This page is the repository for
essays that we have posted in our occasional PSC Newsletter, under the heading
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
Essays from PSC Comment are inserted below in reverse chronological order (see
We encourage you to
send your thoughts and comments to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected responses will be posted to this
Reflections on a Visit to Gaza
Kit Kittredge, June 7, 2013
Notes from the Vancouver
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
Edward Mast, December 30, 2011
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
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
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
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
…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
www.bdsmovement.net 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
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 (SUPERUW.org) 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 WeDivest.org and contact your
local JVP chapter to get involved!
NEWS - THIS JUST IN!
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…”
Read more at http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=3242&preview=1&cache=0
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NEW INITIATIVE AT UW
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
--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
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
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
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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“NORDSTROM CARES” -- AHAVA, BLAKE NORDSTROM and ME
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
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
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
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.
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
and more on local actions at
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THE FAKE STATE SOLUTION
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
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.
WHY IT MIGHT HAPPEN
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
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.”
HOW IT MIGHT HAPPEN
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.
STATEHOOD AT THE UN
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
legal opinions suggest
that, if successful, the initiative could further disempower and marginalize
those millions of Palestinian refugees.
argue that a UN-recognized Palestinian
Authority would be more effectively empowered to represent and advocate for
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
WHAT IT WOULD MEAN
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
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.
WILL IT HAPPEN?
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
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