Mondoweiss Online Newsletter


Brave ‘NYT’ describes Israel’s efforts to ‘pinkwash’ occupation
Nov 23, 2011
Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz
640 queers 3
Queers for Palestine protest the Jewish National Fund (Photo and more here
Groundbreaking Op-Ed in today’s Times from CUNY professor Sarah Schulman on Brand Israel and the pinkwashing of the Israeli occupation. Everyone is talking about this today. Wow. A piece aimed at the Brand Israel campaign, a piece aimed at the hateful occupation. The mainstreaming of a term that only Palestinian solidarity activists have used for the last few years. The neocons have got their knickers in a twist today. Go New York Times! Put our website out of business!
From the article “Israel and ‘Pinkwashing’“:

In 2005, with help from American marketing executives, the Israeli government began a marketing campaign, “Brand Israel,” aimed at men ages 18 to 34. The campaign, as reported by The Jewish Daily Forward, sought to depict Israel as “relevant and modern.” The government later expanded the marketing plan by harnessing the gay community to reposition its global image.Last year, the Israeli news site Ynet reported that the Tel Aviv tourism board had begun a campaign of around $90 million to brand the city as “an international gay vacation destination.” The promotion, which received support from the Tourism Ministry and Israel’s overseas consulates, includes depictions of young same-sex couples and financing for pro-Israeli movie screenings at lesbian and gay film festivals in the United States. (The government isn’t alone; an Israeli pornography producer even shot a film, “Men of Israel,” on the site of a former Palestinian village.)This message is being articulated at the highest levels. In May, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress that the Middle East was “a region where women are stoned, gays are hanged, Christians are persecuted.”The growing global gay movement against the Israeli occupation has named these tactics “pinkwashing”: a deliberate strategy to conceal the continuing violations of Palestinians’ human rights behind an image of modernity signified by Israeli gay life. Aeyal Gross, a professor of law at Tel Aviv University, argues that “gay rights have essentially become a public-relations tool,” even though “conservative and especially religious politicians remain fiercely homophobic.”Pinkwashing not only manipulates the hard-won gains of Israel’s gay community, but it also ignores the existence of Palestinian gay-rights organizations. Homosexuality has been decriminalized in the West Bank since the 1950s, when anti-sodomy laws imposed under British colonial influence were removed from the Jordanian penal code, which Palestinians follow. More important is the emerging Palestinian gay movement with three major organizations: AswatAl Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. These groups are clear that the oppression of Palestinians crosses the boundary of sexuality; as Haneen Maikay, the director of Al Qaws, has said, “When you go through a checkpoint it does not matter what the sexuality of the soldier is.”What makes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and their allies so susceptible to pinkwashing — and its corollary, the tendency among some white gay people to privilege their racial and religious identity, a phenomenon the theorist Jasbir K. Puar has called “homonationalism” — is the emotional legacy of homophobia.

Wala’: The untrodden beauty of Palestine
Nov 23, 2011
Sameeha Elwan
Reading the title, her smile must have already found its way to her face, tears welling in her eyes with a Palestinian proud refusal to surrender to a burst of overwhelming emotions. Yet you could still ostensibly see the tears struggling around the green apple of her eyes just like every time she remembers that next year we might never meet again. Just like the first time it dawned upon her, upon me, this absolutely ridiculous fact that next year is going to bring us back to our 23-year separation.
Her name is Wala. My first Palestinian friend I meet from the other part of Palestine. The West Bank where my feet have never trodden but my heart has always yearned to.
Wala’ is the essence of the fragmentation of home. She’s the inaccessible world I was ever denied just for the simple fact that both of us were born in different part of the borders. She in Hebron. I in Gaza.
“It’s two hours by car,” we explained to our Chinese flatmate. Our tireless exhausting talks to that poor Chinese girl on why we cannot meet at home were futile, however. She seemingly couldn’t comprehend it. “Why are you making of such a very short drive a complex matter? Isn’t it only an hour or two-hour drive by car? Then, why cannot you both simply meet?” She kept repeating, bemused by our desperate looks. Yet, I wouldn’t blame her. For years, I had struggled with the same thought and question of why? My mother couldn’t explain it to me. Neither could politics or even history.
It is our peculiar contradiction yet striking resemblance that makes of us, as I’d like to think, the embodiment of “Palestine”. Unlike me, she’s got a Marxist mentality rebelling against all sort of rules that might constraint her. Her impatient character, I assume, is a result of hours of waiting on checkpoints. Her uncouth constant insults have once been directed to hostile armed settlers. Simply, Wala is a typical revolutionary Hebronite who, despite everything, refuses to be confined by anything.
Watching us in the kitchen is not a pleasant scene for our friends (especially with knives at hand). They would beg us not to hurt each other while arguing whether hers or mine is the right way of flipping the Maqlooba, the Palestinian traditional dish (doubtful as I have become of the fact). Shouting at her and swiftly smiling victoriously after our continuous attempt of cooking the Maqloobah work tells me of the many similarities that can bring us together no matter how forcefully the occupation is trying to draw us asunder. Our love for za’tar (thyme). Our similar Palestinian embroidered dresses. Our Kuffeya. Our keenness to the same type of traditional and national songs of belonging and home. Our resentment to the same occupier.
At a time, Wala’s existence was a mere thought of a beautiful Palestine lying unreachable behind the borders amongst hundreds of checkpoints and behind a lifeless wall, deaf to all those shouts for freedom in the impulsive graffiti. A silly joke we used to tell of a Hebronite. A news item of how aggressive the settlers are being towards the residents of Hebron. Now, she’s just my country fellow in exile. In the cold countryside of England.
Struggling to find a proper end to this post, I just cannot. I thought about, “And when I tell my children of another part of Palestine called Hebron, I’ll remember my dear Hebronite friend”, but this is not the end I want. This is not the end.
This is crossposted on Sameeha Elwan’s blog Here, I was Born.
Sabra alternative: Inching towards social responsibility at DePaul University
Nov 23, 2011
Sami Kishawi
One year ago, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at DePaul University launched a campaign to remove Sabra Hummus from campus shelves after confirming that Sabra’s parent company, the Strauss Group, provides material and financial aid to the Israeli military. Although a vote by the student body overwhelmingly supported the divestment campaign, the university’s administration ultimately chose to continue selling the product. Earlier this school year, however, the university introduced an alternative hummus brand that appears to imply that DePaul is in fact inching towards socially-responsible investment.
Recapping the campaign

Hummus at DePaul (Photo: Sami Kishawi)

Students with SJP at DePaul identify the introduction of this product as a sign of victory for the year-long campaign. It all began when students found evidence of Sabra’s ties to the Givati and Golani Brigades, two elite Israeli military units cited by the various human rights organizations for their flagrant violations of human rights law. After establishing Sabra’s complicity in the illegal occupation of Palestine, students called on the campus administration to remove the product completely.
Initially, the administration obliged but, after receiving pressure from community and lobby groups, chose to forego its Vincentian values and reinstate the product. The case was reviewed by DePaul’s Fair Business Practices Committee, and the Student Government approved it for a campus-wide vote.
Of the 1,467 votes cast during the election, nearly 80% were in favor of total divestment from Sabra. Despite this large margin of victory, the voter turnout did not reach the required 1,500 students so the results were considered invalid. Nevertheless, months after SJP presented its proposal for the first time, the campus administration quietly obliged to SJP’s requests and introduced an alternative hummus product for the student body.
A quiet introduction
What is most striking about this alternative hummus product is that it was introduced very quietly. Only after SJP contacted the administration did DePaul’s campus authorities release a statement concerning the Chartwells-brand hummus.
Although the statement generically announces that the new hummus offers students with a greater selection, it is understood that the university implicitly opted to avoid pressure from lobbyist and special interest community groups. The university must certainly be aware that offering an alternative and less-expensive hummus product will inevitably mean fewer sales for Sabra. This quiet introduction of the product should therefore be seen as part of a greater strategy to minimize ties with groups linked to human rights violations without sparking negative pressure.
A campaign of notable merit
Equally important is DePaul’s decision to introduce an alternative product months after the student referendum took place. This indicates that the deliberation within the administration continued well after the end of the school year. DePaul found notable merit in SJP’s concerns and chose to pursue the matter, albeit slowly, until a deal was reached with Chartwells.
DePaul has, by all means, set a new precedent, at least within Chicago’s colleges and universities, by giving divestment campaigns the legitimacy they deserve. When DePaul students approached the university’s administration with its Vincentian values published in educational packets detailing Sabra’s role in the violation of human rights and international law, DePaul quickly heeded to the call and removed the product without further consideration. Although Sabra was reinstated and ultimately kept on campus shelves, the university did not marginalize the student body’s concern. In similar efforts at different universities in the past, when divestment campaigns came to a close, administrations moved on. But in DePaul, the administration recognized the damaging impression that its investment in Sabra has left on it.
Why hummus?
For those convinced that the introduction of a new brand of hummus at DePaul University is nothing more than coincidental, the question must be asked: Why offer homemade hummus when both Chartwells and DePaul have the capabilities of providing students with more conventional products?
This was not a random move. As a matter of fact, any action that DePaul takes regarding hummus for the next few years will not be random in any way. After recognizing how important this divestment campaign means to students, faculty, and alumni, DePaul will take no chances in how it handles hummus on campus.
DePaul has hashed out the details with Chartwells by contract, it is safe to assume. DePaul is also aware of the extra costs this alternative might incur – no matter how negligible – for ingredients and packaging. It is clear, then, that the introduction of Chartwells-brand hummus was a calculated decision by DePaul to show that it indeed takes into considerations all matters that contradict its founding values.
Sabra as a tool for education
From the outset, the divestment campaign against Sabra was incorrectly framed as an attempt to marginalize both Jews and their appetites. Lobby groups pressured students and administrations into ignoring the facts tying Sabra to the Israeli military’s systematic abuse of international and humanitarian law. Up until the introduction of an alternative product, this tactic seemed to hold the administration in check. It is therefore important to recognize the administration for transitively dispelling the misconceptions and obliging to SJP’s demands – to offer an alternative.
Although Sabra remains on DePaul’s campus, SJP intends to use it as a tool for educating the student body on how certain companies profit from occupation and human rights violations. Social responsibility is key in SJP’s mission at DePaul University.
This post originally appeared on Sixteen Minutes to Palestine.
Video celebrating Freedom Riders likens Israeli flag to Confederate flag
Nov 23, 2011
Philip Weiss
Video is by Sana Kassem, producer/director. Thanks to Norman Finkelstein.
Bernard-Henri Levy insists settlements are not ‘colonies’ but minute ‘implantations’
Nov 23, 2011
Philip Weiss
Yesterday we reported on a Swiss effort to revive the Geneva Initiative for a two-state solution, in a conference featuring Bernard-Henri Levy. A Swiss friend passe along the following report:

There was nothing about the conference in the main French-speaking newspapers this morning. The Swiss radio did have a short presentation with their correspondent in Israel asking a few Palestinians and Israelis if they knew about the initiative.Still on the radio, the main news program called Forum featured a lengthy (16 min) interview of … Bernard-Henri Levy! True to himself he speaks with grandeur and uses theatrical wording to bluff. The interviewer must have been an admirer, nice questions, no contradiction. Here is my translation:
Journalist: Is it possible to place the responsibility on one side, for instance Israel doesn’t want peace, the settlements that had never expanded as much as during the negotiations?
BHL: There is not one responsible, there are two. Sure Nethanhayu has his part when he multiplies the settlements, but the Palestinians bear a responsibility has heavy or more than the Israelis with their demand to freeze the colonization before returning to the negotiating table. The Palestinians say they will only negotiate if Israelis stop the “implantation,” and the Israeli side says the “implantations” are part of the negotiation.
Journalist: As years go by the situation is not improving, there are more and more settlements every year, the day will come when it will not be possible to relocate them.
BHL corrects. He says he prefers “implantations” (in the French language the word colonies is directly linked the French colonialism and is badly regarded). He says it is not a colonial situation and cannot be compared with the French colonial enterprise. He went on to say that removing them would not be a problem since it represents a minute part (“infime”) of the territories (such a blatant liar).Journalist: Yes, but the best part of the land.
BHL:  Well, better land … and worst land too you know. And trust me if you look back at Zionism’s history since 1948, it is not the best land. One of the virtues of Zionism has been that it fructified arid landSummary: The Swiss radio took pride in having a Swiss move, placing Switzerland in center stage, and renewing a tradition of quiet diplomacy from a neutral country without any colonial background, war or power. But that was about it.Once again apart from a possible and hypothetic role for Mrs Micheline Calmy-Rey, what is this all about? Contrary to some commenters on Mondo, I believe it is a wholehearted, genuine initiative (not a fair one, but something to talk about), but it is led by sideline people who do not represent the civil society. I mean retired Yossi Beilin from a marginal party and Yasser Abed Rabbo who must in the PLO because he has always been in PLO and he’s a buddy of the other PLOist … and ? These people must be utopian and must live in their bubble, it’s as if they never look back to see if they have followers, it’s as if they believe they have the right theoretical solution and do not care whether it is actually applicable or not.Shocking to me was this lame sentence on the GI’s web site: “A live broadcast of the conference at 19:00 Israel-time will be available here.” Israel-time! Just to remind Palestinians that they live under Israel-time … or worse, this broadcast is for Israelis only. Bad luck though: the broadcast did not work.

Who’s on top in VF piece– ‘Tom Buchanan’ Winkelvosses or ‘lifelong elite’ Zuckerberg?
Nov 23, 2011
Philip Weiss
Vanity Fair’s December issue has a profile of the Winkelvosses, the twins who claim Mark Zuckerberg ripped off their idea for facebook and who were caricatured as WASPs who rule Harvard in the movie The Social Network.
The Vanity Fair piece by Dana Vachon goes on to the same social terrain, though amazingly it does not identify Zuckerberg as Jewish (or Larry Summers, Zuckerberg’s strenuous advocate, as Jewish). It does identify Zuckerberg as a “lifelong elite,” which is a worthy amendment to the Jewish image in America today.
The article repeatedly identifies the Winkelvosses as members of the old elite. Their story, Vachon writes, has touched on the American fascination with “Wasp culture.” Later there is a heading called “Late American Nobility.” They are an “object of cultural wonder.” Certainly they were to Mark Zuckerberg. Vachon:

They [the twins] made sure to show me the profile of “Cameron Winklevoss” on ConnectU—the name of their briefly also-ran Facebook competitor—which the undergraduate Mark Zuckerberg is reported to have created as a mockery after hacking his way into the site. (Zuckerberg declined to comment.) “Languages: WASP-y,” the profile read. “Ethnicity: Better than you,” “Hair color: Aryan Blond.”
“Where’s the outrage?” Cameron asked. “Can you imagine if we did this to him?”
It’s true—if the Winklevosses had done the equivalent to Zuckerberg, it would have been construed as a hate crime, not collegiate folly. Groups who have suffered historically get cultural protections not afforded those who have presided over historical suffering: A well-studied impression of an inbred British aristocrat may win you friends at a cocktail party. An equally evocative napalmed Cambodian peasant probably won’t. And yet the Winklevosses descend from technophobic Pennsylvania hunchbacks. And Mark Zuckerberg is a product of Westchester, Exeter, and Harvard, a lifelong elite.

And how is this for code: “Tom Buchanan in eerie duplicate.” Wait, Tom Buchanan, the villain in Gatsby, believed in Aryan superiority. Tyler Winkelvoss actually invokes Muslims, sympathetically, to explain the racism that operates against them.

“And you can go to, like, airport security?” interrupted Tyler. “People who are Muslim should be allowed to be security guards—right? There’s a difference between being a fundamentalist and being al-Qaeda and being Muslim. It’s absurd to think otherwise. But certain people have not even reached that standard of thinking with regards to us.”

But the Vanity Fair writer can make race-based jokes at the Winkelvosses’ expense: “a never-had and yet somehow-lost fortune which the Winklevosses’ chromosomes demanded they fight for.” Not sure what their chromosomes have to do with it.

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