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In first, UK university divests from firms supplying Israel army

Students hold a protest calling for an end of Israel’s occupation on Gaza at Leeds University, UK on 5 May 2018
MEMO | November 5, 2018

In the first move of its kind, a UK university has divested from companies that supply military equipment to the Israeli army following a student campaign.

The University of Leeds this weekend made the decision to divest from three companies which were found to be complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights: Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation. A fourth company – HSBC – is also under review by the university’s investment managers for its provision of loans to Elbit Systems, Caterpillar and BAE Systems, all of which sell weapons and military equipment to the Israeli government.

The move came after it emerged that the University of Leeds had invested £2.4 million ($3.1 million) in these companies this year alone. The sum was revealed by a Freedom of Information request dating back to August, under which the British public can demand access to information held by public authorities.

Students, staff, societies and alumni of the university then published an open letter to the Vice Chancellor calling for the cessation of investment in the four firms. The letter stated that: “In summer 2014, 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 526 children, by the Israeli Defence Force in the attacks on Gaza […] the artillery used to carry out this destruction were made by Elbit Systems, funded by HSBC. The fighter jets employed by the IDF were maintained by United Technologies. The helicopters which patrol Gaza’s sea border are supplied by Airbus. Further military activity was aided by the equipment provided by Keyence Corporation. The University of Leeds knowingly enables this activity by investing in these companies.”

Our university should not enable military occupation. Our tuition fees should not fund killing. Our education should not be at the expense of a person’s life.

The move has been hailed as a victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Co-President of the Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group, Evie Russell-Cohen, explained: “It’s clear that the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is being heard in the UK. Students are no longer willing to see their tuition fees funding weapons companies which profit from the killing of Palestinians. This is a massive success, but we hope that it will only be the beginning of a wave change across UK Universities.”

Calls for UK universities to review their investments in companies known to assist the Israeli army have been growing in recent months. In April, activists at the University of Manchester exposed a web of connections between the university and several weapons companies, including Israel Aerospace Industries which produced drones used during Israel’s 2014 assault on the besieged Gaza Strip. The University of Manchester had previously tried to conceal its links to such companies until the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the body regulating data protection in the UK – found the university to be in contravention of the Freedom of Information Act, the same act which enabled University of Leeds students to force their institution to divest.

November 5, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

UN warns to blacklist firms working in lands occupied by Israel: Report

Press TV – September 28, 2017

The United Nations human rights office has reportedly threatened to blacklist nearly 150 Israeli and international companies for operating in the Israeli occupied territories, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem al-Quds and Golan Heights.

Israeli daily Haaretz cited anonymous Israeli officials as saying on Wednesday that UN High Commissioner for Human Rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein notified the companies through letters two weeks ago.

In response, several of the companies assured Hussein that they do not plan to renew their current contracts or to enter into new ones.

The letter said that due to the companies’ activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, they may be added to the blacklist being compiled by the UN of companies “that operate in opposition to international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.”

According to an unnamed western diplomat, over half of the companies that received the letter were Israeli, nearly 30 were American and the rest were mainly from Germany, Norway and South Korea.

The copies of Hussein’s letter have reportedly been sent to the respective countries of the firms and seen by the Israeli cabinet.

The companies include giant international corporations such as Coca-Cola, TripAdvisor, Airbnb and Caterpillar as well as major Israeli firms, including pharmaceutical giant Teva, the national phone company Bezeq, bus company Egged, the national water company Mekorot and the regime’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi.

In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council voted, with 32 nations in favor and 15 abstentions, to a proposal by the Palestinian Authority and Arab states to compile a database of all businesses enabling or profiting from development of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The proposal also condemned Israeli settlement construction and urged companies not to do business with Israeli settlements.

In June, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed the blacklist as “the latest in this long line of shameful actions” adopted by the UNHRC, warning that the US may withdraw from the 47-member UN body unless it is reformed, end condemnation of Israel and cancel the membership of what she called notorious human rights violators from the council.

Since 2007, Israel has been the only entity whose human rights violations have been regularly discussed in the framework of a single permanent item on the Human Rights Council’s agenda.

