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.

Continue reading “How a giant of responsible investing agreed to an Israel exception”

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.

Continue reading “New Israeli punitive measures hold PA ‘hostage’ amid international silence”

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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As a Researcher, I Study the Health of Palestinians. It’s Time to Pay Attention.

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The closed main entrance to the city of Nablus in the West Bank, Oct. 25, 2022. (Credit: Samar Hazboun for The New York Times)

By Yara M. Asi | The New York Times | Dec 29, 2022

The closure of the city at a time of already escalating military and settler violence was an act of violence in and of itself…

This year, during the lead-up to the Israeli elections, I returned to my hometown, Nablus, in the occupied West Bank, to work on a research project and spend time with my family there. I had received a grant to study the impact on Palestinians’ health of Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians’ movement — such as checkpoints, travel permits (including those required for medical care), the separation wall spanning the West Bank and road closures.

My previous work and the existing research done on Palestinian health and well-being gave me a good sense of what I would find: multiple burdens in access to health care and predictably high rates of depression, stress, anxiety and insecurity.

Continue reading “As a Researcher, I Study the Health of Palestinians. It’s Time to Pay Attention.”

Continuous Trauma and Social Devastation: Gaza and Washington leaders in discussion on social trauma and healing

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Please put this date on your calendar and join our brothers and sisters at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle.  Additional information in the Events section below.
Date: Thursday, January 26, 2023
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: St. Mark’s Cathedral, Bloedel Hall, 1245 10th Ave E, Seattle 98102
In person and also on zoom: register for zoom: http://bit.ly/3k1Aflv
Information: Event information here
Tickets: Free
Event Details

The Gaza Community Mental Health Programme is the leading mental health non-governmental organization in the Gaza Strip. At this Symposium, Gaza Strip psychiatrist Dr. Yasser Abu-Jamei will visit in person, and give an update on current conditions. Panelists and the audeince will then discuss intersections with “glocal” social divisions and the best ways forward.

Participants will include

  • Imraan Siddiqi, Executive Director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Washington chapter
  • Damon Shadid, Seattle Municipal Court judge
  • Jonathan Kanter, Director, Center for the Science of Social Connection at the University of Washington, and Core Leadership Team of the Office of Healthcare Equity of UW Medicine.
  • Brian Baird, PhD , psychologist and Congressman for 12 years, was one of the first and very few U.S. officials to visit Gaza following the Israeli bombing and invasion of 2008-2009.

This event is co-sponsored by the Saint Mark’s Cathedral Mideast Focus Ministry, The Episcopal Diocese of Olympia’s Bishop’s Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land, Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility, US-Gaza Mental Health Foundation, USA-Palestine Mental Health Network, the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Affairs, Jewish Voice for Peace—Health Advisory Council, Jewish Voice for Peace—Seattle chapter, Kairos Puget Sound Coalition, Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice, and SUPER-UW: Students United for Palestinian Equality and Return at the University of Washington

Attend in person in Bloedel Hall, or online via Zoom. Register to attend online using this Zoom link: http://bit.ly/3k1Aflv No registration needed for in-person attendance.

IMEU Policy Analysis #8: US Plans to Build Jerusalem Embassy on Stolen Palestinian Land

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and wife Sara, Ivanka Trump, Jared Kushner, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and wife Tammy Deborah Sand (left to right) at the opening of the US Embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, May 14, 2018. (Photo credit: US Embassy Jerusalem/Flickr. Creative Commons License)

By Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU) | Dec 8, 2022

Building the US Embassy to Israel on stolen Palestinian refugee property would contradict previous US positions and pledges about Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian property.

ISSUE:   The United States is moving forward with plans to build a new embassy in Jerusalem on land which Israel stole from Palestinian refugees and internally displaced persons, including from Palestinian Americans.

WHY IS THIS ISSUE IMPORTANT?

➡️ Building an embassy in Jerusalem on land stolen by Israel from Palestinian refugees violates the private property rights of US citizens and other Palestinians. Palestinians have clear titles to this land, which was illegally expropriated by Israel.

➡️ This plan undermines the stated position of the US opposing Israel’s ongoing theft of Palestinian land for illegal colonization. The Biden administration cannot credibly oppose Israel’s expropriation of Palestinian land while doing the same thing to build a diplomatic compound in Jerusalem.

Continue reading “IMEU Policy Analysis #8: US Plans to Build Jerusalem Embassy on Stolen Palestinian Land”

Israelis Have Put Benjamin Netanyahu Back in Power. Palestinians Will Surely Pay the Price

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The incoming government looks to be the most right-wing in Israel’s history, forcing Benjamin Netanyahu into a diplomatic balancing act between his coalition and Western allies. (credit: AP)

By Diana Buttu | The New York Times | Dec 13, 2022

If there is any silver lining to our grim situation, it might be that the rise of Mr. Ben-Gvir and his fellow extremists will open the eyes of more Americans.

HAIFA, Israel — As the prime minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, finalizes the formation of Israel’s most extreme right-wing government to date, I, along with other Palestinians in Israel and in the occupied territories, am filled with dread about what the next few years will bring.

Every day since the elections, Palestinians wake up with a “What now?” apprehension, and more often than not, there’s yet another bit of news that adds to our anxiety. The atmosphere of racism is so acute that I hesitate to speak or read Arabic on public transportation. Palestinian rights have been pushed to the back burner.

Continue reading “Israelis Have Put Benjamin Netanyahu Back in Power. Palestinians Will Surely Pay the Price”

For the Biden administration, there are no red lines on Israel

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the J Street National Conference in Washington, DC, December 4th, 2022. (credit: Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)
At the J Street Conference this past weekend, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered a speech fit for AIPAC.

By Peter Beinart | Jewish Currents | Dec 6, 2022

Blinken didn’t say that settlements violate international law—another longstanding US position that Trump overturned and the Biden administration has failed to restore.

When J Street announced that Secretary of State Antony Blinken was speaking at its national conference, it raised the possibility that the Biden administration had finally had enough. Faced with an incoming Israeli government dedicated not merely to entrenching Israel’s control over millions of stateless Palestinians but willing to threaten those who resist with expulsion, perhaps the Biden administration finally found the contradiction between its words and its actions too great to bear. Since taking office, the president has repeatedly vowed that “human rights will be the center of our foreign policy”—even as his administration stood by while Israel criminalized Palestinian human rights groups and demolished homes in Masafer Yatta in the West Bank. Maybe when faced with the prospect of continuing to unconditionally subsidize a government that not only practiced apartheid but flirted with mass ethnic cleansing, the Biden administration would finally change course.

Continue reading “For the Biden administration, there are no red lines on Israel”

Apartheid is lucrative for Israeli tech

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“Facial Recognition” by mikemacmarketing is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Despite their connections to apartheid, Israeli tech companies like Oosto continue to find support from foreign investors and governments, including the United States. The double standard towards Israeli tech perpetuates a culture of oppression targeting Palestinians.

By Jack Dodson | Mondoweiss | Dec 4, 2022

Biden’s proposed AI Bill of Rights exemplifies the double standards the U.S. government, financial, and corporate sectors employ when it comes to technology and human rights.

Bruce Reed, deputy chief of staff to United States President Joe Biden, took the stage at a press event on October 4 to celebrate a milestone for his administration. They would be releasing a blueprint for use of artificial intelligence that would guide future policies around its ethical use.

“Most Americans think Washington can be better at artificial than at intelligence, but this is a group that got it right,” Reed said, before arguing that tech should be used to strengthen democracy rather than undermine it. “We’re kicking off this work, leading by example, with real commitments from across the federal government.”

Continue reading “Apartheid is lucrative for Israeli tech”

Kahanism’s Raucous Return

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Israeli far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir speaks on his cellphone during his visit to the Al Aqsa Compound in Jerusalem’s Old City, March 31st, 2022. (credit: Ilia Yefimovich/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Image)
The November 2022 elections has given Knesset member Itamar Ben-Gvir, a follower of far-right ideologue Meir Kahane the promise of realizing ideas like the forced expulsion of Palestinians and leftists.

By Joshua Leifer | Jewish Currents | Sept 23, 2022

He represents in his person the possibility of reconciling Zionism’s ego and id, of fully unleashing the violent ethnonationalism that the rule of law both channels and represses.

Early last week, Itamar Ben-Gvir, the 46-year-old lawyer and leader of Israel’s extreme-right Jewish Power party, released a short campaign video on social media. “This is a clip you must watch to the end,” he tweeted. The video shows a succession of short quotes attributed to “B.G.,” set against grainy black-and-white footage from the early days of Zionist settlement in British Mandate Palestine. “The Bible is the soul of the Jewish People, from its beginning and for all the generations,” reads one quote. “One does not receive a land, one conquers it,” reads another. “If you put all the values in the world on one hand, and the existence of Israel on the other, I would choose Israel’s existence,” reads a third. At the end, Ben-Gvir himself appears in the frame, wearing a suit and tie, his usually conspicuous yarmulke now only barely visible on the back of his head. “I agree with every word, yet it wasn’t I who said these, but a different B.G.,” he smiles. Then, as a picture of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding leader, appears in the foreground alongside Ben-Gvir, he says, “Let’s get Israel back on track.”

Continue reading “Kahanism’s Raucous Return”