Statement in solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza and with seekers of freedom and justice world-wide

[A boycott how-to is below this powerful statement. -Eds.]

Statement in Solidarity with the Palestinian people of Gaza and with seekers of freedom and justice world-wide

As Palestinian, indigenous, women of color, anti-racist, and Jewish feminists involved in a range of social justice struggles, we strongly condemn the current massacre of the Palestinians of Gaza and affirm our support for and commitment to the growing international movement for a free Palestine and for racial justice, equality, and freedom for all.

As many of us know from time spent in Palestine and in other movements for justice, the connections between the movement for a free Palestine and anti-colonial struggles for self-determination throughout the world are inextricable.

The current Israeli attacks on Gaza have resulted in more than 1900 Palestinian deaths, including over 450 children; the displacement of up to 25% of the population; and the destruction of crucial infrastructure such as sanitation, hospitals, and schools.  We condemn and are horrified by the current acts of Israeli brutality, while also recognizing the deeply rooted and ongoing violence that Palestinians are forced to endure on a daily basis — for example, living in ghetto-like conditions in Gaza, systematically having land confiscated, being deprived of their livelihoods, collective punishment, gender and racial violence, and ongoing expulsion and displacement from the Nakba until today.

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance.  Over 5,000 Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons; more than 200 are children.  There is ongoing criminalization of their political activity.

We believe in the critical importance, now more than ever, of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions call for Israel to 1) End its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the Wall; 2) Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
 3) Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194. The purpose of the BDS campaigns is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations.

We stand with the Palestinian community and with activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the current Israeli massacre against the Palestinians of Gaza; the land, air, and sea blockade of Gaza; and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We call for an end to US military aid, at more than 3 billion a year, for the Israeli state and its occupation.

We call upon all people of conscience to stand with Palestine and to join the worldwide actions in which communities and civil society are stepping up in critical ways. We recognize that all our struggles for social, racial, gender, and economic justice and for self-determination are deeply interconnected and can only gain strength and power from one another. As Audre Lorde taught us, “When we can arm ourselves with the strength and vision from all our diverse communities then we will in truth all be free at last.”

Signatories:

Ujju Aggarwal, INCITE!; New School for Social Research

Rabab Ibrahim Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University

Bina Ahmad, National Lawyers Guild

Judith Butler, University of California, Berkeley

Linda Carty, Syracuse University

Ayoka Chenzira, Artist and Filmmaker

Angela Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz

Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz

Zillah Eisenstein, Anti-Racist Feminist Scholar, Activist, Writer

Eve Ensler, Writer, Activist, Founder of V-Day and One Billion Rising

G. Melissa Garcia, Dickinson College

Anna Guevarra, University of Illinois at Chicago

Lisa Kahaleole Hall, Wells College

bell hooks, Feminist critic and writer

Suad Joseph, University of California, Davis

J. Kehaulani Kauanui, Wesleyan University

Nada Khader, WESPAC Foundation

Mona Khalidi, Columbia University

Reem Khamis-Dakwar, Adelphi University

Nancy Kricorian, Writer

Amina Mama, University of California, Davis

Hannah Mermelstein, Adalah-NY; Librarians and Archivists with Palestine

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University

Nadine Naber, University of Illinois, Chicago

Premilla Nadasen, Barnard College

Donna Nevel, Jews Say No!; Nakba Education Project, US

Dana Olwan, Syracuse University

Barbara Ransby, University of Illinois at Chicago

Beverly Guy Sheftall, Author, Atlanta, Georgia

Kimberly M. Tallbear, University of Texas, Austin

Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace

Alice Walker, Writer and Activist

Editors: Here’s a list of “optimal” items to boycott to help end Israel occupation:

Food/Drink:

  • Sodastream
  • Jaffa citrus fruits
  • Golan Heights Wine
  • Sabra Hummus
  • Medjool Dates
  • Eden Springs Water
  • Dorot Garlic and Herbs, Israeli Cous Cous and Pastures of Eden Feta (found at Trader Joes)
  • Osem
  • Tribe Humus
  • Yes to Carrots
  • Sara Lee bakery items
  • Coca Cola: includes Dr Pepper, Fanta, Fruitopia, Kia Ora, Lilt, Sprite, Sunkist, Schweppes, Dasani Water, Nestea, Fresca, Tab

Clothes:

  • Victoria’s Secret
  • Sara Lee:  Hanes, Playtex, Champion, Leggs, Wonderbra
  • Naot shoes
  • Delta Galil Industries: Gap, J-Crew, J.C. Penny, Calvin Klein, Playtex, Victoria’s Secret, DIM, Donna Karan / DKNY, Ralph Lauren, Playtex, Calvin Klein (cK), Hugo Boss, Banana Republic, Structure

Makeup:

  • L’Oreal / The Body Shop
  • Estee Lauder
  • Ahava cosmetics
  • Dead Sea Cosmetics

Household:

  • Pampers
  • TEVA drugs

Technology:

  • Hewlett Packard
  • Intel
  • Motorola

Cars/Bulldozers:

  • Volvo
  • Hyundai
  • Caterpillar

(Resources: here, here, and here)

And here’s info on “Buycott,” a phone app to help do more consumer boycotting.

As the campaign for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions writes, “The consumer boycott is beginning to bite, too: a fifth of Israeli exporters reported a drop in demand as a result of the boycott in the wake of the Gaza massacre.”

One more thing:  here are links on how to engage in academic boycott, consumer boycott, cultural boycott, and press for divestments and sanctions.

Free Palestine is a Feminist Issue

“I was more than terrified,” [Sena Alissa] says while holding her newborn baby girl in a bed in Gaza City’s struggling al-Shifa hospital, 20 minutes from Nuseirat. “I’m giving birth in war.” (source)

The latest Israeli attack on occupied Palestine in the form of an ongoing military assault on the people living in the Gaza Strip has made an already unbearable situation much more devastating.  Women, children, and elders represent the majority of the hundreds of people who have lost their lives.  The assaults are a form of reproductive violence by creating conditions that increase miscarriages, pre-term labor, and stillbirths.  Israel is currently targeting sewage systems, worsening an existing water crisis created by the Israel blockade of supplies to Gaza, and depriving hundreds of thousands of Gaza residents of clean water.  Free Palestine is, and always has been, a feminist issue.

People around the world are mobilizing direct actions to denounce Israel’s brutal violence and ongoing occupation.  Here’s a list of convergencesBelow is INCITE!’s statement of endorsement of the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, framing the occupation with a race & gender analysis. 

INCITE_BDS_Page_1 INCITE_BDS_Page_2

Here are handouts: PDF, JPEG Front, JPEG Back
The statement is in text below.  Also visit this call from ASWAT to LGBTQ organizations to take action against the bombing of Gaza civilians. And download and place stickers or bookmarks where you see items that should be boycotted.  TAKE ACTION!

INCITE! endorses the Palestinian call for BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Palestine because…

  • Israel is a settler colonial state founded on the ethnic cleansing of 80% of the indigenous Palestinian people…
  • And because Israel considers Palestinian women a “demographic threat,”…
  • And because one in four women in Gaza, and 4 in 5 children there, are undernourished…
  • And because the siege on Gaza was described as “catastrophic” and a “prelude to genocide” even before the latest murderous assault…
  • And because Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN-commissioned independent report have concluded that Israel’s offensive in Gaza amounted to “crimes against humanity”…
  • And because the restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in a 58% increase in miscarriages among Palestinian women in the West Bank in a single year…
  • And because Israel celebrates the declining Palestinian birth rate as a success, while encouraging Jewish women to have more children…
  • And because Israel promotes itself as a haven for gay people, while barring queer Palestinians from participating in Pride day celebrations…
  • And because Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers with no right to due process, and are imprisoned without any charges against them…
  • And because our tax dollars are used, against our will, to create a living hell for Palestinian women and their families…
  • And because, since 2000, nearly 6500 Palestinians have been killed, including over 1400 children, and 40,000 have been injured…
  • And because, since 2000, 20,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished to allow for Israeli “natural growth,”…
  • And because Israel has resisted all official attempts to force it to comply with international law and end its violation of Palestinian human rights…
  • And because Israeli control and domination of the geographic terrain and resources of Palestine deny Palestinian families the right to free mobility, clean water, food, and other basic living necessities…
  • And because reports of torture and sexual violence of Palestinian men and women political prisoners and detainees violate international human rights law…
  • And because Israel’s entrenched system of discrimination and segregation constitutes an apartheid system as harsh as South Africa’s old system…
  • And because the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and is the model and inspiration of the Palestinian people today…
  • And because Palestinian civilian society, not their corrupt “leaders,” is calling upon the international community to show its solidarity and support by engaging in a similar consistent and comprehensive movement…

We can support the Global BDS movement by engaging in boycotting Israeli products everyday.

For more info on the global BDS movement, please visit:
http://www.bsdmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

Justice for Palestine: A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Please distribute widely

Justice for Palestine
A Call to Action from Indigenous and Women of Color Feminists

Between June 14 and June 23, 2011, a delegation of 11 scholars, activists, and artists visited occupied Palestine. As indigenous and women of color feminists involved in multiple social justice struggles, we sought to affirm our association with the growing international movement for a free Palestine. We wanted to see for ourselves the conditions under which Palestinian people live and struggle against what we can now confidently name as the Israeli project of apartheid and ethnic cleansing. Each and every one of us—including those members of our delegation who grew up in the Jim Crow South, in apartheid South Africa, and on Indian reservations in the U.S.—was shocked by what we saw. In this statement we describe some of our experiences and issue an urgent call to others who share our commitment to racial justice, equality, and freedom.

During our short stay in Palestine, we met with academics, students, youth, leaders of civic organizations, elected officials, trade unionists, political leaders, artists, and civil society activists, as well as residents of refugee camps and villages that have been recently attacked by Israeli soldiers and settlers. Everyone we encountered—in Nablus, Awarta, Balata, Jerusalem, Hebron, Dheisheh, Bethlehem, Birzeit, Ramallah, Um el-Fahem, and Haifa—asked us to tell the truth about life under occupation and about their unwavering commitment to a free Palestine. We were deeply impressed by people’s insistence on the linkages between the movement for a free Palestine and struggles for justice throughout the world; as Martin Luther King, Jr. insisted throughout his life, “Justice is indivisible. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Traveling by bus throughout the country, we saw vast numbers of Israeli settlements ominously perched in the hills, bearing witness to the systematic confiscation of Palestinian land in flagrant violation of international law and United Nations resolutions. We met with refugees across the country whose families had been evicted from their homes by Zionist forces, their land confiscated, their villages and olive groves razed. As a consequence of this ongoing displacement, Palestinians comprise the largest refugee population in the world (over five million), the majority living within 100 kilometers of their natal homes, villages, and farmlands. In defiance of United Nations Resolution 194, Israel has an active policy of opposing the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their ancestral homes and lands on the grounds that they are not entitled to exercise the Israeli Law of Return, which is reserved for Jews.

