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Friday, July 3

The Orwellian logic of Israel’s blockade of Gaza It goes like this: There is no such blockade, and if you violate it, you will be arrested.
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It goes like this: There is no such blockade, and if you violate it, you will be arrested.

Ha’aretz

The first rule of the Gaza blockade is – you do not speak about the Gaza blockade.

The second rule of the Gaza blockade is – you do not speak about the Gaza blockade.

The third rule of the Gaza blockade is – you do not violate the Gaza blockade.

Earlier this week, Israeli soldiers intercepted a flotilla that tried to break Israel’s eight-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, taking over the Swedish ship Marianne and causing two other boats to reverse course. The operation was quick and no one was injured. The ship was redirected to the Port of Ashdod, and the activists on it were arrested for violating the maritime blockade keeping ships from entering or leaving Gaza.

A day before they were arrested, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a public letter to the activists onboard the Marianne: “Welcome to Israel! It appears you have made a wrong turn. Perhaps you wished to sail somewhere not too far from here: Syria, where the Assad regime is massacring its people on a daily basis, with the support of the Iranian regime.”

“There is no blockade of Gaza,” the letter continues, before detailing all the merchandise that Israel allows to enter the Gaza Strip.

After the Israel Navy took over the Marianne, Netanyahu reiterated his point in a statement that claimed, once again, that there is no blockade of Gaza – but that Israel’s maritime blockade (or “preventing entry by the sea,” as he put it) is in accordance with international law.

Can there be a more accurate term?

The claim that there is no blockade of Gaza is easy to argue against. Gaza has no airport (and is of course not allowed to build one), and ships are not allowed in or out. Israel determines who goes in, and what goes in, and who (or what) goes out. Its regulation of quantities of certain merchandise allowed into Gaza – building materials, for instance – can be ridiculously strict. The dictionary definition of “blockade” is “an act or means of sealing off a place to prevent goods or people from entering or leaving.” Can there be a better term to describe Israel’s control over the Gaza Strip?

One can claim (as Israel does) that the blockade is necessary to protect Israeli citizens from rocket attacks, and it’s a legitimate argument ­– but the validity of the term still stands.

Yet the official policy of Israeli governments is to deny the existence of the blockade of Gaza. In February 2014, Habayit Hayehudi leader and Education Minister NaftaliBennett claimed the Gaza blockade is a ״baseless remark.” However, on that very dayIsraeli officials acknowledged the existence of the blockade when rejecting Turkey’s request to lift it as part of a reconciliation between the two states.

So the question remains, how can you deny the existence of something, and simultaneously enforce it?

The Monty Python-esque absurdity of this policy is typical of Israel’s conflicting positions regarding the Gaza blockade, in place since 2007, when Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip: officially, there is no blockade of Gaza – but Israel doesn’t intend to lift it, and don’t attempt to break it, or you’ll be arrested.

This non-policy, as blogger Itamar Sha’altiel calls it, has been inherited from one Israeli government to the next over the past eight years, often with little debate over its goals, or its effectiveness, perpetuated by inertia and gut instincts more than anything else.

To be fair, the claim that Gaza is not besieged is not entirely without basis – it’s just hugely misleading. As Netanyahu pointed out this week, Israel allows much more merchandise and humanitarian aid into Gaza these days. Following years of an airtight, hugely inhumane blockade – so tight that the IDF determined what kind of hummus Gaza residents were allowed to eat – Israel eased many restrictions on imports and movement of Gaza residents.

There is also some merit to the Israeli claim that flotillas attempting to enter Gaza are not humanitarian efforts, but empty provocations meant to perpetuate a false reality (or, rather, a dated one). Things have drastically changed since IDF forces raided the Mavi Marmara and killed nine Turkish nationals and a Turkish-American in 2010 (an event that forced Israel to offer $20 million in compensation to the families of the dead), and there’s no need for flotillas in order to get medical supplies or food into Gaza.

