Eleven signs that BDS continues to grow despite Israel’s war of repression

Palestinian BDS National Committee, July 7, 2016

33333Palestinian campaigners have launched popular boycott campaigns across the West Bank in recent months

The Palestinian-led, global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was launched eleven years ago as a nonviolent and effective means for progressive people and organisations across the world to support the struggle of the Palestinian people for our rights under international law.

Inspired by the struggle against apartheid in South Africa and the US Civil Rights movement, BDS today is widely recognized as having a strategic impact in challenging international support for Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people.

Having failed to stop the inspiring spread of mainstream support for the BDS movement across the world, Israel has launched a desperate and dangerous war of repression and demonization against the movement that reminds us of the darkest moments of McCarthyism in the US.

Nevertheless, support for BDS has not only continued to grow – it has accelerated. Western governments, leading political parties and the world’s largest human rights organizations have recently recognized BDS as a legitimate means of nonviolently advocating and campaigning for Palestinian freedom, justice and equality.

What follows is a snapshot of developments in the BDS movement so far during 2016. We’ve also published round-ups of major BDS successes during 2014 and during 2015.

1. Our campaign for the #RightToBoycott is winning mainstream and government support

At Israel’s request, governments in the US, UK, France, Canada and elsewhere are seeking to repress BDS. Israel has banned BDS movement co-founder Omar Barghouti from travelling and says it may revoke his residency status.

Mainstream organisations and even governments recognise Israel’s repressive war against BDS as a dangerous challenge to fundamental freedoms.

Representatives of the Swedish, Irish and Dutch governments have publicly defended the right to advocate and campaign for Palestinian rights under international law through BDS, as have organisations including Amnesty International, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the American Civil Liberties Union.

More than 23,000 people signed our appeal to the UN regarding #RightToBoycott, and a related testimony was presented at the recent UN Human Rights Council.

Following the lead of other mainstream US newspapers, the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial on Tuesday titled Boycotts of Israel are a protected form of free speech.

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AIPAC Anti-BDS Legislation

AIPAC and their right-wing allies are coming for our right to boycott — and they’re trying to legitimize illegal settlements at the same time. Tell your Representative to stand for peace.

TAKE ACTION!

AIPAC is meeting this weekend in Washington DC, but we already know what’s at the top of their agenda: legislating away our right to organize.

Here’s how: they’re putting the full might of their organization behind a bill called “Combatting BDS.” It might sound like nothing, but this bill is a brazen attempt to silence and punish those of us who support boycotts as a way of fighting for human rights. We’re already taking on similar legislation, designed to throw a stumbling block in front of our movement, in dozens of state legislatures across the country — but now AIPAC is bringing the fight to Capitol Hill.

Click here to contact Rep. Mark Pocan and tell them you oppose AIPAC’s attacks on free speech.

AIPAC is bringing in activists from across the country, and next week they’ll be flooding DC with their foot soldiers, and delivering their message of fear and militarism to Congressional offices. They’ll be going door-to-door on Capitol Hill, pretending to speak for the whole Jewish community when they attack our movement for justice.

But I’m Jewish — I’m a Rabbi — and I support BDS. So do thousands of other Jews and allies across the U.S. and around the world. That’s why we’ve hired billboard trucks to take our message right to AIPAC here in DC, and to state capitols across the country where similar legislation is coming up.

And that’s why we need to make sure that our Representatives hear our message first.

Let’s beat AIPAC to it — click here to send a message to Rep. Mark Pocan and tell them to oppose the “Combating BDS” bill, and its attacks on free speech.

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Landmark G4S Boycott Victory

As anti-BDS forces are trying to get various levels of government to “outlaw” BDS, it appears that some corporations are getting the message.

Landmark boycott victory as G4S says it is leaving Israel

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 10 March 2016

G4S has been protested by Palestine solidarity campaigners worldwide.G4S, one of the world’s biggest security and imprisonment firms, has announced it plans to end all its business with Israel within the next 12 to 24 months. (Anne Paq, ActiveStills)

Palestinians are welcoming the news as a major victory and a sign of the powerful impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

But they also warn that pressure on the company must continue until it has actually ended its role in Israel’s violations of the rights of Palestinians, especially thousands languishing in Israel’s prisons.

