Thursday, December 26, 2013

There's No Bigotry in the Boycott

By Henry Siegman in Ha’aretz, December 20, 2013

The American Studies Association has come under withering criticism for having singled out the State of Israel for a boycott of its universities because of their government’s human rights violations against Palestinians in the West Bank.
The critics charge that not one of the many countries whose record on human rights is no better, or even far worse, than Israel’s has been subjected to a boycott by this organization or by other anti-Israel Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) organizations. Consequently, as argued by Alan Dershowitz in Haaretz and by others, their real motivation must be anti-Semitism.

While I have questions about the wisdom of boycotting Israeli universities some of whose faculties are often among the most vigorous critics of their government’s policies towards the Palestinians, the accusation of anti-Semitism is groundless. Of course, it is possible that anti-Semites can be found among BDS supporters. But just as the fact that Zionists can also be racists (as many unfortunately are, including government ministers and leading rabbis who have publicly urged that Israeli Jews bar Israeli Arabs from their neighborhoods) does not mean that Zionism is racism, a charge made by the UN General Assembly in 1975 that was subsequently retracted, so the BDS movement is not anti-Semitic because some of its supporters may be.

The charge that the BDS movement is guilty of applying a double standard to Israel is equally groundless. For the opponents of Israel’s half-a-century-long occupation of the Palestinians and its denial of the Palestinians’ individual and national rights would not be conducting BDS campaigns against Israel if, to begin with, Israel had not been singled out for special treatment that no other country with equal or even far better human rights records has received.

I challenge critics of the BDS movement to identify another democracy from among those that do not hold another people under near-permanent occupation (no other democracy does) that receives the massive economic, military and diplomatic support lavished on Israel. I challenge them to identify another country, no matter how spotless its human rights record, about which America’s leaders—its president, vice president and secretary of state—repeatedly declare “there is no daylight between our countries,” even as they warn—virtually in the same breath—that Israel’s policies are leading the Jewish state to apartheid.

Yes, there was a time when Israel needed and deserved that assistance because it was uniquely exposed to existential threats from its neighbors, but that time is long gone. Today, Israel is the regional hegemon, while its neighbors are in a state of radical upheaval or disintegration. Neither individually nor collectively, in the judgment of former heads of Israel’s Shin Bet, Mossad, and Military Intelligence, do these neighbors pose an existential threat to Israel. And every living former head of the Shin Bet, as well as former heads of Israel’s other security organizations, have insisted that Israel’s failure to strike a fair peace agreement with Palestinians constitutes a far greater existential threat to the country than do Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

As to Israel’s democratic credentials, there is no more egregious violation of elementary democratic norms than a predatory occupation that denies an entire people all individual and national rights, confiscates their properties, bulldozes their homes and dispossesses them from their internationally recognized patrimony east of the 1967-border.
Even worse are the democratic pretensions by which Israel seeks to justify this behavior. Even Tzipi Livni, who has been a faithful advocate of a two-state solution, told Mahmoud Abbas in 2009 that there could be no Israeli compromise over the status of Jerusalem, for Israel’s decision to deny a Palestinian state its capital in any part of East Jerusalem “is within the Israel consensus.”

One might have thought that a democracy understands that a consensus of its own citizens cannot determine what it is free to do to a foreign population. After all, Germany’s eliminationist policies against the Jews in the 1930’s and 1940’s may have been within the German consensus, but that did not constitute a democratic mandate.

There is something particularly offensive about such attempts to give outrageously undemocratic behavior the gloss of democratic legitimacy. It is precisely such phony pretensions of democratic behavior that the BDS movement objects to. Countries that make no bones about their despotism and their contempt for human rights do not require that kind of exposure. They also do not require it because none is a beneficiary of the largesse that the State of Israel receives, which makes the donors accessories to the beneficiary’s bad behavior.
Chart showing that the United States gives Israel $8.2 million per day in military aid and no military aid to the Palestinians.
During Fiscal Year 2013, the U.S. is providing Israel with at least$8.5 million per day in military aid and $0 in military aid to the Palestinians. (View Sources & More Information)
The reason for that largesse, as explained repeatedly by America’s political leaders, is supposedly not an efficient pro-Israel lobbying operation, but “deeply shared values.” It is an explanation that becomes increasingly embarrassing when it comes from political leaders who also warn that Israel’s policies are creating an apartheid society.

Those who have not challenged the singling out of Israel for the unprecedented support it is receiving from the United States have no ground for their challenge of the BDS movement’s singling out of Israel for its treatment of the Palestinians. BDS supporters would have had no reason for their initiative if Israel had not been favored for that support even as it disenfranchises and dispossesses another people under its occupation. It is the critics of BDS who have been applying a double standard.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Palestine Solidarity CampaignJoinDonate
Help PSC campaign for an end of the siege on Gaza
Globovision image of Gaza
Floods in Gaza - image from Globovision (cropped) - creative comms licence.
Please help us get one of the longest blockade's in human history lifted. Following floods and freezing temperatures, the situation in Gaza is now catastrophic. UNWRA have called for the immediate lifting of the blockade in order to allow recovery efforts to proceed.
Help us call for the Prime Minister to end this unsupportable and immoral blockade of Gaza.  Israel’s blockade on Gaza must be ended immediately and permanently.
It is time for our Government to play its full part in finally ending the horrific siege on Palestinians living in the Gaza strip. The United Nations Works and Relief Association (UNWRA) has called for the ‘world community to lift Israel’s blockade on Gaza’. 
UNWRA’s Chris Gunness, said:
"Any normal community would struggle to recover from this disaster. But a community that has been subjected to one of the longest blockades in human history, whose public health system has been destroyed and where the risk of disease was already rife, must be freed from these man made constraints to deal with the impact of a natural calamity such as this. And of course it is the most vulnerable, the women and children, the elderly who will pay the highest price of failure to end the blockade." 
Please help us to press the UK Government to take the right action. Petition the Prime Minister today.
take action link

Monday, December 16, 2013



For over a month Palestinians in Gaza have endured 18 or more hours/day power outages. Now, with unusually heavy rains, cold temperatures, Israeli-released torrents of water (suddenly opening of dams along the border with Gaza), and even snow, Gaza is under water, under siege, and people are suffering freezing conditions.

State of Emergency in Gaza
It is cold, there is no power, and I am charging my computer using a car battery in order to get this message out. It is so cold in Gaza that everyone has cold feet and a cold nose. A new storm is hitting this besieged enclave. There is no electricity, and shortages of water, fuel, and vital services mean people just sit and wait for the unknown.

Tens of houses east of Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip, in Khan Younes and Rafah are flooded with rain today. The sewage system cannot function and Gaza municipalities announced a state of emergency. Schools and most shops are shut, there is no traffic and few people are walking in the street.

Gaza City’s garbage trucks have been at a standstill due to the ongoing fuel shortage. I’d gotten used to the bright orange truck that usually passes by, sounding its horn, a sign for all my neighbors to bring out their garbage for collection.

Now the donkey is our only remaining hope. Since last week—when fuel supplies ran dry—the only sound one hears now is the click-click of their hooves as they pull their carts along the road at 4 a.m. 

By noon, they have collected all they can on their busy route. In Gaza’s Barcelona neighborhood, garbage containers are overflowing—a normal occurrence since fuel ran out. Tonight, the smell of rotten sewage floods into my nose. I inhale and exhale the stink of rotten garbage. The night air is filled with this suffocating small, and in the morning I can only hope that Abu Ghaleb will be around with his donkey and cart to try to clear away as much as he can.

The Gaza Strip was pounded by fierce winds and rain again on Friday 12/13/2013 as flooding reached dangerous levels in many areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes amid widespread power outages as temperatures plunged into the single digits.

The flooding was worst in the northern Gaza Strip, where hundreds fled their homes and water levels reached 40-50 cm in some parts, forcing residents to use boats to navigate their neighborhoods.

The Gaza government said in a statement on Friday that so far 2,825 people have been evacuated from their homes, reaching a total of 458 families.

The Gaza Government’s Disaster Response Committee announced late Friday that Israeli authorities had opened up dams just east of the Gaza Strip, flooding numerous residential areas in nearby villages within the coastal territory.

The Gaza Strip is currently under a state of emergency due to severe weather conditions caused by a historic storm front moving south across the Levant.

Fuel shortages have caused daily life in the Gaza Strip to grind slowly to a halt since early November, as power plants and water pumps are forced to shut down, cutting off access to basic necessities for Gaza residents.

Lack of diesel fuel is a result of the tightening of a seven-year-long blockade imposed on the territory by Israel with Egyptian support.”

Saturday, December 14, 2013


Friends for more than a century have been involved in PalestineIn 1869 Friends from New England Yearly Meeting began with traveling schools to Palestinian villages. The Friends Girls School was established in Ramallah in 1889 

and then the Boys School in 1901. Subsequently, the schools were joined into one as a co-educational institution. 

In 1948, with the recommendation of Eleanor Roosevelt, the United Nations asked the American Friends Service Committee to undertake the relief program for about 750,000 Palestinian refugees in Gaza. With the establishment of Israel, they had been forced to leave their homeland. 


By 1950,  more than 100 men and women had worked in Gaza under the AFSC program, most in their twenties or early thirties, many of them with little or no experience in relief work. The AFSC work embraced nearly every aspect of refugee life including the disbursement of food, blankets, tents, and creation of schools, childbirth centers, metal shops and recreation clubs.  

afscgazaIn March 1949 AFSC submitted a statement to the United Nations indicating its wish to withdraw from Gaza stating: "It is obvious that prolonged direct relief contributes to the moral degeneration of the refugees and that it may also, by its palliative effects, militate against a swift political settlement of the problem." On April 30, 1950, AFSC handed over the Gaza relief service to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA).

Since 1948 AFSC has invested in peace-building and relief efforts in the region. Over the past eight years in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, AFSC has partnered with over 4,000 young people to initiate local projects identified by their communities. After the 2009 Israeli assault on Gaza, AFSC provided humanitarian assistance to hospitals, clinics, and agencies feeding orphaned and displaced children. It has also helped families to repair damaged homes with materials not subject to the Israeli and Egyptian blockades. 

Boycott and Divestment: Quaker monthly and yearly meetings have endorsed boycott and/or divestment including Britain, Netherlands, Lake Erie, Illinois and Southern Appalachian Yearly Meetings, and about seven monthly meetings in the U.S. For a comprehensive listing of such actions see Quakers with a Concern for Palestine-Israel at

TIAA-CREF Protest - SF

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Two State Illusion

From the New York Times
September 15, 2013
Ian S. Lustick

THE last three decades are littered with the carcasses of failed negotiating projects billed as the last chance for peace in Israel. All sides have been wedded to the notion that there must be two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli. For more than 30 years, experts and politicians have warned of a “point of no return.” Secretary of State John Kerry is merely the latest in a long line of well-meaning American diplomats wedded to an idea whose time is now past.
Josh Cochran
Oded Balilty/Associated Press
A barrier in the West Bank city of Hebron. With barbed-wire coils, hills scarred by patrol roads and weather-beaten guard posts, Israel has been shaped like few other countries by its borders.

