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                                                                               PSC COMMENT

This page is the repository for essays that we have posted in our occasional PSC  Newsletter, under the heading “PSC Comment.”
PSC Comment is a series of locally-written articles about activist concerns.
The purpose of these essays is to promote discussion, among fellow activists, of important current issues regarding Palestine and the struggle for equal rights and self-determination.

Essays from PSC Comment are inserted below in reverse chronological order (see Contents).

We encourage you to send your thoughts and comments to Selected responses will be posted to this page.



Reflections on a Visit to Gaza             Kit Kittredge, June 7, 2013
Notes from the Vancouver Conference
of the Palestinian Diaspora
                 Haithem El-Zabri, June 7, 2013
The Hour of Sunlight, Review of
Jen Marlowe's book
                            Peter Lippman, May 3, 2013
Team Palestine Shows Its True
Colors at All Nations Cup
                   June Rugh, September 6, 2012
The TIAA-CREF Campaign:
What You Can Do
                               Emma Klein/JVP June 22, 2012
New Initiative at UW                          Maia Brown, April 12, 2012
Who's Afraid?                                     Edward Mast, December 30, 2011
“Nordstrom Cares”                            Linda Frank, September 30, 2011
The Fake State Solution                     Edward Mast, September 6, 2011


Reflections on a Visit to Gaza
By Kit Kittredge

The images that linger in my mind and heart following my sixth visit to Gaza involve, as usual, the most innocent victims of the Israeli Occupation: the children. The thousands of horrifying, needless injuries due to the endless military attacks from Israel are compounded by the power outages and fuel sanctions imposed by Israel.

I am a massage therapist and my partner is a chiropractor. We were on a delegation with Physicians for Social Responsibility working in several hospitals and clinics in Gaza. On our first day there, we worked with a young girl, about eight years old, whose hand had been blown apart by Israeli shrapnel during the Israeli offensive of November, 2012. She had lost some fingers, and raw nerves still caused excruciating pain throughout her deformed hand. She bravely allowed us to work on the adhesions and scar tissue in preparation for her 3rd surgery.

Another young girl was severely burned by a gasoline fire in her home where a generator was used to offset the constant power outages from Israel. She had been in an induced coma for 4 months in an attempt to keep her from suffering from great pain, and her little body was curled in a fetal position throughout that time. Again, a brave young girl allowed us to work her limbs and tissue to alleviate her pain and regain some mobility and upright posture.

The third profound image that holds fast in my mind is of an entire hospital ward where young men were in  comas, their bodies grotesquely contorted and misshapened from having been electrocuted. There were many of these cases, again due to the power outages created by the seven-year Israeli seige and blockade of Gaza. The young men had all been trying to tap into existing power lines while the power was shut off, and when the power was suddenly turned back on they were electrocuted.

Family members hold vigil beside these victims, and no one of the 1.7 million souls living in Gaza has been left unscathed.

The intentional slow strangulation of the Palestinians is a human-made tragedy. There is no excuse for complicity in this behavior. We must address these atrocities daily with thoughtful, progressive actions. The Palestinian call for a boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel is one way we can all participate the change we want to see in the world. Our children's children deserve a world of hope and peace.

Notes from the Vancouver Conference of the Palestinian Diaspora
by Haithem El-Zabri

The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat (Diaspora) in North America was held in Vancouver, Canada (Unceded Coast Salish Territories) from May 3 - 5, 2013. It aimed to further mobilize Palestinian engagement in advancing the Palestinian cause, including participation and leadership in the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, forging joint struggles with justice movements in North America, gender and queer issues, combating Zionism and normalization, the centrality of the right of return to Palestinian liberation, discourses on national unity and addressing issues regarding representation and the Shatat’s relationship with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

Palestinian freedom fighter Leila Khaled was featured via Skype and she called for Palestinian national unity on the basis of resistance and struggle for return and liberation saluted the Palestinian prisoners in their fight for freedom and liberation, and reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen the Palestinian national liberation movement.

One of the main highlights of the conference was Karma Nabulsi's presentation of an initiative to register all Palestinians with the goal of demanding new Palestinian National Council elections so that all Palestinians everywhere could have legitimate representation and ensure that they have a voice regarding their rights. The website for that is

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The Hour of Sunlight, One Palestinian’s Journey from Prisoner to Peacemaker
by Jen Marlowe and Sami al-Jundi.
By Peter Lippman

Jen Marlowe is a writer and filmmaker, but above all she is a lifetime activist who puts her heart into everything she does. The Hour of Sunlight, which Marlowe co-wrote with Palestinian activist Sami al-Jundi, is primarily about al-Jundi’s life and the lives of all Palestinians. But it is also about the way Jen herself has seen and lived the Palestinian struggle – and she has certainly put in her time. The book brings up questions about Palestinian activism in resistance against Israeli occupation that, by extension, pertain to all of us who work in solidarity with the Palestinians.

The Hour of Sunlight is one of the two most richly personal and directly human books I have read about Palestine, on a par with Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree. It portrays the life of Sami al-Jundi, born in 1961, from his early childhood in a displaced Palestinian family, through his youthful time of militancy and the resulting jail term, to the extended period of his work in reconciliation and coexistence.

Sami al-Jundi was born in the Old City of East Jerusalem, to a family that had been displaced from the village of Deir Yassin, where a notorious massacre took place during the 1948 Nakba. When he was very young, his family experienced further displacement as the Israeli military took over East Jerusalem, the rest of the West Bank, and Gaza in June 1967.

As a teenager, al-Jundi wished to combat the Israeli occupation through violent means. His life as a militant was quickly curtailed after a dangerous mishap that killed one of his confederates and sent him to an Israeli jail for ten years, starting in 1980.

The story of Sami al-Jundi’s coming of age in prison is told in a rich and informative section. He was an inhabitant of the Israeli prison system, but he simultaneously gained an education in a rigorous Palestinian educational system designed and led by the prisoners themselves. The book describes the very organized Palestinian leadership within the prisons, which provided participating inmates with a full curriculum of reading and discussion.

It was in this prison/university that Sami al-Jundi vastly broadened his exposure to the history of resistance around the world, ultimately being profoundly impressed by the writings and the work of Mahatma Gandhi. When he was released from prison, al-Jundi turned to work on coexistence and reconciliation, eventually finding his way to a responsible position in the international organization, Seeds of Peace.

This organization, founded in 1993 in the United States, brought Palestinian and Israeli youth together at a summer camp in Maine. In Palestine and Israel, with the participation of al-Jundi, Seeds of Peace brought the same young people together to cooperate in art projects, for dialogue groups, and more. Along the way the participants visited each other’s homes in (literally) unfamiliar territory, and some of them became friends. Some of them were transformed on a very personal level.

The second Intifada began in the year 2000, and that was also the beginning of the end of Sami al-Jundi’s tenure with Seeds of Peace. The Hour of Sunlight details how his work in bringing Jews and Palestinians together came to be undermined by the organization’s American leadership.

Here is where life of the co-author, Jen Marlowe, intersects with Sami al-Jundi’s story. Jen was al-Jundi’s colleague for several years at Seeds of Peace starting in 1999 and, as a supporter of al-Jundi’s work, she was unceremoniously dumped by the organization shortly before al-Jundi’s career there was cut short.

Can any reconciliation take place while the cards are stacked against justice? This is one of the essential questions of the book, and it is a universal one. By the same token, the book implicitly questions the meaning of coexistence. What is the hope for coexistence – which, to me, signifies equality and respect – within a dynamic of privilege and subjugation? In The Hour of Sunlight, Seeds of Peace is an illustration of the way that dynamic plays out. However, while some activists are quick to condemn any “people-to-people” endeavor, Jen Marlowe’s account leaves the question open to the reader’s judgment.

The Hour of Sunlight was the winner of the Middle East Monitor’s inaugural Palestine Book Award, for the best English-language book about Palestine. For more about the book, see

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Team Palestine Shows Its True Colors at All Nations Cup
By June Rugh

On Friday, July 13, 2012, the Palestinian flag waved freely on the field of the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, WA, at the opening ceremony for the All Nations Cup, a two-week tournament that showcases teams from Puget Sound’s multicultural communities, celebrating global diversity with high-level soccer competition and cultural arts performances. Accompanied by Jenna Eady (Team Palestine Queen, beautifully attired in a traditional Palestinian dress), Husam Marouf, Jeries Eady, and Ziyad Zaitoun, who greeted the crowd in Arabic, the flag signaled the first time that a Palestinian team would participate in the tournament’s ten-year history. Ziyad Zaitoun’s greeting drew a loud cheer from the crowd, which included many Palestinians and supporters dressed in the national colors, kuffiyehs, and Team Palestine T-shirts. Meanwhile, the Team Palestine soccer players were warming up on a nearby field, in anticipation of their first game, against Brazil.

Team Palestine—consisting of two teams, Open Division and Masters Division (35+)—had been created in a scant three weeks, thanks to the concerted efforts of the two team managers, Hanna Eady and Mohammad Mahmoud, sponsors, supporters, and the players themselves. The director of All Nations Cup, Samir (Sam) Hassan, had long wanted a Palestinian team, but hadn’t been able to connect with the local community before. Sam’s interest in Palestine runs deep: his late father, Mohamed Ali Hassan Raslan—“a Muslim and the most Arab of Arabs I’ve known, with great pride in his heritage,” Sam says—had emigrated from Syria to Brazil and felt great concern about the Palestinians. After the Six-Day War in 1967, Mohamed Raslan left his job and spent a year collecting funds all over South America for the Palestinian refugees, producing over half-a-million dollars for the cause. For Sam, seeing the Palestinian flag finally joining the flags of the other 47 countries competing at All Nations Cup was a deeply moving moment. This took an even more poignant turn when Ramzi Dana, a member of the Palestinian team, circled the stadium with a Free Syrian Army flag, showing solidarity with the Syrian people, and also as a special tribute to Sam’s father.

