Biden needs to reverse Pompeo on Israel/Palestine


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make a joint statement after meeting in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool)

Tsela Barr and Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, The Cap Times, Dec 4, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in another lame-duck effort to tie the hands of the incoming administration and give a parting gift to the far right in Israel and to right-wing Christian Evangelicals at home, has just poured kerosene on the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The most senior U.S. official ever to publicly visit an Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, Pompeo proclaimed that settlement-produced goods imported to the U.S. will no longer be labeled as they had previously been, “made in West Bank/Gaza.” Instead, they can now be labeled “made in Israel,” despite the fact that neither U.S. law, nor the United Nations, recognizes Israel’s de facto annexation of large swaths of Palestinian territory.

Trump and Pompeo hope to drive one more nail in the coffin of long-standing official U.S. policy, which, while not sufficiently supportive of the aspirations of the Palestinians for legitimate self-governance on their own land, at least until now has held the settlement enterprise to be illegal, illegitimate, counterproductive to the cause of regional peace and stability, and even damaging to Israel’s own interests.

But there is an even more dangerous part of Pompeo’s pronouncements: that henceforth, the U.S. will officially label the international grassroots movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as anti-Semitic and will create what amounts to a blacklist of organizations that support it.

The BDS movement is an international effort by millions of people to try to pressure the Israeli government to respect the human, political and economic rights of Palestinians. It is inspired by a similar movement that targeted and helped overthrow apartheid rule in South Africa.

While, as American Jews, we have serious concerns about rising anti-Semitism, which is traditionally defined as hostility to, prejudice toward, or discrimination against Jews, we are united in opposition to labeling BDS (or other criticism of Israeli policies), as anti-Semitic and even worse, to using the power of governments at all levels to outlaw or punish the BDS movement.

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Pompeo Labels BDS Antisemitic, Threatens Blacklist

This week Pompeo broke with longstanding U.S. policy and visited illegal Israeli settlements. On his trip, he made several announcements, including that the State Department is designating BDS as antisemitic and calling for the U.S. Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to create what is essentially a blacklist of organizations that support BDS. We will have more on this soon, but for now:

  • Please share the JVP Action statement condemning this widely (this is compliant to share on chapter lists and chapter social media). You can also re-share our petition to the State Department on this issue.
  • Here are other statements you can check out and lift up:
  • DNC Delegates Demand Apology from the Biden Campaign

    Attacks on Palestinian-American Delegate Linda Sarsour

    After DNC delegate and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour spoke at an official DNC event of the Muslim Delegates and Allies Assembly on August 18th, 2020, Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the Joe Biden campaign, issued a statement saying,

    “Joe Biden has been a strong supporter of Israel and a vehement opponent of anti-Semitism his entire life, and he obviously condemns her views and opposes BDS, as does the Democratic platform. She has no role in the Biden campaign whatsoever.”

    As Palestinian-American delegates and allies, we stand by our fellow Palestinian-American delegate Linda Sarsour and condemn any effort to exclude elected national DNC delegates from official DNC events. We reject efforts to marginalize and demonize the Palestinian narrative. We also call upon the Democratic National Committee to renew its commitment to its own core principles of equality and justice for all.

    The DNC seeks to represent an inclusive and diverse population and should not discriminate against any segment on the basis of ethnicity, religion or political dissent. The vast majority of Democratic voters are calling for accountability, including BDS as a nonviolent form of curbing Israeli violations and challenging Israel’s impunity. The statement by the Biden campaign has willfully dropped the reference to freedom of speech from its platform language quote in the rush to malign, condemn and exclude Sarsour. Such an attack goes against the principles of the Democratic Party and the 2020 Democratic Party Platform to end systemic racism and to build a coalition.

    While we recognize the prevalence of anti-Semitism, criticism of Israel must not be conflated with anti-Semitism. Israel has repeatedly violated international humanitarian law and human rights as well as American international aid conditionality. Moreover, Jake Tapper of CNN has a history of singling out Palestinian-Americans, Muslim-Americans and anyone who stands behind Palestinian human rights or criticizes the Israeli occupation.

    This disavowal of Linda Sarsour reeks of misogyny, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bigotry. It provides a false shield for Israel’s human rights abuses. The Biden campaign must not follow the lead of the Trump administration and should rise above these attacks and make a concerted effort to be inclusive and represent the collective vision for a truly democratic Party.

    Palestinian-American delegates and allies demand an immediate retraction and apology from the Biden campaign that smeared a prominent Palestinian-American activist, undermined her constitutional right to free speech, and weaponized anti-Semitism to silence the just critique of Israeli oppression of Palestinians.

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    Breaking! Fordham University is still trying to silence Students for Justice in Palestine


    July 27, 2020

    July 27, 2020, New York –  Students asked New York’s Appellate Court on Friday to reject an effort by Fordham University to overturn a decision ordering the school to recognize the Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) club. The students are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, and cooperating counsel Alan Levine. 

    “It’s ridiculous to us that our university is still trying to censor us now,” said Veer Shetty, vice president of SJP at Fordham. “We’ve already been active for a year, and appealing the court’s ruling feels especially cruel.”

    The original case stems from a fall 2015 effort by Fordham University students to start a Students for Justice in Palestine club on campus. Administrators dragged out the application process for a year – including multiple meetings, questioning students on their political views, and amendments to SJP’s constitution.

    In November 2016, Fordham’s undergraduate student government approved SJP as a student club. One month later, Fordham University Dean of Students Keith Eldredge took the unprecedented step of vetoing the student government’s approval based on SJP’s “political goals” and the possibility it would lead to “polarization.” 

    The Center for Constitutional Rights, Palestine Legal, and Alan Levine sued Fordham on behalf of four students in April 2017, winning the case in August 2019 when a New York court annulled Fordham’s decision, mandating that the university recognize SJP as an official club. 

    Fordham appealed the ruling in January 2020. Oral argument is expected in the Court’s September term.  

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    Palestinian Rights Organization Challenges Meritless Lawsuit


    06 Mar 2020

    Case is Part of Broader Assault on Human Rights Defenders

    March 6, 2020, Washington, DC – Last night, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR) moved to dismiss a meritless lawsuit filed against it by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and several individuals. Human rights attorneys say the lawsuit targets USCPR’s support of Palestinian rights and is intended to chill them from engaging in constitutionally protected advocacy. 

    “The fact that we’re under attack is no surprise: human rights defenders around the world are under attack from repressive regimes and their allies. This lawsuit is part of this global, right-wing assault on civil society and movements seeking to build a better future for all,” said Ramah Kudaimi, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Deputy Director. “We will not be intimidated, and our work dedicated to the rights of the Palestinian people—work that is grounded in the principles of equal rights, justice, and freedom for all—will continue.”

    Attorneys say the lawsuit makes outlandish claims, casting collective activism and expressions of solidarity as unlawful. Plaintiffs base their far-fetched accusations of conspiracy and material support for terrorism on USCPR’s support for Palestinian rights, including for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law. Their claims also rely on USCPR’s criticism of Israel’s unlawful use of force against Palestinian demonstrators in Gaza who are demanding their internationally recognized right of return to their homes, as well as its participation in the Stop the JNF Campaign aimed at exposing and challenging the JNF’s role in dispossessing Palestinians of their land. 

    In arguing for dismissal of JNF’s lawsuit against USCPR, attorneys emphasized the threat to free speech and association if a group of activists can be sued on such tenuous theories of liability.

    “Anyone who cares about civil liberties and human rights should be deeply concerned by the frivolous and malicious lobbing of accusations of conspiracy and terrorism at a human rights organization,” said Diala Shamas, a staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights. “This case is part of a broader and well-resourced effort to attack advocates for Palestinian rights—whether through anti-boycott legislation, university administrations silencing student activists, or meritless lawsuits filed against supporters of Palestinian human rights. We will continue to support movements as they advocate for rights and dignity.” 

