trashed.
In dealing with this situation we are entitled to look to a professor of politics for insights and understanding of why it has happened, if only because therein lies possible solutions. It has not come about in a vacuum. But again, nothing.
However, the factors at work are obvious, such as the absence of a brave and visionary leadership (both Israeli and Palestinian). There is also, at bottom, the Jewish psyche shaped by history: the centuries of persecution culminating in the Holocaust, the triumph of the creation of Israel in 1948 and the immediate invasions by Arab neighbours to eradicate it and the unceasing rejectionism, wars and attacks since then.
The terrorism that Palestinians have resorted to has deeply traumatised Israelis. Suicide bombings have driven many or most Israelis to the right. Thousands of rockets fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip and missiles by Hezbollah from Lebanon, add to the national anxiety. There is more than buffoonery in Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, wanting to wipe Israel off the map: his nuclear ambitions are scary.
There is certainly Jewish over-sensitivity and over-reaction; some Jews misuse and manipulate antisemitism and the Holocaust to stoke up fears for their own purposes. But allowing for all this, the fact of antisemitism is still a potent and dangerous reality, whether in Arab bloodthirsty threats or the UN Human Rights Council singling out Israel for attack, or a stupid Swedish newspaper article alleging the stealing of human organs.
Day after day, Jewish paranoia is buttressed and justified: Jews see themselves in a world of menace in which their existence is always under threat. In this situation, boycotts, sanctions and divestment are not the way to persuade individual Israelis to change. To believe that it will do the trick is to fail to understand use of boycott as a tactic to achieve defined aims. Applied in this case it will harden Israeli opinion, and make people more determined to tell the world to go to hell. Far from saving Israel from itself, as Gordon wants, it will be a gift to the right wing who will trade on it to foster fear.
That doesn't mean all pressure is useless: it's of a different order when applied, for instance, by the US government through threat of withdrawal of loan guarantees or arms supplies, as has occurred in the past. Such action forces the leaders in government to justify themselves and explain to the public why they have landed the country in such trouble with its most powerful friend.
South Africa offers some lessons. Boycotts were but one of the measures that brought down apartheid and they had variable effects. Sports boycotts sapped the morale of whites; cultural boycotts mainly hurt elites who mostly opposed apartheid; disinvestment, causing loss of jobs, hit the black people whom it was intended to help; industry was not laid low – when Kodak left, Fuji came in; when Ford left, other car makers took over. The most effective action was probably the refusal by US banks in 1985 to roll over loans; that struck the foundations of the economy and was the beginning of the end. Then came the effects of the end of the cold war.
In the case of Israel, resorting to mass boycotts is an admission of failure. It's a cathartic response to despair and floundering. Israelis have turned their backs on Gordon so he blindly lashes out.
Yet there is an alternative. It's old-fashioned: educate and persuade. There is already a head start: opinion polls consistently show a majority of Israelis – and Palestinians too – accept a two-state solution as the means to peace. That must be built on: convince Israelis that they are not going to be murdered and thrown into the sea, and that their children – not only Gordon's two sons – can look forward to a secure future. Convince them that the world – or at least much of it – does not view them as more evil than any other people but wishes them well. Encourage and help maximum contact and co-operation between Israelis and Palestinians.
It's often boring, tedious work, with results that are not always immediately apparent. But it's an affirmation of hope about what can be achieved.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

UCC Israel Boycott initiative failed, but they'll be back:

A boycott initiative failed, but they'll be back:

Hijacking Interrupted: United Church of Canada Says No to Anti-Israel Boycott

Despite a plea by an activist from the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, the General Council of United Church of Canada has voted down two proposals to boycott Israel, and denied approval to a third that was originally accompanied by background material that obliquely accused un-named Jewish members of the Canadian Parliament of being disloyal to Canada because of their support for Israel. The vote took place on Thursday, Aug. 14, 2009, shortly after the commission voted to repudiate the background material associated with these resolutions

The Council's decision does not prohibit local churches from boycotting Israel and leaves open possibility that the denomination will re-consider the issue at its next meeting in 2012. United Church of Canada Spokesman Rev. Bruce Gregersen, reported that the commission dealing with the issue took the following action:

What the commission did finally is say that the United Church has not begun or approved a boycott at a national level. However, it has stated its encouragement and recommendation to its member bodies, to conferences and presbyteries and congregations across the church that they are free to study, to discern, and to pray on how to undertake their own initiatives which may include an economic boycott as a means of ending the occupation.

The General Council has also instructed the General Secretary of the General Council to "begin a process of study discernment and prayer around the use of a number of means to end the occupation which may include also further consideration of an economy boycott and come back to the 41st council for a recommendation," Gregersen said.

Before the council rejected the boycott proposals they heard testimony from Rabbi Reuven Bulka, immediate past co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, and Nora Carmi from Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Carmi began her testimony with the following exhortation:

Sisters and brothers, do not fear little flock and bravely follow our Savior Jesus Christ who came to proclaim the release to the captives, good news to the poor and let the oppressed be free. Discipleship means risk and risk is costly. But stand firm.

