Monday, July 6, 2015

Melbourne Pro-Palestine activists shut down Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, on anniversary of Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza.

Dear friends,
it's been a horribly cold and rainy day in Melbourne today, but a small group of activists ignored the weather and have once more shut down Elbit Systems in Melbourne.

The activists have continued to blockade the site all day, with a number of activists "locking on" to Elbit's gates. 

At the same time in the UK, Palestine solidarity activists have also successfully shut down Elbit Systems in Kent.


Please find below the media release from the activists, as well as photos and video from the action.


You can follow the Melbourne action on twitter at: @akaWACA

You can follow the UK action on twitter at:
@blockthefactory


in solidarity, Kim 

***

Pro-Palestinian activists shut down Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, on anniversary of Israel’s ‘Protective Edge’ assault on GAZA.

Media Release July 6, 2015
For Immediate Release


NOTE: This action is currently ongoing at 235 Ingles St Port Melbourne.
At 8am members of the Melbourne Palestine Action Coalition (MPAC) shut down the headquarters of Israeli arms manufacturer, ELBIT SYSTEMS, at 235 Ingles St Port Melbourne to mark the first anniversary of the 2014 Israeli ‘Protective Edge’ assault on Gaza. The group have blockaded access to the building and currently have two people locked on to the entrance gate, who state that they are prepared to remain there as long as possible. This is the second time the pro-Palestinian group has disrupted Elbit Systems, the first time being in August 2014 when they occupied the building’s roof and blockaded the entrance to Elbit during the 2014 Israeli attack on Gaza. (see more photos of the previous action )

MPAC spokesperson Kat Moore explains: “This blockade is part of an International campaign to shut down Elbit Systems and coincides with events in London later today, to mark the anniversary of the deadly assault on GAZA last year. We are here today to demand the Australian Government end military trade deals with Israel and cancel all domestic contracts with Elbit Systems. We, like many other groups around the world, call on the UN and all governments to take immediate steps to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel.” 

Elbit Systems is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of unmanned aerial drones used by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in their ongoing siege and frequent military offensives in Gaza. MPAC are also targeting the arms manufacturer over domestic contracts with the Australian military and federal police. The group claim the Australian government have awarded 185 procurement contracts to Elbit Systems since 2007 totaling $704,728,650* of Australian tax payer dollars, during a period which saw the most egregious crimes against the Palestinian people in the near 50-year illegal Israeli occupation of their lives and territories, including;

2008/2009 Operation ‘Cast Lead’
2012 Operation ‘Pillar of Defense’
2014 Operation ‘Protective Edge’


MPAC spokesperson Sam Castro stated: “Israel's ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world, one of the most vigorous funders being the Australian Government. By importing and exporting arms to Israel and facilitating the development of Israeli military technology, governments are effectively sending a clear message of approval for Israel's military aggression, including its war crimes and possible crimes against humanity”

In the final report from the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, issued on June 22, 2015, the UN state “serious violations of international humanitarian law” that “may amount to war crimes” and that “impunity prevails across the board” regarding the actions of Israeli forces in Gaza”.

UN Representative for the report, Ms. McGowan Davis, hopes the report will persuade governments to address “the crying need” for changes in policies regarding the use of weapons with a wide-area effect in densely populated areas. The commission said that “the scale of the devastation was unprecedented” in Gaza, where it counted 2,251 Palestinian deaths and 18,000 homes destroyed.

MPAC spokesperson Sam Castro stated, ‘This is just the beginning of a global campaign to stop the war profiteering of private corporations off the people of Palestine and others around the world. Israel's military technology is marketed as "field-tested" and exported across the world. Military trade and joint military-related research relations with Israel embolden Israeli impunity in committing grave violations of international law and facilitate the entrenchment of Israel's system of occupation, colonization and systematic denial of Palestinian rights.

‪#‎ShutDownElbit‬ ‪#‎StopArmingIsrael‬ ‪#‎BlockTheFactory‬ ‪#‎FreePalestine‬

MEDIA CONTACT (currently onsite)
Sam Castro 0439 569 289
Kat Moore 0422 258 159


-END-

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FURTHER BACKGROUND
Elbit contracts
Asia
Media reported on October 22, that Elbit Systems has been awarded contracts from an unnamed Asian country for roughly $85 million, as Israel's Asian ties continue to blossom. While the contracting country was left unnamed, the F-5 is currently widely in use both in China and South Korea.
For more see: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/186428…


Brazil
Elbit Systems announced on December 23 that its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America, LLC ("Elbit Systems of America"), received a directed subcontract from the Brazilian Navy for the upgrade of four Grumman C-1A aircraft. The prime contract is held by Marsh Aviation Company of Mesa, Arizona. The subcontract, valued at $106 million, will be performed by Elbit Systems of America over a five-year period.
For more information see: http://www.prnewswire.com/…/elbit-systems-us-subsidiary-awa…


Canada
On October 31, Elbit Systems announced that it has been awarded a contract to deliver its mobile satellite communications system, ELSAT 2100 satellite-on-the-move (SOTM), to the Canadian Armed Forces. Awarded by Rheinmetall Canada, work will be carried out over an 18-month period. Financial details of the contract remain undisclosed.
For more see: http://www.army-technology.com/…/newscanadian-armed-forces-…


European Union
The F-35 might undercut the European arms export policy - Nine countries are officially participating in the F-35 program, all based in North America and Europe. Although Israel is not one of the 'nine', it is also participating in the production of the F-35. Israeli arms company Elbit Systems has been selected to join the production of the F-35’s helmet-mounted display systems together with Rockwell Collins from the U.S.


Clients for the F-35 come from Asia and the Middle East, including the UAE and Israel. This raises the heat, because when countries join in F-35 production, the export policies of the US will be followed. European restrictions on exports, which would theoretically prohibit exports that prolong armed conflict, or in countries that disrespect human rights and international humanitarian law - will not be taken into account as it is stated in a Memoranda of Understanding. This will facilitate Israeli demands to buy the fighter jets, even though it has been extensively proven that they will be used against the Palestinians.
For more see: http://www.stopwapenhandel.org/node/1693


Germany
On November 17, news reports informed that Elbit Systems will equip Airbus A400M airlifters of the German Air Force with Elbit Systems' J-MUSIC Multi-Spectral Directed Infrared Counter Measure systems.
For more see:http://www.upi.com/…/Elbits-anti-missile-sy…/3461416583471/…; http://www.flightglobal.com/…/little-meaningful-success-up…/


Latin America
Elbit Systems announced on August 13 that it was awarded a contract to supply a Latin American country with Command, Control (C4I) systems.
The project, to be performed over a three-year period, is part of the extensive modernization program and is designated for all echelons, from the maneuvering forces up to the command headquarters. The new, unified communications network will play an important role during emergencies and natural hazards and disasters and will facilitate a real-time common operational picture, providing the Land Forces with enhanced operational performance and situational awareness.
For more see: http://ir.elbitsystems.com/phoenix.zhtml…


USA
On October 13, Elbit Systems announced that its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, Elbit Systems of America, LLC, ("Elbit Systems of America"), was awarded an approximately $12.7 million contract to provide Apache Aviator Integrated Helmets (AAIH) to the United States Army.
For more see: http://www.streetinsider.com/…/Elbit+Systems+L…/9904689.html

On November 11, Elbit Systems announced that its wholly-owned US subsidiary Elbit Systems of America has been awarded a five-year, $29 million contract by the United States Air Force (USAF). The contract is for logistics support of the USAF’s F-16 head-up display (HUD) electric module assemblies. For more see: http://www.globes.co.il/…/article-elbit-systems-wins-29m-us…

On December 16, news reported that Elbit Systems of America has signed a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement with Ogden Air Logistic Complex (OO-ALC) to improve support for US soldiers. The agreement defines how the two entities will work together during prospective contract opportunities to bring the best possible services and solutions to soldiers.
For more information see: http://www.airforce-technology.com/…/newselbit-ogden-air-lo…


Victories of the Stop Elbit Campaign
Elbit Systems loses key Brazil deal over Palestine protests
On December 3 the governor of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul released an open letter announcing the end of a major collaboration deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems in the wake of protests over the firm’s role in the oppression of Palestinians. Brazilian social movements and trade unions and Palestinian groups had called on authorities to cancel the deal over Elbit’s role in the construction of Israel’s illegal apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank and its close relationship with the Israeli military.

Rio Grande do Sul governor Tarso Genro had signed a research cooperation deal making Elbit the first Israeli military company to lead Brazilian military projects in April 2013. Elbit was to be provided access to public funding and technologies produced by four local universities. A $17 million dollar plan to build a military satellite is among the projects cancelled
For more see: http://www.stopthewall.org/…/bds-success-elbit-systems-lose…


The Netherlands
After news of protests, Elbit decides not to present its new missile system at the Rotterdam arms fair. On November 20, seven organizations and some 50 individual activists staged a protest against the NIDV arms fair held at the AHOY in Rotterdam. The announcement of the protest a few days before appeared to have caused considerable commotion. As a result Elbit decided not to display its new missile system at the fair, but to limit its presentation to a stall with leaflets. This was reported by the Dutch rightwing morning paper DeTelegraaf, after which the press ran out to follow the events.
For more see: http://www.docp.nl/video-elbit-geintimideerd-door-protesta…/


In 2009, Norway’s finance minister announced the country would withdraw all government investment in Elbit due to its involvement in building a security wall in the West Bank.
Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, has Elbit on its list of companies excluded from investment because of the company’s involvement in “supplying electronic equipment in conflict with human rights norms”.

UK
Shenstone – Elbit subsidiary
After the occupation of an Elbit subsidiary in Shenstone by pro-Palestine activists in August, on Friday October 10, people from churches in Birmingham and Lichfield, supported by staff and students from a Birmingham theological college, sounded bells, whistles and drums outside the plant. The Elbit subsidiary, UAV Engines, produces engines for the Hermes 450 and Hermes 900 Elbit drones, used and developed during the massacres in Gaza.
For more see: http://www.lichfieldmercury.co.uk/…/story-231797…/story.html


Newport
Pro-Palestine and anti-NATO protestors that took action in a Barclays branch in Newport on September 5 during the NATO summit were cleared from charges on November 11. Three women and one man super glued themselves to desks in the branch of the UK bank that is the biggest institutional shareholder of Elbit Systems to protest the bank's complicity with Israel's war crimes.
 