The announcement makes G4S the latest multinational company – following transport and municipal services firm Veolia, telecom giant Orange and construction materials conglomerate CRH – to head for the exits in the wake of sustained campaigns by the BDS movement.

“Reputationally damaging work”

G4S announced on Wednesday that it plans to “exit a number of businesses,” including G4S Israel, US “youth justice services” and UK “children’s services.”

The Financial Times said that by ending these businesses, the company would be “extracting itself from reputationally damaging work.”

Since 2010, G4S has lost contracts worth millions of dollars as a direct result of activist campaigns.

Stop G4S, a global campaign endorsed by the Palestinian BDS National Committee, aims to hold the company accountable for providing equipment and services to Israeli prisons in which thousands of Palestinian political prisoners, children and administrative detainees are subjected to inhumane treatment.

G4S also provides equipment for checkpoints along Israel’s wall annexing Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank and for its settlements built in violation of international law.

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Wisconsin Walk for Peace and Justice: Nine Arrested at Volk Field

Joy First, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, August 26, 2015

Voices for Creative Nonviolence engaged with a number of Wisconsin peace groups to organize an 8-day 90-mile walk across southwest Wisconsin from August 18-25. The purpose of the walk was to call attention and make connections between the militarized police violence at home and the military using violence abroad through drone warfare and by other means. In both cases the victims are people of color, which forces us to reflect on the systemic racism of our society.

The walk began at the City/County/Jail complex in Madison on August 18. Dane County has one of the highest rates of racial disparity of any county in the country on many issues, including when it comes to incarceration – hence starting the walk at the jail. In fact, in order to make the prison population match the general population in Dane County, we would need to release 350 Black people. This is horrific, especially when we understand that so many people of color are in jail for nonviolent crimes and crimes of poverty that could better be solved by more positive interventions. It is up to all of us to stand up with our brothers and sisters and proclaim that “Black Lives Matter!”

There were about 15-20 walkers each day as we went through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside – Waunakee, Lodi, across the Merrimac ferry, camping at Devil’s Lake State Park and Rocky Arbor, up through Mauston and New Lisbon, and ending at Volk Field. It was eight nights of sleeping in the homes of supporters, in tents, and in church basements.

The walk participants kept going through inclement weather that is not typical for Wisconsin in August. There was rain, heavy wind, and very cool temperatures during the walk. The cooler temperatures were better than walking in 90 degree weather, but it still made for a difficult walk. However, they kept going 12-15 miles each day, persistent and determined.

What kept us going like this for eight days? People choose to be involved with the walk, knowing it would be difficult and push them to their limits, but also knowing that the militarized violence, both abroad and at home, is causing grave suffering to many innocent people and we must do something about it. We must speak out, raise awareness, share our concerns, and most importantly call for change. And that is what we did all along the route as we built bonds of friendship and connection with each other, and provided outreach and education along the way. We called for change in front of the City/County/Jail complex in Madison at the beginning of the walk, and we called for change at Volk Field at the end of the walk, as well as all along the route.

The walk came to an end at a beautiful rest area next to a noisy freeway near Volk Field. Volk Field is a Wisconsin Air National Guard Base near the village of Camp Douglas, WI. One of the jobs there is to train personnel to operate Shadow drones. Though the Shadow drones do not carry weapons (at least that is what we are told), they carry a camera that is used for target acquisition, surveillance, and assessment, and they are part of the bigger program of drone warfare in this country. The Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars has been vigiling at the gates of Volk Field for 3 ½ years – with three actions of nonviolent civil resistance during that time.

After a picnic lunch we formed our final circle to discuss details for both the vigil and risk arrest action, we read the nonviolence guidelines, and we shared a poem. Then we were ready to process to the gates of Volk Field. We walked slowly and solemnly to the gates with a drum beat and a lone voice singing a mournful chant. We walked to the gates with heavy hearts, remembering those who have died in drone strikes and as a result of police violence. Some of the signs we carried were pictures of children who have been killed by drones, stating, “U.S. Drone Warfare is Terrorism”.

The Juneau County sheriff was at the gate with several of his deputies when we arrived. There was also a police dog, which they have never used with us in the past.

