Big news! Minutes ago, the Mennonite Church (USA) voted to create an investment screen for the purpose of “withdrawing investments from companies that are profiting from the occupation.” The resolution was approved near unanimously, with approximately 98% of the 548 voters supporting it. Click here to say thank you to the Mennonites!
The comprehensive resolution lifts up the rights of Palestinian refugees, citizens of Israel, and those living under occupation, calling for an end to U.S. military aid; urging church agencies and members to review their own investments; and encouraging individuals and congregations boycott products associated with violence or military occupation; among other things.
This is the largest margin yet by which such a vote has passed in a U.S. denominational assembly. Congratulations to
US Campaign member group Mennonite Palestine Israel Network (MennoPIN), who led this extraordinary initiative!
With this vote, the Mennonite Church (USA) joins the fast-growing list of denominations that have engaged in economic acts of conscience in recent years to support justice for Palestinians, including the Quakers, United Methodists, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men, the Alliance of Baptists, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
The US Campaign was proud to support this crucial effort alongside several Palestinian friends, leaders, and organizations; and member groups Friends of Sabeel – North America, Jewish Voice for Peace, and the American Friends Service Committee.
I have been on the ground at the Mennonite Church USA convention here in Orlando, Florida with MennoPIN, working around the clock supporting their preparations, talking with delegates, providing strategic support, bringing lessons learned from the many church votes that came before this one, and speaking at delegate receptions.
But I couldn’t have been here without people like you investing in the US Campaign’s critical role in connecting, strengthening, resourcing, and lifting up amazing member group-led initiatives and successes like this.
Today, please be a part of these extraordinary victories — and invest in many more to come — with a donation to the US Campaign.
Israeli soldiers carried out raid on solar farm which allegedly did not have proper building permits
The Netherlands has lodged a complaint with the Israeli government after dozens of Dutch solar panels donated to a West Bank village were confiscated by Israeli authorities.
The hybrid diesel and solar power electricity system was installed last year in remote Jubbet al-Dhib, a village home to 150 people in an area of the West Bank occupied by Israel.
The panels were not built with proper permits and permissions, the authorities said, confiscating equipment belonging to the £307,000 humanitarian project last week.
Critics points out that building permissions for new Palestinian homes and infrastructure are almost impossible to obtain.
The village mayor told Palestinian outlet Ma’an News that the panels were destroyed, although Comet-ME, the aid organisation which installed the panels, said that between 60 and 90 were taken away intact and other equipment at the site destroyed and left behind by Israeli forces.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry has asked for the equipment to be returned to Jubbet al-Dhib and is considering what “next steps can be taken”, according to a report in Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz published on Saturday.
The issue has sparked anger both in the Dutch government and in the Palestinian territories over how it was handled.
Cogat, the Israeli military agency responsible for coordinating Israeli policy in Palestinian areas, said that several work-stop orders were issued before the day of the raid. Villagers maintain that they did not know the site had been targeted until Israel Defence Force (IDF) soldiers showed up.
Of particular note is that Jubbet al-Dhib is very close to Israeli outpost villages – settlements illegal under both Israeli and international law – which enjoy a full connection to the main power grid.
Cogat said in a statement that the village had “other electricity sources” other than the “illegal electricity room”. Haaretz said that before the solar panel system was installed, the 150 residents relied on a couple of “old and noisy” diesel generators for three hours of power a day.
More than 300 structures in the occupied West Bank demolished by the Israeli authorities in 2016 were at least in part funded by the EU or international NGOs, an Israeli military official said earlier this year.
Last year also saw the highest number of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures since rights groups began records.
Illustration by Lynne Foster
Israeli companies are making a killing off technology perfected over 50 years of occupation
On March 5, Gov. Andrew Cuomo flew to Israel to show solidarity with Jews amidst an uptick in anti-Semitism in New York.
But the trip also doubled as the kick-off for a new project meant to bring Israel and New York closer together.
Inside the opulent King David Hotel in Jerusalem, Cuomo announced the creation of the New York-Israel Commission, an initiative to strengthen the already-robust ties between Israel and the state with the largest number of Jews in the United States.
A key part of the commission will focus on connecting New York law enforcement with Israeli security forces. Cuomo wasted no time in starting that initiative.
