How a giant of responsible investing agreed to an Israel exception

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The Morningstar website (credit: Louisa Svensson / Alamy Stock Photo)
After a multi-year campaign by Jewish groups, Morningstar—a major firm known for socially responsible investing—is softening its approach to Israeli human rights abuses.

By Mari Cohen | Jewish Currents | Jan 25, 2023

…human rights advocates warn that the policy changes are a blow to efforts to seek corporate accountability.

ON OCTOBER 31ST, the major investment research firm Morningstar, Inc. announced significant changes to the information-gathering practices of its subsidiary Sustainalytics, which gives companies social and environmental responsibility ratings. To arrive at these ratings, Sustainalytics takes account of businesses’ human rights records; accordingly, the firm has historically penalized companies that facilitate Israeli settlement construction or military aggression in the occupied Palestinian territories. Now, however, Sustainalytics was adjusting its approach to Israel/Palestine. It would cease to apply the term “occupied territories” to the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem, and would stop using data from prominent sources like the United Nations Human Rights Council. Morningstar promised to provide “documented guidance” to its employees stating that a company’s operations in occupied Palestinian territory should not automatically raise red flags—despite the international legal consensus, reflected in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, that companies working in conflict areas like the territories merit additional scrutiny.

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“An Intolerable Situation”: Rashid Khalidi & Orly Noy on Israeli Colonialism & Escalating Violence

By Democracy Now | Jan 30, 2023

U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken is in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories amid an alarming rise in violence, with Israel killing at least 35 Palestinians since the beginning of January. The deadliest incident occurred on Thursday, when Israeli forces raided the Jenin refugee camp in the West Bank, killing 10 people, including two children — the deadliest Israeli raid in the West Bank in two decades. A day later, a Palestinian gunman shot dead seven people in occupied East Jerusalem, targeting worshipers observing the Sabbath. Israelis living in illegal settlements in the West Bank responded by carrying out scores of attacks on Palestinians as the far-right national security minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, vowed to make it easier for Israelis to get guns. We speak with Israeli activist and journalist Orly Noy, in Jerusalem, and Palestinian American scholar Rashid Khalidi, the Edward Said professor of modern Arab studies at Columbia University.

Continue reading ““An Intolerable Situation”: Rashid Khalidi & Orly Noy on Israeli Colonialism & Escalating Violence”

Biden administration refuses to say Palestinians are ‘occupied’

In a shocking exchange at the State Department, the spokesman for Biden’s foreign policy team refused to describe Palestinians the West Bank as living under military occupation by Israel.

By Philip Weiss | Mondoweiss | Jan 27, 2023

So Secretary of State Antony Blinken is about to fly out to meet with Israeli leaders, and the Biden administration appears to be adopting Trump’s reflexively pro-Israel policies in yet another area.

Yesterday in a shocking exchange at the State Department, the spokesman for Biden’s foreign policy team refused to describe Palestinians in Jenin and other areas of the West Bank as living under military occupation by Israel.

In the wake of an Israeli military raid that killed ten Palestinians in Jenin, Vedant Patel of the State Department was repeatedly asked if they were occupied, and evaded the question:

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King County should not adopt antisemitism definition used to censor speech

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Photo: Mark Kerrison/Alamy Live News

By Liora R. Halperin |  The Seattle Times | Jan 23, 2023

King County’s adoption of this working definition would embolden those who continue to use its reasoning to target and intimidate those concerned about Palestinian rights.

This week, the Metropolitan King County Council is considering a proclamation adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. This definition has already been included in a proclamation by the Bellevue City Council and some states and municipalities elsewhere in the country.

I wholeheartedly support efforts to understand and combat antisemitism, which has grown sharply amid a resurgence of xenophobia and white nationalism in our country. But I believe that adopting the IHRA definition is the wrong way to assure Jewish communities that our elected officials have our backs.

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Alice Rothchild presents ‘Finding Melody Sullivan’

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Please join physician, author, and filmmaker Alice Rothchild to Seward Park Third Place Books.  She will be discussing her newest young adult novel Finding Melody Sullivan, about a 16-year-old who must face her internal demons and the external realities of war and occupation after the death of her mother.
Date: Thursday, February 16, 2023
Time: 7:00pm
Location: Third Place Books Seward Park, 504 Wilson Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free, but registration required in advance
Event Details

16-year-old Melody Sullivan is falling apart after the death of her mother. She pours her cynicism and grief into poetry and an intense relationship with her powerhouse best friend, Yasmina Khdour. When Melody’s father drags her to an overseas archeology conference in Jerusalem, she is left to wander alone.

Hanging out on a Tel Aviv beach, smoking dope with her Israeli cousins and their army buddies, sounds like fun. While stoned, she is sexually assaulted by a friend of her cousin. She cannot share this devastating truth with her emotionally distant dad and impulsively flees to Hebron where Yasmina is visiting her family. As a Palestinian, Yasmina is unable to enter Jerusalem. Melody’s only other source of solace is Aaron Shapiro, a shy, religious boy back home with an awkward crush on her, but Aaron’s anxious texts make it clear he believes she’s wandering into enemy territory.

This is a story about trauma and taking emotional risks, about facing internal demons and the external realities of war and occupation, about finding oneself in the most unexpected places.

More information here →

New Israeli punitive measures hold PA ‘hostage’ amid international silence

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Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Observer State of Palestine, addresses the security council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian situation, February 20, 2018.  (Credit: UN Photo / Manuel Elias)

Israel announced a series of punitive measures in response to a UN resolution calling for the ICJ to issue an opinion on the decades-long occupation. Experts say the measures reveal the true powerlessness of the PA, and warn lack of international accountability will only worsen the situation on the ground.

By Yumna Patel | Mondoweiss | Jan 13, 2023

Just two days after the announcement, Israel revoked the travel permit of Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki, banning him from leaving the West Bank. The Israeli-entry permits of three senior Fatah officials were also revoked.

The Israeli government announced that it will enforce a series of measures to punish Palestinians over the Palestinian Authority’s latest push for the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to issue an opinion on Israel’s decades-long occupation.

On January 6, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, which is comprised of some of the most far-right extremist lawmakers in the history of the Israeli government, announced a number of punitive measures targeting Palestinian citizens and officials.

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What will happen after the ICJ delegitimizes Israel’s occupation of Palestine?

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An elderly man waves Palestinian flag while he confronts an Israeli soldier during a protest against Israeli settlements in the village of Beit Dajan near the West Bank city of Nablus. (credit: Nasser Ishtayeh | Sipa via AP Images)

By Ramzy Baroud | MintPress News | Jan 12, 2023

…the ICJ could – and most likely will – delegitimize every single Israeli action taken in Occupied Palestine since 1967.

Once more, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will offer a legal opinion on the consequences of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine.

A historic United Nations vote on December 31 called on the ICJ to look at the Israeli Occupation in terms of legal consequences, the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the responsibility of all UN Member States in bringing the protracted Israeli Occupation to an end. A special emphasis will be placed on the “demographic composition, character and status” of Occupied Jerusalem.

The last time the ICJ was asked to offer a legal opinion on the matter was in 2004. However, back then, the opinion was largely centered around the “legal consequences arising from the construction of the (Israeli Apartheid) wall.”

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Why the godfather of human rights is not welcome at Harvard

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The godfather: Ken Roth, the former head of Human Rights Watch, has had a storied career exposing authoritarian governments. (Credit: Scott Heins / Getty Images)

Kenneth Roth, who ran Human Rights Watch for 29 years, was denied a fellowship at the Kennedy School. The reason? Israel.

By Michael Massing | The Nation | Jan 5, 2023

Sikkink was even more surprised by the dean’s explanation: Israel. Human Rights Watch, she was told, has an “anti-Israel bias”…

Soon after Kenneth Roth announced in April that he planned to step down as the head of Human Rights Watch, he was contacted by Sushma Raman, the executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. Raman asked Roth if he would be interested in joining the center as a senior fellow. It seemed like a natural fit. In Roth’s nearly 30 years as the executive director of HRW, its budget had grown from $7 million to nearly $100 million, and its staff had gone from 60 to 550 people monitoring more than 100 countries. The “godfather” of human rights, The New York Times called him in a long, admiring overview of his career, noting that Roth “has been an unrelenting irritant to authoritarian governments, exposing human rights abuses with documented research reports that have become the group’s specialty.” HRW played a prominent role in establishing the International Criminal Court, and it helped secure the convictions of Charles Taylor of Liberia, Alberto Fujimori of Peru, and (in a tribunal for the former Yugoslavia) the Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic.

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The Great Unmasking

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Photo by Marina Zaharkina on Unsplash

By Jonathan Kuttab | Jan 7, 2023 | Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA)

When Israel determined it wanted to be a Jewish state, and further that it wanted to keep all the land of historic Palestine, the results were inevitable.

The new Israeli government started off with a bang, as Benjamin Netanyahu announced the principles that would govern it. First, and foremost, was the principle that Jews have an “exclusive and unquestionable right to all the land of Israel, including the Galilee, the Negev, Judaea and Samaria, and the Golan.” Following the “Nation-State Law” of 2018, he was articulating a view of Zionism and the State of Israel that is openly, frankly, and unabashedly racist and discriminatory, a view that totally rejects any possibility of equality or compromise with the Palestinian Arab population who compose half of the souls living between the the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Other, more extremist members of his government chimed in reminding us that they, and not him, control the government. Itamar Ben Gvir took on the Ministry of Public Security (the police) and immediately staged a provocative visit to the Haram Al Sharif, contrary to his instructions and the warnings of the entire world, particularly his friends in the US, Jordan, the UAE, and elsewhere.

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Criticizing or Whitewashing Israel: Netanyahu’s New Government Accentuates West’s Hypocrisy

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Israel’s 37th government. (Photo: via Benjamin Netabyahu TW Page)

By Ramzy Baroud | The Palestine Chronicle | Jan 4, 2023

Palestinians and Arab countries are rightly angry, because they understand that the new government is likely to sow more violence and chaos.

Even before the new Israeli government was officially sworn in on December 29, angry reactions began emerging, not only among Palestinians and other Middle Eastern governments, but also among Israel’s historic allies in the West.

As early as November 2, top US officials conveyed to Axios that the Joe Biden Administration is “unlikely to engage with Jewish supremacist politician, Itamar Ben-Gvir”.

In fact, the US government’s apprehensions surpassed Ben-Gvir, who was convicted by Israel’s own court in 2007 for supporting a terrorist organization and inciting racism.

Continue reading “Criticizing or Whitewashing Israel: Netanyahu’s New Government Accentuates West’s Hypocrisy”