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Archive for April, 2011

Posted on April 17, 2011 by BNC

The following letters were sent to Marrickville Council, Sydney, Australia, in support of their BDS policy ahead of a vote on the policy on Tuesday.

As elected officials who have answered the Palestinian call for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and implemented such policies in  the Tudela de Duero, Cigales and Villanueva de Duero municipalities in Valladolid, Spain, we are writing to express our support and solidarity to the efforts currently being undertaken in Marrickville Council in Sydney, Australia.

The international community has failed to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law. Given this,  we feel that it is incumbent on our local community to take action to in support of Palestinian rights under the BDS framework. We have found this experience to be positive, effective and straight-forward.

We first started to pass BDS policy in Tudela de Duero, Cigales and Villanueva de Duero. As supporters of human rights and international law, we were disappointed to learn that one of our suppliers of bottled water, Eden Springs, is directly involved in the theft of water in the Occupied Golan Heights. We allowed our contract with Eden Springs to expire and now use an alternative company. The process was not at all costly and allowed us to ensure that we were receiving value for money. We feel that this is a clear  and simple way to signal our opposition to Israel’s occupation, colonisation and apartheid. We would be more than happy to further share our experiences with you.

We were pleased to learn that our friends in Australia have now taken the principled decision to join the BDS movement. Like you, we believe that it is important for local communities to oppose human rights abuses in other parts of the world. Informed by our knowledge of the role of boycott campaigns in ending of South African Apartheid, we are confident that our movement has enormous potential.

We urge you to maintain your BDS policy and to continue to stand alongside us against occupation and oppression and in support of freedom and human dignity.

Edilberto Ruiz Frontela, mayor of Villanueva de Duero
Teodoro Labajo, councillor of Villanueva de Duero
María Ángeles López, councillor of Villanueva de Duero
José Luis Olivar, councillor of Villanueva de Duero
Julián Álvarez González, councillor of Villanueva de Duero

Pilar Fernández, Pastor, mayor of Cigales
Luisa María Rodríguez Cabero, councillor of Cigales
Manuel Escarda, councillor of Cigales
Rosario Medina, councillor of Cigales
Wenceslao Alonso, councillor of Cigales

Salvador Arpa, councillor of Tudela de Duero
María Victoria Moyano Cantalapiedra, councillor of Tudela de Duero

As councillors who have recently successfully moved a motion in support of BDS in Tower Hamlets, London, UK, we stand in full support of our colleagues in Marrickville, Sydney, Australia. In the face of continued Israeli impunity, not least during the recent deadly air strikes over Gaza, citizens and communities have a duty to act.

Tower Hamlets council will not allow Veolia to tender for any future contracts in the area. Veolia is a French multinational that is providing infrastructure for Israel’s illegal settlements, including  by building a rail line linking illegal Israeli settlements to Israel. This rail line has been condemned by the UN Human Rights council.

The fact that Veolia supports and profits from Israel’s  violent occupation of Palestinian territory makes it unfit to operate in our community. This decision to exclude Veolia from all future contracts was a simple and cost-free one to make, but is an important display of our support for the universal principles of human rights. Tower Hamlets council is now investigating what other similar steps it can take in the future while upholding its duties to local residents.

Boycotts helped to overthrow South African Apartheid, and it can help to overthrow Israeli Apartheid too. We urge Marrickville to continue its important support for the BDS movement. Let us fight together for freedom and equality.

Councillor Fozol Miah, Respect Party councillor for Spitalfields and Banglatown ward, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Councillor Harun Miah, Respect Party councillor for Shadwell ward, London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Dear Councillors,

I am a Councillor on West Dunbartonshire Council in Scotland and want to bring you Solidarity in you ongoing support of the Palestinian people and their just cause.  Your valued support to date has quite rightly received world wide publicity.  My own Council currently has a boycott of all Israeli goods in support of the Palestinian people.  This has been in place for 18 months and will remain in place until revoked by a full Council Meeting.

The plight of the Palestinians can be seen on a daily basis as they try to counter the occupation by Israel. The BDS Global Campaign is critical to their cause.  This is an ethical issue for local Council’s like Marrickville and West Dunbartonshire.

Freedom of speech is at the cornerstone of our democracy and I hope this will prevail at your Council meeting on 19/4/2011.

Please continue your support for the Palestinian cause and by doing so you not only support justice but send out a strong signal to your own Constituents that you will fight for just causes and those who the system seeks to crush and disenfranchise.

