Tag Archives: BDS

The Case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Here is the video of my talk at UC Berkeley, April 17, 2013, “Israel is an Apartheid State: The Case for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.”

Later that evening, I had the enormous joy of attending part of the unprecedented 10-hour debate/vote on Berkeley’s divestment from apartheid Israel. Nearly 1,000 students packed that hall, speaker after speaker gave eloquent 2-minute appeals for why the university should stop funding apartheid. The student senate voted to divest at 5:30am the next morning. It was a tremendous step forward for the BDS movement.

My next talk on BDS: May 14, 2013, at the University of Chicago. Contact me if you’d like me to come speak for your organization or at your school.

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NYC Dykes to Israel: Meh

Israel, I’ll be blunt, NYC dykes are just not that into you.

I’ve been on a bit of a dating whirlwind these last months, which basically means I’ve had an inordinate number of rendezvous in cafés and wine bars with women I met in cyber or real space. Obviously, this is a self-selecting group of women who are generally progressive and, presumably, find me easy enough on the eyes to want to sit across a table from me and talk over a libation.

So yes, this is entirely anecdotal and unscientific. Nonetheless, having been active since I am a teen in Palestine solidarity organizing, I am accustomed to Palestine being at the very least contentious and at most a relationship third rail among the left-of-center women I’ve dated over the years. No longer.

Though I’m Jewish myself, until lately I hadn’t dated a Jewish woman since my socialist girlfriend in college in the mid-80s—who through some accident of history actually lives up the block from me now (with her husband and kids). Go figure.

Since like everyone else I’m rather busy, I’ve adopted a full disclosure policy when it comes to dating women whom I know ahead of time are Jewish. I let them know of my pro-Palestine sympathies making it clear that if this is an issue for them we shouldn’t bother meeting up since we’d despise each other.

Of the nearly two dozen Jewish women with whom I’ve corresponded for dates, only one took offense. Every single other Jewish dyke either said she found Israel’s actions racist and confusing and was curious to know more or said she totally agreed and found herself siding with Palestinians more and more. Of the non-Jewish women, the curiosity for them was why any queer would ever support the oppression of Palestinians.

This conforms very much to the shifting winds of social consciousness in the US around the question of Israel’s brutal occupation of Palestine. Even the US-based Israel Project poll noted that in 2009, after the first massacre of Gaza and imposition of the siege, support for Israel among US voters plummeted from 69 to 49 percent. Their pollster Stanley Greenberg concluded, “The section of the American public where Israel is most rapidly losing support is among liberal Americans who align themselves with the Democratic Party.” Zogby and other polls since confirm this trajectory.

Next week, the Center for Gay and Lesbian Studies at CUNY is hosting a conference on Homonationalism and Pinkwashing that is largely the brainchild of Jewish lesbian novelist and Palestine solidarity activist Sarah Schulman. The conference has been sold out for months, not at all common for academic conferences, and certainly not ones exploring sexuality through the lens of imperialism, racism and internationalism, with several talks on the question of Israel/Palestine. It is a radical departure from the navel-gazing that too often consumes queer political discourse, in my opinion.

It seems that in addition to the easy accessibility of alternative news analysis on Israel/Palestine via the Internet, the efforts of the rising boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement are having a transformative impact, rendering Palestine solidarity mainstream. Disgust with Israel and US policies that are complicit in its crimes are on the rise and it’s beginning to reverberate throughout US society.

It’s even reached the dykes on OK Cupid.

Catch my talk Wednesday, April 3, at Pratt on sexual liberation :

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Obama: Shoulder to Shoulder with an Apartheid State

Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Ari Zoldan)

Barack Obama with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Ari Zoldan)

THE HEAD of the U.S. empire paid a three-day visit to the praetorian guard of the Middle East oil lake that concluded March 22. President Obama’s trip to Israel aimed to shore up anxious vassals and reassert U.S. political and military hegemony in a region in the midst of revolutionary turmoil and economic instability.

On both fronts, he appears to have succeeded, for now.

News of President Obama’s much-heralded visit has focused on two events: his speech in Jerusalem and the phone call he choreographed between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. As is usually the case with acts of diplomacy, Obama’s speech and telephone rapprochement were filled with unctuous platitudes to mask the crude reality.