On the field, Team Palestine faced a tough challenge. The team drew some of the tournament’s most formidable opponents—Brazil and El Salvador, among others—and all the other teams had spent a year practicing together, with some returning to All Nations Cup for multiple years. Nevertheless, under the guidance of Team Managers Eady and Mahmoud, and with Tareq Aburish as a highly talented Team Captain (for both teams) and center midfield player, the Palestinian teams played well. The greatest triumph: a 2-1 victory over Japan in the Masters games, which many of the Palestinian team played on their second day of fasting for Ramadan. Running under the hot July sun, on empty stomachs and with parched lips, these players gave a whole new meaning to the phrase “mind over matter.” 

But Team Palestine’s victory wasn’t just on the field. News of the Palestinian soccer team spread all over the Northwest, and over 150 fans turned up for first games—driving in from Olympia, Portland, Vancouver, BC, and even Yakima. Dressed in all variations of the national colors of Palestine, these were passionately vocal fans. In fact, one of the best players on the Brazilian soccer team—a former Seattle Sounder—asked Hanna Eady if he could play with Team Palestine next year, in part because of the enthusiastic fan base and palpable sense of community. Also striking was the span of age groups. Along with the familiar faces of community organizers and families with kids, there were teenagers and twentysomethings. One high school girl remarked to me, “Finally, we’re getting together to just do something fun.” And one woman in a Free Palestine T-shirt commented, “For once, I can wear this”—pointing to her shirt—“to something other than a demonstration!”

Rounding out the Palestinian experience were performances by two groups on Saturday, July 14. The Batiste Dabke Team (led by Omar Sarhan, who also played in Team Palestine’s Open Division, with
Anis Elmesai, Hussein Ali and Waseem Sbait) delivered a high-energy dabke performance punctuated by a dourbakeh solo by Waseem, and Hanna Eady played the ‘oud and sang songs of Palestine, accompanied by Amjad Omar (vocals, ‘oud) and Waseem Sbait (dourbakeh).

As Team Manager Mohammad Mahmoud remarked, “We had only a short time to prepare, but the community came together and made this happen.” Team Palestine gratefully acknowledges the following people and their contributions:  Hassan Zeer of Subway, Wassef and Racha Haroun of Mamnoon Restaurant, and Mohammad Mahmoud of Seattle Auto, for their generous corporate sponsorships; Rita Zawaideh of Caravan-Serai Tours, for finding sponsors and for creating an online donation page for Team Palestine; Demetri Lagos of The Continental Greek Restaurant, for providing a selling site for Team Palestine T-shirts; Septian Dharmayana for his original Team Palestine T-shirt design; Jenna Eady, for serving as Team Palestine’s Queen; Beth Mahmoud Howell, for dressing the Team Queen and other logistics; and Ziyad Zaitoun, for his help in selling the T-shirts. Special thanks to Mohammad Hamideh, who flew all the way from Arizona to play three games with Team Palestine.

Get ready for an even better Palestinian soccer team at All Nations Cup in 2013. Team Palestine will be training all year in preparation, and according to Hanna Eady, “The passion is there.” Mohammed Mahmoud agrees: “We’re going to surprise people next year.” Tareq Aburish adds, “We’ve proved that we can put a team together; our next job is to really compete.  At the end of the day, this is football, and regardless of any impact we might have on awareness, or any minds we might engage, we want to score goals and win games and if we can rally enough interest in the team next year, we will.”

As the team prepares for All Nations Cup 2013, they will need financial support for practice field rental, team supplies, and other expenses. If you’d like to make a donation, go to the All Nations Soccer Tournament page of the Salaam Cultural Museum website, where you can scroll down and donate via Paypal at the bottom of the page. (The museum is Team Palestine’s 501C3 nonprofit umbrella organization, so that donations to the team are tax-deductible.) Checks should be made out to “Salaam Cultural Museum” and sent to Team Palestine, c/o Rita Zawaideh, 3806 Whitman Avenue N., Seattle, WA 98103. 

If you’re interested in volunteering to help with fundraising, publicity, or anything else for Team Palestine, or for any inquiries, email

For photographs of Team Palestine and fans, including video clips of the Batiste Dabke Team’s and Hanna Eady’s performances, visit Team Palestine on Facebook.

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We Divest: The scoop on Jewish Voice for Peace’s TIAA-CREF Campaign
…and how to participate
~Submitted by Emma Klein, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace - Seattle

June 22, 2012

About 18 months ago, Jewish Voice for Peace, a national organization inspired by the Jewish tradition to work together for peace, social justice, and human rights, began a national campaign calling on TIAA-CREF to divest from the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The TIAA-CREF campaign is, in part, a response to the Palestinian call to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel until the demands specified by the Boycott National Committee are met (please visit for more information).

The tactics of boycott, divestment, and sanctions are nonviolent expressions of resistance, which everyday folks across the world can take up. From Montgomery to South Africa. history has proved boycott to have enormous economic power as a force for change. JVP views the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions as the most promising avenue toward a just peace in Israel and Palestine and we are excited by the opportunities this Palestinian-led call presents.

TIAA-CREF, one of the nation’s largest financial services in the United States, is considered to be one of the most widely-used retirement systems in the world. With 60 offices in the US and 15,000 client institutions in the academic, research, medical, cultural, and nonprofit fields, TIAA-CREF is a far-reaching and tangible target for local organizing throughout the country.

In the past TIAA-CREF has demonstrated its commitment to socially responsible investing, using divestment as a strategy to create social and political change. In 2009, TIAA-CREF divested from companies involved in Darfur and boasts the motto: “Financial Services for the Greater Good”. We would like to see TIAA-CREF live up to their motto; however, currently, TIAA-CREF invests in five organizations profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine: Caterpillar, Elbit, Motorola, Northrup Grumman, and Veolia. Of these five, Motorola and Caterpillar are included in TIAA-CREF’s socially responsible investing portfolios, despite Motorola’s design of communication systems used by the Israeli Defense Force and Caterpillar’s design of the D9 bulldozer, used for the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes and orchards.

The JVP TIAA-CREF campaign is made up of investors and allies from universities, non-profits, public schools, hospitals, and arts organizations who do not want to fund their retirements with profits made from Palestinian suffering and death. We are university students who want to stand up against injustice. We are local activists who want to educate our communities about the companies making money off the occupation. We are Israelis and Palestinians struggling for a just peace. We are Jews, Muslims, Christians, and other people of conscience, who uphold our deepest values and proudest traditions by standing in solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis engaged in nonviolent resistance. We invite you to join us in this historic campaign.

What you can do

On a local level, many Seattle-based nonprofit institutions, colleges and universities, and hospitals use TIAA-CREF. Organizing within your institution is powerful and offers an opportunity to raise awareness about the Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestine, while sending a clear message to TIAA-CREF that investors want socially responsible change. UW’s SUPER, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights ( is informally organizing on campus and needs support from the Seattle community to engage and ignite conversations on campus. In addition, Veolia operates transit services including Metro’s Access buses. At this point, city contracts are not up for negotiations; however, there is potential for organizing on this level.

More than anything, we need activists to be involved on the local level organizing in their work place, community organizations, and on the streets. For more information, please visit our website at and contact your local JVP chapter to get involved!


From the US Campaign to End the Occupation:
“We are so excited to announce that as of this week, Caterpillar was removed from the MSCI (Morgan Stanley Capital International) World Socially Responsible Index, a list used by Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) funds to discern acceptable companies for investment.

"Then, before we knew it, financial retirement fund giant TIAA-CREF followed suit and divested its Social Choice Funds from Caterpillar! Caterpillar shares in the funds were valued at more than $72 million when last posted…”

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by Maia Brown

SUPER UW, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, was launched on the University of Washington campus on February 27th of this year for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW).

SUPER UW is a diverse student-lead group made up of students, faculty, and community members working to educate students and the broader community about the struggle for Palestinian equal rights.

Responding to the Palestinian Civil Society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel (BDS), we support the nonviolent methods of BDS until Israel meets its obligation to the Palestinian people and international law by:

--ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
--recognizing the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
--respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

SUPER UW members understand the struggle for Palestinian equal rights as intimately entangled in global struggles for economic, social, and cultural justice, including the struggles of other indigenous peoples around the world, and the structural inequality we face in our own country. We understand that the true definition of “solidarity” is an honest understanding that our own liberation is tied up in the liberation of others and that the oppressed must lead the struggle. As SUPER UW we also stand in solidarity with local struggles on the UW campus against racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression and colonization. As an anti-racist organization, SUPER condemns all forms of hatred and discrimination including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

During IAW, SUPER had a constant presence on campus with informational tabling on Red Square throughout the week. SUPER-UW’s first event brought a strong turnout from students and community members on March 1st, for a presentation by by author, activist and physician: Alice Rothchild, author of Broken Promises, Broken Dreams: Stories of Jewish and Palestinian Trauma and Resilience.

A Boston-based obstetrician/gynecologist and activist, Rothchild gave basic background on how the situation in Israel/Palestine has evolved, and the hard facts of daily life for Palestinians under Israeli occupation, based on her experience working with medical delegations to Palestine and Israel for American Jews for a Just Peace, Health and Human Rights Project.

Finally, a brass band moved students to their feet on Friday March 2nd!

SUPER is grateful for the amazing turn out of community allies during IAW and seeks to involve the larger Seattle Palestine Solidarity community as often as we can. Stay tuned for future events and calls for support in making UW a less friendly place for Israeli Apartheid!

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The Several Messages of SeaMAC’s Ad Campaign
By Edward Mast December 30, 2011

In memory of Israel’s 2008-9 assault on the captive population of Gaza, Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC) has published a half-page ad this week in Seattle Weekly and The Stranger with the slogan ISRAELI WAR CRIMES: YOUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.  The slogan and design are based on SeaMAC’s bus ad which was censored by King County last December 2010.