Better blockade is still a blockade

There has been a marked improvement, no doubt – but a better blockade is still a blockade. And as long as Israel maintains its grip on Gaza, as long as it keeps Gaza isolated, especially from the West Bank, Israel can’t deny the blockade’s existence at the same time it enforces it and expect the rest of the world to pretend it’s not there. That strategy never worked with other famous Israeli exercises in denialism – the claim that “there is no occupation,” for instance – and it won’t work now.

All this, of course, is known to Israeli officials, who deny the reality of the Gaza blockade – and not just for PR reasons, but also for a very simple reason, the same reason that Israel doesn’t change course on any of its other destructive, ineffective policies: They have no idea how to change them.


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One year on, class of Palestinian teen burnt alive graduates without him
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Kate Shuttleworth
Foreign Correspondent



JERUSALEM // Suha Abu Khdeir stands out like a sore thumb in the happy high school graduation portrait.
The students around her are draped in black gowns and caps and smiling proudly while gesturing with peace signs at the camera but the Palestinian mother in her early 40s is crying her eyes out.
The photograph is a poignant reminder of her lingering pain as she commemorates the first death anniversary of her son Mohammed Abu Khdeir, who was murdered by Jewish vigilantes on July 2 last year.
“Just weeks ago I was invited to the graduation of Mohammed’s class, ” she told The National. “Everyone was happy but me.”
In another photo, the students are sitting in their seats but one chair in the front row is empty aside from a white satin covering and a large memorial photo of 16-year-old Mohammed.
“Mohammed really wanted to finish his studies, I wish I hadn’t gone to his graduation,” Suha said, explaining that the memory of her son’s violent death is still too raw.
During Ramadan last year, Mohammed was abducted outside a mosque in east Jerusalem and taken by car to a forest where he was beaten unconscious with a crowbar and burnt alive.
“I can’t believe it’s almost a year since my son Mohammed died. I still feel like it happened yesterday. Everything went so fast,” Suha said.
“When they kidnapped him they took my life, I have no meaning in my life now.”
In the past year, Suha and her husband Hussein have sat through 16 sessions in the Jerusalem district court where the accused — Yousef Ben David, 30, and two teenagers who cannot be named as they are underaged – face trial for the kidnap and murder of their son.
The couple, who have four other children, two boys and two girls, have dismissed the trial, saying that even if the trio are convicted and sentenced for the murder of their son, they do not believe they will be given the minimum sentence of life imprisonment.
“I don’t trust the Israeli court. I don’t believe they are going to give us our right. Even if they will sentence them, maybe they will release them after a few years,” said Suha.
The two teenagers told the court on June 3 that Ben David had pressured them into carrying out a hate crime in retaliation for the murder of three Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Naftali Frenkel and Gilad Shaer who were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank weeks earlier.
The day before murdering Mohammed, Ben David attended the funeral of the three Israeli youth, as well as a rally of Jewish Israeli protesters in central Jerusalem calling for “death to Arabs”.
But Hussein said he blames the Israeli government for his son’s death. “Their incitement at the time encouraged these people.”
Following the killings of the three Israeli teenagers – and before Mohammed’s murder – prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu had blamed Hamas for the deaths, saying that the group “must pay”.
Last year, Ben David, a resident of the West Bank settlement Adam, admitted to setting Mohammed alight in a police interview.
This year, however, he refused to testify in court and his legal team has argued that he is insane and unfit for trial.
“When my son was found in the forest, I was taken by the police for investigation before they arrested the accused,” Hussein said. At that point Ben David and the two teenagers on trial were being questioned by police.
“I told four Israeli police heads that they [their legal representation] will tell you that the accused are mentally sick. At the time they laughed at me. I predicted what would happen.”
Hussein said the family has no clear idea how long the trial will take.
“If the opposite happened and an Arab killed a Jew and burnt him alive, it would only take two sessions in the court and then they would be sentenced. The second day they would have already destroyed his house,” Hussein said.
The family is eligible to apply for compensation through the court for the murder of their son and could qualify for millions of shekels. However, the couple has refused to take any money.
“All the money in the whole world could not bring back my son,” said Suha.
They plan to file a case against the Israeli government in the International Criminal Court if the sentence is too light, with the support of European and Palestinian officials.
It is unclear whether the case would qualify for submission to the ICC given that it is a criminal case, and not a war crime committed by Israel.
When it came to the first breaking of the fast during this year’s Ramadan – the family’s first since Mohammed’s death – Suha said she couldn’t eat anything: “I just looked at [the food].”
Hussein agreed. “Ramadan doesn’t have the same taste for us now,” he said.

