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Interview with Shir Hever


You went to Berlin to the Free University. Why?

I actually live in Heidelberg, although I’m writing my PhD at the Free University of Berlin. I followed my partner who found a job in Germany. The very large emigration from Israel of young and educated people has meant that much of my family and friends have already left Israel, and Berlin is actually a favorite destination, where I meet many of my old friends from Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv.

What motivated you to research Israel’s military sector and to support BDS? Did your upbringing and family background have a role in this, or was it something you came to later in life?
I did grow up in a leftist and critical family, and was taught to ask questions from a young age. I went to a very militaristic school, so I was taught a Zionist perspective as well, but I didn’t want to take part in the occupation directly as a soldier. In order to try to be a non-combat soldier, I volunteered for a year of social service in the town of Sderot, and there I had time to think about politics, to hear from my friends who were drafted into the army, and to see aspects of Israeli society that I never knew existed. I decided not to do any military service. By pretending to be crazy I easily received an exemption, like thousands do every year.
Only in university, however, did I become aware of the Palestinian side of the story, when Palestinians were invited by a political group called “The Campus Will Not Stay Silent” to speak about their experiences during the Second Intifada. I started to become politically active and joined the Alternative Information Center, a joint Palestinian-Israeli organization.
Supporting BDS came naturally as I was part of the group of activists who were considering various strategies of combating the occupation. As an economist, I felt that BDS can have a very strong impact on the Israeli economy and society and was something that empowers Palestinians to use non-violent resistance.
Choosing my research topics was done in an activist environment, and I would usually write reports and studies on matters upon requests from activists. After writing my book on the political economy of Israel’s occupation, I realized that the Israeli military industry and Israeli arms exports are very important to complete the picture, to explain how Israel’s occupation fits into global interests, and so I chose this as a topic for my PhD.

It is said that the Israeli population is becoming more mentally and psychologically isolated from the rest of the world. Is that also your experience?
Absolutely not. Israelis strongly depend on a feeling of being part of the “west,” and part of Europe (even though Israel is not in Europe). The fascination of Israelis with the European Football Cup, with the Eurovision etc. is one aspect of this, but also the desire to travel in the world, to consume western culture, etc. I admit that when BDS started, I did not imagine that its most powerful impact would be precisely in the sphere of culture. Whenever a famous artist cancels a performance in Israel, the reactions are very powerful, because Israelis don’t want to feel isolated. The fact that Israelis are willing to pay double the prices for tickets to performances of artists who choose to violate BDS and perform in Israel is a testimony to that fact. Actually, this is the reason for BDS being a successful tactic; it targets a sensitive nerve of Israel’s culture, the need to be included.

Listening to Netanyahu and Lieberman, we get the impression here that the division between Jews and Palestinians in Israel itself is increasingly growing. Is that true?
On the political level, yes of course. The Israeli government is not ashamed to call for separation, and to demonize Palestinians as a group. On the local and personal level, there are also many cases of Palestinians and Jews working together, becoming friends, creating families together. Separation is never 100% successful. It is true that many Israeli Jews have little contact with Palestinians and know very little about them. Very few Israeli Jews bother to learn Arabic. But Palestinian Israelis, on the other hand, have frequent contact with Israeli Jews, speak good Hebrew and have a very good understanding of Jewish culture and politics.

How can you explain that an Israeli general has compared the situation in his country with Germany of the 1930s?
Major-General Yair Golan is well-known for being very direct and not too careful with what he says. In a lecture he gave in 2007 he admitted that the Wall of Separation’s main purpose is to separate populations, and security only comes as a second priority.
Currently Israel is witnessing a fierce struggle between two competing elite groups. The old military elite in Israel (to which Golan belongs) is in a state of crisis, losing much of its influence over the government and the business sector.
The military elite is not leftist, progressive or opposed to the occupation, but it believes in creating an “intelligent” occupation, a careful and planned use of force in order to keep the Palestinians under control. They are afraid of the populism of the Israeli government and how it encourages unbounded brutality of Israeli soldiers against Palestinians. Golan hinted that such populism and brutality are not signs of strength of Israel, but actually signs of weakness.
His statement was severely criticized, and gave the government the opportunity to make more populist statements. Minister of Defense Ya’alon (also a member of Israel’s military elite, and former commander of the army) was forced to resign and was replaced by Lieberman, who is not a member of the military elite.

