A Letter to Detroit’s Walk for Israel Steering Committee [ssba]

A Letter to Detroit’s Walk for Israel Steering Committee

This is the letter Partners for Progressive Israel submitted along with our Petition to Detroit’s Walk for Israel organizers, Ms Orly Zinkow of AIPAC and Andre Douville, the Executive Director of Temple Shir Shalom.

The support we received was phenomenal. We want to thank everyone who signed. We were particularly touched by the comments. Your support means the world to us.  Read More »

Why Detroit’s “Walk for Israel” excludes progressives? [ssba]

Why Detroit’s “Walk for Israel” excludes progressives?

May is a celebratory month for supporters of Israel: Israel’s Independence Day, the Israel Day Parade in New York, and smaller Walks for Israel in cities all over the United States. Detroit is one such city poised to host its eleventh annual Walk for Israel.

We at Partners for Progressive Israel wished to join this year’s Walk for Israel in Detroit. But for the second consecutive year the Detroit Walk for Israel steering committee unilaterally decided to prevent us and Americans for Peace Now from participating. They say their mission is to “unite the metropolitan Detroit community to celebrate the establishment of the modern Jewish State of Israel and support its right to live in peace and security.” So why are they dividing the community by deeming who is and isn’t an adequate supporter of Israel’s “right to live in peace and security?” Read More »

Why Is Goldman Sachs Funding the Settlers of Hebron? [ssba]

Why Is Goldman Sachs Funding the Settlers of Hebron?

Even though the firm’s Charitable Gift Fund consistently gives to right-wing Israeli groups or their U.S. fronts, the Hebron aid is a standout, as the showcase city for the worst of the Israeli occupation.

In 2012 the Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund granted $18,000 to one of the most violent and discriminatory communities in the West Bank – the Jewish community in Hebron. Hebron is a perpetual nightmare. About 700 Jews live in tiny fortified urban settlements at the center of a city inhabited by 180,000 Palestinians.

The settlers of Hebron are known for violence. There are multiple videos online in which they yell “Death to Arabs!” and paint hateful Hebrew graffiti on the doors of Palestinian stores. Their children rampage through Palestinian markets, kick over tables with goods, and wreak havoc. Hebron settlers are also known to attack Israeli soldiers on the rare occasions they’ve attempt to curb the settlers’ violent activities. In parts of downtown Hebron Palestinian residents installed nets and metal grates over the streets to catch the garbage that settlers routinely throw from their windows.

Hebron is the showcase city for human rights organizations to bring tourists to when they want demonstrate the worst of the Israeli occupation. The largely abandoned historic center of Hebron is known as “The Ghost Town.” The Israeli Defense Forces have welded the doors of Arab shops shut and prevent Palestinians from entering much of the area.

Here IDF soldiers segregate the roads and force Palestinians to use a narrow, unpaved and rough pedestrian passageways while their Jewish neighbors walk on the main street. Here the Jewish community worships the terrorist Baruch Goldstein, an American-born physician, who entered the Ibrahimi Mosque at Abraham’s tomb in Hebron in February 1994 and massacred 29 Palestinian worshippers and wounded 120, before being beaten to death with a fire extinguisher.

So why did Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund, a foundation connected to the world’s most powerful investment bank and run by Goldman Sachs’ top executives, donate $18,000 to the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund that bankrolls this humanitarian nightmare?

On their IRS tax records, Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund declared the purpose of the gift was “International Humanitarian Program” to needy Hebron families. With revenues of $2,250,000 the Hebron Fund can deliver from hunger quite a few of the 700 Jewish settlers of the city.
Grants to the Hebron Fund are not an isolated occurrence. There is a clear pattern in the Fund’s giving to Israel rightwing groups or their American fronts. In 2012-2013 they gave $708,000 to the American-Israel Education Foundation, AIPAC’s educational arm; $15,000 to the American Jewish International Relations Institute, a right wing organization which “monitors, tracks, and combats anti-Israel voting patterns at the United Nations”; and $6,100 to the American Friends of the Likud Party.
Though the case of granting money to the Jewish community of Hebron is particularly striking, we should see the funding of the Hebron settlement as only one example in the context of hundreds of millions of dollars backing the full range of West Bank settlements.
The Jewish community of Hebron is one of many that violate international law by settling on occupied land. The Geneva Conventions prohibits a state from transferring its own civilian population into territory it has occupied. As long as Israel chooses not to annex the West Bank, it cannot transfer its population there. And yet, between 2009-2013, American nonprofits funneled $220 million dollars to Israeli settlements to fund everything from yeshivas’ air conditioners to financial aid to families of Jewish terrorists.

Most American administrations since 1967 have had a clear position on Israeli settlements: they oppose them. In 2011, when the U.S. vetoed the UN Security Council’s resolution condemning Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory, UN Ambassador Susan Rice, said the decision “should not be misunderstood to mean we support settlement activity.” In response, Israel’s close allies Britain, France and Germany put out a joint statement explaining they had voted for the resolution “because our views on settlements, including east Jerusalem, are clear: they are illegal under international law, an obstacle to peace, and constitute a threat to a two-state solution. All settlement activity, including in east Jerusalem, should cease immediately.”

Moreover, some eighty percent of American Jews support a two-state solution and it’s clear to all that settlements undermine it. So when Goldman Sachs gives money to the Jewish community of Hebron, not only does it operate in violation of international law, against the policies of the Obama administration, it also breaks with the American Jewish consensus.

So why did Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund grant $18,000 to the Hebron Fund?

The op-ed was originally published in Haaretz.

Netanyahu Partitions Israel [ssba]

Netanyahu Partitions Israel

Yesterday, November 29, the world marked two events: the 68th anniversary of the UN Partition of Palestine decision and the International day of Solidarity with the people of Palestine. At a moment suspended between symbolism and irony, PM Netanyahu retaliated yesterday for the EU decision to mark products made in the Occupied Territories by announcing the suspension of EU role in peace process with Palestinians.

A senior official at the Foreign Ministry argued that the EU decision is “a discriminatory step that smells of a boycott” and added that “it is inconceivable that Israel will hold dialogue with EU institutions on how to advance a peace process while the EU simultaneously initiates measures against Israel.” Israel, the official said, “will examine each case individually with the guiding principle of making sure Israel’s interest vis-à-vis Europe and EU nations are not harmed.”

In wake of the Paris attacks, while the world raises its eyes to the Paris Climate talks, acknowledging that discussion and collaboration are the only ways forward, Israel does not. Instead, PM Netanyahu throws his toys at the EU and refuses to play.

Read More »

Boycott of Settlements’ Produce is a Move towards Peace [ssba]

Boycott of Settlements’ Produce is a Move towards Peace

Haaretz reports that Israel informed the European Union on Wednesday that it had cancelled a number of consultations with EU officials scheduled over the coming weeks.This was Israel’s response to the EU decision to mark produce manufactured in the settlements.

This decision created a divergence of responses. As MK Tamar Zandberg wrote that a “loud catharsis among right wing MKs” who fall back on the label of anti-Semitism as de-legitimizing any critique of Israeli policy. Zandberg writes that “the settlements are not part of Israel and are illegal according to international law…..they are the main obstacle on the way to peace”.

Read More »

David Abraham on Al-Jazeera debating about BDS [ssba]

David Abraham on Al-Jazeera debating about BDS

PPI board member David Abraham was on Al-Jazeera’s The Stream discussing and debating the BDS movement, with a BDS supporter and a pro-Netanyahu Israeli. Here’s the video:

Boycotts—The Successful and Unsuccessful [ssba]

Boycotts—The Successful and Unsuccessful

The term “boycott” entered the English language when a particularly unpopular land owner in Ulster by the name of Captain Boycott faced an organized refusal of the locals to work for him. Since then the tactic of withholding services or an organized refusal to buy the products of a company or nation has been known as a boycott. The tactic really needs two conditions for it to be successful: First, boycotters must constitute a critical mass of consumers of the product. Second, the boycotters must have available to them alternatives that will allow them to boycott the targeted companies.

One of the most successful examples in modern history was the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott that propelled Martin Luther King Jr. to the leadership of the national civil rights movement in the mid-1950s. The boycott worked because black riders were crucial to the economic solvency of the bus company in Montgomery, and because the organizers arranged a critical number of car owners—both black and white—to provide free rides to the boycotting former customers. Many of the boycotters were also able to walk for short distances and blacks who continued to ride the buses were shamed into compliance.

In the case of Israel there are economic alternatives to Israeli agricultural products and products manufactured in the territories. The question then becomes do the boycotters constitute a critical mass? In some European countries– particularly Britain, Ireland, and Scandinavia– the anti-apartheid movement was able to successfully organize boycotts of South African wines and agricultural products such as fruit. Pretoria’s reaction was to begin to diversify its trade connections by marketing more to the Far East where consumers did not care about apartheid. Israel can easily do the same thing and is already doing so by opening trade relations with India, China, and countries in Southeast Asia. In many cases, Jerusalem organizes defense ties with Asian countries that lead to broader trade ties. Read More »

Robi Damelin marks 48 years since 6 Day War [ssba]

Robi Damelin marks 48 years since 6 Day War

This is from PPI’s co-president Judy Wall: “Many of you have met Robi, and I have the privilege of serving with her on the board of Parents Circle.  As you know, she is extraordinarily articulate, and I wanted to share her latest Huffington Post article [‘Coming to Our Senses’] with you.”  Ms. Damelin’s piece begins:

This week marks the 48th anniversary of the Six-Day War in Israel. It is the anniversary of the state of euphoria which existed in Israel after the defeat of so many of its neighbors. After all, some months before June, 1967, people were not sure if the State would survive and in fact mass graves were prepared, just in case. This was also the time when the occupation started … The idea of settlements reared its ugly head and a frenzy of development brought changes to the geography and view. If only we had realized then what repercussions would come out of this . . .

This week Israel was saved by the skin of its teeth from being kicked out of FIFA. One one can’t help wonder if not being able to compete in international football would have have been a catalyst for the man in the street who loves his football, to start to understand that the occupation cannot go on without consequences.  . . . The BDS movement has also come to the forefront in the media. The consequences of activities may not be felt in the average pocket in Israel but it is surely a sign of what could happen. I worry about the motivation of these boycotts. I have no problem with marking goods from the occupied territories but if the message of the churches which boycott is love, then perhaps they would take all of the divested money and reinvest it in programs of reconciliation. Then maybe we could understand an altruistic message rather than one of taking sides. I love Israel and have no wish to have it brought to its’ knees. I want us to be brought to our senses.  …

One can read her entire Huffington Post article by clicking on this link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robi-damelin/coming-to-our-senses_1_b_7538928.html

The Boycott works for Netanyahu and Netanyahu works for the Boycott [ssba]

The Boycott works for Netanyahu and Netanyahu works for the Boycott

Zehava Galon spoke in the Knesset today. She argued that Israel’s policies, the rhetoric of Israel’s right wing politicians, and, in particular, the continuation of the expansion of settlements and the occupation are the causes behind the calls to boycott Israel. She stated clearly: “My friends and I oppose a boycott of Israel.”

She later posted the gist of her speech on Facebook. The following is a translation. You can read the original in Hebrew here.

The Right wing wants us to believe that the recent boycott initiatives and international pressure on Israel are the result of anti-Semitism. They want us to believe that anyone who criticizes the occupation and the settlements would like to see Israel vanish. This argument serves the rhetoric of intimidation that we have learned to identify with Netanyahu while simultaneously allowing the government to avoid addressing the accusations of the international community.

Perhaps this is the reason why Netanyahu and his right wing government best serve those who call for a boycott of Israel and the BDS movement. After all, neither leftist organizations nor the BDS movement declared on Election Day that the “Arabs are flocking to the polls” clip. Those calling for boycott did not initiate the segregation of Arabs and Jews on buses in the occupied territories. And students in London were not the ones who threatened the Palestinian Football Federation president with imprisonment in the Muqata [the Palestinian government compound in Ramallah] so he could play football with his comrades.

Read More »

Conversation with Israel and Palestine: Gaby Lasky on Anti-Boycott Law [ssba]

Conversation with Israel and Palestine: Gaby Lasky on Anti-Boycott Law

Partners for Progressive Israel had a fascinating conversation Sunday with Gaby Lasky. Lasky is a civil rights attorney and a Meretz representative to the Tel Aviv city council. She is a former secretary-general of Peace Now and specializes in freedom of speech and the right to demonstrate. In 2012, she was honored with the Emil Grunzweig Award for Human Rights by ACRI (the Association for Civil Rights in Israel).

Over the years, Gaby Lasky represented many high profile cases and served as legal counsel to environmental, social and anti-Occupation protest movements. She represented Mahsom Watch, B’tselem, and the latest Gush Shalom petition against the anti-boycott law.