Brown University students vote to support BDS — the first among Ivy League schools

Brown University. (photo: State of Rhode Island)
Students at 31 US colleges have passed resolutions in support of BDS, although no school administration has taken action to divest.

By Aiden Pink | Forward | Mar 22, 2019

‘Today is a historic day for Brown as we take an emboldened and clear stand against the university’s complicity in human rights abuses in Palestine and in similar systems of oppression around the world.’
— Brown Divest, a student organization in support of BDS

Students at Brown University voted Thursday to call on the school to divest from companies that allegedly violate human rights through their work in Israel.

Some 69% voted for the measure in a campus referendum, with 31% opposed. Students were asked whether the university should “divest all stocks, funds, endowment and other monetary instruments from companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine.” Around 44% of the student body participated in the vote, which also included student government elections.

Continue reading “Brown University students vote to support BDS — the first among Ivy League schools”

Kairos Puget Sound Annual Meeting 2019

kairos ps logo

Please join Kairos Puget Sound Coalition for their annual meeting.
Date: Saturday, May 4, 2019
Time: 12:30 – 4:30 pm
Location: Edmonds United Methodist Church,
828 Caspers St.,
Edmonds WA
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free

Please join Kairos Puget Sound Coalition for their 2019 Annual Meeting which is one of the four yearly events put on by the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition. In addition to the formal parts of this event, we will be hosting a speaker who has recently returned from an extended time in Palestine.  Christopher will be addressing us on the topic of “100 Tears: Bereavement and Power in Palestine”.  Potluck will begin at 12:30pm.

More information here →

Trump just made a huge mistake in the Middle East

Israeli tourists view the Syrian side of the border at Ben Tal next to the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights, Mar 22, 2019. (photo: Atef Safadi / EPA-EFE / REX)
Trump is opening a Pandora’s box where states are allowed to change international borders by force. He is making not just Netanyahu but also Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping very happy.

By Max Boot | The Washington Post | Mar 22, 2019

No previous president promised to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, and indeed President Ronald Reagan supported a 1981 UN Security Council resolution calling the annexation ‘null and void,’ because all previous presidents had adhered to the principle of territorial integrity.

President Trump’s announcement that “it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights” — which stops just short of actually doing so — is being received as yet another example of, as the New York Times wrote, his “willingness to flout diplomatic orthodoxy and shake up a debate over the Middle East that has changed little since the 1970s.” That’s true, but it greatly understates the significance of his action. Trump is subverting one of the most fundamental pillars of the post-1945 world order: the principle that no nation can change international boundaries by force.

Territorial integrity was listed as both the first and second war aims agreed to by President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the 1941 Atlantic Charter: “First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other; second, they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned.” It was then enshrined in Article 2 of the 1945 United Nations Charter: “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.”
Continue reading “Trump just made a huge mistake in the Middle East”

Israel is on the brink of disaster — Trump just made things worse

Palestinian demonstrators from Birzeit University during clashes with Israeli forces in Ramallah, near the Jewish settlement of Beit El, in the occupied West Bank, Mar 20, 2019. (photo: Abbas Momani / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images)
Israeli voters may be about to rush headlong into quicksand that they don’t even realize exists.

By Michael Koplow | The New York Times | Mar 22, 2019

[Annexing the West Bank] would cost billions of dollars annually, would create virtually indefensible borders . . . provide ammunition to the anti-Israeli Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, and destroy Israel’s foreign relations with a host of countries. . . .
Israel would then have to grant citizenship to the 2.5 million Palestinians living there, giving itself the choice of no longer functioning as a Jewish state, or destroy its democracy by denying the Palestinians political equality. If anything can truly threaten Israel, the region’s pre-eminent military and economic powerhouse, it is that.

On April 9, Israelis will go to the polls to choose their next government. The campaign has largely been a referendum on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should remain Israel’s leader in light of his expected indictment in three corruption cases for bribery and breach of trust. With those scandals front and center, policy disagreements have largely been ignored, leaving Israeli voters at risk of unwittingly bringing an avoidable disaster on themselves by annexing territory in the West Bank.