His Jerusalem speech intertwined the Zionist fable of a national liberation movement for Jews that never was with the African American civil rights struggle, using rhetorical flourishes best described as Obamaesque. He said:

As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed–“I may not get there with you. But I want you to know that…we, as a people, will get to the promised land…” And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea–to be a free people in your homeland.

Like every U.S. president since Truman, Obama depicts Israel as an expression of the democratic yearnings of an oppressed people, as opposed to being an imperial manipulation of historical crimes against the Jewish people to justify a colonial-settler state on Palestinian land. Israel is a nation that’s come to serve as an outpost for U.S. imperial interests in the region.

No doubt, Obama glimpsed the 25-foot-high, 450-mile-long apartheid wall that has been condemned as illegal in the International Court of Justice. He knows of the growing civil disobedience against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and the broadening resistance to the indefinite detention of Palestinians such as Samer Issawi, now on hunger strike more than 245 days.

Even the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement is getting greater coverage than ever in the U.S. media, making it almost impossible for Obama to remain unaware of the rising Palestinian civil rights movement that the New York Times’ Ben Ehrenreich suggests is a possible “third intifada.”

It’s quite likely Obama’s awareness of all these factors compelled him to reference Palestinian suffering and aspirations in his speech–if only to give a nod toward a crisis he has no intention of resolving. After all, if Obama were intent on actually doingsomething, then millions of American taxpayer dollars that help finance the expanding illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank would dry up.

Weapons sales and high-tech deals between the U.S. and Israel would be placed on hold. Obama would demand an immediate end to Israel’s siege of Gaza, a blockade of goods enforced since 2009. Netanyahu’s new hard-right cabinet filled with open racists and opponents of any Palestinian state would have been challenged. Yet none of these actions were even considered.

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WHEN IT comes to Obama in Israel, as at home, it’s crucial to follow the money and the weapons, not the words.

Though in all truth, even the words betray a policy of continued full-throated support for Israel. When Obama insists “Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state” as the starting point for negotiations, he is essentially demanding that Palestinians concede ongoing occupation by an ethnocracy and the implicit apartheid regime of laws that comes with it. As with past presidents, Obama calls for Palestinians to embrace their own dispossession as the entry point to “peace talks.”

The phone call Obama arranged between Netanyahu and Turkey’s Erdogan was an effort to confront the central geostrategic issues hanging over the entire visit. Containing Syria’s ongoing revolution and stanching Iran’s supposed nuclear weapons development were central to this diplomatic mission.

On the surface, the call was about Netanyahu apologizing to Erdogan for a raid by Israeli commandos on an unarmed Turkish humanitarian flotilla, the Mavi Marmara, that killed nine activists on board the ship in the middle of the night in the Mediterranean Sea in May 2010.

The three-way call established that Israel will pay reparations to the families of the dead and Turkey will cease legal actions against Israel for the cold-blooded murders of the nine.

As the Palestinian member of Israel’s Knesset, Hanin Zoabi, who was on the Mavi Marmara, countered: “The issue is not only Marmara; Marmara was the small crime. The big crime was the siege on Gaza.”

Whatever words were uttered about easing the years-long blockade of Gaza, little is likely to change on that front so long as Israel controls the flow of goods, resources and people in and out of Gaza. But the real point of the call was for Obama to formally reconcile two of his most important and comparatively stable allies in the region. Containing the two regional powers, Iran and Syria, is far more difficult without unity between Israel and Turkey.

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AND OBAMA needs a beefed-up guardian in the Middle East gateway to Asian expansion westward as part of his overarching mission to push back China, too.

It’s become clear to both the U.S. and Israeli administrations that their longtime ally in Syria, the dictator Bashar al-Assad, can no longer hang on to power in the face of a popular uprising, which began as a revolutionary upheaval and now appears to have become a civil war that’s killed at least 70,000.

Even before Obama landed in Tel Aviv, Israeli and U.S. warmongers were peddling unconfirmed reports of chemical weapons being used in Syria in order to pressure the Obama administration to approve direct U.S. military involvement there. Turkey, Israel and the U.S. had already been working behind the scenes to select a Syrian-born American, information technology executive Ghassan Hitto, to be the first “prime minister of an interim Syrian government” elected by the unrepresentative, Western-backed Syrian National Council.

