Honor Dr. Angela Davis

This February, join USCPR and the Dream Defenders by showing solidarity with all the radical voices that continue to be silenced for speaking up against injustice, from the US to Palestine.

On January 4, 2019, bowing to pressure from Zionist members of the Birmingham community, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) voted to rescind its decision to bestow its highest honor, the Fred Shuttlesworth Human Rights Award, on renowned Black scholar and activist Angela Davis. Dr. Davis is the latest in a long line of Black internationalist voices to be attacked for their support of Palestine.

Leaders like Dr. Davis are targeted because they articulate the connections between global systems of oppression bearing down on Indigenous, Black, brown, queer, and other marginalized communities. They recognize that white supremacy, settler colonialism, imperialism, capitalism, and heteropatriarchy all reinforce each other and cannot be fought in isolation. Work for justice for one community must be part of a vision of justice for all.

“Black solidarity with Palestine allows us to understand the nature of contemporary racism more deeply.” – Angela Davis

Since the BCRI’s decision to revoke the Shuttlesworth Award was announced, there has been an outpouring of support for Dr. Davis from progressives and activists across movements. The BCRI has reconsidered its decision, and a diverse, intergenerational cross-section of grassroots and community leaders in Birmingham announced an alternative public event to honor Dr. Davis on February 16, the day she was supposed to receive the BCRI award.

Join us in honoring Dr. Angela Davis and the uncompromising ideals with which she has fought injustice.


Here are some actions you can take this February to show your solidarity with Angela Davis, Black internationalists, and the Palestinian people:

  • Learn about the connections between the Palestinian struggle and Black, Indigenous, Latinx, anti-gentrification, feminist, and queer struggles in our digital political education curriculum Freedom Bound: Resisting Zionism and White Supremacy.
  • Visit Freedom-Bound.org, an artistic and historical account of the shared, interconnected struggle for collective liberation inspired by the rich legacy of Black-Palestinian solidarity.
  • Read Freedom is a Constant Struggle, in which Angela Davis reflects on the importance of Black feminism, intersectionality, and prison abolitionism, contextualizing these struggles within the framework of global struggles, from the Black Freedom Movement to the South African anti-Apartheid movement, from Ferguson to Palestine. Better yet – start a book club! We’ve got two free chapters and a study guide to get you started.
  • Get involved! Find local actions and organizations geared towards decriminalizing Black youth, demilitarizing law enforcement, and abolishing prisons as we know them, through the Movement for Black Lives. Check out Stop Urban Shield and No Cop Academy for examples of actions that you can take to oppose the police militarization which aims to repress Black youth and other marginalized communities.
  • Bring the conversation of Palestinian justice to your congregation. You can plug into a collaborative project designed to train congregations on how to implement a learning plan at Journeys Toward Justice.
  • Attend or host a Shabbat in solidarity with Angela Davis on February 15. Read from the Torah of Angela Davis and commit to reinvigorating a vibrant spirit of Black and Jewish solidarity. Share your event with #ShabbatWithAngelaDavis and favorite quotes with #TorahOfAngelaDavis.
  • Host a watch party to honor Dr. Davis on February 16! The event to honor her will be streamed live by the Birmingham Committee for Truth and Reconciliation.
  • Print out and share this beautiful “Palestine is a Racial Justice Issue” flyer at any events that you host.
  • Show your solidarity on social media by downloading and sharing the graphics below. Sample language that you could use: #IStandWithAngelaDavis because she stands for Black liberation, Palestinian rights, and freedom, justice, and equality for all.


Congressmen are trying to stop Rep. Rashida Tlaib from leading a delegation to the West Bank


Rashida Tlaib, elected to 13th Congressional District of Michigan, stands in front of US Capitol Building

Daily Kos, January 31, 2019

Every year, the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC sponsors an all-expense paid trip for Congressional members, seeking to bolster support for Israel. In most recent years, the Democratic trip has been led by Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD-5). Incoming Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (CA-32) is expected to lead the Republican delegation.

These junkets gloss over the daily, decades-long pervasive violation of Palestinian’s rights by the Israeli government. They serve as a platform for the Israeli government to present its views unchallenged. AIPAC and the Israeli government prioritize new legislators, hoping to influence their formative views.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), who is the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress announced last month that she will not participate in this one-sided propaganda trip. Instead, she plans to lead a competing delegation on a tour of the West Bank.

Well, it seems this is not sitting well with several of her colleagues, who consider it dangerously presumptuous of a Palestinian-American woman to lead a delegation to her family’s home.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., told Al-Monitor this week that he’s against a West Bank delegation.