In Sheikh Jarrah, a neighborhood in eastern occupied Jerusalem, we met an 88-year-old woman who was forcibly evicted in the middle of the night; she watched as the Israeli military moved settlers into her house a mere two hours later. Now living in the small back rooms of what was once her large family residence, she defiantly asserted that neither Israel’s courts nor its military could ever force her from her home. In the city of Hebron, we were stunned by the conspicuous presence of Israeli soldiers, who maintain veritable conditions of apartheid for the city’s Palestinian population of almost 200,000, as against its 700 Jewish settlers. We crossed several Israeli checkpoints designed to control Palestinian movement on West Bank roads and along the Green Line. Throughout our stay, we met Palestinians who, because of Israel’s annexation of Jerusalem and plans to remove its native population, have been denied entry to the Holy City. We spoke to a man who lives ten minutes away from Jerusalem but who has not been able to enter the city for twenty-seven years. The Israeli government thus continues to wage a demographic war for Jewish dominance over the Palestinian population.

We were never able to escape the jarring sight of the ubiquitous apartheid wall, which stands in contempt of international law and human rights principles. Constructed of twenty-five-foot-high concrete slabs, electrified cyclone fencing, and winding razor wire, it almost completely encloses the West Bank and extends well east of the Green Line marking Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It snakes its way through ancient olive groves, destroying the beauty of the landscape, dividing communities and families, severing farmers from their fields and depriving them of their livelihood. In Abu Dis, the wall cuts across the campus of Al Quds University through the soccer field. In Qalqiliya, we saw massive gates built to control the entry and access of Palestinians to their lands and homes, including a gated corridor through which Palestinians with increasingly rare Israeli-issued permits are processed as they enter Israel for work, sustaining the very state that has displaced them. Palestinian children are forced through similar corridors, lining-up for hours twice each day to attend school. As one Palestinian colleague put it, “Occupied Palestine is the largest prison in the world.”

An extensive prison system bolsters the occupation and suppresses resistance. Everywhere we went we met people who had either been imprisoned themselves or had relatives who had been incarcerated. Twenty thousand Palestinians are locked inside Israeli prisons, at least 8,000 of them are political prisoners and more than 300 are children. In Jerusalem, we met with members of the Palestinian Legislative Council who are being protected from arrest by the International Committee of the Red Cross. In Um el-Fahem, we met with an Islamist leader just after his release from prison and heard a riveting account of his experience on the Mavi Marmara and the 2010 Gaza Flotilla. The criminalization of their political activity, and that of the many Palestinians we met, was a constant and harrowing theme.

We also came to understand how overt repression is buttressed by deceptive representations of the state of Israel as the most developed social democracy in the region. As feminists, we deplore the Israeli practice of “pink-washing,” the state’s use of ostensible support for gender and sexual equality to dress-up its occupation. In Palestine, we consistently found evidence and analyses of a more substantive approach to an indivisible justice. We met the President and the leadership of the Arab Feminist Union and several other women’s groups in Nablus who spoke about the role and struggles of Palestinian women on several fronts. We visited one of the oldest women’s empowerment centers in Palestine, In’ash al-Usra, and learned about various income-generating cultural projects. We also spoke with Palestinian Queers for BDS [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions], young organizers who frame the struggle for gender and sexual justice as part and parcel of a comprehensive framework for self-determination and liberation. Feminist colleagues at Birzeit University, An-Najah University, and Mada al-Carmel spoke to us about the organic linkage of anti-colonial resistance with gender and sexual equality, as well as about the transformative role Palestinian institutions of higher education play in these struggles.

We were continually inspired by the deep and abiding spirit of resistance in the stories people told us, in the murals inside buildings such as Ibdaa Center in Dheisheh Refugee Camp, in slogans painted on the apartheid wall in Qalqiliya, Bethlehem, and Abu Dis, in the education of young children, and in the commitment to emancipatory knowledge production. At our meeting with the Boycott National Committee—an umbrella alliance of over 200 Palestinian civil society organizations, including the General Union of Palestinian Women, the General Union of Palestinian Workers, the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel [PACBI], and the Palestinian Network of NGOs—we were humbled by their appeal: “We are not asking you for heroic action or to form freedom brigades. We are simply asking you not to be complicit in perpetuating the crimes of the Israeli state.”

Therefore, we unequivocally endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. The purpose of this campaign is to pressure Israeli state-sponsored institutions to adhere to international law, basic human rights, and democratic principles as a condition for just and equitable social relations. We reject the argument that to criticize the State of Israel is anti-Semitic. We stand with Palestinians, an increasing number of Jews, and other human rights activists all over the world in condemning the flagrant injustices of the Israeli occupation.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the U.S. and elsewhere to join us by endorsing the BDS campaign and by working to end U.S. financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation. We call upon all people of conscience to engage in serious dialogue about Palestine and to acknowledge connections between the Palestinian cause and other struggles for justice. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

Rabab Abdulhadi, San Francisco State University*

Ayoka Chenzira, artist and filmmaker, Atlanta, GA

Angela Y. Davis, University of California, Santa Cruz*

Gina Dent, University of California, Santa Cruz*

G. Melissa Garcia, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University*

Anna Romina Guevarra, author and sociologist, Chicago, IL

Beverly Guy-Sheftall, author, Atlanta, GA

Premilla Nadasen, author, New York, NY

Barbara Ransby, author and historian, Chicago, IL

Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Syracuse University*

Waziyatawin, University of Victoria*

*For identification purposes only

For press inquiries, please contact feministdelegation@gmail.com.

***

INCITE! also endorses the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction for Palestine.
For more info & resources, please visit:

http://inciteblog.wordpress.com/2010/03/30/global-bds-day-of-action/
http://www.bdsmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

Reflections from Detroit: Standoff with StandWithUs

Continuing our Reflections from Detroit series, Nada Elia recounts the struggle for solidarity with Palestine at the US Social Forum.

***

Standoff with StandWithUs, by Nada Elia

In my mind, US Social Forum 2010 will always be the “Standoff with StandWithUs” conference.  How could it be otherwise, when all my energy, as well as that of dozens of Palestine activists, before and during the five-day meeting (but, thankfully, not since) was devoted to shutting down the workshop that StandWithUs (SWU), a violent racist hate group managed to get included in the program?

