Tag Archives: Israeli apartheid

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.

NY’s Deadly Deal with Apartheid

A DEADLY drone, modeled on the dragonfly insect, with a 9-inch wingspan. Four-wheeled mini-robots with panoramic video-imaging capabilities that perform surveillance without risk of harm to their human monitors. Unmanned armored bulldozers that can demolish property without exposing their distant operators to retaliation.

These are just a few of the weapons in an arsenal developed or under development by New York City’s newest partner–the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.

A few days before Christmas last year, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced plans for a $2 billion research campus to be constructed in partnership with Cornell University, Technion and the City of New York.

Proclaiming that “New York City’s goal of becoming the global leader in technological innovation is now within sight,” Mayor Bloomberg pledged $100 million in taxpayer money for the new venture. It will be added to a $350 million gift to Cornell from alumnus Charles F. Feeney to fund construction of the 2 million-square-foot state-of-the-art research institute to be built on Roosevelt Island, which lies in the East River between Manhattan and Queens.

New York’s media, including its “paper of record,” the New York Times, ran with the giddy story of the estimated 20,000 construction jobs, 600 new businesses, billions in projected revenue and 30,000 permanent jobs that will supposedly result from the research campus. Touting sophisticated environmental standards of construction and energy use, press releases have also heralded the educational opportunities this campus could offer not just experts, but budding scientists in New York’s public schools.

With rare exceptions like WBAI’s Law and Disorder and the website Mondoweiss, the media neglected to mention Technion’s extensive military and political connections to apartheid Israel. Shir Hever, an Israeli researcher, explains that Technion “has all but enlisted itself in the [Israeli] military.”

Technion is a sort of MIT and Harvard rolled into one. Founded in 1923, before the state of Israel, Technion’s first palm tree was even planted by none other than Albert Einstein. The Haifa-based university schools the military and academic elite of Israel.

According to Montreal-based social justice collective Tadamon, 80 percent of Israel’s NASDAQ companies and 74 percent of its electronic companies are run by Technion graduates. Active-duty Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers, officers and reservists are granted a range of perks by the university–none of which are available to Palestinians, who do not serve in a military that largely exists to maintain and extend Israel’s 64-year occupation of Palestinian land.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

UNDER THE anodyne classification of “applied sciences,” Technion’s research accomplishments read like a what’s what of science fiction, full of unmanned drones, pilotless surveillance gizmos and driverless bulldozers.

The Jerusalem Post reports that Technion’s D9 unmanned armored tank performed so magnificently during Israel’s massacre of 1,400 Gazans in the 2008-09 Operation Cast Lead that the IDF doubled its order.

Journalist Max Blumenthal reported about the drone plane based on the dragonfly, with a 9-inch wingspan and 8-inch body. According to a quote Blumenthal cited from the American Technion Society website, “The plane’s relatively low speed enables it to easily enter rooms through small windows and to send back photos from a miniature camera.”

Technion personnel have worked on means to track human eye movements–in collaboration with Elbit, a key developer of Israel’s apartheid wall, illegal under international law, that slices through the occupied West Bank.

Technion is also a global expert in developing mini-robots capable of traversing rubble and planting bombs, as well as building “surveillance snakes”–whose goal is to explore the tunnels that are crucial for transporting desperately needed banned goods into blockaded Gaza, where 1.6 million Palestinians barely scrape by.

In this era of neoliberalism, Technion’s invention of clever military gadgets that require minimal labor is a budget-cutter’s dream come true.

Not surprisingly, Palestinians aren’t the only victims of Technion’s “applied sciences.” North America’s own apartheid wall along the U.S.-Mexico border uses surveillance technology developed by Technion. And stealth drones that the U.S. has used to such deadly effect in Pakistan are also developed by Technion.

With U.S. unemployment still devastatingly high–even the right-wing New York Postadmits real unemployment is 15.6 percent–it’s hardly surprising that news of this enormous construction and research project is widely viewed as a boon to New York’s economy.

But under the guise of research, this deal would cement a lucrative bond between the financial capital of the U.S. empire and Israel’s military-industrial complex.

Protest against this deal has already appeared from the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI). Calling on Cornell to scrap its joint campus project with Technion, the USACBI argued:

They provide the knowledge that undergirds Israel’s ongoing colonial project. Technion, like all Israeli academic institutions, is deeply complicit with Israel’s military, providing it with the technological infrastructure to maintain and expand its ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land.

Is it any wonder that an institution best known for stealth technology is hiding its real actions, in cahoots with the billionaire mayor and other city officials, beneath a cloak of academic respectability?

What is true of Cornell’s collaboration with Technion is also the case for New York City. Since New Yorkers are being asked to pay $100 million toward this deal, we should at least be able to debate whether we want to bankroll apartheid’s wars and ghettos.

We have to question the reason for this research in the first place. Why must there be unmanned contraptions used to spy on and target a hungry, dispossessed population? Why are billions of dollars and great mental effort being directed toward developing machines that kill or maim–or help to do so–surreptitiously anywhere in the world?

True, many major research institutions have contracts with military and espionage outfits the world over. But the architects of this colossal deal, which would use significant public funds, have been mute about the nefarious activities of one of its partners.

Why? If they have nothing to hide, let them pitch the deal for what it is–a contract with apartheid’s enforcers.

Why, we have to ask, in a city known the world over for its multiculturalism and diversity, is a research institution that will serve ethnic cleansing even tolerated?

New York City is home to the world’s largest Jewish community living outside of Israel–around 2 million people. It is also home to one of the largest Arab communities in the U.S.–more than 370,000, according to U.S. Census figures.

It would be a sick tribute to the militarized profit system if America’s foremost urban symbol of ethnic diversity and cosmopolitanism, New York City, winds up home to an institution devoted to stealth warfare to achieve ethnic segregation.

This article originally appeared in SocialistWorker.org

What’s So Gay About Apartheid?

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

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.

Stupid Crap People Insist Is True

Why do some people embrace stupidities, bullshit and outrageous lies no matter how many facts are thrown at them?

A study came out a while back about how despite the facts, many people will hold onto misperceptions —or outright lies—no matter how many well-documented facts are presented. If the comment section of the last column I wrote that appears in The Advocate is any indication (see March 2 posting), those researchers are onto something.

In it, I present quotes and figures about the inequality of Jews and Palestinians  to make a case for Israel’s apartheid nature. In response, every nimrod with a wifi connection calls me a self-hating Jew/Shariah Law luvin’/quasi-Nazi bed wetter.

Of course, it’s not just this issue or lowly me that gets slammed as a charlatan for summoning the facts in an argument. President Obama could have every Supreme Court Justice sign an affidavit that he was born in the USA and a small, but vocal, percentage of Americans will go to their graves believing that he’s a Kenyan-born anti-colonialist.

But I take exception to the researchers’ summation that many people are just impervious to the facts. I think Marx had a better explanation than stubborn stupidity.

He wrote: “The ruling ideas in every society are the ideas of the ruling class.” Media, schools and even many religious institutions, which largely reflect the opinions of those in positions of power, justify the status quo and repeat falsehoods uncritically over and over again—sometimes for decades. Sheer repetition combined with a near total absence of critique has an impact on people. Advertising thrives on this fact.

When these falsehoods, like the entire story of Israel’s origins and present-day political reality, are the dominant narrative taught in schools and reported as the truth by everyone from Sarah Palin to the New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman, then of course the racist crap about Palestinians pervades social consciousness. In this particular case, we even have Obama’s FBI raiding the homes and criminalizing people who stand in solidarity with Palestinians, so the idea that Palestinians in particular, and Arabs generally, are a dubious lot is reasserted everywhere we turn.

But Marx didn’t just see us all as imprisoned inside an ideological madhouse run by wealthy moguls—though it does take on that tinge quite a bit of the time. He also saw in the working class, that is, the people who have no stake in this system and its ideological apparatus, a potential to break out of the horseshit when crappy ideas run up against social conditions that just don’t seem to fit the dominant narrative.

Madison, Wisconsin, these past two weeks is an excellent example. People are apathetic? Well, tens of thousands have mobilized to fight for workers’ rights and their solidarity and ingenuity is sparking protests in Indiana and Ohio and they’re likely to spread elsewhere in coming weeks.

Americans are hopelessly provincial and anti-Arab? Well, check out all those picket signs Americans with no knowledge of Arabic have google-translated in order to mirror what people in the Arab world are doing to help we poor monolinguists understand what they’re fighting for. I find those English to Arabic translated signs some of the most hopeful indications that genuine internationalism is not only possible, but on the agenda.

In short, we’re living through a period when many long-held notions about our world are being thrown up for questioning. The stability of empires and dictatorships and the inevitability of rich folks always getting their way are now seriously threatened in ways unimaginable less than two months ago. All because ordinary people buffeted by bullshit every day are being compelled to act in ways they may never have thought they were capable of or interested in. And it’s starting, just starting, to force a shift in consciousness.

