Obama to sign AIPAC-promoted trade bill that legitimizes Israeli occupation and fights BDS

This article is re-posted from the site Mondoweiss. 

Workers prepare the stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Workers prepare the stage at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference in Washington, March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Yesterday the Senate passed the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 by a 75-20 veto proof margin. The large trade policy bill includes anti- BDS trade legislation promoted by AIPAC and introduces new U.S. policy language by including all “Israeli-controlled territories” as part of Israel.

President Obama will be signing the legislation. However, the White House issued a statement hours after the bills passage stating “[W]e do not support, including a provision that contravenes longstanding U.S. policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said in a statement:

We are pleased the Senate passed the bipartisan Customs conference report because it will provide additional tools to help crack down on unfair competition by trading partners and foreign companies that put our workers and businesses at a disadvantage.  As with any bipartisan compromise legislation, there are provisions in this bill that we do not support, including a provision that contravenes longstanding U.S. policy towards Israel and the occupied territories, including with regard to Israeli settlement activity.

The legislation references “any territory controlled by Israel” or “Israeli-controlled territories” seven separate times, making it the first U.S. legislation effectively defining Israel as including occupied Palestine, essentially recognizing the territory of Palestine and Israel as one entity.

The Times of Israel reports AIPAC’s affirmation of the legislation : Obama to reluctantly sign trade bill that lumps together Israel and settlements:

“The provision puts the US firmly on record opposing BDS and supporting enhanced commercial ties between the United States and Israel,” AIPAC said in a statement Thursday. “This measure builds on the important work of Congress … passing into law firm anti-BDS negotiating objectives for American trade negotiators.”

Within 180 days after the bill becomes the law, the US administration will be required to report to the Congress on global BDS activities, including the participation of foreign companies in political boycotts of the Jewish State. It also includes a number of legal protections for American companies that operate in Israel.

While the Obama administration has long expressed adamant opposition to BDS tactics targeting Israel, there are several references in the legislation to “Israeli-controlled territories” or “any territory controlled by Israel” as being applicable to the terms of the bill.

Relevant provisions included in the legislation include:


Statements of policy



supports the strengthening of economic cooperation between the United States and Israel and recognizes the tremendous strategic, economic, and technological value of cooperation with Israel;


recognizes the benefit of cooperation with Israel to United States companies, including by improving American competitiveness in global markets;


recognizes the importance of trade and commercial relations to the pursuit and sustainability of peace, and supports efforts to bring together the United States, Israel, the Palestinian territories, and others in enhanced commerce;


opposes politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel, such as boycotts of, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel;


notes that boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel by governments, governmental bodies, quasi-governmental bodies, international organizations, and other such entities are contrary to principle of nondiscrimination under the GATT 1994 (as defined in section 2(1)(B) of the Uruguay Round Agreements Act (19 U.S.C. 3501(1)(B)));


encourages the inclusion of politically motivated actions that penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel such as boycotts of, divestment from, or sanctions against Israel as a topic of discussion at the U.S.-Israel Joint Economic Development Group (JEDG) to support the strengthening of the United States-Israel commercial relationship and combat any commercial discrimination against Israel; and


supports efforts to prevent investigations or prosecutions by governments or international organizations of United States persons solely on the basis of such persons doing business with Israel, with Israeli entities, or in any territory controlled by Israel.


Principal trade negotiating objectives of the United States


Commercial partnerships

Among the principal trade negotiating objectives of the United States for proposed trade agreements with foreign countries regarding commercial partnerships are the following:


To discourage actions by potential trading partners that directly or indirectly prejudice or otherwise discourage commercial activity solely between the United States and Israel.


To discourage politically motivated boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel and to seek the elimination of politically motivated nontariff barriers on Israeli goods, services, or other commerce imposed on Israel.


To seek the elimination of state-sponsored unsanctioned foreign boycotts of Israel, or compliance with the Arab League Boycott of Israel, by prospective trading partners.


Effective date

This subsection takes effect on the date of the enactment of this Act and applies with respect to negotiations commenced before, on, or after such date of enactment.