The newspaper ads are part of SeaMAC’s ongoing series of print ads drawing attention to Israel’s policies of segregation and apartheid, as well as to the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners and Israel’s attempt to impose a non-viable fake state on Palestinians. The whole series of ads can be seen at

SeaMAC’s bus ad about Israeli war crimes made international news last December when it was first approved and accepted by King County Metro, then censored after pressure groups mounted a campaign to silence the ad.  The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stepped forward immediately and is representing SeaMAC in a lawsuit against King County for violating SeaMAC’s First Amendment right to free expression.  A trial was supposed to begin in Federal Court in Seattle on October 31.  However, despite considerable evidence that King County’s decision to censor the ads was neither reasonable nor neutral, a federal judge dismissed SeaMAC’s lawsuit on October 10.  SeaMAC is now appealing that decision at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  ACLU will continue to represent SeaMAC in the case.

Even though the appeal will probably take a year or more to come to hearing, SeaMAC has decided to pursue the issue.  SeaMAC’s ad was attacked as inappropriate speech for a public forum, and King County’s cancellation of the ad gave implicit validation to that complaint.

Those who complained about the ad brought a variety of arguments, including the claim that Israel is being unfairly singled out for criticism.  In fact it is the US government that singles out Israel for special treatment, giving Israel unequalled financial, political, diplomatic and military support.  This special treatment by the US government makes many US citizens feel a special responsibility to resist Israel’s ongoing crimes and violations of international laws. 

The question is not why Israel is singled out for criticism, but why criticism of Israel is singled out for censorship.

After the bus ad was censored by King County, SeaMAC contracted with Clear Channel Outdoor to run several billboards with a different message: “Equal Rights for Palestinians – Stop Funding the Israeli Military”.  The billboards were approved and several of them were put up and displayed.  However, after a week, Clear Channel cancelled the contract and took these billboards down as well, in response to complaints from unidentified individuals or groups.  There was no public controversy about the billboards. As it happens, there had been considerable public controversy the previous week about another unrelated set of billboards that advocated laboratory testing on live animals, but Clear Channel did not cancel those billboards.

The censoring of billboard ads with an unimpeachable call for equal rights also seems to refute another common complaint: that the “Israeli war crimes” ad was censored only because it was needlessly severe.  In fact, when developing the ad, SeaMAC rejected stronger language and settled on the term “war crimes” because of its specific legal meaning: grave violations of the Geneva Conventions. Such violations by Israel have been well-documented throughout its lengthy occupation of Palestinian territories. Violations by Palestinians in their struggle for self-determination have also been documented, though violations by Israel are far more numerous and far less reported in this country. The bus ads were an attempt to correct that imbalance.

During the public controversy, there was surprisingly little argument about the allegation that Israel commits war crimes.  Rather, the issue seemed to be that some people believe it’s inappropriate to discuss Israel’s war crimes in public, for fear of collateral consequences not only for Israel but for members of the Jewish community in Seattle.

Some friends and allies, along with King County officials, took this claim very seriously; and of course SeaMAC needs to consider people’s real fears even when those fears are misplaced.  In this case, however, people’s fears are being exploited, and the State of Israel is using Jews everywhere as virtual human shields to defend Israel from accountability for ongoing crimes. An increasing number of Jews are denying Israel’s claim to represent them, and many are angry at Israel’s distortion of traditional Jewish values and exploitation of Jewish history to justify ongoing persecution of Palestinians. 

It is not criticism of Israel but Israel’s actions themselves that are creating hostility toward Israel. That hostility is sometimes mistakenly directed at the Jewish people generally.  For this reason, we should increase our efforts to distinguish between Israel and the Jewish people of the world, as well as continuing our efforts to stop Israel from committing more criminal actions.

Some have argued that SeaMAC should be satisfied because more people saw the bus ad on TV or in other news media than would likely have seen it on twelve buses for a month.  However, SeaMAC’s message was not merely the eight words on the bus ad. 

SeaMAC chose a mainstream advertising venue because words on a bus ad not only reach beyond the usual audience, but also reach those people in a different way than the same words on a protest sign or banner.  Bus ads and billboards on this issue demonstrate that there is a wide and increasing spectrum of people that are concerned and angry about Israel’s ongoing crimes and our US government’s unilateral support for them.

The message of our bus ads was not just that Israel commits war crimes, but that some people in the United States actually care about Israel’s war crimes, and that we care enough to risk talking to our neighbors.

No billboard or bus ad will convert people by itself. Instead, the ads are trying to change people’s perception: using the fewest possible words and images to help members of our community see the conflict in a new way.  Even those who don’t immediately understand or agree with the ad might look differently at Israel’s next attack on an aid convoy, or the next bombing of Gaza, or may take a step toward understanding that the conflict is not about religion or ancient feud, but about one people having power over another.

While debate and protest and large-scale education must continue, public opinion in this country will ultimately be changed by all of us speaking to our friends and neighbors and engaging them with our concern and our sincerity as well as our knowledge.   For all the furor, our ad campaign is an attempt to share the intensity of our concern with our community in Seattle, risking disapproval, hoping that our neighbors and colleagues will respond to our caring with caring of their own.  Our right to share those concerns in a public forum needs to be defended, no matter how long it takes.