An hour after the King David press conference, the New York governor stood outside Jerusalem’s Old City police headquarters alongside Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs, marveling at Israel’s ability to keep Jerusalem safe. He said Israeli security forces’ use of technology is “something that we can learn from,” and also said that he wanted New York law enforcement to learn from Israel about combating “lone wolf” terror threats.
The New York cops won’t be alone in learning from Israel. Since 2001, hundreds of American police officers have been flown to Israel, most on the dime of pro-Israel groups, to tour the country and speak with Israeli security forces about how they keep their country safe.
These police delegations, and Cuomo’s praise for the Israeli police, highlight how Israel is seen as a world leader in security. Because of this reputation, Israeli weapons and surveillance companies — a core part of the Israeli economy — have become well-known in far-flung countries. Such companies export billions of dollars worth of armaments and spy tools to virtually every region in the world.
But why are security companies in Israel, as opposed to any other country, so coveted?
“All of the Israeli companies would immediately answer the question: We have actual experience, and we have tested these weapons on human beings,” said Shir Hever, an Israeli researcher and author of the book The Political Economy of the Occupation.
June 5, 2017 marks the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day War, a conflict in which Israel defeated Arab armies and captured the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem — the occupied Palestinian territories — as well as the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and the Syrian Golan Heights. While Israel has since withdrawn from the Sinai Peninsula, it remains the occupying power in parts of the Golan Heights and in all of the Palestinian territories.
The Palestinian territories have become a testing ground for new weapons and surveillance tactics which are then exported to other countries.
As the years of occupation ticked by, the Israeli army, border guard and police developed increasingly sophisticated ways to keep Palestinians in check. And Israel has cashed in on its expertise in occupation and policing. Israeli arms and surveillance companies are typically founded by combat and intelligence veterans who have expertise in maintaining Israel’s regime of control in the occupied Palestinian territories. After their military service — which is required for most Israelis at the age of 18 — many young veterans either form or join up with arms or spy companies, trading in on their army service in order to make huge profits by selling weapons of repression.
To critics of Israeli security forces, this process has led to a grotesque outcome: The occupied Palestinian territories have become Israel’s “lab” — a testing ground for new weapons and surveillance tactics that are then brought to other regions bent on keeping their own populations in check. The self-proclaimed “light unto the nations” has instead brought dark tools of repression to many countries.
Israeli exports became particularly coveted around the globe after the Sept. 11 attacks, which led governments — particularly the Bush administration — to spend heavily on the homeland security industry, according to Hever.
“The technology that the Israeli army, police and secret police can boast is surveillance technology, technology of control and riot gear, which became very much in demand after Sept. 11,” he told The Indypendent.
Hever maintains that the allure of Israeli security products has waned in recent years.
“All of this amazing technology, and all of these very expensive gadgets that they’re developing — they don’t do anything, because they do not create security,” Hever said. “That’s mainly the reason for the decline in sales, because customers from various countries in Eastern Europe, they go to these fairs and look at these sophisticated cameras and weapons and ask, is Israel a safe place to live? There’s not a sense of security.”
Nevertheless, Israeli surveillance tools and weapons remain prominent around the world.
Barbara Olson, The Cap Times, Jun 11, 2017
Palestinian workers wait to cross the Israeli checkpoint of Al-Jalameh, south of the West Bank city of Jenin, on their way to work in Israel May 1, 2014. (AP Photo/Mohammed Ballas)
June 2017 marks 50 years of Israeli military occupation of Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem. In 1967, in open defiance of international law prohibiting acquisition of territory by force, Israel began settling its own Jewish population on occupied Palestinian land, seizing large swathes of the most valuable, fertile and resource-rich areas.
For 50 years this dispossession has been enforced by a violent regime of military occupation, a regime that has expanded and deepened until many argue that it now meets or exceeds the legal definition of apartheid — a system of laws, institutions and practices that treat people differently based on race, ethnicity, nationality or religion.
For the last 70 years, Israel has also denied millions of Palestinian refugees their right under international law to return to the homes and properties from which they were ethnically cleansed from 1947 onward. In contrast, Israel’s “Law of Return” gives automatic citizenship rights to any Jewish person from anywhere in the world.
Those Palestinians who refused to flee after the Israeli state was declared in 1948 spent years living under martial law before gaining Israeli citizenship. Now making up at least 20 percent of Israel’s population, they face dozens of discriminatory laws that privilege Israeli Jews.