President Trump just raised that risk.

Continue reading “Israel is on the brink of disaster — Trump just made things worse”

Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Apr 5, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral
Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free Admission
Event Details

This is Home is an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in America and struggling to find their footing. Displaced from their homes and separated from loved ones, they are given eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee to become self-sufficient. As they learn to adapt to challenges, including the newly imposed travel ban, their strength and resilience are tested. It is a universal story, highlighted by humor and heartbreak, about what it’s like to start over, no matter the obstacles.

After surviving the traumas of war, the families arrive in Baltimore, Maryland and are met with a new set of trials. They attend cultural orientation classes and job training sessions where they must “learn America” — everything from how to take public transportation to negotiating new gender roles — all in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile political environment. Their goals are completely relatable: find a job, pay the bills, and make a better life for the next generation. Continue reading “Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)”

Breaking down the Combating BDS Act of 2019 and challenges to state Anti-BDS laws

Sen. Marco Rubio. (photo: AFP)
In the absence of further movement in Congress, the next action on state anti-BDS laws will be in the circuit courts.

By Nathaniel Sobel | Lawfare | Mar 19, 2019

The Court agrees that the commercial actions (or non-actions) of one person . . . to show support for a political position, may not be deserving of First Amendment protections . . . . However, when a statute requires a company, in exchange for a government contract, to promise to refrain from engaging in certain actions that are taken in response to larger calls to action that the state opposes . . . such a regulation squarely raises First Amendment concerns.
— US District Judge Diane J. Humetewa, US District Court of Arizona

On Feb 5, the Senate passed a package of Middle East policy bills, including the Combating BDS Act of 2019. The act, which would affect laws on the books in 26 states that prevent state and local governments from doing business with entities that boycott Israel, has reignited debate over whether lawmakers’ efforts to stymie the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel violate the First Amendment. This post examines the bill passed by the Senate and tracks ongoing litigation against state anti-BDS laws in federal courts.

On the first day of the 116th Congress, Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., James Risch, R-Idaho, Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced S.1, the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act, a package of four Middle East policy bills that died in the last Congress. Three of the act’s four sections were relatively uncontroversial: One codified a 2016 agreement guaranteeing Israel $38 billion in security assistance over 10 years, another reauthorized defense cooperation with Jordan through 2020, and the third added sanctions on the Syrian regime and those that do business with it.

The fourth section, entitled the Combating BDS Act, was more controversial. According to a press release from Sen. Rubio, it would “empower state and local governments in the United States to counter the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement’s discriminatory economic warfare against the Jewish state.” Senate foreign relations committee Chairman Risch added that the bill “is vital to . . . end discrimination against Israel.”

Continue reading “Breaking down the Combating BDS Act of 2019 and challenges to state Anti-BDS laws”

Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are here to stay

2019-03-21 rashida-tlaib-ilhan-omar-1540501983
Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. (photo: @rashidatlaib / Twitter.com)
The Zionist charge that anti-Semitism is on the rise on the left in the United States diverts from the real anti-Semitism that is on the rise, by the Trump-inspired white supremacists.

By Barry Sheppard | Green Left Weekly | Mar 21, 2019

‘Every single time we say something about foreign policy, regardless of what we say, our advocacy about ending oppression or the freeing of every human life and wanting dignity, we get labeled and nobody gets to have the broader debate of what is happening with Palestine.
‘Why is it okay for me to talk about the influence of the NRA, or fossil fuel industries or Big Pharma, and not talk about a powerful lobbying group that is influencing policy?
‘Now that you have two Muslims who are saying, ‘Here is a group of people that we want to make sure they have the dignity that you want everybody else to have,’ we get called names, and we get to be labeled as hateful?
’We know what hate looks like. We experience it every single day. . . .’
— Rep. Ilhan Omar

Two young Muslim women were elected to the United States House of Representatives in the 2018 election. Ilhan Omar is Black, and a refugee from war-devastated Somalia. Rahida Tlaib is of Palestinian descent, and has family living under Israeli oppression.

Both are outspoken supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, which was initiated by the Palestinian grassroots to protest Israel’s oppression.

As supporters of BDS, they have been under attack from the Israeli lobby in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which falsely claims BDS is anti-Semitic. Following Israel’s public stance, AIPAC claims that anti-Zionism, any assertion that Israel is an apartheid state, any noting of Zionism’s historic relations with real anti-Semitic forces, advocating a single democratic secular state that guarantees equal rights to Palestinians and Israeli Jews, and any major criticism of Israel — and much more along these lines — is anti-Semitism.

Continue reading “Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib are here to stay”

Beware the Mideast’s falling pillars

People marched on a highway near Amman, Jordan, to draw attention to unemployment issues. (photo: Muhammad Hamed / Reuters)
Changes beyond the control of the region’s leaders are spurring a new Middle East.

By Thomas Friedman | The New York Times | Mar 19, 2019

Jordan’s King Abdullah recently told a group of US military visitors that what keeps him up at night is just one thing — and it’s not ISIS or Al Qaeda. It’s the fact that 300,000 Jordanians are unemployed and 87 percent of them are between the ages of 18 and 39, prime working years.

For the last half-century the politics of the Middle East has been shaped by five key pillars, but all five are now crumbling. A new Middle East is aborning — but not necessarily the flourishing one that people imagined in the 1990s.

This one is being shaped more by Twitter memes than by US diplomats, more by unemployment than by terrorism, more by upheavals on the streets than by leaders in palaces, more by women than by men. Can’t say where it will all settle out, but for now, beware falling pillars.

Continue reading “Beware the Mideast’s falling pillars”

Why the media fails to cover Palestine with accuracy and empathy

A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City on February 22, 2019 [Mohammed Salem/Reuters] A wounded Palestinian is evacuated during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border fence, east of Gaza City on February 22, 2019. (photo: Mohammed Salem / Reuters)

A powerful Israeli lobby, reporting fatigue and the fear of being accused of anti–Semitism harms coverage, say experts.

By Alasdair | Al Jazeera | Mar 17, 2019

Everyone is terrified of putting a foot wrong and being accused of being anti-Semitic that they daren’t even ask the necessary questions.
— Sarah Helm, journalist

Often dubbed an open-air prison on account of Israel’s and Egypt’s ongoing air, land and sea blockade of the coastal enclave, Gaza is, according to Amnesty International and several other rights groups, on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

In February, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, highlighted the crisis, saying that the near two million Palestinians of the besieged strip “remain mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to adequate health, education, water and electricity”.

But the mainstream media does not always succeed in telling Palestine’s contemporary story with accuracy and empathy.

On Thursday, in the Scottish city of Glasgow, experts discussed the media’s role in covering one of the most pressing and divisive issues in international politics.

Continue reading “Why the media fails to cover Palestine with accuracy and empathy”

Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)

Please join our brothers and sisters at the Mideast Focus Ministry for their First Friday Film series.
Date: Friday, Apr 5, 2019
Time: 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral
Bloedel Hall
1245 10th Ave E
Seattle, WA 98102
Information: Event information here →
Tickets: Free Admission
Event Details

This is Home is an intimate portrait of four Syrian refugee families arriving in America and struggling to find their footing. Displaced from their homes and separated from loved ones, they are given eight months of assistance from the International Rescue Committee to become self-sufficient. As they learn to adapt to challenges, including the newly imposed travel ban, their strength and resilience are tested. It is a universal story, highlighted by humor and heartbreak, about what it’s like to start over, no matter the obstacles.

After surviving the traumas of war, the families arrive in Baltimore, Maryland and are met with a new set of trials. They attend cultural orientation classes and job training sessions where they must “learn America” — everything from how to take public transportation to negotiating new gender roles — all in an ever-changing and increasingly hostile political environment. Their goals are completely relatable: find a job, pay the bills, and make a better life for the next generation. Continue reading “Film: This is Home — A Refugee Story (Apr 5)”