US Campaign & ACLU on the Israel Anti-Boycott Act


 
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

Hot off the press: The ACLU is raising red flags about the unconstitutionality of the latest, most draconian attempt to date to deny activists the right to boycott. For Congress to heed its call to oppose this bill, they need to hear from BDS supporters like you!

On March 23, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and Reps. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Juan Vargas (D-CA), introduced the Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S.720 and H.R.1697).

This bill seeks to impose fines and criminal penalties and deny government loans to corporations refusing to do business with corporations in illegal Israeli settlements. It infringes on our First Amendment right to promote boycott, divestment and sanctions and seeks to legitimize Israel’s settlements.

Click here to learn if your Members of Congress support the Israel Anti-Boycott Act and then contact them by phone and email to state your opposition to penalizing boycotting Israel and its illegal settlements.

When confronted by a reporter inquiring why he is seeking to penalize BDS supporters, the bill’s lead sponsor, Senator Ben Cardin, claimed: “We are very sensitive to freedom of speech.”

The ACLU, and we at the US Campaign, beg to differ. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act would punish business owners that boycott Israel or Israeli settlement products with “a minimum civil penalty of $250,000 and a maximum criminal penalty of $1 million and 20 years in prison,” according to a letter by the ACLU. It even goes so far as to penalize people for just requesting information about a boycott.

The ACLU explained its opposition to the bill:

    “The bill would punish businesses and individuals based solely on their point of view. Such a penalty is in direct violation of the First Amendment.”

An expose out yesterday from The Intercept called foul on Members of Congress who have claimed to stand up for civil rights and civil liberties, but cosponsored this bill denying our right to boycott for justice:

    “Among the co-sponsors of the bill are several of the politicians who have become political celebrities by positioning themselves as media leaders of the anti-Trump #Resistance… These politicians, who have built a wide public following by posturing as opponents of authoritarianism, are sponsoring one of the most oppressive and authoritarian bills that has pended before Congress in quite some time.”

Please contact your Members of Congress right now to let them know you support BDS and oppose unconstitutional attempts to restrict our First Amendment right to advocate for it.

The LA Times recently called BDS a “classic tool of peaceful political expression,” and Members of Congress may soon start singing the same tune if they keep hearing from their BDS-supporting constituents.

We need you to take action against the Israel Anti-Boycott Act now!

Sincerely,
LEAH MUSKIN-PIERRET
Government Affairs Associate
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights

ADC Stands with Linda Sarsour

Washington, DC | www.adc.org | July 13, 2017 – ADC, the nation’s largest grassroots Arab-American organization, unequivocally stands with Arab-American activist Linda Sarsour in the face of bigoted attacks against one of our community’s most prominent leaders.

As co-chair of the Women’s March on Washington, Sarsour become the object of hate for Islamophobes. Immediately after her widely-praised speech last January, where she called herself “unapologetically Palestinian-American,” Sarsour’s visible persona was the source of resentment for those who seek to marginalize our community and preclude us from exercising our rights and responsibilities in American public life.

Palestinian Americans and Americans involved in Palestine-related activism must live with the ubiquitous threat of a character smear if they speak out against the Israeli government or the oppression of the Palestinians.

Attacks against Sarsour became more unhinged after the City University of New York invited her to deliver a commencement address to the graduating class. Demonstrating that Sarsour’s very identity was the source of the bigoted assault, the New York Times reported, “A Muslim-American Activist’s Speech Raises Ire Even Before It’s Delivered.” Rallied up by New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind – a former supporter of the Jewish Defense League (JDL) – numerous far-right agitators hurled death threats at Sarsour including, “A good Arab is a dead Arab.”

For decades, anti-Arab forces have sought to push our community aside. In the past, these forces have even used violence to silence community leaders, such as ADC’s West Coast Director Alex Odeh who was assassinated by the JDL in 1985. In 2001, JDL partisans were apprehended trying to blow up the offices of Arab-American Congressman Darrell Issa. And in March, JDL thugs violently attacked an elderly Palestinian man at a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Washington D.C.

Now, once again, Sarsour is coming under attack after delivering a public address to the Islamic Society of North America where she related the Hadith that “A word of truth in front of a tyrant ruler or leader, that is the best form of jihad” and encouraged her audience to undertake the “jihad” of standing up for our rights against the Trump administration. To any fair minded individual, Sarsour’s use of the term “jihad” was obvious and innocuous. Naturally, far-right websites and media organizations ignored the very context and scripted false headlines accusing Sarsour of waging Jihad against President Trump. The willfully dishonest defamation of Sarsour has become a popular cause on the far-right. However, regardless of their efforts, they will not be able to silence an “unapologetic Palestinian-American.”

ADC condemns the bigoted attacks against Sarsour. These attacks go beyond any honest exception to Sarsour’s advocacy and seek to deny the inalienable rights enjoined by all Americans to free speech simply because of her ethnic and religious background and identity.

We will not stand silent in the face of such un-American attacks from the most disreputable of sources. This is why ADC exists: To defend our rights as Arab-Americans, to defend our heritage, and to uphold our standing in the American public square. Today, and every day, we stand with Linda Sarsour and all Arab-Americans fighting for a more tolerant, inclusive and just America.

To the people propagating these false accusations about Sarsour: Your hatred, your bigotry, and your envy does not threaten our excellence.

#IMarchWithLinda

The Spoils of War

Illustration by Lynne Foster

Israeli companies are making a killing off technology perfected over 50 years of occupation

Alex Kane, The Indypendent, Jun 3, 2017

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.

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Condemn, don’t celebrate, 50 years of occupation of Palestine

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.

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Bernie Sanders: 50 years of occupation must end

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.”

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