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BDS is about Human Rights for Everyone.
The following article appeared on the Mondoweiss website on July 12th of this year. It describes the discoveries of a number of activists who ventured into the occupied territories to see for themselves the conditions that the Palestinian people are subject to under the Zionist regime with its illegal military rule of the West Bank and the siege of Gaza.
‘Shocked’ by tour of occupation, 11 feminists led by Angela Davis ‘unequivocally’ support BDS
by annie on July 12, 2011
The following statement is titled, “A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Colour Feminists.” Its 11 signatories are at bottom:
Between June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of colour feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.—was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.
During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered—in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa—asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people’s insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Travelling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions.
We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometres of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.
In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel’s courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city’s Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.
We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, “Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world.”
An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.
We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of “pink-washing,” the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women’s groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women’s empowerment centers in Palestine, In’ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.
We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee—an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs—we were humbled by their appeal: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”
Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.
We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the U.S. and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end U.S. financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*
Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA
Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*
Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz*
G. Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*
Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL
Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA
Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY
Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL
Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*
Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*
*For identification purposes only
Even the Israeli Media shows more balance.
The second flotilla is on its way to Gaza to provide humanitarian aid and help start a real process to end the illegal siege of Gaza, but you would be excused for not knowing it if you only read the mainstream Australian media. Four brave Australian human rights workers, SYLVIA HALE – former Greens MP, VIVIENNE PORZSOLT from Jews Against the Occupation, MICHAEL COLEMAN – social worker and youth activist and NICK WALLWORK – graduate student are on the Gaza Flotilla. What is most shocking to me is that an article on the 4 Australians printed in Haaeretz is far more balanced and reasonable than the bigoted tirade that appeared in The Australian on June 24th by Arsen Ostrovsky. Apart from the usual Zionist nonsense that the flotilla is designed to legitimize Hamas and that there is no crisis in Gaza and that the blockade is totally legal, Ostrovsky has nothing interesting to say. See below how the Israeli media dealt with the issue.
29 June 2011
by Amira Hass
GREECE – This is not the first time that Sylvia Hale, 69, has been asked why she is so active for the Palestinian cause. What about the discrimination against the Aborigines in her own country, Australia, for example? Hale, a former Green Party parliamentarian who is still active in the party, immediately responded: “Undoubtedly, Australia has a very racist history. Aborigines were given the right to vote only in 1967. But whoever asks us ‘what about the Aborigines,’ are not the ones who are interested in their rights, and not the ones fighting for those rights. They are using this as a diversionary tactic for evading the debate over Israel’s policy, or to delegitimize criticism of Israel.”
And yes, for anyone who is interested: She was and remains involved in other struggles. She has rallied against the initiative to limit the rights of the Aborigines, fought the discriminatory attitude toward refugees in Australia and opposed the policy of stopping boat refugees. Prior to entering parliament, she hid two refugees in her home so that they
would not be arrested.
This week Hale and three of her compatriots will climb on board the Tahrir, the Canadian ship that is participating in the flotilla to the Gaza Strip. She and her Australian colleagues traveled the greatest distance of all the participants. Their flight lasted 48 hours, including the stops in various airports.
Hale and her friend, Vivienne Porzsolt, also 69, give the impression of being typical Western tourists, middle class, middle aged, staying at the hotel where the passengers of the Tahrir have gathered.
In Greece there is a general strike, demonstrations and tear gas in Athens, but the tourists are oblivious: They walk around and catch the rays. Perhaps the tourists wonder who these people are, as they go from one meeting to another, from the dining room to the lobby, and then to the corner where the Internet is available. These tourists have not caught any
sunshine during the past five days.
Porzsolt has also been involved in social struggles in New Zealand, where she was born, and in Australia, where she now lives. In her CV of activism she includes protesting against the war in Vietnam, and apartheid in South Africa, and involvement in the feminist movement.
Activism against Israel’s occupation is a given for Porzsolt, as it is for Hale. From this point of view they are characteristic of most of the voyagers on the Tahrir, and especially those aged 40 and up. Social and political activists for many years, for whom this sort of activity is as natural as going to work or establishing a family. For the two of them, activism for Palestinian rights is part of a general outlook they hold as Western citizens, with the privileges that this gives them.
