Detroit Jews ask: Are targeted Israel boycotts the same as BDS? [ssba]

Detroit Jews ask: Are targeted Israel boycotts the same as BDS?

Our petition, Demand Detroit’s Walk for Israel include all supporters of Israel, promted Ron Kampeas to published following article in the the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

(JTA) — For the second year in a row, the Detroit area’s Walk for Israel has rebuffed the sponsorship of left-wing pro-Israel groups because of their support for boycotting settlements.

At the heart of the dispute is a question of definitions: Is support of a boycott targeting Jewish enterprises beyond Israel’s 1967 borders the same as backing the blanket economic and cultural boycott of Israel called for by the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement? 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 »

How Anti-Semitic are the Europeans? [ssba]

How Anti-Semitic are the Europeans?

If you follow the Israeli news, you probably noticed that the media has been filled with the Right-Wing outcry over the EU’s decision to label products from the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said “This is a miserable decision of unparalleled hypocrisy.” Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked called the decision “anti-Israel and anti-Jewish… The European hypocrisy and their hatred of Israel has crossed every line.”

The so-called Israeli “center-left” followed suit. Parroting the extreme Right, Zionist Camp leader Isaac Herzog said “This decision is based on hatred, falsehood and ignorance, devoid of any moral value. ” And Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid tweeted: “Jews are being stabbed in the streets and the EU has given in to BDS. This decision discriminates against Israel and encourages terrorism.”

If the outcry ended with Israeli politicians one upping each other’s indignation, I probably would have said nothing. Herzog and Lapid, after all, have been fighting each other over who can best serve as Netanyahu’s press secretary. But Partners for Progressive Israel’s Facebook page filled with right-wing trolls hooting and hollering about Meretz’s support of the EU decision. And this morning in Haaretz Uri Misgav published an opinion piece in which he charges the Israeli media with peddling Netanyahu’s lies.

So I sat down and translated the following Facebook post that Roy Peled posted yesterday: Read More »

Herzog’s Failure Hurts Israel [ssba]

Herzog’s Failure Hurts Israel

The function of a parliamentary opposition is to critique and oppose the government’s policies and behavior, and where called for, to offer constructive alternatives to the government’s decisions.  In this respect, many of Knesset Opposition chief Isaac Herzog’s recent political stances are disappointing and disturbing.

Why has Herzog, leader of the Labor Party, not joined Israeli security experts in more accurately diagnosing the causes of the present violence as the result of frustration, rage, and despair, instead of abetting the right’s characterization of Palestinian attacks as simply the result of “incitement,” or as the latest expression of allegedly perennial, anti-Semitic savagery?

Read More »

Settlements De-Legitimize Israel, Not the EU [ssba]

Settlements De-Legitimize Israel, Not the EU

Zehava Galon spoke at the Haaretz Peace Conference today:

I do not understand how could the right-wing government be surprised by the EU initiative to mark settlement products. Could the PM and his right-wing government think it would be possible to convince the Europeans that the occupation is legitimate? That there is no difference between the state of Israel and the criminal settlement enterprise?

I said right now at the Haaretz Peace conference that the EU decision to mark settlements products, which are part of a widespread occupation economy, is not anti-Semitism nor is it hatred of Israel. It is merely an attempt to differentiate between legitimate sovereign State of Israel within the Green Line and the occupied territories.

It’s time for the Right-wing government to understand that occupation and conflict management carries an international price and an internal price. It is time that the people of Israel decide its worth sacrificing the international legitimacy of Israel for the sake of the settlements and the occupation.

Those who do not distinguish between the occupation and Israel are responsible for the de-legitimization of Israel.

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 »

It’s About Settlements, Not BDS [ssba]

It’s About Settlements, Not BDS

Hiam Simon (Ameinu’s COO) and I responded to a false assertion that PPI supports BDS.  Both Dr. Scott David Lippe’s charge and our response were  published in our local New Jersey community weekly, The Jewish Standard, as letters to the editor.  This is most of our letter:   

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement was established in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian organizations to promote the general boycott of Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, the general boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, divestment from Israeli companies and companies doing business with Israel, and international sanctions against the State of Israel. For many years, Partners for Progressive Israel and its predecessor organizations have actively opposed this movement as a general attack on the Jewish state and the Israeli public.

But we don’t believe Dr. Lippe was particularly interested in investigating either our personal views in opposition to the BDS movement or those of Partners for Progressive Israel. He is interested in promoting a particular agenda in support of West Bank settlement activity. So let’s discuss this real agenda, and the substantive differences between us. Read More »

Theodore Bikel (1924-2015) Z”L [ssba]

Theodore Bikel (1924-2015) Z”L

Partners for Progressive Israel mourns the passing of Theodore Bikel, PPI’s board chair for many years.  The world knew him as a great performer — both as a singer and an actor.  We knew him as a man of conscience who was true to his principles.  We will miss his wisdom as a leader and his warmth as a friend.

After being fortunate enough to get out of his native Austria, he spent some formative years in what became Israel.  His commitment to a just and secure Israel at peace with its neighbors was a lifelong involvement.  Not only was he PPI’s board chair, but he also led PPI in an important new policy direction, when he declared his solidarity with 150 Israeli performers who publicly pledged to boycott the new theater in the large West Bank settlement town of Ariel.

This prompted our organization to be among the first in the American-Jewish community, and the only Zionist organization, to endorse an economic boycott of West Bank settlements (even as PPI joined most American Jews in opposing the general BDS movement against Israel within the Green Line). He explained his support for the settlement boycott by Israeli performing artists in his opinion piece, “Legitimizing an Obstacle 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: