WPR and a Pro-Palestinian Take On The Israel-Gaza Violence

Palestinian protesters run for cover from teargas fired by Israeli troops near the border fence, east of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, Tuesday, May 15, 2018. Israel faced a growing backlash Tuesday and new charges of using excessive force, a day after Israeli troops firing from across a border fence killed 59 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,700 at a mass protest in Gaza. Adel Hana/AP Photo

On Thursday, May 17, Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Central Time” program featured an interview with Playgrounds for Palestine’s Susan Abulhawa as a counterweight to earlier pro-Israel coverage of current events in Gaza.

This is significant: for years WPR and NPR have avoided this type of coverage. Lately NPR has been running a few mildly sympathetic stories about Palestine and Gaza, and this is the first time WPR has ventured into the fray.

Apparently WPR is now receiving significant criticism from pro-Zionist sources, and we are asking you to let them know that you appreciate this kind of coverage and hope it continues.

Besides her role with Playgrounds for Palestine, Susan Abulhawa is an acclaimed author of two novels and has been featured at the Wisconsin Book Festival. MRSCP has worked with Playgrounds for Palestine nationally and locally for many years, including the installation of a PfP playground in the Tel Al Sultan neighborhood of Rafah.

Please listen to the show and then write, individually or together, to: Continue reading

Standing with my Muslim neighbors in the wake of Jerusalem and Gaza

Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, The Cap Times, May 17, 2018


Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the opening ceremony of the new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Monday, May 14, 2018, left, and on the same day, Palestinians in Gaza City carry the body of Mousab Abu Leila, who was killed during a protest at the border of Israel and Gaza. Netanyahu praised the inauguration of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem as a “great day for peace,” as dozens of Palestinians have been killed in Gaza amidst ongoing clashes. (AP Photo)

As I watched the glitz and glamour of the celebration marking President Trump’s decision to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, I was filled with shame. The backdrop of Israeli and American flags emblazoned with “Thank You President Trump” smacked of self-righteousness and complacency. One political leader after another emphasized his or her unwavering support for Israel without regard for Palestinian rights or sovereignty. Two evangelical pastors invited to bless the celebration had long public records of vilifying Muslims and Jews, among many others. As a rabbi I felt deeply shaken; this spectacle was a violation of everything I believe in.

As I watched, scenes of the Israeli military firing live ammunition on protesters in Gaza flashed across my screen. On this one day, May 14, the military killed 58 Palestinians and injured thousands. The excessive and lethal force against protesters who posed no imminent threat to Israeli soldiers or civilians was chilling. Palestinian leaders explained why they were protesting in the Great March of Return: Israel’s military siege was strangling their economy, making every aspect of their lives intolerable. They wanted the world to know that 70 years ago their people became refugees as Jews, many of them refugees themselves, established the state of Israel.

While most American Jewish organizations rejoiced at the Embassy move and defended the killings in Gaza, I sensed that many American Jews were not so sure. After all, we overwhelmingly distrust President Trump and oppose every move of his presidency, from the Muslim ban to anti-immigrant legislation to support for the NRA to stripping the poor of what’s left of a meager safety net. That he panders to antisemitic white supremacist groups and aligns himself with the Christian right’s anti-woman platform only fuels our disgust.

We recognize that Jerusalem is a city of many faiths, filled with religious sites that are sacred to Jews, Muslims, and Christians. By moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, the United States and Israel have destroyed Palestinian aspirations that it could be the shared capital of both peoples, and Trump has sent a clear message: He is opposed to brokering a just and viable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

To fully appreciate why Palestinians are protesting in Gaza, we must try to comprehend the humanitarian disaster on this tiny strip of land that is home to 2 million Palestinians. Gaza is an open-air prison. Israel controls its borders, allowing very few people or goods in or out. As the unemployment rate soars over 40 percent, despair runs deep. Three wars have pounded the Strip to dust, destroying its basic infrastructure. Now, most people enjoy just a few hours of electricity a day. Hospitals are gravely short on medications and supplies. Most Palestinians do not have access to clean drinking water. In just two years, according to the United Nations, their one source of water will be depleted.

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Gaza: Do Palestinian Lives Matter?

A Palestinian child holds a sign on Land Day.

Samir El-Omari and Barbara Olson, Madison365, May 11, 2018

For the past six weeks, Gaza has been in the news as residents have been protesting near the barbed wire fence and free-fire “no-go” zone that traps them under Israel’s siege and blockade of the impoverished territory.

The protests began on March 30, commemorated by Palestinians as “Land Day” annually since 1976, when six unarmed Palestinian citizens of Israel (including three women) protesting government confiscation of their lands for Jewish-only settlements in the Arab-majority Galilee area were shot dead by the Israeli army and police, who were not punished.

In Gaza and elsewhere this “Great March of Return” demonstration by all factions and sectors of Palestinian society asserts their international legal right to return to the villages and towns Israel expelled them from in 1948 – lands that for Gazans lie just a few miles away on the other side of the barbed wire, and to which they have been forbidden to return solely because they are not Jewish. The demonstrations are set to culminate on May 15, Nakba (Catastrophe) Day, when Palestinians protest their ongoing dispossession by Israel and the western powers.

In the early hours of March 30, before any demonstrations had started, Israeli soldiers fired a tank shell at two farmers “acting suspiciously” in their fields, blowing one to pieces and injuring the other. Later that day, snipers Israel had placed behind earthworks along the fence with openly-declared shoot-to-kill orders began firing on the unarmed protesters. At least 18 were killed and more than 1400 injured that first day. As of this writing, the death toll stands at over 50, including five children and two journalists. Over 6,000 have been injured, with hundreds suffering devastating injuries caused by exploding bullets that rip through flesh and bone according to Doctors without Borders. No Israelis have been injured.

Amnesty International has demanded Israel “stop the use of lethal and other excessive force,” calling for a world-wide arms embargo on Israel. Human Rights Watch called the killings “unlawful” and “calculated,” saying Israeli officials green-lighted the killing of unarmed demonstrators and deploring “the longstanding culture of impunity within the Israeli army.” (Israel responded by ordering the expulsion of HRW’s Jerusalem office director Omar Shakir.)

U.S. taxpayers annually give Israel $3.8 billion in military aid. The made-in-the-USA tear gas they use is the same used in “riot control” in poor American cities like Ferguson, MO. Amnesty International believes many exploding bullet injuries “bear the hallmarks of US-manufactured M24 Remington sniper rifles shooting 7.62mm hunting ammunition, which expand and mushroom inside the body.”

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Dr. Hatem Bazian Under Attack

URGENT: HELP GET DR. HATEM BAZIAN’S PETITION TO 5K SIGNATURES!

We need your urgent help defending Palestinian American professor and AMP Chairman Dr. Hatem Bazian against a vicious campaign by pro-Israel groups who are once again calling on university administrators to fire him from his position at the University of California, Berkeley.

Please read the petition below and click the “Take Action” button to sign and show your support for academic freedom and free speech when it comes to voicing support for Palestinian human rights.

Note that this petition is open to ALL supporters of justice and human rights. You do NOT have to be a student to sign it!

THEN . . . please forward the petition and share on social media to assert that Palestinians will NOT be silenced and suppressed!

We are counting on your support. Thank you!

We, the students of the University of California, Berkeley, stand in solidarity with Dr. Hatem Bazian and the UC Berkeley’s Center for Race and Gender.

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WA Court Dismisses Seven-Year Lawsuit Over Boycott of Israeli Goods


 
Center for Constitutional Rights, March 9, 2018

Olympia, WA – Today, a Washington State court ended a seven-year litigation battle against former volunteer board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 by five co-op members seeking to block the co-op’s boycott and to collect monetary damages against the board members. Two of the five members pulled out of the case, and none of the defendants originally named in the case remains a board member of the co-op. The court granted the motion for summary judgment from the former board members, who were represented by Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel, finding the plaintiffs had no standing to bring a case because they failed to show the co-op was injured.