As for Iran, Israel would prefer a direct hit against Tehran for its supposed development of nuclear weapons, but the U.S. imposition of deadly sanctions on that country will do for now. And diplomacy is quickly jettisoned when the U.S. and Israel collude in illegal targeted assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, as they did in early January 2013.

While some may see hope in Obama’s soothing words for Palestinians and others seeking justice in the region, such hopes in Obama are misplaced. The relationship between the U.S. and Israel must remain sacrosanct. They need each other desperately now, as even Muslim Brotherhood allies over the border in Egypt are facing broadening opposition from strikes and protests.

In a dangerous world with shifting alliances, military and economic competition and depression, the U.S. empire needs its loyal Israeli vassal more than ever.

Equality’s Racism: Using LGBT Rights to Veil Apartheid

Imagine the magazine Good Housekeeping awarding the Texas Department of Corrections its seal of approval for the cleanliness of its death row — pristine conditions, though the seating’s a bit clunky!

There is something obscene about an organization devoted to equality planning to feature at its national summit a theocratic police state whose existence is founded on the expulsion and ongoing repression of its indigenous population.

Equality Forum, a nonprofit organization whose mission “is to advance national and international lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights through education,” is hosting Israel’s ambassador to the United States as their keynote speaker and featuring Israeli artists at their May conference in Philadelphia. Its celebration of Israel’s purported LGBT civil rights is truly an elaborate expression of totally missing the point.

Even the international human rights expert UN Special Rapporteur Miloon Kothari condemns the policies of the Israeli state that systematically discriminates against its non-Jewish population: “the basic theocratic character of the Israeli legal system establishes ethnic criteria as the grounds for the enjoyment of full rights.” In other words, the oppression of 20 percent of Israel’s population who are Palestinian — LGBT and straight — as well as the dispossession of the millions who are virtually imprisoned behind hundreds of miles of militarized walls in the Occupied Territories, expose the lie of Israel’s supposed democracy.

Despite Israel’s ongoing defiance of international law in the service of its 64-year occupation of Palestine, its institutionalized brutalization and daily humiliation of its native population, Equality Forum is embracing a campaign by Israel’s marketers known as pinkwashing. According to Palestinian LGBT activists, “‘Pinkwashing’ is the appropriation of queer voices in order to shift focus from human rights and international law violations committed by the State of Israel, to an image of Israel as progressive, tolerant and ‘gay-friendly.'”

If Equality Forum goes ahead with this vile charade, they will not only play into the hands of those who wish to cleanse the crimes of Israel by extolling the virtues of having openly gay soldiers crack Palestinian heads, but they will make themselves the target of an international boycott campaign.

I wrote to Equality Forum’s director, Malcolm Lazin, as soon as I read of their selection of Israel as their “featured nation” this year. Mr. Lazin replied by listing Israel’s LGBT reforms, that in reality only fully exist for Jewish LGBT citizens, and he cited Tel Aviv’s status as “Best Gay City of 2011,” according to GayCities.com. He concluded, “Like the U.S. and other nations, Israel has not fully realized its promise of equality to all its citizens. These important issues and others are being debated under freedom of speech, press and assembly in Israel and elsewhere.”

I suppose “not fully realized its promise of equality,” could refer to the “apartheid regime” which “discriminates daily against Israeli Arabs and other minorities,” according to Jewish-Israeli politician, Roman Bronfman. Or it could be interpreted as “a political arrangement that limits democracy to a privileged class that keeps others behind military checkpoints, barbed-wire fences and separation walls,” as former head of the American Jewish Congress, Henry Seligman, puts it.

But that would surely be the most inexplicably polite way of describing a nation which has been under an official “state of emergency” since its founding in 1948. This allows for extra police powers in order to do things like arrest and detain hundreds of children, many as young as 12 years old, for throwing stones at tanks and armed soldiers, according to the Israeli human rights group B’tselem. Israel launches frequent bombing raids into the Gaza Strip, under the pretext of security — attacks punctuated by outright massacres, as in Operation Cast Lead in 2008–09, when more than 1,400 Gazans were murdered; whereas 13 Israelis died, mostly soldiers, 4 from friendly fire.

