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Fierce Battle on BDS in the UK: Omar Barghouti is Coming to Speak

23.01.20

Editorial Note

 

On Monday, January 27, the BDS campaigner Omar Barghouti would participate in an event organized by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) at King's College London. He is going to promote "Building a United Anti-Racism Front," and looking "at how liberatory struggles must work together against institutional racism and oppression". The invitation to the event claims that "The struggle for justice in Palestine is a struggle against an institutionalized discriminatory framework of power which meets the legal definition of apartheid." 

 

The invitation explains that "The Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a call for global resistance to apartheid rooted in the affirmation that challenging Israel’s system of racism and discrimination is a crucial component of a universal anti-racist struggle. This event will look at how we withstand attempts to delegitimise BDS and wider activism for Palestine as a united movement, and how we build widespread support for an end to institutional racism. A crucial part of this is pushing for UK universities to end their investments and institutional links to Israeli apartheid, the extent of which has been revealed by PSC’s online database."

 

PSC is a UK organization that was incorporated in 2004 with its main focus on BDS. It has a large number of patrons, including Jeremy Corbyn and hosts 63 chapters nationwide.  

 

In late 2019, PSC has published research estimating that UK universities invest nearly £456,311,000 in companies complicit in Israeli "violations of Palestinian human rights, including through supplying weapons and technology to the Israeli military, and investing in Israel’s illegal settlement economy." PSC explains the findings, that it sent Freedom of Information requests to 151 UK Universities while 53 UK universities did not hand over any information and the remaining UK universities have only provided partial data in response to the request. Based on the direct and complete data from 44 universities, PSC calculated an average “complicity percentage” for the sector, i.e. an average percentage for what proportion of a university’s total endowment is invested in complicit companies (3.78%). It then applied this percentage to all the universities which provided partial or no data.” In response to the report, one commentator protested, "So basically, it is a fiction," for calculating an average “complicity percentage.” 

 

So far, the PSC report has not attracted any special media attention other than the usual pro-Palestinian outlets. 

 

Meanwhile, since mid December 2019, the government of Boris Johnson announced it will pass a law banning local councils from joining BDS. It argues that taxpayers' money should not be used to fund public organizations campaigning on foreign policy, as foreign policy is constructed by the government.

 

Ben Jamal, the director of PSC opposes adopting this law because it is a "serious assault upon the rights of Palestinians to articulate their oppression and call for peaceful action to address it" and it also means abandoning the fundamental right of freedom of expression. 

 

Of late, the UK Counter Terrorism Policing published a guide which is designed to catch those who are at risk of committing terrorist violence around the UK, including a list of groups that they view as a potential concern. Among these groups is PSC as well as Greenpeace. After a public outcry for Greenpeace, the police has promised to review the list.

 

Once the Government passes the law it would certainly make a difference. Still, in the academia, the heart of the battles of ideas, Barghouti and his fellow BDS activists would continue to spread venom against Israel.

 







Building a United Anti-Racism Front

This event will look at how liberatory struggles must work together against institutional racism and oppression.

About this Event

Date And Time Mon, 27 January 202018:30 – 20:00 GMT Location TBC Kings College London, S-2.18 The Strand London WC2R 2LS United Kingdom

*Tickets are available for students and non-students - However, student tickets are prioritised. If you are a non student, please register for a non student ticket and you will be informed by email if you are successful in obtaining a ticket*

 

History has shown us that when movements for justice unite to take on oppressive forces, we can and will win. Liberatory struggles must work together against institutional racism and oppression, and for our fundamental rights to protest.

The struggle for justice in Palestine is a struggle against an institutionalised discriminatory framework of power which meets the legal definition of apartheid. This is the lived experience of Palestinians whether those living under illegal military occupation in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza, as second class citizens in the state of Israel, or as refugees denied the right of return.

The Palestinian call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is a call for global resistance to apartheid rooted in the affirmation that challenging Israel’s system of racism and discrimination is a crucial component of a universal anti-racist struggle.

