What Is Israel Trying to Hide?

Reps. Tlaib & Omar Blocked from Taking Official Trip to West Bank


Democracy Now!  August 16, 2019

    GUESTS
    Mustafa Barghouti
    member of the Palestinian Parliament, secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative, a political party. He was a presidential candidate in the 2005 elections.
    Rebecca Vilkomerson
    executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

Israel sparked outrage Thursday when it banned two freshman Democratic congresswomen of color — Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — from entering the country. Following outcry from Democratic leaders and Palestinians, Israel granted permission for Tlaib to enter the country on “humanitarian” grounds to visit her family in the West Bank — though Tlaib said Friday she will not visit her family under such conditions. Israel originally denied entrance to Tlaib and Omar after President Donald Trump tweeted, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people.” Congressmembers Tlaib and Omar are the first two Muslim women elected to Congress, and were planning to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank. Both congresswomen have voiced support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, movement, a global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. We speak with Mustafa Barghouti, a member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative political party, and Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Israel has announced it will conditionally allow Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib to visit family in the West Bank, a day after it barred both Tlaib and fellow Congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering Israel to travel to occupied Palestine. Israel is still refusing entry to Omar. Israel initially blocked entry to both lawmakers after President Trump took the unprecedented step of publicly urging Israel to bar entry to the women, the first two female Muslim members of Congress. Trump tweeted Thursday, “It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep.Tlaib to visit. They hate Israel & all Jewish people,” he tweeted.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended his decision Thursday. Israeli prime minister defended the decision to bar both the U.S. lawmakers.

PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: [translated] By law, we are not willing to admit anyone into Israel who calls for the boycott of the state of Israel and acts to delegitimize the state of the Jews.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli authorities say Congressmember Tlaib will now be allowed entry on “humanitarian” grounds to visit her ailing 90-year-old grandmother, on the condition she does not promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement during her visit. Both Congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar have voiced support for the BDS movement, the global solidarity campaign with the Palestinian people. The nonviolent movement seeks to use economic and cultural pressure to force Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands. The congresswomen were planning to tour East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

After learning of the ban, Congressmember Ilhan Omar released a statement that read, in part, quote, “It is an affront that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, under pressure from President Trump, would deny entry to representatives of the U.S. government. Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing, this time against two duly elected Members of Congress,” she said.

Both centrist and progressive Democrats criticized Israel’s move and Trump’s statements. U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Israel to reconsider its decision. Meanwhile, Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, “I cannot move forward with scheduling any visits to Israel until all members of Congress are allowed.” Despite outcry from Democratic leaders, as well as Palestinians, President Trump doubled down on his position later on Thursday.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They are very anti-Jewish, and they’re very anti-Israel. I think it’s disgraceful, the things they’ve said. You have lists of — this isn’t just a one-line mistake. What they’ve said about Israel and Jewish people is a horrible thing, and they’ve become the face of the Democrat Party. So, I did absolutely put out a very strong statement. I think if you look at their language, if you look at what they’ve said, if I ever said it, it would be a — it would be a horrible — it would be a horrible month, to put it mildly. So, the things that they’ve said, Omar, Tlaib, what they’ve said is disgraceful. So I can’t imagine why Israel would let them in.

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Israel Denies Entry to Omar and Tlaib After Trump’s Call to Block Them


Isabel Kershner, Sheryl Gay Stolberg and Peter Baker, New York Times, Aug. 15, 2019

JERUSALEM — Under intense pressure from President Trump, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government on Thursday barred two members of the United States Congress from entering Israel, reversing a previous decision to admit two of the president’s most outspoken critics.

By enlisting a foreign power to take action against two American citizens, let alone elected members of Congress, Mr. Trump crossed a line that other presidents have not, in effect exporting his partisan battles beyond the country’s borders. And he demonstrated the lengths that he will go to to target his domestic opponents, in this case two of the congresswomen of color he has sought to make the face of the Democratic Party heading into his re-election campaign.

In blocking the visits of the two Democratic congresswomen, who are both Muslim, Mr. Netanhyahu cited their support for boycotting Israel, acceding to the wishes of the American president, who declared on Twitter shortly before Israel’s announcement that letting them in would “show great weakness.”

[Is B.D.S. anti-Semitic? A closer look at the boycott Israel campaign.]

The move not only inflamed the politics of both countries, it joined Mr. Trump and Mr. Netanyahu even more closely as partners against their mutual adversaries as the prime minister faces a critical election next month.

Speaking with reporters before flying to Manchester, N.H., for a rally, Mr. Trump would not say whether he spoke directly with Mr. Netanyahu about the matter but acknowledged that he “did speak with people” privately even before tweeting about it.

The congresswomen, Representatives Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, are vocal supporters of the Palestinians and the movement called Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or B.D.S.

The president has repeatedly attacked them, along with Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ayanna S. Pressley of Massachusetts, at one point demanding that they “go back” to their home countries, even though they are all American citizens.

Israel’s decision was criticized not only by Democrats but also by some top Republicans, including Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, also said it was a mistake.

In a statement, Mr. Netanyahu said Israel respects Congress but defended the decision. “As a free and vibrant democracy,” he said, “Israel is open to critics and criticism, with one exception: Israeli law prohibits the entry into Israel of those who call for, and work to impose, boycotts on Israel, as do other democracies that prevent the entry of people believed to be damaging to the country.”

Mr. Trump, who has sought to elevate a handful of controversial but relatively powerless liberal freshmen of color into symbols of the opposition, promptly welcomed the decision on Twitter. “Representatives Omar and Tlaib are the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel!” he wrote.

His ambassador to Israel, David M. Friedman, said Israel had “every right to protect its borders” against activists who support the boycott movement, which he deemed “no less than economic warfare.”

Ms. Omar, who has drawn criticism even from fellow Democrats for engaging in anti-Semitic tropes in criticizing Israel, said the decision to bar them was “an affront” to freedom.

“The irony of the ‘only democracy’ in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials from an allied nation,” she said in a statement.


President Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel in March at the White House. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

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Fordham University Students Win Landmark Fight to Establish Palestine Club

Judge Orders University to Recognize Students for Justice in Palestine Club


Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University

Center for Constitutional Rights, August 6, 2019

New York— Five Fordham University students have won a landmark legal victory against Fordham University, which sought to prohibit them from forming a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club at their university. The students, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, and cooperating counsel Alan Levine, argued that Fordham University violated its own rules when, in 2016, it vetoed the United Student Government’s approval of SJP, preventing the students from forming the SJP club. 

The court annulled Fordham’s decision to deny SJP club status, finding it arbitrary and capricious, as nothing in Fordham’s rules permitted it to “reject an application of a student club because it criticized the policies of only one nation.” In her ruling, Justice Nancy Bannon stated that “it must be concluded that [Fordham University’s] disapproval of SJP was made in large part because the subject of SJP’s criticism is the State of Israel, rather than some other nation, in spite of the fact that SJP advocates only legal, nonviolent tactics aimed at changing Israel’s policies.” 

Justice Bannon noted that “the consideration and discussion of differing views is actually part of Fordham’s mission, regardless of whether that consideration and discussion might discomfit some and polarize others.”  

Awad, et al. v. Fordham University is the first lawsuit in the country challenging institutional censorship of students advocating for justice in Palestine, and this win marks the first major legal victory for free speech for advocates of Palestine on college campuses.

“The administration unfairly hindered my and my fellow classmates’ abilities to advocate for the human rights of Palestinians,” said Ahmad Awad, who graduated from Fordham University in 2017. “Although over 1,000 days have passed since we initiated the process for club status, I did not give up on my fight for human rights and free speech. I continued to advocate for justice in Palestine, and now because of Justice Bannon’s order, no Fordham student will be restricted or prohibited from advocating for justice in Palestine.”

Said Veer Shetty, whose attorneys argued on his behalf in February to add him to the complaint since the last remaining original petitioner graduated in May, “I am beyond happy that Justice Bannon chose to uphold the supposed values of our university and academic freedom. A huge thank you goes to everyone who worked on our behalf. Fordham’s Students for Justice in Palestine would not exist today without all of their tireless efforts. We, as a new club, will be equally tireless in our efforts to fight for the rights and dignity of the Palestinian people.”

Said Sapphira Lurie, who graduated from Fordham University in 2017, “When universities promise they are ‘committed to research and education that assist in the alleviation of poverty, the promotion of justice, the protection of human rights and respect for the environment,’ as Fordham defines its university’s characteristics, they must allow students to pursue this education. Rather than allow Fordham’s administration to impose its backwards and imperialist politics on us, we were victorious in the fight for students’ rights to organize for justice for Palestine. This victory shows that when we fight back, we can win. Free Palestine!”

The lawsuit, filed in April 2017, argued that Fordham’s veto of the student government’s approval of SJP was arbitrary and capricious, violating its own policies. In November 2017, the students filed a motion for a preliminary injunction asking the court to direct the university to recognize SJP urgently, as some of the students had graduated and others would soon graduate. Last night, Justice Bannon granted the students’ petition and unambiguously ordered Fordham University to “recognize Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University as a university-sanctioned club…”

“We are thrilled that students at Fordham will finally be able to form a Students for Justice in Palestine club,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood. “The students’ support for Palestinian rights and their demand to freely express that support truly exemplify Fordham’s stated values, unlike the Administration’s shameful actions here.” 

Said Levine, “Fordham’s decision to deny recognition to Students for Justice in Palestine was so utterly arbitrary and irrational that it can only be understood in the context of the nationwide effort to silence those voices seeking justice for Palestinians. In succumbing to those forces, Fordham abandoned its obligation to foster critical points of view on matters of public concern. Justice Bannon’s principled decision reasserts the judiciary’s role to ensure that voices of marginalized communities will be heard. Nothing could be more important at this moment.”

Said Radhika Sainath, senior staff attorney at Palestine Legal, “The judge rightly recognized that students trying to start an SJP were being singled out for censorship because they cared about Palestinian freedom. But yesterday’s decision makes clear, there can be no Palestine exception to speech at Fordham.”

Palestine Legal and the Center for Constitutional Rights have documented “the Palestine Exception” to free speech, the broad and growing pattern of suppression of activism for Palestinian rights across the United States, particularly on college campuses. Tactics used to suppress Palestine advocacy include administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, baseless legal complaints, legislative attacks, and false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism. Palestine Legal has documented 1,247 incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights between 2014 and 2018.

For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.

Palestine Legal is an independent organization dedicated to protecting the civil and constitutional rights of people in the US who speak out for Palestinian freedom. Our mission is to bolster the Palestine solidarity movement by challenging efforts to threaten, harass and legally bully activists into silence and inaction. Visit www.palestinelegal.org and follow @pal_legal.

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Why Americans Should Support BDS


Demonstrators protest New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s McCarthyite executive order requiring state agencies to divest from organizations that support the Palestinian call to boycott companies profiting from, or cultural or academic institutions complicit in, Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, June 9, 2016. (Sipa via AP Images)

Omar Barghouti, The Nation, July 29, 2019

Last Tuesday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution, H. Res. 246, targeting the grassroots, global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights that I helped found in 2005. Sadly, H. Res. 246, which fundamentally mischaracterizes our goals and misrepresents my own personal views, is only the latest attempt by Israel’s supporters in Congress to demonize and suppress our peaceful struggle.

H. Res. 246 is a sweeping condemnation of Americans who advocate for Palestinian rights using BDS tactics. It reinforces other unconstitutional anti-boycott measures, including those passed by some 27 state legislatures, that are reminiscent of “McCarthy era tactics,” according to the American Civil Liberties Union. It also exacerbates the oppressive atmosphere that Palestinians and their supporters already face, further chilling speech critical of Israel at a time when President Donald Trump is publicly smearing members of Congress who speak out in support of Palestinian freedom.

In response to H. Res. 246 and similarly repressive legislative measures, House member Ilhan Omar, joined by Rashida Tlaib, civil rights icon John Lewis, and 12 other co-sponsors, introduced H. Res. 496, which defends “the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.”

Inspired by the US civil rights and South African anti-apartheid movements, BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation, full equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to the homeland they were uprooted from.

BDS categorically opposes all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism. Contrary to the false claim in H. Res. 246, BDS does not target individuals, but rather institutions and corporations that are implicated in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.

H. Res. 246 also includes a specific smear against me that has been pushed by Israel lobby groups like AIPAC by quoting a single, out-of-context sentence from a talk I gave in 2013. The same false assertion is repeated in a similar Senate Resolution, S. Res. 120.

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Landmark Ruling Strikes Down Ban of Israel Boycott

Arsalan Bukhari, Informed Comment, 04/26/2019

WASHINGTON, D.C. (CAIR News Release) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed this afternoon’s landmark victory in CAIR’s First Amendment lawsuit on behalf of Bahia Amawi, the Texas speech language pathologist who lost her job because she refused to sign a “No Boycott of Israel” clause.