    The JNF, or Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael, is a quasi-state institution in Israel that acquires and administers land for the sole benefit of Jewish people. The JNF has been instrumental in the Israeli state’s dispossession of the Palestinian people. While the JNF has been the target of lawsuits for its discriminatory policies, this is the first time it has tried to use US courts to silence critics.

    Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech. The organizations report the widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism, and baseless legal complaints. Palestine Legal has responded to 1,494 incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights between 2014 and 2019. See 2019 Year in Review

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    Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of 8-year Lawsuit Over Israel Boycott

    Case Dismissed Against Former Board Members of Olympia Food Co-op

    Center for Constitutional Rights, March 9, 2018

    Olympia, WA — A Washington appeals court has upheld a ruling that dismissed a lawsuit against former board members of the Olympia Food Co-op for the co-op’s decision to boycott Israeli goods. The ruling came yesterday in a case that was originally filed in 2011 by five co-op members, purporting to act on behalf of the co-op and seeking to block the boycott and collect monetary damages against the board members. The case was dismissed five months later as a SLAPP, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, but reinstated when Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute was struck down. The ruling affirmed today dismissed the case a second time.

    “As a co-defendant, I am pleased, but not surprised, that the courts have once again found in our favor. When the plaintiffs first threatened to sue us, they promised a nuisance lawsuit, and they have delivered. It is well past time to end this abuse of the legal system by ending this baseless suit,” said defendant Grace Cox.

    The boycott was adopted by the Olympia Food Co-op in 2010 as part of the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against violations of international law and the denial of Palestinian human rights by Israel. Five of the 22,000 Co-op members, two of whom later dropped out of the lawsuit, sued sixteen board members, those who had made the decision to boycott and the board members who were elected after the boycott. Yesterday, the Court of Appeals affirmed dismissal of the case, deferring to the business judgment of the board members, given that they had the authority to adopt the boycott and because there was no evidence of bad faith.

    “In the face of widespread assault, the right to advocate for Palestinian freedom, including via the time-honored tradition of boycotts for social change, has again been vindicated.  This victory demonstrates that although the fight can be long, it’s necessary in order to achieve justice,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood.

    Discovery in the case revealed emails between the plaintiffs celebrating the news from StandWithUs that the lawsuit had successfully discouraged other co-ops from boycotting Israeli goods.  StandWithUs, one of many groups trying to suppress the growing U.S. movement for Palestinian freedom, took credit for filing the case, stating that it was a byproduct of the partnership between StandWithUs and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

    “The Court of Appeals properly deferred to the business judgment of the Co-op board in making their boycott decision, which is a fundamental principle of governance that applies to every nonprofit corporation. It’s unfortunate that the plaintiffs and their funders have dragged these Co-op board members through 8-1/2 years of unnecessary litigation,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

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    To Prison, Again, for Protesting Against Israel’s Colonial Rule

    Israeli activist Jonathan Pollack pens a powerful Op-Ed in Haaretz on his arrest, putting into context his act of solidarity with Palestinians who face altogether different circumstances than his own.

    The Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 2, 2009.
    The Ofer military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, October 2, 2009. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

    Jonathan Pollak, Haaretz, Jan 07, 2020

    I am currently detained in an Israeli jail, the result of refusing to attend or cooperate with criminal charges laid against me and two others for joining Palestinian protests in the West Bank against Israel’s colonial rule. Because I am an Israeli citizen, the proceedings in the case are held in an Israeli court in Jerusalem and not at the military court, where Palestinians are tried.

    >> Police arrest left-wing activist Jonathan Pollak in Haaretz building

    It has been almost nine years since the last time I was incarcerated for more than a day or two. Much has changed since. Politically, reality does not even resemble that of a decade ago, and none of the changes were for the better.