This event will look at how we withstand attempts to delegitimise BDS and wider activism for Palestine as a united movement, and how we build widespread support for an end to institutional racism. A crucial part of this is pushing for UK universities to end their investments and institutional links to Israeli apartheid, the extent of which has been revealed by PSC’s online database: palestinecampaign.org/university-complicity-database/

Time to get #ApartheidOffCampus!

 
Omar Barghouti
Omar Barghouti is a prominent Palestinian human rights activist and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a peaceful, global human rights movement that urges the use of economic and cultural boycotts to end Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. It has recently been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.
 
Lowkey
Lowkey is widely regarded as one of UK hip-hop’s finest, his socially conscious approach sets him apart from his contemporaries. After a hiatus which saw the hip hop artist take time off to focus on studies and activism, he has returned to a different world politically and a country and in a state of flux. He uses his new album to shine a light on the inner workings global power structures, multinationals and their relationships with governments.
 
Fope Olaleye
Fope Olaleye is the NUS Black Students’ Officer. They are a Politics graduate from Newcastle University and Anti-Oppression facilator and educator. They focus primarily on on decolonial practice and the experiences of Black Women and QTIPOC. They have been featured in Dazed, i_D, BBC Radio 1xtra and are a regular guest speaker at universities across the country leading workshops on what decolonisation means for gender and education.
 
Dan Glass
Dan is a sex-positive, queer, healthcare and human rights award-winning activist, performer, presenter and writer. Dan has won Attitude Magazine’s campaigning role models for LGBTQI youth + a Guardian ‘UK youth climate leader’, 2017 ‘Activist of the Year’ with the ‘Sexual Freedom Awards’ and was announced a ‘BBC Greater Londoner’ in 2019 for founding ‘Queer Tours of London – A Mince Through Time’. An agitator from the Training for Transformation educational programme born out of the Anti-Apartheid movement, the core of dan’s work is the development of critical consciousness and creativity to spur people ‘to read their reality and write their own history’.


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British universities invest over £450 million in companies complicit in Israeli war crimes, per new report

Palestine Solidarity Campaign UK on December 3, 2019

Research by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the U.K. reveals that British universities invest over £456 million in companies complicit in Israeli violations of international law. The research was published as hundreds of students across the country take action as part of ‘Apartheid Off Campus’ day of action, with banner drops and protests at campuses across the UK.

Research released by Palestine Solidarity Campaign on the week of the UN Day of Solidarity with The Palestinian people has estimated that UK Universities invest nearly £456,311,000 in companies complicit in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, including through supplying weapons and technology to the Israeli military, and investing in Israel’s illegal settlement economy. The research has been released as a database available to students and members of the public. 

Palestine Solidarity Campaign conducted the research by sending Freedom of Information requests to all 151 UK universities asking about the market value of their direct investments, as well as their investments in funds.  With this information, alongside data from Bloomberg International’s database containing the holdings of major investment funds, PSC has established  the investments of 44 UK Universities in complicit companies, which totals at least £129,239,973.60.

From this information PSC has calculated an average “complicity percentage” for the sector and applied it  to the 53 universities who refused to hand over information on their investments to create an overall projection for the entire sector.

The release of the exclusive research comes as students across the country held protests, rallies, and other events as part of a national ‘Apartheid Off Campus’ day of action, seeking to highlight how universities’ investment and partnership policies tacitly support and enable Israel’s ongoing violations of international law and human rights.

One example being highlighted by students is the University of Manchester’s ongoing investment in the company Caterpillar, which supplies the armoured bulldozers for the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian homes, schools, olive groves and communities.

Huda Ammori, Campaigns Officer at Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “Israel’s well-documented oppression of the Palestinian people, amounting to the crime of apartheid under international law, can only be maintained because companies continue to provide weapons and other support to the Israeli military, and to invest in Israel’s illegal settlement industry. It is shocking that UK Universities fuel Israel’s human rights abuses by investing in such companies, despite the majority holding so-called ethical investment policies. We will continue to support students across the UK in taking action to demand that their institutions divest from complicit companies, and get apartheid off campus.”

Mohammed Ali, President of Kings College London Action Palestine, said: “As a Palestinian student, I am disgusted to find out that my institution has complicit links with Israeli apartheid. We will continue to campaign with students across the country to demand our universities abide by their ethical policies, and remove all links with companies and institutions complicit in human rights abuses.”

A note on calculations:

Palestine Solidarity Campaign sent FOI requests to all UK Universities, and the breakdown is as follows:
– 53 UK universities did not hand over any information. 42 of these universities refused citing exemption from the FOI Act, despite other universities doing so willingly. PSC is currently challenging these decisions. The other 11 institutions in this category simply did not reply at all.
— 33 UK universities replied but do not hold investments in any company or funds (this is most likely due to the size of these universities).
– 44 UK universities who do hold investments in any companies or funds replied providing PSC with the full data.
– The remaining UK universities have only provided partial data in response to the request.
So, based on the direct and complete data from the 44 universities, and excluding any skewing anomalies, PSC calculated an average “complicity percentage” for the sector, i.e. an average percentage for what proportion of a university’s total endowment is invested in complicit companies (3.78%). It then applied this percentage to all the universities which provided partial or no data.

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https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/world/greenpeace-included-with-neo-nazis-on-uk-counter-terror-list/ar-BBZ45lZ?li=AAgfYrC  

Greenpeace included with neo-Nazis on UK counter-terror list


 Vikram Dodd and Jamie Grierson 18 January 2020


The guide, produced by Counter Terrorism Policing, is used across England as part of training for Prevent, the anti-radicalisation scheme designed to catch those at risk of committing terrorist violence.

Last week, police said documents uncovered by the Guardian that list environment protest group Extinction Rebellion (XR) alongside far-right extremists and jihadists were a local error.

But the list of groups viewed as a potential concern contained in the new 24-page document also includes Extinction Rebellion. It also includes Greenpeace, among whose supporters are Dame Judi Dench, Stephen Fry, Gillian Anderson and Joanna Lumley, alongside the anti-ocean pollution group Sea Shepherd, whose supporters include Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan. Also included is Stop the Badger Cull, which is backed by Sir Brian May, the Queen guitarist.

They appear alongside a number of extreme far rightwing groups including Combat 18 and the National Front as well as a group banned for terrorist violence. The last page of an accompanying visual guide seen by the Guardian advises people to report “any concerns identified via this document” using an online portal for reporting suspicious activity that is operated by Counter Terrorism Policing under the slogan: “Action counters terrorism”.

Environmental activists have been gathering for non-violent demonstrations in cities around the world in recent months, with campaign groups Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future organizing protests in major cities. Their goal is to raise awareness on climate-related issues, while demanding immediate governmental action on global climate change. 

Police insist the guide is not meant to portray all the groups that it features as extremist and thus needing to be reported to them. They said it is meant to boost understanding of signs and symbols people may come across, and point to a statement in the document that “not all of the signs and symbols noted within this document are of counter terrorism interest”.

However, on the visual guide the disclaimer appears to refer specifically to a set of religious and historical symbols used by white supremacists including “Odin’s Rune’, “SS Runes” and “Thor’s Hammer”. Mainstream leftwing and environmental groups are not similarly marked.

Non-violent groups featured in the document were furious at their inclusion. “Tarring environmental campaigners and terrorist organisations with the same brush is not going to help fight terrorism,” said John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace UK. “It will only harm the reputation of hard-working police officers … How can we possibly teach children about the devastation caused by the climate emergency while at the same implying that those trying to stop it are extremists?”

Peta’s director, Elisa Allen, said: “This appears to be a sinister attempt to quash legitimate campaigning organisations – something that is as dangerous as it is undemocratic.”

A spokesman for Extinction Rebellion said: “The guidance document makes it clear that not all the signs and symbols are of counter-terrorism interest. However, if that’s the case, why include them in a counter-terrorism document?”

Among the groups listed with no known link to terrorist violence or known threat to national security are Stop the War, the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, vegan activists, anti-fascist groups, anti-racist groups, an anti-police surveillance group and campaigners against airport expansion. Communist and socialist political parties are also on the list.

They feature alongside numerous groups associated with the ideology of violence of the far right, and the terrorist group National Action, which is proscribed, as well as two other banned groups. There are also a set of symbols and tattoos commonly associated with white supremacy, from a swastika and a “white pride worldwide” poster to tattoos of an iron eagle and the second world war German general Erwin Rommel.

The guide, from June 2019, bears the logo of Counter Terrorism Policing on every page, and was presented in briefings to public sector workers.

One senior teacher, who supports the efforts to thwart radicalisation, said they received the document as part of Prevent training at their educational establishment: “The document was given with the guidance that teaching staff could use it to identify symbols that students might draw or have about them and to enable staff to make a decision about whether it is a Prevent concern or not.

“The document is extraordinarily vague and leaves a great deal down to the interpretation of the individual member of staff,” the teacher added. “Clustering relatively innocuous groups like Greenpeace and CND in with genuine extremist groups seems to imply that these organisations are on the radar of the counter-terrorism police and should also be interpreted as such by the teaching staff coming across them.”

Police said it was “unhelpful and misleading” to suggest non-violent groups in the document were being smeared. They said it would be provided to Prevent partners as “a guide to help them identify and understand the range of organisations they might come across” and should not be viewed as suggesting that membership of “non-proscribed groups would be sufficient to trigger a Prevent referral”.

“Our focus is definitely not on lawful protest, or legitimate causes taken up by activists across the country,” Counter Terrorism Policing’s senior national coordinator, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon told the Guardian.

Dated June last year, the document was sent to doctors, schools and safeguarding children boards as a resource for practitioners of Prevent.

A spokesman for Worcestershire Acute NHS Trust said the documents were available for staff to access as part of Prevent awareness. The documents were supplied to the trust’s safeguarding and Prevent lead. It is also in use in the West Midlands.

Last week, police claimed it was an error for a guide explicitly about extremism to include Extinction Rebellion alongside terrorist supporting Islamist and extreme rightwing groups. They further said such an approach in the guide meant for police, teachers and other public sector workers was limited to the south-east of England. After the Guardian revealed the guide’s existence it was recalled.

Clare Collier, advocacy director at Liberty, said the latest document was evidence that peaceful protest was under threat. “We have long warned that the government’s counter-terror agenda is one of the greatest threats to free speech in the UK. If you are passionate about anything from climate change to social justice or fighting racism in the UK today you risk being labelled extremist and your details being passed to the police.

“The UK’s counter-terror measures are designed to co-opt public sector workers like teachers to spy on young people in their care – this guide will only add to the confusion and pressures they face. It also reinforces long held concerns that the government’s staggeringly broad definition of extremism gives the police cover to characterise non-violent political activity as a threat, and monitor and control any community they wish.”

Additional reporting by Russell Scott

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STATEMENT: PSC responds to UK Government’s counter-terrorism document


POSTED ON JANUARY 22, 2020

Palestine Solidarity Campaign, alongside a number of other peaceful campaigning organisations, has today expressed our deep concern at the inclusion of our organisation in a counter-terrorism police document distributed to NHS trusts, schools, and safeguarding boards. The suggestion that campaigning for peace, for environmental justice, against racism or for the human rights of oppressed peoples, should be regarded by those safeguarding the public as extremist activities is grotesque. This total mischaracterisation highlights once again that the UK Government’s counter-terrorism agenda is a threat to democracy and freedom of speech, and is in desperate need of comprehensive and independent review.

We have written previously about the deeply flawed Prevent agenda and how it infringes on our collective rights to dissent, campaign and protest. The narrative set-out in the latest counter-terrorism police document is a key example of the growing crackdown on civil liberties we are seeing in the UK. 

This attack is being carried out in the name of defending ‘British values’ and countering terrorism. The Government’s definition of ‘British values’, and the ideology that its counter-terrorism strategy is based upon, is deeply flawed, counterproductive, and runs directly counter to the values of tolerance, mutual respect and individual liberty that the Government is purporting to defend.

Many individuals and groups are at risk from this draconian strategy, but time and time again we have seen how those who campaign for Palestinian rights and an end to Israel’s violations of international law are specifically targeted. This latest counter-terrorism document must be seen in the wider context of national and global attacks to freedom of expression on Palestine and the rights of the Palestinian people.

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement seeks to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights and of international law. We must be clear that failing to take action to hold Israel account makes one complicit. Israel has been engaged in a global campaign to have laws prohibiting BDS introduced so that it can act with impunity, and the UK is the latest to follow suit. 

Right now, the UK Government is preparing to introduce legislation which prohibits public bodies from supporting peaceful BDS campaigns. This proposed law, if passed, would impair public bodies from enacting their social responsibilities not to support violations of international law and human rights, whether through investment or procurement. As such, it threatens the rights not just of those campaigning on behalf of the Palestinian people, but also those campaigning for public bodies to take other issues – such as environmental justice – into account when deciding how to spend public money. 

All those who believe in international law, human rights and freedom of expression must vigorously oppose this legislation. We are currently liaising with a number of other concerned organisations to build a campaign to fight this legislation and champion the principles of democracy and freedom of expression.

Campaigning for peace, for environmental justice, against racism and for human rights is not an extremist activity.

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The Government’s Attempt To Suppress BDS Is An Assault On Fundamental Freedoms


The proposed legislation must be opposed not just by those for whom justice for the Palestinian people is a core campaign, but by all who care about safeguarding fundamental democratic principles, writes Ben Jamal.

By Ben Jamal

Smuggled into a Conservative Party manifesto, widely seen as thin on concrete policy proposals, was a commitment to introduce primary legislation to stop public bodies from supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns targeted at Israel.

Last month, UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust issues Eric Pickles put more meat on the bones of this proposal by indicating that the legislation would prevent public bodies from working with those who support BDS. Whatever this means in practice, the move would represent a serious assault on fundamental freedom of expression.

Theresa May’s government had already moved to suppress BDS by attaching regulations to existing pension law that sought to prevent Local Government Pension Schemes from divesting from companies complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian human rights.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) challenged these moves in the courts and a final judgment by the Supreme Court is expected shortly. On a narrow level, the government’s proposed bill may be seen as an attempt to bypass any judgement in the Supreme Court which rules its pension regulations illegal. But the government’s actions need to be understood in a broader and more global context.  

For at least five years, Israel has been coordinating a campaign to criminalise the BDS movement and delegitimise groups calling for any form of sanction to address its continuing violations of international law. At the domestic level this has manifested in Israel introducing a raft of laws including the “Anti-Boycott Law” in 2011, which means that individuals or organisations who endorse a call to use BDS tactics are liable to have legal action brought against them. Last month Israel deported Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch Director, due to the organisation’s opposition to settlements in the occupied West Bank and its calls for companies to stop working with the settlements.

The so-called “lawfare” strategy has also seen Israel persuading friendly western governments to introduce laws to suppress BDS. More than 20 US states have passed bills and orders that penalise support for BDS. In France in 2010, the Justice Minister issued an instruction to state authorities to consider calls for boycott illegal - a move which has led to more than 30 activists being charged with criminal activity for participating in BDS actions.

The underpinning narrative used to support these legislative moves is that campaigning for BDS is an inherently anti-Semitic activity. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism is crucial to this tactic, and we have already seen how it’s been used to shape political discourse on this issue.  For instance, one example cited in the IHRA definition is “claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour”.

