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Boycott Drive Gains Strength, Raising Alarm in Israel

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In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, French demonstrators and supporters of Palestinians hold a placard with the word "Boycott" during a demonstration in Paris, France. A campaign called BDS, which was started by Palestinian activists 10 years ago to boycott Israel, has grown into a worldwide network of thousands of volunteers lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel. (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)

In this Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 file photo, French demonstrators and supporters of Palestinians hold a placard with the word “Boycott” during a demonstration in Paris, France.  (AP Photo/Jacques Brinon, File)

TIA GOLDENBERG, Associated Press

JERUSALEM (AP) — Ten years ago, a small group of Palestinian activists had a novel idea: Inspired by the anti-apartheid movement, they called for a global boycott movement against Israel as a nonviolent method to promote the Palestinian struggle for independence.

Long confined to the sidelines, the so-called BDS movement appears to be gaining momentum — so much so that Israel has identified it as a strategic threat on a par with Palestinian militant groups and the Iranian nuclear program. While Israel says the movement is rooted in anti-Semitism, its decentralized organization and language calling for universal human rights have proven difficult to counter, resulting in a string of recent victories that have alarmed Israeli leaders.

“We are now beginning to harvest the fruits of 10 years of strategic, morally consistent and undeniably effective BDS campaigning,” said Omar Barghouti, one of the group’s co-founders. “BDS is winning the battles for hearts and minds across the world, despite Israel’s still hegemonic influence among governments in the U.S. and Europe.”

The BDS movement — named for its call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel — began as an idea by 170 Palestinian civil society groups worldwide in 2005. It has grown into a global network of thousands of volunteers lobbying corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel.

Its members include campus activists, church groups and even liberal American Jews disillusioned by Israeli policies.

Most worrying for Israel, some of the group’s core positions toward products made in West Bank settlements are starting to be embraced by European governments. Although the EU says it opposes boycotts of Israel, it is exploring guidelines for labeling settlement products, which many in Israel fear could be a precursor to a full-fledged ban. Settlement products, which make up a tiny percentage of Israeli exports, include wines, dates and cosmetics.

At a time when peace efforts are frozen and show no sign of getting back on track under a new hard-line government, Israelis fear such sentiment will increase.

“The concern is that there will be a spillover to a much wider phenomenon that will become mainstream and erode support for Israel,” said Emmanuel Nahshon of Israel’s Foreign Ministry.

The BDS movement has three goals: to end Israel’s occupation of territories captured in the 1967 Mideast war, to end discrimination suffered by Arab citizens of Israel, and to promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to family properties lost in the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.

For Israel, this last position is nothing less than a call for its destruction. Israel opposes the Palestinian “right of return,” saying a massive influx of refugees would mean the end of the country as a Jewish state. The international community favors a “two-state solution” creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and even Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has indicated willingness to compromise on the refugee issue under a final peace deal.

Barghouti, a U.S.-educated engineer who also holds a graduate degree at Israel’s Tel Aviv University, said the BDS movement is “completely neutral” on the political solution to the conflict. But he said he represents the Palestinian “consensus,” and any deal that “undermines our basic rights under international law and perpetuates the colonial oppression” is unacceptable.

As for his attendance at a university he asks others to boycott, he said Palestinians “cannot possibly observe the same boycott guidelines as asked of internationals,” adding that the “indigenous population” is entitled to all services they can get from the system.

Israeli leaders consider the movement to be the latest in a history of antagonists out to destroy the Jewish people.

“We are in the midst of a great struggle being waged against the state of Israel, an international campaign to blacken its name,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently. “It is not connected to our actions. It is connected to our very existence.”

The BDS movement is led by a West Bank-based national committee with representatives from around the world, which sets guidelines but allows local branches to decide their own strategy. It focuses on battles with a reasonable chance of success. So some of the biggest companies active in Israel, such as Microsoft and Intel, have not been targeted.

Battles have taken place in U.S. food co-ops and city councils. The movement has helped organize several boycotts by U.S. and British academic unions and has made inroads on American campuses. Roughly a dozen student governments have approved divestment proposals.

