Attacks on BDS Won’t Quit (and we won’t either)

by Deeg

On September 14, the u.s. signed a record-breaking deal with Israel to provide $38 billion in military aid over the next ten years, about a $700 million per year increase over the previous aid package. Israel is the largest recipient of u.s. aid.

Unlike previous deals, which permitted israel to buy some of the weapons from its own manufacturers, eventually israel will have to use all the aid for purchases from u.s. suppliers. Apparently, the u.s. no longer finds it necessary to support the “independent” israeli weapons industry, particularly since they now compete with the u.s. arms industry. No appreciation for the key role israel played in the 1980sby providing weapons to the Nicaraguan contras when the u.s. congress temporarily banned the u.s. from supporting the violent overthrow of the Sandinista government. The u.s. use of Israel as a surrogate resulted in bombs with imprinted Jewish stars raining down on Central America.

California’s Anti-BDS Bill

As we go to press, AB 2844, California’s version of the anti BDS bill the israel lobby has been pushing in dozens of states, is awaiting governor brown’s signature. As originally introduced by assembly member richard bloom in March it would have recognized that the “United States and Israel have a unique bond based on their shared, enduring values, which are reflected in the virtues and principles of freedom and democracy, and have stood together as allies since Israel was first formed as a nation.” And it would have prohibited public entities from contracting with any company that boycotted Israel. It defined “boycott of Israel” as “refusing to deal with, terminating business activities with, or taking other actions that are intended to penalize, inflict economic harm, or otherwise limit commercial relations with Israel or persons or entities incorporated in Israel or doing business in Israel for reasons other than business, investment, or commercial reasons.”

A coalition of over 100 national, state, and local groups, including QUIT! and many others in our UltraViolet community, worked to defeat the bill, but in the end, a watered down version passed with only one dissenting vote in each of the Assembly (Mark Stone, Santa Cruz) and Senate (Bill Monning, Carmel). The bill requires that anyone bidding for services to a state agency for more than $100,000 must certify that they comply with the Unruh Civil Rights Act and the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The bidder must also certify that any policy they have against “any sovereign nation or peoples recognized by the government of the United States, including, but not limited to, the nation and people of Israel, is not used to discriminate in violation of…“ the civil rights laws. We’re thinking that brown, a great supporter of indigenous rights and civil liberties, already has his pen out for signing.

California will therefore join a number of other states which have passed anti-BDS bills this year. For example arizona’s new law prohibits the state from investing in or contracting with companies that boycott Israel, and establishes a blacklist of companies. Arizona is known for its groundbreaking work on civil and human rights, such as its new abortion law that prohibits women from buying health insurance that covers abortion from the federal exchange, and requires doctors to tell women that drug-induced abortions might be reversible, a claim for which there is no evidence. Arizona, the home of maricopa county sheriff joe chain gang arpaio, just settled a lawsuit by immigrant rights groups over the 2010 SB 1070 which required police to stop and demand paperwork from people who might be undocumented. On September 15, the lawsuit was settled with new restrictions on police stops.

UC Berkeley Cancels Palestine Class

UC Berkeley, the university which claimed that “academic freedom” supported its hiring of bush administration torture memo author John Yoo, has suspended a student initiated course, “Palestine: A Settler-Colonial Analysis.” The suspension follows pressure organized by the AMCHA Initiative. AMCHA devotes itself to ensuring that universities do not have courses or faculty that support Palestine or BDS, or otherwise oppose israeli policies. AMCHA campaigns, consisting mostly of behind-the-scenes letters and phone calls from influential donors, institutions or academics, have resulted in the cancellation of courses, or the blacklisting, denial of tenure, or firing of faculty, many of whom are people of color. AMCHA posts an on-line target list of “200 Anti-Israel Middle East Studies Professors,” including over 25 from the UC campuses. Included are faculty in many history, political science, and middle eastern or near eastern studies departments, as well as faculty in gender studies and in health policy. AMCHA also spies on student activities and groups, such as Students for Justice in Palestine.

According to Electronic Intifada (EI) the israeli government was also involved in cancelling the class. Paul Hadweh, the organizer of the class, told EI he first learned that the class was under attack by reading israeli media. Two hours after he read a story, he received an email from outgoing dean dirks, cancelling the class. EI quoted Gilad Erdan, israel’s minister of internal affairs who leads their anti-BDS campaign, as stating that Paul is “an extremist BDS activist.” Erdan also attacked Hatem Bazian, a UC Berkeley professor sponsoring the course. Hatem told EI that in taking this action UCB was “completely throwing [out] academic freedom, freedom of speech, shared governance and the ability of students to engage in difficult and critical issues in a university.”

photo of demo

In cancelling the class, the University administration claimed that Paul had not followed the university’s procedures for course approval, but this is disputed by both Paul and Hatem. The administration further said, “It should also be noted that the Dean is very concerned about a course, even a student-run course, which espouses a single political viewpoint and/or appears to offer a forum for political organizing rather than an opportunity for the kind of open academic inquiry that Berkeley is known for.”

Academic freedom policies have re-emerged recently as an issue, in response to concerns raised by students, staff and faculty about racist, sexist, and anti-queer activities and course content. In 2015, the University of Chicago stated that it isn’t the role of the university to ensure that each and every opinion expressed is balanced by another. “Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive… In a word, the University’s fundamental commitment is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed because the ideas put forth are thought by some or even by most members of the University community to be offensive, unwise, immoral, or wrong-headed.”