In Solidarity

Thanks
Cllr Jim Bollan
Leven Ward
West Dunbartonshire Council

During the last week we have witnessed an escalation of the violence against the Palestinian people; Israeli fighter jets have dropped bombs over the isolated Gaza Strip, killing dozens of people, including women and children. This is but the last event of the currently longest standing occupation in the world: the 44-year old Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Human rights groups all over the world share a sense of urgency concerning the crimes committed against the Palestinians. The continuous attacks on Gaza, the ever expanding settlements and the refusal of the Israeli government to adhere to international law have underlined the need for the international community to push for an immediate end to the occupation and for a just peace. The legacy of the boycott campaign against South Africa during the 1970- and 80’s that contributed to the fall of the apartheid regime, imbue us with confidence that states as well as city councils, organizations and consumers can play an important part in the struggle for human rights and equality.

Malmoe, the third largest city of Sweden, has recently decided to review the issue of goods from occupied territories. It is our firm belief that we can take action on a local level that has positive consequences for the global movement towards freedom for the Palestinian people.

It has come to our attention that the city council of Marrickville, Sidney, will take a vote on the issue of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. We would like to extend our support for your courageous stand in support of human rights and express our solidarity with city councils in Australia and elsewhere that joins the city of Malmoe and the city council of Marrickville in the support of human rights for the Palestinians.

Daniel Sestrajcic
Martina Nilsson
Left Party
Deputy Mayors of Malmoe
Malmoe, Sweden

Dear Marrickville Councillor

I am writing to you to urge you to keep your boycott in place, there are an increasing number of those in the Jewish community around the world who see the actions of the Israeli Government toward Palestine as indefensible and unsustainable, they look to a future when both sides can sit around a table and resolve their differences through dialogue. Their growing support for a boycott is key and through it demonstrates that those calling for such action are not anti-semitic, but are concerned with the actions of the Israeli Government.

But for dialogue to happen the Israeli Government must end its ‘ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem and containment policy in Gaza, where residents are currently living without proper facilities or employment in makeshift homes in the shadow of their bombed out houses.  As you will know Citizens from my home City of Bristol took part in an humanitarian flotilla which led to the them being shot at and sadly some in the convey losing their lives.  That was my motivation for asking Bristol City Council to adopt a similar motion to yours, to register our non-violent opposition to the disproportionate force used against this humanitarian flotilla and that of the people of Palestine.

Of course there is always a cost to any act of principle, some say the policy is too expensive, or its none of our business or will divide people, but no doubt the same was said about South Africa and of course Northern Ireland.  Gaza has been referred to as nothing more than an ‘open’ prison and I know from the reports I receive that what keeps them going, and gives them hope is knowing that good people around the World are applying the pressure that so many National Governments have patently failed to do.

So for their sake, please stick to your policy, it will show support for one of the worlds most repressed minorities, it will give encouragement to others is your Country; shows solidarity with many in the Jewish community who yearn for peaceful co-existence between both Israel and Palestine and of course their other arab neighbours.

All the very best from Bristol.

Yours sincerely

Cllr John Kiely
Liberal Democrat City Councillor
Bristol City Council
Easton ward

Link to motion passed by Bristol Council: http://www.bdsmovement.net/2010/bristol-council-approves-motion-forsanctions-against-israel-747

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Posted on April 18, 2011 by BNC

Dear Marrickvile councilors,

We the undersigned would firstly like to congratulate the Marrickville Council in Sydney’s Inner West, Australia for their courageous motion (dated December 14, 2010) in support of the Palestinian-led global movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. The BDS campaign is deeply inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycott and divestment campaign for freedom and equality. We understand the Marrickville councilors have come under immense pressure to reverse their decision.  After concerted political attacks laden with misinformation about BDS and its alleged costs to the council, a vote is being held on Tuesday April 19 to attempt a reversal.  As supporters of universal principles of human rights, we are writing today to appeal to all Marrickville councilors to uphold their principled motion in support of BDS.

Supporting BDS means first and foremost upholding universal human rights and the just and fair application of international law to end Israel’s occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights.  It does not in any way entail or necessitate adopting sweeping boycott or divestment measures that may have a disproportionately negative economic impact on Marrickville or any other council. BDS is not a one-size-fits-all formula; its endorsers around the world converge on the rights-based approach of the Call but apply context-sensitive measures that best fit their own reality and particular circumstances. Some boycott campaigns, such as the CodePink-led “Stolen Beauty,” focus on one specific company that is implicated in Israel’s occupation or war crimes, while others, like “Derail Veolia and Alstom,” target a number of complicit institutions, companies or products.