Does militarism and war (also) serve to cover the tensions within Israeli Jewish society?
I wouldn’t say militarism and war, but rather an obsession with security. Israel hasn’t fought a real conventional war since 1973, instead it is constantly engaged in asymmetrical conflicts in civilian areas, where Israeli soldiers use heavy armaments in civilian areas. But the constant fear of retaliation, the threat of real and imagined terrorism, are exploited very cynically by the Israeli government to distract from the burning social issues in Israel.
A good example of this is the 2011 attack on an Israeli bus in the midst of large social protests in Israel. Netanyahu quickly announced that the attackers came from Gaza, and ordered a bombing against Gaza, killing five Palestinians. Even though the attackers did not come from Gaza, Palestinians chose not to react to the Israeli killing of innocent Palestinians, because such retaliation would serve the desire of Netanyahu to suppress the social protests. I think that we can learn from this example how well Palestinians understand Israeli society. Interestingly, the social protests ended eventually with very little effect, and the security issue continues to dominate Israeli political discourse.

If we look at the big military companies such as the Israeli Aerospace Industries (IAI) and Elbit, do they account for a large share of the Israeli economy?
The arms sector is a large section of Israel’s industrial sector, and the two biggest arms companies are the government-owned IAI, and the private Elbit Systems. There are conflicting numbers from various sources, and I estimate that 11% of Israel’s total exports are security and military exports, to which these two companies contribute more than half. Of course this is very significant for the Israeli economy, and no other country in the world has arms as such a high proportion of its total exports (not even the U.S, the world’s largest arms exporter). Nevertheless, one must remember that the majority of Israel’s exports, and industrial companies and workforce are civilian.

How is the Netherlands (and the EU) most complicit in supporting the Israeli military industrial complex? Through its subsidies and financing, its scientific research, its global production facilities, its purchases of Israeli military products and services, or its provision of tax havens for the companies’ profits?

All of the above, but the complicity is not just in helping to fund the Israeli arms industry, but also by legitimizing it. When Dutch and European politicians promote security cooperation projects with Israel, they are fully aware that the Israeli arms industry is based on the Israeli military experience in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, technologies developed in the course of repression of Palestinian resistance and control over a large population denied its basic rights. Therefore, all these ties between European and Israeli arms companies send a message that Europe accepts Israel’s occupation and even seeks to learn from it. This was said by General Yoav Galant (currently Israel’s minister of housing), that “foreign governments are hypocritical. On the one hand they criticize our actions, but then they come to us to learn how we do it.”

BDS campaigns in Europe have the potential to be a powerful force given that the EU traditionally has been one of Israel’s largest markets. Is this where you think BDS efforts can be most effective – or rather in the US or elsewhere?
In the end, the most effective BDS campaigns are not necessarily the ones that have the biggest monetary effect, but those that get the attention of the Israeli public. U.S-based BDS was very effective in making Israelis feel that “even our closest ally is changing its opinion on us,” but so did BDS actions in Germany. Europe remains Israel’s largest target both for exports and for imports, but BDS doesn’t seek to change that. BDS is not a tool to harm the Israeli economy, but to achieve political change through pressure.
The Netherlands play a very important role because of the importance of the Rotterdam port to Israel’s exports to Europe, especially of agricultural produce, which is of great symbolic significance. If the Netherlands will impose more strict controls over that import, it has a direct impact on the Israeli illegal colonies in the Jordan Valley, which is the most fertile land in all of Palestine.

Is BDS a bigger threat for the economy of Israel or for its image?
BDS does not seek to harm the Israeli economy, but to convince Israelis that it is unsustainable to violate international law. I don’t believe that the Israeli government will continue with its policies of apartheid and occupation long enough for BDS to cause a long-term damage to the Israeli exports. When Israeli companies will start moving to other countries to avoid BDS, the Israeli government will either collapse, or change its policies. The majority of the Israeli public today (unlike the situation in the 1970s and 1980s) is no longer willing to make great sacrifices for the sake of Zionism.
The Israeli image, however, is already strongly affected by BDS. The strength of BDS is that it is a movement based on research and information, and that through BDS, activists are able to educate the public about the situation in Palestine, and disseminate materials. The image of Israel in the world is changing as a result, and this is something that has no less of an effect on Israeli decision makers than the economic impact.

What could be important focus points for organizations such as docP and Stop de Wapenhandel (Stop the Arms Trade)?
In my experience, it is a very bad idea for someone from Israel/Palestine to tell organizations what their focus should be. Surely you know better than me who is your audience, what kind of message will be more effective to reach them and what they can do and organize locally. Palestine solidarity groups work in a wide variety of contexts – from student groups to church groups, from labor unions to social justice and environmental movements. My only recommendation would be to choose projects that can have an impact inside Israel, projects that involve major and well-known Israeli companies, politicians, etc. And that each such project should be accompanied by research. Activists can only be successful if they have a lot of information that they can disseminate as part of their activity. It is never enough to say “let’s boycott this company because it is Israeli.” You must explain why.

Shir Hever

DocP |  source


“Jewish Brigade” email threatens BDS activists

A number of Palestine solidarity activists have received a threatening email from a group calling itself “Brigade Juive,” French for “Jewish Brigade.”

Anyone receiving this or a similar email should not click on any links in it and should not open any attachments.

These emails may contain malware – malicious programs that are used to harm computer users and compromise networks.

They should report to local authorities anything they consider a threat.

The email begins in French with the words “Dear boycotter.”

It then says in English, “We have are [sic] a very particular set of skills, skills We [sic] have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make us a nightmare for people like you.”

It concludes in French, “In brief, you boycotters should understand, now we will scalp you one by one, group by group, association by association.”

The email contains a link to a website for the Brigade Juive, an extremist Jewish group that purports to defend Israel and Jewish communities. The website also purports to “expose” activists with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for allegedly nefarious activities.

The group’s name appears to be a reference to the Jewish Brigade that fought with British forces during the Second World War and whose members helped colonize Palestine as part of the Zionist movement.

On its Facebook page, Brigade Juive claims to have sent the email to more than 8,000 addresses.

The group also claims that its violent threat of “scalping” activists is “used in the figurative sense.”

The harassment comes as Israel’s government has ramped up its own threats and intimidation against activists.

Given the history of violence by far right-wing Jewish groups, the apparent threat is being taken seriously.

The Electronic Intifada has been sent independent reports of the email being received by activists in Europe, some of whom are reporting it to authorities on the basis that it constitutes a threat of violence.

Association France Palestine Solidarité, an advocacy group for Palestinian rights, also sent an alert to members urging them to report the threatening email to DICRA, the French interior ministry’s body to combat racism and anti-Semitism.

Extreme anti-Palestinian groups in France have a history of using online attacks against their targets.

Gregory Chelli, the former Jewish Defense League hacker known as Ulcan, in 2014 reportedly launched a cyber attack against the website of Rue89 after French reporter Benoît Le Corre wrote a critical profile of him.

Ulcan is known to have been involved in several malicious attacks targeting BDS activists in France, one of which possibly precipitated the death of Le Corre’s father.

Practice good security

Activists, journalists and others should make it a priority to always practice good online security.

Here are some resources:

Protests Swell As Journalist Jailed By Israel Approaches 70th Day Of Hunger Strike

“He shouldn’t die for practicing his profession,” journalist and administrative detainee Mohammed Al-Qeeq’s brother tells MintPress News as protests worldwide demand his release.
By  @jncatron | 

New Yorkers took to the streets on Friday, 29 January to demand the immediate release of imprisoned Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq, on his 66th day of hunger strike and shackled to his hospital bed in critical condition.

NEW YORK — As Palestinian journalist Mohammed al-Qeeq reaches the 70th day of a hunger strike against his administrative detention by Israel on Tuesday, protests demanding his freedom are growing across the world as others continue in Palestine.

“Mohammed is hanging between life and death,” Islam al-Qeeq, his brother, told MintPress News from Ramallah. “The coming hours could be very crucial in his battle for freedom and physical survival.”

Supporters overseas echoed the family’s alarm.


“Al-Qeeq is facing imminent death at the hands of his occupiers,” Lisa Gagliardo, president of Students for Justice in Palestine at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn, told MintPress after a demonstration for al-Qeeq in New York on Friday.

Other protests for the 33-year-old father of two took place in Berlin and London, as well as various parts of Palestine, the same day.


‘If it was anywhere else in the world’

“The police had tipped the BBC off about our protest, so they had cordoned the whole area off with fencing and private security,” Innovative Minds founder Abbas Ali told MintPress about the London group’s protest outside the British state broadcaster’s headquarters.

London protest outside BBC demands freedom for tortured Palestinian journalist Mohammed Al-Qeeq, whose condition is critical after a long hunger strike. (Photo: In Minds/Facebook)

Innovative Minds, which organizes regular protests to support Palestinian prisoners, held this one at the BBC because it had not reported on al-Qeeq’s hunger strike, Ali added.

“If it was anywhere else in the world that a journalist was tortured for 25 consecutive days for his reporting, on hunger strike for 66 days, lapsing in and out of consciousness with organs about to fail, making his last will and testament, about to die, the BBC would surely have reported it,” he said.

“But not one word for Mohammed al-Qeeq. Shameful.”


‘What G4S and its equipment makes possible’

The New York protest, part of a series organized by Samidoun: Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network and the group’s second local demonstration for al-Qeeq, took place outside the Manhattan office of British-Danish security conglomerate G4S.

G4S, the world’s biggest security firm and its second-largest private employer, holds contracts to equip Israeli prisons and detention centers, as well as checkpoints, military and security forces.

The company has been targeted for boycotts by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee and other civil society groups, as well as the National Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement, a coalition of prison organizations representing current detainees.

People protest G4S, a firm which manages security at Ofer Prison in the Occupied Palestine Territories, provides services and equipment to run checkpoints (Credit: StopG4S)

G4S “provides the security systems and the control rooms not only for the prisons which hold nearly 7,000 Palestinians, but also for the detention and interrogation centers where people like Mohammed al-Qeeq are tortured,” Beirut-based Samidoun international coordinator Chartotte Kates told MintPress.

“He was bound to a chair for up to 15 hours a day in stress positions, tortured,” she continued. “This is what G4S and its equipment makes possible.”


‘We are talking about hundreds of sit-ins’

Protests inside historic Palestine ranged from Gaza City, to HaEmek Medical Center in Afula, where al-Qeeq is currently held, to Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque, to Bil’in, where Israeli soldiers attacked a weekly protestdedicated to al-Qeeq with tear gas.

Palestinian protesters run from tear gas fired by Israeli troops during a protest of outside Ofer security prison in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah. (AP Photo/Majdi Mohammed)

“Many activities have been held in Gaza, the West Bank, the ’48 territories, and outside Palestine to shed light on his case,” Basem Naim, a former minister of health in the Gaza-based Palestinian government, told MintPress.

Demonstrations supporting al-Qeeq continue daily across Palestine, he said.

“We are talking about hundreds of sit-ins in many cities, symbolic hunger strikes in sympathy with him, thousands of articles, TV and radio reports about him, many political activity by Palestinian factions, diplomatic contacts with embassies and international bodies calling for pressure on Israel.”


‘A practice that Israel cannot justify and must end’

The administrative detention law used to imprison al-Qeeq allows British military commanders to order the incarceration of Palestinians from the Occupied West Bank, as well as inside the internationally-recognized borders of Israel, without charge or trial.

The measure, which commanders can renew unlimited times to keep detainees jailed indefinitely, has drawn rising criticism as al-Qeeq’s hunger strike continues.

An editorial about al-Qeeq published in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Thursday argued, “The state should either put him on trial in keeping with the rule of law, or release him immediately.”

A day earlier, the European Union’s missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah criticized “the extensive use by Israel of administrative detention without formal charge” in a statement saying, “Detainees have the right to be informed about the charges underlying any detention, must be granted access to legal assistance, and be subject to a fair trial.”

“It is a practice that Israel cannot justify and must end,” Amnesty International said in a statement on Jan. 22. “It should release all administrative detainees unless they are to be promptly charged with internationally recognizable criminal offences and tried in accordance with international fair trial standards.”


‘A weapon and a mechanism of occupation’

These calls for a legal process to resolve al-Qeeq’s hunger strike, and the administrative detentions of around 660 other Palestinians, fall short, supporters say.

“We demand the abolition of the practice of administrative detention,” Khaled Barakat, international coordinator of the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa’adat, told MintPress. “It is a racist, colonial law.”

Sa’adat, a prominent Palestinian prisoner and the general secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestinian, was captured by Israeli forces in 2006. In 2008, a military court sentenced him to 30 years’ imprisonment on charges of leading an organization banned by occupation regulations.

“But he should not be sent to the Israeli military courts instead,” Barakat said. “They are nothing more than a weapon and a mechanism of occupation, a means to imprison thousands of Palestinians.”


‘A cloak of neutrality’

The International Committee of the Red Cross declined to even call for a trial, instead releasing a statement on Jan. 21 “urging both the detaining authority and the detainee to find a solution” without mentioning al-Qeeq by name.

This call, which cited the ICRC’s status “as a neutral organization,” drew harsh criticism.

“The responsibility to find a solution for imprisoning hundreds of Palestinians without charge or trial, and the responsibility for the lives of Palestinians on hunger strike rests solely with the occupier, with the Israeli Prison Service,” Barakat said. “The ICRC is hiding behind a cloak of neutrality, but it is in fact covering up for Israel’s violation of international law and any sense of humanitarian policy or justice.”

“There is nothing fair or neutral about standing aside and refusing to comment in the face of colonialism, apartheid, racism and oppression, and the ICRC’s refusal to recognize reality is neither humane nor just. It is, simply, shameful.”


‘What are they waiting for?’

Despite warnings of al-Qeeq’s increasingly dire conditions, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled against an appeal for his release on Wednesday.

Since then, his health has continued to deteriorate. On Sunday, his attorney, Jawad Boulus, called it “very dangerous. He lost his ability to speak and 60 percent of his hearing.”

“What are they waiting for in order to release my husband or look into his arrest?” his wife Faihaa asked a press conference before answering: “Until he suffers a brain hemorrhage or becomes a martyr.”

A report issued Saturday by HaEmek Medical Center confirmed al-Qeeq’s grave condition.


‘Palestinian journalists have always been on the frontline’

Israeli security detain The Associated Press photographer Nasser Shiyoukhi during a Palestinian protest in Yatta in the West Bank on Saturday. Shiyoukhi was released without charge after Saturday’s incident. (photo credit: AP Photo)

In a statement released through the Palestinian Authority’s Committee for Prisoners’ Affairs from his hospital bed earlier Saturday, al-Qeeq said Israel had targeted him because of his reporting.

“Palestinian journalists have always been on the frontline,” he said. “They are now experiencing forceful and abusive detention because they have been the voice of human conscience, exposing crimes and oppressive practices of Israeli occupation against the Palestinian people.”

His family and other supporters agreed.

“Mohammed al-Qeeq is a journalist, not a terrorist,” Islam al-Qeeq said. “He shouldn’t die for practicing his profession.”

Barakat added that Mohammed al-Qeeq was one of many Palestinian reporters detained by Israel.

“Palestinian writers and journalists have always come under attack and have been targeted especially by the occupation because their work exposes the truth of the racist apartheid nature of the occupier,” he said. “Mohammed al-Qeeq is in a long line of Palestinians who write and speak truthfully and face imprisonment and persecution for that.”


‘Until martyrdom or freedom’

Al-Qeeq added that he was determined to persevere until his death or release.

“When people are been treated tyrannically, they are no longer worried about the consequences even if the toll is life. Thus, I entrusted myself in God’s hands and I will continue with this hunger strike, until martyrdom or freedom.”

Detainee Mohammed al-Qeeq, a married father of two who works as a journalist in Ramallah. was arrested on November 21 for suspected incitement. (Photo: al-Qeeq family)

Osama al-Wuhaidi, a spokesman for the Hussam Association, a Gaza-based organization of current and former Palestinian detainees, told MintPress that Israeli shootings, mass detentions, and other efforts to end a Palestinian uprising in the West Bank had “hindered Palestinians from organizing proper activities to support al-Qeeq.”

In Gaza, he said, the distractions of life under siege kept local efforts from reaching their full potential:

“Palestinians are busy dealing with their daily life concerns such as poverty, the high level of unemployment, the lack of fuel and electricity, and above all the continuous Israeli blockade on Gaza.”


‘It may escalate, according to the news’

But, he added, “It may escalate, according to the news coming out of Afula hospital, where al-Qeeq is.”

Further international protests are planned this Friday in Berlin and New York, and on Saturday in Montreal, with announcements of others expected soon.

His supporters abroad hope their efforts for al-Qeeq will increase overall pressure on Israel, even after his hunger strike.

“When we highlight Israel’s brutality at an individual level, it motivates people to condemn it in higher numbers,” Lisa Gagliardo, of the St. Joseph’s’s College chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine, said.

Islam al-Qeeq said his family hoped protests would spread and draw wider participation: “We call on all people of conscience, honest and freedom-loving people to do their utmost to save Mohammed from what seems like an imminent death.”


srael has no answer to BDS, Barghouti tells packed hall at Columbia


Omar Barghouti’s appearance at Columbia University on Tuesday night felt like a landmark in the Palestinian solidarity movement in the U.S. A large hall at the law school was crowded to overflowing and the mood was celebratory. Luminaries of the community were in attendance, among them Lila Abu-Lughod, Rula Jebreal, Rashid Khalidi, Rebecca Vilkomerson, Nadia Abu El-Haj, Dorothy Zellner, Lia Tarachansky. Barghouti’s speech was hugely optimistic. He said that the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement was racking up victories far faster than the organizers had imagined when they began nine years ago, faster than the South African movement had progressed. And the BDS movement has the “closet” support of the Netanyahu administration, which was doing its utmost to demonstrate the fallacy of a Jewish democracy.

The suspense of waiting for the Israel supporters to say something was a bit of a fizzle, not the big drama it used to be at such events. Law professor Katherine Franke had urged the crowd not to be civil in discussing one of the most challenging moral questions of our time, and at the end, a man at the back said he had a short question.

“Do you believe that the Jewish people have a right to self determination?” And if so, “Where should it be?”

Barghouti said it was not up to him as a Palestinian to decide whether Jewish communities make up a nation, and where they should have a state. Though he pointed out that there was not consensus among Jews globally about whether they are a people; this is a recent debate, and in fact up till the 1945 the majority of  Jews did not support Jewish nationhood. Then he said sharply:

One thing I do know– not at my expense. If they are a nation and have a right of self-determination, not at my expense. That does not give them the right to expel us or to take our land–

The audience broke into applause, the first time that any speaker had been interrupted by applause in two hours. Barghouti swiftly moved on to other questions. The questioner walked out of the hall.

That summed up the spirit of the event. Its title was, “Palestine’s South Africa Moment?” Barghouti said that Palestine appeared at last to be approaching that moment. Speaker Mahmood Mamdani said it is not. I will get to Mamdani’s analysis in the next few days. In the meantime, though, here is a summary of Barghouti’s remarks.

Barghouti began by quoting Ze’ev Jabotinsky’s declaration in 1923 that because Palestinians would never accept the Zionist takeover of their lands, the Zionists must build an “iron wall” and convince the Palestinians that it was impossible to resist colonization. Barghouti said it was realistic in the view of geopolitics then for Zionists to conclude that Palestinians would give up the struggle, and if Jabotinsky could see President Mahmoud Abbas today, he would “celebrate in his grave: ‘See, I told you, They’ve given up.’”

But recent history shows that Palestinians have not given up, and in fact are commanding the world’s sympathy and attention.

The latest discussion in Israel about the Jewish nation state law has brought to the fore the very possibility of the unraveling of the entire Zionist project. And these are not my words, these are the words of certain very important leaders in Israel, who say that. What’s happening is that the oxymoron of the Jewish and democratic identity of the state of Israel is unraveling.

I can understand the frustration of the extreme right in Israel. ‘Why is the whole world, even the US, against us with this new law? Why are they so mad? We’ve been doing it all along, we’re just making it a bit more formal.’

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has always consistently discriminated by law against the indigenous Palestinians. Other than ethnically cleansing them of course. So  why is everyone so angry that they’re trying to codify the Jewish identity of the state. Some say it’s at the expense of the democratic identity. What democratic identity? When you have 50 laws that discriminate against a minority of your citizenry, that’s not democracy…

What Netanyahu and his far right government are doing is resolving this oxymoron. It cannot exist any longer. Let’s be very honest, Forget  democracy. This is an ethnocracy… this is a Jewish supremacist state. So– no pretense of democracy. And that’s a very important development because it’s revealing Israel’s true nature.  The last mask of Israel’s so-called democracy has been dropped.

Barghouti moved on to the tactics and success of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

We’ve got to see it as our goal, as part of what we do in this country in the BDS movement… to disabuse  Americans of the myth of empire being beneficial to all… Only then will most people in this country realize that Israel does not serve American interests writ large, but the 1 percent’s interests. The great majority of Americans cannot possibly benefit from what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people.

Shabtai Shavit, former Mossad chief, wrote in Haaretz a couple of weeks ago, that for the first time in his life, he’s really concerned about the future of the Zionist project. Shabtai Shavit is no lefty. He’s not your typical Che Guevara but an honest to goodness hard core Zionist. He’s really, really concerned… He’s saying, Europe is closing in our faces, European markets, even the US, our best friend,  the relationship can’t be worse, it’s an unprecedented lowpoint. And the third point he mentions as an indicator of this hopelessness, university campuses in the west, like yours, are hothouses for the future leadership of their countries. He says, We’re losing the fight for support for Israel in the academic world. An increasing  number of Jewish students are turning away from  Israel. The global BDS movement has grown and quite  a few Jews are members.

That’s one of the very rare times that an Israeli leader mentions the Jewish dimension of the BDS movement. It’s ignored completely.

Barghouti said that when he wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times last January, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott,” he had to insist on including the fact that BDS had small but strong Jewish support. That was an “extremely difficult point that I had to negotiate, with the New York Times.”

At appearances in the States, he is invariably asked to compromise on the third plank of the BDS call, honoring the right of return of Palestinian refugees. In fact, this is the most significant right for Palestinian people. The percentage of Palestinians who are refugees, including those internally displaced in Israel, approaches 69 percent. “That is why the right of return is absolutely the most significant right in the BDS call.”

Then Barghouti moved on to describe the great success of the movement, and why he believes Israel is approaching its South Africa moment.

The BDS call was modeled on the South African boycott and divestment call, but you don’t cut and paste. There are important differences. “Israel is a worse system than South African apartheid in some ways.” Israel had committed ethnic cleansing and massacres that were worse than South African episodes, his partners there have told him.

“We’d never seen F16s bomb us in our Bantustans. We never had different license plates on our cars.” And so on and so forth

Israel has a more sophisticated and evolved system of oppression than South Africa’s. And the BDS movement has moved faster than in South Africa.

