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Boycott Calls Against Israel
Case Study on Three BDS Activists Working for Israeli Universities: Tom Pessah, Ronnen Ben-Arie and Merav Amir

13.06.19

Editorial Note

 

IAM has been reporting on academic BDS for years. BDS in general, including the academic BDS, has prompted the Israeli Knesset to pass the Anti-BDS Law in July 2011 entitled "Law Preventing Harm to the State of Israel by Means of Boycott." By the definition of the Law, "Boycott" is a civil wrong. "He who knowingly publishes a public call for a boycott against the State of Israel, where according to the content and circumstances of the publication there is a reasonable probability that the call will lead to a boycott."   

 

Universities, like all other institutions, are expected to abide by the anti-BDS Law.  

 

Still, IAM found three examples of academic BDS propagators with direct ties to Israeli universities.

 

Dr. Tom Pessah has been pursuing postdoctoral positions at the Hebrew University and Tel Aviv University and has taught two courses: "Ethnicity and 'Race' – A Global Perspective" at the Sociology and Anthropology Department at Ben-Gurion University, and "Violence and Politics – Selected Topics" at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew University.  Pessah is a sociologist from the University of California, Berkeley. His 2014 Ph.D. thesis focuses on internal debates regarding ethnic cleansing within settler colonial societies. Pessah's endorsement of BDS began before the anti-BDS Law was passed. In 2010, a bill in "Support of UC Divestment from War Crimes," referring to Israel, was co-authored by Pessah. Also, on October 29, 2018, in a teach-in at the University of Michigan, titled "What is BDS? And Why Does it Matter?" Pessah spoke as an expert on the BDS movement. As reported by the press, Pessah said: "BDS has been a model of solidarity from my knowledge of participation in the movement... You see many Palestinians, many Jews, many Israelis working side by side, acknowledging the rights of Palestinians."  

 

Dr. Ronnen Ben-Arie is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Minerva Center for the Rule of Law under Extreme Conditions at the University of Haifa and an adjunct lecturer at the Technion Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning.  Before the anti-BDS Law, Ben-Arie was among the signatories in a 2010 letter to the rock band Pixies urging them to "postpone your performance in Israel." In another petition, Ben-Arie was a signatory to "Dissident Israelis support Marrickville BDS plan" that was published in April 2011. After the Law was passed, Ben-Arie is promoting divestment from Israel in a co-authored book, From Shared Life to Co-resistance in Historic Palestine, published in 2017. The book asks "In what ways can we divest from settler arrangements in the present-day? Exploring the Zionist takeover of Palestine as a settler colonial case." The book suggests "How do we contribute to the decolonisation of Palestine?" And charges Israel with an "attempt to eliminate native life involved the destruction of Arab society"; "settlerist process of dispossession of the Arabs"; "elimination of shared life", among other accusations. The book offers an "Arab-Jewish co-resistance as a way of defying Israel's Zionist regime, to oppose "an unacceptable state of affairs." The book discusses "possible futures," exploring ways to divest from Israel, as mentioned before  

 

Dr. Merav Amir is a senior lecturer in Human Geography at Queen's University Belfast who is often involved in academic publications of Israeli universities. Recently, she co-edited the Tel Aviv University Minerva Humanities Journal Mafteakh Issue 13.  The Journal aims to create an open "political lexicon".  In 2012-2013, Amir was a fellow at the Hebrew University Davis Institute. In 2014 Amir participated in the journal Public Sphere of the Tel Aviv University School of Political Science.  Amir is a long-time supporter of BDS. She was a contributor to the 2012 book The Case for Sanctions Against Israel. In 2015, Amir was described by a Dutch-Palestinian initiative as "an activist in the BDS movement." She is also one of the initiators of a 2016 petition "Jews Across Northern Ireland Support Sanctions Against Israel," stating clearly "We support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as called for by Palestinian civil society." The petition also claims that "The State of Israel does not represent the Jewish people" and protests against those who "conflated Jews with Zionists, which is frankly offensive." 

 

The case study of the three BDS activists shows quite clearly that university authorities do not keep a close watch on their faculty.  Since universities are supported by the tax payers, it behooves them to pay attention to the laws which are passed by the Knesset.  

