Largest Student Union in Europe Joins Boycott of Israel

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By James Haywood and Ashok Kumar

The University of London Union (ULU) has voted 10-1 to institute and campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in support of Palestine. The motion called for “thorough research into ULU investments and contracts” with companies guilty of “violating Palestinian human rights” as set out by the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC). Ashok Kumar, Senate member for LSE, speaking in favour of the motion, argued, “We have precedents for boycotting campaigns at ULU, especially with South Africa and the boycott campaign over Barclays bank, that supported the Apartheid regime. We are now responding to the Palestinian call for civil action in support of their fight against racism.”

The motion also called on other students’ unions to join in the campaign for Palestinian human rights. ULU is the largest students’ union in Europe with over 120,000 members from colleges across London. ULU senate consists of the presidents of the 20 students unions representing every University of London University. James Haywood, President-elect at Goldsmiths Students’ Union, stated, “We are delighted that this motion has passed, and with such a clear vote as well. We have seen throughout history that boycotts are a crucial nonviolent tactic in achieving freedom, and target institutions, not individuals.”

Sean Rillo Raczka, incoming ULU Vice President, “I’m delighted that ULU has passed this BDS policy on Israel. We stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinian people, and as Vice President next year I will ensure that the University of London Union does not give profit to those denying the human rights of the Palestinians”

The text of the motion passed is as follows:

Union notes:

(1) to boycott is to target products, companies and institutions that profit from or are implicated in, the violation of Palestinian rights

(2) to divest is to target corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as enshrined in the Geneva Convention, and ensure that investments or pension funds are not used to finance such companies

(3) to call for sanctions is to ask the global community to recognize Israel’s violations of international law and to act accordingly as they do to other member states of the United Nations

(4) that in 2009 The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa released a report stating that Israel was practising a form of apartheid in the occupied West Bank, (http://www.hsrc.ac.za/Media_Release-378.phtml)

(5) that Israel continues to build a 8 metre high “annexation” wall on Palestinian land inside the post-1967 occupied West Bank, contravening the July 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice (the highest legal body in the world, whose statutes all UN members are party to) and causing the forcible separation of Palestinian communities from one another and the annexation of additional Palestinian land.

(6) that within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues a policy of settlement expansion in direct violation of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the 4th Geneva Convention which declares “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”

(7) that the Gaza Strip continues to face a suffocating siege from land, sea and air by Israel, and continues to suffer military incursions into the territory by the Israeli army

(8) that Palestinians living in Israel continue to suffer third-class citizenship and are heavily discriminated against from healthcare, education, landownership and in many cases having ‘unrecognized’ villages completely demolished

(9) that there continues to be millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the world who are racially discriminated against by not being allowed to return to their homes in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which is legally recognized under international law, including United Nations resolution 194.

(10) that ULU and the NUS nationally adopted the call for BDS in the 1980s when it was called for by South Africans fighting racism and apartheid

(11) that Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish South African Minister of Intelligence said “The boycotts and sanctions ultimately helped liberate both blacks and whites in South Africa. Palestinians and Israelis will similarly benefit from this non-violent campaign that Palestinians are calling for.”

(12) that the call for BDS has come from over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, including student organizations, as well as organizations within Israel and across the global; and that the campaign is founded on the basis of anti-racism and human rights for all

Union Believes:

(1) that unions should work to support the Palestinian people’s human rights and uphold international law

(2) that BDS is an effective tactic, which educates society about these issues, economically pressures companies/institutions to change their practices and politically pressures the global community

(3) that unions have a moral responsibility to heed the call of oppressed peoples, like we did so proudly during the BDS campaign to end South African apartheid

(4) that the BDS movement has united human rights campaigners from different nationalities, races, religions and creeds across the world

Union Resolves:

(1) Institute thorough research into ULU contacts with investments and companies, including subcontractors that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights as stated by the BDS movement

(2) Pressure University of London universities and affiliate students’ unions to divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies;

(3) Promote students’ union resolutions condemning Israeli violations of international law and human rights and endorsing BDS in any form;

(4) Actively support and work with Palestine solidarity organizations such as the BDS Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, British Committee for Palestinian Universities , Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

(5) Affiliate ULU to the Palestine BDS National Committee and engage in education campaigns to publicize the injustice of Israel’s discriminatory policies against the Palestinians and its illegal occupation

Contact: James Haywood, President-Elect, Goldsmiths University Students’ Union
http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/largest-ulu-7064

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Egypt Opens Rafah Crossing: This Is What Democracy Looks Like

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Robert Naiman, Truthout

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Hasna el Ryes, a Gaza resident waiting to cross into Egypt, leaves the border terminal after getting an entry stamp in her passport on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing in Egypt, May 28, 2011. Hundreds of Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip arrived by the busload to pass through the reopened border into Egypt, taking the first tangible steps out of an Israeli blockade after years of deadlocked peace talks. (Photo: Holly Pickett / The New York Times)

There was a slogan on the streets of Seattle: “This is what democracy looks like.” You can’t love democracy and denigrate protest, because protest is part of democracy. It’s a package deal.

Likewise, you can’t claim solidarity with Egyptian protesters when they take down a dictator, but act horrified that the resulting government in Egypt, more accountable to Egyptian public opinion, is more engaged in supporting Palestinian rights. It’s a package deal.

On Saturday, at long last, the Egyptian government “permanently opened [3]” the Egypt-Gaza passenger crossing at Rafah. A big part of the credit for this long-awaited development belongs to Tahrir. It was the Tahrir uprising that brought about an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion and it was inevitable that an Egyptian government more accountable to public opinion would open Rafah, because public opinion in Egypt bitterly opposed Egyptian participation in the blockade on Gaza.

In addition, opening Rafah was a provision of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation accord brokered by the Egyptian government – an achievement facilitated by the fact that the post-Tahrir Egyptian government was more flexible in the negotiations with Hamas that led to the accord.

Mubarak had a deal with the US government: I obey all your commands on the Israel-Palestine issue and in exchange, you shut your mouth about human rights and democracy. Tahrir destroyed this bargain, because it forced the US to open its mouth about human rights and democracy in Egypt, regardless of Egypt’s stance on Israel-Palestine. When it became clear to Egypt’s rulers that subservience to the US on Israel-Palestine would no longer purchase carte blanche on human rights and democracy, there was no reason to slavishly toe the US line on Israel-Palestine anymore.

The Mubarak regime also had a domestic motivation for enforcing the blockade: it saw Hamas as a sister organization of Egypt’s then semi-illegal opposition Muslim Brotherhood and it saw enforcing the blockade as a means of denying Hamas “legitimacy,” figuring that more “legitimacy” for Hamas would mean more “legitimacy” for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, thereby threatening Mubarak’s iron grip on Egypt’s politics.

But, of course, post-Tahrir developments in Egypt threw that calculation out the window: the post-Mubarak government in Egypt has reconciled with the Muslim Brotherhood, which is a de facto partner in the present interim government and is expected to do well in September’s parliamentary elections. It would be absurd for the Egyptian government to try to isolate the Muslim Brotherhood by trying to isolate its sister Hamas, when the Muslim Brotherhood is a de facto part of the Egyptian government and the role of the Brotherhood in running Egypt is likely to increase.

There are other considerations. Egypt’s government has seen how Turkey’s influence in the region has grown dramatically as a result of its “no problems with neighbors” policy. Now Egypt is saying: “I’ll have what she’s having,” and moving to normalize relationships in the region, just as Turkey has done.

The opening of the Rafah passenger crossing will mean that women, children and the elderly from Gaza will be able to travel freely to Egypt and, through Egypt, almost anywhere else in the Arab world. Adult men will have to get Egyptian visas, a process that currently can take months.

But – although it is virtually certain that some will try to claim otherwise – the opening of Rafah does not mean that the siege of Gaza is over.

Rafah is a passenger crossing, not a cargo crossing, as The Associated Press noted in reporting on the opening of Rafah. Gaza’s cargo crossings are still controlled by the Israeli government.

The Israeli human rights group Gisha reports that, since 2005, “goods have not been permitted to pass via Rafah, except for humanitarian assistance which Egypt occasionally permits through Rafah.”

In general, the Israeli government does not allow construction materials (cement, steel and gravel) into Gaza. Since January, about 7 percent of what entered monthly prior to June 2007 has been allowed in for specific projects.

The Israeli government prevents regular travel for Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank, even though according to the two-state solution, which is the official policy of the US, Gaza and the West Bank are supposed to be one entity.

Exports from Gaza are generally prohibited by the Israeli authorities.

Palestinians in Gaza cannot farm their lands in Israel’s self-declared “buffer zone” along the northern and eastern borders with Israel, estimated to contain nearly a third of Gaza’s arable land.

The Israeli government does not allow Palestinian fishermen to fish beyond three nautical miles  from Gaza, although under the Oslo Accord, they are supposed to be able to fish for 20 nautical miles from Gaza.

Thus, more pressure is needed on the Israeli government – and the US government, which enables Israeli policies in Gaza – to lift the blockade.

And that’s why it’s so important that another international flotilla is sailing to Gaza in the third week of June, to protest the blockade. It’s time to open all the crossings, not just Rafah.

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