Instead of her talking about things, she’s new here, she ought to listen and learn and open her mind and then come to some conclusions,” Engel told Al-Monitor. “If you’re going to be close-minded and have your views, no one’s going to change her views. But I would hope that once you’re elected to Congress, you would at least care to see the other side of the coin.” — www.al-monitor.com/…

Official Congressional delegations must be approved by the House speaker or the chair of a committee the Representative sits on. Though Rep. Tlaib isn’t on Rep. Engel’s committee, since he sits on Foreign Affairs, his views carry weight with others. Rep. Tlaib knows this.

Rep. Tlaib is showing an enormous amount of maturity here.

TAKE ACTION: If you’re a constituent, write Rep. Tlaib’s office here to let her know you support her delegation. If you’re not, write your Representative and ask that they accompany Rep. Tlaib.

There is no value in powerful US lawmakers receiving one-sided views. Yet, that is exactly what many others in Congress want.

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DESTINATION: OCCUPATION
by Amnesty International

DIGITAL TOURISM AND ISRAEL’S ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Allowing some properties and attractions to be listed as being in “Israel”, as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor do, not only deceives users, but also helps conceal information that can help reveal the illegal nature of the settlements.

In this report Amnesty International exposes how four leading online tourism companies and global brands — TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb — are listing places to stay or things to do in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

They are promoting these listings, and profiting from them, despite knowing that these Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and are at the root of a wide range of human rights violations suffered by Palestinian communities.

Amnesty International is calling on these companies to stop providing these listings, and on governments around the world to take regulatory action to prevent companies such as these from doing business in or with Israel’s illegal settlements.

Amnesty Intl MDE1594902019ENGLISH

Prominent Democrats Form Pro-Israel Group to Counter Skepticism on the Left


Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee policy conference in Washington last March. (Sipa, via Associated Press)

Jonathan Martin, New York Times, Jan. 28, 2019

WASHINGTON — Several prominent veteran Democrats, alarmed by the party’s drift from its longstanding alignment with Israel, are starting a new political group that will try to counter the rising skepticism on the left toward the Jewish state by supporting lawmakers and candidates in 2020 who stand unwaveringly with the country.

With polls showing that liberals and younger voters are increasingly less sympathetic to Israel, and a handful of vocal supporters of Palestinian rights arriving in Congress, the new group — the Democratic Majority for Israel — is planning to wage a campaign to remind elected officials about what they call the party’s shared values and interests with one of America’s strongest allies.

“Most Democrats are strongly pro-Israel and we want to keep it that way,” said Mark Mellman, the group’s president and a longtime Democratic pollster. “There are a few discordant voices, but we want to make sure that what’s a very small problem doesn’t metastasize into a bigger problem.”

The group, whose board includes former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and a former Clinton administration housing secretary, Henry Cisneros, will create a political action committee later this year and may engage in Democratic primaries, Mr. Mellman said. They also are planning an “early states project” with the goal of organizing pro-Israel Democrats in the first nominating states to lobby the party’s presidential hopefuls.

For many traditional Democratic supporters of Israel, there is a deepening concern that voters in America’s two major political parties appear to be moving apart in how they view the country.

As Republican backing for Israel surges thanks to the rise of evangelicals in their coalition and President Trump’s close alignment with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, an increasingly liberal Democratic Party is growing more uneasy with a country they see as an oppressor of a marginalized group, the Palestinians.

The shift on Israel reflects the larger Democratic tilt toward a brand of leftist politics that is creating tensions between the party’s old guard and an ascendant progressive wing that has been emboldened by Mr. Trump’s inflammatory politics and the perceived compromises and failures of an earlier generation of moderates.

While the overwhelming majority of congressional Democrats are strong supporters of Israel, the party’s pro-Israel wing has been jolted by election of a pair of high-profile freshman, Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against the country.

Ms. Omar was appointed to a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which drew scorn from Republicans but offers her a prominent perch in the debate over Middle East policy. And Ms. Tlaib drew widespread attention earlier this month when somebody in her office placed a Post-it note that read “Palestine” over Israel on a map in her office.

But they are hardly alone among the newer Democratic lawmakers in taking, at least, a more nuanced view of Israel. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has called the “occupation of Palestine” a humanitarian crisis, and other progressives like Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington have not hesitated to criticize Israel’s use of force against Palestinian protesters.

According to a survey conducted earlier this month by Pew, the share of liberal Democrats who sympathized more with Israel than Palestinians has plummeted from 33 percent to 19 percent in just three years.

“Israel was once seen as much more of the David in the struggle,” Mr. Mellman said. “Now Palestinians are seen as the more put-upon group.”

Attempting to confront this new generation of Israel skeptics in Congress, the Democratic Majority for Israel is firing back with statements of support from other, young Democratic lawmakers who support the party’s traditional ties to the Jewish state.

Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, was appointed to a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, which offers her a prominent perch in the debate over Middle East policy. (Sarah Silbiger/The New York Times)

“The relationship between the United States and Israel is a special one that is rooted in shared values, an important strategic partnership in the Middle East, perhaps the world’s toughest neighborhood, and a mutual commitment to a lasting two state solution,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the fourth-ranking Democrat and a potential future speaker. “I look forward to working with the Democratic Majority for Israel as it advances the unbreakable US-Israel bond into the future.”

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U.S. Senate Defends Israeli Government From Boycotts

First and Bipartisan Bill in the Midst of the Shutdown


Chuck Schumer speaking at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., on March 5, 2018. (Sipa USA via AP)

Ryan Grim and Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept, January 5 2019

When each new Congress is gaveled into session, the chambers attach symbolic importance to the first piece of legislation to be considered. For that reason, it bears the lofty designation of H.R.1 in the House and S.1 in the Senate.

In the newly controlled Democratic House, H.R.1 — meant to signal the new majority’s priorities — is an anti-corruption bill that combines election and campaign finance reform, strengthening of voting rights, and matching public funds for small-dollar candidates. In the 2017 Senate, the GOP-controlled S.1 was a bill, called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” that, among other provisions, cut various forms of corporate taxes.

But in the 2019 GOP-controlled Senate, the first bill to be considered — S.1 — is not designed to protect American workers, bolster U.S. companies, or address the various debates over border security and immigration. It’s not a bill to open the government. Instead, according to multiple sources involved in the legislative process, S.1 will be a compendium containing a handful of foreign policy-related measures, the main one of which is a provision — with Florida’s GOP Sen. Marco Rubio as a lead sponsor — to defend the Israeli government. The bill is a top legislative priority for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

In the previous Congress, that measure was known as S.170, and it gives state and local governments explicit legal authority to boycott any U.S. companies which themselves are participating in a boycott against Israel. As The Intercept reported last month, 26 states now have enacted some version of a law to punish or otherwise sanction entities that participate in or support the boycott of Israel, while similar laws are pending in at least 13 additional states. Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen the legal basis to defend those Israel-protecting laws from constitutional challenge.

Punishment aimed at companies that choose to boycott Israel can also sweep up individual American citizens in its punitive net because individual contractors often work for state or local governments under the auspices of a sole proprietorship or some other business entity. That was the case with Texas elementary school speech pathologist Bahia Amawi, who lost her job working with autistic and speech-impaired children in Austin because she refused to promise not to boycott goods produced in Israel and/or illegal Israeli settlements.

Thus far, the two federal courts that have ruled on such bills have declared them to be unconstitutional violations of the First Amendment speech rights of American citizens. “A restriction of one’s ability to participate in collective calls to oppose Israel unquestionably burdens the protected expression of companies wishing to engage in such a boycott,” U.S. District Court Judge Diane Humetewa of Arizona wrote in her decision issuing a preliminary injunction against the law in a case brought last September by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of “an attorney who has contracted with the state for the last 12 years to provide legal services on behalf of incarcerated individuals,” but lost his contract to do so after he refused to sign an oath pledging not to boycott Israel.

A similar ruling was issued in January of last year by a Kansas federal judge, who ruled that state’s Israel oath law unconstitutional on the ground that “the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.” In that case, a Mennonite who was a longtime public school teacher lost her independent contract as a school curriculum developer after she followed her church’s decision to boycott goods from Israeli companies in the occupied West Bank and thus, refused to sign the oath required by Kansas law.

These are the Israel-defending, free speech-punishing laws that Rubio’s bill is designed to strengthen. Although Rubio is the chief sponsor, his bill attracted broad bipartisan support, as is true of most bills designed to protect Israel and supported by AIPAC. Rubio’s bill last Congress was co-sponsored by several Democrats who are still in the Senate: Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Ron Wyden of Oregon, and Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan.

The support among Democrats for bills that would punish supporters of the Boycott Israel movement is now particularly awkward given that two of the most prominent newly elected Democratic members — Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first two Muslim women in Congress — are both supporters of that Israel boycott.

Last year, Cardin introduced a bill that would have criminalized participation in international boycotts of Israel, and it was on the verge of passing with significant bipartisan support until the ACLU sounded the alarm on how gravely unconstitutional that bill was. Once The Intercept reported on the mechanics of the bill and the covert effort to enact it with little attention, numerous Democratic senators announced that they were reconsidering their support, stalling the bill’s enactment. Though Cardin attempted to pass a watered-down version in the lame-duck session, it is now Rubio’s Israel-defending bill that has taken center stage even as the U.S. government is in the midst of a shutdown for American citizens.