The smear and intimidation campaign waged against the brave Marrickville motion and its supporters has neglected to mention that in 2005, an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society called upon conscientious citizens and civil society groups around the world to implement diverse, creative Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality for all, irrespective of their identity [1].  The BDS movement appeals to people around the world to heed the call until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and removes all its colonies and walls in those lands; implements United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and recognizes the right of its Palestinian citizens to full equality [2]. On this last dimension, it is worth noting that the U.S. Department of State in its annual human rights reports has persistently condemned Israel’s “institutional, legal, and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens. [3] These three demands are firmly based in international law; by supporting this movement the Marrickville Council is expressing its solid commitment to human rights locally and internationally.

In light of the hundreds of UN resolutions condemning Israel’s colonial and discriminatory policies as illegal, and considering the failure of all forms of international intervention and peace-making to oblige Israel to comply with international law, respect fundamental human rights and end its occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, BDS has become the most urgent form of morally-consistent solidarity that can effectively further the demand for implementing Palestinian rights in accordance with international law. Marrickville Council is not alone in taking this moral stand, it has joined a long list of councils, civil society organizations, prominent artists and intellectuals around the world who have taken initiatives to hold Israel accountable similar to those used to end apartheid in South Africa [4].

We understand that some defenders of Israel’s occupation and racial discrimination system have argued that it would be costly and difficult for Marrickville to implement its BDS policy. This is a little more than a cynical diversion by those who wish to protect Israel from being held accountable for its gross violations of international law. BDS need not be unduly costly – councils across the world have taken action in support of Palestinian rights at little or no cost. By being focused, nuanced, and tactical, Marrickville Council can implement BDS in a way that best suits the local context in which it operates while still making an important contribution towards just peace and respect for the rule of international law.

We warmly welcome your solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their inalienable rights. We believe that the time has come to apply BDS as a minimal, non-violent, yet clearly effective form of pressure on Israel, as was done successfully in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Please uphold your boycott policy and stand firm in your commitment to human rights.

John Berger, writer, UK
Victoria Brittain, journalist and playwright, London
Judith Butler, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor and peace activist, US
Chris Hedges, award-winning American journalist and author, US
Ronnie Kasrils, former South African government minister and African National Congress executive member
Naomi Klein, author and social activist, Toronto
Paul Laverty, writer, UK
Mike Leigh OBE, Director, Palm D’Or Laureate
Ken Loach, filmmaker, UK
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Belfast
Miriam Margolyes, actress, London
Joseph Massad, Professor, Columbia University, New York
Cynthia McKinney, former Member of US Congress and 2008 Green Party Presidential Nominee
China Miéville, writer, UK
John Pilger, journalist and documentary maker
Sarah Schulman, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, City University of New York
Clare Short, former UK government minister, London
Baroness Jenny Tonge, life peer and former UK member parliament, London
Salim Vally, lecturer, University of Johannesburg

Alice Walker, novelist, Pulitzer Prize laureate, US
Robin Yassin-Kassab, novelist and writer, UK

South African Municipal Workers Union
COSATU-led Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP)

[1] http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
[2] Ibid.
[3]http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/nea/154463.htm
[4] http://www.bdsmovement.net/2010/five-years-statemen-4602

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Posted on April 18, 2011 by Palestinian BDS National Committee

The following letter was sent to Marrickville councillors by the BNC on April 18.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the broadest coalition of Palestinian political parties, trade unions, NGOs and networks, warmly salutes Marrickville council for its principled adoption of BDS. Faced with on-going Israeli impunity on the one hand, and the failure of the international community to take any meaningful steps in support of justice for Palestinians on the other, BDS is an indispensable and uniquely effective, non-violent tool in holding Israel accountable for its violations of international law and furthering the demand for Palestinian rights. This movement is deeply inspired by the South African struggle for freedom, equality and justice.

It is disappointing but perhaps not surprising that your stand in support of freedom and equality has come under such intense scrutiny. This can only be seen as an attempt by Israel and its supporters  to whitewash Israel’s system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid, and to character-assassinate or smear those who challenge it. People of conscience, cultural superstars, financial institutions, businesses, trade unions and faith groups all over the world are joining our non-violent movement. On behalf of Palestinian civil society, we are today writing to urge you to remain part of this moral struggle, to maintain your BDS policy and to find creative and tactically feasible ways in which to implement it.

