I. Friday evening, a conference opened at the University of Pennsylvania, devoted to speakers, clinics, workshops and teach-ins on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, initiated on July 9th, 2005, by 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations, in protest to continuing Israeli incursions upon Palestinian rights, particularly in the occupied West Bank. As one might expect, Zionist organizations have been either trying to stop the conference or demonize it since word got out it would happen. Even though people were strongly discouraged from attending, the event is unrolling without incident so far, with “a waiting list of 250.”
In the run-up week to the conference, notable luminaries and usual suspects showed up, to take one side or another. Here’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s endorsement:
–Professors at the University of Pennsylvania who support BDS are complicit with evil.
–Protecting Israel is one of the great human rights issues of the 21st century.
–(During the audience Q and A): Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein hate America. They hate liberalism. They hate Western values. Make it clear that people who love liberty love Israel.
–Attacking Iran would not be preemptive, it would be reactive. Iran is already engaging in war with Israel. It has armed Hezbollah, Hamas….Israel has a right to attack.
–2 state solution would require a military presence in Jordan Valley in case there’s an incursion from Iraq. Iraq is becoming Iran. They take their orders from Iran.
Best-selling writer, videographer and journalist, Max Blumenthal, a U Penn alumni, wrote in the Daily Pennsyvanian on the same day, countering Dershowitz, and questioning the prominent neocon attorney’s credibility:
To counter the Penn BDS event, local pro-Israel groups including Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation have summoned the famed trial lawyer and Harvard University professor of law Alan Dershowitz to campus to keynote a Feb. 2 event: “Why Israel Matters to You, Me, and Penn: A conversation with Alan Dershowitz.” Penn’s Political Science department – which has pointedly refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference — will co-host Dershowitz’s lecture, where the professor has vowed to explain why he considers BDS to be one of the most “immoral, illegal and despicable concepts around academia today.”
The support Dershowitz received from the university and from pro-Israel groups that claim to abhor violence is ironic in light of Dershowitz’s record. Indeed, Dershowitz is an open advocate of torture who has urged Israel to destroy entire Palestinian villages, attack civilians and bulldoze their homes. Despite Dershowitz’s professed concern for political dissidents living under autocratic regimes, he has called for personal retaliation against Israeli academics who speak out in favor of BDS. Meanwhile, Dershowitz routinely smears high-profile critics of Israel’s 45-year-long occupation as evil anti-Semites — and worse.
In March 2002, during the height of the Second Intifada, Dershowitz published an article in The Jerusalem Post proposing a “new response to Palestinian terrorism.” According to Dershowitz, even the ironfisted tactics of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were not harsh enough. He urged Israel to adopt an explicit policy of collective punishment — a practice banned by international law. Dershowitz advised Israeli forces to arrange for “the destruction of a small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations. The residents would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings.”
No less disturbing is Dershowitz’s recommendation that the United States adopt an official policy allowing federal law enforcement officials to torture criminal suspects. As long as an FBI agent received a “torture warrant,” according to Dershowitz’s rules, he was free to do as he pleased to the body of anyone in his custody. Dershowitz even offered torturers proposals for inflicting maximum pain. Among the methods he advised was “the sterilized needle being shoved under the fingernails,” an idea the journalist and former US intelligence analyst James Bamford described as “chillingly Nazi-like.”
For a list of some of the more important articles leading up to this watershed event, Mondoweiss has made one as part of their article on the first full day, including tweets coming out.
II. On Wednesday, at a meeting of Occupy Oakland, here is what happened:
Last Wednesday at the amphitheatre in front of Oakland’s city hall, occupiers endorsed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel in a 135-to-one vote. Oakland’s occupiers have recently experienced chemical dispersants, and a mass arrest, which took place over the weekend. Among those arrested was Noura Khouri, the Palestinian organizer who initiated the BDS proposal.
The general assembly (GA) was electric; Wednesday was the first time those arrested were present for an occupy meeting. Despite the several distractions, including barking dogs and a New York Times reporter snapping photographs, occupiers listened attentively as Khouri and two others discussed the “intimate relationship,” between local law enforcement and the Israeli military. “We are seeing the militarization of our local police forces,” Khouri said, continuing “they are using the same tactics, weapons and laws.”
Khouri, along with co-presenters Basima Sisemore and Deppen Webber, also touched on the use of chemical dispersants by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Israeli military. “The same tear gas that is being used on the streets here against you all is being used in Palestine,” said Sisemore. And, in fact, a portion of the occupiers at GA had experienced tear gas during the weekend’s “move-in day” actions, a failed attempt to occupy a vacant building. Throughout the march the OPD fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, flash-booms, and smoke grenades, on protesters, including children and elderly. One producer of these “non-lethal” weapons is Defense Technology, which is also used by the Israeli military.
The presenters then read the proposal text, and a letter of solidarity with the occupy movement from the BDS Nation Committee (BNC):
Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rihts, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace.
However, occupiers did not need much convincing on why BDS should be endorsed.
This was an important event. Here’s a link to the video of the endorsement and the discussion that led up to it (about 25 minutes of open presentations), from Alison Deger’s excellent article on this.
From the beginning of the OWS movement, some have sought to characterize elements of its organization or participation as being “anti-Semitic.” As the movement has grown remarkably over the winter and gears up for Spring, some will attack this vote as the same. Look for articles coupling the burning of an American Flag at Oakland City Hall and this resolution within the same paragraph.
But as law enforcement forces at dozens of Occupy encampments and actions have shown over the course of this winter, and as the initiators of the Oakland proposal mentioned in their explanation of their move, our police are increasingly showing influence of what Max Blumenthal has described as the “Iraelification” of American law enforcement:
The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people. The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.
III. I hope to follow up on ramifications of the Occupy Oakland BDS resolution, and on the results of UPenn’s BDS Conference, as they are making postable videos of most speakers there. Meanwhile, here is the address Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of Global BDS, had taped for the conference: