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Is the BDS Democratic?

Open letter to Omar Barghouti, Co-founder, PACBI

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | March 23, 2014

Dear Omar,

Let me start by saying that you have done a lot for BDS and that BDS has done a lot for the Palestinian cause.  It is perhaps for this reason that we should all be concerned with potential corruption of the movement, and you most of all.  I refer to changes of wording, changes of direction and changes of priority within the movement.

The change of wording is the infamous four words “occupied in June, 1967″ inserted into the first of three objectives in the mission statement portion of the 2005 BDS Call signed by 173 Palestinian organizations, such that the statement now demands of Israel:

“Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall…” (added phrase in italics)

I understand your argument that this phrase only clarifies the meaning of the original statement, and that it changes the meaning not at all.  Even so, who gave you the right to make the change without consulting and getting the approval of the signatories to the original call?  Why was it inserted without even telling anyone, such that no one but you even knows when it was done?  If it is so uncontroversial, why not get it approved?

Why is the phrase needed, anyway?  You argue that it results in no change of meaning.  Why, then, is it not superfluous?  Since it is a bone of contention, just remove it and be done with it.

I also understand that the offending phrase occurs only in the ”Introducing the BDS Movement” section of the website and that the original wording is preserved elsewhere.  However, this is at best misleading and at worst disingenuous.  The “Introducing the BDS Movement” section reproduces the three demands from the 2005 Call completely verbatim, except for the added four words, and then proceeds to make the claim that this wording is endorsed by the signatories of the 2005 BDS Call.

This is deceptive and even fraudulent and must be corrected.  The altered wording has even been mistakenly quoted by Max Blumenthal in his book Goliath as being the wording of the original BDS Call.  Your misrepresentation has led directly to his error.

However, the wording is not merely a technical problem.  The wording is apparently important to you.  But why?  Could it be that the wording was needed in order to satisfy individuals or groups or interests that demanded this wording?  Was it meant as an assurance that BDS would not demand the return of all lands stolen from Palestinians but only those lands that were stolen outside the Green Line?

If this is the case, it would explain why many “soft” Zionists, who want to maintain a Jewish state but give back the West Bank, now participate in BDS, but only against institutions that support the Israeli presence in the West Bank.

In fact, that is the current priority of the movement, with little or no Boycott, Divestment or Sanctions aimed at institutions that deny equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel or the Right of Return to Palestinians in the shatat (“diaspora”).

Is this a coincidence or is BDS headed in a different direction than its origins would indicate?  Is it no longer a Palestinian movement, but rather a “soft” Zionist movement?

Obviously, people join movements for different reasons, and if Zionists want to boycott organizations that do business with Israel – even if only in the West Bank – their contribution is welcome.

However, it is quite another matter to effectively turn over the reins of the movement to them or to accommodate them by changing the wording of the mission statement.  A Palestinian movement that welcomes Zionists that have limited objectives is quite different from a Zionist movement that wants to limit its mission but accepts Palestinians that have wider goals.

Is that what is going on?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps my concerns are exaggerated.  But in that case, please dispel all doubt by removing the four words.

Paul Larudee

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

March 24, 2014 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tacit Admission that Israel is Ethnically Cleansing Palestinians

By Paul Larudee and Beth Daoud | Dissident Voice | October 25, 2013 

On April 8, 2009, ten billboards went up in the Albuquerque area saying “Tell Congress: Stop Killing Children. No More Military Aid to Israel.” On April 28, Lamar Advertising, with whom the ads had been placed by the Coalition to stop $30 Billion, tore down the ads due to pressure, presumably from other clients with larger accounts.

In June, 2012, twenty-three billboards went up in the Los Angeles area, also calling for an end to US aid to Israel. One week later, the billboard company, CBS Outdoor, also took down the ads.

We have come a long way since then. Ads that are critical of giving billions of US tax dollars to Israel, of Israeli human rights violations and of the creation of the Jewish state at Palestinian expense have appeared in Detroit, Seattle, New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, Albuquerque, and other locations.

In Denver, another free speech struggle has achieved its objective. A partnership of NoTaxDollarsToIsrael.com and ColoradoBDSCampaign.com initially failed twice to get approval for a billboard. First, CBS Outdoor placed the restriction that the ad must not use the words Jew and Israel, so the coalition offered the wording “Want peace? Stop ethnic cleansing in Palestine.” CBS Outdoor rejected it without explanation.

The groups then tried Lamar Advertising, with the same result. Finally, they borrowed a technique tried and tested by an anti-Muslim group, the Freedom Defense Institute. FDI chose public transit advertising space to place anti-Muslim ads in New York and San Francisco. After initial rejection in New York, FDI’s Pamela Geller sued and won a court order to permit her ads, based on the fact that the ad space was publicly owned and therefore subject to constitutional free speech principles. While the use of privately owned ad space is largely at the discretion of the owner, publicly owned space is not, and must conform to First Amendment principles. The court also decided that in the absence of clear evidence that the ad used hate speech, it could also not be restricted by such criteria.

Mall bus 2The Denver groups pursued the same strategy. They resubmitted the ad to Lamar, but this time for space on the public transit system (inside the Denver light rail vehicles and outside the 16th street mall buses). After a long delay, the ads were approved, with no change at all in the message or graphics. As of this writing, the ads are available for all to see, both Denver residents and visitors to the city, like the hundreds of delegates to the convention of the Jewish National Fund, 1½ blocks from the 16th street mall.

What was going on during the delay? One may speculate that much deliberation was taking place, possibly in consultation with lawyers from the ADL (Anti-Discrimination League) and AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee). The only possible challenge would be that the ad constituted hate speech or was libelous. In both cases, however, the challenge would depend upon proving the falsity of the “ethnic cleansing” label.

Apparently, these august jurists decided that a discussion of “ethnic cleansing” as a description of Israel’s actions was potentially far more dangerous to Israel than the placement of an ad to that effect. After all, there was no assurance that the court would rule in their favor, in which case a terrible precedent would be set. Better to allow a bit of uncomfortable truth to appear in public than a legal ruling certifying such a truth. How Palestinians disappeared from much of Palestine is a question that the Israel lobby would prefer to leave unanswered.

Paul Larudee and Beth Daoud are organizers with No Tax Dollars to Israel and Colorado BDS Campaign, respectively.

October 26, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Is the Custodian of Absentee Property Awaiting the Absentees?

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | April 8th, 2013

cus·to·di·an (kəs-ˈtō-dē-ən) n. 1. One who has charge of something: caretaker

The Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language, International Edition, 1973

Custodian-1.1The office of Ronen Baruch, the current Custodian of Absentee Property for Israel, is in an ancient Arab home at 8 Yoel Salomon Street in Jerusalem. A house of this type is not unusual in this part of Jerusalem, and this one has few markings to indicate its function. Even its mail is delivered to the main building of the Ministry of Finance in another part of the city.

Searching the Internet will not yield this information unless you read Hebrew, and even then not much else. Much more is available about the Mossad, but perhaps only because it is bigger and more interesting. Information about the Custodian is not necessarily secret, just possibly of little interest to journalists. However, it has no website and does not advertise its contact information. It is almost as if Israel would prefer that no one knows it is there.

Despite this, the office plays a pivotal role in the existence of Israel. Most Israelis live and work on land that was once in the charge of the Custodian of Absentee Property, an office created less than two months after the Israeli state and existing to this day as part of the Ministry of Finance.

Who or what is the Custodian of Absentee Property?

To many of the indigenous nations of North America, the European notion of land ownership was strange. The role of humans was to be custodians of the land and for the land to be the custodian of its human inhabitants. Similarly, the rulers of Makkah and Medina have historically referred to themselves as custodians, not owners, of the holy shrines.

Thus, when Israel created the Office of the Custodian of Absentee Property in July, 1948, to take charge of property belonging to refugees that fled or were expelled, was its intention for the custodian to be a steward and trustee for the property of these refugees while they were away? Certainly, the title of the office implicitly acknowledges that the property belongs to the absentees, not the Custodian, which land registry documents in fact confirm.