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U.S. State Department: We won’t protect Israeli settlements against boycott
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Congressional efforts to extend anti-BDS fight to occupied territories show pro-Israel lobby the perils of biting off more than one can chew.

By Chemi Shalev
 

The U.S. State Department  punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical to boycott of Israel proper. In doing so, it provided the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby with yet another painful lesson in the pitfalls of being too clever by half and biting off more than one should chew.
A special statement issued by the State Department Press Office on Tuesday afternoon made clear that while the administration “strongly opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of Israel, it does not extend the same protection to “Israel-controlled territories.” Rather than weakening efforts to boycott Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, as Israel supporters had planned, the State Department was actually granting them unprecedented legitimacy.
The statement came in the wake of President Obama’s signing of the Trade Promotion Authority bill, which grants him the authority he had sought to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. But as the bill deals with free trade agreements in general, a clause was inserted in the Senate by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Senator Rob Portman and by Representative Peter Roskam in the House of Representative that instructs American diplomats to include opposition to any boycott of Israel - or of persons from “territories controlled by Israel” - in their free trade negotiations with the European Union.
The State Department statement, however, makes clear that the bill will not change U.S. policy towards the settlements. “The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements or activity associated with them, and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them,” it said. It went on to note: “Administrations of both parties have long recognized that settlement activity and efforts to change facts on the ground undermine the goal of a two-state solution.”
The defiant rebuff of the Congressional bill comes in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Menachem Zivotofsky that rebuffed Congressional attempts to force the administration to record “Israel” next to his city of birth “Jerusalem.” The State Department statement says, in effect, that a bill on trade authority cannot force the administration to change its longstanding policy towards Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. And just as the Zivotofsky decision weakened Israel’s hold on Jerusalem, the boycott decision only delegitimizes the settlements more than ever before.
Thus, the effort to strengthen the settlements, supported by AIPAC and other mainstream and right-wing groups and opposed by J-Street and organizations on the left, actually ends up weakening them. The attempt to blot out the differences between a boycott of Israel and of the territories actually highlights them. The boycott of settlements, in effect, has now been officially stamped “kosher” by the State Department.


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Thursday, July 2

Help Us Make The Video Pitch For Palestine
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We are pleased to announce  that we are currently in the process of forming a partnership that will enable us to create and put in distribution videos to create awareness of the plight of the Palestinians.


We will keep you posted on Video Pitch Palestine as we will need your support in spreading the word as well make a small contribution so we can create these videos as well put them in distribution.

It is the beginning of the month once again, last month we were fortunate enough to receive  a total of 3 donations that allowed us to put some money aside as we  continue to save so we can purchase a new computer with programs, as well we managed to give some contributions to our volunteers for their spare time in efforts with assisting with providing you the daily news and views.

We thank those that have given last month as well all past supporters.  You make the difference and we thank you all. We know times are hard so please help spread the word about A Video Pitch For Palestine and share the postings we post on Window into Palestine throughout social media and please whatever you can spare will be put to good use. Please give what you can!

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Wednesday, July 1

U.S. State Department: We won’t protect Israeli settlements against boycott
by The Blogger - 0

Congressional efforts to extend anti-BDS fight to occupied territories show pro-Israel lobby the perils of biting off more than one can chew.

Ha’aretz

The U.S. State Department on Tuesday punched a big hole in Israel-led efforts to induce the Obama administration to regard boycotts of settlements as identical toboycott of Israel proper. In doing so, it provided the Israeli government and the pro-Israel lobby with yet another painful lesson in the pitfalls of being too clever by half and biting off more than one should chew.

A special statement issued by the State Department Press Office on Tuesday afternoon made clear that while the administration “strongly opposes” any boycott, divestment or sanctions against the State of Israel, it does not extend the same protection to “Israel-controlled territories.” Rather than weakening efforts to boycott Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, as Israel supporters had planned, the State Department was actually granting them unprecedented legitimacy.

The statement came in the wake of President Obama’s signing of the Trade Promotion Authority bill, which grants him the authority he had sought to conclude the Trans-Pacific Partnership accord. But as the bill deals with free trade agreements in general, a clause was inserted in the Senate by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin and Republican Senator Rob Portman and by Representative Peter Roskam in the House of Representative that instructs American diplomats to include opposition to any boycott of Israel – or of persons from “territories controlled by Israel” – in their free trade negotiations with the European Union.

The State Department statement, however, makes clear that the bill will not change U.S. policy towards the settlements. “The U.S. government has never defended or supported Israeli settlements or activity associated with them, and, by extension, does not pursue policies or activities that would legitimize them,” it said. It went on to note: “Administrations of both parties have long recognized that settlement activity and efforts to change facts on the ground undermine the goal of a two-state solution.”

The defiant rebuff of the Congressional bill comes in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding Menachem Zivotofsky that rebuffed Congressional attempts to force the administration to record “Israel” next to his city of birth “Jerusalem.” The State Department statement says, in effect, that a bill on trade authority cannot force the administration to change its longstanding policy towards Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. And just as the Zivotofsky decision weakened Israel’s hold on Jerusalem, the boycott decision only delegitimizes the settlements more than ever before.

Thus, the effort to strengthen the settlements, supported by AIPAC and other mainstream and right-wing groups and opposed by J-Street and organizations on the left, actually ends up weakening them. The attempt to blot out the differences between a boycott of Israel and of the territories actually highlights them. The boycott of settlements, in effect, has now been officially stamped “kosher” by the State Department.


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A ghost city revived: the remarkable transformation of Hebron
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Twenty years ago, the Old City of Hebron – one of the most important religious sites to Jews and Muslims alike – was crumbling, as curfews and restrictions reduced the Palestinian population to just 400. Then the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee started work.

When the Israeli army barricaded the entrance to Usama Abu Sharek’s home in Hebron, he and his family were forced to climb over walls or clamber through windows on their way in and out of their 500-year-old property.
The barricades were to allow hardline Jewish settlers to reach their houses without having to encounter their Palestinian neighbours. But by then the Abu Shareks were the only Palestinian family left in their immediate vicinity of Hebron’s Old City anyway.
Others had grown weary of the ever-present soldiers demanding to see their papers, banning them from walking on certain roads, or bricking up windows and welding shut doors that faced on to streets used by settlers. Some were constantly fearful of arrest, or abuse – verbal and physical – from a small number of biblically driven and deeply ideological settlers who had taken up residence in the historic heart of Hebron. Other families abandoned their homes so they could reach their jobs without navigating military checkpoints, or so that their children could go to school without being called “donkeys” or “dogs”, or so their friends and relatives could visit them.
Hebron’s Old City became a ghost town.

