Please Oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act


(image: wiredforlego / Flikr)

New bill in Congress aims to thwart international measures to hold Israel accountable for settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.

By Josh Ruebner / The Electronic Intifada
May 18, 2017

[Ed. Note: U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D. WA) is a co-sponsor of a related bill, S.170, Combating BDS Act of 2017.]

“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources.”
— Arvind Ganesan, Human Rights Watch Director of Business and Human Rights

US Senator Ben Cardin is once again trying to pass legislation designed to suppress the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

During the last Congressional session, the Maryland Democrat succeeded in sneaking language into a must-pass trade bill making it a “principal negotiating objective” of the United States “to discourage politically motivated actions to boycott, divest from or sanction Israel” while negotiating trade deals.

This discouragement of BDS extended to boycotts of products originating from settlements in what the bill euphemistically referred to as “Israeli-controlled territories.” All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank and Syria’s Golan Heights are illegal under international law.

With BDS continuing to gain momentum, Cardin went back to the drawing board and introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720, H.R.1697) on 23 March, designed to coincide with the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. The powerful Israel lobby group duly made the bill one of its top legislative priorities.


Right v. Far Right: Politics in Israel No Longer Offers Much of a Choice


(photo: The Economist)

Israel’s politicians promote religion and intolerance.

Special Report: Six Days of War, 50 Years of Occupation / The Economist
May 20, 2017

“I am not so concerned about security and more concerned about what happens in Israel. This issue divides us. It creates hate and chauvinism. I don’t want Israel to become hell.”
— Israel Harel, a veteran of the Israeli settler movement

THE SIGN AT the entrance is clear: “According to Torah Law entering the Temple Mount area is strictly forbidden due to the holiness of the site.” Rabbinical tradition holds that Jews may not set foot on any part of the esplanade atop Jerusalem’s holiest site. Once the location of the Jewish temple, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD, the area has for centuries been a Muslim compound comprising the al-Aqsa Mosque and the golden Dome of the Rock. Because the location of the Holy of Holies (the inner sanctum of the former temple) is unknown, say the rabbis, ritually impure Jews might accidentally enter and defile it. These days Jews mostly pray outside, at the base of the retaining wall, known as the Western Wall, or Kotel.

Nonetheless, Jewish zealots venture into the al-Aqsa compound almost every day, ostensibly as tourists. The police let them jump the queue of foreigners and form a protective cordon as they perambulate the Dome of the Rock, amid curses from Muslim worshippers. Sometimes they stand silently, gazing at it longingly. They are filmed by the police, who are supposed to ensure that they do not attempt to pray. One trick is to address God while pretending to speak on a mobile phone.


Catholic Church “Cannot Stay Quiet” on Israel-Palestine Conflict


(photo: Aleksandar Todorovic / Shutterstock)

Recent report condemns normalization of the occupation and its injustice.

By Catholic News Agency
May 19, 2017

“In both societies, Israeli and Palestinian, the life of the Palestinians is far from normal. Acting as if things were normal ignores the violation of fundamental human rights.”

The Catholic Church will speak out against injustice and avoid any attempt to normalize the “festering wound” of the Israeli-Palestinian situation, a commission from the region’s leading Catholic bishops has said.

“The Church, given the nature of her mission, has her own values and criteria to define her position in a situation of conflict, like the one in Israel-Palestine. No single brand of political discourse, no particular party position nor any particular ideological option binds the Church,” the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land said May 14. The commission is headed by Latin Patriarch Emeritus Michel Sabbah.

“However, at the same time, the Church cannot ignore fundamental injustice or acts that endanger peace and the welfare of the human person,” the commission said.

“By her very nature, the Church opposes occupation and discrimination and is committed to promote justice and peace as well as the unique dignity and equality of every human person,” it continued. “The Church can never ignore injustice as if all is well but rather is obligated to speak out, resist evil and work tirelessly for change. Like the prophets of old, the Church, a prophetic body, points out injustice and denounces it.”


Tomorrow at Town Hall Seattle! — Ilan Pappé: Prospects for Peace in Palestine

Ilan Pappe (1)

Please join us for an evening with Ilan Pappé, internationally renown historian, speaking on “Prospects for Peace in Palestine.”

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017
Time: 6:00–7:00 p.m. Reception
7:00–9:00 p.m. Program
Location: Town Hall Seattle (Great Hall)
1119 Eighth Ave
Seattle, WA  98101
Information: Event website
Facebook event
Email with questions
Tickets: $10 general / $5 student
Buy tickets here

Event Details

Dr. Ilan Pappé, internationally known historian and author, will address Prospects for Peace in Palestine, at 6:00 pm on Monday, May 22, at Town Hall, Seattle. A native son of Israel, Dr. Pappé is a former senior lecturer of history and political science at Haifa University. Since 2008 he has been a member of the academic staff at the University of Exeter, U.K. and is presently Director of the European Center for Palestine Studies.

Author of 12 books on related subjects, Dr. Pappé is well known for his scholarship and commentary on Middle East, especially the history of Israel and Palestine. The Modern Middle East: a Social and Cultural History (2014) is a textbook on the urban, rural, cultural, and gender histories that influence current political and economic developments in the region.