Readers’ Comments

Readers shared their thoughts on this article.
True believers in the two-state solution see absolutely no hope elsewhere. With no alternative in mind, and unwilling or unable to rethink their basic assumptions, they are forced to defend a notion whose success they can no longer sincerely portray as plausible or even possible.
It’s like 1975 all over again, when the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco fell into a coma. The news media began a long death watch, announcing each night that Generalissimo Franco was still not dead. This desperate allegiance to the departed echoes in every speech, policy brief and op-ed about the two-state solution today.
True, some comas miraculously end. Great surprises sometimes happen. The problem is that the changes required to achieve the vision of robust Israeli and Palestinian states living side by side are now considerably less likely than other less familiar but more plausible outcomes that demand high-level attention but aren’t receiving it.
Strong Islamist trends make a fundamentalist Palestine more likely than a small state under a secular government. The disappearance of Israel as a Zionist project, through war, cultural exhaustion or demographic momentum, is at least as plausible as the evacuation of enough of the half-million Israelis living across the 1967 border, or Green Line, to allow a real Palestinian state to exist. While the vision of thriving Israeli and Palestinian states has slipped from the plausible to the barely possible, one mixed state emerging from prolonged and violent struggles over democratic rights is no longer inconceivable. Yet the fantasy that there is a two-state solution keeps everyone from taking action toward something that might work.
All sides have reasons to cling to this illusion. The Palestinian Authority needs its people to believe that progress is being made toward a two-state solution so it can continue to get the economic aid and diplomatic support that subsidize the lifestyles of its leaders, the jobs of tens of thousands of soldiers, spies, police officers and civil servants, and the authority’s prominence in a Palestinian society that views it as corrupt and incompetent.
Israeli governments cling to the two-state notion because it seems to reflect the sentiments of the Jewish Israeli majority and it shields the country from international opprobrium, even as it camouflages relentless efforts to expand Israel’s territory into the West Bank.
American politicians need the two-state slogan to show they are working toward a diplomatic solution, to keep the pro-Israel lobby from turning against them and to disguise their humiliating inability to allow any daylight between Washington and the Israeli government.
Finally, the “peace process” industry — with its legions of consultants, pundits, academics and journalists — needs a steady supply of readers, listeners and funders who are either desperately worried that this latest round of talks will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state, or that it will not.
Conceived as early as the 1930s, the idea of two states between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea all but disappeared from public consciousness between 1948 and 1967. Between 1967 and 1973 it re-emerged, advanced by a minority of “moderates” in each community. By the 1990s it was embraced by majorities on both sides as not only possible but, during the height of the Oslo peace process, probable. But failures of leadership in the face of tremendous pressures brought Oslo crashing down. These days no one suggests that a negotiated two-state “solution” is probable. The most optimistic insist that, for some brief period, it may still be conceivable.
But many Israelis see the demise of the country as not just possible, but probable. The State of Israel has been established, not its permanence. The most common phrase in Israeli political discourse is some variation of “If X happens (or doesn’t), the state will not survive!” Those who assume that Israel will always exist as a Zionist project should consider how quickly the Soviet, Pahlavi Iranian, apartheid South African, Baathist Iraqi and Yugoslavian states unraveled, and how little warning even sharp-eyed observers had that such transformations were imminent.
In all these cases, presumptions about what was “impossible” helped protect brittle institutions by limiting political imagination. And when objective realities began to diverge dramatically from official common sense, immense pressures accumulated.
JUST as a balloon filled gradually with air bursts when the limit of its tensile strength is passed, there are thresholds of radical, disruptive change in politics. When those thresholds are crossed, the impossible suddenly becomes probable, with revolutionary implications for governments and nations. As we see vividly across the Middle East, when forces for change and new ideas are stifled as completely and for as long as they have been in the Israel-Palestinian conflict, sudden and jagged change becomes increasingly likely.
History offers many such lessons. Britain ruled Ireland for centuries, annexing it in 1801. By the mid-19th century the entire British political class treated Ireland’s permanent incorporation as a fact of life. But bottled-up Irish fury produced repeated revolts. By the 1880s, the Irish question was the greatest issue facing the country; it led to mutiny in the army and near civil war before World War I. Once the war ended, it took only a few years until the establishment of an independent Ireland. What was inconceivable became a fact.
France ruled Algeria for 130 years and never questioned the future of Algeria as an integral part of France. But enormous pressures accumulated, exploding into a revolution that left hundreds of thousands dead. Despite France’s military victory over the rebels in 1959, Algeria soon became independent, and Europeans were evacuated from the country.
And when Mikhail S. Gorbachev sought to save Soviet Communism by reforming it with the policies of glasnost and perestroika, he relied on the people’s continuing belief in the permanence of the Soviet structure. But the forces for change that had already accumulated were overwhelming. Unable to separate freedom of expression and market reforms from the rest of the Soviet state project, Mr. Gorbachev’s policies pushed the system beyond its breaking point. Within a few years, both the Soviet Union and the Communist regime were gone.
Obsessive focus on preserving the theoretical possibility of a two-state solution is as irrational as rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic rather than steering clear of icebergs. But neither ships in the night nor the State of Israel can avoid icebergs unless they are seen.
The two-state slogan now serves as a comforting blindfold of entirely contradictory fantasies. The current Israeli version of two states envisions Palestinian refugees abandoning their sacred “right of return,” an Israeli-controlled Jerusalem and an archipelago of huge Jewish settlements, crisscrossed by Jewish-only access roads. The Palestinian version imagines the return of refugees, evacuation of almost all settlements and East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.