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By Linda Frank
Sept 30, 2011 

Bikini-clad activists smeared in mud first drew my attention to Code Pink’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign to boycott Ahava cosmetics, which are made from Palestinian resources harvested in an illegal Israeli settlement near the Dead Sea in the West Bank. 

After signing an online email to a Brooklyn store in support of the Boycott Ahava campaign, I became curious as to whether our locally-based Nordstrom carried Ahava’s “stolen beauty” products. I’ve shopped at Nordstrom for years, and in fact when I went into the Tacoma store to look for Ahava products, I got distracted by a pair of earrings and left the store without finishing my quest.
So I called Nordstrom’s Seattle offices. The woman I spoke with cheerily reported that Nordstrom did indeed carry Ahava, but just at the Seattle store and online. I asked for a senior executive with whom I could share my news that Ahava engaged in human rights violations, and was promised a callback.
I received a brush-off call from Nordstrom’s Director of Public Relations. The Director told me in a voice-mail message, “Thanks for sharing, but we have no intention of changing our relationship with Ahava.” That inspired me to respond to her. I jumped on Nordstrom’s website, and noticed a page on Social Responsibility. Nordstrom claimed to carry products that were properly labeled and didn’t violate human rights. 
The “Nordstrom Cares” web page at boasts the heading, “Protecting human rights,” and mentions “improving working conditions;” “fair factories;” and a “sustainable model to benefit workers and the environment.” In Nordstrom’s world, is there any chance that Palestine fits into this model?
Looking at this web site, I thought, “Wow, so here’s another avenue of appeal.” Unfortunately, I didn’t get very far with the vice-president of Social Responsibility either. That’s when I turned back to Code Pink and asked for appeals via an email campaign.
I didn’t set out to launch an entire campaign against Nordstrom for carrying Ahava, but Code Pink agreed to spread the word, and activists all around the country sent more than 3,000 emails to the Nordstrom executives.
Not having gotten a serious hearing with the two junior Nordstrom executives, I thought that the senior executive should know that his employees were defending Nordstrom’s violations of its social responsibility policy. I thought he deserved to know that they’d brushed me off when I informed them that they were selling products mislabeled “product of Israel” and created through gross human rights violations.
I also thought he deserved to know why people were
protesting outside his store
I was surprised at how quickly Blake Nordstrom got back to me. He said in his email that he was out of the country, but he would look into the matter when he returned. To his credit, he did. And then he phoned me.
He was taking my complaint seriously – so seriously he went to his legal team. He had them check into how Ahava was harvesting and labeling its products. The attorneys found that Ahava’s labeling was legal under US laws, even if not under European Union laws. I responded, “Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s moral. 
The Clinton Administration allowed importation of products from the Occupied Palestinian Territories – both those produced in settlements and by Palestinians – into the US under the import laws that apply to Israel, whereas in Europe, a product made in an Israeli settlement must be labeled as a settlement product and is subject to tariffs from which Israeli products are exempt.
I continued, “And even if your customers want Ahava, which you’re telling me is the reason for keeping the product, some people want crush videos too, and they’re legal. But I doubt you’d carry them, knowing they harm sentient beings.” Blake Nordstrom did say his attorneys found Ahava’s acquisition resources for their products a “grey” area. The salts that Ahava sells are apparently harvested in Israel, but the mud products indeed come from stolen Palestinian resources. He didn’t say that verbatim – but he did use the term “grey” and he did explain why.
Even though my outreach didn’t result in Nordstrom immediately removing Ahava from its shelves, my outreach did have an impact: Ahava had to explain itself to a team of attorneys for a major retailer. My exchanges with Blake Nordstrom added some heat, putting Ahava on notice that there’d be increasing scrutiny and challenge.
I found another way to put pressure on Nordstrom. I learned that the Calvert Funds carry Nordstrom in their portfolios of “socially responsible” companies. I turned that information over to CodePink and they blew the whistle to Calvert that Nordstrom was violating its own Social Responsibility guidelines. I’ve not heard yet that Nordstrom has been dropped from the Calvert portfolios but, again, like Ahava, at least Nordstrom has been identified as a “bad actor” in the realm of human rights and social responsibility.
I continue to send details about Israeli human rights violations to Blake Nordstrom, and I have asked for a personal meeting. I haven’t heard back from him recently, but that doesn’t stop me from continuing my outreach. I have no control over whether he or Nordstrom or Ahava or Calvert Funds come to regard Palestinian human rights as important enough to make them walk their talk, but at least I’m walking my talk, and my work makes it impossible for them to claim “I didn’t know.” At best, with enough ongoing pressure, these companies might come to recognize profits without honor don’t pay if they make you a pariah – as those doing business with the apartheid regime of South Africa were eventually forced to realize.
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TJ Maxx also carries Ahava products. On their website, someone has already commented that Ahava violates Palestinians human rights:  Other comments would help, or at least clicking “agree” on that comment. You can use the contact information provided at that link to start a dialogue with TJ Maxx’s senior executives.  
Bed Bath & Beyond is now carrying Ahava – and SodaStream products, made in an East Jerusalem Israeli settlement, as well.  Visit to see what other campaigns you can endorse. Feel free to cut and paste some or all of the resources I gave the Nordstrom execs in my three letters posted on the Code Pink website at

Linda Frank is a human rights advocate living in Tacoma.
More information on the international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign at and more on local actions at

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by Edward Mast   September 6, 2011

With the Palestinian Authority preparing to ask for recognition by the United Nations this month, the issue of statehood for Palestine has come back into the news.  There is serious disagreement about whether the UN initiative, even if successful, will be a step forward or backward for Palestinian rights.  Nonetheless, the UN initiative -- along with the furious resistance by the Israeli and US governments -- brings up larger questions about the whole pursuit of Palestinian statehood.  With or without success at the UN, what kind of state might actually be looming on the horizon for Palestinians?  Will it mean independence and sovereignty, or merely a new challenge to the struggle for rights? 


Benjamin Netanyahu’s May 24 speech to Congress described with remarkable clarity – and with the apparent approval of Congress -- Israel’s vision for a Palestinian state.  No 1967 borders.  No shared Jerusalem. No right of self-defense for demilitarized Palestinians. Borders to be determined by Israel and controlled by Israel, including the Jordan Valley and the border with Jordan. All significant settlements “as well as other places of critical strategic and national importance” incorporated into Israel.  And even, astonishingly, some settlements still “beyond Israel’s borders”, which seems to mean that some Israeli settlements will still be inside the Palestinian areas.

Netanyahu referred to this arrangement as a Palestinian state, but clearly the intention is a fake state: the illusion of statehood without independence.
This would not be the first attempt to force Palestinians to accept a fake state. At Camp David II in 2000, Ehud Barak offered Palestinians glorified reservations on a never-quite-specified amount of West Bank land.  With Bill Clinton’s help, Barak’s offer was publicized as an offer of genuine statehood, and the Palestinian refusal was framed as a rejection of peace.  In 2005, Ariel Sharon removed settlers and redeployed soldiers from the Gaza Strip, though maintaining full Israeli control over the area.  Again, this was publicized as an offer of statehood to Palestinians, rather than a strategic move to consolidate Israel’s hold on the West Bank.  Palestinian resistance was again framed as refusal of peace.

In both cases, many people accepted Israel’s US-supported fabrications, and an Israeli-declared fake state for Palestinians in the West Bank would have the same disastrous effect on public opinion in Israel and the US. The twenty-nine standing ovations that our Congress gave Netanyahu’s speech demonstrate that this fake state for Palestinians is a serious possibility and a serious danger. 


Some hardcore Zionists still cling to the dream of a Jewish state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, and continue to hope that oppression, expulsion, and outright decimation will sooner or later reduce Palestinians to a negligible and manageable remnant. But Palestinians are becoming larger and louder rather than smaller and quieter.  Furthermore, Israel has always depended on the good will of the international community in general and the US in particular, and many international supporters are growing impatient with Israel's increasingly blatant and brutal measures to discipline and purge Palestinians.  As a result, some realist Zionists are concluding that the hardcore dream might jeopardize the Jewish supremacist state inside what is now Israel. 

Ariel Sharon became one of these realist Zionists, along with his lieutenant and successor Ehud Olmert. They mapped a way forward: rather than wait until Israel can claim all the land, instead take action now to claim most of the land, and press the unwanted people into disempowered surrounded reservations, nominally under their own control while actually controlled by Israel.  This was the tactic of the “Gaza disengagement”, and some Zionist realists are clamoring for some version of this to happen in the West Bank.  The Wall would be the western border of the new fake state, and the Jordan Valley -- purged of Palestinians -- would be the eastern border.  Major settlements would be annexed into Israel, settlement roadways would become permanent, and West Bank Palestinians would have a mockery of self-administration on three or more disconnected bantustans.  As Netanyahu himself said in an interview in 2001 that wasn’t meant to be recorded, “you give away two percent and you stop [Israel’s] withdrawal.”


Ironically, one of the major obstacles to this fake state plan is neither the Palestinian resistance nor the Israeli peace movement, but rather the extremist movement in Israel that refuses to give up any land to Palestinians.  The cutting edge of that extremist movement consists of about 30,000 Jewish settlers inside those potential Palestinian reservation areas.  These settlers are a tiny fraction of the half-million Jewish settlers in the West Bank.  They are the most religiously and ideologically driven, and while they have some support, they are unpopular with the Israeli public.  Nonetheless, that Israeli public dislikes the spectacle of Jewish soldiers dragging Jewish settlers out of Jewish homes, and no Israeli government wants to risk alienating the powerful extremist political bloc by appearing to give away those scattered chunks of the West Bank as they appeared to give away Gaza – even though in both cases control remains with Israel.

Emergency conditions could remove that obstacle.  An attack by Israel on Iran or directly on the West Bank or Gaza might stimulate resistance from Palestinians, allowing Israel to remove those extremist Israeli settlers by declaring that it was for their own safety. The Israeli regime, as an “emergency measure”, could declare the borders of the existing Palestinian enclaves as the borders of the new fake state; checkpoints and troops could be redeployed to those borders; and instead of one Gaza, there would be several more Gazas in the West Bank: open air prisons, with borders, water, airspace, and even electricity controlled by Israel.  