Carmi then called on delegates to approve the two boycott resolutions and a third which invoked the Fourth Geneva Convention and notions of anti-racism in an effort to portray Israel as an apartheid state while remaining silent about the war crimes and human rights abuses perpetrated by Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The resolutions, Carmi said would not only "contribute to ending the suffering of and the injustice against my people the Palestinians, but will honestly help the rulers of Israel to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with God as the teachings and morality of Judaism dictate."

Continued - Hijacking Interrupted: United Church of Canada Says No to Anti-Israel Boycott

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Friday, September 28, 2007

UCU academic boycott of Israel defeated

The academic boycott of Israel proposal that had achieved so much notoriety, was squelched Friday when the UK University and College Union (UCU) announced, after seeking legal advice, that a boycott would be unlawful and could not be implemented. This episode should make Israel boycott opponents think really hard about their strategy in the future, and gain a better understanding of the reasoning behind the Boycott Israel campaigns.

A union resolution last May had called for discussion about the boycott in union branches, but curiously, nobody checked if the proposal was legal. After finally getting legal advice, the union's strategy and finance committee unanimously adopted the recommendation of UCU General Secretary Sally Hunt that the union should immediately inform branches and members that a boycott call would be unlawful and cannot be implemented.

The legal advice given to the union stated that: "...It would be beyond the union's powers and unlawful for the union, directly or indirectly, to call for, or to implement, a boycott by the union and its members of any kind of Israeli universities and other academic institutions; and ... the use of union funds directly or indirectly to further such a boycott would also be unlawful."

The advice further warned that "to ensure that the union acts lawfully, meetings should not be used to ascertain the level of support for such a boycott."

So what is the point? The point is that it would have been no problem to investigate the legal aspects of the boycott before the vote, especially since the UCU motion was based on previous motions. UCU was the product of a merger of two unions. The Association of University Teachers (AUT) had passed a boycott motion and then reversed it, and then the NATFHE (National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education) voted to Boycott Israel. They went even further and voted to support the nice Hamas.

In a better world, it would not occur to academics to support a group of reactionary gangsters like Hamas, or to delude themselves that such support represented a "progressive" cause, or to boycott the universities of a country because they disagree with the political policies of that country. Legal coercion would not be necessary. But we don't live in a better world, we live in this one.

In all the time that has passed since the boycotts were first proposed, it would have been no problem at all to check the legal implications of such decisions, but nobody did it it. Either that, or they had checked and didn't care. The point of the boycott resolutions is not in the actual results they might or might not obtain, but in the great stir and discussion they cause, putting the spotlight on Israel. A good part of this publicity is due to well meaning supporters of Israel. In effect, tiny groups of fanatics are able to use these boycott calls to leverage on the substantial resources of supporters of Israel and ordinary decent union members in order to bring their odious ideas to the attention of the public and lend them the air of legitimacy that comes with notoriety.

And so, I ask again - "Are we victims of the Israel boycott con? "

Ami Isseroff

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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Israel boycott Solidarity: US University Heads protest British Boycott in N.Y Times

Boycott solidarity. We need a lot more of this, don't we?
300 U.S. university heads slam British boycott in NY Times

By Tamara Traubmann

Three hundred U.S. college and university heads signed a petition denouncing the call by Britain's University and College Union to consider a boycott of Israeli educational institutions in May. The UCU move has been criticized by faculty members throughout the world as well as British government institutions.

The New York Times yesterday ran a full-page paid advertisement against the boycott, signed by some 300 college and university presidents. "Boycott Israeli Universities? Boycott Ours, Too!" the ad declared.

The signatories include presidents of leading U.S. universities, including Princeton, Northwestern and MIT. The ad was paid for by the American Jewish Committee.

The signatories were endorsing a statement that Columbia University President Lee Bollinger issued shortly after the UCU resolution was passed:

"As a citizen, I am profoundly disturbed by the recent vote by Britain's new University and College Union to advance a boycott against Israeli academic institutions. As a university professor and president, I find this idea utterly antithetical to the fundamental values of the academy, where we will not hold intellectual exchange hostage to the political disagreements of the moment. In seeking to quarantine Israeli universities and scholars, this vote threatens every university committed to fostering scholarly and cultural exchanges that lead to enlightenment, empathy and a much-needed international marketplace of ideas.

"At Columbia I am proud to say that we embrace Israeli scholars and universities that the UCU is now all too eager to isolate - as we embrace scholars from many countries regardless of divergent views on their government's policies. Therefore, if the British UCU is intent on pursuing its deeply misguided policy, then it should add Columbia to its boycott list, for we do not intend to draw distinctions between our mission and that of the universities you are seeking to punish.

