April 22, 2017
Peace Contingent in the Madison Climate March


Saturday, April 22
1 pm Lisa Link Peace Park, 452 State St, Madison
2 pm State Capitol Building

Join the Peace Contingent
in the Madison Climate March

Please join with MRSCP and Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom in a Peace Contingent as part of Madison’s Climate March. We will assemble at 1 pm at Lisa Link Park for a “Solidarity Hour” and then march up State Street to join the main rally, which begins at 2 pm at the State Capitol Building. Wear your kuffiyehs and come help us carry our banners!

U.N. Report: Israel Imposes ‘Apartheid Regime’ on Palestinians

Reuters, Newsweek, 3/15/17

A U.N. agency published a report on Wednesday accusing Israel of imposing an “apartheid regime” of racial discrimination on the Palestinian people, and said it was the first time a U.N. body had clearly made the charge.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman likened the report, which was published by the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to Der Sturmer—a Nazi propaganda publication that was strongly anti-Semitic.

The report concluded “Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.” The accusation – often directed at Israel by its critics – is fiercely rejected by Israel.

U.N. Under-Secretary General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf said the report was the “first of its type” from a U.N. body that “clearly and frankly concludes that Israel is a racist state that has established an apartheid system that persecutes the Palestinian people”.

ESCWA comprises 18 Arab states in Western Asia and aims to support economic and social development in member states, according to its website. The report was prepared at the request of member states, Khalaf said.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York that the report was published without any prior consultation with the U.N. secretariat.

01_14_israeli_01Israeli Arab boys stand on the rubble of houses demolished by Israeli bulldozers in the northern Israeli city of Qalansuwa January 11. (Ammar Awad/Reuters)

“The report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general (Antonio Guterres),” said Dujarric, adding that the report itself notes that it reflects the views of the authors.

The United States, an ally of Israel, said it was outraged by the report.

“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, said in a statement.

The Israeli ministry spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon‏, commenting on Twitter, also noted the report had not been endorsed by the U.N. secretary-general.

“The attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy is despicable and constitutes a blatant lie,” Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon said in a statement.

The report said it had established on the “basis of scholarly inquiry and overwhelming evidence, that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid.”

“However, only a ruling by an international tribunal in that sense would make such an assessment truly authoritative,” it added.

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Unlearning apartheid apologism: A Jewish response to Israeli Apartheid Week

Stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism

Article ImageRya Inman / Spectator

Sophie Edelhart, Eliza Moss-Horwitz, Jack Snyder, Columbia Daily Spectator, March 5, 2017

Nearly two years ago, the three of us arrived on this campus as Jewish teens inoculated with an intense fear of the Israeli/Palestinian debate. We had been told for years in day school and summer camp that we would be provoked by anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric—presented to us as synonymous—and warned that we would be made to feel ashamed of our Jewish identities.

 What we actually found ourselves confronting when we arrived at Columbia, however, was the way our education and socialization in the mainstream Jewish world hadn’t prepared us for the conversations about Israel/Palestine happening on college campuses. We had been lied to and deceived by our teachers, parents, camp counselors, role models, and community leaders. We came to realize just how much the Jewish community has yet to reckon with the violence and dispossession that American Jews are complicit in perpetuating.

 When we first came to this campus, we felt that Israeli Apartheid Week was an affront to our very existence as Jewish students, because we had been taught to conflate criticism towards Israeli apartheid—the practices of systemic discrimination and state violence against Palestinians—with criticisms of Jewish identity. What we hadn’t learned from our combined 26 years of Jewish day school, countless hours spent in Hebrew school and synagogue, and years of Jewish summer camp, was that Judaism could flourish without the need for ethnonationalism—the supremacy of Jewish ethnic identity in the State of Israel—or racist apartheid policies. We hadn’t learned that that those policies were being enacted in our name and in the name of all Jewish people. 

We had been lied to, but more than that, we had been raised in a community that failed to face the anti-democratic reality of the State of Israel. Rather than being taught to pursue justice for all—Palestinians and Israelis, Jews and non-Jews—we had been told to defend Israel at all costs. Some of us who grew up in liberal Zionist communities had been taught a watered-down version of this: that we should care for others, for the Palestinians, and that we could criticize Israel’s racist policies so long as that criticism didn’t threaten the ethnoracial makeup of our Jewish-majority state. 

