DOROTHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

NOVANEWS

Dear All,

It’s always good to return to one’s familiar physical surroundings and family.  But the reality of where I live, the atmosphere, is anything but heart-warming, and it continues to worsen from day to day and year to year.  Some of this is reflected in 5 of the 7 items below. 

On the other side of the coin, criticism of Israel abroad is growing, and along with it, bds seems to be making gains.  Criticism in the main (apart from the intellectual sort and reports as Goldstone’s) is still at the grass roots level.  But on occasion (as in the initial item below) a diplomat becomes cross. 

We have yet a long way to go before this area of the world will see justice and peace.  David Grossman in a recent interview phrased part of the reason that the Israeli consensus tends to the right and yet further right: “people who are born to war, programmed by war, their entire vocabulary is taken from war” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/aug/29/david-grossman-israel-hezbollah-interview). 

That is to say, they always see the ‘other,’ be he/she Palestinian, or merely not Jewish, or even an Israeli who is critical of Israel  as the ‘enemy.’ Nevertheless, the signs do seem to suggest that time is not in Israel’s favor.  Item 6 which relates church activity on divestment is one such sign.

So, to the items, of which there are 7 below. 

The initial one expresses Baroness Ashton’s ‘deep concern’ at a military court’s conviction of Abdallah Abu Rahma, a non-violent Bil’in activist.  Why a military court?  Because Palestinians in the West Bank are governed by a military occupation, whereas Jews who live in the West Bank are Israeli citizens governed by Israeli law.  Baroness Ashton’s ‘deep concern’ is rightly placed, but will not lessen a single day of Abu Rahma’s unjust incarceration.  He will join the 9,000-11,000 other incarcerated Palestinian prisoners (have not checked the exact number for the present, but it is unlikely to be below 9,000). 

Item 2 relates to the latest Israeli uproar.  The directors of Israel’s leading theater groups agreed to grace Ariel’s new soon-to-open cultural center with performances.  Ariel is one of the larger colonies (about 17,000 residents) in the West Bank. It sits high on the crest of a hill, on the lands of 4 Palestinian villages.  The lands were not purchased.  They were stolen, and the groves of olive trees that formerly graced the hills were uprooted to make way for the colony.  Israel has not yet officially expropriated the West Bank.  And Ariel, as a colony (known also by the misnomer ‘settlement’), is therefore not officially a part of Israel.  Some (the latest number that I’ve heard is over 90) Israeli actors, playwrights, and others connected with the theater reacted negatively to learning that they would have to perform in the West Bank, and wrote a letter expressing their refusal to do so. 

As you can imagine, this has infuriated the establishment, which has reacted with threats to fire them, to cut salaries, and the like.  Tonight’s TV news reported that the theaters have themselves been flooded with threats by many of their clients to stop purchasing tickets to their productions.  Thus, the question of whether Ariel’s soon-to-be-finished cultural center will or will not be graced by Israeli actors is still up in the air.

Item 3 is about education.  Israel’s largest Arab-Jewish school is feeling the impact of the present right-wing government mixing into its affairs.  Parents complain.

Item 4 is an editorial expressing the opinion that Arabic should be taught in Israeli schools to every pupil, and should be known and spoken by all.

Item 5 is about divestment activity in some church denominations.

Item 6 is a congratulatory birthday note to the Gaza freedom boats that did make it to Gaza.  The link is to a video worth taking a moment to view.

That’s it for tonight.

Dorothy

=================================

1. The Independent Thursday,

August 26, 2010

Facing jail, the unarmed activist who dared to take on Israel

Baroness Ashton ‘deeply concerned’ at court’s ruling in case of West Bank protest

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/facing-jail-the-unarmed-activist-who-dared-to-take-on-israel-2062200.html

By Donald Macintyre in Jerusalem

Baroness Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, yesterday issued an unusually sharp rebuke to Israel over a military court’s conviction of a Palestinian activist prominent in unarmed protests against the West Bank separation barrier.