Report on politically motivated acts of boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel


In general

Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, and annually thereafter, the President shall submit to Congress a report on politically motivated boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel.


Matters To Be Included

The report required by paragraph (1) shall include the following:


A description of the establishment of barriers to trade, including nontariff barriers, investment, or commerce by foreign countries or international organizations against United States persons operating or doing business in Israel, with Israeli entities, or in Israeli-controlled territories.


A description of specific steps being taken by the United States to encourage foreign countries and international organizations to cease creating such barriers and to dismantle measures already in place, and an assessment of the effectiveness of such steps.


A description of specific steps being taken by the United States to prevent investigations or prosecutions by governments or international organizations of United States persons solely on the basis of such persons doing business with Israel, with Israeli entities, or in Israeli-controlled territories.


Decisions by foreign persons, including corporate entities and state-affiliated financial institutions, that limit or prohibit economic relations with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel.


Certain foreign judgments against United States persons

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no domestic court shall recognize or enforce any foreign judgment entered against a United States person that conducts business operations in Israel, or any territory controlled by Israel, if the domestic court determines that the foreign judgment is based, in whole or in part, on a determination by a foreign court that the United States person’s conducting business operations in Israel or any territory controlled by Israel or with Israeli entities constitutes a violation of law.



In this section:


Boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel

The term boycott of, divestment from, and sanctions against Israel means actions by states, nonmember states of the United Nations, international organizations, or affiliated agencies of international organizations that are politically motivated and are intended to penalize or otherwise limit commercial relations specifically with Israel or persons doing business in Israel or in any territory controlled by Israel.

 The full legislation is available here.

– See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/02/obama-to-sign-aipac-promoted-trade-bill-that-legitimizes-israeli-occupation-and-fights-bds/#sthash.BC1L2i5c.dpuf


Grand Rapids BDS Campaign Video

In October, we went public with our campaign to get the City of Grand Rapids to adopt a resolution in support of divestment from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. BDS100Victories

The Grand Rapids BDS Campaign is still going strong and we created this short video to help us promote the campaign and to demonstrate the broad base of support we have around justice for Palestine.

This campaign is modeled on the South African Anti-Apartheid Campaign of the 1980s. The Palestinian BDS Campaign is critical for those of us who live in the US, since the US government provides $3 Billion annually in military aid to Israel, supports the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements and blocks any effort to enforce United Nations resolutions to against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

If you want to know more about the growing BDS Campaign, go to this link and please share this video.

Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights

This article is re-posted from Human Rights Watch

More than half a million Israeli settlers live in 237 settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Successive Israeli governments have facilitated this process, even though settlements are unlawful under international humanitarian law and are part and parcel of Israeli policies that dispossess, discriminate against, and abuse the human rights of Palestinians.ISRAELE_(F)_0410_-_israeli_illegal_settlements

But the system is not just propagated by the Israeli government; it also depends on the involvement of a multitude of businesses that operate in the settlements. Human Rights Watch examined the role of businesses that operate in settlements, finance settlement construction, provide services to settlers, or trade with settlement businesses. It assessed such activities under businesses’ human rights responsibilities, as articulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

What is Human Rights Watch calling for businesses to do and why?

Businesses have human rights responsibilities under international standards. For example, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights obligate companies around the globe to conduct due diligence and mitigate any harmful human rights impact of their activities. These principles apply to companies working anywhere in the world and throughout their entire supply chains. Countries are expected to respect these standards and develop guidelines to implement them.

Human Rights Watch found that, in the context of settlements, business activities contribute to and benefit from Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ rights and international humanitarian law. Because the violations are intrinsic to abusive, harmful, and long-standing Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank, the only way settlement businesses can avoid or mitigate contributing to abuses in line with their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles is by ending their operations in settlements or in settlement-related commercial activity.