“We are pleased that the court has dismissed this meritless lawsuit. It is a relief and a vindication for our clients, and a victory for everyone who supports the right to boycott,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Deputy Legal Director Maria LaHood, who argued today.

Earlier this week, CCR filed with the court a recently produced document (Exhibit B) in which plaintiffs celebrated the lawsuit’s success in discouraging other co-ops from boycotting Israeli goods.

“We’re delighted that the judge has decided to dismiss this retaliatory lawsuit and protect our clients’ First Amendment freedoms,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

In 2017, the co-op board of directors passed a resolution affirming that the litigation—which was purportedly brought on behalf of the co-op—was not approved by the co-op, is not in the co-op’s interest, and should be dismissed.

Lawyers say the lawsuit is part of a broad and growing pattern of suppressing activism in support of Palestinian rights, a phenomenon that CCR and Palestine Legal have documented and called the “Palestine Exception” to free speech. CCR and Palestine Legal report the widespread use of administrative disciplinary actions, harassment, firings, legislative attacks, false accusations of terrorism and antisemitism, and baseless legal complaints. Between 2014 and 2016, Palestine Legal responded to 650 such incidents of suppression targeting speech supportive of Palestinian rights.

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March 5, 2018
Stop AIPAC: National Call-In Day

US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

CALL CONGRESS ON MONDAY, MARCH 5 – (202) 224-3121 – to say that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act is unjust and unconstitutional!

AIPAC is descending on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, March 6 to push their anti-Palestinian rights agenda – part of which is criminalizing our right to boycott.

We need to preempt their lobbying and tell our Members of Congress that we OPPOSE the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a piece of legislation that would criminalize individuals exercising their First Amendment right to boycott Israel.

Learn more about it!


Call (202) 224-3121 to let Congress know:

    “I oppose the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (HR 1697/S 720) because we have the right to boycott until freedom is achieved for Palestinians in occupied territory, justice is guaranteed for Palestinian refugees who have a right to return, and equality is earned for Palestinian citizens of Israel. The Supreme Court, and most recently, a Federal District Court, have upheld our right to boycott. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act is both unjust and unconstitutional.”

Read our previous action alerts on this bill:
• “AIPAC is flailing” (October 17, 2017)
• “Punish Israel Boycotters? You, ACLU, and US Campaign Say No!” (June 20, 2017)
• “Are Your Members of Congress Trying to Criminalize BDS?” (May 18, 2017)
• “AIPAC Is Lobbying for this Today…” (March 28, 2017)

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Wisconsin should reject boycott bill;
it is not anti-Semitic

MJS-Leah-VukmirState Sen. Leah Vukmir (Megan Papachristou Photography)

Sandy Pasch, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Feb. 6, 2018

Legislation working its way through the state Legislature would prohibit Wisconsin businesses who sign on to the global Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement from receiving some state contracts.

And, unfortunately, Assembly Bill 553 and Senate Bill 450 are attracting bipartisan support because of a false conflation of BDS with anti-Semitism and discrimination.

But these bills are a mistake for Wisconsin at every level.

The bills would institute a level of bureaucracy in monitoring business negotiations in the state, constituting a dangerous erosion of democratic social control. If a company responded to a citizens’ BDS campaign to divest its interests, for example, that company would no longer be eligible for certain state contracts. And the several church synods that have elected to divest their pension funds would become ineligible to contract with the state to provide social services. These bills make the moral decisions of citizens and parishioners a barrier to free enterprise.

Historically, boycotts have been an important, nonviolent tool of dissent. A global boycott of South Africa, often compared in moral scope to the BDS movement, was decisive in ending the apartheid regime. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled decisively in NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware in 1982 that boycotts constitute protected speech, assembly, petition and association. Just last month, in the first federal test of anti-boycott laws at the state level, a federal judge ruled that Kansas’ anti-boycott law was an unconstitutional denial of free speech.

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Kansas Doesn’t Even Try to Defend Its Israel Anti-Boycott Law

Brian Hauss, Staff Attorney, ACLU Speech, Privacy, and Technology Project, November 30, 2017

 

Graffiti on the Israeli separation wall dividing the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Abu Dis reads, Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock

Kansas officials are scheduled to appear in court tomorrow to defend a state law designed to suppress boycotts of Israel. There’s just one problem: The state quite literally has no defense for the law’s First Amendment violations.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit in October against a law requiring anyone contracting with the state to sign a statement affirming that they don’t boycott Israel or its settlements. We represent Esther Koontz, a math teacher who was hired by the state to train other teachers. Together with members of her Mennonite church, Esther boycotts Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinians. After she explained that she could not in good conscience sign the statement, the state refused to let her participate in the training program.

The law violates the First Amendment, which protects the right to participate in political boycotts. That right was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 1982, when it ruled that an NAACP boycott of white-owned businesses in Mississippi during the civil rights movement was a protected form of free expression and free association. But despite long-held consensus around the right to boycott, we were still pretty surprised when Kansas didn’t even try to argue the law is constitutional.

We asked for a preliminary injunction, which would immediately halt enforcement of the law and allow Esther to do the job she was hired for. In its response brief, Kansas doesn’t mention the First Amendment even once, even though the entire case turns on the myriad ways the law violates First Amendment rights. Instead, the government relies on a couple half-baked procedural arguments in an attempt to convince the court to leave the law in place for now.

First, Kansas argues that a preliminary injunction isn’t necessary because Esther could always receive monetary damages at the end of the lawsuit, should she win. But courts have long recognized that the government can’t use money damages to buy off the loss of First Amendment rights.

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February 20, 2018
Film: The Occupation of the American Mind

Madison Central Library
201 W. Mifflin Street, Madison
7:00 pm

Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison presents a showing of the film The Occupation of the American Mind. Co-sponsored by MRSCP.

Israel’s ongoing military occupation of Palestinian territory and its repeated invasions of the Gaza strip have triggered a fierce backlash against Israeli policies virtually everywhere in the world — except the United States.

The Occupation of the American Mind takes an eye-opening look at this critical exception, zeroing in on pro-Israel public relations efforts within the U.S. Narrated by Roger Waters and featuring leading observers of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, the film explores how the Israeli government, the U.S. government, and the pro-Israel lobby have joined forces, often with very different motives, to shape American media coverage of the conflict in Israel’s favor.

The Occupation of the American Mind provides a sweeping analysis of Israel’s decades-long battle for the hearts, minds, and tax dollars of the American people — a battle that has only intensified over the past few years in the face of widening international condemnation of Israel’s increasingly right-wing policies.

For details and updates check Jewish Voice for Peace-Madison.

Backlash in New Orleans: vote to rescind BDS resolution set for Thursday


Dear Friend,

Last Thursday, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a historic human rights resolution!

The resolution, developed by the New Orleans Palestinian Solidarity Committee (NOPSC), calls on the city to avoid contracting with or investing in corporations that consistently violate human, civil, or labor rights— including Israel.

Now Jewish establishment groups are crying foul, saying the resolution unfairly targets Israel, and pushing feverishly for the council to revoke its original vote.

And it looks like the entire council is caving.

Click here to tell the New Orleans City Council they had it right the first time. Say yes to human rights here, in Palestine, and everywhere, and yes to the Human Rights Investment Screening Resolution (R-18-5).

Before last week’s vote, Council President Jason Williams said the resolution “specifically recognizes the city’s social and ethical obligations to take steps to avoid contracting with or investing in certain corporations, namely those that consistently violate human rights, civil rights, or labor rights.”

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