Ancient buildings with metre-thick walls of golden stone, vaulted ceilings and arched doors and windows began to crumble and decay. Tall weeds grew in the cracks; wild dogs and scabby cats nosed around in the rubbish. More than 500 shops were closed by military order. At least twice as many were shut, as curfews, constraints and depopulation took hold.
But in recent years, there has been a change. Although heavy restrictions on the Palestinian population in “H2” – the sector of Hebron under Israeli military control, where around 800 settlers live, protected by at least twice as many soldiers – persist, around 1,000 families have moved back into the Old City. They have been encouraged by the internationally funded Hebron Rehabilitation Committee (HRC), which has painstakingly renovated about 1,000 homes, 120 shops and 10 schools. Although his windows and main door are still blocked, children once again play around the fig tree in Abu Sharek’s courtyard. “It’s beautiful,” he says with a broad smile.
Hebron is one of the oldest cities in the world. As home to the imposing Tomb of the Patriarchs – the resting place of the biblical figures Jacob, Isaac and Abraham, and their wives Leah, Rebecca and Sarah – it is the second holiest place in the Jewish faith. Also known as the Ibrahimi Mosque, the site holds special significance to Muslims, too. Both religions have had a presence in Hebron stretching back for centuries.
The city lies deep in the West Bank, a dozen miles from the Green Line, which demarcated the new state of Israel from Palestinian territory following the 1948 war. Within a few years of Israeli forces conquering and occupying the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza in 1967, Jewish settlers had set their sights on Hebron. First they established a large settlement, Kiryat Arba, on the edge of the city; then they moved into its ancient centre.
Since 1997 – under an agreement between Israel and the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat – Hebron has been divided into two parts. H1, the large Palestinian sector, is a typically chaotic Arab city with a thriving commercial centre and a bustling souk. Across barricades and checkpoints lies the much smaller H2. It is a tense, bleak place of shuttered shops and deserted streets. Israeli bulletproof buses take settlers to and from Jerusalem, 45 minutes drive away. Palestinian cars are forbidden. The main drag, Shuhada Street, is banned to Palestinian pedestrians and patrolled by armed soldiers, who refer to it as a “sterile road”.
It was in this area of H2 that the HRC began work. At the time of Hebron’s division, the Palestinian population of the Old City had plummeted from 7,500 to 400. Those remaining – many of them elderly, disabled or unemployed – were living amid near-dereliction, overlooked by army watchtowers and bases.
The HRC – funded by the Palestinian Authority along with international donors, including Saudi Arabia, the UK and Spain – started by rebuilding and renovating the properties in H2 closest to the five Israeli settlements. It was a deliberate strategy to hamper their expansion. “We have both a political aim and a cultural heritage aim,” said Emad Hamdan, HRC’s director. “You cannot separate the political from the cultural issue. Cultural heritage is about preserving Palestinian identity.”