What follows are my own reflections — partial in that they are biased, truncated, and offer only my perspective on the standoff.  I offer them somewhat reluctantly, because I feel that it is important to record this historic moment, while fearing they may be misunderstood as an all-encompassing critique of the forum and its organizers.  As an organizer myself, I am fully aware of the work involved in organizing a conference, and I speak as someone who has organized three-day, 2000-member conferences, i.e. gatherings that pale in comparison to the 5-day, 20,000 participants USSF.  I know how much planning is needed in order to pull through an event of this magnitude, and I appreciate that USSF 2010 was overall an extremely successful gathering, whose momentum will hopefully continue to ripple through multiple progressive American communities. My reflections, then, are offered humbly as a brief retrospect of USSF’s process of addressing StandWithUs, and commentary on what this process says about the US left’s still tenuous relationship with Palestine solidarity work and Palestine activism overall.

Art by Jesus Barraza

The “buzz” about StandWithUs (SWU) presenting a workshop entitled “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East” at the USSF started within minutes of the Forum’s full schedule finally being posted online, a week or so before the five-day event was to open.   Palestinian activists and our allies, who had proposed a great many workshops, were super excited to see that every single one of these had been accepted.  The initial euphoria, however, was soon completely gone, dissipating into utter shock and awe as we discovered that a workshop by StandWithUs was also on the program.  StandWithUs?  Really?  How could that be?

StandWithUs is a racist hate group, an Israel apologist organization known for its history of keeping records on Palestine activists, which it then uses to disrupt their personal and professional lives.  SWU is a group that prides itself on its censorship of any discussion of Israeli excesses and its intimidation of progressive activism.  Here is a video of the hate group in action.

Of course, I know better than to assume any public forum to be a “safe space.”  And yes, the USSF is a public forum, and as such, I and my fellow Palestinian activists (and, I would assume, any seasoned activist, whatever their particular cause) knew there would be disruptions, heckling, de-railing, and all the variations on the theme of bigotry and intolerance that pervade all socio-political spaces.  Nevertheless, the USSF did present itself as a progressive left forum, its points of unity, posted on its website, specified the forum was anti-racist and non-violent, hence a group that engages in this type of action must—by the very guidelines of the USSF—be excluded.  And now, they were going to facilitate a workshop on queer Arab communities?

Immediately after seeing the SWU workshop listed in the program, queer Arab activists in the US contacted our Arab sisters, and four queer Arab activist organizations issued a letter entitled “Arab Queers Say No To Pinkwashing,” exposing the truth about SWU and calling upon the USSF to cancel the workshop, which would have totally misrepresented our circumstances for the purposes of painting Israel as a gay haven in the Middle East.  Here is an excerpt:

StandWithUs has no connection with the LGBT movement in the Middle East apart from ties to Zionist Israeli LGBT organizations, yet it claims to speak for and about our movements. It has no credibility in our region, and as organizations working in and from the Middle East, we condemn its attempt to use us, our struggles, our lives, and our experiences as a platform for pro-Israeli propaganda.

The “pinkwashing of apartheid” is a relatively new development in Israel’s PR campaign, yet one that numerous observers of the Middle East have noted.  Jasbir Puar explains:

Israeli pinkwashing is a potent method through which the terms of Israeli occupation of Palestine are reiterated – Israel is civilised, Palestinians are barbaric, homophobic, uncivilised, suicide-bombing fanatics. It produces Israel as the only gay-friendly country in an otherwise hostile region. This has manifold effects: it denies Israeli homophobic oppression of its own gays and lesbians, of which there is plenty, and it recruits, often unwittingly, gays and lesbians of other countries into a collusion with Israeli violence towards Palestine.

In reproducing orientalist tropes of Palestinian sexual backwardness, it also denies the impact of colonial occupation on the degradation and containment of Palestinian cultural norms and values. Pinkwashing harnesses global gays as a new source of affiliation, recruiting liberal gays into a dirty bargaining of their own safety against the continued oppression of Palestinians, now perforce rebranded as “gay unfriendly”. This strategy then also works to elide the presence of numerous Palestinian gay and lesbian organisations, for example Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (PQBDS).

Was the USSF going to be complicit?  Having submitted the Queer Arab groups’ statement, and forwarded a number of links about SWU, including one to the group’s own website, we assumed the issue would soon be resolved. It seemed like a pretty straight forward matter: the National Planning Committee of the USSF explained to us that, for lack of people power, they had not screened any of the proposals, and accepted every single one.  That is how the SWU proposal was accepted.  However, now they knew better.  The communities whom SWU was supposed to represent objected to this workshop in an eloquent letter. As a group, SWU violates the profound spirit and vision of USSF.   Upon being asked, Brett Cohen, the contact person for the workshop admitted there were no Arab queer facilitators of the SWU workshop, and that he would not be willing to consider having such a co-facilitator.  We also reminded the USSF organizers of the problem that had occurred three years earlier, at the Atlanta USSF, when an Israeli speaker had misrepresented Palestinians, and how the USSF planners had made a commitment not to let that happen again.  Each of these reasons alone was sufficient to have the USSF cancel the SWU workshop.

Thus it was beyond shocking to hear the USSF National Planning Committee (NPC) tell us that they would not make that decision.  They could not.  It just wasn’t feasible.  It was best for everyone if the workshop went ahead, what’s one SWU workshop, when we had so many Palestinian ones…

What??? We were in utter disbelief.  We explained to them that they would never allow the KKK to present “just one workshop” about anything (let alone “black sexuality,” for example), even if there were 50 workshops about various aspects of communities of color on the program.  We reminded them of their commitment not to allow misrepresentation of Palestinian issues by Zionist speakers.  We argued that of course the USSF is a political space—this after we were told that some members of the NPC did not feel the USSF should be political.