"Boycott us, then, for we gladly stand together with our many colleagues in British, American and Israeli universities against such intellectually shoddy and politically biased attempts to hijack the central mission of higher education."


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Friday, July 20, 2007

Israel Boycotts: Comfort ye, comfort ye my people

Journals are filled with "good cheer" stories about overcoming the effects of anti-Israel boycotts. Shall we overcome? According to the Guardian, Israeli universities signed a new European Union agreement that allows the nation's scientists to take part in the next six-year research program. The Guardian notes:
Israel's participation in European research programmes was called into question in 2002 when two British academics had a letter published in the Guardian advocating a moratorium on all grants and contracts to Israel from European cultural and research institutions.
Janze Potocnik, the EU's research commissioner, said: "Israel's association to the framework programme has proved to be of mutual benefit for both sides over the last couple of years. Whereas the European research area will benefit from the renowned excellence of the Israeli research community, Israel will gain full access to the biggest research programme in the world.

Of course, that doesn't prevent journals from boycotting articles by Israeli scientists and other academics, and it doesn't force researchers to treat Israeli post-doctoral applicants equally. There have been cases of discrimination in both areas and many others, even without the boycott initiatives.
The Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem has been accepted to a presitigious international consortium of such institutes. According to a Hebrew University announcement:
Membership for the Hebrew University's IAS was voted by the consortium's existing members -- considered the Ivy League of advanced institutes. These include the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford; Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard; the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study; and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study at Berlin. The Hebrew University is the tenth member to join the consortium.
The IAS in Jerusalem was accepted for its unique approach in hosting collaborative research groups and its academic achievements. It hopes that membership will open doors to further academic exchange and collaborative projects.
"We are looking forward to sharing experiences with these distinguished institutes for the benefit of all," said director of the IAS in Jerusalem, Prof. Eliezer Rabinovici. "Science should move forward by the tradition of openness and sharing and not by the ill winds of exclusion. Membership status in the SIAS consortium is a testament to the high caliber, innovative and collaborative research Israel engages in."
The IAS is the only one of its kind in the Middle East and was the fifth in the world to be established in 1975 – the first one being at Princeton. Twelve Nobel Laureates are associated with the Institute in the fields of chemistry, physics, medicine and economics.
And in the United States, labor unions roundly condemned the British boycott initiatives. An initiative begun by the Jewish Labor Committee was endorsed by a host of unions and union leaders, including the presidents of the AFL-CIO; American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees; American Federation of Teachers; United Food and Commercial Workers; Communications Workers of America; Masters, Mates and Pilots / ILA; American Postal Workers Union; International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; UAW; American Federation of School Administrators; Office and Professional Employees International Union; American Federation of Government Employees; UNITE-HERE; United Mine Workers of America; Sheet Metal Workers International Association; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades; Transportation Communications Union; American Federation Musicians; Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union; International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers; and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the presidents of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists and the A. Philip Randolph Institute. 
Others may join the initiative as well.
They signed the statement appended below. It is comforting and heartening to know that Israel still has friends who will speak up for fair play, but the ignorance and hate demonstrated by the boycotters is nonetheless unnerving, and the trend seems to be growing, despite the rise of the Hamas, and despite the Israeli disengagement from Gaza. The boycotts and divestment initiateves are a well organized and well financed pseudo-grass-roots campaign, conceived by people who are experts in organizing "spontaneous" movements and demonstrations. It has been been planned for years, and Jewish organizations were caught napping. (See Israel Boycotts and Divestment )
It really would have been better if we did not need this show of support.
Ami Isseroff
Statement of Opposition to Divestment from or Boycotts of Israel
July 18, 2007
We view with increasing concern the phenomenon of trade unions in a number of countries, including, most recently, the United Kingdom, issuing resolutions that either directly or indirectly call for divestment from and boycotts of Israel.
With the large number of local, regional and international conflicts, with the diverse range of oppressive regimes around the world about which there is almost universal silence, we have to question the motives of these resolutions that single out one country in one conflict.
We note with increasing concern that virtually all of these resolutions focus solely on objections to actions or policies of the Israeli government, and never on actions or policies of Palestinian or other Arab governments, parties or movements. We notice with increasing concern that characterization of the Palestinians as victims and Israel as victimizer is a staple of such resolutions. That there are victims and victimizers on all sides, and that many if not most of the victims of violence and repression on all sides are civilians, are essential items often not mentioned in these resolutions.
Any just and fair resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be brought about through meaningful negotiations between their elected representatives. We believe strongly in a two-state solution, brought about through meaningful negotiations, with the involvement and encouragement of the world community.
Trade unionists and their organizations seeking such a just and fair resolution should be assisting those working to bring the two sides together in direct talks and then negotiations. In this regard, we call for increased engagement of trade unions with their counterparts on all sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We support efforts of Palestinian and Israeli trade unionists and their organizations to maintain contact and cooperative and mutually supportive activities, even in the midst of tumult and political change within their respective communities and polities.
Calls for academic boycotts of Israel are inimical to and counter to the principles of academic freedom and freedom of association, key principles for which academics and educational unions have struggled over many years. Rather than limiting interactions with Israeli educators, academics and educational institutions, we see the importance of maximizing, rather than proscribing, the free flow of ideas and academic interaction between peoples, cultures, religions and countries.
Similarly, calls for journalistic boycotts of Israel are inimical to the free flow of information and journalistic objectivity, and must be opposed.
Rather than divestment from Israel, we believe that investment of time, energy and material aid is the best means to alleviate the ongoing suffering of Palestinians and Israelis. Engagement, rather than disengagement, with the Israeli people and the Palestinian people is needed, so that a just and fair resolution of this conflict may be pursued, and so that meaningful progress towards achieving the legitimate needs of Palestinians and Israelis can be made.
We offer our support to assist trade unionists as well as interested members of the community-at-large who are grappling with these matters, and who share our concern over simplistic and non-constructive approaches, whether in the form of misguided resolutions or other statements on the tragic conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
    Stuart Appelbaum
    President, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union / UFCW
    Edward J. McElroy
    Secretary, Jewish Labor Committee
    President, American Federation of Teachers
    Morton Bahr
    Treasurer, Jewish Labor Committee
    John J. Sweeney
    President, AFL-CIO
    Clayola Brown
    President, A. Philip Randolph Institute
    Timothy A. Brown
    International President, International Organization of Masters, Mates &
    Pilots / ILA
    R. Thomas Buffenbarger
    International President,
    International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
    William Burrus
    President, American Postal Workers Union
    Larry Cohen
    President, Communications Workers of America
    Barbara J. Easterling
    Secretary-Treasurer, Communications Workers of America
    John J. Flynn
    President, International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers
    John Gage
    President, American Federation of Government Employees
    Ron Gettelfinger
    United Automobile, Aerospace & Agricultural Implement Workers of America
    International Union
    Michael Goodwin
    President, Office and Professional Employees International Union
    Joseph T. Hansen
    International President, United Food and Commercial Workers International
    Edwin D. Hill
    International President, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
    James P. Hoffa
    General President, International Brotherhood of Teamsters
    Frank Hurt
    International President
    Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International
    Thomas F. Lee
    President, American Federation of Musicians
    Jill S. Levy
    President, American Federation of School Administrators
    William Lucy
    President, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
    Gerald W. McEntee
    President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
    Bruce S. Raynor
    General President, UNITE HERE
    Cecil E. Roberts
    President, United Mine Workers of America
    Robert Scardelletti
    International President, Transportation Communications Union / IAM
    Michael J. Sullivan
    General President, Sheet Metal Workers International Association
    George Tedeschi
    President, Graphic Communications International Union / IBT
    James A. Williams
    General President, International Union of Printers and Allied Trades