The HRC’s goals include “surrounding settlements with circles of Palestinian buildings” and “increasing the Arab population density”. It also aims to reconnect the Old City to the rest of Hebron, provide affordable social housing, improve living conditions and boost trade and the local economy.
The ambitious plan was made harder by stop-work orders repeatedly issued by Israeli authorities, and the arrests of hundreds of Palestinian labourers working on the renovation projects. “The settlers would throw stones at our workers, and then go to the police and claim the labourers had thrown the stones,” said Hamdan. “The [Israeli] police would arrive, see stones and glass on the ground, and arrest our workers.”
The HRC hired defence lawyers and paid double wages to detained workers, but, inevitably, such arrests discouraged people from working on HRC projects.
The HRC also faced difficulties in bringing materials into areas where Palestinian vehicles were banned. “Sometimes we had to go back to more traditional methods of transportation – like horses and donkeys. Sometimes they even arrested the donkeys,” said Hamdan. Settlers living in the heart of Hebron deny impeding the HRC’s work.
Despite the obstacles, the achievements of the HRC are quite remarkable. Using traditional materials and methods, and painstakingly documenting every stage of work, it has transformed and revitalised parts of the Old City. Its efforts have not just been focused on buildings, but also on services to support the population, cultural activities, local trade and handicrafts, and community building.
Hebron’s settlers strongly object to the HRC’s work. “Unfortunately, their aims are not just restoration, which would be very nice,” said spokesman Noam Arnon. “They deny the right of Jews to live in this place. For them, the presence of Jews is not acceptable. We want to see the Old City as a cultural, historical, archaeological place for everyone; they only want it for themselves. It’s very sad.”
To date, roughly 6,000 people have moved back to the Old City, mostly relocating from H1 or the villages surrounding Hebron. “Some simply need housing. Some want to return to a place they lived before. Some consider it a national mission to protect this area from being targeted by settlers. Some like it because of the cultural heritage,” said Hamdan. Many of the Old City’s original large properties – known as hosh, and used to house large, extended families – have been divided into smaller apartments, reflecting changes in Palestinian society towards more private living space.
Hamdan is proud of the HRC’s achievements over almost two decades – which have won the organisation several awards, including the World Habitat Award last year. “In 1996, it really was a ghost area. More than 90% of the residents had left. Buildings were crumbling, they were full of garbage and bugs. This is what we started with. Now you are talking about a living city, a renovated area. There is life here.”
But, beyond that, Hamdan talks of renovation and restoration as an act of resistance to the Israeli occupation of his city. “What we are doing is driving [the Israelis] crazy. We are not fighting; we are simply restoring old buildings and bringing people to live here. This is a non-violent way of struggle.”
Harriet Sherwood’s flights were paid for by the Building and Social Housing Foundation
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Mossad-linked group holds anti-BDS legal seminar
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Ben White

Shurat HaDin, an organisation with links to Israel's government and security services, is holding a seminar this week in Jerusalem "to train lawyers from abroad to litigate BDS." The gathering follows a period of intensified attacks by Israeli officials on the Palestinian-led boycott movement, including reports of imminent Justice Ministry-initiated lawsuits.
According to media reports, some 70 lawyers from around the world, including the US, Singapore, the Netherlands, South Africa, Germany, Canada and Belgium, will attend. The goal - to "equip" them with "the tactical tools and broader courtroom strategies they need" to fight BDS.
The schedule of workshops and lectures covers topics such as "Learn to Combat BDS and other Anti-Semitic Movements" and "Prepare to Defend Israeli Soldiers Against War Crimes Complaints". Speakers include Alan Dershowitz and former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler.
Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat HaDin, believes that attendees will go on to implement "proven strategies" in Israel and worldwide. "The anti-Israel BDS and delegitimization movement has been ramping up its efforts at the campus and corporate-organizational levels," said Darshan-Leitner, and "we must expand the fight dramatically."
Shurat HaDin uses courts around the world "to go on the legal offensive" against those it perceives to be "Israel's enemies." In its own words, "as an NGO operating in the private sector", the organisation "is positioned to undertake actions that the Israeli government is unable to formally engage in."
The group is often presented as a "civil rights organisation" working "to stop the flow of terror money" - as Newsweek put it, "attacking the terrorists in their pocketbooks". In fact, as revealed by Wikileaks, Darshan-Leitner "privately admitted to taking direction from the Israeli government over which cases to pursue and relying on Israeli intelligence contacts for witnesses and evidence."
In other words, as an Israeli journalist wrote in 2013, Shurat HaDin "files lawsuits at the behest of the Israeli government", yet still "dares to define itself as a 'human rights organisation'."
One of Shurat HaDin's most infamous attempts to undermine the BDS campaign was their 'anti-discrimination' case brought against the pro-boycott Australian academic Jake Lynch, which ended in failure in July 2014.
Even before the courts dismissed the case, Israel advocates had warned that litigation was "inappropriate and likely to be counter-productive." Shurat HaDin's track record also includes an unsuccessful lawsuit against Jimmy Carter, and threats to global charity Oxfam.
Shurat HaDin's focus on counter-BDS lawfare comes as Israel's Ministry of Justice is "preparing to file lawsuits against [boycott] activists", with a "plan of action" being put together that will reportedly form part of "a wider plan to combat the 'delegitimisation' of Israel."
On Sunday, meanwhile, a major Israeli think tank presented its recommendations to PM Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet on how best to fight BDS, including "the denunciation of American college faculty who demonise Israel."
The report urged the Israeli government to "promptly adopt an appropriately budgeted comprehensive strategy, and task a senior government official, who reports directly to the prime minister, with coordinating its operational implementation."
Here in Britain, UK Lawyers for Israel is currently recruiting a "full-time Director of Operations" on £40,000-50,000. In the job advert, the organisation describes itself as "increasingly recognised for its valuable efforts in combating BDS and other attempts to undermine Israel."
As the Israeli government and international lobby groups escalate their efforts to undermine Palestine solidarity and the BDS campaign, an increase in 'lawfare' tactics is almost certain. Whether this will prove effective, however, is much less clear.

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“Boycotts and divestments are not anti-Semitic”
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Organized religion takes up the BDS fight

The BDS debate can no longer be dismissed as just a 

campus movement. Even the Vatican has recognized 

Palestine




For a long time, the significance of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS) was downplayed—it was regarded by many as being “merely symbolic.”  But now, coming up on the 10th year of its founding, this nonviolent form of lawful protest and advocacy for Palestinian rights has been determined by the Israeli government and also by the U.S. Congress to be a highly significant force.  Netanyahu has numerously denounced BDS as a “strategic threat.”  As the Guardian notes:
Using language the Israeli government usually reserves for the likes of Hamas or Iran’s nuclear programme, senior figures – including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and a key backer in the US, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – have turned on the movement, which is prominent on university campuses and among international trade unions.
And the Senate has recently passed a trade bill that contains a condemnation of BDS.
But now deep concern over Israeli state policies has moved well beyond university campuses and international trade unions—the debate has moved into the sphere of organized religion.  Just this week the Vatican recognized the state of Palestine and signed a treaty with it:
The Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, said the agreement could be a “stimulus to bringing a definitive end to the longstanding Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which continues to cause suffering for both parties.”
He also called for the two countries to take “courageous decisions” so that the “much desired two-state solution may become a reality as soon as possible.”
And the injustices and human rights violations occurring in Israel-Palestine are also being energetically discussed within U.S. religious organizations.
Almost exactly a year ago, in June 2014, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) passed a very narrowly tailored divestment resolution by the slimmest of margins, and the United Methodist Church voted to divest from G4S, “a British company highly complicit in Israel’s military occupation of Palestine profiting from gross human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners.”
But that was before the horrific attack on Gaza last summer, which brought the conditions of the Occupation before a world audience, and prompted protests from around the globe.
Now, in a critical development, serious and sustained discussion of divestment and boycotts will go on within two important churches.  First, the United Church of Christ is debating a resolution at this year’s General Synod in Cleveland (June 26 -30).  John H. Thomas, former general minister and president of the United Church of Christ, writes this in favor of the resolution:
Elderly Palestinian women shouldn’t have to stand in long lines between metal gates while armed soldiers younger than their grandchildren eye them with hostility. Farmers shouldn’t have to wait for security gates to be opened so they can get from their homes to work their olive orchards. Families shouldn’t have to endure garbage dumped on them by Israeli settlers who have illegally commandeered homes above them.
Children shouldn’t have to be dependent on the whim of government officials to be permitted to travel for critical medical care in a first-rate hospital.  People shouldn’t have to gaze across high concrete walls to glimpse gleaming cities being built for strangers on land their grandparents and great-grandparents once farmed.
None of this should happen.  Yet it does every day for Palestinians who have lived for nearly 50 years under Israel’s military occupation without freedom and without equal rights.  I’ve seen all of this and more myself over the course of several visits to the church’s Palestinian and Israeli partners.
And these on-the-ground Palestinian realities are why the General Synod of the United Church of Christ is considering in Cleveland this week a strong resolution calling for its members, congregations, and national ministries to join an international movement of churches and civil society groups pressuring Israel to negotiate a just and fair peace agreement.
Crucially, Thomas points to the precedents for such action:
Carefully targeted boycott and divestment strategies are extraordinary actions for the church, but not unprecedented.  In the past, the UCC has engaged in these tactics to support migrant farm and textile workers, to change corporate policies dangerous to poor mothers and their infants, to press for the end of apartheid in South Africa, and to reduce reliance on climate-damaging fossil fuels. At a time when deep discouragement over the prospects for peace threatens to overwhelm, this resolution before the Synod signals a refusal to surrender faith in the God who promises courage in the struggle for justice and peace.