To add insult to injury, we kept being told that the reason the SWU workshop would not be cancelled was because there could potentially be costly consequences to other presenters at the Forum, as SWU might pull strings to influence foundations to withhold funding to groups facilitating workshops at the USSF, if the USSF gave in to our request that their workshop be cancelled.  This reasoning is a mille-feuille of layers of problematic expediency. Queer Arab rights can be thrown under the bus by some of the organizers of the USSF, out of fear that NGO funding may be withheld?

Art by Cristy C. Road

The Arab, Palestinian, and pro-Palestine Queer communities were reeling from this, but we were determined.  This was important.  This was a make or break test. Considering the long history of misrepresentation of Palestinian issues in the US, as well as Arab sexuality issues generally, the inclusion of this workshop was not acceptable.  Too much was at stake.    StandWithUs must not be allowed to exploit the homophobia our communities endure, so as to present Israel as “the only gay-friendly country in the region.”

As time went by, and we kept asking the USSF planners to cancel the workshop, only to be given answers such as “it’s only one workshop, you have dozens,” or “just tell people not to go there,” and “It’s not such a simple decision to make, we have to look at how others may potentially be impacted,” it became clear to me the USSF had no intention of canceling.   While I continued to be in “behind-the-scenes” communication with a number of NPC organizers, some of whom were sympathetic, I was also very vocal in public, social media discussions, where yes, I did openly call the BS I felt we were being fed by the USSF.  As we were told of some NPC members’ fears of repercussions, should they cancel, I lashed out, telling them solidarity requires making difficult decisions, taking a stand with the oppressed communities, rather than attempting not to rattle the powerful.  I screamed (in all caps) that the delay in giving us an official answer was unacceptable, we needed to know, so we would plan accordingly.

I know there was some concern about my anger, my outspokenness, my “hell no I ain’t gonna take this crap” attitude, but I do believe the public pressure played a major role in finally getting the USSF to change their mind.  I received personal messages from people who have not identified themselves to this day, telling me to STFU, someone I still only know as the “list moderator” accused me of being disruptive, and duplicitous, since I was working on two fronts:  behind the scenes, with personal communication with the NPC, as well as in public spaces such as Facebook.  I responded that if there were a third or fourth front, I’d join those too, because this was too important not to pursue all the way, and in every way.

I also received expressions of concern from members of the Palestinian community, who told me my attitude may be burning bridges with the USSF NPC that they had worked hard for the past two years to build.  While networking and alliance building are of the utmost importance to me, I have to admit that I did not think burning those particular bridges would constitute a great loss, as I saw how frail they were in the first place, if now that we had a conflict, which required that the USSF take sides, we were basically being asked to “put up with SWU,” and organize your own protest if you want, as the USSF wasn’t going to cancel the workshop.

And yes, there were also messages of support, of gratitude for my persistence, my insistence that one racist workshop by a group known to advocate violence was one such workshop too many, at a progressive anti-racist anti-violence gathering.

The USSF was starting, I packed my suitcase, and headed to Detroit with a heavy heart:  we had not won the battle.  Not yet.

Apparently, however, our efforts were beginning to pay off.  Clearly, the long years of “educating” American progressives about Palestine had not been in vain, as the USPCN and the USSF NPC continued the difficult conversation, pushing, pushing…. In Detroit itself, members of various pro-Palestine groups met again with the NPC, into the wee morning hours, arguing our case.

Finally, on Monday, June 21st, one day before the USSF officially began, the NPC released a statement about the debate.  Here’s an excerpt:

We agree [Stand With Us] does not belong at the Forum, and should not have made it into our program. Also, the deliberate masking of the true nature of the workshop behind movement language goes against the transparency and accountability we expect from those participating in the Forum.

This is unacceptable to the National Planning Committee (NPC), and we deeply regret the oversight and sincerely apologize for the delay in our response. Our dilemma has been how to protect the integrity of the Forum as a movement convergence space without playing into this very underhanded, well-known, and potentially divisive tactic. We do not want to give Stand With Us a platform it does not deserve. We are aware of its history in using claims of censorship against those who defend Palestinian rights. We are engaged in a very real strategic debate about how to move forward.

And indeed, even after the NPC statement was issued, even after the USSF officially started, the debate went on.

And then, one day into the USSF, and after hours and hours of additional meetings, the decision we had worked so hard to obtain was finally announced:  the USSF was canceling the SWU workshop, a workshop it should never had accepted in the first place, and which it should have simply cancelled within minutes of discovering how dishonest it was.  With very little fanfare, this announcement was posted to USSF’s Facebook status on Wednesday morning, June 23:

The workshop “LGBTQI Liberation in the Middle East” (Thursday June 24 10am – 12pm) has been canceled for violating the submission procedure and transparency requirements for all workshops, and for being in violation of the anti-racist principles central to the US Social Forum.

The US Palestinian Community Network (USPCN), representing Palestinian communities at the USSF, released a statement on the decision to cancel the workshop.  Here is an excerpt:

In a historic accomplishment, the leadership of the US Social Forum voted this morning to cancel a workshop proposed by “Stand With US”, a Zionist organization <http://www.standwithus.com/> that sought to represent Israel as a safe haven for LGBTQI communities and undermine the broadening support for the cause of justice in/for Palestine. …  This is a victory for our struggle and indeed the struggle for justice for all. This victory makes it clear that the struggle for justice in/for Palestine is an integral part of the worldwide movement for freedom, dignity, justice and peace.

Why did it take so long for the USSF NPC to do what’s right?  The delay, I believe, is sadly representative of the state of the US left when it comes to dealing with Palestine.  Despite the US left’s commitment to denouncing (and, hopefully, ending) colonialism, racism, militarism, state violence, occupation, sexism, homophobia, and the various interrelated evils of hetero-patriarchy, this “camp” is still home to large communities who fail to understand that our struggles are one and the same.  As Noura Erakat put it in her incisive analysis:

Yet despite this yearning to nurture American solidarity, there is a vast divide between the aspiration and the understanding required for its realization — that Palestinians, other nations, and millions of marginalized Americans contend with the same structural impediments standing between them and the full realization of their human dignity. The understanding of a common enemy and the affirmation of a common humanity is the linchpin of genuine solidarity.

And yet, as the USPCN statement points out, the US Left is finally coming around.    The long years of work, of “educating” American leftists about the moral righteousness of our cause, the seemingly endless task of disentangling the deliberate Zionist twinning of critiques of Israel with anti-Semitism, were beginning to bear fruit.  Not only was the StandWithUs workshop cancelled, but in the closing plenary, when the various People’s Movement Assemblies came together to announce the resolutions they had drafted after five days of meetings, a number of groups expressed not just solidarity with Palestine, but an actual commitment to engage in actions for Palestine.  The support we felt in that gigantic and potentially intimidating room was empowering and thoroughly comforting.  Yes, we were coming together, the bridges had carried us over from one shore to another, and they could withhold traffic, including solidarity work.

It is a long time coming.  It has not been an easy road, nor will it necessarily be easy now, even as we can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.  But then again, such is the minefield of Palestine solidarity.  It wouldn’t be called a struggle if it were easy.

And that makes the victory so much sweeter.

Nada Elia

Nada Elia is a former member of the INCITE! national collective, where she co-chaired the taskforce on Militarism and Law Enforcement Violence.  She is currently organizing with the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: http://www.usacbi.org

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Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, & Sanction of Apartheid Israel

The following is a statement from Palestinian Queers for BDS:

Palestinian Queers for BDS

Call upon all Queer groups, organizations and individuals around the world to

Boycott the Apartheid State of Israel.

June 27th 2010

As Palestinian Queers, we see the Queer movements as political in their nature; and ones that analyze the intersections between different struggles, evaluate relations of power and try to challenge them. We firmly believe that fighting for the rights of oppressed and marginalized queer minorities cannot be separated from fighting against all forms of oppression around the world. This is evident in the proud history of the queer movement worldwide, which has joined numerous global socio-political struggles against manifestations of oppression, imperialism, injustice, and discrimination wherever they exist. In continuation to this proud history, we Palestinian Queer activists, call upon the LGBTQI communities around the globe to stand for justice in Palestine through adopting and implementing broad boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until the latter has ended its multi-tiered oppression of the Palestinian people, in line with the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS [1].

For 62 years, Israel’s oppressive regime of colonization, occupation and apartheid has systematically and consistently denied the Palestinian people of their basic human rights. Palestinians living in the West Bank have been subjected to a brutal military occupation manifested by Israel’s illegal colonies, checkpoints, and the apartheid wall. Palestinians living inside Israel continue to face systematic, legalized apartheid policies which discriminate against them in all walks of life, rendering them second class citizens, at best, inside Israel. The majority of Palestinians in the Diaspora continue to be denied their UN-sanctioned right of return to their homes. The 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza face the most brutal oppression of all as they live in an open air prison after years of the illegal Israeli siege on the Gaza strip, one that was described as ‘slow genocide’ by prominent international law experts.

This Israeli ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people does not differentiate between Palestinian Queers, and non-Queers. Not only do Palestinian queers face these injustices on a daily basis and undergo the Israeli oppression like any other Palestinian, but also our name and struggle is often wrongly used and abused to “Pinkwash” Israel’s continuous crimes against the whole Palestinian population. In the last years Israel has been leading an international campaign that tries to present Israel as the “only democracy” and the “gay haven” in the Middle East, while ironically portraying Palestinians, who suffer every single day from Israel’s state racism and terrorism, as barbaric and homophobic.

Thus, we Palestinian queer activists call on Queer groups, organizations and individuals around the world to stand for justice and in the face of Israel’s pinkwashing efforts through joining the global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it fully complies with international law, and ends its occupation, colonization and apartheid. We call on you to:

  • Endorse the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for BDS, spread it in your Queer community.
  • Reject all invitations to speak at and collaborate with Israeli universities and institutions, in accordance with the guidelines for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel set by PACBI [2]
  • Campaign against all activities aiming to Pinkwash Israel’s crimes and oppression of the Palestinian people.
  • Organize in your respective communities to initiate BDS campaigns, or join existing ones.

[1] Palestinian United Call for Boycott: http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/5
[2] PACBI – Call for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=869

—————–

Art by Favianna Rodriguez

INCITE! endorses the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction of Israel to resist Israeli apartheid.  For more info on INCITE!’s stance on Palestine, please see:
-

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Global BDS Day of Action

March 30th is Global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction Day of Action to resist Israeli apartheid in Palestine.  The official page for the day of action can be found here:

http://bdsdayofaction.wordpress.com/

Today, INCITE! released an article to be published in the upcoming issue of Left Turn Magazine entitled, “Palestine, Haiti, and the Politics of Aid: ‘Disaster Relief’ vs Sustainability & Self-Determination.”