The CAIR Legal Defense Fund filed the lawsuit in December 2018 challenging Texas Anti-BDS Act, H.B. 89. CAIR actively challenges similar measures around the country, including in Arizona and Maryland.

SEE: CAIR Files Motion to Enjoin Texas Anti-BDS Act as Unconstitutional

This afternoon Judge Pitman of the Western District of Texas issued a 56-page opinion striking down H.B. 89, the Texas Anti-BDS Act, as facially unconstitutional.

READ: The Judge’s Opinion

The Court held that the Texas Anti-BDS Act “threatens to suppress unpopular ideas” and “manipulate the public debate” on Israel and Palestine “through coercion rather than persuasion.” The Court concluded: “This the First Amendment does not allow.”

Every single “No Boycott of Israel” clause in every single state contract in Texas has today been stricken as unconstitutional. The Attorney General of Texas is no longer permitted to include or enforce “No Boycott of Israel” clauses in any state contract.

Bahia Amawi can also now return to work as a speech language pathologist. Amawi received the news of her victory while driving, and pulled over to the side of the road to shed tears of joy. “God is great,” she exclaimed.

“Arabic-speaking schoolchildren in Texas have been deprived of critical services from Bahia Amawi for almost this entire schoolyear because of this unconstitutional law,” said CAIR National Litigation Director Lena Masri. “Today we welcome a victory for the First Amendment.”

“This is a complete victory of the First Amendment against Texas’s attempts to suppress speech in support of Palestine,” said CAIR Senior Litigation Attorney Gadeir Abbas. “More importantly, it’s a complete victory for all Texans, to engage in political speech without government censorship.”

“The First Amendment blocks any effort by state governments or the federal government from forcing their citizens to take sides in the widespread international debate about the relationship between Israel and Palestine,” said CAIR Trial Attorney Carolyn Homer. “This is a lesson all public servants should remember when considering Anti-BDS measures around the country.”

“Bahia Amawi has been an inspiration to the Muslim community and all advocates for free speech in Texas,” said CAIR-Austin Executive Director Maira Sheikh.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, protect civil rights, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.


Video from Informed Comment

Democracy Now! Dec 18, 2018: “Meet the Texas Speech Pathologist Who Lost School Job for Refusing to Sign Pro-Israel, Anti-BDS Oath”

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The Director of Human Rights Watch in Israel Is Being Deported

Ilan Ben Zion, Time Magazine, April 17, 2019

(JERUSALEM) — An Israeli court on Tuesday upheld a deportation order against Human Rights Watch’s local director and gave him two weeks to leave the country.

The Jerusalem District Court rejected an appeal by Omar Shakir to remain in the country, saying that his activities against Israel’s West Bank settlements amount to a boycott of the country.

Israel enacted a law in 2017 barring entry to any foreigner who “knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel.” Tuesday’s ruling was the first time the law was applied to someone already residing in the country.

Shakir, a U.S. citizen, has worked as the New York-based group’s Israel and Palestine director since October 2016.

Israel’s interior minister ordered Shakir’s deportation in May 2018, calling him a “boycott activist.”

The court said that Shakir “continues his actions publicly to advance a boycott against Israel, but it’s not on the stages at conferences or in university panels, rather through disseminating his calls to advance boycott primarily through his Twitter account and by other means.”

It cited Shakir’s support on Twitter for AirBnb’s decision to remove postings from Israeli settlements in the West Bank as an example. AirBnb later backtracked on that decision.

Human Rights Watch said neither the organization nor Shakir promotes Israel boycotts, but has called for companies to cease operations in West Bank settlements because they “inherently benefit from and contribute to serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Israel captured the West Bank, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, in the 1967 Mideast war. Palestinians seek these territories for a future state. Most of the international community considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank illegal.

The court upheld the law applying to boycotts of “areas under (Israel’s) control,” namely the West Bank, not just of Israel proper.

Human Rights Watch said the court’s ruling “threatens the ability of all Human Rights Watch staff members to access both Israel and the West Bank.”

“The decision sends the chilling message that those who criticize the involvement of businesses in serious abuses in Israeli settlements risk being barred from Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank,” said Tom Porteous, deputy program director at Human Rights Watch.

