Oct 2, 2010

#BDS: The Occupier Becomes the Occupied

The central London branch of Israeli settlement company Ahava was occupied by Pro-Palestine activists from 11.30am until 3pm today, shutting the shop for business for entire time.  Two activists managed to bring a concrete slab with tubing going through the middle into the shop and lock their arms together inside it, thus blockading the shop. The shop assistant attempted to remove them from the shop but gave up when she realised they had locked their arms inside.
The police arrived on the scene after 15 minutes and moved supporters carrying a banner outside the shop, where they proceeded to engage with a generally supportive  public about the Palestinian issue and the nature of Ahava’s business.
Instead of waiting for the trained lock on cutting team, at 2pm the police began to dismantle the lock on themselves with a hammer, risking injury to the activists whose arms were locked inside. Luckily no one was hurt and by 2.30pm they had removed the activists from the lock on and arrested them activists for aggravated trespass; committing trespass with the intent to stop a lawful activity. The aggravated trespass charge will of course be challenged by asserting that Ahava’s business is not lawful and so no lawful activity was halted.
When action supporters left the scene at 3pm the store was still closed, brining the total closure time to at least 3.5 hours, over half of the trading time on the day on which Ahava generally receives the most business, Saturday.

#BDS: Israeli mayors' visit runs aground in Spain, Netherlands

The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) canceled a 19 September visit by Israeli mayors because the delegation included leaders of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, igniting a firestorm in the Dutch parliament centered at foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen.

The visit of thirty Israeli mayors to the Netherlands was organized by the Israeli branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC). The aim of the trip was to learn more about public policies and the Dutch system of local, regional and national authorities. 

While preparing for the visit, the JDC contacted the embassy of the Netherlands in Tel Aviv which requested that the JDC submit a list of participants. On the list appeared the names of mayors of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank: Beit Aryeh, Har Adar, Kiryat Arba, Oranit, Beit El, Efrat and Elkana. The Israeli news site Ynet reported that when the Union of Local Authorities in Israel requested that VNG assist in organizing the tour, it did not mention that mayors from settlements would be participating ("Holland calls off settlement heads' visit," 19 September 2010).

According to Ynet, the head of the Council of Efrat, Oded Revivi, said that the mayors' visit was originally planned for Spain. However, the tour was called off following the deadly raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla at end of May. "The Spanish said we were not welcome there, so we moved to Holland and asked to meet with Holland's ambassador to Israel. When they asked for the list we realized we had run aground," said Revivi. The JDC has facilitated similar trips to Denmark, France and China. 

#BDS: In defense of South African academics' boycott call

When African National Congress leader Chief Albert Luthuli made a call for the international community to support a boycott of apartheid South Africa in 1958, the response was a widespread and dedicated movement that played a significant role in ending apartheid. Amid the sporting boycotts, the pledges of playwrights and artists, the actions by workers to stop South African goods from entering local markets and the constant pressure on states to withdraw their support for the apartheid regime, the role of academics also came to the fore.

One significant move was the resolution taken by 150 Irish academics not to accept academic posts or appointments in apartheid South Africa. In 1971, the council of Trinity College Dublin took a decision not to own shares in any company that traded or had a subsidiary that traded in the Republic. The council later resolved that the university would not retain any formal or institutional links with any academic or state institution in South Africa.

Almost four decades later, the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is gaining ground again in South Africa, this time against Israeli apartheid.