Of course, land and the structures on it – some dating back a thousand years or more – were not the only property that came into the charge of the Custodian. Many millions of dollars of gold, jewelry, antiques, cars and other items made their way into the inventory. However, real estate was by far the most important and valuable. The absentee owners were almost all Palestinian Arab refugees and exiles, both rich and poor. A few were Jews, and their property was quickly returned to them. Not so for the rest, except a tiny fraction that were able to prove that they had not fled at all.

How much of the territory within the 1949 ceasefire line did the absentees leave behind? Prior to the proclamation of the state of Israel on May 14, 1948, some 6% of Mandate Palestine was Jewish property (Sami Hadawi, Village statistics: 1945). Considering that Zionist forces seized 78% of Palestine, however, the proportion within those areas would have been closer to 8%, excluding Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, the remnant of the Palestinian Arab population that was not expelled retained some of their lands and homes, currently estimated to be less than 3% of the same areas. Roughly half of the captured territory was state land of the government of Palestine, mostly the Naqab (Negev) desert.

It is likely that all the rest, roughly 39%, was declared absentee property, and placed under the control of the Custodian. This figure agrees with an inventory made by the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine (UNCCP) of 7,069,091 dunams. If the Custodian also took charge of state lands, the total would have been 89%. This information has not been released, but a statement by Jacob Manor, the Custodian in 1980, to journalist Robert Fisk (Pity the Nation, p. 45) indicates that the higher figure may be more accurate.

Of course, Israel had no intention of respecting the legal records of land ownership. The Absentee Property Law of 1950 made clear that the job of the Custodian was to “release” the property in its custody to other agencies, which would use the land without regard to the registered owners.

Thus, in effect, the Custodian of Absentee Property became Israel’s largest “fence” for stolen property. Under the powers authorized by the Absentee Property Law, the Custodian “released” the land to the Israeli state, the Development Authority and the Jewish National Fund (JNF), with the combined lands (93% of the state of Israel) under the management of the Israel Land Administration (ILA). The ILA thus became the largest recipient of stolen property in Israel, notwithstanding the international racketeers and blood diamond traffickers that have found a safe haven there.

Curiously, however, the ILA has until recently been prohibited from offering the land for sale, but rather to lease it to users, although in 2009 plans were made to begin granting title. This policy was promoted in the 1950s allegedly as an enlightened socialist program of collective ownership borrowed from the institution of the kibbutz. Was it instead a means of protecting individual Israeli citizens from the accusation of receiving stolen goods? If so, it constitutes another implicit admission that the property legally belongs to expelled Palestinians and not to either the Israeli government or its citizens.

Villa Salameh, Jerusalem

The Absentee Property Law is in fact contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the International Declaration of Human Rights, both of which were constituted less than two years earlier and to which Israel became a signatory. This discrepancy came to light in the case of the Jerusalem residence of the Consul General of Belgium, which has been located since 1948 on absentee property known as the Villa Salameh. In order to be in compliance with international law, Belgium elected to pay rent to the exiled Palestinian owners of the property rather than to any Israeli authority or to Israeli businessman David Sofer, who claims to have “bought” (leased) the property from the Israeli government since 2000.

Surprisingly, Israel has been one of the strongest proponents for the restoration of absentee property to its original owners or their rightful heirs. One of the best examples of this is the HEART (Holocaust Era Asset Restitution Taskforce) Project, established in 2011 with more than $2.5 million per year funding from the Israeli government, in cooperation with the Jewish Agency for Israel. Its purpose is to seek restitution for Jewish property seized by the Nazi government in Germany. Other victims of the Holocaust, such as Slavs, Poles, Romanies (Gypsies), disabled persons, non-Europeans, political prisoners, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others are apparently ineligible for this service, as well victims of the 1948 Israeli ethnic cleansing project known to Palestinians as the Nakba (catastrophe).

