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March 27, 2012

EDITOR: BDS works OK!

Despite some diehard opponents of the BDS movement, such as Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, the movement is spreading far and fast, and is collecting some very impressive results daily. Today may be atypical example – I have included only few, rather, the more important messages about BDS victories. So, despite the despicable interview Finkelstein gave to Frank Barratt, in which he claimed nothing was achieved, anyone who follows this topic knows he is wrong. His attack on the BDS movement, and his defence of the Israeli position on it is one of the more bizarre interventions he ever was involved in. He was so shocked by the wide condemnation of his stance, that he asked for the video to moved off YouTube… Things cannot be be unsaid, dear Norman!

Read below and judge for yourself.

Veolia loses an0ther contract!: Message by email

Veolia loses another contract! Congratulations to Hastings Against War for their succcessful campaign to exclude Veolia. They have just heard:

“Following completion of the first round of the Competitive Dialogue procedure, the joint waste project manager has confirmed that Veolia are no longer involved in the procurement process for the joint waste collection contract for East Sussex local authorities.”

This is a substantial contract for waste collection, recycling, street and beach cleaning for Eastbourne, Hastings, Rother and Wealden Councils. (details at http://www.rother.gov.uk/media/pdf/7/e/jwc111109_-_7.2_-_Appendix_Descriptive_Document.pdf for the technically minded). It could last up to 20 years – but Veolia will not be profiting from it.

After vigorous local campaigns in UK to exclude the company for complicity in Israeli war crimes Veolia has lost contracts in Sandwell, Edinburgh, Richmond, Portsmouth, Winchester/East Hants, South London, Ealing and West London – and now East Sussex!

Major Norwegian retail chain stops sales of occupation products from Ahava: BDS Movement

Posted on March 27, 2012 by Norwegian People’s Aid and the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet)
Norwegian retail chain VITA made public on Friday their decision to stop all sales of products originating from settlements in occupied Palestine. VITA will therefore stop selling products from the cosmetics brand Ahava. VITA has been the main retailer of Ahava products in Norway, and this decision will be a serious blow to the sales of Ahava products in Norway.

The principled decision by VITA not to buy products from Israeli settlements in the West Bank is based on a position of not wanting to contribute to violations of international law. This is also the position of Norgesgruppen, a company holding 49% of the shares in VITA. BAMA, another Norgesgruppen company has implemented the same policy regarding Israeli fruit and vegetables for several years already.

The VITA decision comes after a period of active lobbying from Norwegian People’s Aid and the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (Fagforbundet), providing VITA and VITA’s owners with information about Ahava and their production in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement. Activists in Norway have also focused on Ahava and will now launch a new campaign to have other stores follow VITA’s example.

Israel sponsors Polish soap opera in ‘image improvement’ drive – Polish and Israeli activists urge boycott: BDS Movement

Posted on March 8, 2012 by Kampania Palestyna
Polish and Israeli activists have called on the makers of a Polish medical drama ‘For Better and For Worse’ to abandon plans to film two episodes in Israel under the sponsorship of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Israeli Embassy in Warsaw and the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs are co-operating to provide assistance to the project, in what officials say is an effort to change the attitude of Polish society towards Israel and to improve the image of Israel in the world. [1]

The Polish Campaign of Solidarity with Palestine (Kampania Palestyna) supports the Palestinian call by over 170 civil society organisations and trade unions initiated in 2005 for a comprehensive economic, sports, cultural and academic boycott of Israel until:

1.  Israel withdraws from all occupied territory (Gaza, West Bank, East Jerusalem, Golan Heights and dismantles the illegal apartheid wall);
2.    Respects the right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants expelled from their homes in 1948; and
3.    Affirms equal rights for Palestinians living in Israel-Palestine.

‘For Better and for Worse’, a popular Polish soap opera about doctors is made by Artrama and broadcast by state television channel ‘Telewizja Polska SA (TVP). All appeals and protests registered in public domains including the programme’s home page and facebook have been removed.

The Polish campaign said: “State support for cultural projects, including those from the mainstream, is altogether laudable, but in Israel’s cas culture is treated as a tool to cover up violence, distraction of human rights and civil rights, absolute occupation and apartheid policies.