For more see: http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/…/11592911.Not_guilty_ver…/
#StopArmingIsrael
A number of UK organisations coordinated protest actions all over the country on November 29, the UN day of solidarity with the Palestinian people, to pressure the UK government and British companies to end all relationships with Israeli arms companies and to end all forms of military cooperation with Israel.


BARCLAYS branches across the country were forced to close after pro-Palestine activists staged sit-in demonstrations. The flagship Barclays branch in Piccadilly Circus closed three hours early as 35 people from the London Palestine Action Network held a sit-in occupation.
For more information see: http://www.stopthewall.org/…/barclays-branches-across-uk-fo…; http://electronicintifada.net/…/barclays-boycotted-ov…/14056

Switzerland

The Swiss government plans to purchase six Elbit drones during 2015. A large coalition of Swiss civil society has started a campaign to stop this purchase.
In October a petition was launched to ask for the cancellation of the plans. Around 27,000 people have signed the petition, which will be delivered in February.
During October a series of public conferences have been held to raise awareness about the planned deal to support the Israeli war industry.


The campaign continues; the campaign poster and more info can be found at:
http://www.bds-info.ch/index.php/fr/ in French or http://www.bds-info.ch/index.php/de/ in German.
France
According to the French Chief of the Defense Staff, the French army plans to replace its tactical drones by 2016/2017. According to the head of the Direction General de l’Armement, this technological choice could be made during 2015. Among the possible choices, the Watchkeeper drone is highly placed.


Watchkeeper is developed by the United Kingdom branch of the French group Thales (a subsidiary of Elbit Systems) and based on the Elbit Systems drone Hermes 450.
In January the French BDS Committee started a petition to launch a campaign against the purchase of the Watchkeeper drones.


For more information and to sign the petition, see: http://pasdedronesisraeliens.wesign.it/en



Thursday, June 4, 2015

48 years


Remembering al Naksa - today marks the 48th anniversary of Israel's illegal military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. 48 years too long. 

Support the Palestinian BDS campaign. Boycott Israel. 
End the Occupation! End Israeli Apartheid! 
Freedom for Palestine!


Friday, May 8, 2015

Nabi Saleh: "We are unbreakable, they can demolish our houses, we will rebuild until the last breath”

Dear friends,
As you will be aware, the village of Nabi Saleh in the occupied West Bank is one of the many Palestinian villages which refuses to be bowed by the Israeli military.  As you will be aware, I have blogged extensively on the village since the first demonstrations in the village began in 2009.  Israel Occupation Forces (IOF) have repeatedly used appalling levels of violence against the village and its residents over the last six years.  At the end of April, the IOF raised the level of aggression against the village once again, moving to demolish one of the houses in the village and threatening to demolish 12 others.

The village, however, has not been bowed and immediately in the wake of the demolition began rebuilding the house.  Manal Tamimi, one of the leaders of the unarmed popular struggle in the village, was defiant stating: "We are unbreakable, they can demolish our houses, we will rebuild until the last breath”.

I have included below photos of the demolition, as well as rebuilding.  Also included in an article from +972 Magazine on the demolition of the house in Nabi Saleh.

You can support the people of Nabi Saleh and keep up with the latest news from the village by joining the Nabi Saleh Solidarity page on Facebook (click here to go to the page) or checking out the Nabi Saleh Solidarity blog/webpage (click here).

In solidarity, Kim

***


Demolished house, Nabi Saleh: 28 April 2015 
Photo by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC)

Photo and text by AFP (via Instagram): Palestinian children from the ‪#‎WestBank‬ village of ‪#‎NabiSaleh‬ wave their national flag and flash the sign for victory as they sit on a house after it was demolished by ‪#‎Israeli‬ bulldozers under the pretext that there was no building permit for the construction in the village, near the ‪#‎Jewish‬ ‪#‎Hallamish‬ settlement during a ‪#‎demonstration‬ on April 28, 2015. 
AFP PHOTO / ABBAS MOMANI

29 April 2015: ‪#‎NabiSaleh‬ rebuilds the house demolishedby the ‪#‎Israel‬ ‪#‎Occupation‬ Forces in the early hours of the morning. Photographs by Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (via twitter) https://twitter.com/PSCC_Palestine/status/593161912080150529

 Photo by PSCC, 29 April 2015

  Photo by PSCC, 29 April 2015

 Photo by PSCC, 29 April 2015



1 May 2015: Manal Tamimi - "We are unbreakable, they can demolish our houses, we will rebuild until the last breath” Photograph by the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) via Twitter. https://twitter.com/ISMPalestine/status/593902403893637120

*****

First demolition in Nabi Saleh: Warning shot or ominous sign?



Four years ago, the residents of the village received demolition orders, but they were never carried out. On Monday, bulldozers razed an uninhabited house. Now the villagers, who have been protesting every week since 2009, fear that the army will carry out the rest of the demolition orders to collectively punish them.
Ruins in Nabi Saleh, following Monday's demolition campaign. Credit: Bilal Tamimi
Ruins in Nabi Saleh, following Monday’s demolition campaign. Credit: Bilal Tamimi
“When we started the demonstrations five years ago, we knew we would have a heavy price to pay,” says Manal Tamimi, a resident and activist in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh, near Ramallah. “Not just with violence and home demolitions, but also with our lives.” She pauses. “But under occupation you lose everything. And when you have faith in what you are doing, you don’t care what will happen to you.”

Nabi Saleh ended up paying a heavy price, many times over. Since 2009, when weekly non-violent demonstrations began to protest the annexation of the village’s well and land by the next-door Halamish settlement, the villagers have been embroiled in ongoing clashes with the Israeli army. Injuries from live ammunition have become a regular feature of the protests, with Manal herself having recently been shot in the leg. Two protesters have been killed over the years, including Mustafa Tamimi who was shot in the face with a tear gas canister at close range. And now, with the arrival of bulldozer at 4 a.m. on Monday, the threat of home demolitions was finally underway.

“Four years ago, the army gave demolition orders for thirteen houses in the village, but they were never carried out,” explains Manal. “At four in the morning on Monday, we suddenly heard the sound of a bulldozer and didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t give any excuse or warning.”

Following the events of Monday night, Nabi Saleh’s residents are now worried that the army will begin carrying out the rest of the demolition orders. The house that the Israeli army demolished was uninhabited, but the remaining orders are for buildings that house families, including children.

“About 20 percent of the village is under threat,” says Bassem Tamimi, another prominent activist in Nabi Saleh. Because the majority of the village’s land falls in Area C of the West Bank, which is fully controlled by Israel, residents are unable to obtain building permits. This, in turn, provides the military with a pretext for issuing demolition orders.

But the residents of Nabi Saleh are convinced that the army’s actions are merely a form of collective punishment. “When they gave the orders four years ago, they told us: ‘If you stop the protests, we will stop the demolition orders’,” says Manal.

There is also a general feeling in Nabi Saleh that with the demolition, they are entering a new period of violence. The last few months have already seen a noticeable escalation in the army and Border Police’s suppression of the weekly demonstrations. In addition to the use of live ammunition in contravention of army regulations, in recent weeks soldiers have also been filmed firing tear gas directly at demonstrators and assaulting photojournalists.

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, residents began rebuilding the home that was destroyed. The army intervened, causing a confrontation with youths who were working on the house, but Manal confirms that the rebuilding will continue until it is complete – in spite of the threat from Israeli security forces. For those in Nabi Saleh, this episode is symbolic of their wider struggle. “The house demolitions are meant to scare us. But we will not stop our resistance,” Manal says. “We have been told before that if we stop our demonstrations, we will get our well back. But we do not want to give up and be weakened; if we do, they will just take another area from us later on.”

“They have to understand that it’s not just about a piece of land. This is about the occupation.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Stop the forced closure and ethnic cleansing of Aboriginal Communities in Western Australia

Dear friends,
as you will be aware from previous blogs, while this blog is primarily dedicated to providing updates, news and information about Palestine, I have also posted on Aboriginal rights activism in Australia.

As long term readers will be aware, I became active in the Palestine solidarity campaign was because I saw the similarities between the Indigenous struggle of the Palestinian people and the struggle of Indigenous Australians.  Coming from a family of mixed heritage (my mother is Aboriginal and my father comes from a mixed European background), my first engagement with political activism was around Aboriginal and Indigenous rights and the struggle for land rights and justice in this country.

In the last few months, tens of thousands of Australians have been mobilising on the streets in opposition to the announced plan by the West Australian state government of Colin Barnett to close more than 150 Aboriginal communities.  This plan will result in the ethnic cleansing once again of between 12,000 and 15,000 Aboriginal people.  The plan has the full backing of the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott and his party (note, both Barnett and Abbott belong to the Liberal Party, which in Australia is a righwing conservative party).

This latest round of ethnic cleansing is a direct result of a funding deal between the Liberal Barnett state government and the Liberal Abbott Federal government. In September 201 the Abbott government signed a deal with the Liberal/National state governments in Queensland, West Australia, Victoria and Tasmania for those governments to take responsibility for municiple and essential services, including supplying power and water to remote Aboriginal communities. The Labor South Australia government did not sign on in September but signed on in April 2015. 

Australian Federal governments since the 70s had been funding the essential services to remote communities. This funding had been won after decades of struggle by the Aboriginal community for self-determination and land rights.  The shifting of the responsibility for remote communities from the Federal government to the states is part of the Abbott government's complete restructure of the way in which funding is delivered in regard to Aboriginal Affairs.   This restructure was announced in the 2014 Federal budget, flagging $534 million to be cut from Indigenous programs, including $`160 million from Indigenous health and $9.5 million from Indigenous language support. The Abbott government announced they would dump 150 separate programs for the Indigenous community, streamlining them into 5 streams.  It is part of the Remote Community stream that funding for remote communities was shifted to the state governments.

Within months of signing the deal with the Federal government, WA Liberal Premier Colin Barnett announced the forcible closure of 150 of the 274 Aboriginal communities in WA.  According to Barnett, the state could not afford to provide basic services such as sewage and electricity tot he communities, calling them "economically unviable".

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has backed the scheme, outraging many (both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people) in March when he declared that living on Aboriginal homelands was a "lifestyle choice" that could not be afforded. 

In response, Aboriginal communities in Western Australia and around Australia have been mobilising in opposition to the planned closures.  Last week, on May 1st more than rallies were held all around Australia in both major cities and regional areas, as well as internationally,  to oppose the racist plan to ethnically cleanse Aboriginal peoples.   

The biggest rally in Australia took place in Melbourne, with between 10,000 and 12,000 people taking to the streets and shutting down Melbourne city and the central business district for approximately three hours between 4pm and 7pm.

This was the second time that this had happened, an early rally in April against the closure had attracted 5,000 people. It also succeeded in closing down Melbourne city and the CBD for several hours.

I will be posting more on this issue in the coming weeks, but in the meantime here are some photos from the Friday rally in Melbourne.

You can also read some of my previous blogs on Aboriginal rights in Australia: here, here, here and here.

In solidarity, Kim

***


STOP THE FORCED CLOSURE 
OF ABORIGINAL COMMUNITIES RALLY
MELBOURNE, FRIDAY, 1 MAY 2015

ALL PHOTOGRAPHS BY KIM BULLIMORE






















Wednesday, April 8, 2015

CALL TO ACTION: Stand in solidarity with Sydney Uni academics Jake Lynch & Nick Riemer

    
Nick Riemer                                                Jake Lynch

Dear friends,
as many of you will be aware, there is currently a concerted witch hunt being carried out by the Zionist lobby in Australia against Sydney Uni academic Jake Lynch, as well as fellow academic Nick Riemer in regards to a recent student protest on the campus against Israel and apologists for Israel's war crimes in Gaza.

Jake Lynch has been repeatedly targeted for the last 4 years by the Zionist lobby for his principled and unwavering support for the Palestinian BDS campaign. Last year, Lynch successfully defeated a lawsuit brought against him by Zionists over his support for BDS (see my post on Jake's case: here, here, here, here)

Please CLICK HERE to read my earlier post on what really happened at the protest against the Sydney Uni Kemp meeting, which includes Australian Jewish writer, Michael Brull's investigative report, as well as video footage which contradict the claims made by the Zionist lobby about Lynch's actions.

Despite there now being ample evidence in the public domain exposing the lies and slander being circulated about what took place at the meeting, the Zionist lobby have continued its witch hunt against Lynch, seeking to have him (and possibly fellow academic, Nick Riemer) fired from their jobs.

Sydney Uni Staff for BDS have issued a public letter addressed to Michael Spence, the Vice Chancellor of Sydney University calling on him to reject the calls by the Zionists to fire Lynch and Riemer.   Please consider signing on to it, if you have not already done so. 

I have included below the text of the Open Letter and you can CLICK HERE to go to the Sydney Staff for BDS website and see the full list of signatories and also sign on to the letter yourself, if you so choose.


You can also read more recent articles about the Zionist campaign against Lynch and Riemer which have been published by Red Flag, New Matilda and Electronic Intifada below.  The Red Flag article (first article listed) also provides an eyewitness account of what took place at the Kemp meeting (click on title/s to go to full article/s).
In solidarity, Kim
**


Open letter to University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor: Dr Spence, reject calls to punish Palestine-justice supporters


Please sign the letter by adding your name (click here to go to page and signatory form)

Dear Dr Spence,
We are compelled to write to you to register our serious concern about the concerted campaign being conducted against Palestine activists at the University of Sydney.

We are appalled at the virulence and insistence with which prominent supporters of Israel have been publicly calling on you to “take action” in response to events at Richard Kemp’s March 11 talk, by sanctioning both the students who conducted a small protest there, and those members of staff, present in the audience, who subsequently defended their right to do so.[1] These calls appear to be principally focussed on having Associate Professor Jake Lynch and Dr Nick Riemer dismissed from the university. In Lynch’s case, this is the demand explicitly being made by the Australasian Union of Jewish Students via their online petition, which we note has now been closed.[2]

Such ​demands ​for the dismissal of staff members or the disciplining of students are entirely unwarranted and unjustifiable. Dismissal of academics is the most serious action that can be taken against them, and is traditionally only done under the gravest circumstances of misconduct or moral turpitude. Whatever our various opinions on the legitimacy of the students’ protest, we call on you to firmly reject the suggestion that any action should be taken against anyone present at the lecture. Associate Professor Lynch is one of Australia’s most prominent human-rights campaigners and anti-racists. His unshaking commitment to the cause of Palestine justice has earned him formidable enemies. The racial discrimination lawsuit brought against him by the Israel Law Centre, Shurat HaDin, which he defeated in 2014, is the clearest example. Claims that Lynch’s response to the physical assault launched against him by a member of the audience at Kemp’s talk constitutes evidence of his anti-Semitism demonstrably have no basis in fact and are obviously politically motivated.[3] Dr Riemer, for his part, is ​an active participant in a number of anti-racist and human-rights campaigns.

There are no possible grounds on which either Lynch or Riemer could reasonably be disciplined. They asserted a right for students to protest at a campus political meeting. They supported justice for Palestine. They objected when students were in danger of serious injury through being violently ejected by the university’s security staff, for whom you are ultimately responsible. By any reasonable measure, none of these actions constitutes any justifiable grounds for dismissal.

Lynch and Riemer uphold the right to peaceful protest as a core civil liberty. For the University of Sydney under your leadership to take action against anyone, whether students or staff, for their actions on March 11 would seriously discredit your own commitment to the fight against racial prejudice, and the commitment of your institution.