Since the inauguration of US President Donald Trump in January, the regime in Tel Aviv has stepped up its construction of settler units on occupied Palestinian land in a blatant violation of international law.

Less than a month before Trump took office, the United Nations Security Council had adopted Resolution 2334, calling on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem” al-Quds.

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.

Israel also seized the Golan Heights from Syria after the 1967 Six-Day War and later occupied it in a move that has never been recognized by the international community. The regime has built dozens of settlements in the area ever since and has used the region to carry out a number of military operations against the Syrian government.

September 28, 2017 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Boycotting Israel is So Important and Necessary

DePaul students don’t want their tuition dollars invested in weapons manufacturers who supply the Israeli government, army and prison services

By Stuart Littlewood | Dissident Voice | May 26, 2014

Nothing, it seems, is too ridiculous for Nick Clegg, UK Deputy Prime Minister, to contemplate. See him in this painful video ‘Nick Clegg welcomes the Jewish Manifestoaimed at EU election candidates and voters.

Fortunately Clegg received a bloody nose yesterday in the EU elections. His infatuation with the EU and all its rotten works caused his party (the Liberal Democrats) to be almost wiped out at the polls. His days as leader are probably numbered.

If you’re wondering what the Jewish community’s EU Manifesto says, you can read it here. This propaganda effort is a prime example of the ‘hasbara’ scribbler’s art. It tries to shrug off Israel’s sickening human rights abuses and unending dispossession and oppression of its Palestinian neighbours and urges Members of the European Parliament to side with the apartheid regime.

“We urge MEPs and prospective MEPs to resist calls for boycotts of Israel. By their very nature, such measures attribute blame to only one side of the conflict, and through this stigmatisation they perpetuate a one-sided narrative. This in turn prompts intransigence from both sides.”

It also whinges about the European Commission’s guidelines that exclude Israeli settlements from EU funding programmes, accusing the EU of trying to dictate Israel’s borders. As most people know by now, Israel refuses to declare its borders because it hasn’t finished expanding them. The EU’s action, it says, is hurting the peace process “by perpetuating intransigence on the Palestinian side and could cause the Palestinian leadership to become less likely to make concessions”.  The Palestinians have been robbed of everything, including their freedom. Why should they be asked to make more “concessions” to the thief?

The document also prods MEPs to oppose EU funding to Non Governmental Organisations who support boycott campaigns.

Campus ‘lies’?

So, after Clegg’s spineless capitulation, it was heartening to read today that students at DePaul University in Chicago have voted in favour of a referendum calling for divestment from companies “that profit from Israel’s discriminatory practices and human rights violations” and help “violate people’s rights to life, movement, healthcare, education and freedom.”

They are calling on the university to divest its funds from “corporations that manufacture weapons and provide surveillance technology to the Israeli government, army and prison services”, including Hewlett-Packard, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Caterpillar.

Students say the vote was won despite a massive counter-campaign of intimidation and disinformation by pro-Israel lobbyist group StandWithUs and the Israeli consulate general in Chicago. “It is clear that DePaul students do not wish to have their tuition dollars invested in weapons manufacturers,” said a student organizer.

Following the DePaul vote, StandWithUs announced on their website: “We have seen divestment create this toxic campus environment wherever it rears its ugly head, as it has on several American campuses. Divestment advocates bring lies about Israel to campus, and display extreme ignorance about the complexities of the Middle East conflict, about Palestinian terrorist groups like Hamas, about the anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian society, and about Israel’s repeated efforts to make peace. This movement singles out Israel and targets and intimidates pro-Israel and Jewish students, and resonates with anti-Semitism.” The words sound like they are scripted by the Lie Machine in Tel Aviv.

The ‘world’s most moral army’ and its war on students

DePaul students are to be congratulated for not flinching under Zio-pressure.  Other Western students, and indeed students and academics all round the world, who face the same bully-boy tactics when debating the question of boycott and disinvestment against Israel, need only remember what the Israelis do to Palestinian students.