But Porzsolt’s involvement also stems directly from being Jewish, she says. “My activism against the Israeli occupation is linked to my Jewish-secular background, the values of equality and morality in the home of my parents [who were] natives of Prague who managed to escape from it immediately following the Nazi occupation in March, 1939. During the 1990s the Jewish element in my life became stronger and I became more interested in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Because Israel considers itself the country that represents all the Jews of the world, my participation in this voyage is my way of declaring that Israel is not acting on my behalf.”
“There are situations a person cannot avoid being aware of and cannot pretend they do not exist. And this is the case of the situation in Gaza,” Hale says.
She visited the Gaza Strip with a delegation of Australian unions. The pictures of the children at the hospital at Khan Yunis, full of bombings and tanks, continue to haunt her and remind her of her granddaughter.
“We went to see the tunnels and the airport. It had already been completely destroyed. I saw people with carts with donkeys, going through the rubble to find construction materials. The next day I read that the army had fired into that area. What is especially shocking in this situation is that lack of proportionality in the means Israel is utilizing, and the collective
punishment that it regularly applies.”
Porzsolt visited the Gaza Strip more than a decade ago. She visited Israel and the West Bank several times, and participated in demonstrations at Sheikh Jarrah (in East Jerusalem) and Bili’in (in the West Bank ). “In my visit to Israel I discovered that the Israeli and Palestinian movements against the occupation are weak and need outside support,’ she said.
What troubled her most is the extreme situation in Gaza, “an enormous prison under the sky. The strong sense that there is something wrong in every sense of the word.”
During the past year they worked to raise $50,000 for the purchase of Tahrir and to fund the flotilla. The fund raising in Australia was a good way to raise awareness of the blockade on Gaza, they say.
But they are not deluding themselves about the speed with which changes occur. The struggle against “White Australia,” the policy which limited the immigration of non-Whites to the continent, lasted some 70 years before being cancelled in 1973.
The Australian, hang your head in shame!
ACTION FOR PALESTINE
Israel’s Worst Nightmare.
Alice Walker, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of “The Colour Purple” is about to set sail on the Gaza Flotilla.
Robert Zeliger, editor of Foreign Policy, interviewed her on JUNE 23, 2011. Here is her story of resistance to Apartheid and oppression which started in the deep south of the U.S.
The author and activist, who is setting sail for Gaza on a humanitarian mission, says Israel ‘is the greatest terrorist’ in the Middle East.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker will join the flotilla of ships next week that will try to break Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip. She says the goal is to bring supplies and raise awareness of the situation there. Last May, during a similar attempt by activists, Israel raided six ships. On one, clashes broke out and Israeli commandos killed nine people.
Foreign Policy reached the author of “The Colour Purple”in Greece, where she is preparing for her departure.
Foreign Policy: Why are you taking part in the flotilla mission?
Alice Walker: In 2009, I was in Gaza, just after Operation Cast Lead, and I saw the incredible damage and devastation. I have a good understanding of what’s on the ground there and how the water system was destroyed and the sewage system. I saw that the ministries had been bombed, and the hospitals had been bombed, and the schools. I sat for a good part of a morning in the rubble of the American school, and it just was so painful because we as Americans pay so much of our taxes for this kind of weaponry that was used. On a more sort of mature grandmotherly level I feel that as an elder it is up to me and others like me — other elders, other mature adults — to look at situations like this and bring to them whatever understanding and wisdom we might have gained in our fairly long lifetimes, witnessing and being a part of struggles against oppression.
FP: How long have you been involved in Palestinian activism? What drew you to it?
AW: It started with the Six Day War in 1967. That happened shortly after my wedding to a Jewish law student. And we were very happy because we thought Israel was right to try to defend itself by pre-emptively striking against Egypt. We didn’t realize any of the real history of that area. So, that was my beginning of being interested in what was going on and watching what was happening. Even at that time, I said to my young husband, well, they shouldn’t take that land, because it’s actually not their land. This just seemed so unjust to me. It just seemed so wrong. It’s really unjust because in America we think about Israel in mythical terms. And most of us have grown up with the Bible. So we think that we are sort of akin to these people and whatever they’re saying must be true — their God is giving them land and that is just the reality. But actually the land had people living on it. The people were in their own homes, their own towns and cities. So, the battle has been about them trying to reclaim what was taken from them. It’s important, when we have some new understanding — especially adults and mature adults — we must, I think, take some action so that younger people will have a better understanding of what they are seeing in the world.
FP: Is the goal of this mission, though, to just raise awareness, or is it to actually deliver supplies?
AW: Well, our boat is delivering letters. So what we’re trying to draw attention to is the fact that the blockade is still in effect. On the other boats there will probably be supplies. I haven’t checked but probably things like sewage supplies.
FP: But Egypt has partially reopened its border with Gaza. So, couldn’t you get supplies in through there?
AW: No, you can’t. You can get two suitcases. Not only that, they closed it. They opened it and then closed it. So, that has not been worked out. I know people like to rally around what they think is a positive thing, but it’s not that positive yet because it’s not firm. They limit the number of people. They close it. They say two suitcases. You can’t build a sewage system with two suitcases.
FP: Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations said the stated goal of “humanitarian assistance” was a false pretext for your mission — and it’s actually designed to serve an extremist political agenda, and that many of the groups participating in the mission maintain ties with extremist and terrorist organizations, including Hamas. Your reaction?
AW: I think Israel is the greatest terrorist in that part of the world. And I think in general, the United States and Israel are great terrorist organizations themselves. If you go to Gaza and see some of the bombs — what’s left of the bombs that were dropped — and the general destruction, you would have to say, yeah, it’s terrorism. When you terrorize people, when you make them so afraid of you that they are just mentally and psychologically wounded for life — that’s terrorism. So these countries are terrorist countries.
FP: How is the United States a terrorist country?
AW: It is. Absolutely, it is. It has terrorized people around the globe for a very long time. It has fought against countries that have tried to change their governments, that have tried to have democracies, and the United States has intervened and interfered, like in Guatemala or Chile. I feel that it is so unreasonable, and I don’t quite understand how they can claim everyone else is a terrorist and they are not when so many people right this minute are terrified of the drones, for instance, in the war in Afghanistan. The dropping of bombs on people — isn’t that terrorism?
FP: Of course Israel and the U.S. aren’t the only ones that use bombs. Hamas has fired rockets at Israel in the past.
AW: Yes. And I’m not for a minute saying anybody anywhere should fire rockets. I mean, I would never do it. Nor would I ever supply such a thing to anyone. But it’s extremely unequal. If people just acknowledge how absurdly unequal this is. This is David and Goliath, but Goliath is not the Palestinians. They are David. They are the ones with the slingshot. They are the ones with the rocks and relatively not-so-powerful rockets. Whereas the Israelis have these incredibly damaging missiles and rockets. When do you as a person of conscience speak and say enough is enough?
FP: Are you concerned at all that your trip could be used as a propaganda tool for Hamas?
AW: No, because we will never see those people. Why would we see them?
FP: You don’t think you’re going to see anyone from Hamas?
AW: No. I don’t think we would. If we manage to get through with our bundle of letters we will probably be met by a lot of NGOs, and women and children, and schoolteachers and nurses, and the occasional doctor, if anyone is left.
FP: But doesn’t Hamas control the security apparatus of Gaza?
AW: They may well control it, but we’re not going to see them. It’s like everyone who comes to D.C. doesn’t see the president.
FP: I have to ask, since the previous flotilla trip ended with an Israeli raid on one of the ships and nine people dead. Are you frightened?
AW: Sometimes I feel fear. And the feeling that this may be it. But I’m positive — I’m looking at it as a way to bring attention to these children and their mothers and their grandmothers, and their grandfathers and their fathers, who face this kind of thing every day. I grew up in the South under segregation. So, I know what terrorism feels like — when your father could be taken out in the middle of the night and lynched just because he didn’t look like he was in an obeying frame of mind when a white person said something he must do. I mean, that’s terrorism too. So, I know that feeling. And this is what they are living under. And so, if you ever lived under terrorism yourself — you know terrorism USA, Southern-style — then you understand that people don’t like it and they should not be subjected to it anywhere on the planet.