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

Israel Academic Boycott: Principles versus political reactions

In "Israel Academic Boycott threatens Academic Freedom," John Furedy takes issue with Israel academic boycott protesters who try to reverse boycotts based on Israel's presumed lack of innocence. That is not the point, he writes. The boycotts threaten everyone's academic freedom. Anyone should have the right to speak up as they wish on any topic.

That is his opinion, but do we really want to leave ourselves defenseless against professors who teach linkage between race and intelligence based on bad data, against Holocaust deniers and other miscreants? How about even less acceptable doctrines? Does a university have the right to fire a professor who teaches the flat earth theory? Does a theology journal have the right to reject an article that insists that Molokh is the real god, and human sacrifice is the only good form of worship?

You be the judge.

Ami Isseroff

Israel Academic Boycott threatens Academic Freedom

Radically principled vs. compromisingly political reactions
to the academic anti-Israeli boycott: "Welcome to the fight".

At end of the classic film, "Casablanca", when Rick finally decides to abandon his neutrality with regard to the Nazi and Vichy regimes, the resistance fighter Victor Laszlo says, "Welcome to the fight." Victor's words seem apt as the academic anti-Israeli boycott, that abuse of academic freedom, continues. Anti-Semitism and other dark impulses may likely motivate the boycott. Whatever the motives for the boycott may be, however, the boycott threatens the central mission of any genuine university. That mission is the search for truth through the conflict of ideas. For academics, then, a phrase from the theme song of Casablanca is also relevant: "The fundamental things apply."

Opposition to the boycott, indeed, is incumbent on all who value a free society, in which freedom of speech is a central tenet. This tenet was recently formulated by Nathan Sharansky, who distinguished between free and "fear" or totalitarian societies. He noted that in a free society, even the most outrageous opinions can be publicly stated without fear of criminal punishment.

For those who believe in a free society, then, academic freedom on campus and freedom of speech off campus should be closely related. In particular, non- academics should not make the mistake of treating academic freedom as merely an "ivory tower" issue. Another mistake is to minimize the boycott on the grounds that it merely places Israeli professors in a sort of academic Coventry. The essence of academic freedom is, as I have argued, the right of all members of the academic community (students and faculty) to be evaluated solely on their academic performance, and not at all on their politics, religion, or citizenship. The boycott denies this right, and is therefore properly labeled an abuse of academic freedom. Those who are not direct victims of this abuse (in this instance those who do not hold Israeli citizenship or are not Jews) should not treat the boycott with indifference, or worse still, join, even in a partial way, those who threaten academic freedom. Like justice, freedom is indivisible.

Read the rest at  Israel Academic Boycott threatens Academic Freedom

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Monday, July 9, 2007

British: 'Please don't boycott us'

Indeed, Britain has the trade ties with Israel that are described below, and indeed, Israel probably benefits from them more than Britain does.
Calls for boycotting Britain by Israel alone are senseless. But not everything in this special pleading is quite as true as it should be. For example:
"Remember, too, that these boycotts in no way reflect official British government policy toward Israel."
"Official policy" can mean many things. The BBC for example, is an autonomous broadcasting service licensed by the British government. It has been a source of blatant anti-Israel agitation for quite a while.
Still, we don't boycott Egypt, where media are much more anti-Israel.
Israel is always in a precarious position and should not be initiating boycotts. Of course, that doesn't mean that the US teamsters union is obligated to unload cargoes that were shipped by their UNISON and Transport Workers Union counterparts. Israel is not the place for boycotts of course, but that doesn't mean that the US NIH has to open fellowships to British university applicants.
Ami Isseroff
By Richard Salt

When people talk about good relations between countries, it is important to ask exactly what that means. As I see it, mutually-beneficial trade and investment links are an important part of the "meat" of a bilateral relationship. Major British companies such as HSBC, British Airways and British Gas have interests out here, and two-way trade was close to 2.4 billion pounds sterling (around $5 billion) last year.
In addition, many Israeli companies and businessmen see the United Kingdom as an attractive place to grow and expand their businesses. The UK, as an international financial hub, is the doorway to a world of opportunities for companies and entrepreneurs. More than 200 Israeli companies have set up operations in the UK, and that number continues to rise. Another encouraging figure: close to 40 Israeli companies have already chosen the AIM stock exchange to raise capital, rather than the more expensive and distant option of the U.S.
I am well aware at the shock and anger felt here in Israel by recent attempts by a handful of British organizations, such as UNISON and the University and College Union (UCU), to push for a boycott of Israel, particularly given the warm relations between our two countries. It is important to remember that attempts to boycott Israel generally fail or have no real impact on the strong ties between Britain and Israel. The decision reached by the UCU in late May merely calls on members to consider a boycott of Israel, and does not actually impose a boycott of Israeli academia. The motion passed by UNISON in mid-June simply reiterated the union's long-standing policy on the Middle East & a policy that has not stopped UK-Israel trade relations, or academic links, from flourishing in recent years.
Remember, too, that these boycotts in no way reflect official British government policy toward Israel. UNISON and the UCU are totally independent. The UK government cannot interfere in the their internal deliberations, but we certainly do not support attempts to boycott Israel and have made that clear. We firmly believe that the best way to solve conflicts is through negotiations and inclusive dialogue. I, therefore, firmly believe that calls from some in Israel to impose a counterboycott on the UK are highly regrettable, and I am glad to see that these calls, like those in the UK, do not seem to have broad support.
What the UK government does support is encouraging ties with Israel in key areas, such as science, education, trade and industry. These are not just words, but concrete, continuous activities. Just last month, Britain's Minister of State for Higher Education, Bill Rammell, visited Israel to promote academic ties between our two countries. We also hosted a group of six senior British scientists who attended a conference on stem cell research at the Weizmann Institute. The UK government last year sponsored a visit by our most famous scientist, Professor Stephen Hawking, to advance cooperation between our scientific communities. And we annually sponsor scholarships for Israelis to study in the UK under our Chevening Scholarship scheme.
The scope for continued cooperation between our countries is enormous, for example, under the European 7th Framework Program. Under the 6th Framework Program, in which Israel participated as an Associated Country, there were 262 projects featuring UK and Israeli partners with contracts to the value of 1.5 billion euros. I encourage Israeli companies to keep on investing in the UK, and British companies to realize the huge R&D, investment and business opportunities that exist in Israel.
We now have a new government in the UK with a new prime minister, who brings with him 10 years of experience as chancellor of the exchequer. Israel, and this region as a whole, remain a top priority for Britain. And that includes ensuring that the commercial relationship between our two countries continues to prosper.
Richard Salt is director of UK trade & investment at the British Embassy Tel Aviv.