The last thing Israel wants is masses of bright and clever young Palestinians next-door in the shredded remains of the Occupied Territories. But that’s exactly what Palestinian youngsters are… bright and clever, given half a chance. So they need repressing. They need humiliating constantly. They need to be discouraged. They need to have their education disrupted big-time, so that they become a broken, dispirited, docile mass without ambition, easily controlled and utterly dependent (as they are now) on a few crumbs of comfort from Western taxpayers.

So the Israeli authorities make spiteful war on students especially, as well as women and children generally. To get to Bethlehem University, or any other, many students have to run the gauntlet of Israeli checkpoints. “Sometimes they take our ID cards and they spend ages writing down all the details, just to make us late,” said one. Students are often made to remove shoes, belt and bags. “It’s like an airport. Many times we are kept waiting outside for up to an hour, rain or shine, they don’t care.” The soldiers attempt to forcibly remove students’ clothes or they swear and shout sexual slurs at female students.

Some tell how they are sexually harassed and spend the rest of the day worrying what the Israelis will do to them on their way home.

This daily abuse undermines student motivation and concentration. Many other obstacles are put in their way by the Occupation. Here are just three cases, about which I have written before, that illustrate why it is so vitally important for the Palestinians to achieve independence and security.

Merna

Merna was an honours student in her final year majoring in English. Israeli soldiers frequently rampaged through her Bethlehem refugee camp in the middle of the night, ransacking homes and arbitrarily arresting residents. They took away her family one by one. First her 14-year-old cousin and best friend was shot dead by an Israeli sniper while she sat outside her family home during a curfew.

Next the Israelis arrested her eldest brother, a 22 year-old artist, and imprisoned him for 4 years.  Then they came back for Merna’s 18-year-old brother. Not content with that the military came again, this time to take her youngest brother – the ‘baby’ of the family – just 16. These were the circumstances under which Merna had to study.

Israeli military law treats Palestinians as adults as soon as they reach 16, a flagrant violation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Israeli youngsters, on the other hand, are not regarded as adults until 18. Palestinians are dealt with by Israeli military courts, even when it’s a civil matter. These courts ignore international laws and conventions, so there’s no legal protection for individuals under Israeli military occupation.

As detention is based on secret information, which neither the detainee nor his lawyer is allowed to see, it is impossible to mount a proper defence. Besides, the Security Service always finds a bogus excuse to keep detainees locked up “in the greater interest of the security of Israel”. Although detainees have the right to review and appeal, they are unable to challenge the evidence and check facts as all information presented to the Court is classified.

Under huge mental stress Merna nevertheless determined to carry on with her studies. The “most moral army in the world”, as the Israelis call their uniformed thugs, may have robbed her brothers of an education, but she would still fight for hers. Sleepless and tearful, Merna went to university next day as usual.

A fellow student recalled that when chatting to Merna online in the evenings, she often had to leave the computer because the military had barged into her home. But even if she’d been up all night while Israeli soldiers trashed her house and questioned her family, she always came to school the next day. “Coming to school is a way of getting away from what is happening in the refugee camp,” said Merna. “It’s like an oasis here for me.”  But her thoughts were never far from her cousin and brothers. “I only wish they were allowed this opportunity.”

She became a senior member of the Bethlehem University Student Ambassadors Programme and an example to fellow classmates. Young minds like Merna’s continue to persevere against the odds. Though greatly distracted by the cruel fate of her close family, the ordeal forged a steely resolve. The purposeful way she lived her university life, say the Brothers at Bethlehem Uni, gave her added strength and confidence. Merna managed to turn the tables on adversity. Her loss was actually her gain.

Berlanty

This Christian girl, a 4th year Business Administration student, was originally from Gaza but lived  in the West Bank after receiving a travel permit from the military to cross from Gaza to the West Bank. She was snatched by the Israeli military while returning from a job interview in Ramallah. The 21 year-old, due to graduate in a few weeks’ time, was suddenly deported to Gaza “for trying to complete her studies at Bethlehem University”. She was about to be robbed of her degree at the last minute.