Although the extent of past Israeli property theft is well known to students of such matters, popular awareness is lagging. Current activists are likely to consider the more recent thefts of Bedouin property in the Naqab (Negev), confiscation of Palestinian property in Jerusalem and West Bank land seizures, house demolitions and village eradications as the major problem without taking into account the much larger scale of earlier crimes. They might be shocked to learn, for example, that the land stolen from Palestinian owners prior to the 1949 ceasefire is equal in size to more than the total area of the West Bank and Gaza combined.

The issue is sometimes raised when defining “Arab land” in the Palestinian context. If, for example, “Arab land” is defined only as that which was seized in the June 1967 war, it disregards the enormous amount of property that was confiscated without compensation from “absentee” Palestinian refugees and exiles in 1947-49 and soon after.

Is the Custodian of Absentee Property awaiting the return of the absentees to reclaim their property? In a sense probably so, though not with a sense of joy. Rather, all who are responsible for the theft of the property and for the ethnic cleansing and other crimes committed in furtherance of that theft know that a day of reckoning always awaits those who think they are above the law.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on Is the Custodian of Absentee Property Awaiting the Absentees?

When did India Become Part of Israel’s Stable?

By Dr. Paul Larudee | January 8, 2013

Amazing stuff, India ink. A few drops spread vigorously with a roller for several minutes on an iron plate are enough for eight sets of fingerprints and two sets of hand prints on four ancient double-sided and folded Indian police fingerprint forms. By contrast, the mug shot was taken with a digital camera. After that, I was issued an official deportation order, for which I signed to acknowledge receipt. My passport remained in police custody until I got to the security check at the airport, when it was returned to me.

My crime? I had spoken to an audience of 22,000 youth at a Student Islamic Organization conference in Kerala State without having a visa that authorized public speaking or conference participation. India is perhaps the only “democracy” where free speech for foreigners depends upon the visa they are carrying. In fact, it is probably the only such country that has no visit visa category at all, and which has one of the most convoluted, bureaucratic and invasive visa application procedures this side of North Korea.

Not that the visa restrictions are always enforced. However, the myriad regulations and procedures (“for public protection”) permit the security apparatus to control individuals and events at their discretion without having to cite the true reasons for their enforcement. Every effective police state knows the drill.

In my case, I used a tourist visa, because the conference visa is a truly onerous procedure unless it is a state-sponsored event.  In fact, that is the only type of conference participation permitted, because even private groups must seek state sponsorship in order to bring speakers from outside. In today’s India, however, state sponsorship is hardly a routine bureaucratic procedure.

It shouldn’t have been this way.  India was supposed to have been the model for tolerant multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-confessional societies. And when India was a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, carefully balancing its relationships among great and small powers and supporting those who might otherwise be a mere pawn in world affairs, this promise seemed plausible.

Regrettably, India has now become a home-grown Raj, choosing sides and fomenting discord between competing interests as a means of governing and controlling, in the best traditions of its colonial past. Thus, for example, conservative Salafist clerics are welcome when they attend conferences on tourist visas, while human rights speakers like David Barsamian, John Esposito, Yvonne Ridley, Wilhelm Langthaler and myself are unwelcome, and are denied visas or expelled, and/or their hosts are prosecuted.

The Salafist treatment is part of a Machiavellian formula hatched by India with its newest partner, Israel. Salafists deserve free speech as much as anyone, but the reason India accords more of it to them is on the advice of Israel. Israel promotes Islamophobia as part of its strategy of demonizing Palestinians and Arabs, a majority of whom are Muslims, and the Salafist brand of Islam fits Israel’s agenda of portraying Islam as an extremist ideology. This stokes the flames of the more extreme nationalist Hindu groups in India and plays on the fears of many other non-Muslim groups, as well. Since Pakistan is an external Muslim enemy, such demonization helps to unify non-Muslim India and permit popular tolerance of greater government control as well as encroachment of security forces on civil rights and privacy.

In fact, India has its own version of the U.S. Patriot Act, curbing the rights of its people. It is called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), and while the title is more honest than “Patriot”, it is also a bit scary. It implies that people can be snatched from the edge of a sidewalk on the pretext that they were intent on jaywalking. No need for the infraction to happen first.[i]  UAPA is an illustration of the degree to which human rights have been marginalized in the land of M.K. Gandhi and Abdulghaffar Khan.

