Here are some messages from and about the Middle East we want to share: testimonies from the civilian front line, Arab news updates and links for background, action and protest.

the page below brings posts from March 16 till December 28, 2009
most recent posts are here

follow these links for previous posts:

January 14 - March 4, 2009
December 27, 2008 - January 13, 2009
January 2008 - December 2008
October 2006 - December 2007
Mid August till end of September 2006
August 2006 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 1
July 2006 31 / 30 / 29 / 28 / 27 / 26 / 25 / 23 / 22 / 21 / 20 / 19 / 18 / 17 / 16 / 15 / 11 / 8 / 6 / 5

send feedback to sonicsquare(at)

Date: Monday, december 28, 2009 08:35:58
Subject: 1 Year after Gaza Massacre: 500+ Academics/Cultural Workers Call for BDS

1 Year after Gaza Massacre: Over 500 Academics and Cultural Workers Call for Boycott

by United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel / December 27th, 2009

December 27, 2009 marks the one-year anniversary of the beginning of “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s 22-day assault on the captive population of Gaza, which killed 1400 people, one third of them children, and injured more than 5300. During this war on an impoverished, mostly refugee population, Israel targeted civilians, using internationally-proscribed white phosphorous bombs, deprived them of power, water and other essentials, and sought to destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian civil society, including hospitals, administrative buildings and UN facilities. It targeted with peculiar consistency educational institutions of all kinds: the Islamic University of Gaza, the Ministry of Education, the American International School, at least ten UNRWA schools, one of which was sheltering internally displaced Palestinian civilians with nowhere to flee, and tens of other schools and educational facilities.

While world leaders have tragically failed to come to Gaza’s help, civilians everywhere are rallying to show their solidarity with the Palestinian people, with anniversary vigils taking place this week in New York, Washington DC, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, and many more cities and towns in the US and world-wide.

The United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was formed in the immediate aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, bringing together educators of conscience who were unable to stand by and watch in silence Israel’s indiscriminate assault on the Gaza Strip and its educational institutions. Today, over 500 US-based academics, authors, artists, musicians, poets, and other arts professionals have endorsed our call. Our academic endorsers include post-colonial critics and transnational feminists Chandra Talpade Mohanty and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Indigenous scholars J. K?haulani Kauanui and Andrea Smith, philosopher Judith Butler, Black studies scholars Cedric Robinson, Fred Moten, evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, and intellectual historian Joseph Massad.

“Cultural workers” who have endorsed our call include well known author Barbara Ehrenreich, Electronic Intifada founder Ali Abunimah, poets Adrienne Rich and Lisa Suhair Majjaj, ISM co-founder and documentary film-maker Adam Shapiro, Jordan Flaherty of Left Turn Magazine, and Adrienne Maree Brown, of the Ruckus Society.

Among the 34 organizations supporting our mission are and the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the Green Party, Code Pink, INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, .Artists Against Apartheid, and Teachers Against the Occupation.

The Advisory Board of the United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has grown to include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Hamid Dabashi, Lawrence Davidson, Bill Fletcher Jr., Glen Ford, Mark Gonzales, Marilyn Hacker, Edward Herman, Annemarie Jacir, J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Robin Kelley, Ilan Pappe, James Petras, Vijay Prashad, Andrenne Rich, Michel Shehadeh, and Lisa Taraki.

Israeli academics, listed among the organization’s International Endorsers, have also joined us, including Emmanuel Farjoun, Hebrew University; Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University; Anat Matar, Tel Aviv University; Kobi Snitz, Technion; and Ilan Pappe now at Exeter.

The USACBI Mission Statement calls for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions in support of an appeal by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Individual Israelis are not targeted by the boycott.

Specifically, supporters are asked to:

(1) Refrain from participation in any form of academic and cultural cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli institutions that do not vocally oppose Israeli state policies against Palestine;

(2) Advocate a comprehensive boycott of Israeli institutions at the national and international levels, including suspension of all forms of funding and subsidies to these institutions;

(3) Promote divestment and disinvestment from Israel by international academic institutions;

(4) Work toward the condemnation of Israeli policies by pressing for resolutions to be adopted by academic, professional and cultural associations and organizations;

(5) Support Palestinian academic and cultural institutions directly without requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or implicit condition for such support.

This boycott, modeled upon the global BDS movement that put an end to South African apartheid, is to continue until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:

1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel is a U.S. campaign focused specifically on a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions, as delineated by PACBI (Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel). Read other articles by United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, or visit United States Campaign for an Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel's website.

From: omar barghouti
Date: Saturday, december 26, 2009 07:50:33
Subject: Press Release: Gaza Freedom March - Worldwide Solidarity Actions

December 26, 2009

For contact information:
In Cairo: Ann Wright, 019 508 1493,
In Europe (Portugal): Ziyaad Lunat, +351938349206,
In US: Nancy Mancias, 1 (415) 342-6409,

International Campaign in Support of the Gaza Freedom March
Thousands of Unison Actions Assembled around the World


A massive mobilization between December 27, 2009 and January 1, 2010 with candlelight vigils, concerts, marches, demonstrations, art installations and movie screenings will assemble all over the world to send a clear message to world leaders: end the siege on Gaza.

To tackle the blockade against Gaza, grassroots activists are moving quickly and acting in unison for an absolutley crucial time. Dec. 27 will mark one year since the Israeli attack and invasion of the Gaza Strip. Although the Israeli tanks have left, the complete closure of the borders continues.

In order to unite the public to influence public leaders behind the Gaza Freedom March goals, solidarity action organizers harnessed the power of the internet to coordinate a global week of actions. There will be actions at many places around the world: France, United Kingdom, Turkey, Ireland, Germany, Spain, United States, Afghanistan, Australia, Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden, Jordan, Canada, Israel/Palestine, Poland, Denmark, and Greece.
On December 31, 2009, more than 1,400 citizens from across the world will travel to Cairo to join the Gaza Freedom March. This historic non-violent action has been organized by The International Coalition to End the Illegal Siege of Gaza. Its objective is to draw international attention to the siege and blockade of Gaza which are illegal under international law.

According to the United Nations, the most recent invasion left 1,400 Palestinian civilians dead, thousands injured and hundreds of thousands homeless, many of whom still live in tents. Many more are living in the ruins of their houses or with relatives. It is now one year later, and no progress has been made. In fact the situation is more dire than ever. Hospitals lack many medicines and supplies to provide even routine medical care. Building materials so desperately needed after the last winter’s invasion by Israel are not permitted into Gaza.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law that has led to mass suffering. The U.S., Egypt and the rest of the international community are complicit. The law is clear. The conscience of humankind is shocked. Yet, the siege of Gaza continues.

For more information about the Gaza Freedom March global actions visit:


Gaza Freedom March

Worldwide Solidarity Actions
December 27th and 31st, 2009
Kite Flying
Bamiyan Peace Park
Bamiyan, Afghanistan

Gaza Freedom Vigil Sydney
December 27, 2009
Town Hall Square
Sydney, Australia

December 27, 2009
2:00pm, march through the main streets of Brussels
4:00pm, vigil with candles
Brussels, Belgium|62|111

Solidarity March
January 16th 3p
St. Andrews United Church
Halifax, NS, Canada

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Gaza Freedom March 2010
January 01, 2010
3:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Vancouver, BC

London, Ontario
Gaza Freedom March - London, Ontario
January 01, 2010
3:00 PM - 7:00 PM
Victoria Park, London, Ontario, Canada
London, ON

Toronto, Ontario
Gaza Freedom March
A march and rally in solidarity with those marching in Gaza!
March on Gaza - Dec. 31st, 2009 - Ontario Supporters
Sunday, December 27, 2009
1:00pm - 4:00pm
Israeli Consulate
180 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON

Calgary, Alberta
Gaza Freedom March
January 01, 2010
3:00 PM
Calgary, AB

Winniepeg, MB
December 27, 2009
Manitoba Legislature
450 Broadway
Winnipeg, MB

Gaza, 1 year after...gathering
December 27, 2009
Angle Belsunce/Canebiere
Marseilles, France

Candlight vigil
December 29, 2009
Place d'Erlon (la Fontaine de la Solidarite)
Reims, France

December 27, 2009
Gerberstrasse 45 / Stadtzentrum
Possneck, Germany

December 27 3pm
Reutlingen, Germany

December 29, 2009
Schadowplatz Dusseldorf Inennenstadt
Dusseldorf, Germany

December 28, 2009
Southern Bertholdstrasse
Freiberg, Germany

December 27, 2009
Holzmarkt, 27070
Tubingen, Germany

December 29th 3pm
Reesendammbrücke / Jungfernstieg /Alsterarkaden
in the near of the Town Hall
Hamburg, Germany

Installation of items forbidden in Gaza
December 29, 2009
Richard-Strauss Foundation
Munich, Germany

Embassy of Israel
January 6th
Dublin, Ireland

Mass Free Gaza march and rally
December 26th, 2009
Tel Aviv-Jaffa

Gaza Freedom March on the Israeli side of the Erez Crossing
December 31st, 2009
10:30 AM
Erez Crossing

December 31st
Nativity Square

Prayer gathering
ul. Plonowa 6a, 61-312
Poznan, Poland

MadridMarathon: "I San Silvestre Leganense. Refugiados palestinos, corre por ellos"
December 27, 2009
10:30 AM - 1:00 PM
Calles de Leganés
Madrid, Spain

Solidarity action
December 26, 2009
Plaza Mayor
Valladolid, Spain

San Sebastian-Donostia
Solidarity action
December 27, 2009
San Sebastian-Donostia, Spain

Memorial Concert
December 27, 2009
Stockholm, Sweden

Livestream viewing
Connect Cafe
Unternehmen MITTE
Gerbergasse 30
Basle, Switzerland

National start of Swiss solidarity actions
Candlelight vigil with 1400 candles on Bundesplatz (or Münsterplatz)
Bern, Switzerland CH-3000

Vigil 4pm-9pm

BDS Walk
December 27, 2009
Istanbul, Turkey

United Kingdom
One year since the Beginning of the Attacks on Gaza
December 27, 2009
3:00 PM
High Street Kensington, W8, London, United Kingdom

Edinburgh, Scotland
Gaza Freedom March & public commemoration in Scotland
December 27, 2009
2:00 PM
Edinburgh: Foot of the Mound
Elsewhere: to be announced

United States
January 20th 6pm
Huntsville Madison County Library
900 Monroe St.
Huntsville, AL

Alaska -
Juneau, Alaska
Film Screening - Occupation 101 and Life in Occupied Palestine
December 29, 2009
Goldtown Nickelodeon Theater
Juneau, Alaska

December 20, 2009
Dimond Court Plaza
Juneau, Alaska

Phoenix, AZ
Movie Viewing Occupation 101
December 29, 2009
Grace Lutheran Church
1126 North 3rd Street
Phoenix, AZ

Little Rock
December 27th 5pm
State Capitol
Little Rock, AR

Gaza Freedom March - Los Angeles / Orange County Solidarity Action at Disneyland:
December 30th 6:30 - 8:30 PM
Disneyland Entrance near Downtown Disney Store
Anaheim , CA 92802

Gaza Solidarity - House Party
December 27, 2009
1:00 PM
Please email Janet at for address and directions

La Jolla
Candle light vigil
January 6, 2009
UC San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla

Los Angeles
Vigil for Gaza - Los Angeles
December 28, 2009
5:00 PM
Israeli Consulate
6380 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5071

December 27, 2009 2pm
Window on the Bay Park
700 Del Monte Ave
Monterey, CA

San Francisco
Candlelight Memorial at Union Square, San Francisco
December 27, 2009
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
Powell Street & Geary St.
San Francisco, CA 94108

San Francisco
Benefit for the children of Gaza
December 27th 7p
Brainwash Cafe
1122 Folsom Street
San Francisco, CA

San Francisco
March across the Golden Gate Bridge
December 31, 2009
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco, CA 94956

December 27th, 1pm
Arden and Hertiage
Sacramento, CA

Santa Cruz
December 31, 2009
Pacific and Laurel Sts.
Santa Cruz, CA

Redwood City
December 27, 2009
2124 Brewster Avenue
Redwood City, CA

Colorado Springs
Gaza Solidarity Action
December 28, 2009
11:00 AM - 1:00 PM
Chapel Hills Mall 1710 Briargate Boulevard
Colorado Springs, CO 80920

Colorado Springs
December 29, 2009 5:15p
Bijou and Nevada in Acacia Park
Colorado Springs. CO

Rally Downtown Denver
December 21, 2009 3pm
16th Street Mall
Denver, CO

In Door solidarity vigil
December 31, 2009
6:00 PM - 6:12 PM
Short service in chapel At 6pm New Years Eve
First Unitarian Church 1400 Lafayette Street
Denver, CO 80218

Sunday, Dec. 27
CT in Solidarity with Gaza
Charter Oak Cultural Center
21 Charter Oak Ave., Hartford
1-3:30 p.m.
Meeting *** Solidarity March
Hartford, Connecticut

Washington, District of Columbia
DC Vigil for Gaza
December 30, 2009
Gallery Place Metro, 7th & H St. NW
Washington, DC

Screening of Occupation 101
Grace Episcopal Church
1041 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC

St. Petersburg
Slingshot Hip Hop screening
December 30, 2009
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
937 Central Avenue
St. Petersburg, FL 33705

December 31st 5:30p
Main St. Friendship Square
Moscow, ID

December 27th 12pm
Water Town Park
180 East Pearson St
Chicago, IL

December 30th 5:30p
637 S. Dearborn, 2nd Fl
Chicago, IL

Dubuque, IA
December 28, 2009
4:00pm - gathering
601 Locust St. (the southeast corner of Washington Park)
Dubuque, Iowa

Louisville, KY
Friday Vigil for Gaza
January 01, 2010
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
6th and Broadway
Louisville, KY 40202

Blue Hill
Gaza Freedom March
December 30, 2009
12:00 PM - 2:00 PM
High Street, near elementary school
Blue Hill, Maine

Gaza Freedom March Solidarity Rally
December 31, 2009
1:00 PM
Castonguay Square (downtown, adjacent to City Hall and across the street from Rep. Mike Michaud's office).
Waterville, ME 04901

January 1st 12pm
Baltimore's Inner Harbor
Baltimore, MD

First Night Against the Wars
December 31, 2009
Copley Square
Boston, MA

Northhampton, MA
In Solidarity with the People of Gaza,
December 28, 2009
5:00 PM - 6:30 PM
In front of Northampton, Massachusetts City Hall, 5-6:30 p.m.
Northampton, MA 01060

Vigil and Solidarity March
December 29th 5:30p
Dearborn City Hall
Dearborn, MI

Hartland, MI
Open house
December 31st 2pm
2641 Sun Terrace Drive
Hartland, MI

December 27th, 12p-1pm
Federal Building
Kalamazoo, MI

Minneapolis, MN
December 20, 2009
Hennepin County Government Plaza
Minneapolis, MN 55487

St. Louis, MO
December 27, 2009
St. Louis, MO

New Mexico-
Vigil December 29th 4p
Federal Court House
Lomas and 5th St.
Albuquerque, NM

New York-
New York, New York
December 27th 11am
50th and Park Avenue

Gaza Solidarity March
December 27, 2009
1:00 PM
March marking the first anniversary of the Israeli invasion of Gaza
Assemble at 42nd St. and 7th Avenue
March to the Israeli Mission and the United Nations

Syracuse, NY
Free Gaza March
December 28, 2009
Federal Building
100 S. Clinton Street
Syracuse, NY 13205

White Plains, NY
December 30th 4pm
Metro North Station
White Plains

Woodstock, NY
December 31st 2am
Village Green 6 Tinker Street
Woodstock, NY

Potluck dinner and Skype discussion
December 30, 2009
Corvallis Multicultural Literacy Center
128 SW 9th Street
Corvallis, Oregon

Eugene, OR
December 31, 2009 1pm
500 E. 4th Ave
Eugene, OR

December 27, 2009
Intersection of North Main St and East Court St
Doylestown, PA 18901

Gaza Solidarity Event: Movie & Snacks
December 27, 2009
6:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Philadelphia, PA 19147

December 27, 2009
Westheimer and Post Oak
Houston, TX

Bellingham, Washington
Film Screening
December 29, 2009
6:30 PM
511 East Holly Street, Bellingham, WA 98225
Bellingham, WA 98225

Olympia, WA
Rachel Corrie Foundation presentation
December 30th 7p
Traditions Cafe
300 5th Avenue SW
Olympia, WA

December 30th 5p
Corner of Division and Main
Spokane, WA

December 31, 2009
Cup of Hopes Coffee Shop
517 6th Street
Racine, WI

From: omar barghouti
Date: Wednesday, december 2, 2009 15:37:43
Subject: Update on Gaza Freedom March

The date set for the Gaza Freedom March is fast approaching: 31 December 2009. Below is the latest update on this historic event, which will witness the convergence of thousands of international and Arab activists, intellectuals, artists, professionals, human rights activists, Holocaust survivors, among others, on the besieged Gaza Strip, to express their solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza and to march with them to call the world's attention to the absolute urgency of ending Israel's criminal and genocidal siege on the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee has strongly endorsed this March early on and called on all solidarity activists around the world to endorse it and participate in it or in its parallel activities. Dr. Haidar Eid, representing PACBI and the BNC in Gaza, is playing a key role in organizing for the March, along with many civil society organizations there.

I strongly urge all of you to endorse the March at the website below. I also hope that many of you will join the actual March in Gaza. A parallel march will be organized and led by the Arab Higher Monitoring Committee (the coalition of all major Palestinian groups inside Israel) going to the Erez checkpoint from the other side. In the occupied West Bank, several groups, mainly those involved in popular resistance against Israel's illegal Wall and colonies, will be organizing many concurrent, local protests in villages, refugee camps and cities. Some promise to be "spectacular."

If going to Gaza is not possible for you and you cannot join the March inside Israel either, please consider organizing -- or joining others who are organizing -- local solidarity events to coincide with the March, amplifying its message in your country. If even that is not possible, please consider donating to the organizing committee at the website below.

This is a timely and highly inspiring form of solidarity with the people of Palestine against Israel's siege. It is time to hold Israel to account and end its criminal impunity.



Historic Gaza Freedom March to Israeli Border Set For December 31
Global grassroots initiative inspired by Gandhi/Mandela
aims to break blockade
The Gaza Freedom March that will take place in Gaza on December 31 is an historic initiative to break the siege that has imprisoned the 1.5 million people who live there. Conceived in the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and nonviolent resistance to injustice worldwide, the march will gather people from all over the world to march—hand in hand—with the people of Gaza to demand that the Israelis open the borders.

Marking the one-year anniversary of the December 2008 Israeli invasion that left over 1,400 dead, this is a grassroots global response to the inaction on the part of world leaders and institutions. Over 1,00 international delegates from 42 countries have already signed up and more are signing on every day. Participants include Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker, leading Syrian comedian Duraid Lahham, French Senator Alima Boumediene–Thiery, author and Filipino Parliament member Walden Bello, former European Parliamentarians Luisa Morgantini from Italy and Eva Quistorp from Germany, President of the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights Attorney Michael Ratner, Japanese former Ambassador to Lebanon Naoto Amaki, French hip-hop artists Ministere des Affaires Populaires, and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein.

We also have families of three generations, doctors, lawyers, diplomats, 70 students, an interfaith group that includes rabbis, priests and imams, a women’s delegation, a Jewish contingent, a veterans group and Palestinians born overseas who have never seen their families in Gaza.

The international delegates will enter Gaza via Egypt during the last week of December. In the morning December 31, they will join Palestinians in a non-violent march from Northern Gaza to the Erez/Israeli border. On the Israeli side of the Erez border will be a gathering of Palestinians and Jews who are also calling on the Israeli government to open the border.

Inside Gaza, excitement is growing. Representatives of all aspects of civil society, including students, professors, refugee groups, unions, women’s organizations, NGOs, have been busy organizing and estimate that at least 50,000 Palestinians will participate. People from the different sectors will march in their uniforms--fishermen, doctors, students, farmers, etc. Local Palestinian rappers, hiphop bands and Dabbkeh dancers will perform on mobile stages.

For more information see , especially FAQ section, or contact:
In the US: Medea Benjamin 415-235-6517
Ann Wright 808-741-1141
In Gaza: Haider Eid 970 599 441 766 <>
In Europe (Portugal): Ziyaad Lunat +351938349206

From: lauradeprez
Date: Sunday, october 18, 2009 01:40:14
Subject: Conference Boycott Israel - Ilan Pappe + Samia Botmeh > Brussels - 23/10/09

Merci de faire circuler largement! - Bedankt om ruim te verspreiden! ]

Brussels Palestine Collective vous invite à une conférence sur le Boycott d'Israël
avec Ilan Pappe et Samia Botmeh

Brussels Palestine Collective nodigt u uit op een conferentie over de Boycot van Israël
met Ilan Pappe en Samia Botmeh

Vendredi / Vrijdag 23 Octobre 2009 -- 19:00
ACV, rue Pletinckxstraat 19, 1000 Bruxelles

Conférence en anglais avec traduction simultanée en français et néerlandais
De conferentie zal doorgaan in het Engels met simultaanvertaling in het Frans en het Nederlands

(entrée gratuite - vrije ingang )

From: Nat Denis
Date: Monday, september 14, 2009 01:40:14
Subject: Film on Academic Norman Finkelstein opening in Chicago and other cities around the world



September 9th, 2009 - Ridgen and Rossier's new haunting documentary "American Radical" tells the story of controversial Jewish academic Norman Finkelstein.

The film is to open this Fall in Chicago at the IFP/Chicago Underground Film Festival and will then go to Montreal, Boston, Sheffield, Copenhagen, Beirut, Palestine, Israel and many other cities around the world. A selective theatrical release is planned in the US for the Fall of 2009.

American Radical is the probing documentary portrait of American academic and activist Norman Finkelstein. A devoted son of holocaust survivors, ardent critic of Israeli and US Mid-East policies and author of six provocative books-including The Holocaust Industry and Beyond Chutzpah, Finkelstein has been at the center of many intractable controversies. Called a lunatic and a self-hating Jew by some and an inspirational, street-fighting revolutionary by others, Finkelstein is a deeply polarizing figure whose struggles arise from core questions about freedom, identity and nationhood. The film provides an intimate portrait of the man behind the controversy, giving voice to both his many critics and his supporters, while following him around the globe as he labors to change peoples' minds.

American Radical is produced and directed by accomplished documentary filmmakers David Ridgen (Mississippi Cold Case) and Nicolas Rossier (Aristide and the Endless Revolution). Says Ridgen, "We were fascinated by the idea of fighting fire with fire. Strong offense. Eye for an eye. Polarizing forces that create understanding in their collision, like filmmaker Eisenstein's cells. That it takes a radical to tame radicalism, or perhaps to end it. Norman Finkelstein embodies this duality. For us, he is a case study for it in fact. Some important voices say he is full of sound and fury signifying nothing. Others say he is a street fighter for the downtrodden. But what is the real politick of his words and actions and existence? These are the questions we wanted to answer. The more one considers Norman and those in his realm, the more one recognizes that no radical is without sin or innocence. There is worth in being a modern firebrand, and there are great costs. And both may lie where you least expect to discover them".

Completed in 2009, American Radical was picked up for US distribution by Typecast Releasing in September. Says Rossier, "Typecast is a great choice for us because they have an original and bold catalogue of films and are very passionate and professional". Typecast Releasing will make American Radical available for broadcast, theaters, festival screenings, DVD and digital distribution in the USA.

For more information, contact:
Baraka Productions - Ridgen Film

Typecast Releasing

From: alternet
Date: Wednesday, september 2, 2009 08:09:02
Subject: Naomi Klein Boycotts Life as Normal in Israel

Naomi Klein Boycotts Life as Normal in Israel
By Cecilie Surasky, AlterNet
Posted on September 1, 2009, Printed on September 1, 2009
Few global justice campaigns are more polarizing, even explosive, than the effort to use international boycotts, divestment and sanctions to pressure Israel to end its 42-year occupation of the Palestinian Territories.

Just ask Neve Gordon.

Recently, Gordon, head of the political science department at Ben-Gurion University and a longtime peace activist, published a wrenching op-ed in the Los Angeles Times endorsing the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). After initially opposing the tactic, he became convinced, he wrote, that outside pressure "is the only way that Israel can be saved from itself."

He was braced for a backlash, but nothing like what he has faced over the past few weeks -- members of the Israeli Knesset from a range of political parties called for his immediate sacking, the Education Minister called his article "repugnant," and his own university president threw him under the bus saying, "Academic personalities who feel this way are invited to look for an academic and personal home elsewhere." She then hinted that his statement might have been an act of treason.

Clearly, BDS, part of the so-called South Africa strategy, crosses a line in the sand for many who believe that putting economic pressure on Israel is necessarily anti-Jewish. But for proponents, BDS is a proven, nonviolent tactic that can pressure Israel to abide by international law, making an impact where various government efforts have failed, and failed miserably.

Though Palestinian Civil Society made the BDS call in 2005, it gained momentum after Israel's brutal assault on Gaza this past December and January. Now it is undeniably growing, particularly in the arts world. Respected writers like John Berger, Eduardo Galeano and Adrienne Rich have all endorsed it; and Israeli film festivals have faced a string of boycotts. Most recently, the Toronto International Film Festival's announcement of a special "city-to-city" celebration of Tel Aviv is threatening to turn the second most important film festival in the world (after Cannes) into a site of angry protests.

One of the most high-profile figures so far to endorse the call for BDS is Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, who typically enjoys overflow crowds, extensive media coverage, and brisk book sales when she goes on international book tours.

When it came to publishing her latest bestseller, The Shock Doctrine, in Hebrew and Arabic, Klein decided the political situation in Israel and Palestine called for an entirely different approach.

In opposition to Israel's occupation, she chose not to sign a traditional book deal with advances and royalties. Instead, she donated the book to Andalus, a publishing house that works actively against the occupation. It is the only Israeli publisher devoted exclusively to translating Arabic writing into Hebrew, something its founder Yael Lerer describes as "publishing as an act of resistance."

Klein and Lerer also set out to craft a book tour that would both honor the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel while also showing that boycotts need not cut off much-needed communication and dialogue. With this in mind, Klein, together with Lerer, used the tour to draw attention to the boycott and the Palestinian struggle and to spark an internal Israeli dialogue about boycott as a way to pressure Israel to live up to international law.

Last month in Tel Aviv, I sat down with Klein and Lerer to ask about the goals, meaning, and nuts and bolts of implementing a cultural boycott, and also why Lerer, a Jewish Israeli, is telling the world, "Please, boycott me."

Here are some excerpts from that interview. -- Cecilie Surasky

* * *
Cecilie Surasky: What is the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS)? Why are you supporting it?

Naomi Klein: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: it's a tactic with a very clear goal, to force Israel to comply with international law.

The call [for BDS] was made in 2005 by an extraordinarily broad range of Palestinian civil society groups, political parties, and trade unions. But it didn't really start to gain an international profile until the Israeli attack on Lebanon in the summer of 2006. In the midst of the war, the writer John Berger sent out a letter, signed by many prominent artists, mostly European, declaring their support for the boycott strategy. When that letter surfaced, I was in the middle of writing The Shock Doctrine and I made a personal decision at the time that when the book came out, I wouldn't do what I had done with the Hebrew translations of my previous two books, which was to publish with a fairly traditional commercial publisher. Instead I planned to do what John Berger was calling for, which was to find a way to publish in Hebrew that directly supports groups that are working to end the occupation. So that's how I met Yael, who is anything but a traditional Israeli publisher, and who has been outspoken in her support of BDS, at genuine professional cost.

Surasky: You must have grappled with this idea of a cultural boycott. Many critics would say that it shuts down communication rather than opening it up. What brought you to take this step?

Klein: Well it has to do with the fact that the Israeli government openly uses culture as a military tool. Though Israeli officials believe they are winning the actual war for land, they also feel that the country suffers because most of what the world hears about the region on the news is about the conflict: militarization, lawlessness, the occupation, and Gaza. So the foreign ministry launched a campaign called Israel Beyond the Conflict which involves using culture, film, books, the arts, tourism and academia to create all kinds of alliances between Western countries and the State of Israel, and to promote the image of a normal, happy country, rather than an aggressive occupying power. That's why we are always hearing about film festivals and book fairs with a special "Israel spotlight."

And so, even though in general I would totally agree that culture is positive -- books are positive and film is positive and communication is wonderful -- we have to understand that we are dealing with a state strategy to co-opt all of that to make a brutal occupation more palatable. There are other things that also fall into that category: the State of Israel has an open strategy of enlisting gay and lesbian rights and feminism into the conflict, pitting Hamas’s fundamentalism against Israel’s supposed enlightened liberalism as another justification for collective punishment of Palestinians (never mind the ever-growing power and intolerance of Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Jews). It's a very sophisticated strategy. That means we have to come up with equally sophisticated strategies that defend culture and human rights on the one hand, but that, on the other, reject all attempts to use our work and our values to whitewash the ugly reality of occupation and segregation.

Surasky: You've done a book tour unlike any other book tour. Yael Lerer, your company Andalus published the book in Hebrew. On the face of it, there's an inherent contradiction in coming to Israel-Palestine and doing a book tour while supporting a boycott. Yet you've managed to make that work. Can you explain?

Yael Lerer: Andalus has been dealing with this contradiction from the very beginning. We publish Arab writers that oppose "normalization" of the Occupation – like we do. And we always try to find ways to deal with these contradictions. Actually, this is the first time we have had a book tour, because our normal way of dealing with these contradictions is to translate the books, but not hold any celebrations. Our writers never come here. So here we had this challenge for the first time.

We made the big launch of the Hebrew edition not in Tel Aviv but in Haifa, at an Arab theater, where our hosts were not Israeli official institutions, but Palestinian minority institutions. (As you know, there is a minority of 20% Palestinian within Israel.) But this event was not aimed only at this community -- we invited Israeli Jews to come as well. One could read everywhere in Hebrew, "Naomi Klein is coming to Haifa, come and hear her."

At the same time it was important to have the first book events in East Jerusalem and Ramallah, with the Arabic edition, and that before all the book events Naomi participated in a demonstration in Bi’lin against the separation wall.

So we spoke to the Israeli public at the events and through the Israeli media. The book is available in Hebrew. But, at the same time, we expressed a strong anti-normalization position. We were not doing it like everything is normal.

Klein: And that's the point. This is not a boycott of Israelis. It's a boycott of pretending that everything is normal in Israel, because that's what cultural producers are usually invited to do. There has been a huge amount of misrepresentation about the boycott campaign, claiming that it is a boycott of Israelis, or Jews, or that it's anti-Semitic. We are trying to address those misconceptions with this tour. There are some clear rules: we’re not going to work with a state-sponsored book fair, for instance. I have refused invitations to come to Israel, to speak at state sponsored film festivals and things like that.

But If I were boycotting Israelis, I wouldn't be in Israel engaging with Israelis. I would have stayed home.

One of the things we are trying to draw out with this tour is that for foreigners like me, however you choose to come to Israel, you are making choices, and you are taking a side. It's possible to pretend that you are not, but that’s only because of Israel's success in making the conflict invisible inside a carefully constructed bubble.

In my book, there is a long chapter about Israel and the construction of the homeland security state. It looks closely at the companies that build the high-tech walls and fences and checkpoints, and that keep Palestinians in the Occupied Territories in a state of constant surveillance. It is because of the effectiveness of the homeland security sector that it’s possible to come to cities like Tel Aviv and be almost completely oblivious to what is happening in Ramallah, in Gaza. This state is like a giant gated community. It has perfected the art of constructing a security bubble, and that is, in a sense, its brand.

It's a brand that is sold to Diaspora Jews like me. It says: "we can keep you safe, we can create, in a sea of enemies, a bubble of safety for you to enjoy, to have a wonderful beach holiday, to go to film festivals, and book festivals -- even as we bomb Gaza, even as we turn the West Bank into a chain of mini-Bantustans, surrounded by walls and expanding settlements, and roads Palestinians don’t have access to." These are two sides of the same coin: the bubble of normalcy, the brutality of enclosure. So it is not a politically neutral act to partake of that bubble.

This is a very important dialogue to have, and that's why it was so important for us to publish the book in Hebrew -- both to get the information out there and to challenge people who are misrepresenting this tactic as being a boycott of Jews or a boycott of Israelis. We're not doing that at all.

I donated the royalties to Andalus, so that I'm not personally profiting from this, and I chose to work with Andalus because it is an activist publisher with a clear anti-occupation stand. If the book does well, then it helps them to continue their work. The boycott campaign doesn't ask people not to come to Israel or the Occupied Territories to share ideas and art -- it asks that we do so in clear opposition to occupation and discrimination.

Surasky: And how has the Israeli media responded to the first pro-boycott book tour?

Klein:Not well. One of the contradictions we're facing is that we really wanted to spark a debate in Israel, because while BDS is being debated in Europe and Canada, it's almost invisible inside Israel; there’s real censorship around this issue. Virtually the only perspective you hear is, "oh, they're just a bunch of anti-Semites, they hate Israelis, they hate Jews" -- very, very distorted.

So our idea was to make it harder to distort by putting some facts on the ground and saying: "Look, we've translated this book, I'm here in Israel. Let's have some of that dialogue and communication Israel is supposedly so intent on defending." What we’re finding is a lot of interest from Israelis but a huge amount of resistance from the Israeli media to just having the debate -- both about the role of the security sector in lobbying against peace and the possible role of a boycott movement in creating new lobbies for peace. Once I made my boycott position clear in Ha'aretz, a lot of media canceled on us, which doesn't say much for the spectrum of debate, but it's not all that surprising either!

Surasky:What is the objective of this campaign? What would you like to see coming out of this?

Klein: It's modeled on the South Africa strategy that the anti-apartheid struggle used against South Africa very successfully in the 1980s. It had academic boycotts, cultural boycotts, consumer boycotts. But the really big key economic lever was universities and municipalities divesting from companies that were doing business in apartheid South Africa. The campaign started to be too costly for both South African firms and for Western multinationals with major investments in South Africa.

There was also a situation a little bit similar with Israel where you had a white minority in South Africa that very much saw itself as being part of Europe, of being part of the West. And suddenly they weren't getting the American and European concerts they wanted, they weren't getting the book fairs they wanted, and they didn't like that.

So they put pressure on their government to make it stop, even though white South Africans felt self-righteous and enormously enraged by the boycotts and sanctions. The hope is that these sorts of dynamics can work in Israel, because it is so important to the Israeli self-image that the country be seen as an honorary member of the EU or an adjunct to the United States. When writers and artists stop participating in the Israeli government's strategy to use culture to hide what's on the other side of the concrete walls, Israelis may eventually decide that those walls are a liability and decide to take them down

Lerer: I completely agree. As an Israeli citizen, I need boycotts for two reasons. First, I want Israelis to feel more strongly that everything is not normal. It means nothing for many self-identified left-wing Israelis to say, "It's awful, what's going on in Gaza and in Hebron," while continuing their daily lives like everything is fine. They go to the shows and they go to the concerts. These people are the elites in this country. These are the journalists that work at the newspapers. I want to move them. I want to shake these people up and make them understand they cannot continue their normal life when Palestinians in Qalqiliya [a West Bank city completely surrounded by the Separation Barrier] -- only fifteen minutes away from Tel Aviv -- are in prison.

The second reason I need the boycott is because I lost the hope of creating change from within, which was what I tried to do as an activist for many years. Twenty years ago I could never have imagined this semi-apartheid situation. I care about the future in this place. I care about my fellow Israelis. I have a huge family here and many, many friends. I know many people who don't have any other passports, and who don't have any other options. I think that the solution for this place, the only possible future, is living together. Unfortunately, at this stage, I don't see how this future can be achieved without international pressure. And I think that boycott is a nonviolent tool that has already shown us that it can work. So I'm asking: please boycott me.

Klein: I also think we need to be very clear: this is an extraordinarily asymmetrical conflict where the Israeli state is the biggest boycotter of all. The economy in Gaza and the West Bank has been utterly destroyed by closures. Beyond shutting down the borders so producers in Gaza couldn't get fruits and vegetables out, you had [over 200] factories in Gaza hit during the attack in late December and January. It was a systematic destruction of that economy to try to "teach Gaza a lesson" for having voted for Hamas. So, boycotts are happening.

The way I see BDS is that this is a tactic that we are resorting to because of Israeli impunity. There is an absolute unwillingness to apply international law to the Israeli state. Hamas has committed war crimes, but there is absolutely an international response to those crimes. [There is no response to Israeli war crimes, which are on an exponentially larger scale.]

We were just in Gaza. The thing that really struck me was the sense of shock among so many people that, even after the December/January attacks, even after hundreds of children were killed, there have been no actions taken by the international community to hold Israel accountable. I mean this was a display of utter impunity and disdain for international law, for the laws of war -- which, by the way, were created in direct response to the Nazi atrocities of the second world war. And yet not only are there no consequences for those crimes but the illegal siege of Gaza is still on.

What BDS is saying is: our governments have failed. The United Nations has failed. The so-called international community is a joke. We have to fill the vacuum.

I also believe this movement could be a game-changer in the United States. Let's remember that a huge part of the success of the anti-apartheid struggle in the eighties was due to popular education. Once you said, "Our school or town should divest from apartheid South Africa," you immediately had to have a big teach-in, where you had to explain what apartheid was and you had to make your case persuasively. And people were persuaded. The Palestinian BDS call could play that kind of movement-building role today, giving people something concrete they can organize around in their schools and communities.

Whether he recognizes it or not, Obama needs the Palestinian struggle to be a popular, grassroots issue like the South African struggle was. He has taken very small steps to forge a new kind of deal with Israel but he’s facing enormous pushback from the right. There has to be a counter-pressure on Obama saying, "Actually, you're not going far enough. Excuse me, no new settlements? How about no settlements, period?" So the only hope of not just having him hold to this tentative position but actually improving this position is if there’s a popular movement that is very clear in its demands for Israel abide by international law on all fronts, and that's exactly what BDS is.

Surasky: How are Israelis on the left responding to the idea of a boycott?

Lerer: Something happened in the last war in Gaza in January. Five hundred and forty Israelis -- including prominent academics, actors, and filmmakers -- signed a petition asking for international pressure on Israel. One paragraph in this petition said that only boycott helped in the South Africa case. It was not yet a direct call for boycott, but it was a very important step. Now we are forming a new group of Israeli citizens who support the Palestinian call for boycott -- Boycott from Within (BFW).

In 2005 we tried to arrange a group of artists to support the Palestinian call for academic and cultural boycott, and we failed. People told us, "How can we boycott ourselves? It is too difficult, it is too radical." Many of these people have now signed the Gaza petition, and they are joining our new BFW group. They understood that it’s not about boycotting ourselves, but about asking the international community, asking our fellow citizens everywhere in the world for action: please help us by boycotting us.

Surasky: Let's talk about specific examples of other people who are supporting this call.

Klein: Most artists do not know about the call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions, even though it comes from hundreds of Palestinian groups. We’re working within a context where Palestinian voices are virtually inaudible in the West. So people will come to Israel to accept an award or agree to play a concert in Tel Aviv, and they don’t know that they are essentially crossing a picket line. Most don't even know a call has been made for non-violent resistance by a people who, let's remember, have been utterly vilified for using any kind of armed resistance. I mean come on: if you reject armed resistance, and you reject boycotts and sanctions, what’s left? On-line petitions? Do we really think that’s going to end the occupation?

But yes, some filmmakers who are politically active have decided not to participate in Israeli or Israeli-sponsored film festivals. Ken Loach has pulled out of the Melbourne International Film Festival because it was sponsored by the Israeli government. The Canadian filmmaker John Greyson pulled a terrific film called Fig Trees from this year's gay and lesbian film festival in Tel Aviv.

More recently, the Yes Men wrote a really thoughtful letter to the Jerusalem Film Festival explaining why they decided to pull their new film, The Yes Men Save the World, from the festival. And now there is some talk of organizing a pro-BDS film festival in Ramallah, once again to boycott normalcy but to still get these films out there.

Surasky: I just read a criticism of BDS that said, "You're not calling for a boycott of North Korea, or the United States for that matter because of Afghanistan or Iraq. So, that makes this anti-Semitic."How do you address this criticism?

Klein: I've heard that too but I'm not calling for a boycott of anyone. I am respecting a call for a boycott that has been made by hundreds of Palestinian groups. I believe in the principle that people under oppressed circumstances have a right to self-determination. That’s at the heart of this struggle. This is a nonviolent tactic that has been selected by a broad range of civil society groups. Iraqis, so far as I know, have not called for BDS tactics against the United States, though it would certainly be their right. And yet some people act as if I sort of made it up in my bedroom like "who should I boycott today? Eenie-meenie-miney-mo, North Korea, Zimbabwe, Burma, Israel!" Once again, the only reason this can happen is because Palestinian voices are so effectively marginalized in the Western press.

By the way, most of the examples that are trotted out in these debates are examples where there are very clear state sanctions against these countries. So we're not dealing with impunity as we are with Israel. In this case, you need a grassroots project to fill in where governments have completely abdicated their responsibility to exert pressure on behalf of international law.

Lerer: But not only that -- these countries don’t have these film festivals and Madonna is not going to have a concert in North Korea. The problem here is that the international community treats Israel like it was a normal, European, Western state. And this is the basis of the boycott call: the special relationship that Israeli universities have with European universities and with universities in the United States, which universities in Zimbabwe don't have. I do believe that Israel could not continue the occupation for one single day without the support of the United States and the European Union. The Western community supports the occupation. Like Naomi was saying, not doing something is the active thing.

Surasky: Some say, "This is not going to help. Israelis see themselves under siege, we Jews see ourselves under siege. It's actually going to make Israelis less open to peace."

Klein: It's inevitable that, at least in the short term, it's going to feed this Israeli feeling of being under siege. It's not rational because in fact, what we’re dealing with is a context where Israel has been rewarded. If we look at these key years since the election of Hamas, when the siege on Gaza became utterly brutal and just undeniably illegal, trade with Israel has actually increased dramatically: there have been new special agreements launched with the European Union and Israel, with Latin America. Last year Israeli exports to Canada went up 45 percent.

Even though Israel is being rewarded for this criminality and is getting away with just extraordinary violence, the feeling among many Israelis of being under siege is increasing. The question is, do we just cater to this irrationality? Because if we just cater to it, that means we do nothing, we voluntarily surrender the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal.

Israel, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, believes that the whole world is against it and that all the criticism it faces flows from anti-Semitism. This is simply untrue, and as activists, we can no longer allow one nation's victim complex to trump the very real victimization of the Palestinian people.

Cecilie Surasky is the deputy director for Jewish Voice for Peace.

© 2009 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Friday, july 17, 2009 16:56:18
Subject: Ken Loach withdraws from the Melbourne International Film Festival (The Age)

Ken Loach has done it again! An exceptionally principled and courageous supporter of justice, the rule of international law, and BDS to achieve both ...


Israeli funding angers filmmaker

Philippa Hawker, The Age
July 18, 2009
ENGLISH filmmaker Ken Loach has withdrawn his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the festival receives funding from the Israeli Government.

Loach told the festival if it did not reconsider the sponsorship, he would not allow the festival to screen his film.

In a letter to festival executive director Richard Moore, he said that "Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel". He cited "illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods" and "the massacres in Gaza" as reasons for the boycott. It was, he said, aimed "not at independent Israeli films or filmmakers", but at "the Israeli state".

Mr Moore said he would not accede to the request: "I wouldn't do it. The festival wouldn't. It's like submitting to blackmail."

He said the Israeli Government had supported the festival in previous years and that it sponsored many cultural events in Australia. This year the initial sponsorship arrangement involved an airfare for a festival guest, filmmaker Tatia Rosenthal. Her animation, $9.99, is the first Israeli-Australian co-production feature.

Many films directed by Loach, 73, have screened at the festival. His 2006 work The Wind that Shakes the Barley won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Looking for Eric is the tale of a Manchester postal worker who gets advice on life from Manchester United's French soccer star Eric Cantona.

Earlier this year, Loach asked the Edinburgh Film Festival to reconsider Israeli Government sponsorship.

The festival decided not to accept funding from the Israeli Government that was to be used to bring filmmaker Tali Shalow Ezer to Edinburgh with her short film.

The festival begins on July 24.

The Age is a festival sponsor.

Date: Wednesday, july 1, 2009
Subject: For Once, the Yes Men Say No

For Once, the Yes Men Say No
by Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonanno
The Yes Men, co-directors of the new award-winning documentary film The Yes Men Fix the World, have decided to withdraw their film from the Jerusalem International Film Festival, in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign:

Dear Friends at the Jerusalem Film Festival,

We regret to say that we have taken the hard decision to withdraw our film, "The Yes Men Fix the World," from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (

This decision does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.

This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.

But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.

It is painful to do this. But it is even more painful to hear Israeli policies described as "fascist" - not just from the ill-informed and the clueless, not just from the usual anti-semitic morons, but from well-informed Jewish activists within Israel. They know what they're talking about, and it's painful to think that they could be right.

As we're sure you know and deplore, the Israeli government has recently authorized the construction of new units in an illegal West Bank outpost - one that is illegal even according to Israeli law. On Monday, nine Palestinians were injured as Israeli authorities demolished their East Jerusalem home. Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped a ship from delivering medicine, toys, and other humanitarian relief to Gaza, and detained over twenty foreign peace activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate. Meanwhile, a UN commission was in Gaza investigating much worse abuses committed early this year.

Whatever words are applied to such actions, our film mustn't help lend an aura of normalcy to a state that makes these decisions. For us, that's the bottom line.

There is certainly another way to do things in Israel/Palestine, and that is what we must fight for, however feeble our means. As for our film, there is another way for it to be seen in Israel... and in Palestine, so that the people most in need of comic relief, who would never have been able to see it at the Jerusalem Film Festival anyhow, will be able to see it too. Within the next few months, we will make this happen.

To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.

L'shanah haba'ah beyerushalayim,

Andy and Mike
The Yes Men
--The Yes Men

From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Friday, june 12, 2009 21:33:27
Subject: Belgian Bank Dexia announces end of funding Israeli colonies

More good news on the corporate responsibility front!

Belgian BDS activists, mainly in Intal, succeeded in pressuring leading Belgian Bank Dexia to announce an end to financing illegal Israeli colonies built on occupied Palestinian land.

This wonderful achievement comes after several months of awareness raising, innovative protests and pressure tactics, and a strong commitment by Intal and its supporters to end Dexia's complicity in Israel's war crimes.

Let's hope pressure will continue against Dexia to pull out of Israel altogether, as Israel is the state party that is guilty of the war crime of building illegal colonies on occupied territory.


Dexia Israel stops financing Israeli settlements
Author: Martijn Lauwens - campaign “Israel colonises, Dexia finances”

The Belgian-French financial group Dexia has announced it will no longer finance Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories through its Israeli branch Dexia Israel. This is the result of a months-long campaign in Belgium, supported by NGO’s, political parties, local authorities, trade unions and other organisations. Dexia’s management states that financing Israeli settlements is indeed against the bank’s code of ethics and it will stop giving loans due to this.

A Belgian bank financing Israeli settlements

In 2001 Dexia Group buys the Israeli bank Otzar Hashilton Hamekomi and renames the bank Dexia Public Finance Israel. Just like other Dexia subsidiaries, Dexia Israel is specialised in financing municipalities and other local authorities.

It takes until October 2008 for a few Belgian solidarity groups to discover that Dexia Israel is not only financing regular Israeli municipalities but is also granting loans to illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories. In a document of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), the director of Dexia Israel, Mr. David Kapah, confirms that the bank has indeed granted credits to seven settlements and three regional authorities in the occupied Westbank between 2003 and 2007.

This ‘smoking gun’ evidence entails the start of a fast growing campaign in Belgium. United under the slogan ‘Israel colonises, Dexia finances’, the campaign knows its first successes. In the following months petitions are being launched, MP’s are being questioned and local actions are being started up. Very important is the support of local Belgian authorities such as municipalities and provinces, as they hold a vast amount of shares in Dexia Group.

Today the action platform consists of 61 Belgian organisations, gathered over 4000 signatures and got 29 local authorities to sign a resolution. They all demand that Dexia breaks off its relations with the settlements and stops financing the occupation immediately.

Dexia: ‘Guilty, but we won’t do it again’

For several months the Belgian government and the Dexia management never really responded to the demands of the action platform. However as the campaign started to get more media coverage and the pressure started to rise, something changed. On May 13, the activists of the campaign were able to voice demands at the annual shareholders meeting of Dexia Group in Brussels.

In response, Jean-Luc Dehaene, chairman of the board of Dexia and former Belgian prime minister, admitted that the bank has been extending loans to Israeli colonies. He stresses however that, since September 2008, there has been no additional financing of these or other colonies.

Dehaene declared no new loans will be granted to the settlements. He added that the credits and loans to the settlements which are granted before are in runoff and will not be prolonged any longer; neither will they be replaced by similar loans.

Dehaene: “In the past, Dexia Israel granted 5 million Euros of loans to the settlements, this was only 1% of the total budget of Dexia Israel. The loans to the Jerusalem municipality are not included in this amount, as Dexia Group feels that Jerusalem is not contested territory.”

However, East Jerusalem belongs to Palestine. Israel unilaterally annexed East Jerusalem in June 1967, and extended Israeli law, jurisdiction, and administration to this part of the city. In response the Security Council adopted resolution 252 that it “[UN Security Council] Considers that all legislative measures by Israel, including expropriation of land and properties thereon, which tend to change the legal status of Jerusalem are invalid and cannot change that status”.

In 1980 Israel declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, including East Jerusalem. The same year the UN Security Council adopts resolution 476 that the Security Council “Reconfirms that all legislative and administrative measures and actions taken by Israel, the occupying Power, which purport to alter the character and status of Jerusalem have no legal validity and constitute a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War and also constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East”.

Dexia's financial support to the municipality of Jerusalem can be considered as support to the colonization of East Jerusalem.

Dehaene also states that the activities of Dexia Israel do not belong to the core-business of Dexia Group anymore, adding: “Don’t be surprised that at one point, Dexia Group will sell Dexia Israel”.

The campaign has been fruitful already, but this is not the end

According to Mario Franssen, spokesperson of the action platform, the campaign will continue until Dexia has officially declared -and provided the proof for- a full stop of settlement funding, including the disputed loans to Jerusalem. Franssen explains that the action platform is not yet satisfied, but these concessions from Dexia are a good start. “We are still demanding a full and immediate stop of all connections between Dexia and the colonies. Dexia is guilty of financing the occupation, and this has to end”, Franssen added.
For more info on the campaign, contact Mario Franssen:

Phone: +32 2 209 23 56 (office) & +32 498 54 16 42 (cellphone) | |

From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Monday, march 23, 2009 19:27:02
Subject: Seumas Milne: Will Israel be brought to book? (Guardian)

Sprinting ahead of most -- if not all -- mainstream Western newspapers in seriously, professionally, contextually and meticulously investigating allegations of Israeli war crimes in Gaza, the Guardian produced a series of three must-see films representing three specific war crimes charges:

(1) The use of Palestinian children as human shields.
(2) The systematic targeting of medics and hospitals by the Israeli Army.
(3) The use of state of the art precision weapons such as UAV aircraft to fire
on groups of unarmed civilians.

Here's the link to all three videos:

In his article below, Seumas Milne, puts the whole picture together, succinctly and with his typical vigor and rigor, giving very useful links to key articles on the subject along the way.




Series: Gaza war crimes investigation

Will Israel be brought to book?

The evidence of war crimes in Gaza is a challenge to universal justice: will western-backed perpetrators ever stand trial?

Seumas Milne, Monday 23 March 2009 17.15 GMT

Evidence of the scale of Israel's war crimes in its January onslaught on Gaza is becoming unanswerable. Clancy Chassay's three films investigating allegations against Israeli forces in the Gaza strip, released by the Guardian today, include important new accounts of the flagrant breaches of the laws of war that marked the three-week campaign – now estimated to have left at least 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 13 Israelis dead.

The films provide compelling testimony of Israel's use of Palestinian teenagers as human shields; the targeting of hospitals, clinics and medical workers, including with phosphorus bombs; and attacks on civilians, including women and children – sometimes waving white flags – from hunter-killer drones whose targeting systems are so powerful they can identify the colour of a person's clothes.

Naturally, the Israeli occupation forces' spokesperson insists to Chassay that they make every effort to avoid killing civilians and denies using human shields or targeting medical workers – while at the same time explaining that medics in war zones "take the risk upon themselves". By banning journalists from entering Gaza during its punitive devastation of the strip, the Israeli government avoided independent investigations of the stream of war crimes accusations while the attack was going on.

But now journalists and human rights organisations are back inside, doing the painstaking work, the question is whether Israel's government and military commanders will be held to account for what they unleashed on the Palestinians of Gaza – or whether, like their US and British sponsors in Iraq and Afghanistan, they can carry out war crimes with impunity.

It's not as if Clancy's reports are unique or uncorroborated by other evidence. Last week, the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that a group of Israelis soldiers had admitted intentionally shooting dead an unarmed Palestinian mother and her two children, as well as an elderly Palestinian woman, in Gaza in January. As one explained: "The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something very, very less important than the lives of our soldiers. So as far as they are concerned they can justify it that way".

They also tally with testimony of other Israeli soldiers from the Givati Shaked battalion, which operated in the Gaza city suburb of Zeitoun, that they were told to "fire on anything that moves". The result was that one family, the Samunis, reported losing 29 members after soldiers forced them into a building that subsequently came under fire – seven bleeding to death while denied medical care for nearly three days. The Helw and Abu Zohar families said they saw members shot while emerging from their homes carrying white flags. "There was definitely a message being sent", one soldier who took part in the destruction of Zeitoun told the Times.

Or take the case of Majdi Abed Rabbo – a Palestinian linked to Fatah and no friend of Hamas – who described to the Independent how he was repeatedly used as a human shield by Israeli soldiers confronting armed Hamas fighters in a burned-out building in Jabalya in the Gaza strip. The fact of Israeli forces' use of human shields is hard to gainsay, not least since there are unambiguous photographs of several cases from the West Bank in 2007, as shown in Chassay's film.

Last week Human Rights Watch wrote to European Union foreign ministers calling for an international inquiry into war crimes in Gaza. In the case of Israel, the organisation cited the siege of Gaza as a form of collective punishment; the use of artillery and white phosphorus in densely populated civilian areas, including schools; the shooting of civilians holding white flags; attacks on civilian targets; and "wanton destruction of civilian property".

Israel and others also accuse Hamas of war crimes. But while both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have echoed that charge, particularly in relation to the indiscriminate rocketing of towns such as Sderot, an exhaustive investigation by Human Rights Watch has found no evidence, for example, of Hamas using human shields in the clearly defined legal sense of coercion to protect fighters in combat. And as Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian Human Rights, argued recently, any attempt to view the two sides as "equally responsible" is an absurdity: one is a lightly-armed militia, effectively operating underground in occupied territory – the other the most powerful army in the region, able to pinpoint and pulverise targets with some of the most sophisticated weaponry in the world.

There is of course no chance that the UN security council will authorise the kind of International Criminal Court war crimes indictment now faced by Sudan's leaders over Darfur. Any such move would certainly be vetoed by the US and its allies. And Israel's own courts have had no trouble in the past batting away serious legal challenges to its army's atrocities in the occupied territories. But the use of universal jurisdiction in countries such as Spain or even Britain is making Israeli commanders increasingly jumpy about travelling abroad.

With such powerful evidence of violations of the rules of war now emerging from the rubble of Gaza, the test must be this: is the developing system of international accountability for war crimes only going to apply to the west's enemies – or can the western powers and their closest allies also be brought to book?

From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Thursday, march 19, 2009 20:17:12
Subject: Ronnie Kasrils: BDS can defeat Israel (MMN)

An outstanding presentation by an exceptionally courageous, witty and principled fighter for justice and peace.


PS: apologies for cross posting.

Ronnie Kasrils fought for decades against apartheid in his South African homeland, and with victory served in the governments of Nelson Mandela, and later Thabo Mbeki. He is featured on Media Monitors Network (MMN) with the courtesy of the Media Review Network (MRN), which is an advocacy group based in Pretoria, South Africa.

Who said nearly 50 years ago that Israel was an Apartheid State?

by Ronnie Kasrils
(Media Monitors Network -- Tuesday, March 17, 2009)
"...a colonial racist mentality which rationalised the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia, in Africa from Namibia to the Congo and elsewhere, most clearly has its parallels in Palestine."
At the onset of international “Israel Apartheid Week” in solidarity with the embattled Palestinian people, I want to start by quoting a South African who emphatically stated as far back as 1963 that “Israel is an apartheid state.” Those were not the words of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Tutu or Joe Slovo, but were uttered by none other than the architect of apartheid itself, racist Prime Minister, Dr. Hendrik Verwoerd.

He was irked by the criticism of apartheid policy and Harold Macmillan’s “Winds of Change” speech , in contrast to the West’s unconditional support for Zionist Israel.

To be sure Verwoerd was correct. Both states preached and implemented a policy based on racial ethnicity; the sole claim of Jews in Israel and whites in South Africa to exclusive citizenship; monopolised rights in law regarding the ownership of land, property, business; superior access to education, health, social, sporting and cultural amenities, pensions and municipal services at the expense of the original indigenous population; the virtual monopoly membership of military and security forces, and privileged development along their own racial supremacist lines - even both countries marriage laws designed to safeguard racial “purity”.

The so-called “non-whites” in apartheid South Africa, indigenous Africans, others of mixed race or of Indian origin - like second or third class non-Jews in Israel - were consigned to a non-citizenship status of Kafkaesque existence, subject to bureaucratic whims and the laws prohibiting their free movement, access to work and trade, dictating where they could reside and so forth.

Verwoerd would have been well aware of Israel’s dispossession of indigenous Palestinian in 1948 - the year his apartheid party similarly came to power - of the unfolding destruction of their villages, the premeditated massacres and the systematic ethnic cleansing.

Within a few short years the apartheid regime was ruthlessly clearing South Africa’s cities and towns of so-called “black spots” - where the “non-whites” lived, socialised, studied and traded - bulldozing homes, loading families onto military trucks, and forcibly relocating them to distant settlements. Unlike the “native reserves” - soon to be reconstituted as Bantustans - not too far away from industrial areas because the economy thrived on a quota of cheap black labour.

Whilst he did not live to see the division of Palestinian territory after the Six Day War, and the subsequent creation of miniscule Bantustans in the West Bank and Gaza, he would have greatly admired and approved of the machinations that enclosed the Palestinians in their own ghettoised prisons. This after all was the Verwoerdian grand plan, and the reason why Jimmy Carter could so readily identify the Occupied Palestinian Territories as being akin to apartheid. In fact the Bantustans consisted of 13% of apartheid South Africa, uncannily comparable to the derisory, ever shrinking pieces of ground Israel is consigning to the Palestinians.

A further comment about the Bantustans. When I visited Yasser Arafat in his virtually demolished headquarters in Ramallah as part of a South African delegation in 2004, he pointed around him and said “See this is nothing but a Bantustan!” No, we responded, pointing out that no Bantustan, in fact not even our townships, had been bombed by warplanes, pulverised by tanks. To a wide-eyed Arafat we pointed out that Pretoria pumped in funds, constructed impressive administration buildings, even allowed for Bantustan airlines to service the Mickey Mouse capitals in order to impress the world that they were serious about so-called “separate development.”

What Verwoerd admired too was the impunity with which Israel exercised state violence and terror to get its way, without hindrance from its Western allies, increasingly key among them the USA. What Verwoerd and his ilk came to admire in Israel, and seek to emulate in the southern African region, was the way the Western powers permitted an imperialist Israel to use its unbridled military with impunity in expanding its territory and holding back the rising tide of Arab nationalism in its neighbourhood..

After the Six Day War, Verwoerd’s successor John Vorster, infamously stated: “The Israelis have beaten the Arabs before lunchtime. We will eat the African states for breakfast.”

But it was not only the racial doctrine of Israel that excited apartheid’s leaders, it was the use of the biblical narrative as the ideological rationale to justify its vision, aims and methods.

The early Dutch pioneers, the Afrikaners, had used Bible and gun as colonisers elsewhere, to carve out their exclusive fortress bastion in South Africa’s hinterland. Like the biblical Israelites they claimed to be “God’s chosen people” with a mission to tame and civilise the wilderness; disregarding the productivity and industriousness of people who had tilled the soil and traded for centuries - claiming it was only they who would make the land flow with milk and honey. They invoked a covenant with God to deliver their enemies into their hands and to bless their deeds. Until the advent of South Africa’s democracy, the racial history books generally taught that the white man arrived in South Africa more or less as the so-called “Bantu tribes” from the north were wandering across the Limpopo - South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe - and that they the were pioneer settlers in a land without people.

Such a colonial racist mentality which rationalised the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and Australasia, in Africa from Namibia to the Congo and elsewhere, most clearly has its parallels in Palestine.

What is so shameless about this anachronistic colonial barbarism is that Zionist Israel has been permitted by the West to aspire to such a goal even into the 21st Century.

It is by no means difficult to recognise from afar, as Verwoerd had been able to do, that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. Verwoerd’s successor, Balthazar John Vorster visited Israel after the 1973 October War, when Egypt in a rare victory regained the Suez Canal and Sinai from Israel. After that Israel and South Africa were virtually twinned as military allies for Pretoria helped supply Israel militarily in the immediacy of its 1973 setback and Israel came to support apartheid South Africa at the height of sanctions with weaponry and technology - from naval ships and the conversion of supersonic fighter planes to assistance in building six nuclear bombs and the creation of an arms industry.

For the liberation movements of southern Africa, Israel and apartheid South Africa represented a racist, colonial axis. It was noted that people like Vorster had been nazi sympathisers, interned during World War II - yet feted as heroes in Israel and incidentally never again referred to by South African Zionists as an anti-semite!. This did not surprise those that came to understand the true racist nature and character of Zionist Israel.

Time and space does not allow further elaboration, but it is instructive to add that in its conduct and methods of repression, Israel came to resemble more and more apartheid South Africa at its zenith - even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents, collective punishment and the aggression against neighbouring states.

Certainly we South Africans can identify the pathological cause, fuelling the hate, of Israel’s political-military elite and public in general. Neither is this difficult for anyone acquainted with colonial history to understand the way in which deliberately cultivated race hate inculcates a justification for the most atrocious and inhumane actions against even defenceless civilians - women, children, the elderly amongst them. In fact was this not the pathological racist ideology that fuelled Hitler’s war lust and implementation of the Holocaust?

I will state clearly, without exaggeration, that any South African, whether involved in the freedom struggle, or motivated by basic human decency, who visits the Occupied Palestinian Territories are shocked to the core at the situation they encounter and agree with Archbishop Tutu’s comment that what the Palestinians are experiencing is far worse than what happened in South Africa, where the Sharpeville massacre of 69 civilians in 1960 became international symbol of apartheid cruelty.

I want to recall here the words of an Israeli Cabinet Minister, Aharon Cizling in 1948, after the savagery of the Deir Yassin massacre of 240 villagers became known. He said: “Now we too have behaved like the Nazis and my whole being is shaken.”

Recently the veteran British MP, Gerald Kaufman, long time friend of Israel, was reported as remarking that a spokeswoman of the Israeli Defence Force, talked like a Nazi, when she coldly dismissed the deaths of defenceless civilians in Gaza - many women and children amongst them.

It needs to be frankly raised that if the crimes of the Holocaust are at the top end of the scale of human barbarity in modern times, where do we place the human cost of what has so recently occurred in Gaza and against the Palestinians since 1948 in the ‘nakba’ (catastrophe) they have endured?

How do we evaluate the inhumanity of dropping bombs and blazing white phosphorous on civilian populations, burning people alive, gassing them in a Gaza ghetto under relentless siege with no place to run or hide. For 22 days relentless bombardment whole families vaporised before the horrified eyes of a surviving parent or child.

Guernica, Lidice, the Warsaw Ghetto, Deir Yassin, Mai Lei, Sabra and Shatilla, Sharpeville are high on that scale - and the perpetrators of the slaughter in Gaza are the off-spring of holocaust victims yet again, in Cizling’s words, behaving like Nazis. This must not be allowed to go unpunished and the international community must demand they be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity. For the lesson is that if apartheid Israel is not stopped in its tracks these crimes will get greater and spread not only to engulf the entire Middle East and Iran, but indeed anywhere that Israel is challenged . Like the apartheid security forces the hand of Mossad stretches very far indeed. And of course with Israel a key ally in the USA’s “War on Terror” and all the motives for that onslaught, oil resources included, there will be no end to this bloody saga - with the Palestinians targeted to go the way of the extinct peoples of the former colonial era.

But such a fate must not and will not happen, if together with the unconquerable Palestinian people we share the resolve and determination to halt this insidious Zionist project, and its Great Power backing and encouragement.

Once more, let me turn to our South African experience.

There, as with other struggles such as Vietnam, Algeria, the former Portuguese colonies, the just nature of the struggle was the assurance for success.

With that moral advantage, on the basis of a just liberation struggle, we learnt the secret of Vietnam’s victory and strategised according to what we termed our Four Pillars of Struggle:

Political mass struggle; reinforced by armed struggle; clandestine underground struggle; and international solidarity.

At times any one of these can become predominant and it is not for outsiders to direct those at the frontline of struggle what and how to choose but to modestly provide the lessons of our experience pointing out that the unity of the struggling people is as indispensable as the moral high-ground they occupy. For the Vietnamese the military element was generally primary but always resting on popular mass support.

In South Africa the mass struggle became the primary way, with sabotage actions and limited guerrilla operations inspiring our people. It all depends on the conditions and the situation.

But unquestioningly, what helped tip the balance, in Vietnam and South Africa, was the force and power of international solidarity action. It took some 30 years but the worldwide Anti-Apartheid Movements campaigns - launched in London in 1959 - for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - not only provided international activists with a practical role, but became an incalculable factor in (a) isolating and weakening the apartheid regime (b) inspiring the struggling people (c) undermining the resolve of those states that supported and benefited from relations with apartheid South Africa, (d) generated a change of attitude amongst the South African white public generally, and political, business, professional, academic, religious and sporting associations in particular. Boycott made them feel the pinch in their pocket and their polecat status everywhere - whether on the sporting fields, at academic or business conventions, in the world of theatre and the arts they were totally shunned like biblical lepers. There was literally no place to hide from universal condemnation backed by decisive and relentless action which in time became more and more creatve.

To conclude: we must spare no effort in building a world-wide solidarity movement to emulate the success of the Anti-Apartheid Movement which played such a crucial role in toppling the apartheid regime in South Africa. Nelson Mandela stated after South Africa attained democratic rule that “ we South Africans cannot feel free until the Palestinians are free.” A slogan of South Africa’s liberation struggle and our trade union movement is “An injury to one is an injury to all!“ That goes for the whole of humanity. Every act of solidarity demonstrates to the Palestinians and those courageous Jews who stand by them in Israel - that they are not alone.

Israel has lost in Gaza. Whilst many Palestinians have lost their lives the Palestinians have not been conquered or cowed. Repression generates resistance and that will grow. Israeli aggression stands exposed. A turning point has been reached in humanity‘s perception of this issue. The time is ripe for us to drive home the advantage. When 150,000 Palestinians within Israel itself demonstrated against the carnage in Gaza; when Jewish women staged a sit-in in at the Israeli Consulate in Toronto; when Norwegian tram drivers stopped their transport in sympathy; when municipalities and colleges decide to divest like Hampshire college in the USA (the first that took this step against apartheid South Africa), when Durban dockworkers refused to unload a ship with Israeli cargo; joining with the countless thousands around the world, from Australia to Britain to Belgium to Canada to Cairo, Jordan, Indonesia and the USA we know the times are changing and Zionist hegemony is fast losing control. BDS represents three words that will help bring about the defeat of Zionist Israel and victory for Palestine. Like South Africa this can mean, must mean: freedom, peace, security, equality and justice for all - Muslim, Christian and Jew. That is well worth struggling for!


* Address by Ronnie Kasrils: "Israel Apartheid Week"
by courtesy & © 2009 Ronnie Kasrils

From: "Omar Barghouti"
Date: Wednesday, march 18, 2009 20:52:41
Subject: Omar Barghouti: Our South Africa Moment has Arrived (Palestine Chronicle)

If intereseted, this is an article based on the presentations I recently gave in Canada and the US as part of Israeli Apartheid Week:

"As Israel shifts steadily to the fanatic, racist right, as the latest parliamentary election results have shown, Palestinians under its control are increasingly being brutalized by its escalating colonial and apartheid policies, designed to push them out of their homeland to make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of the old Zionist canard of “a land without a people.” In parallel, international civil society, according to numerous indicators, is reaching a turning point in its view of Israel as a pariah state acting above the law of nations and in its effective action, accordingly, to penalize and ostracize it as it did to apartheid South Africa. "

"Israel’s state terrorism in Gaza, enabled by virtually unlimited support from the US and Western governments in general, was a key catalyst in spreading and deepening BDS around the world, prompting advocates of Palestinian rights to feel that our South Africa moment has finally arrived. Israel is now widely perceived, at a grassroots level, as an international pariah that commits war crimes with impunity and that needs to be held accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights."


From: "John Greyson"
Date: Monday, march 16, 2009 22:43:18
Subject: Tel Aviv Int'l LGBT Film Festival

March 7, 2009

_TLVFEST / Yair Hochner
Tel-Aviv Cinematheque,
2 Sprinzak St, 64738, Tel Aviv, Israel

Dear Yair:

After much wrestling with these difficult issues, I’ve come to a decision: I can’t show Fig Trees in your festival, and I can’t go forward with my proposed film shoot in Israel.

This choice has been very difficult to make. As I’ve said before, I have great respect for the work you’re doing, and know what a struggle your festival faces to keep going. I want to be very clear: my decision isn’t in opposition to your festival, which has done much to promote the voices of global queers, or to you, who have done much to get queer films made and shown in your city.

Instead, I feel I must join the many Jews and non-Jews, Israelis and Palestinians, queers and otherwise, who are part of the growing global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israeli apartheid. I’ve come to the conclusion that, in this moment, to not take this stand is unthinkable, impossible.

Why this moment? I could answer: Another Palestinian home bulldozed in East Jerusalem. Palestinian children recovering slowly from phosphorous burns. Civilian killed on Friday in Gaza by Israeli soldiers. Child born at checkpoint, because ambulance was held for three hours. These were some of today's headlines, but they’re also eerily reminiscent of so many headlines, over so many decades.

Is this moment more intolerable? By what yardstick?

The Israeli apartheid forum this week, and particularly Naomi Klein’s speech, helped clarify my thoughts. Her words took me back to the BDS movement of the eighties, against South African apartheid, and the first 16mm film I ever made, which was in support of that struggle, clips of which are included in Fig Trees.

The cultural boycott worked in South Africa’s case, and lead directly to the sweeping changes and activism that Fig Trees celebrates in song. Therefore, in the spirit of the film, and those activists, I don’t feel there’s a choice any longer. Like you, I yearn for the morning when this horrendous conflict will end, with a lasting, just peace. I yearn for the afternoon when this growing BDS movement can be declared obsolete, because it’s no longer necessary. I yearn for the evening when we can together attend screenings of Fig Trees and other sexy new queer operas, Palestinian and Israeli, in both Tel Aviv and Ramallah.

With respect,

John Greyson

From: "Le monde diplomatique"
Date: Monday, march 16, 2009 17:48:32
Subject: Calls for investigation into Gaza attacks

Calls for investigation into Gaza attacks

Israel’s war crimes

Israel blamed its earlier wars on the threat to its security, even that against Lebanon in 1982. However, its assault on Gaza was not justified and there are international calls for an investigation. But is there the political will to make Israel account for its war crimes?

by Richard Falk

Le Monde Diplomatique 3 March 2009
For the first time since the establishment of Israel in 1948 the government is facing serious allegations of war crimes from respected public figures throughout the world. Even the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, normally so cautious about offending sovereign states – especially those aligned with its most influential member, the United States – has joined the call for an investigation and potential accountability. To grasp the significance of these developments it is necessary to explain what made the 22 days of attacks in Gaza stand shockingly apart from the many prior recourses to force by Israel to uphold its security and strategic interests.

In my view, what made the Gaza attacks launched on 27 December different from the main wars fought by Israel over the years was that the weapons and tactics used devastated an essentially defenceless civilian population. The one-sidedness of the encounter was so stark, as signalled by the relative casualties on both sides (more than 100 to 1; 1300-plus Palestinians killed compared with 13 Israelis, and several of these by friendly fire), that most commentators refrained from attaching the label “war”.

The Israelis and their friends talk of “retaliation” and “the right of Israel to defend itself”. Critics described the attacks as a “massacre” or relied on the language of war crimes and crimes against humanity. In the past Israeli uses of force were often widely condemned, especially by Arab governments, including charges that the UN Charter was being violated, but there was an implicit acknowledgement that Israel was using force in a war mode. War crimes charges (to the extent they were made) came only from radical governments and the extreme left.

The early Israeli wars were fought against Arab neighbours which were quite literally challenging Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state. The outbreaks of force were of an inter-governmental nature; and even when Israel exhibited its military superiority in the June 1967 six day war, it was treated within the framework of normal world politics, and though it may have been unlawful, it was not criminal.

But from the 1982 Lebanon war this started to change. The main target then was the presence of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in southern Lebanon. But the war is now mainly remembered for its ending, with the slaughter of hundreds of unarmed Palestinian civilians in the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatila. Although this atrocity was the work of a Lebanese Christian militia, Israeli acquiescence, control and complicity were clearly part of the picture. Still, this was an incident which, though alarming, was not the whole of the military operation, which Israel justified as necessary due to the Lebanese government’s inability to prevent its territory from being used to threaten Israeli security.

The legacy of the 1982 war was Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and the formation of Hizbullah in reaction, mounting an armed resistance that finally led to a shamefaced Israeli withdrawal in 1998. This set the stage for the 2006 Lebanon war in which the announced adversary was Hizbullah, and the combat zone inevitably merged portions of the Lebanese civilian population with the military campaign undertaken to destroy Hizbullah. Such a use of hi-tech Israeli force against Hizbullah raised the issue of fighting against a hostile society with no equivalent means of defending itself rather than against an enemy state. It also raised questions about whether reliance on a military option was even relevant to Israel’s political goals, as Hizbullah emerged from the war stronger, and the only real result was to damage the reputation of the IDF as a fighting force and to leave southern Lebanon devastated.

The Gaza operation brought these concerns to the fore as it dramatised this shift away from fighting states to struggles against armed resistance movements, and with a related shift from the language of “war” to “criminality”. In one important respect, Israel managed to skew perceptions and discourse by getting the media and diplomats to focus the basic international criminal law question on whether or not Israeli use of force was “disproportionate”.

This way of describing Israeli recourse to force ignores the foundational issue: were the attacks in any legal sense “defensive” in character in the first place? An inquiry into the surrounding circumstances shows an absence of any kind of defensive necessity: a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that had been in effect since 19 July 2008 had succeeded in reducing cross-border violence virtually to zero; Hamas consistently offered to extend the ceasefire, even to a longer period of ten years; the breakdown of the ceasefire is not primarily the result of Hamas rocket fire, but came about mainly as a result of an Israeli air attack on 4 November that killed six Hamas fighters in Gaza.

Disproportionate force?

In other words, there were no grounds for claiming the right of self-defence as Israel was not the object of a Hamas attack, and diplomatic alternatives to force existed and seemed credible, and their good-faith reliance was legally obligatory. On this basis the focus of legal debate should not be upon whether Israeli force was disproportionate. Of course it was. The focus should be on whether the Israeli attacks were a prohibited, non-defensive use of force under the UN charter, amounting to an act of aggression, and as such constituting a crime against peace. At Nuremberg after the second world war, surviving Nazi leaders were charged with this crime, which was described in the judgment as “the supreme crime” encompassing the others.

The Gaza form of encounter almost by necessity blurs the line between war and crime, and when it occurs in a confined, densely populated area such as Gaza, necessarily intermingles the resistance fighters with the civilian population. It also induces the resistance effort to rely on criminal targeting of civilians as it has no military capacity directly to oppose state violence. In this respect, the Israeli attacks on Gaza and the Hamas resistance crossed the line between lawful combat and war crimes.

These two sides should not be viewed as equally responsible for the recent events. Israel initiated the Gaza campaign without adequate legal foundation or just cause, and was responsible for causing the overwhelming proportion of devastation and the entirety of civilian suffering. Israeli reliance on a military approach to defeat or punish Gaza was intrinsically “criminal”, and as such demonstrative of both violations of the law of war and the commission of crimes against humanity.

There is another element that strengthens the allegation of aggression. The population of Gaza had been subjected to a punitive blockade for 18 months when Israel launched its attacks. This blockade was widely, and correctly, viewed as collective punishment in a form that violated Articles 33 and 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention governing the conduct of an occupying power in relation to the civilian population living under occupation. This policy was itself condemned as a crime against humanity, as well as a grave breach of international humanitarian law.

It also had resulted in serious nutritional deficiencies and widespread mental disorders on the part of the entire Gaza population, leaving it particularly vulnerable to the sort of “shock and awe” attack mounted by Israel from land, air and sea. This vulnerability was reinforced by Israel’s unwillingness to allow Gaza civilians to seek safety while the tiny Strip was under such intense combat pressure. Two hundred non-Palestinian wives were allowed to leave, which underscored the criminality of locking children, women, the sick, elderly and disabled into the war zone, and showed its ethnically discriminatory character. This appears to be the first time in wartime conditions that a civilian population was denied the possibility of becoming refugees.

In addition to these big picture issues, there are a variety of alleged war crimes associated with Israeli battlefield practices. These charges, based on evidence collected by human rights groups, include IDF firing at a variety of civilian targets, instances where Israeli military personnel denied medical aid to wounded Palestinians, and others where ambulances were prevented from reaching their destinations. There are also documented claims of 20 occasions on which Israeli soldiers were seen firing at women and children carrying white flags. And there are various allegations associated with the use of phosphorus bombs in residential areas of Gaza, as well as legal complaints about the use of a new cruel weapon, known as DIME, that explodes with such force that it rips body parts to pieces.

These war crimes concerns can only be resolved by factual clarifications as to whether a basis exists for possible prosecution of the perpetrators, and commanders and political leaders to the extent that criminal tactics and weaponry were authorised as matters of Israeli policy. In this vein too are the Israeli claims relating to rockets fired at civilian targets and to Hamas militants using “human shields” and deliberately attacking from non-military targets.

Even without further investigation, it is not too soon to raise questions about individual accountability for war crimes. The most serious allegations relate to the pre-existing blockade, the intrinsic criminality and non-defensiveness of the attack itself; and the official policies (eg confinement of civilian population in the war zone) have been acknowledged. The charges against Hamas require further investigation and legal assessment before it is appropriate to discuss possible arrangements for imposing accountability.

A question immediately arises as to whether talk of Israeli war crimes is nothing more than talk. Are there any prospects that the allegations will be followed up with effective procedures to establish accountability? There are a variety of potentially usable mechanisms to impose accountability, but will any of these be available in practice? This issue has been already raised by the Israeli government at the highest levels in the form of official commitments to shield Israeli soldiers from facing war crimes charges.

The most obvious path to address the broader questions of criminal accountability would be to invoke the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court established in 2002. Although the prosecutor has been asked to investigate the possibility of such a proceeding, it is highly unlikely to lead anywhere since Israel is not a member and, by most assessments, Palestine is not yet a state or party to the statute of the ICC. Belatedly, and somewhat surprisingly, the Palestinian Authority sought, after the 19 January ceasefire, to adhere to the Rome Treaty establishing the ICC. But even if its membership is accepted, which is unlikely, the date of adherence would probably rule out legal action based on prior events such as the Gaza military operation. And it is certain that Israel would not cooperate with the ICC with respect to evidence, witnesses or defendants, and this would make it very difficult to proceed even if the other hurdles could be overcome.

The next most obvious possibility would be to follow the path chosen in the 1990s by the UN Security Council, establishing ad hoc international criminal tribunals, as was done to address the crimes associated with the break-up of former Yugoslavia and with the Rwanda massacres of 1994. This path seems blocked in relation to Israel as the US, and likely other European permanent members, would veto any such proposal. In theory, the General Assembly could exercise parallel authority, as human rights are within its purview and it is authorised by Article 22 of the UN charter to “establish such subsidiary organs as it deems necessary for the performance of its function”. In 1950 it acted on this basis to establish the UN Administrative Tribunal, mandated to resolve employment disputes with UN staff members.

The geopolitical realities that exist within the UN make this an unlikely course of action (although it is under investigation). At present there does not seem to be sufficient inter-governmental political will to embark on such a controversial path, but civil society pressure may yet make this a plausible option, especially if Israel persists in maintaining its criminally unlawful blockade of Gaza, resisting widespread calls, including by President Obama, to open the crossings from Israel. Even in the unlikely event that it is established, such a tribunal could not function effectively without a high degree of cooperation with the government of the country whose leaders and soldiers are being accused. Unlike former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, Israel’s political leadership would certainly do its best to obstruct the activities of any international body charged with prosecuting Israeli war crimes.

Claims of universal jurisdiction

Perhaps the most plausible governmental path would be reliance on claims of universal jurisdiction (1) associated with the authority of national courts to prosecute certain categories of war crimes, depending on national legislation. Such legislation exists in varying forms in more than 12 countries, including Spain, Belgium, France, Germany, Britain and the US. Spain has already indicted several leading Israeli military officers, although there is political pressure on the Spanish government to alter its criminal law to disallow such an undertaking in the absence of those accused.

This path to criminal accountability was taken in 1998 when a Spanish high court indicted the former Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, and he was later detained in Britain where the legal duty to extradite was finally upheld on rather narrow grounds by a majority of the Law Lords, the highest court in the country. Pinochet was not extradited however, but returned to Chile on grounds of unfitness to stand trial, and died in Chile while criminal proceedings against him were under way.

Whether universal jurisdiction provides a practical means of responding to the war crimes charges arising out of the Gaza experience is doubtful. National procedures are likely to be swayed by political pressures, as were German courts, which a year ago declined to proceed against Donald Rumsfeld on torture charges despite a strong evidentiary basis and the near certainty that he would not be prosecuted in the US, which as his home state had the legally acknowledged prior jurisdictional claim. Also, universal jurisdictional proceedings are quite random, depending on either the cooperation of other governments by way of extradition or the happenchance of finding a potential defendant within the territory of the prosecuting state.

It is possible that a high profile proceeding could occur, and this would give great attention to the war crimes issue, and so universal jurisdiction is probably the most promising approach to Israeli accountability despite formidable obstacles. Even if no conviction results (and none exists for comparable allegations), the mere threat of detention and possible prosecution is likely to inhibit the travel plans of individuals likely to be detained on war crime charges; and has some political relevance with respect to the international reputation of a government.

There is, of course, the theoretical possibility that prosecutions, at least for battlefield practices such as shooting surrendering civilians, would be undertaken in Israeli criminal courts. Respected Israeli human rights organisations, including B’Tselem, are gathering evidence for such legal actions and advance the argument that an Israeli initiative has the national benefit of undermining the international calls for legal action.

This Israeli initiative, even if nothing follows in the way of legal action, as seems almost certain due to political constraints, has significance. It will lend credence to the controversial international contentions that criminal indictment and prosecution of Israeli political and military leaders and war crimes perpetrators should take place in some legal venue. If politics blocks legal action in Israel, then the implementation of international criminal law depends on taking whatever action is possible in either an international tribunal or foreign national courts, and if this proves impossible, then by convening a non-governmental civil society tribunal with symbolic legal authority.

What seems reasonably clear is that despite the clamour for war crimes investigations and accountability, the political will is lacking to proceed against Israel at the inter-governmental level, whether within the UN or outside. The realities of geopolitics are built around double standards when it comes to war crimes. It is one thing to proceed against Saddam Hussein or Slobodan Milosevic, but quite another to go against George W Bush or Ehud Olmert. Ever since the Nuremberg trials after the second world war, there exists impunity for those who act on behalf of powerful, undefeated states and nothing is likely to challenge this fact of international life in the near future, thus tarnishing the status of international law as a vehicle for global justice that is consistent in its enforcement efforts. When it comes to international criminal law, there continues to exist impunity for the strong and victorious, and potential accountability for the weak or defeated.

It does seem likely that civil society initiatives will lead to the establishment of one or more tribunals operating without the benefit of governmental authorisation. Such tribunals became prominent in the Vietnam war when Bertrand Russell took the lead in establishing the Russell Tribunal. Since then the Permanent Peoples Tribunal based in Rome has organised more than 20 sessions on a variety of international topics that neither the UN nor governments will touch.

In 2005 the World Tribunal on Iraq, held in Istanbul, heard evidence from 54 witnesses, and its jury, presided over by the Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, issued a Declaration of Conscience that condemned the US and Britain for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and named names of leaders in both countries who should be held criminally accountable.

The tribunal compiled an impressive documentary record as to criminal charges, and received considerable media attention, at least in the Middle East. Such an undertaking is attacked or ignored by the media because it is one-sided, and lacking in legal weight, but in the absence of formal action on accountability, such informal initiatives fill a legal vacuum, at least symbolically, and give legitimacy to non-violent anti-war undertakings.

The legitimacy war

In the end, the haunting question is whether the war crimes concerns raised by Israel’s behaviour in Gaza matters, and if so, how. I believe it matters greatly in what might be called “the second war” – the legitimacy war that often ends up shaping the political outcome more than battlefield results. The US won every battle in the Vietnam war and lost the war; the same with France in Indochina and Algeria, and the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Shah of Iran collapsed, as did the apartheid regime in South Africa, because of defeats in the legitimacy war.

It is my view that this surfacing of criminal charges against Israel during and after its attacks on Gaza resulted in major gains on the legitimacy front for the Palestinians. The widespread popular perceptions of Israeli criminality, especially the sense of waging war against a defenceless population with modern weaponry, has prompted people around the world to propose boycotts, divestments and sanctions. This mobilisation exerts pressure on governments and corporations to desist from relations with Israel, and is reminiscent of the worldwide anti-apartheid campaign that did so much to alter the political landscape in South Africa. Winning the legitimacy war is no guarantee that Palestinian self-determination will be achieved in the coming years. But it does change the political equation in ways that are not fully discernable at this time.

The global setup provides a legal framework capable of imposing international criminal law, but it will not be implemented unless the political will is present. Israel is likely to be insulated from formal judicial initiatives addressing war crimes charges, but will face the fallout arising from the credibility that these charges possess for world public opinion. This fallout is reshaping the underlying Israel/Palestine struggle, and giving far greater salience to the legitimacy war (fought on a global political battlefield) than was previously the case.

More from Richard Falk

Richard Falk is professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and in 2008 was appointed UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights

(1) The idea of universal jurisdiction has its roots in the approach taken to piracy in prior centuries, allowing any country to capture and prosecute wherever a pirate vessel was found and regardless of the nationality of those charged with the crime.


most recent posts are here

follow these links for previous posts:

January 14 - March 4, 2009
December 27, 2008 - January 13, 2009

January 2008 - December 2008
October 2006 - December 2007
Mid August till end of September 2006
August 2006 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 1
July 2006 31 / 30 / 29 / 28 / 27 / 26 / 25 / 23 / 22 / 21 / 20 / 19 / 18 / 17 / 16 / 15 / 11 / 8 / 6 / 5