That doesn’t mean that everyone shifts at the same time, or in the same direction, mind you. And yes, there will continue to be a swath of uber-rich and their toadies who want to keep things just as they are. In addition, a small percentage of the population really is dumb as a box of rocks and will cling to asinine ideas in the face of their own demise.

But right now there is a shift taking place in social consciousness as struggles erupt and some even win. Which means those of us challenging the status quo dare not be silent because more people are open to our ideas than ever.

As for the rest, there’s always the delete button.

I’ll be speaking tomorrow, Saturday, March 5, at the University of Cincinnati, 7PM Lindner Center Room 450.

For those in NYC, a protest has been called against the racist and anti-democratic ban of pro-Palestine groups at the LGBT Center, Sat. March 5 at 6:30PM, 13th St. bet. 7th and 8th Aves. Give ’em hell!

Doing Business With the Devil

In the summer of 1983, I travelled to Israel for several weeks between high school and life. I arrived a Zionist, I left confused.

Fed a steady diet of lies about Israel by teachers while growing up, I didn’t know what to make of the racism and arrogance of the Israelis I met. But the most disturbing encounter I had was with a group of Israeli tour guides and young soldiers relaxing in my hotel lounge in Haifa one evening. I asked them all about a news story I had read that mentioned Israel’s relationship with apartheid South Africa.

Keep in mind that this was more than a decade before the end of that hated system of racial segregation in South Africa and even a a few years prior to the first intifada.

The answer is one I’ve never forgotten. A muscly guide in a floppy sun hat stared straight at me and unapologetically boomed, “We’ll do business with the devil to stay alive.”

I said nothing in response because I was a news junkie kid with no worldview or theory,  just some loose hippie sympathies and a lifelong revulsion for inequality of every sort. But when I got to college a few weeks later, I pursued this issue with a vengeance that placed me on a path to becoming a card-carrying red (yup, we really do have cards!) with a special place in my head and heart for the struggle of Palestinians.

Naturally, when I came across a new book a few weeks back, The Unspoken Alliance: Israel’s Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa, I practically lunged at it. I wrote a review of it for the Jan–Feb International Socialist Review, which I post here.

IN JUNE 1976, thousands of Black South African school children in Johannesburg’s township of Soweto protested against the apartheid regime’s mandatory law that they study in the language of their oppressors, Afrikaans. The brutal regime of the tiny white minority government, whose power rested on racial segregation and the dispossession of Blacks, sent dogs to attack the students and fired randomly into the crowd, ultimately killing 500 mostly Black school children over the weeks of upheaval.

Meanwhile, Israeli Labor Party government officials, under the direction of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, coordinated secret arms deals and military training with the South African state. Private communiqués from Rabin marked these lucrative deals as “highest priority” along with the secrecy that marked this decades-long brotherhood of armed-to-the-teeth, state-sponsored racism. In 1994, Rabin went on to collect the Nobel Peace Prize—along with Shimon Peres, under whose administration Israel escalated its collaboration with the apartheid state.

This is among dozens of stories brought to light in Sasha Polakow-Suransky’s well-researched and written Unspoken Alliance.  Like any John le Carré spy novel, this work resonates with intrigue, stealth meetings in international cities, and lies repeated so often and with such confidence by the perpetrators of the collaboration that it is left to the evidence in this book and few others to bear witness to the bond between these two apartheid states. The historical facts Polakow-Suransky lays out and the sources he draws from strike the ultimate blow to any further denials of Israel’s multibillion-dollar, pro-apartheid business.

Israeli leaders, from Golda Meir in the 1940s through Rabin in 1994, at the fall of South African apartheid, were willing to look past the anti-Semitism of apartheid rulers—some with Nazi pasts—to “make agreements with the devil,” as one Israeli Holocaust survivor approvingly put it. South Africa’s 100,000 Jews were used as scapegoats for domestic nationalists during the Second World War and deemed “unassimilable” by its foreign minister. Nonetheless, Israel’s backroom dealings with the racist state were codified in a security and secrecy agreement in 1975. Peres and South African prime minister P.W. Botha signed an arms agreement, known as SECMENT, that stated, “It is hereby expressly agreed that the very existence of this Agreement…shall be secret and shall not be disclosed by either party.”

What’s striking about the relationship is how Israel used verbal condemnation for racial apartheid as a cover for its ongoing dealings with South Africa. In 1963, Golda Meir, echoed contemporary anti-racist sympathies by pledging that Israel had “taken all necessary steps” to stop any arms trading between the two states. Prime Minister Peres’s denunciations were even more categorical a few years later when he told the president of Cameroon, “A Jew who accepts apartheid ceases to be a Jew. A Jew and racism do not go together.” All rhetoric aside, after Israel proved its military metal in the Six-Day War of 1967, arms exports to South Africa skyrocketed to $1 billion by 1981.

Israel’s close relationships with African anti-colonialists such as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah and the fact that ten African states received military training from Israel in the sixties made it the soft alternative, at least on the surface, for newly independent African states seeking to chart a course beyond the Cold War tensions between the United States and Soviet Union. However, arms from Israel were often funneled through Pretoria to anti-Soviet paramilitary forces in order to halt the Soviet Union from gaining a foothold in nearby Angola. In the early eighties, Israeli Defense minister and war criminal, Ariel Sharon, called for the arming of Angolan anti-Soviet forces in the pages of the New York Times.

Israel has often publicized quotes from major Black American civil rights figures as armor in its defense against claims of its own racism and apartheid. Martin Luther King once argued, “When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.” Or Israelis cite Adam Clayton Powell’s role in raising $150,000 for the Zionist Irgun in the 1940s. These men’s words and actions in the midst of the Holocaust in one case and at the height of the civil rights struggles when Israel’s brutality was mostly hidden and denied don’t cleanse Israel of its crimes then or now.

Sherry Wolf is associate editor of the ISR and a member of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network.

No to “Pinkwashing” Israeli Apartheid

As a member of the NY chapter of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN), I helped pen the statement being circulated, below, against the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) attempt to provide a progressive veneer for their racist actions. Please read this brief statement and click on the link to sign it, if you agree. A protest is being organized in NYC for this Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010.

No to JNF’s Pinkwashing of

Israeli Apartheid

Statement of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

As lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) and straight activists and scholars, we condemn the Jewish National Fund’s launch of a new LGBT committee in New York City on December 9, 2010, for what it is: an attempt to “pinkwash” the JNF’s central role in acquiring Palestinian land on which to build the Israeli apartheid state.Most immediately, this campaign is designed to cover up the ugly fact that Palestinians, with few exceptions, are effectively barred from living on 93 % of land in 1948 Palestine (“Israel”). That 93% is land controlled by the Israel Land Authority – a government body in turn controlled by a council on which the JNF holds just under half of the seats. The JNF’s LGBT committee is also part of a well-orchestrated campaign to deflect growing international outrage over Israel’s six decade-long occupation of Palestine, including its continued denial of basic human rights to the indigenous population, the brutal siege of Gaza, and the recent massacre of humanitarian aid activists on the Gaza Freedom flotilla. 

This campaign is the latest addition to the Israeli state’s concerted efforts to portray Israel as a gay tourist destination based on its tolerance for diversity – despite the entire Israeli social fabric being woven to exclude and erase Palestinian culture, livelihood and lives. This includes the culture and history of LGBT Palestinians – who often face increased harassment at checkpoints from Israeli soldiers, due to their sexual identity. Clearly, any gains made by Jewish LGBT Israelis are not shared by Palestinians.

We stand in support of both LGBT rights and an end to Israeli apartheid. We therefore condemn the JNF’s tokenizing of the long fought for rights of LGBT communities for the purposes of erasing the ongoing struggle for the rights of Palestinians.

Click here to sign: http://www.ijsn.net/643/

Reading & Discussion – Gaza In Crisis: Reflections on Israel’s War Against the Palestinians, by  Ilan Pappé

Friday, December 10th, 7pm–Acclaimed Israeli New Historian

At Alwan for the Arts
Free and open to the public 

Described by a UN fact-finding mission as “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population,” Israel’s Operation Cast Lead thrust the humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip into the center of the debate about the Israel/Palestine conflict. Ilan Pappé surveys the fallout from Israel’s conduct in Gaza and places it in the context of Israel’s longstanding occupation of Palestine.

Ilan Pappé is professor of history at the University of Exeter in the UK, where he is also co-director of the Exeter Center for Ethno-Political Studies, and director of the Palestine Studies Centre. He is author of the bestselling The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (Oneworld), A History of Modern Palestine (Cambridge), The Israel/Palestine Question (Routledge), and is a long-time political activist.

“Ilan Pappé is Israel’s bravest, most principled, most incisive historian.” —John Pilger