Not that India doesn’t have real security concerns. Communal strife is as old as India itself and has sometimes risen to the level of genocide, which drove the 1947 Pakistan secession. However, it is one thing to use law enforcement to prevent fighting and quite another to use it to drive a wedge between communities with a view towards playing them off against each other.

A case in point is the role that Israel is playing. The self-proclaimed Jewish state is selling itself to India as a worthwhile ally on the basis that it is a) an experienced and effective leader in the fight against Islamist extremism and terrorism, b) a supplier of high-tech weapons and intelligence, and c) a means of access to U.S. support and cooperation. In effect, Israel is saying that both states have common friends and enemies and that Israel is in a position to provide what India needs.

India appears to be buying, and is currently the largest customer for Israeli military arms systems and services. Never mind that the expensive Iron Dome systems are effective less than 50% of the time against rockets from Gaza that use 16th century technology.  Like most governments, India has been seduced by the promise of omniscient surveillance systems and the prospect of winning battles rather than preventing them.

This is obviously a devil’s bargain.  True to the nature of such contracts, however, are the surprises that await the unwary. It is instructive to remember that Israeli agents once planted bombs in Baghdad synagogues to encourage Iraq’s Jews to emigrate to Israel. (It worked, and encouraged Iraqi thugs toward violence, as well.)

Since then, Israel has stolen nuclear weapon technology and weapons grade fissionable material from the U.S., conducted the most massive spying operation in U.S. history against its “ally”, and staged numerous assassinations and “black ops” actions outside its borders, including friendly countries. Questions currently surround the killing of Israeli tourists in Bulgaria and the putative assassination attempt on Israeli diplomats in India. Israel blamed both of these on Iran on the basis of flimsy evidence, possibly fabricated in collaboration with its allies, the violent Mujahedin-e-Khalq Iranian exile group.

India would do well to be more circumspect toward friends like this. Vilifying Iran is high on Israel’s current agenda, and Israel reportedly provided “evidence” and pushed the Indian government to prosecute the case. The result was the arrest of journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi, who anchors a news program on West Asia providing alternative views of events in the region. His open advocacy of better relations with Iran and his Iranian contacts were enough make him an Israeli target and an Indian suspect. After seven months of incarceration, however, the Indian government had to release him for lack of evidence.

Kazmi and I shared the podium at the SIO conference in Kerala and I was able to chat with him privately just prior to the event.  He is a courageous man, willing to accept the risk of speaking in public so soon after his release, but appears to hold no bitterness.  Peaceful dissent of this kind needs to be encouraged in India, which is well advised to heed John F. Kennedy’s warning that, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

Sadly, Israel sees violent revolution in foreign countries to be in its national interest, under the “divide and conquer” principle. However, one would think that India’s principle would be the opposite if it wants to remain a successful unified nation with a highly diverse population seeking assurance that all their voices are heard in a national consensus. Furthermore, there is no need for India to acquire the same enemies as Israel. It may be in Israel’s perceived interests, but is it in India’s?

My few days in Kerala were an inspiring glimpse of what is possible. I saw thousands of young Indian Muslims whose religious and social mission is to benefit all mankind, to alleviate the social ills of Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to promote interfaith cooperation and to create an umbrella that is inclusive of everyone.

Although this was a Muslim event, many who attended were not Muslim and were invited directly by their Muslim neighbors. I was invited to be the keynote speaker even though I am not Muslim and spoke more generally about human rights and about Palestinian issues, which are not specifically Muslim or Indian. Roughly 40% of the attendees were young women, in a society not always known for its success in promoting women’s rights.

These young people were politically aware, committed, well organized and motivated. Society is supposed to create models for young people, but in this case it was the young that created a model for their society.

Dr. Paul Larudee is a human rights advocate and one of the co-founders of the movement to break the siege of Gaza by sea. He was deported from India on 31st December, 2012.

[i] For a fictional treatment illustrating the absurdity of this proposition, see the film Minority Report (2002).

Source

January 8, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Islamophobia, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment