Methodists Divest from Caterpillar citing Palestinian Evictions


Israeli bulldozers expand the West Bank Jewish-only settlement of Nofei Nehemia in the Salfit District on private Palestinian land, which was expropriated by Israel and declared “state” (public) land, according to the owners. ActiveStills Ahmad Al-Bazz, 13 Aug 2020

Methodist Sabeel-Kairos Group (UK), 5th May 2021

The Methodist Church has sold its shares in the US-based company Caterpillar, citing the continued use of its equipment to destroy peoples’ homes as part of the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories, and its poor record in Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance.

More photographs have recently emerged of Caterpillar vehicles being used in the destruction of farmland and olive groves, as well as the construction of illegal settlements and the demolition of Palestinian homes. Caterpillar claims it is not directly involved in sales into Israel but the likely path of trade via the US military and local agencies is widely known.

Other church bodies have sold out of Caterpillar in the past, as long ago as 2006 the Church of England voted to divest from Caterpillar and in 2014 the US Presbyterian Church did the same. The Quakers have also indicated they would not hold Caterpillar shares, for similar reasons. The recent reports by the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem, and the international body Human Rights Watch, declaring the situation in Israel/Palestine to meet the criteria of Apartheid, following on many similar statements by Palestinian groups and South African church leaders, including Archbishop Tutu, have added impetus to the international divestment and sanctions movement.

Churches are responding most particularly to the ‘Cry for Hope’ issued by Palestinian Christians last July, which called for such actions as the only means left to bring non-violent pressure on the Israeli Government. The Cry for Hope says ‘the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) provides a framework for economic, cultural, and academic measures, and for direct political advocacy, as nonviolent means to end occupation and oppression’. Its aim is ‘to exert pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and to call upon its government and its people, in the spirit of the Word of God, to enter into the ways of justice and peace’.

Revd David Haslam, a member of the Methodist Finance Board, said;

‘The Methodist Church has now joined other church bodies in refusing to invest in Caterpillar. Recent photographs from Palestine have shown Caterpillar equipment demolishing Palestinian houses, destroying farmland and extending Israeli settlements in violation of international law. It is nonsense for Caterpillar to claim it does not sell its bulldozers and earthmovers for use in Palestine, it knows exactly what its vehicles are being used for and should be utterly ashamed’.

Continue reading

BDS VIctory: Pomona College Students Divest from Occupation in Palestine

RE: BDS Victory: ASPC To Divest Funds From Occupation of Palestine
Contact: Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine
claremontcollegesjp@gmail.com

We are pleased to announce that the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) unanimously passed a resolution on Thursday, April 22, 2021 divesting all ASPC funds from companies complicit in the occupation of Palestine, and banning future use of funds towards such companies[1]. This is an important victory at Pomona College and sets a strong precedent for future solidarity work at Pomona and the other Claremont Colleges in support of the Palestinian liberation movement, and the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement in particular. SJP is deeply grateful to ASPC for their support, and additionally thanks the 23 Claremont Colleges student organizations that joined our coalition in support of ASPC divestment from the occupation of Palestine.

Claremont SJP, alongside Claremont Jewish Voice for Peace, introduced this resolution to stand in material and ideological solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their freedom from Israeli apartheid, occupation, and oppression. This action heeds the 2005 BDS call by Palestinian civil society organizations to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel, “until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights.” This resolution enacts the divestment of funds under ASPC’s control from the UN Human Rights Council’s list of 112 companies “involved in certain specified activities related to the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (A/HRC/43/71). The resolution also “calls upon the other Claremont Colleges Student Government Associations to follow suit, with an ultimate adoption of a consortium-wide agreement to not allow clubs to use their student government allocations to knowingly invest or spend their funds of items that contribute to further encroachment into Palestinian occupied territories by the UN-designated companies or the Israeli state, or face the loss of ASPC funding.” Claremont SJP reiterates this call to action to the other Claremont College Student Government Associations to pass a similar resolution.

This resolution is by no means the end of the Pomona College and Claremont Consortium community’s responsibility to push for total divestment from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Adopting this amendment is an important first step in reducing our complicity with a country that maintains an illegal military occupation and regularly commits crimes against humanity against the indigenous Palestinian population. As students at Pomona College and the Claremont Colleges, we recognize that our tuition dollars are being used to support companies which directly profit from the ongoing dispossession and oppression of Palestinians.