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Sunday, July 8, 2007

British Transport Workers join the Israel Boycott Bandwagon

The boycotts keep "happening" with discouraging regularity, and so do the bombings in England. I am so fond of British people. What a pity.
Last update - 22:08 08/07/2007   
By Haim Bior, Haaretz Correspondent

Britain's Transport and General Workers' Union has called upon its 800,000 members to boycott Israeli-made products based on what they term Israel's "criminal policies in Palestinian territories."
The decision to call for a boycott, reached at a union conference in Brighton, is declarative and does not include concrete steps to implement the boycott.
The TGWU is the second British union to call for a boycott on Israel this year - last month the British public services union UNISON also urged its members to refrain from purchasing Israeli products, basing the call on Israel's "criminal behavior in the territories," and Israel's responsibility for the Second Lebanon War.
In the last six months, Ontario, Canada's public services union also proposed a similar anti-Israel boycott, as did several professional unions in South Africa. In addition, Britain's University and College Union called upon its members earlier this year to consider an academic boycott of Israel, which would include holding funding from research projects run by Israeli professors and preventing Israeli lecturers from participating in seminars.
Histadrut International activities director Avital Shapira said Sunday afternoon that the Histadrut labor federation views the TGWU's boycott call with severity. According to Shapira, the Histadrut has decided not to cooperate with these unions. "They expect us to help them with everything surrounding joint activities with Palestinian unions, but in light of their behavior toward us, we will hold these activities without them."
The British embassy in Israel issued a response Sunday saying "the British government opposes boycotts of any kind."
"The boycott declared by the Transport and General Workers' Union will not harm the growing commercial relations between the two countries," the statement said.


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Sunday, July 1, 2007

Christian Zionism

What is Christian Zionism ?
"Christian Zionism" has been the subject of much controversy. Opponents of  Christian support for Israel apparently invented this name. They claim that all Christian Zionists are dispensationalists and that the movement was originated by J.N. Darby. At the same time, they mayclaim, paradoxically, that any Christian who supports Israel is a Christian Zionist. Supposedly, all such people are extremist fanatics who believe in imminent rapture, and try to hasten the apocalyptic battle of Armageddon. Supposedly, they are also all seeking to convert the Jews, and they all oppose territorial concessions by Israel on theological grounds. The Reverend Stephen Sizer in particular, has been active in propagating these views. His motives are transparently political beneath a theological veneer, as are the motives of most such critics.
Though some Christian Zionists do hold the above views in various forms, that is far from a veridical picture of Christian Zionism and Christian support for Israel. Among the most active and visible Christian Zionists, many are not dispensationalists and do not believe in rapture or hastening the battle of Armageddon, nor do they seek to convert Jews.  Christian supporters of Israel include Christians of many Protestant denominations and beliefs, as well as some Catholics.
Historically, Christian support for restoration of Israel preceded J.N. Darby by over two hundred years. It originated in the doctrines of the Puritans, which were transmitted from England to the United States. Support for restoration of Israel became much more than an article of faith. Just as previously anti-Semitism had taken hold and become an integral part of European culture, so in the United States, support for restoration of Israel became embedded in American culture. Christian support for restoration of Israel has a long and impressive history in practical as well as political Zionism and theology, that began long before the arrival of dispensationalism in the United States. We have prepared an extensive resource that discusses the theological issues, the critiques and the history of Christian support for Israel at Christian Zionism .
We hope you will find this resource of use in understanding the nature of Christian Zionism, and we will appreciate constructive comments, links and support. The work, large as it is, is a work in progress.
Cross posted: Israel News  Midde East Analysis  

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Saturday, June 30, 2007

ADL: Methodist committee report on Israel 'borders on anti-Semitism'

Invest in Caterpillar, General Electric, Blockbuster, General Dynamics - firms that do business with Israel and are targetted for it.


"I argue that those who single out Israel for unique criticism not directed against countries with far worse human rights records are themselves guilty of international bigotry. So long as criticism is comparative, contextual, and fair, it should be encouraged, not disparaged. But when the Jewish nation is the only one criticized for faults that are far worse among other nations, such criticism crosses the line from fair to foul, from acceptable to anti-Semitic."

