Arkansas’ anti-BDS law violates the First Amendment, says court

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Activists call for boycotting Israel. (Photo via BDSMovement.net) 
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found a law that prohibits Arkansas from doing business with companies that boycott Israel unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision.

By Michael Arria |  Mondoweiss |  Feb 15, 2021

“We’re thrilled by the court’s ruling, which upholds the fundamental right to participate in political boycotts,”
—  Brian Hauss, ACLU attorney

The Arkansas Times has successfully challenged a law that prohibits the state from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.

The Little Rock-based weekly filed the lawsuit in 2018 and was represented by the ACLU. The paper takes no official position on BDS, but it launched the legal challenge after the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College refused to sign an advertising contract with The Arkansas Times, unless it signed the pledge. A U.S. district court judge dismissed the case in 2019, but last week the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals found the law unconstitutional in a 2-1 decision.

Continue reading “Arkansas’ anti-BDS law violates the First Amendment, says court”

Who’s at the CHECKPOINT?

Screen Shot 2021-02-15 at 6.49.12 PMPlease join our brothers and sisters from St. Marks Episcopal Church (Seattle) Mideast Focus Ministry group for a film series of 7 films over the next 3 months.  The first film:

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The film follows Jewish-Israeli human-rights lawyer Lea Tsemel as she navigates through the Israeli judicial system in defense of Palestinian political prisoners.  The film includes archival footage of past cases Tsemel was involved in over a five-decade long career; interviews with Tsemel and her family members, including her husband, Michel Warschawski and their daughter and son, as well as interns and associates at Tsemel’s law firm; and closely follows two contemporary cases represented by Tsemel and her co-counsel, Tareq Barghout.

Following the film there will be a discussion with host John McKay, Former U.S. Attorney for Western Washington and special guest Lea Tsemel, the subject of the film!

Date: Friday, February 19, 2021
Time: To get a link to watch the film at your convenience, send a message to seattlemideastfocus@gmail.com

You will get the link around 4pm on Wednesday, February 17th and have until 8:30 on Friday, February 19th to watch the film. The discussion will begin at 8:30pm

Information: Additional information and list of all films here →
Tickets: Free, must register
Event Details

Summary:

  1. Send an email to seattlemideastfocus@gmail.com to get a link to the film
  2. Watch the film between 4pm on 2/17 and 8:30pm on 2/19
  3. Join the discussion on 2/19 at 8:30pm via this Zoom link.
  4. If you are watching the film right before the discussion, then start it by 6:30pm since it is almost two hours long.

More information here →

How the media cracks down on critics of Israel

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A 2015 chart of military aid. (photo: howmuch.net)
A newspaper columnist is fired after joking about U.S. military aid to Israel on social media.

By Nathan J. Robinson | Current Affairs | Feb 10, 2021

Personally, I had never thought about the question of whether I could suffer consequences for criticizing the government of Israel (and U.S. support for it).

It is widely recognized that critics of Israel, no matter how well-founded the criticism, are routinely punished by both public and private institutions for their speech. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has documented a pattern by which “those who seek to protest, boycott, or otherwise criticize the Israeli government are being silenced,” a trend that “manifests on college campuses, in state contracts, and even in bills to change federal criminal law” and “suppress[es] the speech of people on only one side of the Israel-Palestine debate.” The Center for Constitutional Rights has shown that “Israel advocacy organizations, universities, government actors, and other institutions” have targeted pro-Palestinian activists with a number of tactics “including event cancellations, baseless legal complaints, administrative disciplinary actions, firings, and false and inflammatory accusations of terrorism and antisemitism” and concludes that there is a “Palestine exception to free speech.”

he effort to keep critics of Israel quiet sometimes takes the form of explicit government action—there is an open campaign to criminalize speech critical of Israel and some states even require oaths from government employees promising not to boycott Israel. But as Israeli journalist Gideon Levy notes in the Middle East Eye, it often comes in the form of baseless (and offensive) accusations that criticisms of Israel are definitionally anti-Semitic. In the United States, academic critics of Israel have had job offers rescinded or been otherwise kept from teaching, and CNN fired academic Marc Lamont Hill over his call for a free Palestine. In Britain, there has been a years-long absurd campaign to tar former Labour leader (and critic of Israeli government policy) Jeremy Corbyn as an anti-Semite. Human Rights Watch notes that the United States government has wielded unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism against it and against other human rights groups like Amnesty and Oxfam that have exposed Israel’s shoddy human rights record. Within Israel itself, the free speech rights of Palestinians are brutally suppressed, and even Jews supportive of Palestinian rights are regularly harassed by the state. Abeer Alnajjar of OpenDemocracy wrote last year about how “major, mainstream news media outlets are sensitized against any reference to Palestinian rights or international law, and any criticism of Israel or its policies.”

Read the full article here →

Want Israeli-Palestinian peace? Try confederation

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A Palestinian demonstrator at the Israel-Gaza border fence in the southern Gaza Strip.  (photo:  Yousef Masoud / SOPA Images, via LightRocket, via Getty Images)
Politicians and experts should not doubt a two-state solution. But they should finally consider a plausible version of it.

By Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour  |  The New York Times |  Feb 12, 2021

To live and thrive, Israel and Palestine must rather arrive at both independence and interdependence — two states sharing what must be shared, and separating only where they can.

Donald Trump has left the Biden administration myriad international crises, and nowhere more obviously than in Israel and the Palestine Authority.

Mr. Trump dismantled relations with the Palestinian side and greenlighted an extremist Israeli government to act as it pleased, ratifying Israel’s exclusive claim to Jerusalem and its continuing settlement project. The normalization deals between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, whatever their other features, were presented as a way to pre-empt legal recognition of Israeli annexation of territory where Palestinians live outside Jerusalem.

Continue reading “Want Israeli-Palestinian peace? Try confederation”

Politics, not law, will decide whether Israel faces war crimes charges

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A Palestinian girl walks on the rubble around her family’s home in Gaza in 2014. (photo: AFP)
An ICC ruling has panicked Israeli officials who can now be investigated, but they will likely respond with intensified threats.

By Jonathan Cook  |  Middle East Eye  |  Feb 11, 2021

Whatever Netanyahu’s current protestations, the truth is that Israel’s own legal teams have long advised that its military commanders, government ministers and senior administrators are vulnerable to prosecution.

Israel has been sent into a tailspin by a ruling last week from the war crimes court in The Hague. Senior Israeli officials, including possibly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, can now be held accountable for violations of the laws of war in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The decision by judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not ensure Israelis will be put on trial for war crimes – not yet, at least. But after years of delay, it does settle the question of whether the Palestinian territories of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza fall under the court’s jurisdiction. They do, say the judges.

Continue reading “Politics, not law, will decide whether Israel faces war crimes charges”

This database is exposing decades of Israel’s shady arms deals

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An Israeli soldier learns how to operate the Skylark drone in the Negev desert, January 21, 2013. (photo: IDF Spokesperson’s Unit)
Israel has been exporting arms to the world’s most repressive governments. A new project aims to hold it accountable by tracking these confidential sales.

By Sahar Vardi |  +972 Magazine |  Feb 10, 2021

…headlines about Israel selling a new missile or spyware system often mention an “Asian-Pacific country” or “a country in Europe,” in order to maintain the client’s confidentiality.

Over the last decades, Israel has reportedly sold weapons to approximately 130 countries. And yet, when one digs a little, it is impossible to find a full list of those countries. Apart from its reports to the United Nations Register of Conventional Arms, Israel releases no official information about its arms exports.

There are good reasons Israel wants to hide these sales, since its clientele has involved some of the world’s most tyrannical dictatorships and human rights abusers. This list includes apartheid South Africa, the military Junta in Argentina, the Serbian army during the Bosnian genocide, and Rwanda in the years leading up to the genocide in the country.

Continue reading “This database is exposing decades of Israel’s shady arms deals”

What the 70 new members of Congress reveal about pro-Israel politics in the United States

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Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) leads a protest against police brutality, on June 12, 2020 in University City, MO. A long-time activist, Rep. Bush is the only newly-elected member of Congress to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. (photo:  MICHAEL B. THOMAS / GETTY IMAGES)
Useful information for groups meeting with their newly elected congressional representatives.

By Dale Sprusansky  | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs  |  March/April 2021

Many of the new members support legislation to criminalize BDS, with a few having worked to pass such laws during their time in state government

The politics of Israel on Capitol Hill are simultaneously contentious and unifying. Politicians from both parties—many of whom have received campaign contributions from pro-Israel groups—rarely challenge the U.S.-Israel “special relationship.” When they do, they are summarily attacked and often hit with spurious charges of anti-Semitism.

Recent years have seen notable changes in how Israel is discussed in Washington, DC. A new generation of progressive legislators, such as Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), have fearlessly challenged the assumptions underpinning long-standing U.S. support for Israel. Polls show their approach has a large base of support with their constituents.

Continue reading “What the 70 new members of Congress reveal about pro-Israel politics in the United States”

Palestinian Farmer Daoud Nassar speaks: Hope Still Rises

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Daoud Nassar (photo: Gied ten Berge, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)
Palestinian Christian Daoud Nassar spoke to the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition meeting in Dec 2020 and described the struggle for justice in Israel-Palestine.

By Kairos Puget Sound Coalition |  February 6, 2021

The struggle for justice will continue with faith, love and hope.

In December 2020 the Kairos Puget Sound Coalition held a zoom presentation featuring Daoud Nassar, a Palestinian Christian farmer who is Director of the Tent of Nations Project (TON) in Palestine.   TON is an educational and environmentally conscious farm that seeks to build bridges among people, and between people and the land. Daoud’s family has legally owned the farm since 1916, when Palestine was under Ottoman rule. The one-hundred-acre farm, located 6 kilometers from Bethlehem, is surrounded on three sides by Israeli settlements, and below by the Palestinian village of Nahalin. The family has been in Israeli courts since 1991, seeking formal recognition of their legal claim to this land.

Note: Daoud starts speaking after the text about the event.

Daoud has traveled to the United States twice each year, since 2007, and spoken at nearly 350 venues in the U.S., under the sponsorship of Friends of Tent of Nations North America (FOTONNA.org). Daoud shares the story of his family’s commitment to living a life of non-violent resistance. At the entrance to Daoud’s farm, one is met with a large sign painted on a huge rock, stating “We Refuse to be Enemies”. The continuous – and numerous – obstacles they face in their daily life, mirror the experience of most Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

In June 2013, Daoud was invited to preach at the well-known Riverside Baptist Church in New York City, which is where other more famous human rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Bishop Tutu, have also preached. In July 2018, Daoud was invited to the Carter Center in Atlanta to be a participant in the Human Rights Defenders Forum. In October 2018, Tent of Nations and the Nassar Family received a Peace Award from the World Methodist Council. That same year Daoud was among 15 individuals to receive the Franco-German Prize for Human Rights and the Rule of Law.

Daoud has a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Studies from the Bethlehem Bible College, a bachelor’s degree in Business from Bethlehem University, and a degree in Tourism Management from Bielefeld University in Germany. He is married to Jihan Nassar, and they have three children. Daoud speaks and understands Arabic, Hebrew, German and English.

An anti-imperialist father and his American diplomat son

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Robert Malley speaks at a diplomatic conference in Madrid, Spain, in 2011. (photo: Paul White / AP)

In an unpublished lecture from 2008, Rob Malley, the new Iran envoy, wrestles with his father’s legacy of Arabist anti-imperialism.  An introduction by Peter Beinart provides additional commentary.

By Robert Malley |  Jewish Currents  |  Feb 4, 2021

My father was, dare I say, an awakened Arab or one who, at a minimum, awoke in me an interest in his part of the world.

THE ONE THING we know for sure is that he was born in Cairo. He left us with few other certainties. His parents appear to have originally hailed from Aleppo, moving to Egypt at the turn of the last century. There is good reason to believe he was born in the 1920s, though as for the precise year or day, one could trust either one’s imagination or his word—the former often proving more reliable than the latter. His old Egyptian passport indicates a birth date of May 25th, 1923, but he had more than one—passports as well as birthdays.

Continue reading “An anti-imperialist father and his American diplomat son”

On the high cost of solidarity: Joe Biden, Palestine and The Left

President Joseph Biden.  (photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

With a Biden victory a mixed reality emerges between those who experience colonialism first hand and the broader social justice movement.

By Benay Blend | Palestine Chronicle  |  Jan 26, 2021

…a Biden presidency will “attempt to be even more hawkish than the Barack Obama administration in every warmongering, drone-dropping, coup-backing, militarized-policing way.”
— Erica Caines, writer and organizer

“As Palestinians,” writes Zarefah Baroud, “we are taught to comply with our oppression for the sake of a peace we won’t be included in. Unlearn this,” she suggests, and moreover, “when a Zionist is elected, you don’t have to cheer. We are entitled to aspirations and agendas for our people’s best interests, just like everybody else.”

From Raphael Warnock, who backtracked his criticism of the Occupation for the sake of a few Zionist votes, to activists who overlooked Biden’s foreign policy in return for a (neo)liberal agenda at home, Baroud exposes the cracks within the solidarity movement. When anti-imperialism got swept away by the overriding goal of defeating Trump, colonized people at home and around the world lost importance.

Continue reading “On the high cost of solidarity: Joe Biden, Palestine and The Left”