Retrospectively, it’s hard to justify why we fell for this narrative—how we could somehow stand against racism while defending a state’s ideology that privileged us as Jews above all others. It makes sense, though, because, to quote a recent monologue from the Israeli television show “Good Night with Assaf Hare,” “It doesn’t take much to sedate the satiated side of the apartheid.”

What we really needed as we were growing up was a community that confronted Israeli occupation, dispossession, and violence. We needed a community that could shout with their loudest voices against apartheid policies, racist immigration laws, and human rights violations. We needed a community that taught its children that particularistic ethnonationalism and Jewish exceptionalism have no place in Judaism, a religion that acknowledges its own liberation as inherently linked to the liberation of others. 

We needed our community to stop conflating anti-Zionism and criticism of the State of Israel with anti-Semitism and to recognize that one can criticize Israel as a geopolitical player without criticizing the Jewish people at large. This conflation only served to drive us further into our chauvinistic shells of violent nationalism and obscured the very real and increasing threat of genuine anti-Semitism on the rise.

We deserved an upbringing that didn’t hide from its complicity in Israeli apartheid, that didn’t rely on ethnonationalism as the answer to Jewish communal suffering, and that didn’t tie our very existence as Jews to a political ideology rooted in ideas of national exclusivity. But we can’t change our childhoods and our years of socialization in Jewish communities, so we must look to our campus as a place to learn, unlearn, and grow. 

Because of this, when we came to campus, we cringed at the word “apartheid” when it was used to describe Israel; we shied away from political debates surrounding Israel and Palestine. This year during Israeli Apartheid Week, we saw our fellow Jewish students do the same. We heard countless excuses for why students don’t engage, for why they don’t support Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, and for why they disagree with the rhetoric of Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, causing them to turn their backs on campus discourse surrounding Palestinian liberation. 

We, as Jewish students of Columbia, Barnard, and Jewish Theological Seminary, must be better than this. Our history is one that is rooted in dispossession, fear, loss, and diaspora. We are Jews with lasting generational trauma. We must confront this and reckon with it; we must work with those facing similar traumas of dispossession, similar fears, similar losses, and similar diaspora today.

It makes sense why Jewish students on this campus see Israeli Apartheid Week as an affront to their Jewish identities. However, it is not because JVP, SJP, or even the BDS movement wish to delegitimize Jewish existence or peoplehood. Rather, it is due to the fact that for years the Jewish community has chosen to cover its eyes and plug its ears, screaming “I can’t hear you” at any mention of human rights violations, apartheid, state violence, expulsion, or ethnic cleansing, and has chosen to label the people who do make those claims as anti-Semites and self-hating Jews. Not only is this wrong, it dangerously conflates the violent policies of the Zionist state with a meaningful Jewish existence in the diaspora. 

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Activists pull out of Chicago LGBTQ conference over Israel pinkwashing

Jimmy Johnson, THE ELECTRONIC INTIFADA, 22 January 2016

An image posted on A Wider Bridge’s Facebook page highlights the organization’s mission of promoting Israel.

Black Lives Matter Chicago has added its voice to protests over the National LGBTQ Task Force’s inclusion of an Israel lobby group in its Creating Change conference in Chicago this weekend.

Tarab-NYC, an LGBTQ and gender nonconforming group organizing in Middle Eastern and North African communities, launched the #cancelpinkwashing campaign in response to the inclusion of A Wider Bridge.

A Wider Bridge describes itself as a “pro-Israel organization that builds bridges between Israelis and LGBTQ North Americans and allies.”

Among its major donors is the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, which has taken a lead in efforts to combat the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.

The #cancelpinkwashing campaign’s Facebook page notes that A Wider Bridge partners with the Israeli consulate and the right-wing Israel advocacy organization StandWithUs to put on pinkwashing events which aim to “normalize the occupation of Palestinian land by distracting from the violent, inhumane actions of the Israeli settler state.”

Pinkwashing is a public relations strategy that deploys Israel’s supposed enlightenment toward LGBTQ issues to deflect criticism from its human rights abuses and war crimes and as a means to build up support for Israel among Western liberals and progressives.

On Tuesday, Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, reversed an earlier decision to exclude A Wider Bridge, citing a need for “constructive dialogue.”

On Friday evening, Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago and the Coalition for a Just Peace in Israel-Palestine will host “a Queer, anti-Zionist Shabbat that resists the pinkwashing of Israeli oppression taking place at Creating Change.”

“Divest from violence”

In an online statement, Black Lives Matter Chicago says it endorses Tarab-NYC’s demand that the National LGBTQ Task Force “divest from the violence, ignorance and false ‘inclusion’ of settler-colonial pinkwashing in the name of a ‘wider’ bridge.”

“As They/We all struggle to achieve healing, safety and autonomy in our own lives, families and communities, let us commit to mobilize ourselves and honor the self-determined struggles of Palestine so as to divest from the violence of the occupation,” the statement concludes. “Black and Palestinian Lives depend on it.”

Shortly after that statement was released, the Chicago organization Brown People for Black Power cancelled its scheduled workshop at Creating Change.

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New Israel Law Bars Foreign Critics From Entering the Country

“It’s going to be a giant sign up by the door of the Jewish state: ‘Don’t come unless you agree with everything we’re doing here.’ I don’t know what kind of democracy makes that statement.”

A banner calling for the boycott, divestment and sanctioning of Israel hanging from the Manhattan Bridge in New York during a protest against Israel’s military campaign in Gaza in 2014. (Michael Appleton for The New York Times)

Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times, March 8, 2017

Israel’s Parliament has struck back at the international boycott movement against the country and its settlements in the West Bank by passing a law barring entry to foreigners who have publicly supported the movement.

The measure, passed on Monday night, received little notice in Israel, but by Tuesday it set off alarms in the United States, where Israel’s critics and some of its most loyal Jewish supporters alike warned that it would further isolate the country.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in North America, said in a telephone interview from Jerusalem: “It’s going to be a giant sign up by the door of the Jewish state: ‘Don’t come unless you agree with everything we’re doing here.’ I don’t know what kind of democracy makes that statement.”

The vote came as the Israeli government’s right flank has been emboldened by the election of President Trump and his warm welcome in Washington last month of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The bill passed the Parliament, or Knesset, 46 to 28, with proponents calling it a common-sense measure to exclude “haters,” and opponents warning that it would backfire and encourage further boycotts.

With hopes for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians vastly diminished, Palestinians and their supporters have been advocating a strategy called B.D.S.: boycott, divestment and sanctions. The movement has been most active in Europe and the United States, and supporters have compared it to the campaign against apartheid in South Africa — an analogy fiercely disputed by defenders of Israel.

Academic groups, artists, churches and companies from many countries are boycotting or divesting from Israel, or from the occupied territories in the West Bank. The Israeli government and other critics say the boycott movement is anti-Semitic and aims to undermine Israel’s right to exist.

Bezalel Smotrich, a member of the Knesset who is a co-sponsor of the bill to bar entry to boycott supporters, said: “We will now stop turning the other cheek. Preventing B.D.S. supporters who come here to hurt us from the inside is the very least we should be doing against haters of Israel.”

Dov Hanin, who voted against the legislation, said that at a time when boycotts against settlements are being promoted around the world, the law “is really a law to boycott the world.”

“A country that boycotts the world is basically isolating and boycotting itself,” he continued.

Israel has already turned away some travelers for political reasons. Last December, Isabel Phiri, a theologian and an assistant general secretary of the World Council of Churches in Geneva, was refused entry after landing in Tel Aviv with a tourist visa. Last July, five Americans on a fact-finding trip were detained, questioned and deported, with Israeli officials citing security reasons.

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Bernie Sanders: On Anti-Semitism, Israel, and the Palestinians

Bernie Sanders, Common Dreams, February 28, 2017

Speech to this year’s J Street conference

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivers a speech during J Street’s 2017 National Conference at the Washington Convention Center on February 27, 2017. (Photo: Mark Wilson/AFP)

Thank you for inviting me to address you here today. It’s a pleasure to be here with J Street, which has been such a strong voice for saner, more progressive foreign policy ideas. And I am delighted to be in the company of friends from the Middle East and all over the world who I know will continue the struggle for a world of peace, justice and environmental sanity.

Let me begin by noting that in the last several months, since Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential race, there has been a significant outbreak of anti-Semitism here in our country. I am very alarmed by the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, with Jewish Community Centers being threatened around the country, and with the headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League receiving a bomb threat last week.

When we see violent and verbal racist attacks against minorities – whether they are African-Americans, Jews, Muslims in this country, immigrants in this country, or the LGBT community, these attacks must be condemned at the highest levels of our government.

It was rather extraordinary that in the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, the murder of 6 million Jews was not mentioned by the Trump administration. I hope very much that Pres. Trump and his political advisor Mr. Bannon understand that the world is watching: it is imperative that their voices be loud and clear in condemning anti-Semitism, violent attacks against immigrants in this country, including the murder of two young men from India, and all forms of bigotry here and around the world. This country has struggled too long against racism, sexism, xenophobia, and homophobia. We will not go back. We are going to go forward and fight discrimination of all forms.

I must say that I also found it very troubling that, at a recent press conference, when President Trump was given an opportunity to condemn the bigotry and anti-Semitism that has arisen in the wake of his election, he chose to respond by bragging – incorrectly, by the way – about the size of his Electoral College victory. Our society is still riven by tensions from the campaign, and Americans need a president who will try to bring us together, rather than boast about his political victory.

Let me take this opportunity to thank J Street for the bold voice that they’ve provided in support of American leadership in the Middle East and efforts towards peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I understand that, given the political climate in this capital, that has not always been easy. I also applaud them for being part of a broad coalition of groups that successfully fought for the historic nuclear agreement between the U.S. and its partners and Iran.

That agreement demonstrated that real American leadership, real American power, is not shown by our ability to blow things up, but by our ability to bring parties together, to forge international consensus around shared problems, and then to mobilize that consensus to address those problems.

For many years, leaders across the world, especially Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had sounded the alarm about the possibility of an Iranian nuclear weapon. What the Obama administration was able to do, with the support of groups like J Street and others, was to get an agreement that froze and dismantled large parts of that nuclear program, put it under the most intensive inspections regime in history, and removed the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon from the list of global threats.

As a member of the United States Senate, I hear a whole lot of speechifying. I hear from many of my colleagues how “tough” the United States has got to be, and how, at the end of the day, military force is what matters.

Well, I say to those colleagues, ‘It’s easy to give speeches in the safety of the floor of the Senate or the House. It’s a little bit harder to experience war and live through the devastation of war. I recall vividly all of the rhetoric that came from the Bush administration, that came from my Republican colleagues, and some Democrats, about why going to war in Iraq was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn’t. In fact, it is one of the great tragedies of modern world history.

Today it is now broadly acknowledged that the war in Iraq, which I opposed, was a foreign policy blunder of enormous magnitude. The war in Iraq led to the deaths of some 4,400 U.S. troops and the wounding, physical and emotional, of tens of thousands of others—not to mention the pain inflicted on wives and children and parents. The war in Iraq led to, conservatively speaking, the deaths of over 100,000 Iraqi civilians and the wounding and displacement of many more. It created a cascade of instability around the region that we are still dealing with today in Syria and elsewhere, and will be for many years to come. And, by the way, that war in Iraq cost trillions of dollars—money that should have been spent on health care, education, infrastructure, and environmental protection.

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Michael Bennett boycotts trip, says he won’t be used by Israel

Steve Almasy, CNN, February 12, 2017

Michael Bennett enjoyed his brother’s recent Super Bowl victory along with actor Mark Wahlberg.

(CNN) — Michael Bennett, a Pro Bowl defensive end for the Seattle Seahawks, is one of the NFL’s most outspoken players on social issues.

And once again he is in the middle of a controversy after announcing he was withdrawing from a overseas trip hosted by the Israeli government.

Bennett will be joined on the sidelines by at least one other player who objects to what the players say is Israel using them as political tools.

Bennett, whose brother, Martellus plays for the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, tweeted Friday that he had been looking forward to the trip next week.

But he read an article in an Israeli newspaper, he said, where a Israel’s Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy Minister Gilad Erdan was quoted as saying: “The ministry which I lead is spearheading an intensive fight against the delegitimization and BDS campaigns against Israel, and part of this struggle includes hosting influencers and opinion-formers of international standing in different fields, including sport.”

BDS stands for boycott, divestment and sanctions, and is a movement that aims to end what it sees as “international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.”

Another Israeli official said he hoped the players would become ambassadors of goodwill for Israel.

It caused Bennett to change his mind.

“I will not be used in such a way,” he wrote.