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  1. #61
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    After years of pressure, is Veolia quitting Israel?

    01 September 2014

    Veolia, the largest publicly-traded water company in Europe, is selling its water, waste, and energy businesses in Israel, and intends to 'step back' from the country as a marketplace.

    The news is a boost to Palestinians and global Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) campaigners, who have targeted the French multinational for ties to illegal Israeli settlements and their associated infrastructure in the Occupied West Bank.

    According to reports in mid-July, Veolia has agreed to sell its activities in Israel to "funds managed by Oaktree Capital Management LP", cutting the company's debt by $341 million. The sale includes the company's 50% stake in Ashkeon desalination plant.

    Veolia described the divestment as part of a strategy to concentrate efforts on "less capital-intensive opportunities". Importantly, a company spokesperson told Global Water Intelligence "that the group's Israeli holdings are being sold as a full operating business rather than a collection of assets, and that Veolia would be stepping back from Israel as a marketplace".

    Paris-based Veolia spokesperson Sandrine Guendoul confirmed with me that the "divestment should be closed and completed by the end of the year", since approval is required "from Israel's competition authorities".

    Veolia remains complicit in the City Pass consortium-run Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR), however, which links western Jerusalem to illegal settlements in Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank (and was the target of angry Palestinian protesters earlier this year).

    Veolia's financial and operational stake in City Pass was previously transferred to Transdev, a 50-50 joint venture between Veolia and Caisse des Dépôts. Guendoul told me that Veolia "has started to disengage from the transportation business completely and sell its stake of Transdev" as part of "a broader divestment plan initiated and engaged in 2011."

    Veolia's involvement with the JLR has been a major focus of protests against the company. Campaigners point to lost contracts worth billions of dollars. Already by 2010, an anonymous Veolia official told AFP that the JLR had earned the company "boycott threats" and "lost us important contracts".

    In 2012, CEO of Veolia Israel Arnon Fishbein admitted that "many people in the group" believed "that the company lost many contracts because of this project [the JLR]". By late 2013, Veolia had already sold off all its settlement bus lines, offering further confirmation of the role of pressure in the company's decision-making.

    Palestine solidarity activists are thus asking whether the summer's developments mark "the beginning of the end", and the ultimate success of the international drive to 'Dump Veolia', which has included local authority-focused and campus-based campaigns, as well as divestment initiatives.

    "Thanks to the tireless and dedicated campaigning of unions, churches, NGOs and solidarity activists across the world that has cost Veolia billions of dollars, the company is clearly starting to realise that the BDS campaign against it makes doing business in Israel more trouble than it is worth", commented Mahmoud Nawajaa, the coordinator with the Palestinian BDS National Committee.

    Nawajaa stressed that with the sale still not confirmed, and with Veolia's remaining involvement in the operation of the JLR, "the campaign against Veolia shall continue until it ends all aspects of its involvement in Israeli projects in the occupied Palestinian territory".


    EU threatens Israel with total ban of poultry unless it marks products from settlements


    The European Union will impose a ban on imports of all Israeli meat, poultry, and dairy products unless Jerusalem comes up with a sufficiently effective mechanism that differentiates the produce that originates in areas beyond the 1967 Green Line, according to a report which appears in Tuesday editions of Ma'ariv Hashavua.

    Last month, a Foreign Ministry official warned that EU legislation could lead to a wholesale refusal to accept any Israeli exports produced in the West Bank, Golan Heights, and east Jerusalem.

    According to the Ma'ariv Hashavua report, however, that ban could encompass produce from all Israeli exporters. Israeli officials have "a matter of weeks" to persuade their EU counterparts that they have put in place a system that separately labels produce that is grown in disputed territories.

    EU officials told Ma'ariv Hashavua that the move "in no way amounts to an economic boycott of Israel." Instead, the decision is simply a continuation of a December 2012 resolution passed by EU cabinet ministers in which it was decided that in any future economic agreements with Israel, Brussels would insist that produce from the settlements be labeled.

    The decision is in line with official EU policy according to which all settlements beyond the '67 Green Line are illegal, and hence are not part of the State of Israel.

    On July 28, the EU sent a letter to the Agriculture Ministry reminding it that from February 2013 onward, it could no longer supply permits for the export of poultry which originates beyond the Green Line since Brussels doesn't recognize Israeli settlements. The letter demanded the Agriculture Ministry's Veterinary Services differentiate between products made in Israel proper and those produced in the territories.

    The deadline for the implementation of such a mechanism was September 1, but now EU officials have agreed to extend the deadline. "This is a process that takes time," an EU source toldMa'ariv Hashavua. "

    In response to the report, a Foreign Ministry official told Ma'ariv Hashavua: "The issue is currently being discussed between the relevant authorities in Israel and the European Union."


  2. #62
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    Victory for picketers: Israeli ship quits Oakland, its cargo untouched


    Waving signs saying “DON’'T WORK ZIM” and chanting “Send the ship back to sea until Palestine is free”, demonstrators from around the San Francisco Bay Area and as far away as Sacramento set up picket lines at the port of Oakland, California that were 100% effective in preventing the giant Zim Shanghai container ship from unloading and loading its cargo. The ship was essentially untouched from the time it docked at 5:16 a.m. on Saturday, September 27, 2014 and left just after midnight on the same day.

    The effort was in many ways a model of cooperation between Palestine solidarity activists and the membership of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 and other members of the labor community. Although neither community is unanimous in its views, attitudes or approaches to such matters, they reached out to each other and listened. A significant number belong to both communities and acted as a bridge. Despite some mistakes, good will went a long way in overcoming obstacles.

    This is the second Israeli Zim ship in as many months to leave Oakland without taking on cargo. Unlike the Zim Shanghai however, the Zim Piraeus managed through illegal practices to unload a small amount of its incoming cargo. Nevertheless, most remained on board and became a costly burden at subsequent stops.

    Other actions have taken place in Long Beach, California, Seattle and Tacoma, Washington and Vancouver, British Columbia. More are anticipated in Tampa, Florida, and another is scheduled in Oakland on October 25. This opens the possibility of a global movement to block Zim and other Israeli ships. The message of the organizers is that if Israel is going to deny Gaza the right to receive ships and trade from its port, Israeli ships will be denied the same right.

    The Free Palestine Movement supports this movement. It was one of a large number of organizations that endorsed the action, and one of our representatives is on the organizing and tactical committees. Your donations helped to support the expenses of the action, notably six walkie-talkies and the signs that you will see in the photos, but also some other expenses. With your continued help, we intend to make these financial resources available to all groups participating in these actions. For more information, contact us directly.

    Israel will be held accountable for its actions.


  3. #63
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    SodaStream to move controversial factory West Bank Israeli settlement

    29 October 2014

    Palestinian activists have hailed a decision by SodaStream International, an Israeli-owned soft drink company, to close its controversial factory in a settlement in the occupied West Bank, calling the decision a victory for the campaign for boycott, disinvestment and sanctions.

    The company, which sells its fizzy drinks maker in 45 countries, said that the decision to move the plant to Lehavim in Israel’s southern Negev region was for “purely commercial” reasons and was not connected to pressure from pro-Palestinian groups because of its location, said SodaStream representative Nirit Hurwitz.

    Actor Scarlett Johansson got caught up in a high-profile row over the factory earlier this year after agreeing to serve as SodaStream’s global brand ambassador – drawing fire from Oxfam, for which she had previously served in a similar role.

    The Hollywood star then cut ties with the charity, citing “a fundamental difference of opinion”. Oxfam opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights.“SodaStream’s announcement … shows that the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is increasingly capable of holding corporate criminals to account for their participation in Israeli apartheid and colonialism,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson.“[The] BDS campaign pressure has forced retailers across Europe and North America to drop SodaStream, and the company’s share price has tumbled in recent months as our movement has caused increasing reputational damage to the SodaStream brand.”

    The factory, in the industrial zone of Mishor Adumim – adjacent to the large Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim between Jerusalem and Jericho – is scheduled to close by late 2015.

    SodaStream has branded its machines as a cheaper, more environmentally friendly alternative to buying bottled or canned drinks such as Coke and Pepsi.

    The company had defended itself as employing 500 Palestinians, along with 450 Israeli Arab and 350 Israeli Jewish citizens, and insisted that closure for political reasons would benefit no one.

    But the BDS statement said: “any suggestion that SodaStream is employing Palestinians in an illegal Israeli settlement on stolen Palestinian land out of the kindness of its heart is ludicrous.”

    The BDS movement, which has made significant strides in recent years, calls for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands conquered in the 1967 war and the dismantling of its West Bank wall; granting full equality to Palestinian citizens of Israel; and respecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes. Its position on Palestinian refugees is widely interpreted as implying that it does not support a two-state solution to the conflict.

    Its statement said: “Even if this announced closure goes ahead, SodaStream will remain implicated in the displacement of Palestinians. Its new Lehavim factory is close to Rahat, a planned township in the Naqab (Negev) desert, where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcefully transferred against their will. Sodastream, as a beneficiary of this plan, is complicit with this violation of human rights.

    The success of the BDS movement relfects mounting pressure, especially from Europe, from NGOs, trade unions, churches and others which are forcing their governments to take action against Israel. The European Union is taking an increasingly tougher line and the boycott movement is gaining traction in the US, where it had struggled to win support.



    "SodaStream stock is still in free fall and the company announced yesterday that it is dumping its apartheid digs in the occupied West Bank. SodaStream says it plans to move to the heavily subsidized Idan HaNegev Industrial Park /Lehavim Industrial zone, 1,100-acre “development zone” in the Negev desert where Palestinian Bedouins are being forcibly removed by the Israeli government."

    Read more at: http://mondoweiss.net/#sthash.2yIAuKh8.dpuf

  4. #64
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    British town council votes to ban all Israeli goods, in defiance of Labor policy

    Leicester is the UK’s 10th largest city; other local councils in Britain may well follow suit.


    LONDON – Leicester city council, which is controlled by Britain’s main opposition party, Labor (it holds 51 of the council’s 55 seats), has instituted a ban of all Israeli goods despite Labor’s leader Ed Miliband saying he and his party oppose any boycotts.

    Leicester is the UK’s 10th largest city, situated in the middle of the England, and has a population of 330,000, of whom approximately 93,000 are first or second generation immigrants from India, Pakistan or Bangladesh. Some 61,000, about 19% of the city’s population, are Muslims, making it the 11th largest concentration of Muslims in the UK.

    Its dwindling Jewish community was – at the last census taken in 2012 – just 295 strong, representing 0.1% of the population.

    The resolution calling for a ban on Israeli goods was proposed by Councilor Mohammed Dawood and was passed by the city council on November 13.

    The motion’s preamble said that Leicester was “renowned for its tolerance, diversity, unity and its strong stance against all forms of discrimination,” which it stated “enables different communities to live together.”

    Justifying the motion, Dawood added that was important that “when there is oppression and injustices, that Leicester City Council takes up a position to support communities experiencing such inequalities and in this instance it is the plight of the Palestinian people.”

    The council agreed to recognize “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and free from incursion,” but went on to condemn the government of Israel “for its continuing illegal occupation of Palestine’s East Jerusalem and the West Bank; for its continuing blockade of Gaza; and the illegal appropriation of land in the West Bank and settlement buildings.”

    While regretting that the Israeli government “continues to ignore and breach international law, Geneva Convention and UN resolutions and continues with its occupation of Palestinian territories,” the councilors resolved “insofar as legal considerations allow, to boycott any produce originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank until such time as it complies with international law and withdraws from Palestinian occupied territories.”

    All this flies in the face of the often repeated but rarely publicized statement of Miliband, who, a party spokesman said, “has made clear that Labor does not support boycotts, they are not the answer and do not progress the cause of peace or help foster negotiations and dialogue.”

    The Jerusalem Post also understands that another Midlands town council, that of Dudley, near Birmingham, has a similarly worded resolution coming before it next week, and that, emboldened by the recent parliamentary nonbinding vote favoring recognition of a Palestinian state, other local authority councils may well follow suit.


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    Resistance to Israeli occupation can and must take many forms

    Propaganda for world consumption aside, Israelis have never minced their words about their ultimate aim of Eretz Israel, so-called "Greater Israel", from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan. This is alluded to in the Israeli flag, the two blue lines of which each represent a body of water, with only Jews between them, symbolised by the lone Star of David. Their opposition to a viable, contiguous, autonomous Palestinian state has always been explicit and adamant. Everything they've done to-date has been to achieve Jewish dominance in all of Palestine and the region as a whole, demographically in the former as well as economically and militarily in the latter. The Palestinian body and stubborn will to exist have posed the only hindrance to these supremacist aspirations. However, through rapacious construction of illegal Jewish-only colonies, regular military destruction of Palestinian institutions, extrajudicial executions, massive random incarceration, institutionalised oppression in all aspects of life, social engineering and more, Israel has effectively managed Palestinian resistance. All of Israel's wars, except the Yom Kippur War, were initiated by the Zionist state for the purpose of regional hegemony and territorial expansion. Expecting Israel to negotiate in good faith for Palestinian autonomy, therefore, is naive in the extreme.

    Equally absurd is the belief that world powers, including the United States, are honest brokers for justice which might usher-in even the minimal dignity of demilitarised Palestinian self-determination on the mere 22 per cent of historic Palestine comprising the West Bank and Gaza. It has been clear to most of us for a very long time that the Palestinian struggle must be waged on the grassroots level, both in Palestine and abroad. Israel's current onslaught on Gaza, a repetition of the carnage inflicted on this seaside prison twice before in the past six years, should remove all doubt that we have to rely solely on ourselves and people of conscience around the world to effectuate our own liberty. As with every national liberation struggle, Palestinian resistance occurs on multiple levels and is evolving constantly in response to ever-unfolding challenges and changing political winds. The reality now is that we cannot wait for world leaders to save us and time is running out. The older generation with indigenous memory, knowledge and wisdom is dying; the land is shrinking under our feet; and it is being sucked dry, making desert what once bloomed. Now, watching Gaza burn and bleed again and again, the national impulse to organise and intensify resistance feels more urgent. What follows, in a top line overview, is an attempt to summarise current and proposed resistance strategies, including boycott tactics, active resistance within Palestine, including sabotage operations, my layperson's grasp of legal pursuits, and the need for an inclusive, representative leadership body.

    1. Boycott

    The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has been one of the most effective Palestinian resistance strategies in recent times. The movement has grown exponentially since its inception in 2005, making huge strides into mainstream discourse and political action around the world. Its success has proven enough of a threat to Israeli hegemony to prompt a well-funded, multi-pronged attack on BDS organisations and individual supporters, including smear campaigns, law suits and surveillance. However, despite the success of BDS internationally, boycott tactics are not well adopted at home within Palestine. It has been suggested that this is due to the post-Oslo logic and ensuing realities in the homeland which have worked to minimise Palestinian national values regarding the struggle for liberation. However, a more likely explanation has to do with the logistics of internal boycott and the lack of local pro-boycott organising. In addition to Mahmoud Abbas's public opposition to boycotting Israel, Palestinians in the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Gaza, are both physically and economically captive, often having no choice but to buy Israeli products. Despite this economic bondage, there is still much that can be done to spur a culture of boycott within the homeland. Spending by Palestinians has been estimated at billions of dollars annually for Israel's economy. Campaigning and organising for the removal of Israeli products, particularly those for which there are local alternatives, could prove to be a fruitful resistance tactic, as it would have an immediate economic impact on some Israeli companies. It would also contribute to fostering less reliance on Israel and greater self-sufficiency.

    2. Active and passive resistance, sabotage and "tatbeesh" in the West Bank, Palestine

    Active and passive resistance against the Israeli occupation are deeply rooted in Palestinian society. The passive resistance of sumud, or steadfastness, can be found in daily activity, where Palestinians continue to attend school, work, till their lands, marry, give birth and live their lives despite the daily humiliations of endless waiting, checkpoints, colour-coded IDs and license plates, or confinement to a specific radius. Active resistance has been armed and unarmed/non-violent, although the former has diminished greatly in the past decade, with the exception of acts of self-defence by resistance groups in Gaza, including Hamas, the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) and Islamic Jihad. Non-violent resistance tactics, while largely invisible, have a long tradition in Palestinian society, where they have developed naturally over the decades, taking many forms. The most widely noted in the west has been the example of weekly protests against Israel's apartheid wall in Bil'in.

    Somewhere between these two forms of active resistance are tatbeesh and sabotage. Tatbeesh refers to rock-throwing demonstrations, where Palestinian youth hurl stones at invading Israeli jeeps, tanks and armed soldiers. This tactic, although symbolic, is embedded deeply in Palestinian resistance. However, it is costly in terms of human life, expected (even welcomed) by bored occupation soldiers, and sometimes works to dissipate the anger and frustration of Palestinian youth, which could be harnessed for more strategic resistance.

    Unlike non-violent, armed or tatbeesh resistance, sabotage is not widespread; where it happens, it has an impact, even if disorganised or reactionary. Sabotage resistance targets the apparatus of Israeli oppression, taking care not to harm life. In Palestine, this apparatus is vast, encompassing a sophisticated infrastructure of apartheid that relegates the Palestinian natives to encircled, deprived ghettos in order to accord comfort, exclusivity and privilege to Jews. It includes a web of Jewish-only roads connecting Jewish-only colonies with Jerusalem, a network of checkpoints and roadblocks, the 20-foot concrete separation wall, watchtowers and electric fences. These are what lie above ground; below lies a system of pipes that divert Palestinian water to Israel and its illegal colonies. There are cables and other connections that run beneath our feet to maintain these segregated colonies, built on confiscated Palestinian land. This infrastructure curtails Palestinian liberty, movement and access to natural resources; it should be a legitimate target.
    The aim of sabotage resistance would be to make it very costly and inconvenient for Israel to maintain the physical framework of apartheid. At a minimum, Palestinians could remove the unmanned roadblocks that wreak havoc for so many communities when they're set up.

    3. Resistance within 1948 Palestine

    While Palestinians with Israeli citizenship ("1948 Palestinians") have the right to vote in the Zionist state, they are subject to at least 50 racist laws that exclude them from rights and privileges afforded to Jewish citizens, including the right of return, the right to reclaim property, to buy or lease land designated for exclusive Jewish use, to live with his/her spouse in Israel if he or she has Palestinian ID, and more. Although this segment of Palestinian society is often overlooked, the 1948 Palestinians have waged their own resistance against institutionalised Israeli racism and often demonstrate (and are killed) in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank when Israel embarks on military sprees which terrorise the local populations. A recent noteworthy example of resistance includes the inspiring efforts of the villagers of Kufr Bir'em to reclaim their original village. Greater communication, coordination and reciprocal solidarity with 1948 Palestinians is needed.

    4. Legal Remedies

    Although Israel has waged an absurd "lawfare" campaign against Palestinians and their supporters abroad, by attempting to equate political activism with anti-Semitism, Palestinians have not explored legal options in international courts sufficiently to hold Israel to account for its criminal actions. In 2009, the Palestinian Authority (PA) abandoned a rare opportunity to refer an audit of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity, as outlined in the UN's Goldstone Report following the 2008-2009 massacre in Gaza, to the UN Security Council for further action. Despite this apparent mistake by the PA, ample legal venues remain viable options for the Palestinians.

    In a recent essay, Richard Falk, legal scholar and former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, outlined the potential advantages and challenges to pursuing legal action at the International Criminal Court (ICC) to address Israeli violations of the UN Charter and the Geneva Conventions. According to Falk, despite the associated challenges and pitfalls, "the evidence overwhelmingly supports basic Palestinian allegations" including, among others, the crime of apartheid; "recourse to the ICC remains a valuable trump card in the PA deck... playing it might begin to change the balance of forces bearing on the conflict that has for decades now denied the Palestinian people their basic rights under international law." There have been previous calls to prosecute Israelis at the ICC, but thus far no concrete action has been taken. On the other hand, a July 2014 letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon from legal experts and legal networks called on the UN and contracting parties to the Geneva Convention to take action pursuant to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Advisory Opinion, which deemed Israel's construction of a separation wall on occupied Palestinian land to be illegal.

    Legal remedies are also available to individual Palestinians who are citizens of other countries. The recent beating of 15-year old US citizen Tariq AbuKhdeir by Israeli police, recorded on camera, raises the possibility of filing civil suits in America against Israel, the greatest single recipient of US foreign aid. Further, based on private correspondence with legal experts, there may be a legal basis for law suits against Netanyahu and the many Israeli ministers and Knesset members who called openly for violence, murder and revenge against Palestinians. Their hysteria fuelled a national clamour for vengeance that led to the beating of AbuKhdeir and the gruesome burning to death of his cousin Muhammad AbuKhdeir. Additionally, there may be a legal precedent for US citizens of Palestinian descent to sue Israeli institutions in respect of stolen property.
    Finally, the concept of universal jurisdiction opens endless possibilities to prosecute Israelis for war crimes or companies for complicity in war crimes. The most famous application of universal jurisdiction was the Spanish prosecution of Augusto Pinochet for crimes committed in Chile. The potential (or absurdity) of pursuing such avenues is at least worthy of further discussion and strategising among legal experts and activists concerned with holding Israel to account for its crimes.

    5. Inclusive, comprehensive elections for representative unity leadership

    Whatever it was or hoped to be, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has become a reactionary, ineffective bureaucracy. It has proven itself woefully incapable of protecting Palestinians from Israeli terror and unable or unwilling to implement or advance resistance initiatives. In fact, the PA's ironclad security coordination with Israel's occupation forces has made Palestinians more vulnerable, and on several occasions it has acted to sabotage promising avenues of resistance. In addition to thwarting action on the Goldstone Report, they have also been a hindrance to the growing success of the BDS campaign, speaking publicly against it.

    The PA's rejection of the 2006 election results that replaced Fatah with Hamas members in leadership positions severed the West Bank from Gaza. Since then, the Palestinian populace has longed for what has been termed a "unity government" that would bring Fatah and Hamas together. While uniting these two leading Palestinian political parties is an important step, their coalescence represents neither Palestinian unity nor government. An autonomous government cannot exist under occupation; at most it becomes a subcontractor of the occupation. Nor can Fatah and Hamas alone represent the Palestinian people. For a start, there are other Palestinian parties to be considered. More importantly, voices from other segments of Palestinian society, including refugees, diaspora Palestinians and 1948 Palestinians must be heard and their opinions included. In all of these segments, space (currently unavailable or restricted) must also be carved out for women and the youth. The need to hold truly inclusive national elections cannot be overstated.

    Palestine is being wiped off the map. Our communities are dying a slow death of deliberate attrition, neglect and ghettoisation. Israel continues to steal our lands, heritage, homes and history, and while Palestinian resistance is the only reason that its colonial project is still incomplete, time is not on our side. What we do have on our side, though, our truest strength, is truth and the moral high ground of an indigenous people fighting a system of colonial apartheid and ethnic cleansing. All resistance tactics available to us that maintain this fundamental strength should be explored or intensified.


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    Apple Has Big Plans For Israel

    Feb. 11, 2013

    Apple is gearing up to open its third research and development center in Israel later this year, Shmulik Shelach of Globes reports.

    We first spotted the story on TheNextWeb.

    The center, which will be based in Ra'anana, Israel, will reportedly staff somewhere between 100 and 150 former Texas Instruments employees.

    Back in December, Apple started poaching former Texas Instruments employees after the company began cutting jobs. In November, Texas Instruments laid off about 250 employees in Israel as part of its efforts to reduce its workforce.
    Apple already has two R&D centers in Israel, one in Haifa and one in Hertezliya.


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    Presbyterians to divest as protest against Israel


    DETROIT (AP) — The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) on Friday became the most prominent religious group in the United States to endorse divestment as a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians, voting to sell church stock in three companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories.

    The General Assembly voted by a razor-thin margin — 310-303 — to sell stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Two years ago, the General Assembly rejected a similar divestment proposal by two votes.

    The American Jewish Committee, a policy and advocacy group based in New York, said the vote was "driven by hatred of Israel." But Heath Rada, moderator for the church meeting, said immediately after the vote that "in no way is this a reflection of our lack of love for our Jewish brothers and sisters."

    The decision is expected to reverberate beyond the 1.8 million-member church. It comes amid discouragement over failed peace talks that have left activists desperate for some way to affect change and as the broader movement known as BDS — or boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel — has gained some momentum in the U.S., Israel's closest and most important ally.

    Presbyterians who advocated for divestment insisted their action was not part of the broader boycott movement. Israeli officials, along with many American Jewish groups, denounced the campaign as an attempt to delegitimize the Jewish state. Separately, the assembly also voted to re-examine its support for a two-state solution.

    In a statement on its Facebook page, the Israeli Embassy in Washington denounced the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) resolution as "shameful."

    "Voting for symbolic measures marginalizes and removes its ability to be a constructive partner to promote peace in the Middle East," the statement said.

    Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement, praised the vote as a "sweet victory for human rights."

    He said Presbyterian supporters of Palestinian rights have introduced divestment into the U.S. mainstream and have given Palestinians "real hope in the face of the relentless and intensifying cruelty of Israel's regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid."

    The top Presbyterian legislative body has been considering divestment for a decade. Representatives of the Presbyterian socially responsible investment arm told the national meeting in Detroit that their efforts to lobby the three companies for change had failed. Carol Hylkema of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network, a Presbyterian group that advocates for Palestinians and spearheaded the drive for divestment, said their action was modeled on the divestment movement to end apartheid in South Africa. The 2012 assembly had endorsed a boycott of Israeli products made in the Palestinian territories.

    "Because we are a historical peacemaking church, what we have done is, we have stood up for nonviolent means of resistance to oppression and we have sent a clear message to a struggling society that we support their efforts to resist in a nonviolent way the oppression being thrust upon them," said the Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe, of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network.

    The vote was the subject of intense lobbying both from within and outside the church. Rabbis and other members of Jewish Voice for Peace, which advocates for Palestinians, lined the halls of the meeting and prayed in vigils outside the convention center wearing T-shirts that read, "Another Jew Supporting Divestment." Other rabbis and their Presbyterian supporters held panel discussions and sent letters to delegates urging them to vote no on divestment.

    Rabbi Rick Jacobs, head of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, which is the largest branch of American Judaism, addressed the delegates twice, urging them to reject divestment. After the vote, Jacobs said the denomination as a whole is no longer "a partner for joint work on Israel-Palestine peace issues."

    In leading an effort to strike down the proposal, Frank Allen of the Central Florida Presbytery told delegates, "Divestment will create dissension. Dialogue and relationship building will lay the groundwork for true peace."

    Bill Ward of the Presbytery of the Inland Northwest, based in Spokane, Washington state, argued the proposal was not an attack on Israel. The measure adopted Friday reaffirms Israel's right to exist. "It is motivated by stewardship integrity, not partisan political advocacy," Ward said.

    Two smaller U.S. religious groups have divested in protest of Israeli policies: the Friends Fiduciary Corp., which manages assets for U.S. Quakers, and the Mennonite Central Committee. Last week, the pension board of the United Methodist Church, the largest mainline Protestant group in the U.S., revealed plans to sell holdings worth about $110,000 in G4S, which provides security equipment and has contracts with Israel's prison system. However, the United Methodist Church had rejected church-wide divestment.

    Motorola Solutions said in a statement that the company follows the law and its own policies that address human rights. Hewlett-Packard said its checkpoints for Palestinians were developed to expedite passage "in a secure environment, enabling people to get to their place of work or to carry out their business in a faster and safer way." Caterpillar has said it does not sell equipment to Israel, just to the U.S. government.

    A church spokeswoman estimated the value of Presbyterian holdings in the companies at $21 million.


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    Gates Foundation Sells Stake in U.K. Prison Operator G4S


    The Gates Foundation Asset Trust, the entity that manages the investments for the $40.2 billion Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has liquidated its entire stake in G4S Plc (GFS), the world’s biggest security-services provider.

    “Like other large foundations, the foundation trust evaluates its holdings regularly, both for performance and fit,” John Pinette, a spokesman for the Gates family, said in a statement. “As a result of this, the foundation trust no longer holds an investment in G4S.”

    The Crawley, England-based company has attracted criticism for its contracts with the Israel prison system. The U.K.’s Guardian newspaper said in an editorial on June 4 that G4S should “end the corporation’s participation in Israel’s brutal occupation” in the West Bank.

    Since 2011, G4S has conducted a series of reviews in relation to its business in Israel, according to the company’s website. Its latest investigation concluded there was “no plausible case against G4S on the ground of alleged war crimes commited by Israel.”

    A regulatory filing on May 28 showed that the stake, held by the trust and Bill Gates’s investment company, Cascade Investment LLC, had fallen below three percent. The billionaire’s stake was first disclosed last June, when Cascade’s holding crossed the 3 percent threshold for the first time.
    Adam Mynott, a spokesman for G4S, declined to comment.

    Gates oversees an $81.7 billion fortune, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. He is almost $14 billion richer than Mexico’s Carlos Slim, the world’s second richest person.


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    Over 700 artists launch cultural boycott of Israel


    More than 700 international artists have announced a cultural boycott of Israel over what they call the inhuman actions of Tel Aviv against the Palestinian people.

    The artists made the announcement in an open letter published by The Guardian on Friday, decreeing that they would not engage in business-as-usual cultural relations with the Israeli regime.
    “We will accept neither professional invitations to Israel, nor funding, from any institutions linked to” Israel, the letter read, adding, “We won’t play music, accept awards, attend exhibitions, festivals or conferences, run masterclasses or workshops, until Israel respects international law and ends its colonial oppression of the Palestinians.”
    The signatories also said that since Tel Aviv’s latest war on the Gaza Strip last summer, “Palestinians have enjoyed no respite from Israel’s unrelenting attack on their land, their livelihood, their right to political existence.”

    The letter cited a recent statement by the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, which said 2014 was “one of the cruelest and deadliest in the history of the occupation” by Tel Aviv.

    Furthermore, the signatories said the Israeli regime’s wars against the Palestinian people are fought on the cultural front too, saying the regime’s military “targets Palestinian cultural institutions for attack, and prevents the free movement of cultural workers.”

    Some of the artists who signed the pledge also posted messages on the website http://artistsforpalestine.org.uk expressing their anger at Tel Aviv’s aggression against the Palestinian people.

    “I am constantly shocked and dismayed at the world’s indifference to the continuing plight of the Palestinian people at the hands of the genocidal” regime in Tel Aviv, said actor Patrick Neville, adding, “I hope this statement shines some light on this gross injustice.”

    Another supporter of the boycott, Deborah Fink, wrote, “When governments won’t act, the people have to apply pressure wherever, whenever and however they can. I will continue to speak out as an artist and as a Jew.”

    During the recent Israel war against the Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes targeted a number of schools and hospitals in defiance of the Geneva conventions that ban such attacks.

    More than 2,100 Palestinians, over 500 of them children, lost their lives during the Israeli offensive.


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    Ireland’s biggest food retailer drops Israeli produce as European boycotts surge


    Major Israeli food exporters are facing an unprecedented wave of cancelations in orders from Europe as a result of Israel’s most recent massacre of Palestinians in Gaza.

    SuperValu, the biggest food distributor in Ireland, told the Irish media last week that it has withdrawn Israeli products from its shops.

    And Israeli media reports suggest that other major European retailers have taken similar decisions without announcing them publicly.

    Israeli fruit and vegetable exporters have faced cancelations from Scandinavia, the UK, France, Belgium and Ireland.

    Retailers have become fearful of the rapidly growing consumer boycott of Israeli goods, according to an 11 August article in Hebrew business website The Marker.

    A spokesperson for EDOM, a major Israeli fruit grower and exporter that has extensive operations in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, told The Marker:

    Importers from Europe are telling us that they can’t sell Israeli produce … One European buyer has told me that he had been blocked in several chains in Denmark and Sweden, and then in Belgium. Last weekend, he told me that mangoes which had been packaged in the Netherlands, as always, and shipped to Ireland, were returned, claiming that Israeli produce would not be accepted …

    I’ve heard of major exporters from whom chains in southern France are no longer buying. There is no official boycott, but everyone is afraid of selling Israeli fruits. We can only hope that things do not get worse.

    Among the other exporters interviewed for the article is an Israeli pomegranate grower who is quoted as saying that they had been forced to cancel their “entire work plan in the UK” because major retail chains were no longer interested in Israeli goods, and that similar messages had been received from importers in Belgium and Scandinavia.

    A separate article published in The Marker on 27 July details how fruit juice producer Priniv had lost a major contract with a business in Sweden after refusing a request to export the produce in a way that would make it easier to conceal the fact it was produced in Israel. Customers in Belgium and France also made similar requests.

    Priniv director Ido Yaniv attributes the drop in sales to Israel’s attack on Gaza.

    Organized boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns have in recent years succeeded in pressuring retailers across Europe to announce that they will not stock produce from illegal Israeli settlements or from companies that operate in settlements. The Tesco chain the UK is the latest to make such an announcement.

    But it is now becoming increasingly clear that European businesses are starting to react to growing public support for Palestinian rights and boycotts of Israel in Europe. They are deciding not to sell Israeli produce of any kind — at least for now.

    “Disposal” of Israeli goods

    Ireland’s largest grocery and food retailer distributor SuperValu instructed all of its 232 stores to remove Israeli products from the shelves earlier this month.

    In an email to store managers, the chain called on store managers to “remove all stock from available sale and dispose of [it] at store level.”

    “It’s mostly fruit and vegetables, carrots and herbs more specifically,” a source from the retailer told the Irish Herald.

    Following the Irish Herald story, SuperValu issued a statement saying that it has not officially endorsed the boycott of Israel but did not deny that Israeli products have been removed from its stores.

    Major Irish toy store Smyths may have taken a similar decision, temporarily displaying a poster at one Dublin store stating that it had removed products made in Israel from the shelves.

    The decisions come as part of a huge upsurge in support of the Palestinian struggle and boycotts of Israel across Ireland.

    Protests have been held in retailers across the country and calls for boycott have been made by national trade unions, local councils and even sports stars including Irish and Leinster rugby star Gordon Darcy.

    Building the boycott

    Calls for boycotts of Israeli products, for sanctions and a military embargo to be imposed on Israel have been a key part of the huge mass demonstrations in solidarity with Gaza that have taken place across the world in recent weeks.

    Civil society organizations are responding to the attack on Gaza by announcing new boycott initiatives.

    In the weeks and months that follow, the challenge for campaigners will be to ramp up the pressure on retailers to remove Israeli products and to make their refusal to do so public.

    Campaigns against the sale of Israeli fresh produce have been a major focus of the solidarity movement in Europe in recent years.

    BDS initiatives have focused on Israeli companies such as Mehadrin and EDOM that play a key role in the colonization of Palestinian land in the West Bank and profit from the siege of Gaza, as research published by Palestinian farming unions has detailed.

    In January, Israeli settler leaders in the Jordan Valley region of the West Bank told the Associated Press that the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign had cost settlers $29 million in lost sales, especially in Europe.

    Campaigns against Israeli fresh produce exporters have intensified following the decision by the UK Co-operative retail chain to boycott all companies that operate in settlements, with campaigns also underway in France, Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway and Sweden.

    In 2011, Israeli export company Agrexco entered into liquidation after boycotts and campaigns in thirteen European countries that saw retailers cut links with the company, blockades of its UK and Belgium warehouses and a huge mobilization against plans for an Agrexco distribution center in Sete in the south of France.

    Israeli analyst Shir Hever suggested at the time that farmers leaving Agrexco to export their products through other channels because of the boycott campaign was a major factor behind the company’s collapse.


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    Norway's 3rd largest city votes to boycott settlement products

    Jewish community in Trondheim refuses request by Israeli ambassador to condemn boycott resolution, as city council calls on citizens to personally adopt the boycott as well.


    Trondheim, the third most populous city in Norway, has decided to boycott Israeli goods and services that originate in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

    A resolution passed at a city council meeting earlier this month accuses Israel of continuing "to aggressively pursue its policy of occupation."

    "Illegal settlements are expanding, the construction of the wall continues, Palestinians are subjected to daily harassment and face major obstacles in their daily lives. This is a policy that Trondheim Municipality cannot support," the resolution noted. "The municipality will therefore refrain from purchasing goods and services produced in the occupied territories."

    The council also called on the city's residents to personally adopt the boycott as well.
    Israel's Ambassador to Norway Raphael Schutz slammed the resolution and asked the Jewish community in the city to condemn the decision.
    "The decision of the city council in Trondheim doesn't contribute to an environment in which peace can be achieved. Working for a boycott, rather than toward dialogue, increases the level of hostility and mistrust between Israelis and Palestinians," Shutz said.
    However, the Jewish community decided against condemning the resolution, saying it was a political issue, while its policy is only to condemn anti-Semitic incidents.
    This isn't the first time a Jewish community in the Diaspora refuses requests made by the Israeli Embassy to condemn a boycott of Israel.

    Israeli diplomatic officials say there is a trend in which Jewish communities abroad do not wish to be associated with the State of Israel.
    "The Jewish community chose to bury its head in the sand," an official in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said. "The State of Israel will always stand besides all of the Jews around the world, even when some Jews refuse—out of considerations of convenience and cowardice—to stand besides the State of Israel."
    In 2014, the Norwegian Labor party tried to pass legislation that would enact a national boycott of Israeli settlement products. The left-wing parties supported the bill, but the coalition opposed it and it did not pass.

    After the bill proposal was rejected, Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende said he would not recommend to the country's citizens to boycott settlement products, but stressed that his country sees the settlements as illegal.


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    Arctic freeze on Israeli settlement products


    A second major city in Norway has voted to boycott Israeli goods and services produced in Palestinian territory occupied in 1967.
    The 25-18 vote by Tromsø city council followed a similar action in Trondheim in November.

    Tromsø’s resolution was sponsored by council members Jens Ingvald Olsen and Mads Gilbert, known worldwide for his medical work in the Gaza Strip.

    With a population of 75,000 and one of only a handful of world cities north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø has a long tradition of solidarity with Palestine, Gilbert told The Electronic Intifada.

    Tromsø has been twinned with Gaza City for 15 years, which has led to cultural and youth exchanges and a visit to by the mayor of Gaza City.

    Given that history of solidarity, said Gilbert, “it should come as absolutely no surprise that Tromsø city council should be the second in Norway to vote in favor of a boycott of Israeli goods produced on occupied territory.”

    According to Gilbert, there was little formal coordination with the vote in Trondheim except that officials shared the text of their resolution.
    The primary inspiration for Tromsø’s boycott came from the Icelandic capital Reykjavik, which voted in 2015 to boycott all Israeli products until Israel complies with international law and human rights conventions.

    After an extreme backlash from Israel and its supporters, however, the Reykjavik initiative was rescinded.

    “We already then decided that we would support our Icelandic friends in a very concrete way by taking up the baton and promote similar votes in Norway,” said Gilbert. “It has been on our drafting table for quite some time.”
    A moral question

    The Tromsø city council has faced pressure both before and after the vote, which was approved by a left-wing alliance of Labor, Socialist Left and Red parties.

    As with the Trondheim vote, members of the council’s right-wing opposition criticized the measure as an unjustified incursion by local politicians into foreign policy.

    But there were also personal attacks.

    Council member Benjamin Notkevich from the Socialist Left party faced particularly fierce criticism for supporting the boycott because of his Jewish heritage – many of his relatives perished in the Holocaust.

    His rejection of that criticism was vehement.

    “For me it’s a moral question,” Notkevich told The Electronic Intifada. “Should the money of the people of Tromsø go to supporting an occupation economy? We decided that it should not, and therefore we made this resolution.”

    Following the vote, he has been harassed with abusive phone calls, emails and social media posts, including comments labeling him anti-Semitic, calling him “garbage with a Jewish name” and comparing him to Vidkun Quisling, the puppet leader of the collaborationist government during the Nazi occupation of Norway.

    “To the charge made by several actors that this was motivated by anti-Semitism, let me put it as simple as this: It was not,” said Notkevich. The charge, he said, “is an easy way to run away from talking about the occupation and keep building new settlements.”
    One injustice does not justify another

    Israel’s ambassador to Norway, Raphael Schutz, was a leading voice suggesting the vote was anti-Semitic. In a letter to members of the Tromsø city council, Schutz asked them to vote against “sinister winds of hate” and made references to Nazi Germany and allegations of anti-Israel bias in the United Nations.

    “The radical pro-boycott approach uses almost always false information and lies,” Schutz charged. “Describing Israel as an apartheid state, accusing it of committing ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians, blaming it for intentional killing of innocent people and indiscriminate attacks against civil population are just a few of them.”

    The council’s majority leader, Jarle Heitmann of the Labor Party, responded publicly that while both the situation of Palestinians today and the historic tragedies experienced by Jews would be part of the council’s deliberations, “one injustice could never justify another.”

    Heitmann called the ambassador’s declarations “counterproductive.”

    The Tromsø resolution bans the purchase of goods produced in any occupied territory, but also refers to territory occupied by Morocco in Western Sahara.

    In general, the Norwegian government has enforced sanctions against many other countries – mostly based on UN and EU policy – including Russia and Iran.
    “Start of a cascade”

    Following the vote, Schutz dismissed the Tromsø boycott as “an empty gesture.”

    But Gilbert argues that the Israeli government considers the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) to be a serious threat.
    “They do whatever they can to combat it,” he said. “There is an increasing number of attempts from the Israeli government to make BDS activities illegal.”

    This has included increasing attempts to either deny entry or expel BDS supporters, making visits to Palestine more difficult for solidarity activists.

    In November 2014, Israel indefinitely banned Gilbert from entering Gaza.

    Gilbert said he is not concerned about how his role in this vote could affect his ability to return to Palestine.

    “Our hardship is absolutely miniscule compared to the daily hardship that Palestinians are facing on checkpoints, access to hospitals, the denial of right to travel from Gaza, the repeated brutal military assaults on Gaza and the limitations in access to health care,” he said. “I hope these two city council votes in Norway will be the start of a cascade of similar votes.”
    Changing politics

    The resolutions are the most recent indicators of changing trends within Norway’s Labor Party, the largest party in parliament, though not currently part of the governing coalition.

    In a shift echoing the Democratic Party in the US, Israel’s repeated assaults on Gaza in the last decade have forced a reconsideration of a long history of support for the Zionist project and strong ties with the Israeli labor movement.

    During the 2014 assault, Labor Party leaders went on record discouraging trade with Israeli settlements.

    “There is no doubt that there is a major shift within the Labor Party and of course this is such a defeat for the Israeli government,” said Gilbert, whose own efforts to save the victims of Israeli military aggression in Gaza in 2008-2009 and 2014 became the basis for two books: Eyes in Gaza and Night in Gaza.

    “I’m sure that if there is a left- or center-left majority during the next election, there is a real possibility that goods and services from the illegal Israeli colonies, misleadingly named ‘settlements,’ in the occupied Palestinian territories will be boycotted by the Norwegian parliament.”

    Norway’s next national election takes place in September 2017. Recent polls show the Labor Party with a lead.

    The party’s platform declares that “there should not be trade of [Israeli] goods and services produced in occupied areas.”


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    Scottish Christian group back ‘Boycott Divestment Sanctions’ of Israel in solidarity with Palestine


    Iona Community back justice for Palestine and criticise Christian Zionism

    THE CHRISTIAN GROUPING the Iona Community has declared its support for the ‘Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions’ (BDS) movement of the Israeli state as a method to bring peace and justice to Palestine and the peoples of the Middle East.

    A new policy position, following a six month process and discussions with “Palestinian and Jerwish friends in Scotland”, was arrived at as part of the community’s peace campaigning efforts.

    The Christian group, headquartered in Glasgow with community sites on Iona and Mull, states that criticism of so-called ‘Christian Zionism’ is required to cease injustice in the “settler colonial project” on historic Palestinian land.

    The statement coincides with the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the 1917 statement by the UK foreign secretary promising to create the state of Israel.

    The policy statement reads: “Successive, fruitless peace processes have allowed Israel to stall for time as it seeks to complete the takeover of Palestinian land and the forced removal of its inhabitants through its continuing colonial policy of building and expanding settlements.

    “The efforts of international bodies have proved ineffective in resisting Israel’s actions, and further pressure is now needed worldwide from all who are concerned: we believe the time to act is now.

    “We support the demands of the BDS movement that Israel should abide by international law and United Nations resolutions by: ending the military occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and the siege of Gaza; abolishing all laws which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel; and granting all Palestinian refugees the right to return.”

    The shift in one of Scotland’s most politically active Christian organisations follows the United Nations security council vote that condemned the illegal building of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land on 23 December 2016.

    The 2009 ‘Kairos Palestine’ document of Palestinian Christians called for solidarity from international faith groups to support peace campaigning in the Middle East.

    Hind Khoury, Secretary General of Kairos Palestine in Bethlehem, addressed a plenary of the Iona Community in October 2016.

    Leader of the Iona Community, Peter Macdonald said: “In their commitment to justice and peace, many members of the Iona Community have worked in Israel / Palestine. When the Palestinian Christians called for international solidarity in 'Kairos Palestine', the Iona Community helped to launch Kairos in Britain. We make clear that a just peace for Israelis and Palestinians is dependent on an end to the oppression of the Palestinian people.”

    The BDS movement is supported by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign and the Scottish Green Party, while targeted action has been supported by senior SNP MPs like Tommy Sheppard and Philippa Whitford.


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    South Africa president tells people to not visit Israel

    Jacob Zuma also calls on US to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba


    President Jacob Zuma has urged South Africans to not visit Israel unless it is related to "fostering peace" in the region.

    Addressing thousands of supporters during the 105th birth anniversary of his ruling African National Congress (ANC) in the capital Johannesburg on Sunday, Zuma said: "The people of Palestine continue to suffer in their rightful quest for self determination."

    Zuma, who is also the ANC president, said his party had pledged its "ongoing solidarity and support for the just cause of the Palestinian people."

    He said: "We firmly discourage travel to Israel for causes not related to fostering peace."

    The South African leader also called for unity among Palestinian factions and said his party supported the UN Security Council resolution that blamed Israel for its settlement policies.

    South African students, business people and officials who previously visited Israel have been criticized for their actions.

    Many South Africans, including the ruling ANC have publicly expressed support for the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

    Most South Africans believe what is happening to Palestinians is similar to what happened to them during the decades of apartheid era that ended in 1994.

    The president also called on the U.S. to return Guantanamo Bay to Cuba and lift the economic embargo against the country, saying the ANC "continues to stand with the people of Cuba".

    The late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, had supported South Africa’s struggle against the white minority rule which oppressed blacks for several decades.

    Zuma also said the ANC was committed to African unity and the achievement of a prosperous Africa.

    The president also called on the international community to help the people of Syria find a peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict.


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    71 UK Doctors Call for Removal of Israel from World Medical Association

    British doctors have called for the removal of Israel from the World Medical Association (WMA) over claims of “medical torture” on Palestinians seeking treatment.

    Some 71 UK doctors have started to pressure the WMA to revoke the membership of the Israel Medical Association, over claims that “our doctors perform medical torture on Palestinian patients,” said Ze’ev Feldman, the representative of the Israeli doctors, during a Knesset meeting held on the subject of boycotts against Israeli academic institutions, on Wednesday.

    According to Press TV/Al Ray, if the British physicians succeed, the Tel Aviv regime will be banned from taking part in international medical conferences and publishing in journals.

    The move follows similar measures launched by scholars around the world over the past few months. In December, over 200 South African scholars released a statement announcing their support of an academic boycott of Israel.

    In November, the American Anthropological Association, the largest professional organization of anthropologists in the world, approved a resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

    Moreover, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel, known as BDS, is gaining momentum in US college campuses and churches as well as in many places in Europe. The BDS movement seeks to end the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands.


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    Britain should apologize for Balfour Declaration, says Christian group


    The Iona Community, a Christian organization in Scotland, has declared its full support for the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

    “BDS is an act of nonviolent solidarity, pursuing equality, freedom and justice,” reads a new Iona Community statement.

    The statement endorses the BDS movement’s three demands by arguing for an end to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza, equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

    The statement also condemns Christian Zionism “as a distortion of the Christian faith in its abuse of scripture to oppress Palestinian people.”

    “Listen to oppressed”

    “The Iona Community has long sought, in all kinds of global and local contexts, to listen to the voices of those who are oppressed, and to take those voices seriously,” said Michael Marten, a member of the Iona Community’s council, its highest decision-making body.

    “Through our members’ involvement in situations around the world over many decades, including in Africa, Asia, Latin America, as well as the Middle East, we have sought to try and understand the situations of others and offer solidarity and engagement.”

    The community’s willingness to endorse full BDS and the right of return – steps that many other Christian bodies have not been ready to take – results from its relationship with Kairos Palestine, a coalition of Palestinian Christians that has endorsed the BDS call.

    The statement was approved by the community’s council after a process that began with a working group formed in 2015.

    “In engaging with the call from Kairos Palestine,” said Marten, “we took seriously the call for full BDS and in our discernment process felt that this was the only way we could respond. It seemed obvious to us that we should listen to what Palestinian Christians were saying and take that seriously.”

    That same approach led to inclusion of the right of return.

    “This is not a simplistic position,” said Marten, also an academic on political and religious history. “We recognize that the practical implementation of such a move is tremendously complex but that does not negate the fact that this [the expulsion of Palestinians by Zionist forces] is a fundamental injustice.”

    He described the right of return as “central to a just transformation of the current conflict.”
    Apology for Balfour

    The Iona Community’s statement also refers to the centenary of the Balfour Declaration. Signed by Arthur James Balfour, then British foreign secretary, that 1917 letter pledged to support the Zionist movement’s objective of colonizing Palestine.

    The Iona Community has urged that Britain apologize “for its part in the dispossession of Palestinian land and the wider Middle East conflict.”

    Marten noted that Balfour came from a Scottish Presbyterian background, the same denomination as the founder of the Iona Community, George MacLeod.

    Marten has been traveling to Palestine since 1991.

    “[Since] that time, I can see a remarkable change in the situation,” said Marten. “From being a marginal position, a pro-justice position has become a mainstream one, including in the churches, even if the political contexts don’t reflect that.”

    The Iona Community is small – with around 280 full members, and several thousand associate members and friends, according to its website. Yet it has long had an influence through the distribution of worship music and other liturgical resources used by many other churches worldwide.

    For example, it has previously distributed music celebrating the South African anti-apartheid movement. The community’s statement notes that BDS tactics played a role “in ending South African apartheid,” adding, “we seek to learn from that.”

    By taking this stance, the Iona Community should provide some inspiration to those churches and religious organizations, which have yet to come out publicly in defense of Palestinian rights.


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    New UN Report Confirms Israel is an �Apartheid� State, Calls for BDS

    March 16, 2017

    The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian society, has warmly welcomed as a historic breakthrough a report released today by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) that proves beyond doubt that Israel has imposed a system of apartheid on the entire Palestinian people.

    The ESCWA report calls for BDS measures to end Israel's apartheid regime.

    The global BDS movement for Palestinian rights, led by the BNC, has consistently described Israel a regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid against all Palestinians.

    Warmly welcoming the ESCWA report as a historic breakthrough, Ingrid Jaradat, member of the BNC International Secretariat, added:

    This is the first UN entity to prove beyond doubt that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid against the Palestinian people which confirms the BDS movements own findings since 2005. Given that apartheid is the second most serious crime against humanity in international law after the crime of genocide this taboo-shattering finding by ESCWA will strengthen the case for global sanctions against Israel.

    The BDS movement has grown impressively in the last few years, compelling major corporations, including Veolia, Orange and G4S, to abandon the Israeli market, and convincing large pension funds to divest from banks and companies that are involved in Israel's human rights violations. Israel's academic and cultural isolation is also on the rise.

    Guman Mussa, the Arab World Campaigns Coordinator with the BNC, added:

    ESCWA's report sets a precedent for the UN as it calls on national governments and international civil society to endorse BDS as the most effective mechanism to hold Israel to account. Acting to stop Israel's apartheid is not an optional course of action but an obligation under international law.

    Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, concluded:

    Our South Africa moment is nearing. This new UN report is a stark indicator that Israel's apartheid is destined to end, as South Africa's did. BDS is not only growing impressively on campuses, in churches, trade unions, cultural organizations and social movements, it is today adopted by a UN Commission. This may well be the very first beam of light that ushers the dawn of sanctions against Israel's regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.


    The UN threw out the report and forced her to resign...

    video: https://www.facebook.com/ajplusenglish/videos/923611661113675/

    UN official resigns after pressure to withdraw Israel apartheid report

    17 March 2017

    A senior United Nations official has resigned, following pressure from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to withdraw the
    landmark report published earlier this week finding Israel guilty of apartheid.

    Rima Khalaf, the head of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) which published the report, announced her resignation at a press conference in Beirut on Friday.

    Reuters reports that Khalaf took the step after what she described as pressure from the secretary-general to withdraw a report accusing Israel of imposing an apartheid regime on Palestinians.

    I resigned because it is my duty not to conceal a clear crime, and I stand by all the conclusions of the report,
    Khalaf stated.

    As of Friday, a press release announcing the report remained visible on the ESCWA website, but the link to the report itself from the press release no longer works.

    A full copy of the report is available below.

    It concludes that Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.

    It finds beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crimes of apartheid' as defined in international law.

    It urges national governments to support boycott, divestment and sanctions activities and respond positively to calls for such initiatives.

    Palestinians warmly welcomed the report, but Israel angrily denounced it as akin to Nazi propaganda. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN demanded that the report be withdrawn.

    That demand came just as the Trump administration announced a budget plan that includes sweeping cuts in US contributions to the UN.

    Khalaf's resignation indicates that Guterres acted obediently and swiftly to carry out the orders from the United States. In a tweet, the Anti-Defamation League, a powerful Israel lobby group in the United States, thanked Guterres for urging ESCWA to withdraw the report.

    The Israeli government has long targeted Khalaf for retaliation for doing her job. In 2014, its UN ambassador demanded she be removed from her post for criticizing Israel's policies of occupation and Jewish colonization of Palestinian territory at the expense of Muslim and Christian communities.

    The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the civil society coalition that leads the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, condemned Guterres' intervention.

    The fact that a UN secretary general has bowed to threats and intimidation from the Trump administration to protect Israel from accountability, yet again, is hardly news, the BNC said. The real news is that this time round, Israel, with all its influence in Washington, cannot put the genie back into the bottle.

    Palestinians are deeply grateful to ESCWA's director, Dr. Rima Khalaf, who preferred to resign in dignity than to surrender her principles to US-Israeli bullying, the BNC added.

    Khalaf's resignation, under pressure to suppress factual and legal findings unfavorable to Israel, will send a chilling message to other UN officials that they are better off serving those in power than in upholding any mandate to advance human rights and respect for international law.

    Head of UN body [forced to] resign as her group's 'apartheid Israel' report is withdrawn

    Rima Khalaf, a Jordanian who served as executive secretary of the Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), announced her resignation at a hastily arranged press conference in the Lebanese capital.

    She said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres's insistence that the document be removed from the agency's website led her to quit.

    The secretary general asked me yesterday morning to withdraw (the report). I asked him to rethink his decision, he insisted, so I submitted my resignation from the UN, Khalaf said.

    We expected of course that Israel and its allies would put huge pressure on the secretary general of the UN so that he would disavow the report, and that they would ask him to withdraw it, Khalaf, who had also served as an under-secretary-general to Guterres, added.
    The report was no longer available on ESCWA's website as of Friday afternoon.

    - times of israel

    Report: Israeli Practices towards the PalestinianPeople and the Question of ApartheidPalestine and the Israeli Occupation, Issue No. 1

    The executive summary of the report is archived here.

    The cached webpage containing the full report is archived here, for posterity.

    UN ESCWA report on Israeli apartheid by Ben Norton on Scribed

    Download and save it before it disappears off the web.

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    Under pressure over Israel, Portland divests from all corporations

    13 April 2017

    Portland, Oregon, has voted to divest all city funds from corporations, in a move that is being greeted with a mixture of praise and disappointment from activists who have been pushing for a socially responsible investment policy for years.

    The 5 April city council vote came after the city worked for more than two years to create a mechanism to ensure that it does not invest in corporations that are complicit in a range of abuses.

    The grassroots divestment push began four years ago, when a coalition of activists came together to campaign against city investments in Wells Fargo bank and Caterpillar, corporations involved in the private prison industry and human rights abuses of Palestinians.

    In December 2014, the city created the Socially Responsible Investments Committee, which was tasked with devising a “do not buy” list of corporations.
    Last September, the committee published its first report, naming nine companies whose practices violate environmental, health, labor, business or human rights standards.

    The report specifically cited Caterpillar’s “practice of selling custom weaponized military equipment and its involvement in human rights controversies, including direct maintenance and support of Israeli military bulldozers during attacks on Palestinian residences, orchards and other property.”
    Blanket ban

    But what began as a rigorous process to determine which corporations should be placed on a “do not buy” list, ended last week with a blanket prohibition on investing in any company.

    Last week’s vote overcame top city officials’ attempts to continue investing in companies they see as crucial revenue streams for the city.

    “This is a win,” Hyung Nam, a member of the Socially Responsible Investments Committee, told media. “The city is actually willing to lose money to their budget because they want to get out of these big corporate nightmares.”

    But others regret that by imposing a blanket ban on corporate investments, the city avoids rebuking the most egregious bad actors.

    “We thought it was important for the city to specifically call out corporations for violating socially responsible criteria,” Rod Such told The Electronic Intifada.

    Such, a member of the Occupation-Free Portland coalition and a regular contributor to The Electronic Intifada, said there was “a little disappointment” among the broad coalition of groups that had worked for divestment.
    “Behind the scenes”

    Such believes that part of the motivation to impose the blanket ban was to avoid dealing with a new campaign every year, with a new corporate target.

    He also fears that some city officials wanted to avoid denouncing corporations like Caterpillar, whose equipment Israel uses as weapons against Palestinians.

    “The goal was to get someone on the city council to openly make a public statement condemning Caterpillar’s role in the occupation,” Such said. “Even the most progressive member of the city council said, ‘I won’t go there.’”

    “In one sense our goal was to get the city to stop investing in Caterpillar. In that sense we won,” Such said. “But in the large political sense, we didn’t win. But I think we got a step closer.”

    According to Such, the Jewish Federation of Portland and the Israeli government-funded group StandWithUs testified against listing Caterpillar on the do not buy list.

    The Jewish Federation says it also went into action “behind the scenes – and quietly” to defend several other companies involved in Israel’s occupation – Hewlett-Packard, G4S and Motorola.
    “Victory for citizen activism”

    In December 2016, the city council decided to suspend all corporate investments until the city treasury reassessed the investment policy.

    At the 5 April city council meeting, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler proposed scrapping the city’s own do not buy list and instead deferring to a New York-based ratings firm that helps identify responsible companies for city investments.

    Wheeler argued that the city could not afford the loss in revenue from moving all of its investments out of corporations.

    The city treasurer estimates it will cost an annual $3-5 million dollars. About one-third of Portland’s $1.7 billion investment portfolio is currently in corporate bonds and securities.

    Wheeler also said he was generally against divestment, because “he sees it as a lost opportunity to influence corporations from the inside,” according to a local report.

    But city commissioner Dan Saltzman argued for an outright ban on corporate investments.

    “I think it’s the wiser course to get out of the business altogether, because I don’t really want to have to do this once or twice a year, and have the same discussion over 21 companies,” Saltzman said.

    In casting her vote with Saltzman, city commissioner Chloe Eudaly said, “I can’t dismiss the symbolism and meaning of Portland taking a stand on these issues.”

    “This decision is a huge victory for citizen activism,” Maxine Fookson, of Jewish Voice for Peace and Occupation-Free Portland, said in a press release.

    Fookson added that although activists would have preferred the city to keep its socially responsible investment policy, the decision to pull all corporate investments “at least ensures that our tax money will not be complicit in human rights violations in Israel/Palestine and elsewhere.”


  19. #79
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    Leaked report highlights Israel lobby’s failures

    Key Israel lobby groups have conceded that they have failed to counter the Palestine solidarity movement, despite vastly increasing their spending. The admission is contained in a secret report that The Electronic Intifada has obtained.

    The report, published here in full for the first time, outlines Israel’s failure to stem the “impressive growth” and “significant successes” of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights.

    It also sets out strategies, endorsed by the Israeli government, aimed at reversing the deterioration in Israel’s position.

    But while calling for harsher measures against the Palestine solidarity movement, the report offers no new ideas to deal with how Israel is beset not by an image problem but a reality problem: its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid is increasingly viewed around the world as reprehensible and unsustainable, even by many of Israel’s defenders.

    The report nevertheless identifies key concerns and likely targets of Israel’s propaganda planners.

    Even while attempting to come up with a formula to defeat it, the report admits that the movement for Palestinian rights is based on “appealing and sophisticated” arguments which Israel has so far failed to match.

    The “20X question”

    The report is spurred by what it calls the “20X question” – the fact that pro-Israel groups have increased their spending to combat the Palestine solidarity movement twenty-fold over the last six years and yet despite these tens of millions of dollars, “results remain elusive.”

    The existence of the report had been revealed in February by The Jewish Daily Forward.

    It was prepared by the Anti-Defamation League and the Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank founded by former government adviser Gidi Grinstein, with the help of “experts” from Israel lobby groups and the Israeli goverment.

    According to the Forward, Reut and the ADL were “only circulating print copies of the report” among selected pro-Israel operatives, and the newspaper had received it on condition that it not be published in its entirety.

    The full document can be read below.

    “Significant successes”

    Key findings of the ADL-Reut report include:

    - Palestine solidarity activists can boast “significant successes,” including creating an “unfavorable zeitgeist around Israel” in many parts of the world.

    - The Palestine solidarity movement has “expanded from Europe to the US and many other locations worldwide” and has “deepened its alliances with major minority groups and social justice coalitions.”

    - Palestine solidarity has “migrated into mainstream left-wing parties in Europe” and “may be gaining traction” in the US.

    - Israel’s repeated wars in Gaza – in 2009, 2012 and 2014 – have “boosted” support for the “delegitimization” of Israel.

    - “The targeted boycott effort against Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank, and particularly the settlements, is gaining momentum.”

    - Most of the “collateral damage” being done to Israel by the BDS movement is a result of a growing “silent boycott” – groups, individuals and companies who make undeclared decisions to refrain from engaging with Israel, either because of their support for Palestinian rights, or simply to “avoid unnecessary problems and criticisms.”

    Endorsed by Israel

    As The Electronic Intifada previously reported, based on the Forward’s summary, the document advocates “driving a wedge” between what it says are hard core “delegitimizers” who lead the BDS movement and “soft critics” of Israel. It advocates dealing with the hard core leaders “uncompromisingly” and “covertly.”

    In 2010, Reut advocated for Israeli spy agencies to “sabotage” BDS as part of an “attacking” strategy.

    The 2010 document shaped the strategy of Israel and its lobby groups around the world. The new report repeats key themes of the earlier document: it smears the Palestine solidarity movement as fostering anti-Semitism and attempts to tie that movement to Iran and “terrorism.”

    This report carries a direct endorsement from a top official in Israel’s global battle against supporters of Palestinian rights.

    “The correlation between the ministry’s mode of operation and what comes out of this document is very high,” Sima Vaknin-Gil, director general of Israel’s strategic affairs ministry is quoted as saying. “I am glad to see that we share a very similar point of view regarding the challenge and desired strategy.”

    Under its minister, Gilad Erdan, the strategic affairs ministry has been engaged in what one veteran reporter on Israeli intelligence has termed “black ops” against the Palestinian rights movement.

    According to the analyst, Yossi Melman, these attacks may include “defamation campaigns, harassment and threats to the lives of activists” as well as “infringing on and violating their privacy.”

    The ADL-Reut report also reveals the identity of the strategic affairs ministry’s’ “director of intelligence.” Shai Har-Zvi is named as one of the many contributors to the document.

    The report stresses the importance of gathering “intelligence” against the movement.

    According to Melman, the ministry’s intelligence section is run by former spy agency operatives.
    Trump bad for Israel?

    The report recognizes that Israel is increasingly seen as a right-wing cause.

    In the short term, the election of Donald Trump may lead to a “warmer relationship” with Israel, as compared with the supposedly stormy Obama years, the ADL-Reut report states.

    But in the long run Trump may be bad for Israel by associating it with his right-wing administration’s policies that are deeply unpopular with “many American Jews and non-Jewish liberals and progressives.”

    “US Jewry is undergoing its deepest-ever identity crisis, in which the future role of Israel in Jewish identity looms large,” the report states. It predicts a “decrease in mainstream Jewish activism for Israel” and says that “increased Jewish anti-Israel activism” is already evident.

    This erosion of Jewish support for and identification with Israel is a result of the “perception” that Israel is moving away from the image it promotes of a “pluralistic, peace-seeking and democratic” country.

    “The government of Israel seems to under-appreciate the collateral damage to Israel’s standing among Diaspora Jewish communities” of its policies, the report states.

    Efforts to combat the Palestine solidarity movement “will fail if they are accompanied by anti-Muslim sentiments that push soft critics and bystanders” towards the Palestine solidarity movement, the report warns. Harnessing and promoting Islamophobia has been a key tactic of Israel advocacy in recent years.
    Driving people away

    While Israel’s base of support has become narrower, the report sees a major challenge in the “rise of intersectionality” – the fact that other peoples struggling against violence and oppression see their situations as linked to that of the Palestinians.

    “The Palestinian cause has been widely adopted” by “many marginalized groups” it states.

    The report mentions LGBTQ communities, Latinos and African Americans as groups increasingly sympathetic to Palestinian rights that should be intensively targeted by Israel lobby “engagement” efforts.

    Israel, the report argues, has defined the enemy too broadly, lumping in “soft critics” who can be co-opted and even turned into allies against BDS, with the “delegitimizers” and “harsh critics” who must be fought uncompromisingly.

    Yet Israel and some of its most vocal surrogates are ignoring this advice. At a recent Israel-sponsored anti-BDS conference in New York, a panelist attacked a Jewish student from the liberal Zionist group J Street as a representative of an “anti-Semitic organization.”

    At the same conference, Reut Institute founder Gidi Grinstein stressed the need for Israel to win the support of progressives as it is only “through progressive groups we can win.”

    Even more starkly, this week Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu antagonized one of Israel’s closest allies and arms suppliers when he canceled a meeting with Germany’s foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel.

    Gabriel’s crime was that he planned to also meet with two leftist Zionist organizations, the human rights group B’Tselem and Breaking the Silence, which collects testimonies from Israeli soldiers about their violations of Palestinian rights.

    Doubling down, Israel’s deputy foreign minister termed Breaking the Silence an “enemy” of Israel.

    Gabriel said that if German leaders had acted in the same manner as Netanyahu, they would be called “crazy.”

    The report warns that just such a “heavy-handed approach to soft critics may actually drive them away and closer to the anti-Israel camp, rather than bring them closer to Israel.”

    The report also acknowledges that the anti-BDS laws pushed by Israel and its lobby in various countries have “raised concerns regarding their possible violation of free speech,” which is also turning off potential supporters of Israel.

    No good answers

    The 30-page report devotes a few sentences to acknowledging – at least partially – some of the root causes of Israel’s deteriorating global situation: “Israel’s policies regarding Palestinians in the West Bank, the absence of a peace process and the continuation of the settlements policy.” It also points to the “mistreatment of the indigenous population – the Arab citizens of Israel.”

    But the report ignores the obvious, that Israel can end the BDS movement by ending the reasons for it: the systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

    Instead, it recommends that Israel and its lobby double down on “positive messaging and branding” to portray Israel as a hub of “innovation” and “creativity” – deflection strategies that have failed so far.

    The report acknowledges that what it calls the “delegitimization movement” is “founded on intellectual arguments that challenge the foundations of Zionism.” It identifies “a need to intellectually match those arguments in an equally appealing and sophisticated manner.”

    Yet it is readily apparent that Zionist intellectuals have no compelling answer to arguments that there can be no such thing as a “Jewish and democratic state” without massive and ongoing violations of the basic rights of millions of Palestinians, especially refugees who are barred from returning to their homes solely because they are not Jews.

    This is precisely why Israel and its lobby groups are attempting to redefine any questioning of Zionism’s political claims as a form of anti-Semitism.

    This report sets as a goal to make “delegitimization” – any questioning of the “right” of Israel to exist as an explicitly Jewish state regardless of what that means for Palestinians – “socially inappropriate.”

    By this definition, calling for a modern, democratic state in which Jews, Muslims, Christians and people of all national identities have full, equal and protected rights constitutes an anti-Semitic attack.

    The ADL and the Reut Institute effectively acknowledge that Israel has no winning arguments that can sway so-called bystanders, people who don’t already have a view on its treatment of Palestinians. They warn that a “ ‘pre-emptive’ strategy of showcasing Israel’s side of the conflict among the bystanders, is unlikely to be effective. Only once the positive emotional connection has been set, then hasbara tactics may be effective.”


  20. #80
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    Jan 2007


    City of Barcelona officially supports BDS

    Barcelona’s City Council passed an official declaration on Wednesday in support of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

    According to a statement released by BDS, the declaration includes the promotion of “contracts to ensure respect for human rights, specifically with companies which are linked to the Israeli occupation in Palestine,” and urges the Government of Catalonia to “create a centre for study and assessment of the impact of Catalan enterprises investing abroad.”

    The statement added that the declaration expressed support for nonviolent resistance campaigns spearheaded by Palestinian and international civil society aimed at defending Palestinian human rights and upholding international laws.

    Through this vote, Barcelona City Council puts an end to the complicity of the city of Barcelona with the flagrant, systematic human rights violations of the colonising occupation and expansion of the State of Israel in Occupied Palestinian Territories and recognises the right to BDS

    the statement added.

    According to BDS, the number of Spanish cities which support BDS has soared to 70.

    The Barcelona Municipality’s recognition of the right to advocate for Palestinian rights through the nonviolent tactics of BDS is not just a triumph for free speech and democratic rights. It is also a clear indicator of the widespread recognition of BDS as an inclusive, inspiring, anti-racist movement that is rooted in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and that upholds the basic principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of the humanity

    Rafeef Ziadah, member of the International Secretary of the Palestinian National Committee of BDS, said in the statement.



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