The Human Rights Watch case studies show how settlement businesses are integral to the abusive settlement system because they:

  • help make settlements sustainable by providing services and employment to settlers and paying taxes to settlement municipalities;
  • depend on and contribute to the unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and resources by financing, developing, and marketing settlement homes; and
  • are inextricably linked to and benefit from Israel’s discriminatory policies that encourage settlements and harshly restrict Palestinians, such as privileged access to Israeli-issued construction permits and licenses to extract natural resources that should be used only for the benefit of the Palestinian population of the occupied territory.

To read the entire HRW investigation on this topic go to https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/19/occupation-inc-how-settlement-businesses-contribute-israels-violations-palestinian.

US anthropologists back Israel boycott in landslide vote

This article by Ali Abunimah is re-posted from the Electronic Intifada.

Members of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution backing the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israeli academic institutions.aaalogo-text-02-01

The measure passed at the association’s annual meeting in Denver on Friday by 1,040 votes in favor to 136 against.

It must now be ratified in a referendum of the association’s entire membership of 10,000 in April.

A second resolution condemning the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel was crushed 1,173 to 196.

“The resolution to be placed on the spring ballot calls for the AAA to refrain from formal collaborations with Israeli academic institutions only and not individual scholars,” the association said in a statement.

The resolution says the association “endorses and will honor [the] call from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israeli academic institutions until such time as these institutions end their complicity in violating Palestinian rights as stipulated in international law.”

It cites Israeli universities’ provision of “planning, policy and technological expertise for furthering Palestinian dispossession,” as well as Israel’s systematic violation of academic freedom for Palestinians, including its military attacks on schools and universities.

“Stand for justice”

“As heirs to a long tradition of scholarship on colonialism, anthropologists affirm, through this resolution, that the core problem is Israel’s maintenance of a settler colonial regime based on Jewish supremacy and Palestinian dispossession,” Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions said.

“By supporting the boycott, anthropologists are taking a stand for justice through action in solidarity with Palestinians,” the group of scholars who supported the initiative added.

They note that Friday’s vote was the result of more than three years of organizing.

It also marks a significant blow to Israel lobby groups that have stepped up their efforts to combat BDS following the decision of the American Studies Association to adopt the academic boycott in 2013.

The vote will likely encourage similar efforts in other academic organizations. A discussion on the academic boycott of Israel is, for example, currently taking place within the Modern Language Association.

Anti-Palestinian activists have been quick to express their dismay. The American Jewish Committee deploredthe vote and said the anthropologists had “mistakenly succumbed to the whims of the BDS movement leaders.”

Palestinian welcome

Lisa Taraki, a Palestinian sociologist at Birzeit University in the occupied West Bank and a co-founder of thePalestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), said the anthropology association’s vote “sent a clear message of international solidarity with Palestinians and upheld some of the best values of the profession.”

“We are certain that this outstanding expression of support for the Palestinian-led BDS movement will further galvanize academics to pursue the institutional boycott of Israel,” said Haidar Eid, a Gaza-based comparative literature professor and PACBI steering committee member.

“As in the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the boycott of complicit institutions will significantly contribute to the long march towards Palestinian liberation and self-determination,” Eid added.

New Video Features Artists on the Importance of Boycotting Apartheid Israel

This video and the text is re-posted from our friends at US Campaign to End the Occupation.

Eight leading artists, all with ties to New York, state their support for the cultural boycott of Israel in our new video. The video features actor Kathleen Chalfant; musician Roger Waters, a founding member of Pink Floyd; musicians Kyp Malone andTunde Adebimpe of TV On The Radio; musicians Kool A.D. and Tamar-kali; artist and author of Drawing Blood, Molly Crabapple; and visual artist Swoon.

The eight artists recount the hardships that Israel imposes on Palestinian artists, and the history of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. They explain the Palestinian boycott call, and why they endorse a cultural boycott.

The video marks the launch of a New York-based initiative calling for more artists and cultural workers in New York, the US and around the world to pledge to respect and support the Palestinian boycott call. Artists in the video join a growing number of cultural workers who are heeding the boycott call from Palestine to refuse to do business as usual with Israel until it ends its occupation, apartheid and colonization.

Ms. Lauryn Hill, Roger Waters, Elvis Costello, Santana, the late Gil-Scott Heron, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power, Stevie Wonder, Talib Kweli, Mira Nair, Ken Loach, Alice Walker, Mike Leigh, Arundhati Roy, Jean-Luc Godard and many others have declined to perform or participate in cultural events in Israel or with institutions complicit in Israeli human rights abuses.

Artists & Cultural Workers: Endorse the Palestinian call for the boycott of Israel

Music (P) Jabbar

A project of Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel

Letters Show Community Support for HCC BDS Campaign

A few weeks ago we went public with our campaign to get the City of Grand Rapids to BDSadopt a divestment resolution in support of justice for Palestinians. For those interested in being part of the local BDS campaign, just send us an email and we can let you know how to get involved healingchildrenofconflict@gmail.com.

At the October 13 Grand Rapids City Commission, 29 people stood before the city officials and either spoke freely about their support or read statements they had written or statements that were from organizations. You can read all the letters in support of the Grand Rapids BDS Campaign, but we wanted to highlight some of those letters here to give readers an idea of the kinds of statements people were making about the importance of this campaign.

David Alvarez – Israeli bombs, bullets, and shells killed over 500 Palestinian children andScreen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.51.39 AM wounded thousands during last summer’s military invasion of Gaza, the third since 2008. My 14-year old son in Grand Rapids leads a normal healthy life. In contrast, his Palestinian counterpart in besieged Gaza has had to endure three major invasions since he was 8, has seen his family members, friends, and neighbors being killed or wounded, and has either been rendered homeless by the bombing or seen whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble by Israel’s weapons, which are often supplied by the United States, while all the while living in a besieged territory the majority of whose people are refugees who are not allowed to return to their homes simply because they are Palestinian. As for his counterpart in the occupied West Bank, he has been prevented from moving about freely all his life, has seen his elders harassed, humiliated, detained, injured, or killed by soldiers, police, or armed Israeli settlers, or has suffered all these things himself as a child.

This is obviously no life for anybody, and to allow it to continue unchecked and indeed to fuel it further as the US government does is to be complicit with a grave injustice. It is also to allow Israelis who support the occupation and those who support them to continue down a path that will not just bring more misery to the Palestinians but will also do profound self-harm to themselves, since oppression dehumanizes not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. Moreover silence in the face of oppression is a form of complicity with it.

Diane Baum – Jewish supporters of Israel might say that all Jews support Israel. They DSC_0028might say that to be against the discriminatory policies of Israel is to be “antiSemitic.” I say that it is just the opposite that WHAT ISRAEL IS DOING IS AGAINST MY JEWISH RELIGION AND CAUSES ANTISEMITISM. As someone who attends worship regularly in a Jewish synagogue, it is very difficult for me personally to go against what many of my coreligionists advocate. I deeply respect people who sincerely practice my religion, particularly my elders whom I have known all my life. Many Jews want to silence people like me, people who speak up to advocate fairness for the Palestinians. Yet many of the same people loudly accuse the world of NOT SPEAKING UP when Jews were the group undergoing immense suffering at the hands of a government and an occupying power.

I call on the Grand Rapids City Commission to resolve to avoid dealings with companies and other entities that collude with those who profit from the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Chris Yared – For decades the Israeli government has violated international law and the DSC_0023human rights of Palestinians by maintaining an illegal occupation of Palestine, bulldozing Palestinian homes and giving their property away, constantly expanding illegal settlements, building the Wall, maintaining checkpoints which severely limit Palestinian access to basic needs such as work, family, medical treatment and education, severely restricting Palestinian access to water, electricity, food and other basic resources, engaging in illegal detentions, using sophisticated military weapons and technology to kill and permanently injure Palestinian children and families who have neither a military nor a place to run, and engaging in other intentional acts which amount to ethnic cleansing.

I urge you to pass a divestment resolution providing that the City will not hold investments in companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and will not spend public money to support companies who profit from the occupation.