Since BDS was launched until now, we’ve achieved far more than we had initially thought possible within nine years. Actually, the  movement has gone much, much faster than South Africa. There are many reasons for this. Israel is at the center of universe; Israelis tend to think so– but in some ways  they are, because of United States power, the Holocaust, many factors. The internet.

Communiques from the anti apartheid movement in South Africa to supporters at his alma mater Columbia used to come through some clandestine fax in someone’s basement, Barghouti said. Now social media and email make these communications wide and instantaneous.

In 2013, Israel classified BDS officially as a strategic threat, when it transferred the fight against the movement from the ministry of foreign affairs, a propaganda ministry, to the ministry of strategic affairs.

Why should Israel, a nuclear power that’s still very powerful economically, be afraid of this nonviolent nuisance as they called us in the beginning. Well I would be very afraid if I were them. But I can be a bit smarter in how to fight it. But I won’t tell them that. [Laughter] I think their IQ is dipping, I don’t now what’s happening with Zionism. But when I went to school here, Zionists used to be very smart… Either smarter people have abandoned Zionism or the average IQ of Zionists has gone down, but they’re really not thinking straight. Because they haven’t come up with one smart tactic to fight BDS… since 2005. We’re not being cocky about that. I mean, seriously, we’re not facing serious challenges there. It’s becoming an open door.

For several years the battle was over Israel’s image. Israel has pumped billions into rebranding the country as a liberal democracy and a haven for gays and scientists and artists and entrepreneurs, and abused the Holocaust to foster this image, Barghouti said. And still it competes for unpopularity with North Korea, which spends nothing on propaganda.

The problem is again, talking about IQ– you commit one massacre in Gaza, it [the branding campaign] all disappears. It doesn’t work. Ok you can send over your nice ballerinas and musicians. But then you commit one major war crime and it’s gone. People are not idiots.

Barghouti ran down a list of BDS’s triumphs in the last year or two, including many in the academic community and church community. A year ago he could not have said that the movement was having an economic impact on Israel. Now he can. He cited bank divestments in Europe and Bill Gates‘s sale of shares in an Israeli prison contractor, G4S.

There was a time, he said, when the phrase “Made in South Africa” was “toxic, untouchable.” He said: “We’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”

Israel was aiding this trend.

They’re not coming up with rational solutions to BDS. Not that there is an easy solution….There won’t be a solution till the system of oppression which has been revealed to the world…mainly thanks to the BDS movement and the apartheid government[, ends]. We’ve got to give credit to Netanyahu. Without him we could not have reached this far, at this time. It could have taken much, much, much, much longer, but with the help of  the Israeli government, our biggest closet supporters in the world, we’re going much faster.

Increasingly it appears that  Israel’s South Africa moment is arriving at last, he said.


About Philip Weiss

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Zionist lobby helps growth BDS profile

Antony Loewenstein

Thank you Zionist lobby for helping grow BDS profile

Posted: 26 Apr 2014 09:51 PM PDT

Interesting article in yesterday’s Australian explaining how typically ham-fisted, bullying and clueless media attacks by the Israel lobby is helping to draw public attention to the rise of boycotts against Israel. No kidding:

A Jewish association has branded the racial discrimination case against University of Sydney’s Jake Lynch counter-productive, saying it has only raised the profile of his support for the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign against Israel.

Since the Israeli legal activist group Shurat HaDin launched the lawsuit in the Federal Court, Professor Lynch’s stand has become a cause celebre in sections of the academic community, claiming the right to freedom of speech and academic expression is under attack.

In the Federal Court in Sydney on Thursday, judge Alan Robertson rejected allegations Professor Lynch was a leader of the global boycott campaign in Australia.

Two new groups have been established to support him and the global BDS movement, including one among university staff. One of the organisers of the Sydney Staff for BDS group, lecturer Nick Riemer, said he and other staff decided to create it “because of what’s happened to Jake’’.

The groups have helped raise about $20,000 towards Professor Lynch’s legal defence, he has been invited to address BDS public meetings around the country, and one recent BDS event in Sydney in his support drew about 200 people.

One of the pro-Lynch speakers at the Sydney fundraiser, Jewish Israeli academic Marcelo Svirsky who is a lecturer at the University of Wollongong, says he will walk from Sydney to Canberra later this year to raise awareness of the BDS campaign.

Dr Svirsky said he would stop in towns along the way to deliver public addresses and then lodge a submission in parliament calling on the government to back BDS.

Executive Council of Australian Jewry executive director Peter Wertheim said Shurat HaDin’s legal action against Professor Lynch was “the wrong way to oppose BDS”.

“Regardless of the outcome, the Shurat HaDin court case would give a very marginal BDS campaign in Australia undeserved exposure and a shot in the arm,” Mr Wertheim said. “Our organisation’s strategy has been to expose the aims and methods of the BDS campaign in the marketplace of ideas.”