This assertion can be, and often is, deployed to say that criticism of the range of racist laws which discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel is inherently anti-Semitic. In 2018, a group of MPs called on the UK Government to stop Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) because they claimed it was anti-Semitic and in violation of the IHRA. In fact, IAW is an annual series of educational events that seek to raise awareness about Israel’s military occupation and discriminatory policies which have been shown to fit the legal definition of apartheid.

Another example cited under the IHRA is “requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”. This line is used to characterise calls for any form of sanctions against Israel as anti-Semitic. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre, for example, defined Airbnb’s decision to delist properties in illegal settlements in the West Bank as the 6th worst worldwide incident of anti-Semitism in 2018. Ironically the Centre also responded to Airbnb’s action by calling for a global boycott of the company – this was a key part of the body of pressure that led Airbnb to reverse its decision. It is examples like these that have led to the IHRA being severely criticised by leading human rights lawyers, academic experts on anti-Semitism, and bodies like the Institute for Race Relations.

The shape of the legislation proposed by the government has not been made clear and was not clarified in last month’s Queen’s speech.  However, Pickles’ formulation suggests it may mirror laws used in the US which in turn inspired a motion debated by Barnet Council in 2018. That motion, eventually shelved after lobbying pressure from PSC amongst other bodies, would have committed the council to not letting or renting space to any individual or group promoting BDS. A draconian interpretation of the wording could have meant council housing being denied, for example, to members of Trade Unions who have BDS policies.

The government’s moves are not only a serious assault upon the rights of Palestinians to articulate their oppression and call for peaceful action to address it, as well as the rights of those who wish to respond to that call by supporting BDS campaigns. It is also a worrying harbinger of this government’s willingness to follow the Trump model in abandoning core values that are the glue of a decent society – upholding the rule of law internationally and domestically alongside the fundamental right of freedom of expression. In this regard, the proposed legislation must be opposed not just by those for whom justice for the Palestinian people is a core campaign, but by all who care about safeguarding fundamental democratic principles.  

Ben Jamal is the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC).


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Boris Johnson to pass law banning anti-Israel boycott, official says

‘All those who believe in international law, human rights and freedom of expression must vigorously oppose this legislation,’ says Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Samuel Osborne @SamuelOsborne93
Monday 16 December 2019 16:29


Boris Johnson will attempt to pass a law banning local councils from joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, the UK’s special envoy for post-Holocaust issues has announced.

Eric Pickles said the movement was “antisemitic and should be treated as such” during a speech at the International Institute for Strategic Dialogue’s conference in Jerusalem on Sunday.

He said the new law would not allow public bodies to work with those who boycott, divest from or sanction Israel, the Jerusalem Post reported.

It comes after Donald Trump, the US president, signed an executive order effectively definition Judaism as a nationality, not just a religion – in a move which could suppress the BDS movement.

Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PDS), told The Independent: “The campaign for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) seeks to hold Israel accountable for its violations of Palestinian rights and of international law.


“Failing to take action to hold Israel to account makes one complicit. Israel has been engaged in a global campaign to have laws prohibiting BDS introduced so that it can act with impunity.”

Mr Jamal added: “Unsurprisingly a Conservative government that seeks to ally itself with Donald Trump and his far-right agenda is following suit.

“All those who believe in international law, human rights and freedom of expression must vigorously oppose this legislation.”

Last month’s Conservative Party manifesto included a pledge to ban local councils from boycotting products from foreign countries.

“We will ban public bodies from imposing their own direct or indirect boycotts, disinvestment or sanctions campaigns against foreign countries,” the manifesto said. “These undermine community cohesion.”

The bill will likely be announced during the Queen’s Speech on Thursday, a Downing Street spokesperson said.

The BDS movement has called on businesses, artists and universities to sever ties with Israel to end the occupation of Palestinian land.

It has urged local councils to divest their pension funds from companies accused of being complicit in the occupation.

 

Boycott Calls Against Israel

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