Rev. Doug Van Doren – This struggle may seem a long way away from the city of Grand Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.59.43 AMRapids or the business of the City Commission. However, it affects scores of people in our community who have been forced to flee, whose lands have been seized, and whose family and friends have been killed, displaced, or are living under daily threat and oppression. Further, there are times when an injustice is so egregious and when our action can truly make a difference, that we are compelled to act.

I urge you, as the Grand Rapids City Commission to once again stand on the right side of history. Act to cease and refuse to be complicit (and make Grand Rapids residents complicit) in this cycle of violence and retaliation perpetuated by the Israeli Government’s policy toward Palestinians and Palestinian lands. Stand on the right side of justice and a non-violent solution.

Lindsey Disler – The State of Israel continues its violent, militarized occupation and DSC_0030settlement of Gaza, deadly assaults on Palestinian people — including the killing of thousands of children—and practices outright human and civil rights abuses against the people of Gaza.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is the United States’ largest youth-led, student labor campaign organization. Collective liberation is central to the work of USAS, and we oppose the oppression and exploitation of peoples throughout the world.

United Students Against Sweatshops hereby endorses the Healing Children of Conflict campaign to get the Grand Rapids to pass a divestment resolution.


The Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ unanimously endorses the HCC BDS Campaign


Over the weekend of October 23/24, the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ’s voted unanimously to endorse a divestment campaign by the Grand Rapids-based non-profit organization, Healing Children of Conflict (HCC), whose twofold mission is to heal families and communities by facilitating medical treatment for children seriously wounded in Middle Eastern conflicts involving the United States, and to thereby educate the West Michigan community about the root causes of those conflicts.

HCC’s campaign was initiated on October 13, when about 75 HCC members and supporters attended a Grand Rapids City Commission meeting to request that the Mayor and Commissioners adopt a divestment resolution in support of the international Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) movement launched by Palestinian civil society in 2005. HCC’s campaign is based on a successful 1982 initiative that led the City of Grand Rapids to pass a resolution to divest from companies that were profiteering from apartheid in South Africa.

The endorsement of HCC’s campaign by the Michigan Conference  of the United Church of Christ lends further weight to the more than 30 endorsement letters from other church bodies, pastors, community organizations, student groups, and concerned individuals that HCC submitted to the City Clerk at the City Commission meeting.BDS

HCC member David Alvarez says, “This endorsement follows in the footsteps of the UCC’s Synod’s decision to endorse a worldwide movement for justice initiated by Palestinian civil society and based on the 1980s campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against apartheid in South Africa. Progressive organizations and individuals around the world, including within Israel itself, have responded to the Palestinian call for BDS. That call has created a groundswell of grassroots efforts to achieve what governments have not: the end of the Israeli state’s regime of military occupation, colonization, and segregation for the Palestinian people and the achievement of a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

The Reverend Doctor Campbell Lovett, Minister of the Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ, stated:

Our resolution of support makes clear that we condemn all violence and that we affirm Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation and a homeland for the Jewish people. We are troubled, however, by particular policies of the government of Israel that subject the Palestinian people to the loss of their lands and livelihood. That U.S. corporations profit from these policies is immoral. Our resolution calls for divestment from those companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories, and for support of HCC’s campaign to encourage the City of Grand Rapids to divest.

Here is an excerpt from the UCC statement in support of the HCC campaign: Historically this resolution grows from the seeds of more than 20 General Synod and Executive Council actions speaking to a just peace between the Palestinian people and  the State of Israel. It is an incarnation of what we mean by proclaiming that the United Church of Christ is a just peace church. Further, this resolution seeks to embody the covenantal theology we proclaim as a church by advocating for the common good by lending our voice to the organized work of others from various faith traditions who are striving for the same goal: a peaceful resolution to the conflict between the Palestinian people and the State of Israel. This resolution affirms HCC’s campaign.

To read the entire Michigan Conference of the United Church of Christ statement endorsing the HCC BDS Campaign call for the City of Grand Rapids to adopt a divestment resolution, click here.