The “most moral army in the world” blindfolded and handcuffed her, loaded her into a military jeep and drove her from Bethlehem to Gaza, despite assurances by the Israeli Military Legal Advisor’s office that she would not be deported before an attorney from Gisha (an Israeli NGO working to protect Palestinians’ freedom of movement) had the opportunity to petition the Israeli court for her return to classes in Bethlehem.

When they’d crossed the border the world’s most moral army dumped Berlanty in the darkness late at night and told her: “You are in Gaza.”

“I had refrained from visiting my family in Gaza for fear that I would not be permitted to return to my studies in the West Bank,” she told Gisha on her mobile phone before the soldiers confiscated it. “Now, just two months before graduation, I was arrested and taken to Gaza in the middle of the night, with no way to finish my degree.”

The Israeli embassy in London, when asked for an explanation, said that Berlanty held a permit that had expired and she’d been living in the West Bank illegally. “As you probably know, every Gaza resident who stays in the West Bank requires a permit, failing to do so is a breach of the law.” If she wished to complete her studies at Bethlehem, she should apply for a permit to the relevant authorities. However, Bethlehem University told me that of the 12 students from Gaza who had applied to attend the University NOT ONE had received permission from the Israeli authorities.

Her appeal, handled by Gisha, was turned down. It was a classic example of how Israel’s administrative ‘laws’ are framed to ride rough-shod over citizens’ rights enshrined in international law. For example, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are internationally recognized as one integral territory and under international law everyone has the right to freely choose their place of residence within a single territory. The state of Israel also has an obligation under the Oslo Agreements to “respect and preserve without obstacles, normal and smooth movement of people, vehicles and goods within the West Bank, and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip”.

While Israel’s embassy here in London pronounced the ruling on Berlanty’s fate, their Ambassador was whining about a warrant issued in London for the arrest of ex-foreign minister Tzipi Livni for alleged war crimes. Livni had overseen the murderous assault on Gaza the previous December/January, which killed 1400, including a large number of women and children, maimed thousands more and left countless families homeless.

If Berlanty, who had committed no crime, could not come and go as she pleased in her own country — the Holy Land – what made Israel’s Ambassador think that the blood soaked Livni, and others like her, should be allowed to come and go as they pleased in the UK? But that’s another shameful story.

Samer

A few months before he was due to graduate the Israeli military arrested Samer and threw him in jail… for 6 long years. Then, at 27, he returned to campus to finish what he started.  “I feel like a regular student again,” he said with a wide grin. “I have a university notebook and textbooks.  I can ask and answer questions freely.  I can communicate openly with students, professors, and staff.  It’s a real life, an authentic life.”

When imprisoned he was denied access to a lawyer for 55 days, then moved from one Israeli jail to another for more than six years. He was tortured on numerous occasions, he says, and regularly interrogated eight hours a day for four to five days, in just a T-shirt, squatting on the cold ground with his hands tied and an air conditioner blowing on his back.  He was held in solitary confinement for more than a year.

Membership of a student group in Palestine is outlawed under Israeli  military law, and students who engage in campus politics risk arrest by Israel’s uniformed gangs who barge into Palestinian society and academic life to abduct them. Many Western leaders began their political careers making a name for themselves at the Oxford Union and similar student debating groups or taking part in demos. How would they have reacted to being clapped in irons for it?

A good many of them, to their everlasting shame, are now signed-up Friends of Apartheid Israel. Members of the Israeli cabinet went to university too, presumably. Are we to believe that they never engaged in student politics?

Samer’s experience is similar to that of hundreds of Palestinian students who find themselves political prisoners.  Many are left to rot in jail indefinitely, denied due process, a fair trial and legal representation. Some wait up to two years to be charged. Others are charged under Israeli military law, which falls a long way short of the justice standards required under international law.

The Palestinian Prisoner’s Society reckoned that seven Bethlehem University students were at that time in Israeli prisons for taking part in ‘student activities’. In Samer’s case, he was abducted for joining Fatah’s resistance movement after the 2000 Intifada (uprising). It is, of course, perfectly legitimate to resist an illegal occupier.

Coming back to university after prison is no easy thing. Samer suffered the cruel effects of six years’ incarceration and was often tired, depressed, stressed and jumpy. But he knew that the University was his anchor, the main hope in his young life.

So there you have it…. the evil of Israel’s ‘snatch squads’ that prey on Palestine’s young people, and the regime’s cruel disregard for their well being and education while in its clutches.  The apartheid regime, after 66 years, still hasn’t emerged from the swamp.

May 26, 2014 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Quakers Divest from Veolia and Hewlett Packard

By Anna Baltzer | US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

HP Protest

The US Campaign is thrilled to announce that the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) has become the first U.S. national fund to divest from Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Veolia Environment following concerns expressed by Palestinian rights advocates about the companies’ involvement in the Israeli occupation. At last count, FFC held investments of more than $250,000 in HP and more than $140,000 in Veolia.

FFC handles investments for over 300 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the U.S., with over $200 million in assets. According to the Executive Director of FFC, Hewlett Packard was dropped for providing information technology consulting services to the Israeli Navy, while Veolia Environment was removed due to “environmental and social concerns.”

The decision followed advocacy from member group Palestine Israel Action Group of the Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (AAFM), which also successfully urged FFC to divest its $900,000 in Caterpillar shares in May. FFC has a “zero tolerance for weapons and weapons components” and said, “We are uncomfortable defending our position on this stock.” Caterpillar produces and sells bulldozers to Israel that are weaponized and used to violate Palestinian rights and destroy Palestinian homes, schools, hospitals, olive groves, and lives.

The US Campaign commends AAFM and FFC, which made its recent decision, in line with FFC’s principled commitment to investment in companies that “contribute positively to a peaceful, sustainable world.”

HP maintains a biometric ID system used in Israeli checkpoints for racial profiling; manages the Israeli Navy’s IT infrastructure; and supplies the Israeli army with other equipment and services used to maintain its military occupation. Veolia is involved in a light rail linking illegal Israeli settlements with cities in Israel; it operates segregated bus lines through the occupied West Bank; and it operates a landfill and a waste water system that dumps Israeli waste on Palestinian land.

2012 will truly be remembered as a landmark year of victories in the global campaign to hold corporations accountable for profiting from Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and international law:

Earlier this month, the dining services of Earlham College, another Quaker institution, stopped selling Sabra products in response to concerns from students and faculty about the company’s links to the Israeli army. Other campuses have de-shelved Sabra recently. BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Earlham, a member group of the US Campaign, continues its exciting campaign to convince the college to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola, and HP.

Shortly thereafter, the Student Union of the massive University of California (UC) system voted to protect students’ rights to advocate BDS on campus and demanded that UC stop profiting from Israel’s abuses of Palestinian rights. The motion passed by a vote of 12 to 0 (with 2 abstentions).

And of course, Morgan Stanley Capital Investment decided this year to remove the company from its list of socially responsible companies, prompting financial giant TIAA-CREF to divest more than $72 million in Caterpillar shares previously held in TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice Fund (though the company still holds Caterpillar shares in other funds). This was a major victory for the We Divest Campaign, the largest coalition-led U.S. divestment campaign in the country, which calls on TIAA-CREF to divest from companies involved in the Israeli occupation, including Veolia and HP.

These are just a few of the extraordinary victories this year in the movement to end U.S. institutional support for Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. Many more are surely on the way, as many campaigns forge ahead. This Thursday, September 27, 2012, the Minnesota Court of Appeals will hear arguments in an appeal brought by member group Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign against the Minnesota State Board of Investment. In the California Bay Area, a new campaign to Stop HP — led by member groups Friends of Sabeel, UC Berkeley Students for Justice in Palestine, Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid, American Friends Service Committee, Global Exchange, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Jewish Voice for Peace and others — is collecting pledges from individuals and organizations to boycott the company until it ends its complicity with the Israeli occupation.

Let’s continue to show our support for corporate accountability by clicking here to thank FFC for divesting from Veolia and HP!

September 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , | 1 Comment