DIPLOMACY under the two-state banner is no longer a path to a solution but an obstacle itself. We are engaged in negotiations to nowhere. And this isn’t the first time that American diplomats have obstructed political progress in the name of hopeless talks.
In 1980, I was a 30-year-old assistant professor, on leave from Dartmouth at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research. I was responsible for analyzing Israeli settlement and land expropriation policies in the West Bank and their implications for the “autonomy negotiations” under way at that time between Israel, Egypt and the United States. It was clear to me that Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s government was systematically using tangled talks over how to conduct negotiations as camouflage for de facto annexation of the West Bank via intensive settlement construction, land expropriation and encouragement of “voluntary” Arab emigration.
To protect the peace process, the United States strictly limited its public criticism of Israeli government policies, making Washington an enabler for the very processes of de facto annexation that were destroying prospects for the full autonomy and realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people that were the official purpose of the negotiations. This view was endorsed and promoted by some leading voices within the administration. Unsurprisingly, it angered others. One day I was summoned to the office of a high-ranking diplomat, who was then one of the State Department’s most powerful advocates for the negotiations. He was a man I had always respected and admired. “Are you,” he asked me, “personally so sure of your analysis that you are willing to destroy the only available chance for peace between Israelis and Palestinians?” His question gave me pause, but only briefly. “Yes, sir,” I answered, “I am.”
I still am. Had America blown the whistle on destructive Israeli policies back then it might have greatly enhanced prospects for peace under a different leader. It could have prevented Mr. Begin’s narrow electoral victory in 1981 and brought a government to power that was ready to negotiate seriously with the Palestinians before the first or second intifada and before the construction of massive settlement complexes in the West Bank. We could have had an Oslo process a crucial decade earlier.
Now, as then, negotiations are phony; they suppress information that Israelis, Palestinians and Americans need to find noncatastrophic paths into the future. The issue is no longer where to draw political boundaries between Jews and Arabs on a map but how equality of political rights is to be achieved. The end of the 1967 Green Line as a demarcation of potential Israeli and Palestinian sovereignty means that Israeli occupation of the West Bank will stigmatize all of Israel.
For some, abandoning the two-state mirage may feel like the end of the world. But it is not. Israel may no longer exist as the Jewish and democratic vision of its Zionist founders. The Palestine Liberation Organization stalwarts in Ramallah may not strut on the stage of a real Palestinian state. But these lost futures can make others more likely.
THE assumptions necessary to preserve the two-state slogan have blinded us to more likely scenarios. With a status but no role, what remains of the Palestinian Authority will disappear. Israel will face the stark challenge of controlling economic and political activity and all land and water resources from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The stage will be set for ruthless oppression, mass mobilization, riots, brutality, terror, Jewish and Arab emigration and rising tides of international condemnation of Israel. And faced with growing outrage, America will no longer be able to offer unconditional support for Israel. Once the illusion of a neat and palatable solution to the conflict disappears, Israeli leaders may then begin to see, as South Africa’s white leaders saw in the late 1980s, that their behavior is producing isolation, emigration and hopelessness.
Fresh thinking could then begin about Israel’s place in a rapidly changing region. There could be generous compensation for lost property. Negotiating with Arabs and Palestinians based on satisfying their key political requirements, rather than on maximizing Israeli prerogatives, might yield more security and legitimacy. Perhaps publicly acknowledging Israeli mistakes and responsibility for the suffering of Palestinians would enable the Arab side to accept less than what it imagines as full justice. And perhaps Israel’s potent but essentially unusable nuclear weapons arsenal could be sacrificed for a verified and strictly enforced W.M.D.-free zone in the Middle East.
Such ideas cannot even be entertained as long as the chimera of a negotiated two-state solution monopolizes all attention. But once the two-state-fantasy blindfolds are off, politics could make strange bedfellows.
In such a radically new environment, secular Palestinians in Israel and the West Bank could ally with Tel Aviv’s post-Zionists, non-Jewish Russian-speaking immigrants, foreign workers and global-village Israeli entrepreneurs. Anti-nationalist ultra-Orthodox Jews might find common cause with Muslim traditionalists. Untethered to statist Zionism in a rapidly changing Middle East, Israelis whose families came from Arab countries might find new reasons to think of themselves not as “Eastern,” but as Arab. Masses of downtrodden and exploited Muslim and Arab refugees, in Gaza, the West Bank and in Israel itself could see democracy, not Islam, as the solution for translating what they have (numbers) into what they want (rights and resources). Israeli Jews committed above all to settling throughout the greater Land of Israel may find arrangements based on a confederation, or a regional formula more attractive than narrow Israeli nationalism.
It remains possible that someday two real states may arise. But the pretense that negotiations under the slogan of “two states for two peoples” could lead to such a solution must be abandoned. Time can do things that politicians cannot.
Just as an independent Ireland emerged by seceding 120 years after it was formally incorporated into the United Kingdom, so, too, a single state might be the route to eventual Palestinian independence. But such outcomes develop organically; they are not implemented by diplomats overnight and they do not arise without the painful stalemates that lead each party to conclude that time is not on their side.
Peacemaking and democratic state building require blood and magic. The question is not whether the future has conflict in store for Israel-Palestine. It does. Nor is the question whether conflict can be prevented. It cannot. But avoiding truly catastrophic change means ending the stifling reign of an outdated idea and allowing both sides to see and then adapt to the world as it is.
Ian S. Lustick is a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania and the author of “Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza” and “Trapped in the War on Terror.”

