This blog was created by the Palestine Israel Action Group (PIAG), a subcommittee of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting. PIAG's deep concern about the 67-year old conflict has led us to action, education, and dialogue. We hope to contribute to a solution that is perceived as workable and fair by reasonable people on both sides.The blog is not meant to represent the views of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting as a whole. Relevant, civil comments will be posted.
Sunday, November 09, 2014
Peace and Justice Studies Association Endorses BDS
The recent massive Israeli military attack on Gaza is only the latest and most visible incident in an ongoing history of injustice against the population of Palestine that has now endured for more than 60 years. Since 1948, Palestinian refugees have been denied their internationally recognized right to return to their homes. Since 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
In that time, Israel has illegally moved over 400,000 ofits own population into the West Bank, has appropriated land and water resources, and has established a system of exclusionary and discriminatory roads, checkpointsIt has routinely invaded remaining areas of nominal Palestinian autonomy. It maintains military control of the Occupied Territories, subjecting the population to arbitrary arrest, detention, home demolition, and property destruction. No less of a moral authority than Archbishop Desmond Tutu has described the situation as apartheid:
I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces. Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.
Citizens in the US bear particular responsibility for these ongoing crimes. For the last 40 years, the US has been the primary supporter of Israel, providing it with billions of dollars in mostly military aid each year and routinely blocking meaningful UN action on behalf of the Palestinians. Further, major US corporations provide equipment to the Israeli military and to the civil administration of the Occupation.
Additionally, the Canadian government has demonstrated a significantly unbalanced approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by unconditionally supporting Israel, including defending Israel’s military operations against Palestinians (Kennedy, 2014). Although it is illegal for Canadians to fight in wars for foreign armies, Canada has allowed its own citizens to join the Israeli Defense Forces, and even offers charitable status to organizations that support these solders (Engler, 2014). Finally, Israel is one of many countries which Canada supports militarily, either directly or indirectly (via the United States) which has also been accused of war crimes (Sanders, 2009).
Throughout this time, we have seen numerous attempts at negotiation. These have all been undercut by either Israel and/or the US.
We have also seen sporadic attempts at violent resistance to the ongoing system of injustice, some of it targeting civilians, and numerous local nonviolent campaigns. But in 2005 a wide coalition of Palestinian civil society issued a comprehensive call for another way forward — an international nonviolent campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, modeled on the South African anti-apartheid movement. To quote Archbishop Tutu again:
In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime. The same issues of inequality and injustice today motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel's decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them. Those who turn a blind eye to injustice actually perpetuate injustice. If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Following this logic the move to support the BDS movement is a step that is at once steadfast and serious in its effort to change existing conditions of injustice. At the same time it is true to principles of nonviolence that PJSA has upheld consistently in its work.
Why Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions?
PJSA is a bi-national professional association of peace and justice scholars, activists, and educators who study nonviolent methods of making social change to create a more just and peaceful world. Among those methods is the strategy of international solidarity, and the specific tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions. These methods came to be known beyond the community of peace scholars through the South African case. In fact, however, this is only the most publicized historical struggle that has used these methods. There is a long history of this sort of international solidarity to change systems of injustice.
Boycotts of goods and institutions put direct economic pressure on the state to change its policies and also serve to isolate it in the international community. Divestment (i.e., selling and refusing to hold stock) from corporations that cooperate with a state puts direct pressure on the agents most directly involved in the maintenance of an unjust system, and creates an incentive for those corporations to add their voice to international efforts to end such a system. And finally sanctions, including cutting off military and political aid, will also send a strong message and provide a powerful incentive for change. In summary, BDS are among the strongest nonviolent tools available to the international community in such a situation.
Beyond this, and crucially, BDS is the strategy that the Palestinians who are living under occupation have called for. While of course not an inviolable principle, we believe that whenever possible, and consistent with their core values, individuals and organizations should follow the lead of oppressed people in their solidarity work. In this case, the imperative is clear. Palestinians have articulated the structure of a nonviolent campaign, and called upon people of good will around the world to assist them by embracing this campaign.
Given the realities:
of ongoing, intractable, and growing injustice in Palestine,
of steadfast US support for crimes by the state of Israel,
of the utter futility of negotiations,
of the enormous human cost
of the futility of violent resistance, and
of the clarity and breadth of the Palestinian nonviolent call,
PJSA hereby commits to a stance of solidarity with the growing international movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel.
PJSA will no longer circulate communications from Israeli institutions that do not support the BDS movement. This includes, calls for papers, academic conferences, job listings from Israeli universities, and advertising from Israeli companies or institutions. Note that this is not a boycott of individual Israeli scholars. Anyone, including Israeli activists and scholars, willing to embrace our commitment to justice in Palestine, and to work in good faith with an organization committed to BDS is welcome in PJSA.
In order to put pressure on the Israeli state, and given that Israel does not comply with requests to identity which products are made in the Occupied Territories, the PJSA will boycott all Israeli-made products and food at PJSAevents, and in its office.
PJSA calls on members to withdraw from Israeli academic conferences, and decline to attend if invited, unless the institution hosting the conference has also publicly endorsed the BDS movement.
PJSA calls on members to decline to publish through Israeli book publishing companies, unless those companies also comply with the BDS movement.
PJSA encourages members to advocate within their institutions or place of employment, through faculty resolutions, student governments, or other means, for a boycott of Israeli-made products and food.
PJSA does not now, and will not, make investments in Israeli companies.
PJSA does not now, and will not, make investments in seven identified non-Israeli companies supporting the Israeli occupation.
PJSA joins the call for TIAA-CREF to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation.
PJSA will be offering a compilation of material in support of divestment campaigns, and offers speakers on this topic through our speakers' bureau.
PJSA calls on members to divest their personal funds from these companies, including divesting from implicated mutual funds.
PJSA encourages members to advocate within their institution or place of employment, through faculty resolutions, student governments, or other means, for similar divestment, both directly and through TIAA-CREF, or other retirement/pension investments.
PJSA encourages members to support similar divestment initiatives at nearby academic institutions, and lend testimony in public support of them.
PJSA encourages members to support similar divestment initiatives within their local municipalities, states, provinces, regions, and nationally.
PJSA calls on the US and Canadian governments to end all aid to Israel until a settlement has been reached that accommodates all the internationally recognized rights of the Palestinian people, including but not limited to, ending the occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.
PJSA calls on members to advocate to their own elected officials support for sanctions on Israel as a mechanism to end the violence and occupation.
In particular, we call on members to advocate for military sanctions on Israel in light of the current Israeli invasion of Gaza, and object to the United States and Canadian governments spending tax dollars on re-supplying Israel with weapons to be used in Gaza.
PJSA calls on the US and Canada to support international efforts to implement broad sanctions against Israel.
“Occupied” here is a term of international law and as long as Israel exercises “effective control” and the conflict continues, Gaza remains legally an occupied territory. Here is a good analysis.(link is external)
Quoted in the Jerusalem Post 9 June 2014.
As for the specific charge of apartheid, it is defined in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid(link is external) (adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1973) as follows: For the purpose of the present Convention, the term 'the crime of apartheid', which shall include similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa, shall apply to the following inhumane acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them:
a. Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person i. By murder of members of a racial group or groups; ii. By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; b. Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part; c. Any legislative measures and other measures calculated to prevent a racial group or groups from participation in the political, social, economic and cultural life of the country and the deliberate creation of conditions preventing the full development of such a group or groups, in particular by denying to members of a racial group or groups basic human rights and freedoms, including the right to work, the right to form recognised trade unions, the right to education, the right to leave and to return to their country, the right to a nationality, the right to freedom of movement and residence, the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association; d. Any measures including legislative measures, designed to divide the population along racial lines by the creation of separate reserves and ghettos for the members of a racial group or groups, the prohibition of mixed marriages among members of various racial groups, the expropriation of landed property belonging to a racial group or groups or to members thereof; e. Exploitation of the labour of the members of a racial group or groups, in particular by submitting them toforced labour; Persecution of organizations and persons, by depriving them of fundamental rights and freedoms, because they oppose apartheid.
1. Why support an economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel?
Boycott is a non-violent instrument and implicitly and explicitly represents a principled choice for the tactics of non-violence. The PJSA resolution is a response to the call by a wide coalition representing all sectors of Palestinian civil society — trade unions, professional organizations of academics, physicians, engineers, and journalists, NGOs and cultural and women's groups — who seek a non-violent means to ending the occupation and gaining Palestinian sovereignty.
2. Does the boycott resolution unfairly single out Israel? After all, there are many unjust states in the world.
The resolution responds to a specific non-violent call from the Palestinian people. Because the U.S. is Israel's principal international supporter, we are directly implicated in the destruction of Palestinian society. PJSA views this resolution as a precedent for the consideration of similar solidarity actions in the future.
3. Isn't a boycott of Israel discriminatory and even anti-semitic?
The practices of discrimination, occupation, ethnic cleansing, illegal settlement and territorial expansion are not based on Judaism but on the political philosophy of “Greater Israel” that has no basis in international law, history or Jewish religious or cultural tradition. Indeed, what is really anti-semitic is the attempt to identify all Jews with a philosophy that many find abhorrent to the traditions of social justice and universality that Judaism enshrines.
4. Why is there no mention of Palestinian violence?
The resolution is not designed to serve as the organization's comprehensive analysis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor to take sides or offer solutions. Rather, it is a specific response to a nonviolent grassroots initiative.
History shows us that oppressed people will resist their oppression. Palestinians have responded to the Israeli Occupation with a wide range of strategies. Some of these have been violent, many non-violent. Again, analysis of anti-colonial struggles reveals that if nonviolent resistance is ineffectual, some people will turn to violence. This is true whether we like it or not, endorse it or not.
So the only meaningful way to contribute to lessening Palestinian violence is to embrace and support Palestinian nonviolence. But for those who do condemn violent responses to injustice, or those who simply care about lessening violence on all sides, there is one meaningful way to intervene: by supporting and making stronger nonviolent alternatives. This is what we do with this resolution.
5. Why an academic boycott?
All major Israeli universities are governmental institutions that benefit directly and materially from a close relationship with the security-military establishment. Some institutions have been directly involved in furnishing the ideological justification and technical means for the occupation to continue. Furthermore, not a single Israeli academic institution has petitioned the Israeli government to protect Palestinian rights to education or to cease interference with and destruction of Palestinian schools and colleges.
6. Won't a boycott of Israel merely isolate and weaken those individuals and groups within Israel that promote peace and dialogue with Palestinians? Should we not rather give our positive support to them instead?
The boycott proposal aims specifically at institutions, not at individuals, even those most privileged by the Occupation.
While some Israeli Jews genuinely oppose the occupation and endorse BDS, Israeli society as a whole has rejected the practical steps that could lead to a just and lasting solution to the conflict. Decades of refraining from putting pressure on Israel have resulted in the expansion of the settlements and the deterioration of the situation for Palestinians.
Endorsing BDS does not preclude supporting individuals and groups within Israel who advocate justice and peace.
We encourage exchange and debate. While we hope a successful boycott would directly impact the material conditions and facilities of Israeli academics, Jewish and Arab, it does not seek to silence, censor, or deny rights of travel to any scholar, nor to dictate the beliefs or opinions they wish to express. This boycott aims at the practice of institutions and their representatives, not at the individual scholar, student or artist.
7. What are some examples of activities that would violate an academic/cultural boycott? For example, would an invitation to an Israeli colleague to give a seminar talk on my campus cross the line? What about calling her or him on the phone?
A seminar talk in partnership with or sponsored by an Israeli institution is subject to boycott. Free of complicit institutional sponsorship or funding, Israeli academic talks are not subject to boycott.
By itself, a phone conversation with an Israeli academic does not violate the boycott. However, institutional partnership is subject to boycott; therefore we urge academics, in exercise of their own academic freedoms, to refuse all collaboration with complicit institutions and their official representatives.