 

 

 

Posted October 6, 2016 

JEWS ACROSS NORTHERN IRELAND SUPPORT SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL

We are disappointed and offended by statements by the First Minister, Arlene Foster and DUP MLA, Gary Middleton, publicised this week.

Most of the Jewish community in Derry and Strabane are absolutely delighted that our Council supports Boycott Divestment and Sanctions, until Israel complies with international law. Indeed, Jewish people across Northern Ireland supports sanctions against Israel (see  founding statement below from Jewish Voice for Just Peace – Ireland.)

When the issue was raised in Stormont this week, the First Minister went straight to the words of the Rabbi in Belfast – thus conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with Judaism. Gary Middleton is wrong to say “It is sending out a very bad message to the Jewish community of Northern Ireland” (front page of the Londonderry Sentinel today).

Within Jewish communities, there are diverse views on Israel’s human rights’ abuses. Just like in other communities, Zionists tend to believe Israel is justified in its actions, while non-Zionists do not. These two DUP speakers have denied the views of non-Zionist Jews. They have also conflated Jews with Zionists, which is frankly offensive.

Politicians and media should share space for other views from within the Jewish community in Northern Ireland.

We would also like to wish everyone “shonah tovah” – a happy new year for Rosh Hashonah 5777.

JEWISH VOICE FOR JUST PEACE – IRELAND

We are Jewish people in Ireland who support the Palestinian struggle for human rights and justice – a struggle that resonates with the Irish journey towards peace. We share a commitment to human rights and justice for all.

As Jewish people, we oppose the cynical deployment of the anti-Semitic label, and the history of the oppression of the Jewish people, to silence those who legitimately criticise Israel. We are part of a long historical Jewish tradition of fighting oppression and standing up for peace and justice for all.

The ongoing occupation of Palestinian land, the siege of Gaza, brutal military repression and violence, the rejection of meaningful peace, and the growth of far-right racism and fundamentalism in Israel have led to the formation of pro-peace and pro-justice Jewish groups throughout the world.

Our group is proud to be part of this pro-Palestinian Jewish community, and to join the global movement that supports the Palestinian struggle for their human rights and for justice.

We support the application of the norms of international law and human rights to Israel/Palestine. We also support those groups that are working to create a just and lasting peace in Palestine.

*We support boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, as called for by Palestinian civil society.*

The State of Israel does not represent the Jewish people. We have an obligation to speak out when Israel claims its actions against the Palestinian people are taken on behalf of the Jewish people.

Not in our name!

Signatories include:

Merav Amir (Belfast)
Jo Bird (Derry/Londonderry)
Becca Bor (Derry/Londonderry)
Laurence Davis (Cork)
David Landy (Dublin)
Seth Linder (County Down)
Aisling McGeown (Belfast)
Gavin Mendel-Gleason (Dublin)
Sue Pentel (Belfast)

===========================================


 
CMENAS Teach-In Town Hall. What is BDS? And Why Does it Matter?

 
Susan Abulhawa, Tom Pessah, and Huwaida Arraf
 
Monday, October 29, 2018
9:00-11:00 AM
Great Lakes Room Palmer Commons 
Lorde cancelled her show in Israel in protest. So did the Pixies, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters, and Santana. More than one 100 artists and musicians have joined the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement in solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli nonviolent activists. What motivates them? Since 2014, twenty-five U.S. states have passed anti-BDS legislation, citing anti-Semitism. In recent days though, federal courts in Kansas and Arizona have ruled that such laws violate First Amendment rights to freedom of expression. What is fair and just, in light of our diverse histories: members of the U-M community recall boycotts of Jewish businesses in Nazi Europe, America's history of civil rights boycotts, and boycotts in response to Palestinian displacement under Israeli Occupation? 

The CMENAS Teach-in Town Hall will explore this vital moment in world history with experts and take stock of BDS, now active for thirteen years. Meet our speakers: 

Susan Abulhawa, author of Mornings in Jenin (2010) and The Blue Between Sky and Water (2015), poet, political commentator, human rights activist, and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine 

Tom Pessah, Israeli sociologist and activist, board member of Zochrot 

Huwaida Arraf, Civil Rights Attorney and Co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, which was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Prize 


Everyone is welcome! 

Funding Support: CMENAS Endowments, Institute for the Humanities, Department of Anthropology, Arab and Muslim American Studies, Department of American Culture, the International Institute, Conflict and Peace Initiative, Colonialism, Race, and Sexualities Initiative (through IRWG), Middle Eastern Law Students Association (MELSA), Department of Women Studies, and the College of LSA 

--- 
If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation to attend this event, please reach out to us at least 2 weeks in advance of this event. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange. Contact: jessmhil@umich.edu

 

International Institute Programming

The International Institute’s centers sponsor numerous conferences, lectures, exhibits, and cultural performances throughout the year. These events are designed to educate the university community and the public about global issues and inspire discussion and dialogue. 



===========================================================


Experts discuss BDS movement at town hall

Monday, October 29, 2018 - 4:27pm

Students and faculty gathered in Palmer Commons at the University of Michigan Monday morning to listen to panelists describe the origins and mission of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. The movement has always been a contentious issue on campus, but has become a rising issue recently after a Graduate Student Instructor and a professor declined to write letters of recommendation for students hoping to study abroad in Israel last month.

The panel was hosted by the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies. CMENAS director Samer Mahdy Ali opened up the event, first recognizing the tragedy of the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh this past weekend. Ali then noted some people might question CMENAS’s decision to hold an event discussing a movement some equate with anti-Semitism. He explained CMENAS decided BDS is too vital a movement to not be discussed, claiming the movement is against a racist institution rather than a group of people.

“Why hold an event like this after such a terrible tragedy?” Ali said. “Frankly, we considered canceling the event altogether. But violence is contagious … BDS is the most important global issue for thousands of students on the U-M campus. This nonviolent movement is part of who they are. BDS is not against any group, but against a racist structure that oppresses millions of people daily.”

The first speaker was Susan Abulhawa, a political commentator, poet and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine. Abulhawa began her presentation by reading aloud some of Israel’s laws. One of these was a law put into effect this summer, which declared Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and downgraded Arabic from its official language status.

Abulhawa then talked about the history of Palestine and Zionism. Seventy years ago, she said, Palestine was a thriving, pluralistic country with sophisticated businesses and infrastructure. She said this changed with the introduction of Zionism, which was seen as a movement for Jews to return to a land devoid of a culture and a people.  

“They said it was a land without a people for a people without a land,” Abulhawa said.

She showed an image of an online recipe for falafel, calling it an Israeli dish. This, Abulhawa said, illustrates how Israel has co-opted Palestinian culture.

“You get to see this kind of stuff,” Abulhawa said. “Israeli cuisine, falafel, shakshuka, hummus, which has nothing to do with Israel. Not only has Israel stolen our home, and our lands and our dignity, and our heritage. But they’re also stealing our culture and our story and our history.”

Abulhawa continued to describe some of the Israeli government’s policies, including former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin’s instruction to Israeli soldiers to break Palestinians’ bones while he was the minister of defense. She said in response to these types of policies, and despite what she described as the U.S.’s perception of Israel as a start-up nation, protesters and activists in the BDS movement work to hold Israel accountable.

The next speaker, Israeli sociologist and activist Tom Pessah, spoke of the difference between anti-Semitism and what he called “anti-Semitizing.” He delved into the history of anti-Semitism and explained anti-Semitizing is a way of equating criticism of Israel with the hatred against Jews.

“The most common response that you see is what I would call anti-Semitizing, which means casting the words and the deeds of the opponents of Israel as resembling traditional anti-Jewish posts,” Pessah said. “This is a way of stigmatizing people as anti-Jewish in order to silence opposition.”

This conflation is bad for everyone, Pessah said. He said he believes strongly in solidarity and noted he has found that while working with the BDS movement — a movement which he said works to end the Israeli occupation — to recognize equality of Palestinians, and to allow Palestinian refugees to return home. Pessah said BDS is a strong opponent of anti-Semitism.

“BDS has been a model of solidarity from my knowledge of participation in the movement,” Pessah said. “You see many Palestinians, many Jews, many Israelis working side by side, acknowledging the rights of Palestinians as we said. But also, the BDS movement has been outspoken in combating anti-Semitism.”

Huwaida Arraf, a civil rights attorney and co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement talked about state policies targeting institutions that participate in the BDS movement. Arraf explained the foundation BDS is built on.

“In 2004, Palestinian civil society, 170 organizations, unions, representing really all facets of Palestinian society, political factions came together and announced this call to the world to help us achieve our freedom by instituting the same kind of pressure on Israel that the world instituted against apartheid in South Africa that helped bring it to an end,” Arraf said.

Arraf encouraged the audience to research and verify anything her or the other panelists discussed in order to form their own opinions. But she said she expects independent research will affirm her points.

“Anything I’ve said here, I don’t expect you to take as a given — please go and research yourself to learn more about it,” Arraf said. “Anything that Susan said, anything that Tom said. We want people to do the research themselves and then I’m confident you will also sign on.”

In November 2017, for the first time in the school’s history after years of attempts, Central Student Government passed a divestment resolution calling for the University to investigate several companies it had investments in which have contracts with the Israeli military. The Board of Regents later rejected the resolution.

One student later asked how the panelists felt about the incidents of faculty and staff members declining recommendation letters. Abulhawa denied these actions were discriminatory, as the professors had originally agreed to write the letters before learning they wanted to study in Israel.

“I don’t believe the professors were discriminating against the students,” Abulhawa said. “The professors were pointing out, they were discriminating against Israel if you want to call it discrimination. My understanding is that they had actually agreed to write recommendation letters for those students, but when they learned that these students were applying to a colonial institution, they exercised their conscience not to be party to that.”

After these recommendation letter incidents, Shay Vaughn, an administrative partner and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion advocate in LSA, said she received many phone calls about this issue. That’s why she attended the panel — she hoped to learn how to support as many people through DEI as possible.

“When it comes to being the DEI advocate, I think there is a responsibility to know certain things, and I take that very seriously, so I shared this event out to everyone in the office,” Vaughn said. “I just really appreciate being allowed to be here.”



=======================================================


Symposium launching Ronnen Ben-Arie and Marcel Svirsky new book: From Shared Life to Co-Resistance in Historic Palestine
 
From: 27/12/2017 20:00 - To: 27/12/2017 22:00
 
 
 

Zochrot gallery is glad to invite:

Symposium launching Ronnen Ben-Arie and Marcel Svirsky new book: From Shared Life to Co-Resistance in Historic Palestine” (Rowman&Littlefield International Publishing, London)

Speakers: Honaida Ghanim, Tom Pessah

Respondents: Ronnen Ben-Arie and Marcel Svirkski

Facilitation: Debby Farber, Zochrot

Wednesday, 27th of December, 2017, 20:00-22:00, Zochrot's office, 34 Itzhak Sade street, Floor no. 4, room no. 400, Tel Aviv. (note the event will be conducted in Hebrew)

For further details, please contact: debby@zochrot.org

About the book:

How do we contribute to the decolonisation of Palestine? In what ways can we divest from settler arrangements in the present-day? Exploring the Zionist takeover of Palestine as a settler colonial case, this book argues that in studying the elimination of native life in Palestine, the loss of Arab-Jewish shared life cannot be ignored. Muslims, Christians, and Jews, shared a life in Ottoman Palestine and in a different way during British rule. The attempt to eliminate native life involved the destruction of Arab society – its cultural hegemony and demographic superiority – but also the racial rejection of Arab-Jewish sociabilities, of shared life. Thus the settlerist process of dispossession of the Arabs was complemented with the destruction of the social and cultural infrastructure that made Arab-Jewish life a historical reality. Both operations formed Israeli polity. Can this understanding contribute to present-day Palestinian resistance and a politics of decolonisation? In this book, the authors address this question by exploring how the study of elimination of shared life can inform Arab-Jewish co-resistance as a way of defying Israel’s Zionist regime. Above and beyond opposing an unacceptable state of affairs, this book engages with past and present to discuss possible futures.

 
 

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