We consider it unethical to take part in events organized or co-financed by the State of Israel, the occupier of Palestine, given the very fact of occupation, particularly its violent nature, and the deliberate violation of international law. We call for a boycott initiative, and to waive the implementation of the episodes of “For better or for worse” in Israel”. [2]

Ten prominent Israeli academics and human rights activists [3] wrote to the makers of ‘For better or for worse’ requesting they visit occupied Palestine and meet with human rights activists before undertaking any decision to film. They said:

“We would like to stress that participation in such a project is equivalent to taking a political stand on a very important issue: the human rights crisis in the Occupied Territories, under Israeli military control. The crisis has significant medical aspects as well. [4]

We believe that the decision whether to proceed with the project should be based on a comprehensive understanding of the situation in our region. In view of this, before you commit to filming, we would like to invite you to meet Israeli peace and human rights activists during your visit here.In particular, we strongly recommend an informative guided tour with representatives of ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions. We will gladly respond to any comments or questions that you may have. [5]

They have received no response.

Kampania Palestyna urges people to register complaints over the Israeli state sponsored instrumentalisation of ‘For Better or for Worse’ to whitewash Israel’s image as a ‘democracy’ and normalise apartheid and occupation in Palestine.

Lessons for solidarity Palestine can teach us: City Press

Ahmed Kathrada
As a South African who has lived and suffered under apartheid and spent nearly thirty years of my adult life in its jails for resisting it, I can and do humbly claim to know something about the meaning of apartheid.

You do not get to journey as far and as long as I have with the African National Congress (ANC) and leaders such as Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela and not recognise apartheid when you see and experience it.

Recently I attended the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and heard moving testimony from Palestinians, Israelis and South Africans. The tribunal concluded that Israel meets the legal definition of an apartheid state.

I am pained to admit that based on what I have suffered through and more importantly, what I have learnt, l am deeply convinced that that the Palestinians are experiencing life akin to – and in many respects far worse – than we had under apartheid in South Africa.

This has also been cogently argued by Professor John Dugard, one of South Africa’s most eminent jurists.

Israel’s separate roads, defacto Mixed Marriages Act, trials by military courts, the unfair allocation of resources (particularly water), racist citizenship laws, assigning and denying rights to people on the basis of ethnicity, the destruction of the homes of indigenous people who have lived and worked the land for centuries to make way for newcomers who share a common gene pool with the rulers, the uprooting of olive trees, detention without trial, pass laws, the tiniest pieces of land given the to largest part of the population … I know of no other word for this but apartheid.

I remember how apologists for apartheid South Africa internationally tried to argue that the South African “situation” was more complex than the ANC wanted to suggest.

Indeed it may have been, but the argument of complexity was also used as a weapon in the hands of the powerful to disarm the weak and those who act in solidarity with them.

I fear the same may now be happening. Nelson Mandela warned us: “The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own.

“We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so.” (December 4 1997)

Some would have us believe that the South African story is one of dialogue and reconciliation only. It was indeed about these. However, it is also about a struggle against occupation and one for justice.

Our liberation struggle has many newfound “admirers” – some who often colluded with the apartheid regime.

They not only claim to have been part of the struggle but now want to give us lessons as to what it was about and how it should be applied to the Palestinian struggle for justice.

The ANC needs to address how it can concretely support the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination. I believe that we must pay serious consideration to the call made by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and many others in the world today.

When the University of Johannesburg (UJ) commissioned a team to investigate whether UJ should terminate its institutional relationship with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University and impose an academic boycott (which they did), Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote:

“Together with the peace-loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence – but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the non-violent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions.”

Our call tonight is not a call to violence or armed struggle – our call is one to non-violence and reconciliation. Historically the ANC has always clamoured for a peaceful negotiated settlement.

We are, however, also saying that if you continue along the road of apartheid and we cannot stop you, at the very least you will do so without our consent, our investments, economic, cultural and political agreement.

When it comes to the question of justice for the Palestinians, our solidarity with them and co-existence for all the people in that area, we can do no better than repeat the words of wisdom, spoken with such clarity by our own leader, Nelson Mandela:

“When, in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine.

“In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid and over the years, an international consensus was built which helped bring an end to this iniquitous system.” (11 August 1988)

» This is an edited version of a speech delivered by Ahmed Kathrada on the occasion of the 8th International Israeli Apartheid Week held recently at the University of Johannesburg

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