Shurat HaDin launched the lawsuit against Professor Lynch after he declined to support an application from Israeli academic Dan Avnon for a visiting fellowship at the university.

It claims his action and BDS generally breach the Racial Discrimination Act and the Human Rights Act because they discriminate against a class of people — Jewish Israelis.

Dr Svirsky, a political scientist who grew up in Argentina but moved to Israel after being conscripted during the Falklands War, said “there is increasing support for Lynch because of this particular case in court”.

“For me the BDS is about not just ending the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, but also the rules of the apartheid in Israel,” he said.

Cliff Richard will come

When Stephen Hawking visited here in 2006 he received the royal treatment; but then he decided to criticize Israel.
 By Gideon Levy  |  May.19, 2013 | 6:30 AM    

This might be the most sensitive of Israeli nerves: Just try to touch it, and your fate is sealed. Anyone proposing to boycott an Israeli product, from Ahava’s skin creams to the Israeli Presidential Conference, is immediately sentenced to scorn, ostracism and a total smear campaign.

This Pavlovian response reached a nadir with the announcement by the esteemed scientist Stephen Hawking of his withdrawal from the birthday celebrations for President Shimon Peres. Instead of asking itself how it got to the point where even a celebrated figure like Hawking, who has never been accused of being anti-Israel, decides to boycott its gatherings, Israel is busy waging a slander campaign. Instead of listening to the synthesized moral voice of the paralyzed scientist, Israel kicks viciously at Hawking, in a manner that obviously only proves the lameness of its arguments.

Hawking is permitted to decide that he wants no part of yet another Israeli propaganda fest, aimed at obscuring the goings-on in its backyard and presided over by that wizard of deceit, our president. It’s Hawking’s right, his duty. After four previous visits he said, it stops here, no more will he grace Israel with his presence, like some bauble.

Until he opened his mouth and dared to boycott, he was treated in a manner reserved on these shores for mega-celebrities. When he visited in December 2006, he received the royal treatment. He was interviewed on Yair Lapid’s talk show; the menus he was served in the presidential suite of Jerusalem’s King David Hotel featured in the local gossip columns; and a public service ad he shot for Access Israel – a nonprofit organization promoting greater access for people with disabilities – won the Golden Cactus Award of the Advertisers Association of Israel for Best Campaign and Best Creative Advertising Idea for 2007.

And then it all came crashing down. Overnight, the supporter became a saboteur, the lionized figure became loathed. Prof. Shlomo Avineri accused him of suffering from “severe moral blindness” and even said his decision “has a whiff of racism,” because he dared to boycott Israel but not the United States and Britain (“Stephen Hawking’s hypocrisy,” Haaretz, May 13 ).

The Wolf Foundation, which 25 years ago awarded Hawking its Wolf Prize in Physics, demanded its due, declaring that Hawking “chose to capitulate to irrelevant pressures.” Maybe the foundation will demand its cash award back, as well. The chairman of the Israeli Presidential Conference, Israel Maimon, described the physicist’s decision as “outrageous and improper.”

Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the director of Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, an NGO that combats terror organizations, suggested that Hawking remove his tablet computer’s Intel Core i7 processor, an Israeli-made component that powers the computer-based system that allows him to communicate with the world. Darshan-Leitner was predictably joined in that inhumane proposal to silence Hawking, literally as well as figuratively, by the Israel Prize laureate in communications, Yaakov Ahimeir.

That’s how we like our international cultural and scientific figures: blind supporters of every Israeli action. And this is how we detest them: when they dare to criticize its policy. The day the world’s authority on black holes discovered the black hole in the heart of Israel, he was sentenced to be smeared. The day the author of “A Brief History of Time” came to the conclusion that it was time to shorten the history of the Israeli occupation, he became a victim of abuse.

How Israeli it is to accuse him of capitulating to “irrelevant pressures,” as though he were not a certified genius with independent opinions; how typical to accuse him now of hypocrisy. He has every right to boycott Israel and not to boycott the United States and Britain – it is ridiculous to draw a comparison. Even if the latter two countries committed war crimes in Iraq, their war crimes had an end. In any case, one may choose not to eat meat but to eat fish. The decision to choose Israel as a symbol of immorality is not blunted in and of itself by the fact that other states behave the same way.

Also ridiculous is the insinuation that it was Noam Chomsky who persuaded Hawking to withdraw from the conference: What is wrong with such a meeting of intellectual giants? Israel shut its doors to Chomsky, in one of its lowest moments. If Hawking seeks to return, albeit not for the Peres festival, he is likely to meet a similar fate. But do not despair, O Israel: Cliff Richard is on his way.


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