It is a sad reflection of the primitive consciousness of a swath of the LGBT movement that the Equality Forum would justify highlighting Israel’s LGBT rights despite growing international exposure of that nation’s racist policies, including from LGBT voices within Palestine.

As Palestinian LGBT activist Haneen Maikey explains, “It doesn’t matter what the sexual orientation of the soldier at a checkpoint is, whether he can serve openly or not. What matters is that he’s there at all.” Sami Shamali, also a member of the Palestinian LGBT group, Al Qaws, agreed, “the apartheid wall was not created to keep Palestinian homophobes out of Gay Israel, and there is no magic door for gay Palestinians to pass through.”

A recent delegation of LGBT activists, artists and cultural workers from the United States traveled to Israel-Palestine and published a poignantly detailed eyewitness account of their trip in an open letter. To the great credit of this delegation, they rise above the aggressively narrow viewpoint lauded by Equality Forum, which appears to judge human rights through the lens of sexuality issues alone.

In one sentence they skewer the implicit racism and colonial mindset behind pinkwashing’s attempt to shine a light on LGBT rights in Israel versus the homophobia of some Arab societies. They write, “It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate — homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society – and that this is beside the point: Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population.”

Bravo to the sisters and brothers who penned these words!

In Malcolm Lazin’s e-mail to me, he noted that there is a healthy debate about these policies in Israel and elsewhere. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Equality Forum’s own program, in fact, makes no mention of the devastated lives of Palestinians, queer and straight, and, not surprisingly, there is no Palestinian speaker on the program to expose these harsh truths.

I believe the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which aims to expose and punish Israel’s criminal behavior and demand an end to their apartheid policies, should put out a call to boycott Equality Forum’s conference in May 2012.

More than anything right now, Israel fears “delegitimization,” especially in the eyes of Americans whose government finances the apartheid state to the tune of at least $3 billion every year. Yet Israel’s own actions delegitimize that state in the eyes of anyone with a whiff of social conscience.

It is up to activists — Jewish lesbians like myself, straight gentiles, everyone who cares about social justice — to stand up to Israel’s racist policies and those who help to veil them.

Sherry Wolf, author of Sexuality and Socialism, will be speaking on pinkwashing alongside Palestinian activists at the UPenn BDS conference Saturday, February 4, 2012. Wolf is available as a public speaker on Palestine, sexuality, socialism  and many other issues.

What’s So Gay About Apartheid?

My article below was first published in The Advocate, Aug. 11, 2011.

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A Palestinian youth throws a stone toward soldiers standing on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier following a demonstration on June 3 against settlements.

When a serious scholar like Lillian Faderman argues that LGBT people must stand with Israel in an op-ed for The Advocate where she attacks the growing number of pro-Palestine LGBT activists for our supposed “insane logic or misinformation,” activists must respond.

Faderman argues that because Israel has more progressive legislation regarding LGBT people than other Middle Eastern countries, as well as the United States, we ought to support Israel. What an aggressively narrow vision Faderman advocates for our movement. Just because LGBT Jewish Israelis enjoy some basic reforms is no reason to ignore the racist, colonialist and inhumane policies of that nation.

“Why would we work against such a country?” Faderman asks. How about the facts that Israel has brazenly occupied Palestinian land for decades, in defiance of international law, and denies equal rights to its Arab citizens, 20 percent of the population? Or that Israel periodically bombs the imprisoned 1.5 million people of Gaza, including its LGBT population, and jails, tortures and kills people who try and peacefully challenge Israel’s brutality and apartheid.

If white LGBT people in the United States were to apply Faderman’s logic regarding Israel to our own country, then white queers would never stand alongside our Black and Brown brothers and sisters to advance their civil rights. Hers is not only an argument against solidarity to fight all oppressions, but also for LGBT people to accept racism as a palatable necessity in the extension of our rights. Progressives must reject this reactionary proposition.

Israel is on a campaign to whitewash its crimes against Palestinians with a marketing blitz to promote its pro-LGBT policies, which Palestinian queers call “pinkwashing.” At a San Francisco forum earlier this year, Palestinian LGBT activist Haneen Maikey explained, “It doesn’t matter what the sexual orientation of the soldier at a checkpoint is, whether he can serve openly or not. What matters is that he’s there at all.” Sami Shamali, also a member of the Palestinian LGBT group, Al Qaws, agreed, “the apartheid wall was not created to keep Palestinian homophobes out of Gay Israel, and there is no magic door for gay Palestinians to pass through.”

The institutional racism of the Israeli state is not only in gross violation of international law, but also defies any sense of human decency. B’Tselem, the Israeli human rights organization, recently reported that 93 percent of Palestinian children caught throwing stones at heavily armed Israeli soldiers are jailed, including those under the age of 14.

Longtime Israeli adviser Dov Weisglass justifies the blockade of Gaza that has led to widespread malnutrition as a means to “put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

It’s not only Palestinians and solidarity activists who view Israel as an apartheid state, but many of its own Jewish politicians and supporters describe it that way. For example, Roman Bronfman, a former member of Israel’s Knesset, argues, “The policy of apartheid has also infiltrated sovereign Israel, and discriminates daily against Israeli Arabs and other minorities.”

The former head of the American Jewish Congress, Henry Siegman, challenges that oft-repeated lie that “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East”: “A political arrangement that limits democracy to a privileged class and keeps others behind military checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls does not define democracy. It defines its absence.”

In her op-ed, Faderman repeats familiar tropes about the Arab world and homophobia, so often attributed to Islam, without any reference to the legacy of Western colonialism. Virtually all Western societies until recently were antigay, which they spread to their territories; and the three major religions originating in the Middle East—Christianity, Islam and Judaism—have all been interpreted as homophobic throughout the centuries.

In the colonizer countries of the West, industrialism gave rise to a growth of secularism and the explosion of social movements that demanded LGBT equality. In much of the Arab world, these developments were stymied—and continue to be in most countries—by brutal dictatorships in cahoots with the West.

In the case of Egypt, which Faderman explicitly cites for its LGBT repression, the now-deposed dictator, Hosni Mubarak, was a close ally of both the U.S. and Israel. In fact, Israel defended Mubarak to the bitter end.

In Palestine, a largely secular and leftist tradition was smashed, and most of its left leaders were exiled, jailed or killed by Israel. Pointing an accusatory finger at Palestinian leaders’ illiberal stance toward LGBT people today is obscene. To ignore Israel’s dispossession, occupation and immiseration of 10.6 million Palestinians in the world and then expect sexually liberatory ideals to flourish under such a condition is absurd. No population anywhere on Earth has risen to such expectations.

As a result of pressure from a global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, the general assembly meeting of the International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organization was canceled a few weeks ago from its original Israeli site. This is great news and a sign that more and more LGBT activists are rejecting Israel’s pinkwashing in favor of the politics of solidarity. I hope Faderman comes to reject her position and joins us. Either way, the BDS struggle continues.

Is Boycotting Israel anti-Semitic?

The video above was taken at the University of Rochester on February 27, 2009, by Adriano Contreras of The Sitch. It focuses on similarities and differences between Israeli and S. African apartheid. The article below, “Is Boycotting Israel Anti-Semitic?” also appears as my column today in Socialist Worker.

ISRAEL’S SUPPORTERS wield the accusation that Palestine solidarity activists who support a boycott of Israel are guilty of anti-Semitism.

Because this charge is so repugnant to progressives, as Zionists are all too aware, it can have the effect of shutting down any debate about Israel’s crimes. In particular, the charge is leveled at the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which seeks a campaign until Israel “meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law,” as stated in the BDS call to action.

The outlandish charges by Israel’s defenders against pro-Palestine activists reach the heights of hysteria on Web sites like BoycottIsrael.org.uk, which falsely poses as “The official boycott Israel site” and is headlined, “The real Palestine story is just anti-Semitism re-branded–instigated and supported by the storm troopers of our time.”

There you have it. According to them, support for a boycott of Israel, which acts in open defiance of international laws and any unbiased person’s moral code, is nouveau-Nazism.

This accusation is not simply an odious lie, it is an attempt to manipulate hatred of anti-Semitism to draw attention away from the ongoing Israeli crimes of dispossession, systematic racism, collective punishment and wholesale warfare on a population guilty of nothing other than their own existence.

It is an old debaters’ ruse that when you don’t have the facts on your side, change the subject. That’s what the charge of anti-Semitism is really all about.

When Zionists claim that acts of anti-Semitism, which are on the rise in some places, are the result of the BDS movement, activists must confidently confront them with reality. The BDS movement has always condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, and none of its materials nor actions make appeals to anti-Jewish sentiment.

Omar Barghouti, a BDS movement leader, visited Rome last spring, and this is how journalist Max Blumenthal reported on his response to this mischaracterization of the boycott campaign:

Regarding the accusation of anti-Semitism frequently leveled at BDS, he replied that such an accusation is in itself anti-Semitic, inasmuch as it creates an equivalence between all Jews and Israeli policies, implying that Jews are monolithic, and that all Jews should be held responsible for Israel’s actions.

Such generalizations and the idea of collective Jewish responsibility are fundamentally anti-Semitic. He called upon Europeans to stop assuaging their Holocaust guilt by oppressing the victims of the victims of the Holocaust.

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KNOWING THE history of Palestinian oppression is indispensable in combating this myth.

The expulsion in 1948 of nearly 700,000 Palestinians from their homeland as part of a colonial-settler project undertaken by Zionists and supported by the United States is an uncontestable point of history, about which anyone is welcome to their own opinion, but not their own version of the facts. It happened.

As Israeli-born Jewish historian Ilan Pappé writes in A History of Modern Palestine:

Out of about 850,000 Palestinians living in the territories designated by the UN as a Jewish state, only 160,000 remained [by 1949] on or nearby their land and homes. Those who remained became the Palestinian minority in Israel. The rest were expelled or fled under the threat of expulsion, and a few thousand died in massacres.

Palestinians were driven from their land, some by the self-described terrorists of the Zionist Irgun and Stern Gang. Today, most of the world’s Palestinian population lives in exile outside of Israel and in the Palestine Occupied Territories, with no right to return to the land of their ancestors. This refusal of return is in stark contrast to the Law of Return that virtually guarantees citizenship to Jews from around the world–even if they have no family there, have never before visited, nor speak the Hebrew language.

The horrifying conditions of malnutrition, mass unemployment and wholesale deprivation in the Gaza Strip are often detailed by SocialistWorker.org, as are the atrocious facts of life for those Arabs living in the West Bank, where hundreds of miles of separation walls with militarized checkpoints confine the daily lives of every Palestinian.

But less is written about Palestinian citizens of Israel–those who live outside of the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza, but inside the borders of Israel–who live under a separate set of laws. That is, they live under apartheid conditions. If not for the horrors of the Holocaust, most people would readily agree that a nation with privileges and rights for one ethnic group and not the others is racist. By any objective measure, Israel is, in fact, a racist state.

For example, all residents of Israel must register their ethnicity–Jewish, Arab, Druze–because different rights accrue to different peoples, and all must carry identity cards that have this information at all times. Non-Jews of Israel, of whom there are more than 1 million, are treated more like residents without a nationality or equal rights.

This became shockingly clear in July when a Palestinian Israeli man was convicted of raping a Jewish Israeli woman in Jerusalem even though the couple had consensual sex. Because the man had lied about his nationality and deceived her, he was convicted of rape.

As Jewish Israeli journalist Gideon Levy argued, “I would like to raise only one question with the judge. What if this guy had been a Jew who pretended to be a Muslim and had sex with a Muslim woman? Would he have been convicted of rape? The answer is: of course not.”

Ninety-three percent of the land in Israel is nationalized and controlled by the Jewish National Fund and the Jewish Agency, which denies Arabs the right to buy or even rent land, while Jews can easily do so.

Facts are facts. Israel claims to be a Jewish state that aims to “transfer,” better known as cleanse, Palestinians in order to maintain its demographic Jewish majority. Therefore, it is trying to taint a global justice movement with charges of anti-Semitism so that Israel will not be turned into a pariah state for its apartheid laws and unconscionable war crimes.

That some people in the world might falsely conflate Judaism with Zionism is perhaps because the state of Israel does so itself. That is not a brush Zionists can paint the BDS movement with, however.

Jews such as Pappé, Levy, Blumenthal and a growing army of lesser-known pro-Palestinian Jews, including myself, are willing to call out Israel for its thwarting of international law and basic norms of humanity. And we especially, the children and grandchildren of the Holocaust generation, will not allow accusations of anti-Semitism to muddy the waters.

The BDS movement is a struggle for social, political and economic justice. Join it.

Sherry Wolf , a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Palestine, Sexuality and Socialism, How Can We Unite and Fight the Right and other topics at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of theInternational Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation(Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.

How Do You Make a Bomb With a Kazoo?

If I were a college student, I would grab some friends and a card table and make a beeline for the busiest spot on campus to set up shop. On the table I’d place a chicken breast, a two-by-four and a kazoo and hang a sign reading: “How do you make a bomb with these?”

Fresh meat, wood and kazoos are among the dozens of items banned in Gaza by the Israeli state under the pretext that weapons could be made of them to attack Israelis. To be fair, kazoos are not specifically mentioned—though fresh meat and wood for construction are—but ALL musical instruments are banned from the Strip and I figure even a strapped American student can purchase a kazoo from a 99-cent store.

In fact, in the Kafkaesque world of Israeli state sanctions on Gaza no actual list is published and the banned items must be deduced from the day-to-day practices of the authorities. An up-to-date list is maintained at Gisha.

This week marks exactly three years since Gaza, the open-air prison camp of 1.5 million, was named an “enemy entity” by its warden, the Israeli state. While the policies that have isolated and stranded Gazans in a Mediterranean hell began in 1991, they have intensified since Hamas took control in 2007 following elections that all international observers agree were democratically run.

Wrap your brain around that for a moment. Nineteen-year-old Gazans—the age of many college sophomores—have only known stultifying restrictions on their movements inside the territory. A generation was born and has now reached maturity never having traveled even as far as the 48 miles between Gaza City and Jerusalem.

An essay by Harvard scholar Sara Roy in the newly released Midnight on the Mavi Marmara reveals the outcome of Israel’s blockade. Seventy-five percent of the population is dependent on humanitarian aid, chronic malnourishment is rampant and 90–95 percent of all water is “unfit for drinking.” Regarding the sewage-steeped water, the United Nations’ Goldstone Report declares, “Gaza may not even be habitable by World Health Organization norms.”

In attempting to render Hamas a pariah leadership to Gazans, Israel has not only created a humanitarian catastrophe, but actually strengthened the hand of its stated enemy. The formal banking sector obliterated, Hamas stands as “the key financial middleman,” according to Roy.

In Mavi Marmara, Israeli journalist Amira Hass adds that the rule of Hamas only grows stronger as the desperation serves to concentrate their power, if not their popularity.

Israeli state propagandists would like everyone to believe that even Jews in solidarity with Palestine are secretly in cahoots with Hamas. They talk as if secular reds like me raised on Bar Mitzvahs and basketball want to drive Jews into the sea. What? Why would I want to push my parents into the East River? Or the Mediterranean?!

Listen. We on the left are accustomed to taking on sisyphian tasks like ending imperialism or stopping global warming. This is not one of them. Ending the siege of Gaza—breaking the blockade—and establishing basic human norms for Palestinians is within our reach.

Last week, even the British Trades Union Council voted to extend its boycott of Israeli goods in solidarity with their brothers and sisters in Palestine. Ever since the killing of nine humanitarian aid activists on the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship on May 31, 2010, the movement has expanded to include European governments and students worldwide.

We must act with clarity of vision and urgency to expose Israel’s crimes and build the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. You can even start with a card table and a kazoo.

If you’re in the NY Metro area, come out to the Siege Busters’ Ball fundraiser Tuesday, Sept. 21, at Littlefield’s in Brooklyn. And do not even think of missing out on the book launch for Midnight on the Mavi Marmara the following Tuesday, Sept. 28, at 7PM, with a panel that includes an embarrassment of riches: Moustafa Bayoumi, Rashid Khalidi, Arun Gupta, Max Blumenthal, Phil Weiss, Adam Horowitz, and Alia Malek.

Sherry Wolf is a public speaker, writer and activist who is available to speak on Breaking the Siege of Gaza at your campus, community center or union hall for a moderate fee. Wolf is the associate editor of the International Socialist Review and author of Sexuality and Socialism: History, Politics and Theory of LGBT Liberation (Haymarket Books, named one of theProgressive’s “Favorite Books of 2009”). Contact Sherry at: sherrywolf2000 at yahoo.com or find her on Facebook. Check out the video of Sherry speaking with Cleve Jones and the cast of Hair at the National Equality March.