A special mention must be made of Gaza. While Israeli soldiers and settlements were withdrawn in 2005, Israel exercises “effective control” over Gaza’s borders, coastal waters and airspace, making it the occupying power under international law. For 10 years it has enforced a suffocating and deadly blockade of Gaza, condemned by the UN as an inhumane act of collective punishment of nearly 2 million civilians, half of them children. Devastating Israeli military assaults in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014 killed thousands of civilians and deliberately destroyed Gaza’s civilian infrastructure.
U.S. political, military and financial support makes this possible. Republican and Democratic administrations have given lip service to the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, calling the settlements and occupation “obstacles to peace.” In reality, they envision not two equal states side by side, but disconnected, fragmented and nonviable “Bantustans” for Palestinians under permanent Israeli control.
Meanwhile, the U.S. is underwriting Israel’s abuses of Palestinians and the massive expansion of the Jewish-only settlements that long ago killed the possibility for any two-state solution. U.S. taxpayers already give Israel more than $3 billion in weapons like F-16 (and now F-35) fighter jets, Apache helicopter gunships, Caterpillar bulldozers, the Iron Dome, and more each year. This was before President Obama agreed to give Israel another $38 billion in weapons over the next decade. And before the election of Donald Trump, who has enthusiastically aligned himself with Netanyahu and the most racist and militaristic elements of Israeli society.
As Trump recently — at least temporarily — backed off on his campaign pledge to move the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Senate Democrats, including progressives Tammy Baldwin and Bernie Sanders, joined Republicans to unanimously call for just that.
While such congressional efforts to make the Israel lobby happy go back many decades, no president has yet chosen to inflame tensions in the region by legitimizing Israel’s East Jerusalem occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians in this way.
Sen. Baldwin actually joined Mitch McConnell in co-sponsoring the resolution, which as U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights policy director Josh Ruebner pointed out also “celebrates a half century of Israeli military occupation of East Jerusalem while ignoring Israel’s violations of international law there and its separate-and-unequal regime which discriminates against Palestinian Jerusalemites.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace noted that “Jerusalem could not be more divided, physically, economically, socially and politically,” as Palestinians there face home demolitions, property seizures, collective punishment, and discrimination in residency rights and public resources.
One would think that true progressives would condemn rather than celebrate 50 years of military occupation, mass imprisonment, violent repression, property theft, and expulsions, and call for a just solution based on respect for international law, equality, justice and human rights. Clearly, both Baldwin and Sanders failed that test.
Barbara Olson is a member of the Madison-Rafah Sister City Project.
Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.
Allison Kaplan Sommer, Haaretz, June 05, 2017
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks on Saturday, May 20, 2017, at the Adams Center on the University of Montana campus, in Missoula, Montana (Tommy Martino/AP)
Senator Bernie Sanders’ bid for the U.S. presidency may be history, but the progressive politician is still making his voice heard when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, declaring that “the occupation must end” in a video message to Israel’s left-wing Meretz party.
“We are now in the 50th year of Israel’s occupation, an occupation which denies basic Palestinian rights while failing to deliver Israel real security,” said Sanders.
“I know so many of you agree with me when I say: this occupation must end. Peace – real peace – means security not only for every Israeli, but for every Palestinian. It means supporting self-determination, civil rights and economic well-being for both peoples.”
The video message by Sanders was released by Meretz ahead of its screening at a conference Sunday marking 50 years of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, following the Six-Day War in 1967.
In the video, Sanders also praised Meretz as “Israel’s most prominent political organization” that stands for “equality, security, democracy and justice,” ideals that the Vermont senator said he shares. These are “the same values that progressives are fighting for in the United States and around the world,” he added.
Sanders also warned against the rise in the U.S., Europe and in Israel of “demagogues who are scapegoating minorities,” like Donald Trump. “We observe with alarm the rise of racist intolerant authoritarian political movements. We have seen similar type movements in the past with all the agony and horror they have brought to the world. And together we stand united to do anything we can to defeat these movements now and in the future,” Sanders said.
Such movements, he said, take advantage of those on the lowest rungs of society who are “living in despair” have lost faith in their governments to solve their problems and are “desperate” for any alternative. Such desperation, he said, makes them easy prey for “demagogues who are scapegoating minorities,” noting that President Donald Trump targeted minority groups before, during, and after his race for the White House.
“The antidote” he said, “is a politics of solidarity and a common humanity” by progressive parties from around the world working together. Since the “forces of oligarchy work at an international level” he said, so must resistance against such forces “work together in the same global way.”