Claremont Students for Justice in Palestine is committed to standing up against our colleges’ complicity in supporting companies and organizations that serve to benefit from continued violence on behalf of the state of Israel. We will continue working to build a movement in solidarity with the liberation of Palestinians and all oppressed people in the US and around the world. The final copy of the newly adopted ASPC bill can be found here.

In solidarity,

Continue reading

The Eighth Circuit’s Narrow Decision About Arkansas BDS

One provision has been invalidated, but the general ban on boycotts of Israel by most state government contractors still stands.

An Arkansas statute generally bans the government from contracting with companies that are boycotting Israel. It defines such boycotts as

  • “engaging in refusals to deal,
  • terminating business activities,
  • or other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel, or persons or entities doing business in Israel or in Israeli-controlled territories, in a discriminatory manner” (bullets added).

District Court Judge Brian S. Miller refused to issue a preliminary injunction against the statute, and granted the state’s motion to dismiss the challenge. The court concluded that “other actions …” should be read as dealing with other commercial behavior, and not, say, speech urging boycotts:

While the statute also defines a boycott to include “other actions that are intended to limit commercial relations with Israel,” this restriction does not include criticism of Act 710 or Israel, calls to boycott Israel, or other types of speech. Familiar canons of statutory interpretation, such as constitutional avoidance and [ejusdem] generis [“[w]here general words follow specific words in a statutory enumeration, the general words are construed to embrace only objects similar in nature to those objects enumerated by the preceding specific words”], counsel in favor of interpreting “other actions” to mean commercial conduct similar to the listed items.

And as thus limited to commercial behavior, the court held, the statute likely didn’t violate the First Amendment. (Michael Dorf, Andrew Koppelman, and I filed an amicus brief on appeal agreeing that the law is constitutional if read as limited to commercial refusals to deal.)

Friday, the Eighth Circuit (in an opinion by Judge Jane Kelly, joined by Judge Michael Melloy, with Judge Jonathan Kobes dissenting) interpreted the “or other actions” clause more broadly, to include speech promoting boycotts, and therefore held that the law was unconstitutional. The majority expressly didn’t opine on the constitutionality of the “refusals to deal [or] terminating business activities” portion of the law; the majority said,

Assuming without deciding that the Act would not run afoul of the First Amendment if it were limited to purely economic activity, our focus is on whether the term “other actions” includes activity that is constitutionally protected.

Continue reading

Illinois faculty rejects efforts to suppress Palestinian freedom

Criticism of Israel is not antisemitism
Grave implications for free speech, distracts from actual racism

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS AT URBANA-CHAMPAIGN. (INSTAGRAM)

OPEN LETTER, Mondoweiss, DECEMBER 23, 2020

As faculty and staff within the University of Illinois system, we are writing to renew our outrage at the rampant anti-Semitism and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We condemn all forms of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, and other forms of hatred and dehumanization.

We are also deeply concerned about the way anti-Semitism is defined in a joint statement issued by UIUC, the Jewish United Fund, Hillel groups, and the Brandeis Center in response to complaints that these avowedly pro-Israel groups filed against the University based on student speech and activism for Palestinian human rights.

Specifically, the statement identifies incidents “that demonize or delegitimize Jewish and pro-Israel students…[or] subjects them to double standards” as expressions of anti-Semitism. This conflation of Jewish religious and ethnic identity with a viewpoint that supports the state of Israel or Zionism as a political ideology is a dangerous tactic that is expressly aimed at silencing any and all debate about Israel and Zionism on college campuses.

The way that anti-Semitism is defined in UIUC’s statement correlates with a definition that has been pushed by pro-Israel groups in legislatures, agencies, and institutions around the country and that was adopted by Donald Trump in an executive order issued in 2019. Those same groups have often funded Islamophobia across this country and have allied themselves with right wing organizations. The definition itself is uncontroversial, but it is accompanied by several illustrative examples intended to guide its interpretation and use. For instance, critiques of Israel as a racist state are treated as expressions of anti-Semitism. As the Brandeis Center has said explicitly in the complaint it filed against UIUC, the definition means that: “anti-Zionism is a contemporary form of anti-Semitism.”