Entertainers, including Roger Waters, Elvis Costello and Lauryn Hill have refused to perform in Israel. The BDS movement also claims responsibility for pressuring some large companies to stop or alter operations in Israel, including carbonated drink maker SodaStream, French construction company Veolia and international security firm G4S.

Last month, Britain’s national student union joined the movement. Last week, the top legislative body of the United Church of Christ voted to divest from companies with business in the Israeli-occupied territories, following a similar move by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) last year. The Episcopal Church and Mennonite Church USA also considered divestment proposals recently, with the Episcopalians rejecting it and the Mennonites deferring action for two years.

Perhaps the biggest blow was last month’s announcement by the chief executive of French mobile phone giant Orange that he wanted to end his partnership with Israeli carrier Partner Communications. He cited his desire to improve business in the Arab world. Although CEO Stephane Richard later traveled to Israel to apologize, Orange and Partner announced plans to unwind their deal.

The idea of boycotts is extremely sensitive in Israel. Netanyahu has referred to the Nazis’ boycott of Jewish businesses and artists in 1930s Germany before the Holocaust — though that campaign took place when the Nazi party held power and was accompanied by acts of violence and virulent anti-Semitic slogans.

“The attacks on the Jews were always preceded by the slander of the Jews,” Netanyahu recently said.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Arab countries pressured companies doing business with them to shun Israel. Currently, Israel is fending off attempts by the boycotters to compare Israeli policies in the West Bank to South African apartheid.

BDS activists deny being fueled by anti-Semitism, saying their battle is against Israel, not Jews. They point to a small but growing number of Jewish supporters, including the U.S.-based “Jewish Voice for Peace,” whose 9,000 dues-paying members support a boycott of Israel.

Naomi Dann, JVP’s media coordinator, said the stance stems from frustration over failed U.S.-backed peace efforts. She said that while the group recognizes the Jewish attachment to Israel, it can’t come at the expense of Palestinians.

“It’s not about destroying Israel,” she said. “But full equal rights and a democratic society are more important than preserving the Jewish character of the state.”

It remains difficult to quantify the BDS movement’s actual achievements.

Leading global companies, including Microsoft, Google, Apple and Intel, maintain operations in Israel. Major entertainers, including Paul McCartney, Lady Gaga, Madonna and Rihanna, have performed in Israel in recent years.

A February report by Israel’s Finance Ministry concluded the BDS movement has had a negligible economic impact. But it outlined some worst-case scenarios, including EU government-led boycotts or cancellation of free-trade agreements. Likewise, a recent study by the Rand Corp. said that while the BDS movement “has not yet had a significant negative effect” on Israel, it is growing and Israeli leaders fear it could have “substantial detrimental effects” on the economy.

Last month, Jewish billionaires Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban led a Las Vegas fundraiser to fight the BDS movement at U.S. universities. Israel’s justice minister, Ayeled Shaked, instructed her ministry to prepare “legal steps” against the movement. This week, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton said she opposed the BDS movement.

David Makovsky, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and former member of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace team, said Israel must show it is serious about the creation of a Palestinian state to slow the momentum.

“You can reduce its scope, its impact by making clear when the prime minister … says he supports two states for two people that he is not then going to say Israel will settle in what will be a future Palestinian state,” he said.

___

Associated Press writers Josef Federman in Jerusalem and Mohammed Daraghmeh contributed to this report.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Commentary

COMMENTARY: Muslims in France Face Worsening Climate of Hate Under Leadership of President Macron

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

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A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.
A demonstration in France by Muslims protesting their treatment under President Macron in 2020.

By Larbi Ben Krima

Editor’s Note: We are accustomed to hearing travel advisories telling us to avoid countries in the midst of civil war or government repression. Last month a Muslim civil rights organization warned Muslims not to travel to a country that many consider to be the birthplace of liberty. The author of this article, a French citizen, explains how France has become an oppressive place for Muslims.

I was born and raised in France to an Algerian family. I, like millions of other French citizens, heard about colonization and the mistreatment it created. There was some progress made, and now, piece by piece, that is being erased.

One year ago, in October 2020, French President Macron decided to launch his 2022 re-election campaign with a speech targeting Muslim people. He used terrorism as an excuse. Everybody in France knew it was really about politics, although the citizens of the world did not know that.

Macron’s government followed up by dissolving organizations that had criticized his Islamophobic government.

Schools, humanitarian NGO’s, mosques, publishing offices, and civil right movements with Muslim participants have been shut down by a government looking for Far Right votes in the next election.

France is still pretending to fight for rights around the world, but these rights are never really applied to its Muslim citizens, who are always seen as a Fifth Column and who always have to prove that they are French enough.

Every Muslim act is seen as a danger to the country. It seems that Muslim prayers threaten the French republic; Muslim food is seen as a challenge to the religion of other French people; and Muslim clothes are seen as an attempt to change France’s way of life. Most religions have special foods, and prayers and clothing. Having these customs should not be made so difficult for us after all these years. What’s the big deal?

For France, which colonized Algeria for more than a century, the idea that people from the former colonies should live the life they want seems unbearable. Many white French people seem to have a fear that those from the former colonies may want to treat the descendants of the European French in the same way that the colonial masters treated us. Assuming always the worst for its Muslim citizens says a lot about the country and its beliefs.

That may explain why this country, which refuses to take accountability for its colonial past, can’t accept the kids who are born and raised here.

Quoting the world-famous psychiatrist and political philosopher Frantz Fanon, “It should not be said that such and such a country is racist, but there are no lynchings or extermination camps there. The truth is, all of this and something more is on the horizon.”

We can say that racism runs deep in France’s institutions and politics, cheered on by the media, with applause from a substantial group who likes what they are hearing.

This is a country where an openly racist media pundit has growing support in his campaign for president, just as Donald Trump did.

France, which always despised the USA, has now became one of the United States of Islamophobia, along with China and India.

A former great country, known for its ideals, France has used its former glory around the world. Recently, the world has come to know what a very small country France has actually become a country that should stop preaching to others what it obviously refuses to apply to itself.

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Business

Opinion: Different Summit, Same Story for the Polluters, Politicians, Privileged and Poor at Global Climate Meeting

So far, Glasgow has heard a lot of talk. President Biden and other world leaders touted two ‘major’ agreements earlier this week. One commits to ending deforestation by 2030, and the other to cut planet-heating methane emissions by 30%. But these aren’t binding. They are promises, an invitation to take leaders at their word. Many of these leaders promised to halve deforestation by 2020 back at a New York summit in 2014, a promise that was quietly broken.

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Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed.
Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed.

By Louis Wilson, Special to California Black Media Partners

Global negotiations kicked off this week in Glasgow, Scotland, in what John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, described as our ‘last best chance’ to avoid environmental disaster.

These talks matter to California – so much so that a delegation of elected and government officials led by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis made the 5,000-mile trip.

The goal is simple: agree to a plan to reduce the emissions that cause dangerous heating. To do that, governments need to end our reliance on fossil fuels, and support less-wealthy nations and communities in their decarbonization process.

We’ve been here 25 times before. The 26th U.N. Climate Change Conference COP26 is a gathering of over 100 nations in search of a solution to the climate crisis. Sadly, since the first meeting in Berlin in 1995, global emissions have increased. By almost every measure, the climate crisis is getting worse. That’s visible to Californians in the record wildfires, drought, and extreme weather that has intensified in the past two years.

The science is clear – something needs to change right now, otherwise the climate will change it for us. The current business-as-usual trajectory is set to make the world somewhere between 4.5 degrees F to 5.4 degrees F hotter than it was before we started burning fossil fuels. That would mean more droughts, fire, hurricanes, famines, climate refugees, and the list goes on.

So far, Glasgow has heard a lot of talk. President Biden and other world leaders touted two ‘major’ agreements earlier this week. One commits to ending deforestation by 2030, and the other to cut planet-heating methane emissions by 30%. But these aren’t binding. They are promises, an invitation to take leaders at their word. Many of these leaders promised to halve deforestation by 2020 back at a New York summit in 2014, a promise that was quietly broken.

Despite the looming catastrophe, a tour of the COP26 premises makes it very clear that at these talks, nothing has changed. The same old faces are here – the politicians, the polluters, the big companies, and people representing privileged and largely white interests.

