Oscars Celebrities #SkipTheTrip to Israel!

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Ramah Kudaimi, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, 22 Feb 2017

With the Academy Awards fast approaching this Sunday, it’s been a full year since Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Mark Rylance, and Cate Blanchett. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

So what happened? It was an utter failure. One year later, it appears that not a single star visited Israel. Last night, the AFP wire service ran this extraordinary headline appearing in many media outlets, “Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has.

Bringing celebrities to Israel has long been part of a “Brand Israel” strategy to improve the country’s image abroad. As Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin explained last year, “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting. Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans and followers, including social media.” But as of this week, the Israeli tourism ministry would not confirm any visits by the stars, and there was no evidence of trips on social media.

It seems that the harder Israel tries to improve its image, the worse it fails. Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett and several other NFL stars also choosing to #SkipTheTrip that they were offered by Israel.

Far from achieving their desired effect, these propaganda trips give us an opportunity to create broader awareness about the Israeli government’s brutal policies and attempts to whitewash them. While not every celebrity will turn down such offers, our cultural boycott campaigns are ensuring that every celebrity facing the choice must now consider the Israeli government’s cynical motivations and the impact on Palestinian communities struggling to survive.

That’s why days after the Oscars trips were announced last February, the US Campaign helped organize a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, European, and U.S. organizations to launch a #SkipTheTrip campaign including a petition to the stars, individual letters to actors, and a comprehensive social media strategy. The dynamic campaign included creative memes, a comical video, and a satirical invitation from the legendary Brian Eno highlighting the types of “holiday” experiences one could have visiting Palestine like being interrogated, tear-gassed, beaten, and shot at.

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Michael Bennett boycotts trip, says he won’t be used by Israel

Steve Almasy, CNN, February 12, 2017

Michael Bennett enjoyed his brother’s recent Super Bowl victory along with actor Mark Wahlberg.

(CNN) — Michael Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, is one of the NFL’s most outspoken players on social issues.

And once again he is in the middle of a controversy after announcing he was withdrawing from a overseas trip hosted by the Israeli government.

Bennett will be joined on the sidelines by at least one other player who objects to what the players say is Israel using them as political tools.

Bennett, whose brother, Martellus plays for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, tweeted Friday that he had been looking forward to the trip next week.

But he read an article in an Israeli newspaper, he said, where a Israel’s Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan was quoted as saying: “The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.”

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and is a movement that aims to end what it sees as “international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Another Israeli official said he hoped the players would become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.

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Will Israel Echo South Africa’s Apartheid?

At this point, the South Africa example is most instructive. Recall the state of that country as the campaign to abolish apartheid built up steam — a privileged white minority ruling a black majority in a violent and brutal system. Economic and trade sanctions gradually beginning to strangle this nation that had historically been Africa’s most prosperous. The arrival of worldwide consumer boycotts, campaigns to sell off stock of any company doing business with this pariah state.

David A. Andelman, CNN, December 29, 2016

David A. Andelman, editor emeritus of World Policy Journal and member of the board of contributors of USA Today, is the co-author, with the Count de Marenches, head of the DGSE, of “The Fourth World War: Diplomacy and Espionage the Age of Terrorism.” Follow him on Twitter @DavidAndelman. The views expressed in this commentary are his own.

(CNN) — Israel, and by extension the United States, are poised at the entrance to a dangerous path. The model democracy of the Middle East risks transforming into a global pariah on the scale of South Africa when it was in the depths of its apartheid nightmare.

After decades of Arab-Israeli diplomacy, the idea of a one-state solution looms anew, as conservative elements in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition see the arrival of Donald Trump and his new ambassador to Israel as an opportunity to push their agenda.

If it is realized, it would reduce Israel’s Palestinian population to a permanent underclass and mean, in the not-too-distant future, that a Jewish minority would be ruling a Muslim majority, with the world on the side of the oppressed majority.

The United States would be its only friend and ally — relegating Washington to a role equally isolated from mainstream opinion throughout the region and far beyond.

This seems to be the role that President-elect Trump is carving out for America, and the role that Netanyahu is skirting perilously close to for Israel.

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EU recognizes right to boycott Israel

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada
Activism and BDS Beat
28 October 2016

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, left, has affirmed that boycotting Israel is a protected free speech right. (European External Action Service)

The European Union recognizes the right of its citizens to boycott Israel, its top foreign policy official has said.

“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU member states’ territory, including with regard to BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] actions carried out on this territory,” Federica Mogherini told the European Parliament in answer to a written question in late September.

Mogherini noted that the European Court of Human Rights has affirmed that freedom of expression applies to ideas “that offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.”

She also reaffirmed that the 28-member bloc “rejects the BDS campaign’s attempts to isolate Israel and is opposed to any boycott of Israel.”

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Free speech triumphs over pro-Israel bullies in US universities

Nora Barrows-Friedman, The Electronic Intifada, 20 October 2016

Students constructed a mock wall on the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor campus to protest Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. (SAFE-UMich Facebook)

Students have won major victories for free speech on US campuses lately as attempts by Israel lobby groups to suppress Palestine solidarity activism continue to fall flat.

“Israel advocacy organizations driving the suppression cannot succeed in manufacturing facts, even if they try,”
Liz Jackson, an attorney with the organization Palestine Legal, told The Electronic Intifada.

Last week, the president of the University of Michigan defended Palestine solidarity activism on campus after student organizers were attacked for holding a protest against Israeli policies on the same day as a Jewish holiday.

In response to accusations that the protest was an affront to Jewish students, the protest’s organizers, Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) stated that the charges fall “under the much larger wave of speech suppression that seeks to derail any valid criticism of Israeli state policy of oppression against Palestinians as a false claim of anti-Semitism.”

University president Mark Schlissel told The Michigan Daily, a campus newspaper, that SAFE “did what we want advocacy groups to do, and to me, they were advocating a political point of view.”

Schlissel’s statement follows a similar defense of student activism in New York City.

There, Israel-aligned groups and elected officials lost a long-waged battle to censor Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) after a six-month independent investigation yielded results that did not support their claims.

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October 6, 2016
Film: Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!

UW-Madison Multicultural Student Center
Red Gym – 2nd Floor
716 Langdon St, Madison, Wisconsin
7:30 pm

Sponsored by UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine.

Film screening of the documentary Pinkwashing Exposed: Seattle Fights Back!, which follows queer activists fighting against Israeli pinkwashing propaganda in their community, providing a strategic primer on intersectional social justice activism.

After the film we will have a friendly discussion about how queer issues and Palestinian issues intersect, and the different opinions and thoughts on the film.