The political project to equate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism is harmful on several levels, and we urge the University of Illinois administration to reject this effort because of the grave implications it has for academic freedom and student free speech on our campuses, the way it distracts from actual racism happening on our campuses, and the ironic consequence of creating an anti-Palestinian/Arab/Muslim environment on campus by targeting students for expressing their experiences and views.

1) The harm to academic freedom and student speech

Whether or not one agrees with Israeli policy, anyone concerned about academic freedom should be gravely concerned about this definition because repressing the free exchange of ideas is antithetical to the purpose of campus life and the opportunity for students to learn how to engage with diverse viewpoints.

Part of the university experience means hearing ideas that may clash with your own, being challenged to consider different perspectives, and approaching issues with intellectual rigor. UIUC’s statement eviscerates this by demanding that students with a certain political viewpoint – that is, support for Israel – be shielded from opposing ones. That is impossible, and untenable. No one would expect the university to protect students from Myanmar from criticism of its treatment of Muslims, or supporters of South Africa’s apartheid regime from its critics. That’s because we do not conflate criticism of a country with hatred of people who are from or support that country’s policies. And we must not do that for Israel either. Neither Israel, nor any other country, can be shielded from criticism in a university setting, and people who support Israel – as with any other issue – must learn to contend with differing viewpoints.

We are especially concerned about the impact this definition will have upon academic freedom in the area of teaching and debate in our classrooms, as well as on our scholarship. This creates an environment of fear in our classroom, making even faculty worried about being attacked for scholarship they assign in their courses and lectures and research projects they pursue. At colleges and universities across the US, pro-Israel organizations have called on the US Department of Education to enforce this definition by silencing students, faculty, courses, and events expressing support for Palestinian freedom. It is particularly concerning to see the adoption of this definition by the UIUC administration, in light of Prof. Steven Salaita’s experience having a job offer withdrawn by UIUC for comments made on his personal social media and other experiences of harassment of faculty and graduate students at UIUC. Indeed, the University has at times been responsive to ensure that explicit Islamophobic comments are not tolerated by staff, especially those in key positions on campus. Yet these responses are not nearly enough. Anti-Muslim sentiment and practices are integral to today’s unleashing of white supremacy across the country. Students across various U of I campuses continue to raise grave concerns about the lack of administrative response to the ways Islamophobia impacts their lives and academic success and they continue to fear for their safety. In January 2020, UIUC extended an invitation to JUF to train staff of the housing department. And now, for example, the University is dismissive of student concerns.

Continue reading

Biden needs to reverse Pompeo on Israel/Palestine


U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu make a joint statement after meeting in Jerusalem, Thursday, Nov. 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo, Pool)

Tsela Barr and Jeff Spitzer-Resnick, The Cap Times, Dec 4, 2020

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in another lame-duck effort to tie the hands of the incoming administration and give a parting gift to the far right in Israel and to right-wing Christian Evangelicals at home, has just poured kerosene on the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The most senior U.S. official ever to publicly visit an Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, Pompeo proclaimed that settlement-produced goods imported to the U.S. will no longer be labeled as they had previously been, “made in West Bank/Gaza.” Instead, they can now be labeled “made in Israel,” despite the fact that neither U.S. law, nor the United Nations, recognizes Israel’s de facto annexation of large swaths of Palestinian territory.

Trump and Pompeo hope to drive one more nail in the coffin of long-standing official U.S. policy, which, while not sufficiently supportive of the aspirations of the Palestinians for legitimate self-governance on their own land, at least until now has held the settlement enterprise to be illegal, illegitimate, counterproductive to the cause of regional peace and stability, and even damaging to Israel’s own interests.

But there is an even more dangerous part of Pompeo’s pronouncements: that henceforth, the U.S. will officially label the international grassroots movement known as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) as anti-Semitic and will create what amounts to a blacklist of organizations that support it.

The BDS movement is an international effort by millions of people to try to pressure the Israeli government to respect the human, political and economic rights of Palestinians. It is inspired by a similar movement that targeted and helped overthrow apartheid rule in South Africa.

While, as American Jews, we have serious concerns about rising anti-Semitism, which is traditionally defined as hostility to, prejudice toward, or discrimination against Jews, we are united in opposition to labeling BDS (or other criticism of Israeli policies), as anti-Semitic and even worse, to using the power of governments at all levels to outlaw or punish the BDS movement.

Labelling BDS and other criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic is a cynical move to suppress speech and action critical of Israeli violations of human rights. This is plainly and simply wrong, and indeed dangerous. What happens when actual anti-Semitism does take place? Will it be taken seriously when politicians make up their own contemptuous definitions of genuine hatred of our people?

In 2018, we worked together to try to stop such an effort right here in Wisconsin, where both then-Gov. Walker and the majority of the Wisconsin Legislature — from both parties — succeeded in writing unconstitutional anti-BDS legislation into law.

All who believe in free speech and the right to press governments to end injustices must speak out against yet another authoritarian move from this lame-duck administration. We call upon the incoming Biden administration to firmly reject Trump and Pompeo’s Israel/Palestine policy, including the dangerous BDS-as-anti-Semitism falsehood.

Continue reading

Pompeo Labels BDS Antisemitic, Threatens Blacklist

This week Pompeo broke with longstanding U.S. policy and visited illegal Israeli settlements. On his trip, he made several announcements, including that the State Department is designating BDS as antisemitic and calling for the U.S. Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to create what is essentially a blacklist of organizations that support BDS. We will have more on this soon, but for now:

  • Please share the JVP Action statement condemning this widely (this is compliant to share on chapter lists and chapter social media). You can also re-share our petition to the State Department on this issue.
  • Here are other statements you can check out and lift up:
  • Continue reading

    Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Boycotts Yitzhak Rabin Event

    Yesterday progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) was headlined in the Palestine news-sphere as word came out about her speaking at a Peace Now event memorializing former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

    For Palestinians, this news was triggering. For us, Rabin is not known as the “peacemaker” as U.S. history memorializes him, but as a colonial military general who oversaw ethnic cleansing campaigns and violent tactics to suppress Palestinian protests.

    Today AOC’s office let us know that she has officially pulled out of the event memorializing Yitzhak Rabin after learning about his true legacy. Rabin’s legacy is much more than his handshake with Yasser Arafat at the White House and his assassination by a right-wing Israeli extremist. In assessing Rabin’s legacy, it’s important to center on the people most gravely harmed by his actions, the Palestinian people.

    Not all Nobel Laureates are heroes, not all peace deals are just. We need look no further than the arms-trade deals President Trump is trying to pass off as peace accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain to know this to be true.

    Young people around the world are demanding we rethink the legacy of historical figures valorized and celebrated uncritically. Israeli leaders are no exception.

    Thank you for listening to the lived experience of Palestinians, Congresswoman.

    Adalah Justice Project is a Palestinian advocacy organization based in the U.S. that aims to shift public discourse and policy on Palestine. We work towards collective liberation. Adalah Justice Project is a fiscally sponsored project of the Tides Center, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.

    Tell General Mills: Stop manufacturing Pillsbury products on stolen Palestinian land!


    Did you know that food giant General Mills is manufacturing Pillsbury products on stolen Palestinian land?

    That is not OK.

    The Pillsbury factory is located in Atarot Industrial Zone, an illegal settlement near the infamous Qalandia Checkpoint that separates East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

    Stand up for Palestinian rights! Join AFSC in telling General Mills: Stop profiting from the occupation.

    The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights listed General Mills as one of the companies supporting illegal Israeli settlements. AFSC’s own research shows that the land the factory was built on was confiscated by force. The factory is located on land that used to be part of Beit Hanina, a Palestinian town which was dissected by Israel’s separation wall. Israel annexed this area into Jerusalem.

    We wrote a letter to General Mills CEO Jeff Harmening, urging him to stop doing business in an illegal settlement—and received no response.

    Please join us in taking action today:

    1. Write your own letter to Jeff Harmening and tell him: “No dough for the occupation!”

    2. Boycott Pillsbury products until General Mills stops manufacturing on stolen land.

    3. Help us spread the word. Share more information about the campaign with your networks as well as our campaign website: BoycottPillsbury.org. Support our call for justice for Palestinians and join us in boycotting Pillsbury today.

    In peace,

    Noam Perry
    Economic Activism Associate
    American Friends Service Committee

    Continue reading