Companies sponsoring the talks for a seat at the center of the action include one of the world’s largest plastic polluters (Unilever), a bank (NatWest) that has financed billions of dollars’ worth of fossil fuel projects since 2015, and a consumer goods company (Reckitt) whose suppliers included, until very recently, companies tearing down one of the world’s last remaining tropical rainforests in Papua New Guinea.

One of these sponsors, SSE, is currently building a new fossil gas plant, even while hosting a friendly stall touting unproven future technologies that might eventually help reduce emissions. Reckitt, meanwhile, is organizing an official side-event titled ‘Changing Consumer Behaviour,’ which appears aimed at deflecting responsibility onto individuals.

Presumably, the main recommendation will be to steer clear of their products until they can remove deforestation from their supply chain.

While companies that have had a hand in causing the crisis are overrepresented, notably underrepresented are BIPOC communities, or representatives from the worst affected countries. It is, as many have called it, the richest, Whitest COP ever.

That’s a problem ethically, but it’s also a big problem because clearly, ‘business as usual’ hasn’t worked. If we want to prevent the worst of what is to come, we need to focus on the interests of people on the frontlines: those who lost their homes in wildfires this year, or who were forced off their land by agribusinesses, or whose air is being polluted by mining projects. We can no longer prioritize the narrow interests of a very noisy but destructive business community.

This matters for California – the state which has long been a leader in the U.S. on climate action but is suffering the most immediate impacts of the climate crisis right now. If Californians want this state to be liveable for future generations, we need to see through ambitious action at home – but we also need these global negotiations to be a success.

Right now, we’re on track for more warm words, more bold, unmet promises, and more degrees of global heating. Unless this COP and all future climate summits put the worst affected, most vulnerable communities first, we will continue on this disastrous path which will see California and many other parts of the globe become inhospitable for our descendants within generations.

Louis Wilson is a senior communications advisor with Global Witness, a climate advocacy group.

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Black History

U.N. Climate Summit: Black Caucus Member Isaac Bryan Is Representing California in Scotland 

Elected to his Assembly seat in May, Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is mainly known for his work on social justice issues. But he has received praise for the multifocal approach he takes to standing up for environmental justice.

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During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.
During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) is the only Black member of the California Legislature attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland this week.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is not present at the summit as he abruptly opted out last week, citing personal reasons.

“Due to family obligations, Governor Newsom will no longer be traveling to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) and will instead be participating virtually, focusing on California’s landmark climate change policies,” Newsom’s spokesperson Erin Mellon said October 29.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is attending the conference in Newsom’s place.

The conference began Sunday, October 31 and will last through Friday, November 12. It is co-hosted by the United Kingdom and Italy.

Bryan, who represents California’s 54th district and serves as the Assembly’s Assistant Majority Whip, joins 22 government officials attending the conference. He is also a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC).

Elected to his Assembly seat in May, Bryan is mainly known for his work on social justice issues. But he has received praise for the multifocal approach he takes to standing up for environmental justice.

During his campaign for the Assembly, Bryan received an endorsement from California Environmental Voters (EnviroVoters). The Sierra Club California also gave Bryan a score of 100% on its 2021 Legislative Report Card.

“Isaac Bryan is a bold, visionary leader whose intersectional approach to policy is much needed in the California legislature,” said EnviroVoters CEO Mary Creasman.

“We do not have time to waste when it comes to climate justice, and California needs leaders who are willing to stand up to big oil and polluters. Isaac has proven that he will lead the charge and do what is right at this critical point. Assembly District 54 needs an Assembly member who will take bold action on the community values of racial, criminal, economic, and environmental justice, and Isaac Bryan is clearly that candidate. EnviroVoters is excited to endorse Isaac Bryan for Assembly District 54,” Creasman continued.

Bryan responded to this endorsement and another one from Equality California (EQCA) in a statement.

“This is our moment. The support of these two frontrunners for progress is an important call to protect our vulnerable communities, prioritizing the needs of our LGBTQ+ and BIPOC neighbors; ensure clean air and water for all; and lift people out of poverty by preparing for jobs in emerging technologies,” Bryan said.

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