 - Professor Alan Dershowitz

New York Sun -- June 29, 2007 

BY SETH GITELL - Special to the Sun
June 29, 2007

A leading Jewish group said the United Methodist Church's call to divest from 20 companies that do business with Israel "borders on anti-Semitism," upping the pressure on President Bush and Senator Clinton — both Methodists — to distance themselves from the church's statement.
The report, which drew criticism from the Anti-Defamation League yesterday, was written by the Divestment Task Force of the church's New England Conference and targeted such companies as Blockbuster, General Dynamics, and General Electric.
"The urgency of the humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories cannot be overstated," the report stated. "Palestinians face soaring unemployment, malnutrition, restrictions on movement, denial of medical care, denial of access to their agricultural lands, humiliation at checkpoints and extended lockdowns called curfews."
The national director of the Anti-Defamation League, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement that the report "borders on anti-Semitism."
He added: "The authors of the report must be living in a bubble to ignore ongoing attacks on Israel and Hamas's violent takeover of Gaza to issue such an outrageous, biased report that focuses only on Israel."
Representatives for President Bush and Senator Clinton did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment on the Methodist divestment action.
The deputy director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Boston, Alan Ronkin, said his group would be meeting with local Methodists on the issue. "We are going to try to educate and let them know where we're coming from," Mr. Ronkin said. Efforts such as the divestment push, "delegitimize Israel, damage any chance to make progress in the Middle East, and are morally offensive," he added.
The report also drew criticism from within the United Methodist Church. A senior minister at First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto, the Reverend Archer Summers, said he would work to get the next General Conference to reject a divestment move and to push the body to pass a resolution similar to the United Church of Christ's recent measure calling for "a balanced study" of the Middle East conflict.
"They're flat-out wrong. They went off the deep end this time," Rev. Summers said of the New England Conference. "The powers that be in the New England Methodist Church are clueless about how to bring about a just peace. The report would make it appear that there's some sort of animus on the part of the United Methodist Church toward the state of Israel, which undermines our credibility as an institution which preaches the good news of peace."
The Methodists' action comes as the United Church of Christ, another Protestant denomination, moved forward a resolution moderating its stance toward Israel. The UCC's "balanced study " measure is now being seen as a counter to the 2005 passage of both a "divestment" motion and a "tear down the wall" resolution, which urged the dismantling of Israel's security barrier.
Senator Obama — who is a member of the UCC and who addressed the church's national gathering in Hartford last Saturday — issued a statement saying he "strongly disagrees with the portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict presented by individual members of the church."
The Methodist report cited the following companies as targets for divestment: Alliant Tech Systems, Blockbuster, Boeing, Caterpillar, Cement Roadstone Holdings, General Dynamics, General Electric, Globecomm Systems Inc, ITT Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Magal Security Systems, Motorola, Northrop Grumman, Oshkosh Truck Corporation, Raytheon, Silicon Graphics, Terex, United Technologies, Veolia Environnement, and Volvo.
The Methodists' New England Conference is seen as a precursor to the church's General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, in April.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Alan Dershowitz on the British boycott of Israel

It is quite true that the UK boycotts of Isarel are initiated by a small group. It is also true however, that they were successful in passing boycott motions both in UNISON and the UCU. The UCU motion also supports the Hamas.
Wall Street Journal -- June 28, 2007

An Academic Hijacking

When a relatively small number of British academics tried to hijack the traditional trade union agenda of the British University and College Union by calling for an academic boycott of Israel, they expected little opposition. The union, after all, is British, and the nation whose academics were to be boycotted is Israel.

Anti-Israel sentiment among left-wing academics, journalists, and politicians in Britain is politically correct and relatively uncontroversial (as is anti-American sentiment). Several years earlier, a petition to boycott several Israeli universities initially passed but was later rescinded, and the British National Union of Journalists has also voted to boycott Israeli products. At about the same time, a British academic journal fired two of its board members apparently because they were Israeli Jews. Some popular British political leaders, most notoriously, London's Mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone, have made anti-Israel statements that border on anti-Semitism, in one instance comparing a Jewish journalist to a Nazi "war criminal."Many of the academics who have been pushing the boycott most energetically are members of hard-left socialist-worker groups. These radicals devote more time and energy to international issues than to the domestic welfare of their own members, who have suffered a serious decline in salary and working conditions. Their pet peeve, sometimes it appears their only peeve, is the Israeli occupation -- not of the West Bank and, before its return, of Gaza but rather of all of Palestine, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. These are not advocates of the two-state solution, but of a one-state dissolution of Israel, with the resulting state being controlled by Hamas.

In a world in which dissident academics are murdered in Iran, tortured in Egypt, imprisoned in China and fired in many other parts of the world, the British Union decided to boycott only academics from a country with as much academic freedom as in Britain and far more academic freedom -- and more actual academic dissent -- than in any Arab or Muslim country. Indeed, Arabs have more academic (and journalistic) freedom in Israel, even in the West Bank, than in any Arab or Muslim nation.

But these union activists couldn't care less about academic freedom, or any other kind of freedom for that matter. Nor do they care much about the actual plight of the Palestinians. If they did, they would be supporting the Palestinian Authority in its efforts to make peace with Israel based on mutual compromise, rather than Hamas in its futile efforts to destroy Israel as well as the PA.

What they care about -- and all they seem to care about -- is Israel, which they despise, without regard to what the Jewish state actually does or fails to do. The fact that this boycott effort is being undertaken at precisely the time when Israel has ended the occupation of Gaza and is reaching out to the PA, and even to Syria, in an effort to make peace proves that the boycott is not intended to protest specific Israeli policies or actions, but rather to delegitimize and demonize Israel as a democratic Jewish nation. One union activist said on a BBC radio show that "Israel is worse than Stalinist Russia."

The boycotters know that Israel, without oil or other natural resources, lives by its universities, research centers and other academic institutions. After the U.S., Israeli scientists hold more patents than any nation in the world, have more start-up companies listed on Nasdaq, and export more life-saving medical technology.

Israelis have received more Nobel and other international science prizes than all the Arab and Muslim nations combined. Cutting Israel's academics off from collaboration with other academics would deal a death blow to the Israeli high-tech economy, but it would also set back research and academic collaboration throughout the world.

Moreover, many Israeli academics, precisely those who would be boycotted, are at the forefront in advocating peace efforts. They, perhaps more than others, understand the "peace dividend" the world would reap if Israeli military expenses could be cut and the money devoted to life-saving scientific research.

It is for these reasons that so many American academics, of all religious, ideological and political backgrounds, reacted so strongly to the threat of an academic boycott against Israel. As soon as it was reported, I helped to draft a simple petition in which signatories agreed to regard themselves as honorary Israeli academics for purposes of any boycott and "decline to participate in any activity from which Israeli academics are excluded."

Working with Prof. Steven Weinberg, a Nobel laureate in physics, and Ed Beck, the president of Scholars For Peace in the Middle East, we circulated the petition. I expected to gather several hundred signatures.

To my surprise, we have secured nearly 6,000 signatures, including those of 20 Nobel Prize winners, 14 university presidents as well as several heads of academic and professional societies. Three university presidents -- Lee Bollinger of Columbia, Robert Birgeneau of Berkeley and John Sexton of New York University -- have issued public statements declaring that if Israeli universities are boycotted, their American universities should be boycotted as well. Every day, I receive emails from other academics asking to be included as honorary Israeli academics for purposes of any boycott. We expect to reach at least 10,000 names on our petition.

It is fair to say, therefore, that the British boycott appears to be backfiring. British academics are on notice that if they try to isolate Israeli academics, it is they -- the British academics -- who will end up being isolated from some of the world's most prominent academics and scientists.

No one wants that to happen. Academics and scientists should collaborate with each other in the interests of promoting knowledge. The hope is that this ill-conceived boycott will be voted down by general membership of the university and college union, and that those radicals who are pushing it will be delegitimized in the eyes of the vast majority of British academics who will not want to see their union hijacked by single-issue bigots.

Mr. Dershowitz is a professor at Harvard University school of law and the author of "Blasphemy -- How The Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence" (Wiley, 2007).


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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

IRD Commends UCC's New found Middle East Balance


The Institute on Religion and Democracy

June 25, 2007 Contact: Loralei Coyle 202-682-4131

United Church of Christ Chooses Fairness

Toward Israelis and Palestinians

"The United Church of Christ is willing to admit that the situation in the Middle East is not readily reducible to good-guy Palestinians versus bad-guy Israelis--or vice versa."

-- James D. Berkley , IRD Director of Presbyterian Action

Washington, DC - The United Church of Christ (UCC) took a major step toward evenhanded treatment of Palestinian and Israeli interests at its General Synod meeting in Hartford, CT, on June 22. A General Synod resolution acknowledged that two previous resolutions from 2005 focused entirely on Israel, and that the General Synod "has yet to fully address other forces contributing to the ongoing violence, oppression and suffering in the region."

The statement indicated significant reconsideration of the 2005 resolutions: "The escalating violence between Fatah and Hamas now calls us to consider whether we may have overlooked many aspects of an extraordinarily complicated situation."

The rationale of this latest UCC resolution explained, "As a peacemaker, the Church in all of its settings must continue to speak out whenever violence, hatred, and oppression occur, standing in support of all who are oppressed and subjected to injustice." Therefore, the General Synod established "a Task Force to engage in ongoing and balanced study of the causes, history and context of the conflict."

James D. Berkley, IRD Director of Presbyterian Action, commented:

"I am impressed by the magnanimity of the United Church of Christ in this action. It has recognized the narrow partiality of its previous resolutions and is willing to admit that the situation in the Middle East is not readily reducible to good-guy Palestinians versus bad-guy Israelis--or vice versa.

"It is difficult to admit error and pursue a fairer and more faithful course of action, and yet the UCC General Synod rose to the occasion. The IRD commends the UCC for its action. Now this church body is no longer placed in the untenable role of strident champion of the unsupportable.

"In June 2006, the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly set an example by replacing a 2004 resolution that threatened anti-Israel divestment with a balanced resolution that seeks the welfare of both Palestinians and Israelis. Now such evenhandedness appears to be providentially contagious. First the United Church of Canada (later in 2006) and now the United Church of Christ have made similar turns toward fairness in their approach to the Middle East."


John Lomperis
Research Associate
The Institute on Religion and Democracy
1023 15th Street NW, Suite 601
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 682-4131
(202) 682-4136 (Fax)

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