We stood, as we always do, on the grass under a big beautiful tree. Buddy and Xan began to sing the names of victims of militarized violence, going back and forth between the name of a drone victim, and then the name of Black woman who was killed by the police in this country. After each name the crowd responded by singing, “We remember you” and a single drum beat.

After listening to the names for a few minutes, those of us who were going to risk arrest stepped off the curb and onto the road. We slowly walked towards the gate feeling the pain of living under a government that could commit these acts in our name. We took one step onto the base and were immediately taken into custody, handcuffed, and put into a police car.

We were handcuffed in front, given a bag of food once we got to the jail, processed and released within about four hours. We were arrested for disorderly conduct and also given a citation for trespassing. We have a court date on September 30. The arrestees were Bonnie Block, Cassandra Dixon, Joyce Ellwanger, Joy First, Jim Murphy, Phil Runkel, Mary Beth Schlagheck, Tyler Shiffer, and Don Timmerman.

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November 7-8, 2014
Voices for Peace and Justice in Palestine

Searching for Peace
The Capital City Hues
October 30, 2014

From Barbara Olson and The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project:

Do you feel baffled and disturbed by what the major media variously describe as "an age-old religious conflict" or "the endless cycle of violence" between Israel and Palestine? Did the pictures of the terrible bloodshed, destruction and suffering in Gaza last summer leave you wondering what’s really going on there and what role our government is playing and why?

Do you wish that there could be a peaceful and just solution for all the people of the region? Do you wonder what you could do to help?

You have a chance to explore these and many other questions at the upcoming Voices for Peace and Justice in the Holy Land conference, Friday and Saturday, November 7 and 8 at the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon Street, Madison.

The conference will examine the role of the U.S. in the Palestine/Israel conflict, featuring the stories, political viewpoints and theological perspectives of Christian, Muslim, Jewish and secular scholars, writers and activists concerned with justice and peace for all people of the region. It is designed to educate, inspire and make connections and to galvanize advocacy for peaceful, just and creative solutions.

Distinguished plenary speakers and workshop leaders from the US and Palestine will address the current situation on the ground in Gaza and the West Bank, and explore the impacts of US foreign policy, the media and religion on the region’s struggle for justice.

Participants will have a chance to interact with others about relevant historical realities, discuss timely updates regarding facts on the ground, and explore creative responses such as fact-finding and witness tours, campus and church organizing, community education and humanitarian assistance, and peaceful strategies for change like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and public policy advocacy.

The conference also features two showings of the film Where Should the Birds Fly?, the first film about Gaza made by Palestinians living under Israel’s siege of this tiny enclave. The film itself breaks the blockade, since Gazans have never had the opportunity to make a full length, professional documentary of their reality. Film maker Fida Qishta, born and raised in Rafah, Gaza, will lead discussions of her film.

Friday night features a Palestinian dinner for paid conference participants. At 7:30 there will be a free cultural evening open to the public, with performances by Palestinian poet and spoken word artist Remi Kanazi and the Milwaukee Students for Justice in Palestine Debke folk dance troupe.

A beautiful traveling poster exhibit called “Boycott: The Art of Economic Activism” will be on display during the conference.  Created by the American Friends Service Committee, the exhibit features 59 posters from over 20 boycotts, such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott, United Farm Workers grape and lettuce boycotts, divestment from Apartheid South Africa, anti-sweatshop boycotts, the Palestinian call for BDS, and many others. It can be seen before the conference at The Crossing, 1127 University Avenue, with an opening program at 2 pm on Saturday, Nov. 1 and running through Thursday, Nov. 6.

The conference is sponsored by Friends of Sabeel-North America and UW-Madison Students for Justice in Palestine, along with a number of local churches and other community groups. The cultural evening is funded in part by Associated Students of Madison.

For more information on all aspects of the conference including speakers, workshops, schedule, sponsors and costs, plus the hours for the poster exhibit, visit https://fosnamadisonconference2014.wordpress.com/ or call 520-2039. You may pre-register on line or download a mail-in registration form at that website. Walk-ins for either or both days are accepted, however, you must be pre-registered
by Monday Nov. 3 in order to attend the dinner.