International boycott campaign for Palestinian rights

19 Jan

 

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has become a key strategy for advocating and campaigning for Palestinian rights. The BDS movement pressures Israel to comply with international law and challenges the support Israel receives from governments, corporations and institutions across the world.

As our round-up of the year shows, 2016 has seen BDS grow further into the mainstream, spreading to new regions and achieving an even more significant impact.

As in the struggle against apartheid South Africa, BDS gives Palestinians hope that Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid, too, can be defeated.

Please help the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broadest coalition in Palestinian civil society that leads the global BDS movement, to make sure that we are able to continue building our movement and to keep our hope for freedom, justice and equality alive.

Deadly clashes as Israel demolishes Bedouin village

19 Jan

 

Video: Imran Khan reports from Um Al-Hiram, Negev, for Al Jazeera, 18 January 2017

Hassam M. Shoaap posted photos of the clash, during which a Palestinian man and an Israeli soldlier died. He posted the photos and these comments on Facebook:

Why I am focusing my attention on what happened in Umm al-Hiram today? Because that’s the clear demonstration that Israel wants erase the Palestinian people from their land, while the international community keeps ignoring Palestinian voices asking to stop the racist apartheid zionist entity, we can’t stay silent letting a new Nakba happens again in front of our eyes!

Another crime against humanity has been completed in the Negev region today, Zionists carried out another heroic quest destroying the poor houses belonging to the Bedouin community in Umm al-Hiram, killing one of them and injuring many, violently assaulting unarmed peaceful people just to displace them and expand their illegal colonies. Shame on the whole world watching and doing nothing! If you really support Palestine please raise your voice for Umm al-Hiram!

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NZ rejoins mainstream to condemn Israeli intransigence

13 Jan

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A general view shows the Jewish settlers’ outpost of Amona, front, and the Palestinian village of Silwad in the background, in the West Bank. [Reuters]

By Serena Moran, Opinion Dominion Post, 10 January 2017
NZ has rejoined the mainstream on condemning Israeli intransigence

It is a supreme irony that Israel, as the only state ever to have been set up by the United Nations, now disdains this institution and its authority.

To end the British Mandate over Palestine in 1947, the General Assembly recommended that the Jewish immigrant minority in Palestine could establish a state of Israel over 56 per cent of Palestine. The indigenous Palestinian Arab majority could set up their state in the land which remained.

Only the first part of the formula was realised.  Through the Arab-Israel War of 1948, Israel expanded, half as large again as the UN had originally provided for.  The Palestinians were denied their state.  Egypt occupied Gaza and Jordan took over the West Bank.

According to CIA estimates, the Israelis expelled 900,000 Palestinians from Palestine at this time.

Refugees and borders have been at the core of the conflict ever since. Israel confers to Jews a ‘right of return’ to Israel, but denies the millions of Palestinians any right to return to their homes, because they are the wrong ethnicity.

To create Israel in 1947, the UN gave to the Zionist movement in Palestine an exemption from the rule of local self-determination which was to apply everywhere else in the post-colonial world.  But the UN at least applied a condition on Israeli membership of the General Assembly.  Israel had to allow the refugees back.  Israel has never met that condition.

The recent Security Council Resolution 2334 is not about refugees, or whether Israel should return to its original UN borders.  UNSC 2334’s focus is on the degree of control Israel has over the last 22 per cent of Palestine which Israel did not manage to conquer until 1967.

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Zionists threaten UK govt over illegal settlement vote at UN

13 Jan

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Image of the UN Security Council resolution that called for Israel to stop settlement activities on Palestinian territories on 23 December 2016 [Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency]

UK writer Yvonne Ridley examines recent threats against the UK government by the pro-Israel Zionist lobby.

For New Zealanders, this report begs the question: Does the NZ government (which co-sponsored the UN Security Council resolution which condemned the ever-expanding illegal Israeli settlements) face similar pressure?

By Yvonne Ridley, Middle East Monitor (MEMO), 12 January 2017

Zionists threaten British government over illegal settlement vote at the UN

The powerful pro-Israel Zionist lobby in Britain, which wields money and influence within parliament, is threatening to bring down the entire Conservative-led government over an escalating row which has been simmering for weeks, long before last week’s Israeli Embassy scandal erupted. Zionist support for Israel has often led to accusations of political manipulation inside the British government and the accusations were apparently vindicated when an embassy official was caught on camera plotting to “take down” MPs who are vocal in their support of Palestine.

However, it has now emerged that while the diplomatic spat between the Israeli Embassy and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been played out in banner headlines across the front pages, a far more sinister row has been brewing behind the scenes over the British government’s support for UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which condemned Israel’s illegal settlements. In a copy of a redacted email and other material seen by MEMO, a direct threat was made to the chair of Conservative Friends of Israel, Sir Eric Pickles MP, from one of the most senior figures in the Zionist lobby. The email delivers a blunt message: Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson should be “made to understand that Jewish support for the Conservative Party at the next General Election is at risk.”

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Is New Zealand at war with Israel now?

7 Jan

trtworld-nid-269250-fid-305418Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a statement in front of new construction, in the Jewish settlement known to Israelis as Har Homa and to Palestinians as Jabal Abu Ghneim, in an area of the West Bank that Israel captured in a 1967 war and annexed to the city of Jerusalem, March 16, 2015. (Reuters)

By Mohamed Hassan, trtworld.com Opinion piece, 6 January 2017

Is New Zealand at war with Israel now?

New Zealand’s vote at the UN against Israeli settlements has been called a “declaration of war” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The country is now in Israel’s bad books, but it’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last.

It had all the makings of an episode of The Real Housewives of the UN — Israel’s friends, and a few adversaries, staging an intervention for their fellow member. ‘It’s time you stopped with this settlement business’, they said. ‘It’s only making things worse between you and the Palestinians’. It was always the elephant in the room and for the first time since 1979 it was finally being addressed.

This time though, Israel’s best friend and staunch ally, the United States, stood by and did nothing. It even orchestrated the entire thing, according to a furious Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu. It was a “shameful ambush” on the country’s sovereignty, and a ‘kick in the teeth’ by the international community, and Israel wasn’t going to take it lightly. Suspense. Check. Drama. Check.

After Egypt was pressured into delaying the resolution by Netanyahu and US president-elect Donald Trump, it was suddenly picked up by four other countries — Malaysia, Venezuela, Senegal and New Zealand. Hours before the vote, Netanyahu called New Zealand’s foreign minister Murray McCully and warned him that it would be a “declaration of war” if he proceeded. No words minced.

For McCully, this was a moment of truth. Two years ago he addressed the Security Council, when New Zealand first gained its non-permanent seat, and gave a searing indictment of a body that focused on peacekeeping “at the cost of conflict resolution”.

He promised that his Pacific nation would take this chance to lead, and focus on getting the derailed Middle East Peace Process back on track. So when he received the phone call from Netanyahu, there was just under a month left before he had to give up the seat at the table, and it was now or never.

The resolution passed 14–0 with the US abstaining, and its passing was significant. Not only was it the first UN sanctioned critique of Israeli settlements in 40 years and the first resolution not vetoed by the US, it could also pave the way for Palestinian officials to head to the International Criminal Court, something they’ve wanted to do for years.

In the days that followed Israel would make good on its promises, gutting financial aid to Senegal, and cutting diplomatic ties with New Zealand, sending its ambassador packing and recalling its own for consultation. The country was now in its bad books, but not for the first time.

In fact, things have been on the rocks between the two friendlies for more than ten years. It began in 2004 when two Israelis were caught attempting to produce a fake passport using the identity of a New Zealand man with cerebral palsy. Then-PM Helen Clark accused the men of being Mossad agents and Israel of attacking the country’s sovereignty and breaching international law. Diplomatic ties were cut. Ambassadors were sent home. A year later things were paved over, but Israel refused to acknowledge the men were spies.

Fast forward to 2011, and in the midst of the devastating Canterbury earthquake, a newspaper’s investigation into the death of three Israeli citizens found one was potentially part of a team of spies trying to infiltrate computer systems, and was carrying five passports. The government dismissed the report, but said it had investigated the group.

Diplomacy remained intact, but would be tested again just three years later, when Netanyahu’s government refused to accept a newly appointed ambassador because he would also be an envoy to the Palestinians. In 2015, the ambassador was reprimanded yet again in a warning to New Zealand to back away from drafting a resolution in the UN to restart peace negotiations.

Outside government, others have been vocal critics of Israel for years. Organisations like Kia Ora Gaza joined several aid convoys to the besieged Gaza Strip, and last year two journalists and a Green Party MP were detained aboard flotillas trying to break the siege in international waters.

But not everyone is happy with the country’s current role in passing the UN resolution. A group of pro-Israeli protesters rallied outside parliament angry at the government’s stance. In Auckland, the Murray McCully’s electorate office was tagged with a message calling him a ‘traitor’ and a ‘jew hater’.

Despite Netanyahu’s dramatic warnings, it’s unlikely an all-out war will break out between New Zealand and Israel. The country’s military isn’t scrambling to ready its defences and no one is enlisting to fight in the Great Inter-Hemispheric War of the 21st Century. Diplomatic relations will resume sooner or later, though this episode will undoubtedly leave a sour taste.

Trade between the two countries totals just over $100m a year, but that’s dwarfed by the $4.8bn yearly trade deals with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait. In fact, New Zealand’s role in pushing the resolution will likely be seen favourably in the Gulf states, where the John Key government had practically sealed a decade-old free trade deal.

What does remain to be seen is whether this could impact a future relationship with President-elect Donald Trump, who’s described the UN as a “sad club” that’s not a “friend to democracy”, and promised to veto any future motion criticising Israel. While trade relations are in good spirits at the moment, Trump’s vocal opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and his antagonism of China, New Zealand’s biggest trading partner, could also create a schism.

New Zealand has always seen itself as the little country that stands its ground. In 1981 at the height of the Apartheid regime, protesters shut down a tour by South Africa’s rugby team, the Springboks. Three years later, the Lange government barred nuclear vessels from entering New Zealand waters, prompting the US to suspend it from its ANZUS Treaty. The policy would become law in 1987 — and remain enshrined in the country’s ethos three decades later. For Murray McCully, declaring “war” on Israel was perhaps his own way of adding to this legacy.

 

photoMohamed Hassan is a Digital Producer at Radio New Zealand, where he makes podcasts and covers ethnic affairs. In his other life he is the 2015 NZ National Poetry Slam Champion and a published poet.

Why Israel should fear New Zealand

7 Jan

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New Zealand has a long history of activism with a global impact. (Photo of a Dunedin march, part of weekly nationwide NZ protests against Israel’s war on Gaza in 2014 [Ed] via Facebook)

 

By Ali Abunimah The Electronic Intifada, 7 January 2017

Human rights defenders are urging members of the UN Security Council to adopt sanctions to give teeth to the resolution they passed last month demanding that Israel halt the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

In a letter to their leaders this week, Shawan Jabarin, the director of the legal advocacy and human rights group Al-Haq, commended New Zealand, Malaysia, Senegal and Venezuela for sponsoring UN Security Council Resolution 2334.

But Jabarin urged them to use the resolution as “an opportunity to move beyond mere statements to concrete and effective actions, including the imposition of sanctions against Israel for its continued violations of international law.” This would include banning the importation of Israeli settlement products into their territories.

Pitfalls

While praising the resolution for confirming the illegality of Israeli settlements, Al-Haq notes that it “falls short in several respects.”

“Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights do not begin or end with the construction and expansion of the illegal settlement enterprise,” Jabarin writes, noting decades of Israeli violations including, “collective punishment, extrajudicial killing, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary arrests and administrative detention.”

He urges members of the Security Council to cooperate with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, which is currently conducting a preliminary examination of numerous war crimes allegations, including during Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

Al-Haq legal staff have faced threats and harassment believed to be related to their work on the preliminary examination.

Jabarin also notes that the recent resolution “merely reiterates the Security Council’s previous demand that Israel cease all settlement activities,” but unlike earlier resolutions does not explicitly demand the dismantling of all existing settlements.

Echoing a warning given by this writer about the weaknesses of the resolution before it was passed, Jabarin adds: “the absence of such a call in the most recent resolution may be interpreted by interested parties as de facto legitimization of the existing settlement enterprise.”

Similarly, Jabarin writes that Al-Haq is “troubled” by the resolution’s references to various international peace initiatives that “equalize the roles and actions of Israel, the occupying power, and Palestinians, the occupied protected population.”

But regardless of what the text states, any bite the resolution has will come from actions by countries around the world.

“Declaration of war”

Israel has lashed out angrily against every member of the UN Security Council, but reserved particular vitriol for the four states that sponsored the resolution.

The Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported that in the hours before the Security Council vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “let loose with sharp threats” in a phone call to New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully.

“If you continue to promote this resolution, from our point of view it will be a declaration of war,” Netanyahu reportedly said. “It will rupture the relations and there will be consequences. We’ll recall our ambassador to Jerusalem.”

McCully refused to back down.

These events have continued to reverberate in New Zealand.

Earlier this week, McCully’s Auckland district office was vandalized with graffiti calling him a “traitor” and a “Jew hater.”

McCully called the vandalism “regrettable,” but defended the decision to back the resolution.

“It is very difficult to get past the fact that it is long-standing New Zealand policy to support the two-state solution, to condemn incitement and violence, and to call for a halt to the settlements process,” McCully told The New Zealand Herald.

“We hope that a normal friendly relationship with Israel will resume soon,” the foreign minister stated.

Small country, big impact

But supporters of Palestinian rights think a normal relationship is precisely what is not needed.

Writing this week in The New Zealand Herald, the country’s biggest daily, Janfrie Wakim urged that “New Zealand, as the Western country most identified with UNSC 2334, needs to show Israel there is a cost” if it continues to ignore world opinion and violate Palestinian rights.

Wakim, spokesperson for the New Zealand Palestine Solidarity Network, proposes that the country could refuse to accept imports or Israeli visitors from the occupied West Bank and could ditch the cooperation agreement signed last year between Israel and the New Zealand Film Commission.

“We can put a stop to a range of economic and academic collaboration between Israel and New Zealand,” Wakim adds.

With a population of under five million, New Zealand has a history of standing up to bigger powers.

Precisely because it is small, its politicians are more accessible and arguably more receptive to public campaigns. And if New Zealand shifts its policy, that could in turn influence the actions of other governments.

So activists in New Zealand may want to preempt any backlash by urging their government now to declare publicly – as have Sweden, the Netherlands, Ireland, the European Union and the United States – that boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activism is a free speech right.

In the 1980s, New Zealand angered the United States by declaring itself a “nuclear-free zone,” effectively banning visits to its ports by US navy ships – a policy that came about due to popular pressure on the government.

In the 1970s, New Zealand, along with Australia, took France to the International Court of Justice over the latter’s nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific.

New Zealand sued France again after French spies bombed the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbor in 1985, killing photographer and anti-nuclear campaigner Fernando Pereira.

And New Zealand campaigners can arguably claim credit for turning the sporting boycott of apartheid South Africa into an international phenomenon with their mass protests and disruptions of the 1981 tour by the Springbok rugby team.

In 2004, New Zealand even imposed diplomatic sanctions and jailed two Israeli agents over efforts to steal New Zealand passports, likely for use in clandestine operations or assassinations.

Among the measures she proposes, Wakim urges the government of recently appointed Prime Minister Bill English to instruct the New Zealand state pension fund, called the Superannuation Fund, to follow the lead of financial institutions in other countries by divesting from Israeli banks that finance settlements.

In 2012, the Superannuation Fund divested from several Israeli firms involved in the construction of settlements.

“And [Foreign Minister] Murray McCully can tell Netanyahu we don’t like countries declaring war on New Zealand for pointing out what international law is,” Wakim concludes. “He could tell him Netanyahu doesn’t need to send his recalled ambassador back to New Zealand until Israel behaves.”

Given the precedents, Israel has good reason to be worried when the New Zealand public stirs.

 

Ali Abunimah: Palestinian-US writer Ali Abunimah is the co-founder and co-editor of the Electronic Intifada blog site. His latest book is ‘The Battle for Justice in Palestine’. Kia Ora Gaza and the NZ Palestine Solidarity Network co-hosted Ali’s speaking tour of New Zealand last year.

 Ali Abunimah’s blog

 

NZ must show Israel cost of staying its course

5 Jan
Israeli soldiers take position during a protest against Jewish settlements in Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman   - RTX2U5RA

Israeli soldiers take position during a protest against Jewish settlements in Jordan Valley near the West Bank city of Jericho November 17, 2016. REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman

By Janfrie Wakim, spokesperson for the NZ Palestine Solidarity Network

[This opinion piece was published in full in the NZ Herald today.]

                                NZ must show Israel cost of staying its course

Our government, and the United Nations Security Council, are optimistic if they think the UNSC Resolution 2334 is a bold and balanced measure which will bring a two-state peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

The only thing new in the passing of the resolution was the lifting of the United States veto which had protected Israel from any UNSC criticism during the Obama years.

Previous United States’ administrations, from President Dwight Eisenhower in 1956, to Secretary of State James Baker in 1991, have been much harsher in their responses to Israel’s military or settlement adventures than Secretary John Kerry’s recent tepid statements.

Other than Obama’s betrayal of his previous obsequiousness towards Israel, what generated UNSC 2334 was the increasing rate of growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.  Israel has continued its settlement building, contrary to clear international law and its own Oslo Agreement undertakings, since it conquered these lands in 1967.

According to Israeli Minister Naftali Bennett there are now 650,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the proposed area of the Palestinian state.  The passage of UNSC 2334, as an attempt to save a two-state solution, with Jews in one and Palestinians in the other, becomes quixotic in the context of such a deliberate non-reversible demographic injection designed by Israel to thwart that two state outcome.

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