Lynch and Riemer were acting in the context of the greater moral responsibilities which confront academics in light of the reality in Israel-Palestine. This constitutes the necessary background to any reasonable assessment of the present issue. Israel’s gross violations of human rights and international law, which Lynch and Riemer’s critics seek to excuse and thereby perpetuate, have been condemned by every international human rights organisation, including Israel’s own, B’Tselem. As we write, illegal settlement activity continues unabated, involving the rolling ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, the destruction of homes, farmland and heritage, the ongoing dispossession and displacement of large numbers of people, and the further subjection of Palestinians to the checkpoint controls, arbitrary imprisonment, and oppression of a brutal settler state.[4] Unarmed civilian protesters are regularly shot dead by the IDF on the West Bank.

According to Human Rights Watch, over 3,000 civilians not participating in hostilities have been killed by Israeli Forces in the West Bank since 2000.[5] Over 2,200 Palestinians, 1,500 of them civilians, and over 500 of them children, were killed in last year’s war in Gaza, which also flattened whole areas of Gaza City and elsewhere,[6] led to the internal displacement of 100,000 people, and generated two million tonnes of rubble.[7] 2014 was, indeed, the deadliest year for Palestinians since 1967, on UN figures.[8] In light of these facts, Richard Kemp’s claim that “no army in the history of warfare had taken greater steps than the IDF to minimise harm to civilians in a combat zone”[9] is as serious and irresponsible a misrepresentation of the truth[10] as his nakedly racist claim, made in a February 2 tweet, that “The current price for a Palestinian to kill a Palestinian child to discredit Israel is $10,000. $8,000 to the family, $2,000 commission.”[11]


We call on you, Dr Spence, not to allow yourself to be made the agent of the Israel lobby’s persecution of those committed to a just peace in the Middle East. If the University of Sydney is committed to anti-racism and justice, as it claims, it would be deeply shameful, to say nothing of ironic, if you took any action against Palestine activists on your campus. These activists are engaged in one of the most important, and most symbolic, anti-racist and human rights struggles in the world today. A decision to sanction them would set back the struggle in Australia against racism, not just for Palestinians, but for all oppressed peoples, and would lastingly undermine any claim that Sydney is an institution opposed to historic injustice and racial prejudice.

References

[1] Peter Baldwin, ‘Where the right to speak is howled down’, The Australian, Thursday April 2, 2015, p. 12. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/where-the-right-to-speak-is-howled-down/story-e6frg6zo-1227288292791
[2] https://www.change.org/p/remove-assoc-prof-jake-lynch
[3] https://newmatilda.com/2015/03/18/blaming-victims-what-really-happened-colonel-kemp-usyd-protest
[4] On current settlement activity, see, for example, http://www.imemc.org/newswire/israelisettlement
[5] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/maureen-clare-murphy/israel-bombs-gaza-it-kills-palestinians-west-bank-too
[6] See, for example http://www.businessinsider.com.au/time-lapse-video-shows-israel-flattening-a-gaza-neighborhood-2014-7
[7] http://electronicintifada.net/content/month-pictures-march-2015/14394
[8] See http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2015/03/report-outlines-devastating-year-palestinians-150326092624937.html
[9] http://richard-kemp.com/submission-to-the-united-nations-independent-commission-of-inquiry-on-the-2014-gaza-conflict/
[10] http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/rania-khalek/killing-40-civilians-one-go-reasonable-says-israel-army-ethicist
[11] https://twitter.com/colrichardkemp/status/562337528997351424



Saturday, March 28, 2015

On Israel's 2015 Elections

Dear friends, 

some belated thoughts/comments on Israel's recent elections.

in solidarity, Kim

** 
 

ON ISRAEL'S 2015 ELECTIONS:

by Kim Bullimore, 28 March 2015


March 17 saw Benjamin Netanyahu relected as Israel's Prime Minister, despite the exit polls the previous week indicating that he would be swept from power by the Zionist Union.

The electoral outcome was a smashing victory for Netanyahu, as the previous week exit polls had only predicted that he would win 20 seats. In reality, Likud only lost 1 seat, dropping from 31 to 30. Other centre right and hard right competitors did not fare as well. 

Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid lost 8 of its seats, while Naftali Bennet's Jewish Home lost 4 of its seats. Meretz, a so-called “left - liberal” Zionist party was squeezed between the Zionist Union and the Joint Arab List, dropping from 6 seats to 5 seats. While the parties contained within the Zionist Union increased their overall vote by 3 seats, while the newly formed Joint Arab List became the third biggest bloc in the Knesset.

The Joint Arab List (JAL) is comprised of Hadash, which is includes the Israeli Communist Party and its allies; Balad, a Palestinian based democratic national party; Taal - Islamic movement and the Arab Movement for Change. The impetus for the joint ticket came in the wake of changes passed in the Israeli Knesset last year which raised the electoral threshold for seats in the Knesset to 3.25 percent (approximately 4 seats). In past elections, the four so-called “Arab parties” won between 3 and 4 seats each. 

For a more detailed outline of the JAL elected MKs
please click here to read Mondoweiss' summary

 

The previous two Israeli elections have seen barely more than half of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship turn out to vote. In the lead up to the election, the polls indicated that Palestinian turn out forthe election would be the highest ever. Polls predict the Joint Arab List could nudge its tally of seats from the current 11 shared across the parties to 15. However, in the end they were only able to increase their overall combined vote by two seats. 