 Rev. Steven R. Jungkeit, senior minister, the First Congregational Church of Old Lyme,adds these important points:
Peace requires action. When governments are unwilling, other tactics become necessary. The United Church of Christ is about to consider a resolution concerning boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. The Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church have passed similar resolutions. These are part of a wider campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) that is gaining traction throughout the world.
Boycotts and divestments are not anti-Semitic. Those strategies are born from understanding the ethical dimensions of all three Abrahamic faiths and the experience of other historic movements against oppression that have used those methods to leverage social change. We support justice that will lead to peace.
The Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine is also discussing aresolution at the Church’s General Convention in Salt Lake City (June 25 – July 3).  Newland Smith, a member of the committee, writes in an Op-Ed:
Three resolutions will be debated at this week’s General Convention that call for action on divestment from certain companies that profit from and enable Israel’s occupation. One of these resolutions, proposed by the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, calls on the church to move its internal process forward by taking measured steps toward divesting from companies considered to be the most egregious supporters of the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation.
In a statement of support for the committee’s resolution, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, one of the heroes of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa, recognized the important role boycotts and sanctions played in his country’s struggle for freedom and equality, and of the moral duty of Americans to “recognize your own country’s complicity in Palestinian suffering under occupation and of your investments that undergird that suffering.”
Taking such a step toward divesting from Israel’s occupation will align our investments with our principles and serve, along with the actions of other churches and institutions, including a growing number of Jewish organizations and voices in Israel and the U.S., to help exert pressure for a just and peaceful end to the destructive status quo of permanent occupation.
 A number of things are striking with regard to these new discussions.  First of all, discussions of these resolutions are being placed at the center of these conventions—the issue of Palestine is clearly of the greatest importance not only on our college campuses, where we can applaud the ethical fervor of young people, but also within our religious organizations, which are endowed with a certain moral authority.  It has been too easy for the BDS movement to be dismissed as merely the concerns of immature, impressionable youths, or of “liberal” or “radical” professors in the Ivory Tower.  The fact that these church leaders have seen firsthand the horrors and injustices of the Occupation and now wish to have their churches take action speaks volumes.
But critically important as well is the fact that, as Desmond Tutu’s statement reveals, this movement both reaches across the globe, and also taps into a powerful history of social justice activism, including most particularly the civil rights and anti-apartheid movements.  There, too, progressive church members were at the vanguard. The fact that these churches are having these conversations now shows an exponential advance in the cause of the Palestinians, regardless of the outcome of the votes that will take place at the end of these sessions.
For one can be sure that, as all struggles go, there will only be more activism, more energy and greater efforts.  There simply is no turning back the tide.  Our governments have failed us in this regard, but it has always been the case that social justice has come from the grass roots first, against entrenched interests acclimatized to injustice.  And the grass roots now include an important diversity of actors in civil society.
UPDATE: Today the United Church of Christ announced the result of its vote on boycotts and divestment:
“The United Church of Christ Palestine-Israel Network (UCC PIN) is pleased to announce that today the plenary of the 30th General Synod taking place in Cleveland passed Resolution #4, calling for boycotts and divestment from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.”  The vote was 508 Yes, 124 No, and 38 Abstentions.
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