In response to the cancellation, the students in the class sent an open letter saying, the “…decision to suspend Ethnic Studies 198: Palestine: A Settler Colonial Analysis is a violation of our academic freedom. This is an alarming development to have transpire on the same campus that not only hosted the Free Speech Movement, but which also routinely claims and utilizes the same Movement’s legacy to market itself as a world-class institution, a bastion of tolerance and diversity, and the site of intellectual inquiry — inquiry that is sometimes discomforting, but always enriching. Your decision constitutes nothing less than an act of discrimination against students who wanted to debate and discuss this contentious issue in a spirit of genuine sincerity, mutual respect, and open-minded curiosity.

“Again: the decision to suspend our course is both discriminatory and a violation of our academic freedom. We demand the reinstatement of the course.”

Zionists “dissociate” from Black Lives Matter

On August 1, the Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) issued a comprehensive platform (see article page 2). The section on Invest-Divest includes the following statement, “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people… The US requires Israel to use 75 percent of all the military aid it receives to buy US-made arms. Consequently, every year billions of dollars are funneled from US taxpayers to hundreds of arms corporations, who then wage lobbying campaigns pushing for even more foreign military aid. The results of this policy are twofold: it not only diverts much needed funding from domestic education and social programs, but it makes US citizens complicit in the abuses committed by the Israeli government. Israel is an apartheid state with over 50 laws on the books that sanction discrimination against the Palestinian people. Palestinian homes and land are routinely bulldozed to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.”

It turns out that up until August 1, there had been an enormous number of zionists supporting M4BL. We know that because since the platform was issued, self-described “liberal Jews” have been widely quoted in the media and have posted all over facebook, demanding that the Platform’s statements about israel be retracted. The jewish community relations council (jcrc), who has a long history of bullying progressive bay area organizations who try to take a stand against the oppression of Palestinians, issued a statement dissociating themselves from Black Lives Matter. “JCRC cannot and will not align ourselves with organizations that falsely and maliciously assert that Israel is committing ‘genocide.’ We denounce an agenda to wage economic and cultural warfare against Israelis, including efforts to mobilize against state and local efforts that reject the ‘BDS’ movement. We reject participation in any coalition that seeks to isolate and demonize Israel singularly amongst the nations of the world.”

Interestingly, one of the most widely quoted “Jews” is the racist “Alan Dershowitz,” whose column in the Boston Globe stated that it is anti-semitic to refer to israel’s policies as “genocide” because the term had been coined to address the holocaust committed by germany. While it’s true that the term genocide was created in 1944 to address the systematic murder of Jews (as well as Roma, queers, communists, and trade unionists), but unfortunately genocide both preceded and followed World War II, and targeted many other people than Jews. To name just two that are foundational for the u.s. — the capture and enslavement of Africans, and the centuries’ long massacres and dispossession of the indigenous peoples of the Americas, are both genocides.

Dershowitz urged, “Until and unless Black Lives Matter removes this blood libel from its platform and renounces it, no decent person — black, white, or of any other racial or ethnic background — should have anything to do with it.”

To be clear, “liberal lawyer” Dershowitz has NEVER supported Black Lives Matter. In fact, in May he appeared on Fox News’ the Kelly File, to criticize Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby for charging police officers in the murder of Freddie Gray. “Black Lives Matter is endangering the fairness of our legal system. Because they’re rooting for outcomes based on race. Started a long time ago. Started with the O.J. Simpson case.” He didn’t say how BLM weighed in on the OJ Simpson case, which occurred in 1994, but his statement that BLM was endangering the legal system became headlines all over the media.

After the Platform was released, the owners of Feinstein’s/54 Below, a small performance venue in Manhattan, cancelled a BLM benefit concert planned for September 11. In the note to participants, 54 Below said that its owners and managers “strongly believe in and support the general thrust of the goals and objectives” of the Black Lives Matter movement…“However, since announcing the benefit they’ve become aware of a recent addition to the B.L.M. platform that accuses Israel of genocide and endorses a range of boycott and sanction actions… “As we can’t support these positions, we’ve accordingly decided to cancel the concert.”

Many progressive Jews and organizations have issued statements supporting the M4BL platform. Jewish Voice for Peace responded that “Jewish Voice for Peace is following the leadership of Jews of Color in partnership with JVP as to how we can best contribute to realizing the demands and vision for Black lives laid out in the inspiring, bold Movement for Black Lives platform. Because the leadership team of JVP is currently all white Ashkenazi Jews, we are slowing down to ensure our members who are Jews of Color can lead the way, particularly in matters of racial justice. This is part of our ongoing project to dismantle white supremacy inside of JVP.

The JVP statement continued, “We are deeply disappointed by the response from a number of Jewish organizations to the platform, particularly the “Invest-Divest” section that endorses the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and makes a clear call for Black/Palestinian solidarity. These Jewish organizations are rejecting a thorough and inspiring transformational set of policy ideas developed by a broad coalition of Black leaders simply because these Black leaders have explicitly linked the experiences and struggles of Palestinians with their own. JVP endorses the Movement for Black Lives platform in its entirety, without reservation.”

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) also responded. “The connection between the struggle in Palestine against the Israeli military and state and the struggle against anti-Black and other racism in the United States is not just one of solidarity. Local, state, and national police forces and surveillance agencies contract with Israeli military personnel, and security and weapon firms, to provide “anti-terrorist” (aka: anti-movement repression) and population control training. Zionist organizations like the Anti-Defamation League – which claim to be Jewish organizations – bring local police forces to Israel to train with the Israeli military. And Israel and the United States buy and sell weapons and security technology to further each countries’ historic and current racist policing and attacks on Black, Brown, and Palestinian/Arab communities.”

Author: lagai

LAGAI-Queer Insurrection is one of the oldest radical queer liberation groups in the U.S. We publish UltraViolet, a more or less bimonthly newspaper, which is mailed free of charge to over 1500 people, including over 800 prisoners. Our website is www.lagai.org.

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