INCITE! endorses the Palestinian call for BDS—Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions for Palestine because…

  • Israel is a settler colonial state founded on the ethnic cleansing of 80% of the indigenous Palestinian people…
  • And because Israel considers Palestinian women a “demographic threat,”…
  • And because one in four women in Gaza, and 4 in 5 children there, are undernourished…
  • And because the siege on Gaza was described as “catastrophic” and a “prelude to genocide” even before the latest murderous assault…
  • And because Amnesty International, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and a UN-commissioned independent report have concluded that Israel’s offensive in Gaza amounted to “crimes against humanity”…
  • And because the restrictions imposed by Israel have resulted in a 58% increase in miscarriages among Palestinian women in the West Bank in a single year…
  • And because Israel celebrates the declining Palestinian birth rate as a success, while encouraging Jewish women to have more children…
  • And because Israel promotes itself as a haven for gay people, while barring queer Palestinians from participating in Pride day celebrations…
  • And because Palestinian children are arrested by Israeli soldiers with no right to due process, and are imprisoned without any charges against them…
  • And because our tax dollars are used, against our will, to create a living hell for Palestinian women and their families…
  • And because, since 2000, nearly 6500 Palestinians have been killed, including over 1400 children, and 40,000 have been injured…
  • And because, since 2000, 20,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished to allow for Israeli “natural growth,”…
  • And because Israel has resisted all official attempts to force it to comply with international law and end its violation of Palestinian human rights…
  • And because Israeli control and domination of the geographic terrain and resources of Palestine deny Palestinian families the right to free mobility, clean water, food, and other basic living necessities…
  • And because reports of torture and sexual violence of Palestinian men and women political prisoners and detainees violate international human rights law…
  • And because Israel’s entrenched system of discrimination and segregation constitutes an apartheid system as harsh as South Africa’s old system…
  • And because the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement played a major role in ending apartheid in South Africa, and is the model and inspiration of the Palestinian people today…
  • And because Palestinian civilian society, not their corrupt “leaders,” is calling upon the international community to show its solidarity and support by engaging in a similar consistent and comprehensive movement…

We can support the Global BDS movement by engaging in boycotting Israeli products everyday.

Download a postcard with the above information to distribute.

Download and place stickers or bookmarks where you see items that should be boycotted.

Listen to a podcast from KPFA, featuring an interview with INCITE! member, Nada Elia, about the importance of the global BDS movement to support Palestine.

For more info on the global BDS movement, please visit:
http://www.bsdmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

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Palestine, Haiti, and the Politics of Aid: “Disaster Relief” vs Sustainability & Self-Determination

Palestine, Haiti, and the Politics of Aid:
“Disaster Relief” vs Sustainability & Self-Determination

By Nada Elia, Shana griffin, and Alisa Bierria, with INCITE! Women Color Against Violence

(A version of this article will be printed in the Apr/June ’10 issue of Left Turn Magazine.  We are releasing in recognition of Global Boycott, Divestment, Sanction Day.)

On January 12th, 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, killing an estimated 230,000 people, injuring over 300,000, and effectively destroying the capital city of Port-Au-Prince and its surrounding towns and cities, while displacing and rendering homeless nearly 1.5 million people. Almost immediately, international aid and charity organizations, individuals, faith-based and community groups, and national governments mobilized food, medicine, clothes, services, and money.

Less than a week later, on January 17th, Palestinians commemorated the one-year anniversary of the end of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s 22-day military assault on the Gaza Strip, which killed approximately 1,400 Palestinians, a third of whom were children, and rendered 20,000 homeless. Even prior to that assault, the Gaza Strip, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, the majority of whom are refugees expelled from their homes in 1948, had been weakened, impoverished, and starved for eighteen months, resulting in conditions described as “a prelude to genocide” by United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur for Human Rights Richard Falk. A year later, Gaza remains besieged and in crisis, and the Israeli state continues to block humanitarian relief aid from reaching devastated Palestinian communities.

Why the different responses to the two catastrophes? This phenomenon may be explained by the apparent differences between the two: one is human-induced, a political, military assault to control and dispossess a criminalized people, while the other is considered a natural geological phenomenon, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which could have happened anywhere. However, in both cases, aid is closely controlled based on each location’s particular experience of disenfranchisement and marginalization. The ongoing consequences of disaster, whether or not the people are deemed worthy of disaster aid, and the conditions that are put on aid distribution are all shaped by pre-existing relations of control, regulation, exploitation, and vulnerability.

Activists, NGOs, and some governmental agencies have been trying to get desperately-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza for years. The Viva Palestina convoys and Gaza Freedom March of December 2009-January 2010 are only the most recent and widely publicized examples. Because so much of the infrastructure has been shattered by the siege and repeated Israeli assaults, most places in Gaza have no electricity, no running water, and no materials to rebuild destroyed homes and facilities.

Seriously aggravating an already dire situation, Operation Cast Lead eliminated nearly half of the hospitals and health care facilities in Gaza, putting the entire population of Palestinians in Gaza at severe health risk. UNICEF reports that the blockade has resulted in the severe malnutrition of thousands of children in Gaza.  Although the UN and activists across the globe have denounced Israel’s criminal blockade, Israeli forces continue to engage in the collective punishment of Gaza’s refugee population in order to weaken the democratically elected Hamas. Aid, or more correctly its withholding, is clearly utilized as a powerful political tool that can be wielded in any way an outside power sees fit.

Preemptive criminalization

In contrast, Haiti has seen an outpouring of aid from all over the globe, complete with celebrity telethons and a special appeal from First Lady Michelle Obama. But what kinds of strings are attached to the aid pouring into post-earthquake Haiti? Underneath the superficial differences are similar military and political forces at play in both countries. While the Israeli state, with the explicit backing of the US, effectively blocks aid to Gaza, the US is engaging in the militarization of disaster aid and is deploying what Kenyan writer and activist Shailja Patel identifies as “preemptive criminalization of disaster victims.”

The militarization of aid to Haiti includes installing heavily armed US forces for recovery efforts based on the practices of military conflict and violence, effectively deciding what aid will enter Haiti, how that aid will be distributed, who is deserving of help, what security threat Haitians represent to US borders, and where survivors will be re-located (Guantanamo Bay) if, as one US Navy Rear Admiral put it, “Haitians leave their homeland and are captured at sea.”

And just as Operation Cast Lead aggravated decades of Palestinian dispossession, the unimaginable suffering and challenges the people of Haiti are experiencing due to the devastating earthquake are a clear example of a disaster made worse by years of deep seated racism, militarization, and neoliberal conditionality policies of development. As a consequence of the 1804 Haitian Revolution, the only successful slave revolt in history, the Haitian people were forced to pay reparations to France for their success in overthrowing their colonial ruler, thus subverting Haiti’s sovereignty, bankrupting the newly formed republic, and creating its cycle of debt dependency.

The refusal of the US and Western European countries to recognize Haiti as a sovereign nation in the 1800s, the economic manipulation by foreign governments and international financing agencies, and the eventual US occupation of Haiti from 1915-1934, have aided in uneven development patterns, poverty, violence, and dictatorships that have plagued the country for centuries. Additionally, the US-backed neoliberal economic exploitation of Haiti by the IMF and World Bank under the Clinton Administration during the 1990s, as well as the US-supported 2004 coup, which undermined Haitian democracy under the Bush Administration, have exacerbated poverty, unsustainable development, labor exploitation, corruption, and other intersecting forms of gender and class-based violence in Haiti.

Undesirable communities

Aid is often used as a tool of control and manipulation on a macro-scale, as a result of geo-political and economic dominance, war, occupation, and catastrophic natural events. It is also seen at micro-levels, when governments and international agencies determine what kind of aid is offered, who receives it and under what conditions, and who is most vulnerable to having resources taken away and/or withheld. These dynamics are revealed when we examine the experiences of those who are not deemed aid-worthy; most notably, incarcerated persons, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming people, people with disabilities, sex workers, communities representing a “demographic threat,” and those perceived as a burden on the state. Just as these communities were viewed as “undesirable” prior to a disaster, they continue to be marginalized after a catastrophe, when criminalization and withheld resources have exponentially greater consequences.

Pre-existing racialized gender inequality and vulnerability during times of emergencies often become disasters onto themselves, resulting in punitive policies and practices of sexual violence, reproductive violence, and population control that criminalize the bodies of those experiencing the devastation. Examples of reproductive/population violence include the practice of kidnapping and trafficking Haitian children for the purposes of giving them to “better” parents in the US, and the recent genocidal calls by Harvard fellow Martin Kramer to prevent Palestinian births, which he argues creates “superfluous young men.” Poverty, economic instability, and climate change are then blamed on these bodies, always-already perceived as “over-populating.” Instead of prioritizing the provision of immediate humanitarian aid, family reunification, reproductive self-determination, and human rights protection, punitive policies are then enforced through the use of armed forces, neoliberal economic mandates, eugenic family planning policies, controlled corporate development, and human rights violations.

Sustainability & Self-Determination

Because international aid generally results in an exacerbation of pre-existing inequalities, further dispossessing those who had already been pushed to society’s margins, it is critical for those of us wishing to help to examine the politics and practices of international aid agencies, who are often myopic to the constraints of individuals within these communities. We must keep in mind that genuine solidarity requires that we educate ourselves about the socio-political circumstances on the ground as perceived, lived, and analyzed by those who need it most. These circumstances, this organic experience, will differ from the image presented to us by international groups and agencies which, through funding or ideology, often aggravate the oppressive dynamics amongst those we seek to support. Our guidance must come from those who have experienced the catastrophe, and will endure its long-term consequences. Whether in Haiti or Palestine, as indeed in every part of the world, grassroots organizations are already active on the ground, whose leadership and experience we must heed, if we are to be respectful of these communities’ self-determination.

In Palestine, close to 200 civilian groups representing a broad majority of the Palestinian population living under Israeli apartheid as well as in the Diaspora, issued a call for a global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement to end the apartheid. That call first came out in 2005, and the Palestinian civilian leadership has repeatedly asked that supporters engage in BDS as a form of non-violent resistance. Therefore, solidarity with Palestine requires that we endorse and follow the Palestinian call for BDS. This, rather than more symbolic attempts at delivering aid, is what Palestinians need to end the apartheid, which is the cause of the humanitarian crisis.

In Haiti, we must look to local grassroots groups that are steeped in the country’s knowledge and experience who are defining the kind of support that Haiti needs. The statement jointly issued by the Women’s Health & Justice Initiative and INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence begins to outline how US-based groups and individuals can assist grassroots recovery in Haiti and includes suggestions such as donating to local Haitian organizations engaged in gender justice work, convening popular education opportunities to learn more about Haiti’s powerful political history, and mobilizing for the end of US militarization and economic exploitation of Haiti.

Immediate aid relief and rescue operations are critical for the survival of a devastated community. However, if aid does not support the long-term sustainability and sovereignty of a people, the consequences of that aid itself could be as catastrophic as the military or natural disaster that befell them.

***

For more info about the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Campaign to Support Palestine, please visit:
http://www.bsdmovement.net/
http://usacbi.org/

Nada Elia is a third-generation refugee from Jerusalem, Palestine. She serves on the Organizing Committee of the US Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel and co-chairs INCITE!’s Anti-Militarism and Anti-Occupation Collective. A scholar-activist, Nada is core faculty at Antioch University in Seattle, WA.

Shana griffin is a black feminist, mother of a 16 year-old, social justice activist, and researcher based in New Orleans. Shana is co-founder of the Women’s Health & Justice Initiative, an INCITE! affiliate, where she currently serves as Research and Advocacy Director. Her current research examines the intersections of gender, disasters, displacement, and reproductive violence in the lives and on the bodies of women of color.

Alisa Bierria is a black feminist activist who works with INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence and the Women’s Health & Justice Initiative. She also works on her dissertation which proposes a framework to describe agency as it exists in the context of oppression.

INCITE! is a national activist organization of radical feminists of color advancing a movement to end violence against women of color and our communities through direct action, critical dialogue, and grassroots organizing.

To connect with INCITE!’s transnational work with Haiti, please contact us at incite.natl@gmail.com

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