There is wide agreement that the Palestinian statehood initiative at the UN, even if successful, will be unlikely to change anything for Palestinians on the ground, any more than did the unilateral declarations of Palestinian independence made in 1988 or threatened in 1999.   The initiative was not developed by the Palestinian people as a whole, but by the discredited and all-but-defunct Palestinian Authority.  As a result, many Palestinians do not support the initiative.  The initiative does not contain any provisions for the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and some analysts and legal opinions suggest that, if successful, the initiative could further disempower and marginalize those millions of Palestinian refugees.  Other analysts
argue that a UN-recognized Palestinian Authority would be more effectively empowered to represent and advocate for those refugees.

Regardless of these varying opinions, the initiative has provoked Israel and the US government into openly opposing any Palestinian state that is not imposed by Israel.  Even with a US veto in the Security Council, a positive vote in the General Assembly might highlight the international consensus that Israel is illegally occupying Palestinian land.  If Israel fears, with some reason, that UN-recognized Palestinian statehood would jeopardize Israel's claim to the West Bank water aquifers and Jordan Valley farmland, then Israel might take emergency action and unilaterally declare borders and annex those settlements, aquifers and the Jordan Valley.  

The US could then pressure the Palestinian Authority with backroom ultimatums: accept the plan and have US aid and support, or reject and have US embargo and enmity.  Even if Israel takes no such emergency action, and even if the UN initiative were to succeed, Israel and the US would be likely to pressure the Palestinian Authority to compromise on the nature of a Palestinian state.

Apartheid South Africa tried a similar plan, but ultimately couldn't find enough fake leaders to sign on to their fake state Bantustan plan for the Black majority.  Israel has been more successful at finding such leaders.  The grimmest irony of all is that one of Israel’s main allies in implementing the fake state solution might be the Palestinian Authority itself.  From its beginnings in 1993, the Palestinian Authority’s mandate has not been to protect the Palestinian people, but rather to protect Israelis from Palestinians, and to manage the occupation as Israel’s sub-contractor.  As the recent Wikileaks disclosures revealed, the Palestinian Authority has been willing to go to reprehensible lengths to protect and maintain its illusion of authority.  This undermines any confidence the UN recognition might be a genuine step forward, and increases concern that Israel’s fake state solution might be validated by the nominal leadership of Palestinians themselves.


With a Palestinian fake state in place, Israel with US support would declare the Israeli occupation over, even though Israel would still control the lives of all those Palestinians. US media would largely go along, and we would once again hear, as we did after the fake Generous Offer and the fake Gaza Withdrawal, that Palestinians are never satisfied and do not want peace. Any Palestinian resistance would be framed as hate-based rejection of Jewish presence in the region.  We would be facing a US public eager to be done with this conflict and even less sympathetic to the Palestinian struggle for justice and equality than before.

Declaring a fake state for Palestinians would be a powerful and effective move to cripple our movement for Palestinian rights.  The powerful Zionist extremists stand in the way with their dream of owning all the land, and though those extremists have disproportionate influence, we cannot count on their self-destructive agenda to prevail forever. 


Israel might make no bold moves, and instead continue the holding pattern of dominating the lives of 5 million Palestinians while manipulating US support and weathering international negative opinion.  However, the September UN initiative, for good or ill, is ramping up the stakes. Israel is also manifestly frightened of the mass nonviolent resistance being organized by Palestinians inside and outside of Israel, and a US veto of a Palestinian statehood resolution might escalate that resistance.  Right-wing Israeli government members and the powerful settler movement are pushing to solve Israel’s housing crisis by building more Israeli settlements in the West Bank. With the rightward swing in Israeli politics, Zionist realists might see this as their historical moment to impose a final status solution.

Netanyahu announced the plan in detail.  If we underestimate the possibility and do nothing but wait and see, we risk finding ourselves once again responding to events rather than shaping them.  Israel’s apologists will jump at the chance to insist that Palestinians have gotten what they wanted but are still demanding more.  If we wait till a fake state is declared and then protest, we may appear to be confirming that portrayal.  Instead of waiting, we need to do whatever we can to clarify the issues for ourselves, to educate our media, our congresspeople and our public in advance, and to change the terms of the debate from focus on statehood to focus on equal rights.

At one level, we need to make it clear that this conflict will not be resolved by a state that is actually a reservation, a Bantustan, or a prison.  At a more basic level, we need to realize that nominal statehood, under any circumstances, does not necessarily bring independence, self-determination, or even full sovereignty.  If statehood is our central demand, we might be forced to support a final status that is unacceptable.  If our central demand is for equal rights, then we are in a position to examine all the varieties and compromises of statehood in terms of human rights, civil rights, political rights and economic rights.  A proactive framework of equal rights enables us to understand and demonstrate why Palestinians have no reason to accept any kind of partial statehood – or partial rights – that Israelis or anyone else would not accept for themselves. 

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