Pappe’s meticulous research examines the socio/political outcomes of the creation and nature of the State of Israel. In his groundbreaking and controversial work, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (2006), Pappé traces the roots of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and he raises troubling moral issues around the injustice done to the indigenous Palestinians who were forced to migrate or live as an occupied people in their own land. His struggle for academic freedom led him to leave Israel for England in 2007.

Avi Shlaim, respected Israeli author of The Iron Wall states, “Pappé advocates a peaceful humanist and socialist alternative to the Zionist idea in the form of a bi-national state with equal rights for all its citizens.” (The Guardian, 2014)

Sponsored by the Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Israel/Palestine, Diocese of Olympia, and the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, Dr. Pappé will also speak to staff and students at Seattle Pacific University and the University of Washington.


Peace, Or in Pieces? How the 1967 War Changed the Shape of Israel


A guide to the ABC of the conflict.

Special Report: Six Days of War, 50 Years of Occupation / The Economist
May 20, 2017

Between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean, the overall number of Palestinians has more or less caught up with the number of Jews: about 6.5m for each. Palestinian statisticians say Arabs will equal Jews by the end of the year; Israeli demographers reckon the high birth rate among the ultra-Orthodox will keep Jews just ahead.

THE SIX-DAY WAR increased Israel’s territory threefold. The “borders of Auschwitz” were gone; the vulnerable nine-mile narrow waist acquired a thick cuirass with the mountains of the West Bank. Israel soon annexed East Jerusalem with some surrounding land; it did the same with the Golan Heights in 1981. Elsewhere, it left the status of the occupied territories undefined, waiting for a peace that never came even as Jews settled there.

After the Yom Kippur war of 1973, when Israel was caught off-guard by Egypt and Syria, America mediated a limited “disengagement” in Sinai and the Golan. In 1979 Israel agreed to give back all of Sinai under a peace treaty with Egypt.

The Oslo accord of 1993 set out a five-year period of Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It left the hardest issues — borders, settlements, Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees — to be sorted out later. The interim arrangements created a crazy quilt of territories: in Area A, the main Palestinian cities, the Palestinian Authority was given full civil and security control; in Area B, mostly taking in Palestinian villages, it had civil-affairs and some law-and-order powers, but Israel retained ultimate security control; in Area C, the biggest zone, encompassing settlements, access roads, nature reserves and so on, Israel kept full control (see map).


Israeli Settler Kills Palestinian Protester


Israeli settlers often attack Palestinians in the occupied West Bank, say rights groups. (photo: Alaa Badarneh / EPA)

23-year-old Mutaz Bani Shamsa was killed by a settler during a protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners.

By Al Jazeera
May 18, 2017

  • More than half a million Israelis live in guarded, Jewish-only settlements across the West Bank and East Jerusalem, according to the Israeli rights group B’TSelem. These settlements are considered illegal by the international community.
  • The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documented 107 settler attacks on Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 2016, and another 46 attacks so far this year.
  • So far this year, Israeli forces and settlers have killed at least 22 Palestinians, among them seven children.

An Israeli settler has shot and killed a 23-year-old Palestinian during a protest in solidarity with hunger-striking prisoners near Nablus in the occupied West Bank, according to Palestinian officials.

The Palestinian health ministry said the victim succumbed to his wounds on Thursday shortly after being shot at by the settler who fired live ammunition on protesters near a military checkpoint in the village of Huwwara, local Ma’an News Agency reported.

Palestinian security sources told AFP news agency that a clash near the checkpoint erupted when an Israeli settler in a car attempted to cross a crowd of protesters, with the settler and Israeli soldiers opening fire.

The Palestinian killed was identified by local media and the health ministry as Mutaz Bani Shamsa, from a village near Nablus.


South African Leaders Hunger Strike in Solidarity with Palestinians


Activists speak at a gathering to break their solidarity fast, Johannesburg, May 15, 2017. (photo: News24)

Cabinet ministers and anti-apartheid campaigners once imprisoned on Robben Island take part in symbolic 24-hour fast.

By Bethan McKernan / Independent
May 18, 2017

“To many of us our solidarity in this campaign is very personal because of our own experience under apartheid. We too, like the heroic Palestinians, were once called terrorists. We, like the Palestinians, were detained. We, like the Palestinians today, embarked on hunger strikes from our prison cells in protest against apartheid South Africa’s human rights violations. We also note the growing number of South African Jews who have joined this 24-hour fast and are in protest against Israel’s discriminatory policies. They remind us of our own white comrades who refused to let the apartheid government speak in their name.”
— Nomaindia Mfeketo, South African Deputy Minister of International Relations and Co-Operation

More than a dozen South African politicians and several anti-apartheid activists and public figures have completed a day-long fast to draw attention to the fight of hunger-striking Palestinians protesting conditions in Israeli prisons.

Cabinet members including deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa and deputy minister of international relations and co-operation Nomaindia Mfeketo — who herself was detained several times in the 1980s for anti-government activism — did not eat or drink for 24 hours from Sunday evening to Monday evening in solidarity with Palestinians who have now entered their second month of a hunger strike.

The “Freedom and Dignity” strike involving about 1,600 Palestinian prisoners in eight jails is over a range of issues, from access to telephones, lawyers and better medical care to ending solitary detention.


Six Days of War, 50 Years of Occupation: Israel Still Occupies Palestinian Land 50 Years After Six-Day War


(photo: Magnum)

Israel has become powerful and rich, but has not found peace with the Palestinians — nor with itself.

Special Report: Six Days of War, 50 Years of Occupation / The Economist
May 20, 2017

The decades of the “peace process” brought much process and little peace. For Israelis, land for peace became land for suicide-bombs and rockets.

In the beginning they destroyed Egypt’s air force on the ground and knocked out the planes of Jordan, Iraq and Syria. That was Monday. Then they broke Egypt’s massive defenses in Sinai. That was Tuesday. Next, they took the old city of Jerusalem and prayed. That was Wednesday. Then they reached the Suez Canal. That was Thursday. They ascended the Golan Heights. That was Friday. Then they took the peaks overlooking the plain of Damascus. In the evening the world declared a ceasefire. That was Saturday. And on the seventh day the soldiers of Israel rested.

In just six days of fighting in June 1967, Israel created a new Middle East. So swift and sudden was its victory over the encircling Arab armies that some saw the hand of God. Many had feared another Holocaust. Instead Israel became the greatest power in the region. Naomi Shemer’s anthem, “Jerusalem of Gold,” acquired new lines after the war: “We have returned to the cisterns / To the market and to the market-place / A shofar [ram’s horn] calls out on the Temple Mount in the Old City.”


Israelis Don’t Care If the U.S. Moves Its Embassy


U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv. (Photo: Getty)

Moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem would confer no substantial benefit to Israel.

By Shalom Lipner / Politico
May 18, 2017

[President Trump] could authorize the move because he wants to keep his campaign promise, because America prides itself in doing the honorable thing or just because it makes sense. But he shouldn’t do it as a misplaced favor to the people of Israel. They can live without it. Especially now, in light of new allegations about Trump sharing confidential data with Russia, it’s clear that efforts to build Israeli confidence in his leadership can be invested more intelligently.

[Ed. note: There are 82 foreign embassies in Israel, none of them in Jerusalem.]

Presidents are used to receiving unsolicited advice. Here’s something for President Donald Trump to ponder as he packs his bags for Israel: Many Israelis really don’t care whether the United States moves its embassy to Jerusalem.

Latest reports now suggest that Trump has decided to forestall such a move for the forseeable future. His path to this destination, after indications that he would eschew the example of all his predecessors, has been tortuous.

Celebrating Israel’s 69th independence day at the White House, Vice President Mike Pence recently reprised administration rhetoric on the matter. “The president of the United States, as we speak,” he told applauding party-goers in the Indian Treaty Room, “is giving serious consideration into moving the American embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson struck a more tentative figure over the weekend, possibly foreshadowing Trump’s plans to indeed exercise his presidential waiver and leave the embassy where it stands. When Tillerson tried passing the buck, suggesting that Israel might view the move as “perhaps a distraction” to a peace initiative, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired back that “the contrary” was in fact true. Adding to the confusion, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the Christian Broadcasting Network on Tuesday, “Obviously, I believe that the capital should be Jerusalem and the embassy should be moved to Jerusalem because if you look at all their government is in Jerusalem. So much of what goes on is in Jerusalem and I think we have to see that for what it is.”


Israel’s New Bill “Portrays Institutional Racism as Entirely Normal”


Among its provisions, the legislation revokes the status of Arabic as an official language, even though it is the mother tongue of one in five citizens (photo: Reuters)

Israel’s Knesset has passed its first vote on a new bill defining Israel as “a national home of the Jewish people.”

By Jonathan Cook / Al Jazeera
May 11, 2017

“The aim is to portray institutional racism in Israel as entirely normal, and make sure the apartheid reality here is irreversible. . . . It is part of the right’s magical thinking — they are in denial that there is an indigenous people here still living in their homeland. We are not about to disappear because of this law.”
— Haneen Zoabi, a Palestinian member of the Israeli parliament

New legislation to cement the definition of Israel as a state belonging exclusively to Jews around the world is a “declaration of war” on Palestinian citizens of Israel, the minority’s leaders warned this week.

The bill, which defines Israel as the “national home of the Jewish people,” passed its first vote in the Israeli parliament on Wednesday, after it received unanimous backing from a government committee on Sunday.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to get the measure on to the statute books within 60 days.

Among its provisions, the legislation — popularly known as the Jewish Nation-State Bill — revokes the status of Arabic as an official language, even though it is the mother tongue of one in five citizens.

Israel’s population includes a large minority of 1.7 million Palestinians.

The legislation affirms that world Jewry has a “unique” right to national self-determination in Israel, and calls for the government to further strengthen ties to Jewish communities outside Israel.

It also increases the powers of so-called “admissions committees” that block Palestinian citizens from living in hundreds of communities that control most of Israel’s land.