    Politically, the world seems to have lost much of its interest in the Palestinian struggle for liberation, placing Israel at one of the historical peaks of its political strength. I am in no position to discuss the profound changes within Israeli society and how even farther to the right it has drifted. Israeli liberals are much better suited for such a task, because they hold their country dear and feel a sense of belonging that I cannot feel and do not want to feel.


    Jonathan Pollak at Hermon Prison in 2011. (Yaron Kaminsky)

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    Trump strategy to stifle campus organizing for Palestinian rights


    UNC-Chapel Hill Students for Justice in Palestine, December 24, 2012. (Photo: Facebook)

    Josh Ruebner, Mondoweiss, December 12, 2019

    President Trump signed yesterday an Executive Order empowering the federal government to crack down on campus organizing for Palestinian rights under the guise of combating antisemitism. 

    “This is our message to universities: If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject antisemitism,” Trump stated during a White House Hanukkah reception which doubled as a signing ceremony.

    But Trump’s Executive Order has nothing to do with combating the scourge of antisemitism, the revival of which he is greatly responsible for by stoking white supremacy. Instead, it is primarily designed to pressure universities to disallow students to boycott for Palestinian rights. 

    This aim, however, is not self-evident in the text of the Executive Order, which omits any reference to Israel, Palestinians, or BDS. The true intent of Trump’s action is obfuscated in a brief mention that government agencies “shall consider” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism and its associated contemporary examples of antisemitism in determining whether Jewish people have had their civil rights violated under Title VI of Civil Rights Act.

    To be clear, the federal government should ensure that the civil rights of all religious minorities are upheld. And, also to be clear, what the IHRA’s working definition of antisemitism describes, along with many of its contemporary examples, are unambiguously and unimpeachably anti-Jewish bigotry.

    However, some of the IHRA’s examples of antisemitism touching upon criticism of Israel are problematic. These include “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor,” and “applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”

    These vague and subjective examples are designed to be flexible enough to cover large swaths of First Amendment-protected free speech. For example, campus Zionist groups could argue that Jewish students’ civil rights are being violated if a Students for Justice in Palestine chapter advocates for a single, democratic state in which indigenous Palestinians would have equal rights to Jewish Israelis; hosts an academic panel deconstructing Israel’s foundational racist policies and laws; or organizes a campus boycott of Israeli goods to protest Israeli governmental policies without simultaneously and with equal vigor organizing boycotts against every other single country in the world with a parliament.

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    Tell Donald Trump to Stop Using Jews to Shut Down Free Speech

    After a week of antisemitic speech, today Donald Trump is signing an executive order to withhold money from college campuses that tolerate “anti-Israel” movements

    As a Jewish college student, I know that Trump’s order isn’t meant to keep me safe – it’s meant to silence human rights advocates and, in particular, Palestinian and Muslim students.

    Students who speak out against the occupation on college campuses are already targeted and censored. At the University of Michigan, where I go to school, Palestinian students know that sharing their stories publicly might mean being added to shady online blacklists or labelled antisemites.

    Now Trump wants to crack down even further on campus free speech, and he’s doing it under the pretense of protecting us.

    Trump’s executive order is meant to create a culture of fear for people who fight for Palestinian rights and freedom. The more who speak out against him today, the harder it will be for him to succeed. Will you add your name to our petition condemning Trump’s attacks on free speech in our name?

    Criticizing Israel’s military occupation is not antisemitic. In a time of rising and deadly antisemitism, Jews need to be loud and clear eyed about what fighting for our safety means.

    Trump cannot be trusted to define antisemitism for us. He incites deadly white nationalist violence against our community. He calls us disloyal. When speaking to American Jews, he refers to Israel as “your country” because he believes we do not really belong here. This Executive Order will not protect our community from Trump’s white nationalism or the violent threats we face.

    IfNotNow is standing up for Jewish safety in solidarity with Palestinians, Muslims, and everyone targeted by white nationalist violence. Together, we will fight antisemitism and white nationalism, claim the right to speak for ourselves, and fight for the freedom and dignity of all Israelis and Palestinians.

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