So while the Palestinian vote was higher than in previous years, with overall 30 percent more voters voting for the Joint List as a group than had voted for the four parties individually, the voter turn out was still much lower than predicated.



Occuption and apartheid ignored


Israel's occupation, its continuing colonisation and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and its July 2014 50 day assault on Gaza were all but ignored in the campaign, except when it was convenient for candidates to do some sabre rattling. As numerous commentators on the Israeli elections have noted, Israel's occupation is no longer an issue to be solved or dealt with in Israel's election campaigns. 
 

As a result, there was little to differentiate between Likud and the Zionist Union on these key issues. The Zionist Union, which is a partnership of Labor, Livni’s Hatnuah and the Green Movement, ran on a platform for Israel to keep major settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank, keep Jerusalem as Israel’s "undivided" capital, and block the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

This should come as no surprise, the raison d’etre of a settler-colonialist society is displacement of the Indigenous populationi and their replacement by settlers. Historically it was the Labor Zionist movement which brought Israel into existence, engaging fully with the settler colonial project and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. With Likud in power, the only difference is that it appears that Israel's Zionist population prefers a version of Zionism which is unhindered by some of the ideological contortions of the Zionist Labor movement which sought to mystify the settler colonial nature of Zionism.  

According to veteran Israeli journalist, Amira Hass in an interview with Democracy Now on the Israeli elections:

What Netanyahu has been offering for the past years continues to be a winning horse for most of the people. That means the non-existent welfare state in Israel proper now exists by the occupied territory in the forms of colonies, well-pampered colonies, so it is always an option for Israelis to move to the occupied territory to improve their conditions. Inside Israel, his policies guarantee that there will be continued the discriminated—the policy which discriminates Palestinians, Israeli citizens, from their—against the Israeli Jews.”
 The apartheid nature of the Israeli state was exposed several times through out the election. One such time was when, for the second time, Israel's Central Election Committee banned Palestinian politician Hanen Zoabi (who is a member of Balad) from running in the election. While this was initiated by Avigador Lieberman's racist Yisrael Beiteniu party, it was support by Likud and all the rightwing Zionist parties running in  the election, including the Zionist Union. However, just as with the 2013 election, the ban was overturned by the Israeli Supreme court.

The apartheid nature of Israel was also on display the morning of the polls when Netanyahu posted a video declaring that “the rule of the right is in danger” as “Arab voters area advancing in large numbers towards voting places”, accusing the Left of “busing” them in. 

 


Israel Hayom, a paper owned and funded by US Zionist Multi-millionaire, Sheldon Adelson, without a skerric of irony also ran a headline (based on a quote from an interview with Netanyahu) declaring “Millions of Shekels from overseas – to raise voter participation for the Left and Arabs”. Adelson's paper is distributed free to approximately half a million Israelis. 

Generally, an increase in voter participation is viewed as a good thing – at least this is supposedly the case in regard to liberal democracy under capitalism. But for Netanyahu and the vast majority of Israeli Zionists, it was something to be disdained, feared and treated as a Leftist plot to install a pro-Arab government in Israel.

Netanyahu was not the only one engaged in outright racism against Palestinian citizens of Israel. Avigador Lieberman, a Russian settler, who is also Israel's Foreign Minister and head of Yisrael Beiteniu called for the beheading of Palestinian citizens of Israel he accuses of disloyalty to Israel. In addition, in a debate on Israel's Channel Two with the heads of the representatives of all the political parties running in the election, Lieberman unabashedly referred to Ayman Odeh, Palestinians and the Joint List as a “fifth column”, stating that Odeh and other Palestinians were not wanted in Israel. Lieberman went onto declare that the Joint Arab List represented terrorists and should be put on trial for incitement and sedition. 

What this revealed was not only the racism of Netanyahu, but also the racism ingrained in the Zionist state. Palestinian citizens of Israel, who are make up 20% of Israel population, are seen as little more than a fifth column and are thus an “enemy within” rather than equal citizens.

Systemic anti-Palestinian racism
 
This of course is not news to the Palestinians inside the Israeli state. In the last year alone, the incitement against Palestinians inside Israel had reached new heights, with Israeli government ministers and members of Knesset leading a campaign against them. 
 

In both the lead up too, during and in the aftermath of Israel's 50 day assault on Gaza, Palestinians in Israel were not only attacked in the street, with one 16 year old boy Mohammed Abu Khdeir was kidnapped,tortured and murdered by settlers, Palestinians Palestinians inside Israel fired from their jobs for speaking out against Israel's brutality in Gaza. They were also arrested in mass numbers during protests against Gaza operation, with well over 1000 Palestinians being jailed. At least 2 shot to death by Israeli police. All ofthis was because they were Palestinian. 

All of this comes on the back of a raft of racist legislation, which has increased the last decade which has not only sought to disenfranchise Palestinian citizens electorally but also socially, economically and in the broader political sphere.Today, there exists 50 laws which actively discriminate against non-Jewish citizens not only in areas of electoral politics but land, housing, education, marriage.

Netanyahu also made clear, just days before the March 17 vote, that the USbacked “peace process” was dead in the water, declaring: “Anyone who is going to establish a Palestinian state, anyone who is going to evacuate territories today, is simply giving a base for attacks by radical Islam against Israel.

For anyone following Israeli and Palestinian politics, Netanyahu's declaration come as no surprise. Despite declaring in 2009 his support for a Palestinian state, like every other Israeli Prime Minister, this was all smoke and mirrors. His declaration barely caused a ripple in Israeli society. This is because the very idea of supporting the establishment of a Palestinian state is so politically toxic within Zionist politics that none of Israel's parties dared mention it for fear of losing votes.  

As Gershom Gorenberg put it in Haaretz, what Netanyahu's declaration meant was that: “The Israeli prime minister sees the Green Line as the border between where Arabs can’t vote and where they shouldn’t.” 

So while the subjugated position of Palestinians living inside Israel and in the occupied Palestinian Territories is not news to them, what Netanyahu’s declaration about a Palestinian state and his call to arms on voting day exposed was the deep racism within in the heart of the Israeli political system, at a time when the international spotlight was well and truly on it. Netanyahu's declaration and call to arms, once more stripped away the illusion surrounding the shame “peace process”. 

US-Israel Alliance
 
While the Obama Administration in the USA is unhappy with Netanyahu's declaration and racism, it not the declaration that the two state solution is dead in the water or his overt racism during the election or even the mass murder of 2,000 Palestinians in Gaza as a result of Israel's 50 day bombing spree which has caused problems within the US-Israel “special relationship”. Instead it is the issue of Iran.

Netanyahu, along with Republican Tea partiers and the US arms lobby have been pushing for out and out war with Iran and have sought to undermine any possible US deal with Iran. in particular it has sought to undermine the Joint Plan of Action in regard to Iran's nuclear program, which would see a short term freeze in regard to portions of Iran's nuclear program in exchange for a decrease in economic sanctions on Iran.

As part of the deal, the USA has been seeking rigorous inspections, limits on the number of centrifuges with which Iran can enrich uranium, and the removal of most of Tehran’s stockpiles of existing fuel. Iran, however, is negotiating to retain nuclear capability in order to produce nuclear energy for power and medical purposes, and wants an end to sanctions that keep it from shipping oil or gaining access to global financial markets Obama and his military elite want the deal with Iran, not in order to avoid a bloodbath but because they want to advance the USA strategic interests in the region.

The tension between Israel and the US was further exacerbated by the Republicans inviting Netanyahu to give a speech to the US Congress without notifying the American President, something which is unprecedented. This resulted in not only the Republicans getting many in their own support base off side, it saw Netanyahu use the speech as little more than part of his election pitch.

Despite this recent tensions in the US-Israel alliance, the USA will not abandon Israel. It will not veto motions in the UN against the apartheid state and it will continue to fund its military and occupation of the Palestinians, turning a blind eye to Israel's atrocities. For example, at the height of the debate over the US nuclear deal with Iran last month, the Israeli Defence Ministry signed a deal with the US to purchase 14 more F-35 planes for the Israeli Air Force at US$110 million each, part of a deal worth US$2.8 billion.


This is because at its core, the US alliance with Israel is based on maintaining and furthering US geopolitical interests in the region. As a result, a fundamental break between the US and Israel remains very unlikely. However, this does not mean there will not be increasing tension, resulting in more cracks appearing in the alliance.



Netanyahu's victory and the Palestinian struggle

As most Palestine and pro-Palestine supporters have stated in the wake of the election, Netanyahu's victory was politically the best outcome for the Palestinian struggle. We can of course expect to see more racist legislation introduced into the Knesset, more ethnic cleansing on the ground in Palestine and a further grow of settlements and a deepening of Israel's occupation. This would have also happened even if Netanyahu had lost. The election of a centre-right or even centre-left part, would simply have resulted in the masking of the apartheid nature of the Israeli state. Netanyahu's victory, however, strips this mask away. 

In the wake of Netanyahu's election victory, liberal Zionists in the US are in a tail spin, as it is more and more difficult for them to continue to deny that Israel is an apartheid state. According to at least one Zionist campus activist writing in Haaretz, the biggest victor out of the elections is the Palestinian BDS movement.

As Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of the Palestinian BDS movement has noted: “So many Palestinians welcomed Netanyahu’s win. The mask has fallen”. Barghouti went on to state: "The rift between the White House and Israel is opening up space for criticism of Israel that was not there before, and for calls for boycotts of Israel that were not tolerated before”. He noted: “BDS in the US is still controversial, but it is no longer taboo”.


Of course, Netanyahu has of course now tried to back track, saying in a series of US broadcasts he had not been trying to suppress the votes of Palestinian Israelis and had not abandoned the two state solution. Only that he had meant that it was impossible right now. However, the damage has been done.

Supporters of the Palestinian people and their struggle, of course, have no illusions that the US will ever be an “honest broker” in the Middle East or that Netanyahu wants real peace. However, the re-election of Netanyahu and the exposure of Israel's unvarnished racism and ethnic cleansing of Palestine means that it is harder for Israel and the US to pretend that the “peace process” is anything but a sham and that Israel want real peace. As such it will aid in the building of a movement in the West in support of the Palestinian people and Palestinian liberation.

**


120 Knesset members - electoral breakdown:

Likud 30, Zionist Union 24; Joint Arab List 13; Yesh Atid 11; Kalunu 10; Jewish Home 8; Shas 7; Israeli Beiteniu 6; United Torah 6; Meretz 5.