Thursday, December 26, 2013
By Henry Siegman in Ha’aretz, December 20, 2013
The American Studies Association has come under withering criticism for having singled out the State of Israel for a boycott of its universities because of their government’s human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.
The critics charge that not one of the many countries whose record on human rights is no better, or even far worse, than Israel’s has been subjected to a boycott by this organization or by other anti-Israel Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) organizations. Consequently, as argued by Alan Dershowitz in Haaretz and by others, their real motivation must be anti-Semitism.
While I have questions about the wisdom of boycotting Israeli universities some of whose faculties are often among the most vigorous critics of their government’s policies towards the Palestinians, the accusation of anti-Semitism is groundless. Of course, it is possible that anti-Semites can be found among BDS supporters. But just as the fact that Zionists can also be racists (as many unfortunately are, including government ministers and leading rabbis who have publicly urged that Israeli Jews bar Israeli Arabs from their neighborhoods) does not mean that Zionism is racism, a charge made by the UN General Assembly in 1975 that was subsequently retracted, so the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic because some of its supporters may be.
The charge that the BDS movement is guilty of applying a double standard to Israel is equally groundless. For the opponents of Israel’s half-a-century-long occupation of the Palestinians and its denial of the Palestinians’ individual and national rights would not be conducting BDS campaigns against Israel if, to begin with, Israel had not been singled out for special treatment that no other country with equal or even far better human rights records has received.
I challenge critics of the BDS movement to identify another democracy from among those that do not hold another people under near-permanent occupation (no other democracy does) that receives the massive economic, military and diplomatic support lavished on Israel. I challenge them to identify another country, no matter how spotless its human rights record, about which America’s leaders—its president, vice president and secretary of state—repeatedly declare “there is no daylight between our countries,” even as they warn—virtually in the same breath—that Israel’s policies are leading the Jewish state to apartheid.
Yes, there was a time when Israel needed and deserved that assistance because it was uniquely exposed to existential threats from its neighbors, but that time is long gone. Today, Israel is the regional hegemon, while its neighbors are in a state of radical upheaval or disintegration. Neither individually nor collectively, in the judgment of former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, Mossad, and Military Intelligence, do these neighbors pose an existential threat to Israel. And every living former head of the Shin Bet, as well as former heads of Israel’s other security organizations, have insisted that Israel’s failure to strike a fair peace agreement with Palestinians constitutes a far greater existential threat to the country than do Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.
Even worse are the democratic pretensions by which Israel seeks to justify this behavior. Even Tzipi Livni, who has been a faithful advocate of a two-state solution, told Mahmoud Abbas in 2009 that there could be no Israeli compromise over the status of Jerusalem, for Israel’s decision to deny a Palestinian state its capital in any part of East Jerusalem “is within the Israel consensus.”
One might have thought that a democracy understands that a consensus of its own citizens cannot determine what it is free to do to a foreign population. After all, Germany’s eliminationist policies against the Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s may have been within the German consensus, but that did not constitute a democratic mandate.
There is something particularly offensive about such attempts to give outrageously undemocratic behavior the gloss of democratic legitimacy. It is precisely such phony pretensions of democratic behavior that the BDS movement objects to. Countries that make no bones about their despotism and their contempt for human rights do not require that kind of exposure. They also do not require it because none is a beneficiary of the largesse that the State of Israel receives, which makes the donors accessories to the beneficiary’s bad behavior.
The reason for that largesse, as explained repeatedly by America’s political leaders, is supposedly not an efficient pro-Israel lobbying operation, but “deeply shared values.” It is an explanation that becomes increasingly embarrassing when it comes from political leaders who also warn that Israel’s policies are creating an apartheid society.
Those who have not challenged the singling out of Israel for the unprecedented support it is receiving from the United States have no ground for their challenge of the BDS movement’s singling out of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. BDS supporters would have had no reason for their initiative if Israel had not been favored for that support even as it disenfranchises and dispossesses another people under its occupation. It is the critics of BDS who have been applying a double standard.
Posted by Helen at 1:01 PM
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
Help PSC campaign for an end of the siege on Gaza
|Floods in Gaza - image from Globovision (cropped) - creative comms licence.|
Please help us get one of the longest blockade's in human history lifted. Following floods and freezing temperatures, the situation in Gaza is now catastrophic. UNWRA have called for the immediate lifting of the blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed.
Help us call for the Prime Minister to end this unsupportable and immoral blockade of Gaza. Israel’s blockade on Gaza must be ended immediately and permanently.
It is time for our Government to play its full part in finally ending the horrific siege on Palestinians living in the Gaza strip. The United Nations Works and Relief Association (UNWRA) has called for the ‘world community to lift Israel’s blockade on Gaza’.
UNWRA’s Chris Gunness, said:
"Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this. And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and children, the elderly who will pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade."
Please help us to press the UK Government to take the right action. Petition the Prime Minister today.
Posted by Helen at 11:13 AM
Monday, December 16, 2013
For over a month Palestinians in Gaza have endured 18 or more hours/day power outages. Now, with unusually heavy rains, cold temperatures, Israeli-released torrents of water (suddenly opening of dams along the border with Gaza), and even snow, Gaza is under water, under siege, and people are suffering freezing conditions.
The Gaza Strip was pounded by fierce winds and rain again on Friday 12/13/2013 as flooding reached dangerous levels in many areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes amid widespread power outages as temperatures plunged into the single digits.
The flooding was worst in the northern Gaza Strip, where hundreds fled their homes and water levels reached 40-50 cm in some parts, forcing residents to use boats to navigate their neighborhoods.
The Gaza government said in a statement on Friday that so far 2,825 people have been evacuated from their homes, reaching a total of 458 families.
Posted by Helen at 7:48 AM
Saturday, December 14, 2013
Friends for more than a century have been involved in Palestine. In 1869 Friends from New England Yearly Meeting began with traveling schools to Palestinian villages. The Friends Girls School was established in Ramallah in 1889
and then the Boys School in 1901. Subsequently, the schools were joined into one as a co-educational institution.
In 1948, with the recommendation of Eleanor Roosevelt, the United Nations asked the American Friends Service Committee to undertake the relief program for about 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza. With the establishment of Israel, they had been forced to leave their homeland.
By 1950, more than 100 men and women had worked in Gaza under the AFSC program, most in their twenties or early thirties, many of them with little or no experience in relief work. The AFSC work embraced nearly every aspect of refugee life including the disbursement of food, blankets, tents, and creation of schools, childbirth centers, metal shops and recreation clubs.
In March 1949 AFSC submitted a statement to the United Nations indicating its wish to withdraw from Gaza stating: "It is obvious that prolonged direct relief contributes to the moral degeneration of the refugees and that it may also, by its palliative effects, militate against a swift political settlement of the problem." On April 30, 1950, AFSC handed over the Gaza relief service to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).
Since 1948 AFSC has invested in peace-building and relief efforts in the region. Over the past eight years in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, AFSC has partnered with over 4,000 young people to initiate local projects identified by their communities. After the 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, AFSC provided humanitarian assistance to hospitals, clinics, and agencies feeding orphaned and displaced children. It has also helped families to repair damaged homes with materials not subject to the Israeli and Egyptian blockades.
Boycott and Divestment: Quaker monthly and yearly meetings have endorsed boycott and/or divestment including Britain, Netherlands, Lake Erie, Illinois and Southern Appalachian Yearly Meetings, and about seven monthly meetings in the U.S. For a comprehensive listing of such actions see Quakers with a Concern for Palestine-Israel at http://quakerpi.org/default.shtml
Posted by Helen at 7:28 AM