The court gave Shakir until May 1 to leave the country. The group said it would appeal the decision and seek an injunction blocking the deportation while legal proceedings continue.

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I co-founded the BDS movement. Why was I denied entry to the US?

With this denial of entry, Israel appears to have once again enlisted the Trump administration to do its bidding


“Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left.” (Photograph: Nasser Nasser/AP)

Omar Barghouti, The Guardian, 16 Apr 2019

Last Wednesday, as I was preparing to depart for the United States for a series of speaking engagements, I was abruptly stopped and prevented from boarding my flight at Ben Gurion airport. The US consulate informed the airline staff that US immigration has banned me from entering the country, despite having a valid visa, without providing a reason.

Given my regular, unhindered travel to the US for years, this ban seems to be an ideologically and politically motivated measure that fits in with Israel’s escalating repression against human rights defenders. Israel’s far-right regime is not merely continuing its decades-old system of military occupation, apartheid and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians, it is increasingly outsourcing its anti-democratic tactics to the US.

As a co-founder of the nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, I have been smeared by the Israeli government and banned from travel repeatedly, including in 2018 when I was prevented from going to Jordan to accompany my late mother during cancer surgery. Israel’s intelligence minister threatened me with “targeted civil elimination”, drawing condemnation from Amnesty International. Their de facto and “arbitrary travel ban” against me was recently lifted for three months after Amnesty International’s pressure.

On this US trip, I was scheduled to meet with policymakers and journalists and to address the critical need for cutting US complicity in Israel’s grave violations of Palestinian rights before audiences at New York University, Harvard, a black community bookstore in Philadelphia and the Tzedek Chicago synagogue. Afterwards, I was going to attend my daughter’s wedding in Houston.

I have decided not to miss any of my speaking engagements, joining via video in the middle of my nights, but I cannot possibly compensate the personal loss of missing my daughter’s wedding. I am hurt, but I am far from deterred.

Since Trump took office, he has repeatedly signaled his deep bias in favor of Israel. His Middle East team, Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt and David Friedman, with their fervent support for Israel’s illegal settlements and other crimes, must be the most dishonest broker in the history of US “peacemaking”. He has recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Syrian Golan Heights in violation of international law and more than seven decades of official US policy.

Meanwhile, members of Congress and politicians in 27 states have passed laws intended to suppress the voices of Americans who support BDS. The ACLU has condemned these repressive measures as an unconstitutional violation of free speech that is “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths”.

All of this has emboldened Israel’s hardline rightwing government to accelerate its racist, oppressive policies towards the Palestinian people. Over the last year, Israeli soldiers have massacred hundreds and injured thousands of unarmed Palestinian protesters demanding refugee rights and freedom from the open-air prison that Israel has turned Gaza into.

Last summer, Israel’s parliament passed the so-called “Jewish nation-state” law, which constitutionally enshrines an apartheid reality that has existed for many years. And Israel’s government has buried the so-called two-state solution by continuing its relentless theft of Palestinian land for illegal settlements, while at the same time increasing pressure on human rights defenders, particularly BDS advocates.

During the recent election campaign, Netanyahu promised to begin annexing the West Bank and repeatedly incited against Palestinian citizens of Israel, declaring, “Israel is not a state of all its citizens … Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.” He will now likely form a government even more extreme and intransigent than the last, which was the most racist in Israel’s history.

Some Palestinians are now helplessly anticipating a far-right Israeli tsunami that will wipe out whatever rights we have left, but many are intensifying popular resistance, including BDS, calling for impactful solidarity and ending international complicity.

Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid and the US civil rights movements, BDS calls for cultural, economic and political pressure on Israel to end its military rule over Palestinian and Syrian territories occupied since 1967, grant equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognize the UN-stipulated right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin, a universal right that applies to all refugees. It is supported by the overwhelming majority of Palestinian society.

Americans have a long and honorable history of using boycotts for social, political and economic justice causes against the Montgomery Bus company, California grape growers, the states of North Carolina and Arizona over anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant laws, respectively, and now against Trump’s racist agenda. Similarly, Palestinians seek to use peaceful economic leverage to achieve our liberation.

With its inclusive, anti-racist principles, BDS rejects all forms of bigotry, and appeals to progressives everywhere. Its tactics have been adopted by a number of US mainline churches, student governments in tens of universities, academic associations and racial and social justice groups, who wish to avoid being complicit in the suffering of Palestinians.

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