Monday, September 09, 2013

NEW! Quaker Network forming for Palestine Israel Action


PIAG is delighted to announce the formation of QPIN, (Quaker Palestine Israel Network), a new, national Quaker network dedicated to Palestine Israel Concerns. We hope you will join us! 

Exciting new initiatives by Meetings across the country (and indeed internationally) have given us hope that the way has finally opened for nationally organized action.

Most recently, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting has joined Britain Yearly Meeting, AFSC, and religious and civil society organizations around the world in support of the boycott of products made in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements, and divestment from companies that support Israel’s military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people. 

The purpose of the QPIN network is for Quaker activists to share ideas, energy, and experiences educating their own Meetings about Palestine Israel concerns, and to provide guidance for Friends who hope to educate their Meetings about the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement and encourage their Meetings to take action. A Steering Committee is being formed to determine QPIN’s goals, structure, and processes, to set up networking tools, and to grow the organization by finding and supporting new members. 

To become a member of QPIN, please CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Lake Erie Yearly Meeting Supports Boycott and Divestment!

In a Minute approved in July, 2013, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting (LEYM), a regional Quaker organization encompassing Ohio, Michigan, and Western Pennsylvania, expresses its support for the movement to boycott products made in illegal Israeli settlements and to divest from companies that support Palestinian repression.
"A key step towards stability and safety for both Israelis and Palestinians, and other indigenous peoples of the region, depends on a just agreement regarding Palestinian lands that Israel has occupied, illegally, according to international law, since 1967.  Therefore, Lake Erie Yearly Meeting calls for Friends to join the boycott of products made in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements and to divest from companies that support Israel’s military occupation and repression of the Palestinian people.  We join with American Friends Service Committee, Britain Yearly Meeting, Monthly Meetings, and religious and civil society organizations throughout the world in taking such steps in working for peace."
Thank you, LEYM!