May 1, 2012

EDITOR: The Co-Op joins BDS, but stays short of full boycott

On Sunday, we heard that the Co-Op, a large European network of supermarkets, as joined the boycott of settlements products, but avoids a boycott of all other Israeli products. While the boycott of the settlements is very welcome, it is based on a deep misunderstanding of Israel, its society and politics.

The settlements were NOT a result of private enterprise, ever.  The settlers have been organised, armed and financed by the Israeli governments of left and right, ever since 1968. There is not a single mainstream Israeli politician who agreed to stop the illegal process, not to mention pulling them out, as required by international law. The settlements project is the largest such project – over 12% of Jewish Israelis live in the settlements, and Israel controls the life of all Palestinians by a system of racist “Jews only” roads, checkpoints, the 800 km Apartheid wall, house demolition, extrajudicial killings, the mass uprooting of trees, illegal land confiscation, and the re-rooting of water and other resources. This is NOT a project carried out by the settlers alone – the while Israeli society, with the support of the US, EU and other countries, is breaking international law by these activities, for nearly half a century. hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have joined the Nakba victims, being forced out of their land and houses. By refusing to boycott Israel itself, the Co-Op is avoiding this thorny issue.

Of course, in comparison to other companies in Europe, not to mention North America, the Co-Op is indeed being progressive and forthright, which we should recognise and support. The next stage, however, must be the mass boycott of Israel, if the Middle East conflict between the Zionist settler state and the indigenous population of Palestine is to ever be resolved in a peaceful and just manner. Israel will not stop this illegal effort to uproot ALL Palestinians from their land, and replace them with Jewish settlers, until the world, united, acts against this as it once did in the case of South African apartheid.

Co-op boycotts exports from Israel’s West Bank settlements: Observer

UK’s largest mutual takes lead among European supermarkets
Tracy McVeigh and Harriet Sherwood
The Observer, Sunday 29 April 2012
The Co-operative Group stresses that its move is not an Israeli boycott and that it will use other suppliers in the country that do not source from illegal settlements. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Observer
The Co-operative Group has become the first major European supermarket group to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements.

The UK’s fifth biggest food retailer and its largest mutual business, the Co-op took the step as an extension of its existing policy which had been not to source produce from illegal settlements that have been built on Palestinian territories in the West bank.

Now the retail and insurance giant has taken it one step further by “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

The decision will hit four companies and contracts worth some £350,000. But the Co-op stresses this is not an Israeli boycott and that its contracts will go to other companies inside Israel that can guarantee they don’t export from illegal settlements.

Welcoming the move, Palestinian human rights campaigners said it was the first time a supermarket anywhere in the west had taken such a position.

The Co-op’s decision will immediately affect four suppliers, Agrexco, Arava Export Growers, Adafresh and Mehadrin, Israel’s largest agricultural export company. Other companies may be affected by the policy.

Hilary Smith, Co-op member and Boycott Israel Network (BIN) agricultural trade campaign co-ordinator, said the Co-op “has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights We strongly urge other retailers to take similar action.”

A spokesperson for the Palestinian Union of Agricultural Work Committees, which works to improve the conditions of Palestinian agricultural communities, said: “Israeli agricultural export companies like Mehadrin profit from and are directly involved in the ongoing colonisation of occupied Palestinian land and theft of our water. Trade with such companies constitutes a major form of support for Israel’s apartheid regime over the Palestinian people, so we warmly welcome this principled decision by the Co-operative. The movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights.”

Boycott campaigns against Israel are routinely denounced by Israeli officials as part of a drive to “delegitimise” the Jewish state. A law, passed last July, allows those that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel, its institutions or areas under its control to be sued.

Major British supermarket chain announces boycott of produce made in West Bank settlements: Haaretz

Co-op, fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain, emphasizes it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products come from outside the Green Line.
By Anshel Pfeffer

A Palestinian man throw a product from Jewish settlements in a fire in the West Bank village of Salfit, Tuesday, May 18, 2010. Photo by: AP

One of the largest supermarket chains in Britain has announced that it intends to boycott Israeli agricultural exporters that market also produce from the West Bank settlements.
While British food retailers have for some years now been labeling products that are grown or manufactured in settlements and in some cases boycotting them entirely, this is the first move by a major company to end all dealings with companies that export products from within the Green Line and from the settlements. The main companies that will be impacted by this decision are Agrexco, Mehadrin and Arava.

The announcement came this weekend following years of campaigning by pro-Palestinian organizations in Britain that have been lobbying for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) of Israel. Co-op, the fifth biggest supermarket chain in Britain has emphasized that this is not a boycott of Israel and that it will continue doing business with companies that can guarantee none of their products originate from outside the Green Line.

The attempts to limit the export of settlement produce to Europe were led in the past by the European Union and the British government. In 2009, the British government, at the express instructions of former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, issued guidelines to retailers on clear labeling of produce made in settlements, differentiating it from Palestinian produce and products that were made within the Green Line. These guidelines followed Israeli refusals to label settlement products before being exported to the EU. The issue of labeling settlement produce was a major bone of contention between the British and Israeli governments at the time.

In recent years, the BDS movement has targeted companies such as Agrexco, an export cooperative that serves thousands of farmers, kibbutzim and small agricultural companies in Israel that has continued to export settlement produce.

Hilary Smith, of the Boycott Israel Network welcomed the the Co-op’s decision saying that the chain “has taken the lead internationally in this historic decision to hold corporations to account for complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. We strongly urge other retailers to follow suit and take similar action.”

The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem responded saying that “it is a pity to see some, who ostensibly pretend to contribute to peace and reconciliation, advance a negative agenda of boycotts, inject an atmosphere of confrontation and widen the distance between the parties involved. It would be prudent to seek a more positive approach to conflict resolution.”

Israeli negotiation expert has NHS workshop cancelled after union protests: Guardian

Unison says it objects to lessons in conflict resolution by Professor Moty Cristal as it ‘supports the Palestinian people’
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
Children wave a Palestinian flag in the Gaza Strip – Unison said it was its official policy to support the people of Palestine. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPA
A National Health Service workshop due to be led by an Israeli expert on negotiation, conflict resolution and crisis intervention has been cancelled after union objections.

Children wave a Palestinian flag in the Gaza Strip – Unison said it was its official policy to support the people of Palestine. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPA

Professor Moty Cristal had been invited to lead a session for managers and union officials in Manchester next week, entitled The Role of Negotiation in Dealing With Conflict, run by the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust. But on Friday he received an email from the workshop organisers cancelling the event after pressure from the trade union Unison.

The session was cancelled, said the email, “on the grounds that it is Unison’s policy and also that of the Trades Union Congress to support the Palestinian people”.

Cristal is chief executive of Nest Consulting, an Israeli firm that advises and trains companies and organisations in the private and public sectors in crisis management and complex negotiation. Its clients are based in Europe, the US, Russia and south-east Asia as well as Israel. Union-management relations are one of Cristal’s specialisms.

“I’m furious from a professional point of view and deeply disappointed from a national point of view,” he told the Guardian.

“I have always been perceived first and foremost as an expert, rather than an Israeli. But here people didn’t have the wisdom to look behind the Israeli flag to my professional contribution.”

It was ironic, he added, that in his lectures he stressed the “importance of having dialogue between people with different ideas. This is what conflict resolution is all about.” He and his company had worked with Palestinian and civil action organisations, he said.

A spokeswoman for Unison confirmed that its members had requested that Cristal’s invitation be withdrawn. The union’s policy was to support a boycott of goods and services from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank rather than “a direct boycott of all Israeli people”, she said.

But, she added, “we are supportive of people in Palestine. The trade union movement has a long history of international solidarity. Our members would find it difficult to be lectured in conflict resolution by someone from Israel.”

Unison members in Manchester were also concerned about the inappropriateness of the trust inviting a lecturer from abroad in a time of austerity, and objected to the notion that union-management relations within the trust needed “conflict resolution”, she said.

In a statement, the trust said: “Moty Cristal’s name was originally put forward by a third party organisation … subsequently, however, Unison representatives informed the [trust] that participation by its members would be in direct conflict with the union’s official policy stance. This position was corroborated by Unison’s full-time regional officer, at the trust’s request. Given the … likelihood that large numbers of staff would not attend, the [trust] took the decision to cancel the event.”

The move follows a decision at the weekend by the UK’s fifth biggest food retailer, the Co-operative Group, to end trade with companies that export produce from illegal Israeli settlements. It announced it would no longer be “engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”. The decision will affect contracts worth around £350,000.

There is a distinction among campaigners between those who favour boycotting goods and services emanating from or associated with West Bank settlements, and those who argue for a more general boycott of Israeli produce and individuals such as visiting academics, artists and athletes.

Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for Israel’s foreign ministry, said: “Boycotting someone because of their citizenship is tantamount to racism. It’s particularly ironic that Professor Cristal was supposed to participate in a workshop on conflict resolution. It looks like those who cancelled it are in urgent need of such training.”

EDITOR: To bomb or not to bomb, that is the question…

Israel’s argument in support of bombing Iran in order to stop it from producing a nuclear bomb has never made any sense, of course. The corollary would be to bomb Israel, because it already HAS nuclear weapons. Israel’s pair of demagogues, Netanyahu and Barak, both war criminals with pedigree, have spent a number of years working on this theme, with Israel’s massive propaganda machine serving this aim, as well as the full support of Israel’s smaller partner, the US… President Obama has become a senior official of the Israeli administration, despite having a full time job already, and has himself argued in line with his senior colleagues in the Israeli government.

But this neat plan started unraveling some weeks ago, reaching a screeching crescendo this week, with more and more voices in the Israeli public arena calling the plan nothing short of madness.For once, one is forced to agree with them. Two senior intelligence chiefs, the serving chief of Staff of the IOF, and many politicians are all lining up against this criminal madness prepared by Barak and Netanyahu, whi should instead be preparing their defense portfolios for the International Criminal Court, in the wake of the latest and ground-breaking indictment of the war criminal Taylor, last week.

No doubt, the growing furor about their insane plan of attack will not resrain them, as long as Obama and other western leaders are behind them, and these should likewise think of their own appearance before the ICC court… one wonders if this criminal folly can still go ahead, in the face of growing opposition inside Israel’s army and intelligence community; if only some of this opposition was voiced outside of Israel…

Ehud Barak restates case for military strike on Iran’s nuclear programme: Guardian

Israel’s defence minister dismissed criticism that political leaders were misleading the public over the consequences of action
Harriet Sherwood in Jerusalem
Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak speaks of the Iranian nuclear threat to the Foreign Press Association in a hotel in Jerusalem. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA
Israel’s defence minister Ehud Barak restated the case for a military strike on Iran’s nuclear programme before it reaches the “immunity zone”, dismissing criticism from the country’s former intelligence chief that political leaders were misleading the public over the consequences of action.

Israel's defence minister Ehud Barak speaks of the Iranian nuclear threat to the Foreign Press Association in a hotel in Jerusalem. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA

“I believe it is well understood in Washington, as well as in Jerusalem, that as long as there is an existential threat to our people, all options to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons should remain on the table,” Barak told a meeting of the Foreign Press Association.

But in a clear reference to former Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin’s comments, he added: “Parts of the world, including some politically motivated Israeli figures, prefer to bury their heads in the sand.”

In an explosive speech to a community meeting on Friday, Diskin said he had no faith in Israel’s “messianic” political leaders to conduct a war. Barak and prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu were “not the people whom I would truly want to be at the helm when we set out on an endeavour of that sort.” He cited expert opinion that a military strike was likely to accelerate Iran’s programme.

Barak conceded that a military option “would be complicated with certain associated risks. But a radical Islamic Republic of Iran with nuclear weapons would be far more dangerous both for the region and, indeed, the world.”

Defence officials believe that once Iran’s nuclear programme reaches what it terms the “zone of immunity”, the option of Israeli or US military action will be closed off. The zone was defined as the point when it would become impractical to “surgically attack” Iranian nuclear sites because of their number, location, degree of protection and the amount of uranium being enriched.

Because Israel’s military capability is more limited than that of the US, it has a greater sense of urgency. “For us, the clock is ticking faster,” said one official.

Other prominent Israeli political figures tried to tone down the impact of Diskin’s comments by countering the rhetoric from Barak and Netanyahu. Former prime minister Ehud Olmert told Israel’s Channel 10 that “there is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort, but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike.”

And former military chief Gabi Ashkenazi told a conference in New York that economic sanctions needed to be given time to work. “I think we still have the time. [The time for action] is not tomorrow morning.”

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