That the newly elected U.S. Congress would choose to prioritize protection of this foreign nation — at the expense of the constitutional rights of American citizens and over countless bills that would help Americans — was only one of the stinging criticisms voiced to The Intercept by ACLU Senior Legislative Counsel Kathleen Ruane:

In the midst of a partial government shutdown, Democratic and Republican senators have decided that one of their first orders of business next week should be to sneak through a bill that would weaken Americans’ First Amendment protections. The bill, Combatting BDS Act, encourages states to adopt the very same anti-boycott laws that two federal courts blocked on First Amendment grounds. The legislation, like the unconstitutional state anti-boycott laws it condones, sends a message to Americans that they will be penalized if they dare to disagree with their government. We therefore urge senators to vote no on the Combatting BDS Act next week.

With the seven Democratic co-sponsors, the bill would have the 60 votes it needs to overcome a filibuster. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. — who supported Cardin’s far more draconian bill of last year and is one of the Senate’s most reliable AIPAC loyalists — also plans to support the Rubio bill, rather than whip votes against it, sources working on the bill said. Schumer’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

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CODEPINK: Bank of NY Mellon — Divest from Elbit Systems

CODEPINK, December 31, 2018

Huge News! Last week HSBC Bank in the UK announced it will be divesting from Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest weapons company, citing international law and human rights concerns.

The exciting news comes on the heels of several victories for Palestinian rights in just the past couple of month — NYU ending its relationship with Tel Aviv university, Airbnb withdrawing from illegal Israeli settlements, and newly elected Congress members announcing support for BDS and that they will skip the trip to Israel with AIPAC.

Inspired by the UK’s victory and ready for lots more wins in 2019, we are calling on Wall Street-based Bank of NY Mellon to follow HSBC’s lead and divest from Elbit.

Bank of NY Mellon claims to be committed to socially responsible investment and the UN Sustainable Development goals, but holds over $6 million worth of shares in Elbit Systems. Elbit manufactures drones and surveillance technology, cannons for internationally banned cluster munitions, and white phosphorus, used on the people of Gaza in 2008-2009. Elbit also contracts with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for surveillance along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Last month we visited BNY Mellon’s headquarters in lower Manhattan to hand deliver our letter to Chair of Corporate Social Responsibility Heidi DuBois outlining the many ways that Elbit is responsible for death, repression, and war crimes. Her response was that they take the issues we raise “very seriously” but that investments reflect fiduciary responsibilities to clients.

Help us tell BNY Mellon there is nothing sustainable about war crimes, surveillance, and occupation. Divest from Elbit Systems!

Last week’s victory by UK campaigners shows that persistent organizing works. Let’s put the pressure on BNY Mellon to live up to the corporate social responsibility values they claim to hold. Join us in telling them to divest from Elbit.

The Israeli military is able to maintain its oppression of Palestinians due to military hardware created by Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems and financed by international banks. Bank of NY Mellon claims to be committed to socially responsible investment and the UN Sustainable Development goals but holds over $6 million worth of shares in Elbit Systems.

Elbit manufactures surveillance and weaponized drones, surveillance technology, and white phosphorus, a substance of chemical warfare. They recently sold Israel cannons for internationally banned cluster munitions. In the U.S., Elbit contracts with the Department of Homeland Security for surveillance along the U.S. Mexico border.

From Palestine to Mexico, Elbit is profiting from war crimes, repression, and death. Tell BNY Mellon to divest from Elbit Systems and all companies that profit from violence.


Dear Ms. Heidi DuBois (Global Head of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility) and Mr. Charles Scharf (CEO):

It has come to our attention that BNY Mellon is invested in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company.

Elbit Systems has been involved in all of the major assaults Israel has undertaken against the Palestinian people in Gaza including the 2008-2009 assault on Gaza which killed over 1,400 people; the 2011 assault which killed over 150 people; and the 2014 assault which killed over 2000 people. In each of these assaults the majority of those killed were civilians. For example, in the 2014 assault, over 550 children were killed by Israel. Since March 30, 2018 Israel has used snipers to kill more than 200 Palestinians including children, medics and clearly marked press while thousands more have been seriously injured.

Elbit produces cannons to shoot cluster munitions, despite an international treaty signed by 108 countries banning their use, stockpiling, and transfer; white phosphorus, used against civilians in Gaza during the 2008-2009 war; weaponized and surveillance drones; and surveillance systems used on the separation wall in the West Bank – deemed illegal by the International Criminal Court – and surveillance systems used on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Investing in Elbit Systems undermines efforts for a peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinian people and ignores guidance from the U.N. and human rights organizations.

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