Lady Ashton said she was “deeply concerned” that Abdallah Abu Rahma was facing a possible jail sentence “to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the separation barriers in a non-violent manner”.

Though acquitted on two charges – including one of stone-throwing – Mr Abu Rahma, 39, a leader of the anti-barrier protests which have taken place every Friday for five years in the West Bank village of Bil’in, was convicted on Monday on another two: “incitement” and “organising and participating in an illegal demonstration”.

He is in jail, awaiting sentencing next month. He was detained last December by troops who arrived at his Ramallah home at 2am in seven jeeps as part of what anti-barrier activists say has been an escalating wave of arrests of protesters in West Bank villages, angry about the barrier and settlements encroaching on Palestinian land.

Pointing out that the European Union regarded the barrier as “illegal” where – as at Bil’in – it was built on Palestinian land, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy said the EU considered Mr Abu Rahma, who works as a teacher at a private school, to be “a human rights defender committed to non-violent protest”.

The protest by Lady Ashton, who was yesterday accused by Israel’s foreign ministry of “interfering” in the country’s judicial process, follows mounting concern by Western diplomats over the severity of measures taken by Israeli security forces against the mainly rural protests. Officials from several European countries, including Britain, were present for the verdict in the Ofer military court on Monday.

Her intervention was partly designed to demonstrate that the EU representatives will continue closely to watch developments on the ground in the West Bank while direct peace negotiations, due to start in Washington next week, get under way.

The military judge also acquitted Mr Abu Rahma of a charge of illegal arms possession which arose from a collection of used tear gas canisters and bullet cases he had been making to demonstrate that police and troops used violence against protesters.

The Popular Struggle Co-Ordination Committee said the “absurd” charge demonstrated the lengths the military was prepared to go to “to silence and smear unarmed dissent”.

It added that the incitement charge had been upheld even though it was based on the testimonies of minors who had been arrested in the middle of the night, and which the court recognised had defects. No other evidence had been offered, despite the routine filming of the protests by the security forces. It said the charge of organising demonstrations had not been used since the first intifada, from 1987 to 1993.

In 2008 Mr Abu Rahma was given an award by the International League for Human Rights in Berlin for “outstanding service in the realisation of basic human rights”. He met “the Elders”, a group of global statesmen and women including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, when they made a solidarity visit to Bil’in last year.

The protests at Bil’in, the highest profile of several in West Bank villages, have seen clashes between security forces using tear gas and rubber bullets and stone-throwing youths. After a protester was killed there in April 2009, military prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence for an investigation.

Construction work on rerouting part of the barrier at Bil’in finally began this year after the state had twice been found in contempt by the Supreme Court for failing to implement a 2007 court order to reroute the barrier.

Yigal Palmor, Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: “In a country in which even open supporters of Hamas and Hizbollah enjoy freedom of speech, Lady Ashton’s accusations sound particularly hollow. If she thinks she can do a better job than the defendant’s lawyer, she should say so. Otherwise, interfering in a transparent legal process in a democratic country is a very peculiar way to promote European values.”

But Mr Abu Rahma’s lawyer, Gaby Lasky, said: “The international community must take a tough stand on this issue, and I am happy that the political motivation of the indictment against a human rights defender was clear to the EU from attending the hearings.”

The Co-ordination Committee, a loose body of protest organisers, said yesterday there had been a “dramatic” increase in arrests. Of 93 made at Bil’in alone in five years, 46 were made since July of last year. At the more recent flashpoint of Nabi Saleh, there had been 41 arrests in the last eight months.

==============================================

2. NYTimes

August 27, 2010

Boycott of Theater in Israeli Settlement Grows

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/boycott-of-theater-in-israeli-settlement-grows/?ref=middleeast

[for more on the subject see also http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3945238,00.html

and Gideon Levy http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/puppet-theater-1.310770 ]

By ROBERT MACKEY

A cultural center under construction in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.

Dozens of Israel theater professionals have signed a letter protesting plans, announced this week, for Israeli theater companies to perform in a new cultural center nearing completion in Ariel, a West Bank settlement built on a site chosen by Ariel Sharon, Israel’s former leader.*

As The Lede explained on Thursday, soon after a slate of performances was announced this week, two actors with Israel’s national theater company announced that they would refuse to work in the Israeli settlement.

On Friday, the Israeli newspaper Web site Ynet News reported that dozens of Israel’s leading actors, directors, composers and playwrights had signed a letter sent to the managers of four theater companies that agreed to stage plays in the settlement, in which they said:

We wish to express our disgust with the theater’s board’s plans to perform in the new auditorium in Ariel. The actors among us hereby declare that we will refuse to perform in Ariel, as well as in any other settlement. We urge the boards to hold their activity within the sovereign borders of the State of Israel within the Green Line.

One of the most prominent signatories is Joshua Sobol, the celebrated Israeli author of the Holocaust drama “Ghetto.”

Vardit Shalfi, a dramaturg who who helped put the letter together, told Ynet:

Ariel is not a legitimate community, and as such, is against international law and international treaties that the State of Israel has signed. This means anyone performing there would be considered a criminal according to international law. The theater’s boards should inform their actors that there are apartheid roads for Jews only that lead into the settlement of Ariel. The moment we perform there, we are giving legitimization to this settlement’s existence.

Ynet added that Israel’s national theater said that the question of whether it should perform in a settlement built on Palestinian land first occupied by Israel in 1967 “calls for an in-depth examination of all the issues it includes…. We are looking into the matter.”

The newspaper also reported that an umbrella organization representing Israeli settlers on the West Bank denounced the calls for a boycott:

Our response to the letter signed by a bunch of anti-Zionist leftists and refusniks will be very harsh. This vile letter, which speaks out against the best of the State’s sons who defend them while they are acting on stage, requires a direct, poignant and clear response from the theaters’ boards, and this is what we expect. We will announce our future steps in the coming days.

Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist and blogger, commented, “This is a major development, especially since under the new boycott bill, which stands a good chance of becoming a law in the one of the next Knesset session, any call to boycott Israel or the settlements could result in a fine of up to 30,000 shekels ($9,000), without proof of damages.”

As The Lede noted on Thursday, one of the first plays scheduled to be performed in the new cultural center in Ariel, Bertolt Brecht’s “Caucasian Chalk Circle,” deals explicitly with a dispute over which of two groups should have the right to live and work on a contested piece of land.

*An earlier version of this post referred imprecisely to the name of the settlement. In 2009, the town, which was already named Ariel, was rededicated in honor of Ariel Sharon. Arutz Sheva, a West Bank news organization, reported at the time: “Ron Nachman, the mayor of the Samaria town of Ariel, announced Monday that the city he leads will now be named after former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The city will keep its current name, but the explanation behind the name will change.

=======================================

3.  Haaretz Friday,

August 27, 2010

Parents accuse state of trying to take over mixed Jewish-Arab school

The Max Rayne bilingual school in Jerusalem is the country’s largest Jewish-Arab institution with 530 students.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/parents-accuse-state-of-trying-to-take-over-mixed-jewish-arab-school-1.310444

By Nir Hasson

The Max Rayne bilingual school in Jerusalem may not open its doors at the beginning of the school year due to a dispute over the school’s joint Jewish-Arab management. The students’ parents are threatening not to send their children to school after its two principals were recently replaced, accusing the municipality and Education Ministry of scheming to take control of the facility and change its character.

Some 530 students are enrolled in the school, the country’s largest Jewish-Arab institution. It has been co-run by a Jewish and an Arab principal since its founding 11 years ago by the Hand in Hand non-governmental organization. Each class also had two homeroom teachers.

Over the summer, the school’s Jewish principal Dalia Peretz (MK Amir Peretz’s sister ), who was employed by the Education Ministry, announced her retirement. And Hand in Hand, which employed Arab principal Ala Khatib, fired him.

The authorities insisted that from now on the school will have only one principal, determined by the ministry and municipality, and appointed deputy principal Nadia Kanani as principal. A Jewish deputy principal has also been appointed.

The parents are now complaining that the ministry and municipality are seizing the opportunity to take over the school.

“We were ready to swallow this bitter pill on condition that Ala Khatib would act as an overseeing-principal during the next year to preserve the model we have built,” said one of the parents, who did not want to be identified by name.

The parents negotiated with the authorities and eventually reached an agreement to keep Khatib on as overseeing principal, along with the new principal. But on Wednesday, shortly after Khatib arrived at his office in the school, an official from Jerusalem’s Education Authority instructed to have him removed from the premises. Unless Khatib left, the official threatened that he would be sued for trespassing. And according to the parents, the teachers were ordered not to speak to Khatib.

“The Education Authority wants to turn the school into an ordinary Arab school. They have an ideological problem with it,” one parent said.

“In three years it will be an Arab school,” another parent said. “They’ll destroy the bilingual model because it doesn’t suit their agenda.”

“The municipality and Education Ministry have disrupted the [Jewish-Arab] balance in the school and are brutally taking control and changing it,” he added.

The parents fear the changes to the school’s administration will drive the Jewish students away.

“I hope this conduct will not harm this school’s basic values, which is why we send our children there,” writer and journalist Sayed Kashua said yesterday. He is one of the signatories to the petition, which has been distributed by parents, to preserve the school’s egalitarian Jewish-Arab management.

The Jerusalem municipality issued the following comment: “The bilingual school is an official school, run jointly by the Education Ministry and the municipality, which see its continued activity as very important. The school always had only one principal, who was appointed by the Education Ministry. Mr. Ala Khatib is an employee of Hand in Hand and … after he was fired has no job or position in the school. The school’s new principal and deputy principal serve as the school’s joint Jewish-Arab management.”

====================================

4.  Haaretz Editorial Friday,

August 27, 2010

The language of the state

As the Arab minority comprises about one-fifth of Israel’s population and Arabic is an official language, teaching the indigenous language is not merely a practical necessity but should be part of our concept of citizenship.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-language-of-the-state-1.310469

Haaretz Editorial

The Education Ministry’s decision to have the Arabic language taught in 179 elementary schools in the north of the country is both important and to be commended. As the Arab minority comprises about one-fifth of Israel’s population and Arabic is an official language, teaching the indigenous language is not merely a practical necessity but should be part of our concept of citizenship.

For decades, teaching Arabic in schools was seen as a security-oriented task, granted legitimacy by the slogan “know thy enemy.” Most students of the Arabic language envisioned a vocation in intelligence or security, fields which themselves set up advanced language courses to train workers exclusively for their job – not as a means of getting to know the neighbors or their culture.

This trend fell in line with the attitude that Israel, as part of the West, was obliged to help its students acclimatize themselves to Western society. Israel’s being part of the Middle East, surrounded by states whose people are Arabic speakers and part of the Arab culture, was reflected only through the conflict – and even then most Israelis could not understand the Arab side.

On the practical side, not knowing Arabic results in the infringement of civil rights. For example, the branch of the National Insurance Institute in Haifa has not even one Arabic-speaking official. Arab citizens of Israel who are not fluent in Hebrew have found themselves hassled and deprived simply because nobody could explain their rights to them in their own tongue.

But the Education Ministry’s decision is not enough. The Arabic teaching departments at many of the country’s universities have shrunk, and some offer Middle East studies without requiring the student to learn Arabic. These facts demonstrate the accumulative damage of neglecting the language. Even the scope of the new syllabus for the north – two hours a week – is no more than a taste of what is required, and years will pass until the project spreads, if it ever does, to the entire education system.

Still, despite its limitations, this is an important decision – one which, if expanded and applied properly, could serve as a vital stage in eliminating the hostility toward the Arabic language and bringing the two populations in Israel closer together.

==============================

5. Forwarded by Ofer

Aug27.2010

From: <e-mail@israel-academia-monitor.com>
Date: 2010/8/27
Subject: Haifa University students prepare to rally against radical leftist teachers

http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=310780

Haifa University students prepare to rally against leftist teachers

Published Wednesday 25/08/2010 (updated) 26/08/2010 15:29

,HAIFA (Ma’an/Agencies) — Students at Haifa University reportedly prepared a list of “Pro-Palestinian” professors and a group of activists were preparing a boycott campaign targeting their classes and lectures.
Israel’s Hebrew Language daily newspaper Ma’ariv said a campaign began on Tuesday, targeting 20 lecturers from the sociology and political science departments who they said “participate in demonstrations against Israeli troops and the Israeli government” or who have publicly spoken out against them.
“We won’t choose courses of these lecturers and we won’t attend their lectures. It is unthinkable that at a time when our friends are fighting or receiving blows from activists on a ship that calls itself a peace ship that these lecturers stand up and demonstrate and speak out against these soldiers,” one student was quoted as saying.
“What is taking place here is fascism,” another student told the paper, “this is the beginning of a repulsive attempt to shut people up who think differently. If the lecturers make statements that try to make historic justice, they deserve praise.”
The University issued a statement to the paper, saying “Haifa University takes a serious view of any attempt to carry out an academic boycott or an attempt to harm academic freedom.”

 ==========================

 6.  Church boycott calls ring louder
Sarah Irving, The Electronic Intifada, 25 August 2010
The world’s churches have long been one of the battlegrounds of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. With the strengthening of the BDS movement, a number of churches across the globe have seen the boycott of Israeli and Israeli settlement goods hotting up, and recent weeks have witnessed some notable victories.
The British Methodist Church has seen a number of resolutions on Israel passed in recent years. In 2006, says Dr. Stephen Leah, a Methodist preacher and member of the church’s conference, a vote to divest from companies profiting from the occupation was passed “overwhelmingly,” and other motions condemning Israeli actions in Gaza and encouraging church members to campaign for a just peace have been welcomed.
In June, Leah and colleague Nicola Jones, a Methodist minister who works with Palestinian liberation theology organization Friends of Sabeel, sparked major debate in the British media after they successfully shepherded a boycott motion through Methodist conference. “In 2009 we set up a working party in order to bring a statement to 2010 conference outlining the Methodist Church’s position on Palestine,” explains Leah. “Our report was the basis for the new resolution.”
The resulting motion has attracted most attention for its call for a boycott of goods from Israeli settlements. Christine Elliott, the Church’s Secretary for External Relationships, said in an official press release that “This decision has not been taken lightly, but after months of research, careful consideration and finally, today’s debate at the Conference. The goal of the boycott is to put an end to the existing injustice.

It reflects the challenge that settlements present to a lasting peace in the region. We are passionate about dialogue across communities and with people of all faiths. We remain deeply committed to our relationships with our brothers and sisters of other faiths, and we look to engage in active listening so that we act as agents of hope together.”
“My personal view is that I’m in favor of a boycott of all Israeli goods,” says Leah. “But we had a big debate about it in the working party, as you can probably imagine, and some people said we should stick with a boycott of settlement products. So the statement now says that the Church will boycott settlement goods, but that some Methodists would like to go further.” Although the Methodists are the first church in the UK to mandate a settlement boycott, Leah claims that grassroots opinion within other churches, particularly the United Reform Church, would also support a boycott motion if one was presented to their conferences.
Significantly, the Methodist resolution doesn’t stop with a settlement boycott. It encourages church members to educate themselves on the issue of Palestine, directing them to documents such as the 2009 Kairos Declaration by Palestinian Christian leaders. It also encourages them to take action, ranging from engaging with the Amos Trust’s Just Peace for Palestine initiative to volunteering with the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), whose human rights observation work takes volunteers to villages such as Yanoun, which has been repeatedly attacked and threatened by far-right settlers from Itamar.

Official Methodist documents now refer to settlements as illegal, and the Church leadership has written to Britain’s main supermarkets asking for details of their policies on settlement produce. According to a Church spokesperson, they intend to make the results of their enquiries public in the near future, and the Methodist website already includes guidance on country of origin labels relating to Israel, the occupied West Bank and settlements.
The Methodist resolution also “directs the Faith and Order Committee to undertake further work on the theological issues, including Christian Zionism, raised in the report that are needed to guide and support the approach of the Methodist Church to the Israeli/Palestinian situation and to bring a report to Conference.” This, says Leah, is a measure aimed at “getting to grips with what’s behind Christian Zionism, because there are all sorts of different strands. Part of that will be a discussion within the Committee as to whether or not some aspects are compatible with Methodist beliefs.

For example, some people, including the UN, have said that Zionism is akin to racism, and the Methodist Church is completely against all forms of racism.” Leah says that he’s rarely encountered Christian Zionism within his local Methodist congregations in the north of England, but acknowledges that “some people do have a feeling that we should be supporting Israel because they’re in the Bible and so on. But I’d say it’s stronger in other churches, especially the evangelical churches.”
Boycott backlash
Unsurprisingly, the decision of Britain’s second largest Protestant church to endorse the settlement boycott and research Christian support for Zionism has been controversial. The London-based Council of Christians and Jews responded to the Methodist resolution with mailings claiming that the boycott will “hurt Palestinian people,” while the Board of Deputies of British Jews issued a statement calling the motion “a very sad day, both for Jewish-Methodist relations and for everyone who wants to see positive engagement with the complex issues of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

The Methodist Conference has swallowed hook, line and sinker a report full of basic historical inaccuracies, deliberate misrepresentations and distortions of Jewish theology and Israeli policy.” The statement went on to accuse the Methodist Church of being “crass, insensitive and misinformed,” and The Jewish Chronicle reported that the board had cut off relations with the Methodist leadership until “we see signs of a change in their stance.”
From Israel, meanwhile, commentators raised the specter of a “threat to inter-faith efforts all over Europe.” The Jerusalem Post called the Methodist Church, which claims 330,000 members in the UK, a “small and declining community” and described the Kairos Declaration as a “highly organized” effort by Palestinian Christian leaders. A Jerusalem Post op-ed by Robin Shepherd of the Henry Jackson Society (which numbers Operation Cast Lead defender Max Boot, former Israeli ambassador Dore Gold and a former CIA director amongst its figureheads), was entitled “The Banality of Methodist Evil,” called the BDS campaign “rancid” and accused the Methodist Church of “burying its credibility under a gigantic dunghill of intransigence, pedantry, lies and distortions.” The writers concluded by suggesting that “If the Methodist Church is to launch a boycott of Israel, let Israel respond in kind: Ban their officials from entering; deport their missionaries; block their funds; close down their offices; and tax their churches. If it’s war, it’s war. The aggressor must pay a price.”
“I think a lot of people were expecting this,” says Leah, “But the ordinary people I’ve been speaking to in churches are absolutely delighted. They say we’ve stood our ground and done what’s right.” He cites letters such as that from the Reverent Rob Hufton, which appeared in the Church’s newspaper, the Methodist Recorder, pointing out that Israeli restrictions on Palestinian movement render impossible the kind of inter-faith encounter which critics of the Methodist motion claim to support. Hufton condemned the Israeli policies which have turned the West Bank into a “Swiss cheese” and concluded that “Things are worse than the maligned [Methodist] report suggests. We, as a Church, have nothing to apologize for and should not be intimidated.”
Leah admits that the Methodist leadership have been “getting a lot of flak from The Jewish Chronicle and The Jerusalem Post, which always makes them a bit worried,” but he sees grassroots work with members of the Methodist congregation as his main task. He’s also keen to highlight the support which the Methodist motion has attracted from anti-Zionist Jewish organizations, and the potential it holds for cross-community dialogue with Britain’s Muslims. “I think more than anything it’s important for the Methodist church and leadership to be bold in what they’re doing and take it back to those who are criticizing and say, we’ve got to stand up against injustice,” he says.
Behind the hysterical attacks on the Methodist resolution from Zionist commentators is their fear of the growing BDS movement. For the Methodist Church’s decision may be part of a growing trend amongst churches worldwide. Despite The Jerusalem Post’s insistence on the marginality of the Methodist Church, the Church of England, the UK’s largest Protestant denomination, announced the week after the Methodist conference that it was reviewing its stake in French transportation company Veolia because of the latter’s role in the Jerusalem light rail project.

According to the Anglican Missionary and Public Affairs Committee, there was concern within the Church that “once built, the rail system will help to cement Israel’s hold on occupied East Jerusalem and tie the settlements even more firmly into the State of Israel.” The church would, it said, be investigating whether “the tram operator will ensure access to the tram that does not discriminate between Palestinians and Israelis, and abide by any ruling on the legality of the project in an international law.”
Australian, US churches move towards settlement boycott
In Australia, meanwhile, the National Council of Churches also passed a motion at the end of July backing a boycott of settlement products. The NCCA represents the Australian branches of the Catholic and Anglican churches, along with 15 other denominations. An NCCA press release states: “Rev Tara Curlewis, General Secretary of the NCCA said ‘We are asking the member Churches of the NCCA to consider boycotting particular goods produced in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.” NCCA added that boycotting Israeli goods could help to “liberate the people from an experience of injustice” and was a means to help establish a “just and definitive” peace for Palestinians and Israelis. It also confirmed that Act For Peace, the Christian aid agency for Australia, would support boycott actions and advocacy initiatives by Australian churches.
Australian Zionist groups reacted with predictable fury, framing the decision as a boycott against “West Bank Jews.” Robert Goot, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, claimed to reporters that the resolution “revived painful memories for Jews in Australia of earlier times in Europe when churches allowed themselves to be swept up in the tide of popular prejudices against the Jewish people.”
While not going as far as British and Australian churches, the Presbyterian General Assembly, which represents the denomination’s two million-plus members in the US, in July passed a number of resolutions on Palestinian issues. These included approving with 82 percent of the assembly vote a position paper which called for an “end of the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” (while also affirming “Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders”) and “an immediate freeze on the establishment and expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and on the Israeli acquisition of Palestinian land and buildings in East Jerusalem.”
The Presbyterian General Assembly also approved a report by the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee which “Strongly denounces Caterpillar’s continued profit-making from non-peaceful uses of a number of its products on the basis of Christian principles and as a matter of social witness” and “Calls upon Caterpillar to carefully review its involvement in obstacles to a just and lasting peace in Israel-Palestine, and to take affirmative steps to end its complicity in the violation of human rights.” The Presbyterian General Assembly said that it rejected divestment as an option, on the grounds that it would continue to “engage” with companies which “profit from the sale and use of their products for non-peaceful purposes and/or the violation of human rights.” The Anti-Defamation League, which routinely attacks any policies critical of Israel, called the reports “biased.”
Sarah Irving is a freelance writer. She worked with the International Solidarity Movement in the occupied West Bank in 2001-02 and with Olive Co-op, promoting fair trade Palestinian products and solidarity visits, in 2004-06. She now writes full-time on a range of issues, including Palestine. Her first book, Gaza: Beneath the Bombs co-authored with Sharyn Lock, was published in January 2010.

=======================

7.  From: Irish

To: gazafriends

Sent: Saturday,

August 28, 2010

Subject: [GazaFriends] In celebration…and anticipation

When we wrote the text for Happy Birthday, Free Gaza, our wonderful video producer, Paola, asked if she could design a video tribute to Free Gaza. It is here.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAMFRkATYX0

Many of you have also sent birthday wishes to us as we get ready to sail again in the fall. To all of you… thank you. None of this could have been done without the support from around the world. Below are just some of the birthday wishes.

[I have omitted the congratulations]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.