Local communities are increasingly filling the void left by governments and institutions that, far from pressuring Israel to respect universal principals of human rights, are unwilling to even end their own political and financial complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights.  We wish to share with you some of the ways in which local government bodies have implemented BDS and some of the methods involved in order to inform your decision. The following cases may be of interest:

  • In February 2011, Tower Hamlets council in London voted to support BDS and to exclude Veolia from future local procurement contracts.[1] Veolia provides infrastructure services for Israel’s illegal settlements and is participating in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail, a project criticised by the United Nations Human Rights Council because it links illegal settlements with Israel “in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions”.[2] Scores of local councils all over the world have excluded Veolia from bidding on contracts following concerns raised about the role the company plays in supporting Israeli violations of international law and it has recently been reported that Veolia is considering ending some aspects of its complicity.[3]
  • In the wake of the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, Bristol City council in the UK issued a call for “sanctions [to] be imposed on Israel until it complies with international law and ceases perpetrating human rights abuses”. Seeing that the UK government was unwilling to react to violations of international law with any sense of consistency, this local government concerned itself with international affairs in a moral and much needed fashion.
  • Local councils in the Spanish province of Valladolid have voted to support BDS. The local councils have now removed Eden Springs bottled water from municipal buildings.[4] Eden Springs is an Israeli company that is implicated in the theft of Palestinian water and sources its water from the Occupied Syrian Golan Heights.[5] This is an important form of support for the role of international law in resolving the conflict.
  • In September 2010, the Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) cancelled a visit by Israeli mayors due to the fact that six members of the delegation were leaders of illegal Jewish-only Israeli colonial settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.[6] With this step, the association made clear its opposition to Israel’s policy of transferring its civilian population into settlements in occupied territory, which is illegal under the IV Geneva Convention.

BDS is essentially a universalist, rights-based approach that advocates the minimal requirements for the Palestinian people to exercise their right to self determination, freedom and justice. It is not a blunt instrument, but rather an adaptable, nuanced and creative framework for action. The BNC has always encouraged supporters of Palestinian rights to implement BDS gradually and in tactically and strategically well thought-out forms that are sensitive to the local political context and practical restraints. Supporting the boycott does not require the implementation of an immediate, sweeping boycott of all companies that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law. In each of the examples above, the councils concerned have taken only one or two first steps. Far from being expensive, implementing the boycott need not cost much at all.

Perhaps the above examples do not provide a direct way forward for you as Marrickville councillors. But they do, we believe, show that implementing the boycott need not be expensive, overly time-consuming or have negative effects on local residents. Instead, they reflect a concern among the public for upholding ethical principles in local government, investment and procurement.

Not only does local implementation of BDS not violate law or overstep the mandate of a local authority, but taking reasonable steps to ensure that state authorities are not involved with businesses that are violating human rights is best practise, according to the UN Special Representative on business and human rights John Ruggie. “States should exercise adequate oversight in order to meet their international human rights obligations when they contract with, or legislate for, business enterprises to provide services that may impact upon the enjoyment of human rights,” the recently published guidelines state.[7]

Palestinians face systematic violence and oppression: According to Human Rights Watch, “Israel operates a two-tier system for the two populations of the West Bank in the large areas where it exercises exclusive control”.[8] Israel maintains its medieval siege on Gaza with impunity, operating a system of collective punishment that is unique in the history of the modern era. Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic, institutional and legalized discrimination, according to successive U.S. Department of State human rights reports[9] and a recent report published by the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network[10]. The denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return home has been described by former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory John Dugard as “perhaps the greatest injustice of the post-World War II period”.[11]

In light of this on-going  denial of basic rights, in response to the decades old failure of the “international community” to end and hold to account Israeli infringement of international law, conscientious citizens and communities are taking simple but effective steps under the framework of boycotts, divestment and sanctions. We urge you to continue standing on the right side of history and to continue to be part of these efforts, and we look forward to working alongside you to help you find ways of doing so.  You need not decide at your upcoming meeting what concrete BDS steps to take, and you are certainly not expected or called upon to implement an immediate, blanket boycott that would harm local residents. We simply ask that you keep your support for BDS in place, pending further discussions and investigations, so that you may explore ways of contributing to our struggle for freedom, justice and equality, as many Australians did in the South African anti-apartheid struggle.

We deeply appreciate your solidarity and hope that you shall stand your ground in the face of bullying and immoral smear campaigns.

– BNC Secretariat


[11]http://www.badil.org/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=garden_flypage.tpl
&product_id=119&category_id=2&vmcchk=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=4

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