Tuesday, 2 September 2014

How to boycott Israel: updated guidelines for academics


The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) recently updated its guidelines on how to apply the international academic boycott of Israel.

This comes at a crucial moment – in the wake of Israel’s latest spasm of horrifying destruction and mass killing in Gaza, and after a period of unprecedented growth in support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

Calls for academic boycott will resonate more than ever particularly in light of Israel’s recent bomb attacks on university facilities in Gaza, its violent raids on universities in the West Bank and the financial and political support Israeli universities have themselves given to the carnage.

Right now, hundreds of thousands of Palestinian children in Gaza are not going back to school on time as a direct consequence of the Israeli devastation, while in the West Bank young children face such violence as tear gas fired at them on their way to class.

The school year in Gaza was scheduled to begin on 23 August but has been postponed; Israeli attacks since 7 July killed more than 500 children and injured thousands. In total 220 schools were damaged, 22 of which were completely destroyed.

Children will not be able to go back to class until “war-damaged schools” are repaired and “unexploded ordnance” removed, the UN says.

When children do go back to class, learning will certainly be an even bigger challenge due to the fact that virtually the entire child population in Gaza is in need of psychosocial support due to the trauma of Israel’s 51-day bombardment.

Practical guidance

The updated PACBI guidelines are important for two reasons: they provide a practical reference that can be used to decide if a specific activity is boycottable and they can be used to debunk false claims made by opponents of the boycott, for example that the boycott stifles “academic freedom.”

A common false claim is that PACBI has called for a blanket boycott of Israeli individuals or even of Jewish individuals.

But, PACBI states: “Anchored in precepts of international law and universal human rights, the BDS movement, including PACBI, rejects on principle boycotts of individuals based on their identity (such as citizenship, race, gender, or religion) or opinion.”

A person’s activities are boycottable, however, when “an individual is representing the state of Israel or a complicit Israeli institution (such as a dean, rector, or president), or is commissioned/recruited to participate in Israel’s efforts to ‘rebrand’ itself.” more

NGOs: Gaza blockade shows no signs of loosening


DUBAI (IRIN) -- Nearly a week after a ceasefire agreement that was believed to include the partial lifting of the blockade on Gaza, no restrictions have been eased, say humanitarians and border guards.

NGOs are eager to increase aid to the Palestinian region after a 50-day Israeli bombing campaign left over 2,000 dead, thousands wounded and much of the enclave's infrastructure in ruins, but access rules continue to present huge challenges.

While the exact terms of the ceasefire agreement, reached last week between Israel and various Palestinian factions, have not been released, it was widely reported that Israel committed to easing its border sanctions in exchange for a cessation of hostilities, while Egypt, too, was expected to ease its blockade.

Though many of the most contentious issues were left for further negotiations due to take place in three weeks, humanitarian workers were hopeful aid and other access policies would be eased quickly.

Gaza has been under a sea and land blockade by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took power in 2007.

Yet at the three main crossings -- the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings into Israel and the Rafah border post to Egypt -- the previous policies have remained in place.

"At both Erez and Kerem Shalom for now there hasn't been any change in the regime of allowing passage for people and goods," said Maria Jose Torres, deputy head of office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory branch of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

She said the organization had hoped for more clarity on the opening up.

"We were expecting that the agreement of the ceasefire would have some kind of timeline for easing and lifting the blockade but so far we have nothing publicly. There might be something we are not aware of," she said, referencing ongoing indirect talks between Palestinian factions and Israel.

One of the key issues is reducing the number of goods for which access is limited.

Among those that Israel restricts are fertilizers, cement, steel cables and even some fabrics. Israel defines such goods as "dual use" -- meaning that while they are needed for the civilian population, they could also potentially be used by militant groups in attacks. more

Poll: Israel's war builds support for Hamas as Abbas' ratings drop


A Palestinian opinion poll suggests Hamas' popularity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has risen dramatically following its war against Israel.

The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research poll indicates 61 percent of Palestinians would choose the Islamic militant group's leader, Ismail Haniyeh, for president if elections were held today. Support for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas' rival, dropped to 32 percent.

The poll also suggests a majority of Palestinians support adopting Hamas' armed approach in the West Bank.

The agency says it is the first time in eight years that a majority of Palestinians supported the Hamas leader. But, it says, Hamas' popularity might fall in coming months, as it did following previous Israel-Hamas conflicts.

The poll surveyed 1,270 Palestinians. Its margin of error is 3 percent. more

PFLP organizes Gaza rally to support national unity


The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine organized a rally in Gaza City on Tuesday to support national unity.

Senior PFLP leader Kayid al-Ghoul spoke during the rally and said the "people's steadfastness" in Gaza should lead to Palestinian national unity based on partnership and a political program which guarantees Palestinian rights.

Militants affiliated to the PFLP participated in the rally, which began at Omar al-Mukhtar Street before moving to the al-Basha multi-story residential tower, which was destroyed during Israel's offensive on Gaza.

Participants waved Palestinian and PFLP flags during the march, and some members of the crowd held up photos of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah. more

Israel finance minister warns land grab eroding support


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Finance Minister Yair Lapid warned Tuesday that Israel was eroding its international support after Washington joined a chorus of criticism of its biggest grab of Palestinian land since the 1980s.

Lapid complained that the cabinet had not been consulted about Sunday's announcement of the confiscation of 4,000 dunams (1,000 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank to pave the way for further settlement building.

"The announcement, which wasn't brought to the cabinet, regarding 900 acres of land for building in Gush Etzion (between Jerusalem and Hebron) harms the State of Israel," Lapid told an economic conference in Tel Aviv.

"Maintaining the support of the world was already challenging, so why was it so urgent to create another crisis with the United States and the world?" he asked.

Lapid, a moderate within the governing coalition, was alluding to widespread international condemnation of the high Palestinian civilian death toll during Israel's 50-day war in Gaza.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, another cabinet moderate who served as chief negotiator in abortive US-brokered talks with the Palestinians, had already criticized the land grab.

"It weakens Israel and threatens its security," she said on Monday. more

Israeli warships open fire at Gaza fishermen off coast of Rafah


Israeli forces opened fire at fishermen off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip on Tuesday, in apparent violation of the ceasefire agreement reached with Palestinian militant factions a week ago, fishermen said.

Palestinian fishermen told Ma'an that Israeli warships used machine guns to fire at their boats while they were sailing within the agreed-upon six-nautical-mile limit near Rafah.

No injuries were reported.

An Israeli army spokeswoman said fishermen "deviated from the designated fishing zone," and that navy soldiers fired warning shots into the air.

The fishermen then "backed away," the spokeswoman said. more

Video: See for yourself - Aerial and panoramic views show devastation in Gaza


From The Electronic Intifada - The video below, published by the Gaza-based video production company MediaTown, shows an aerial view of the devastated Shujaiya neighborhood of Gaza City.

On 20 July, the area was subjected to indiscriminate artillery bombardment by Israel that was so intense that it shocked even US military officers.



A total of 2,168 people were killed, 521 of them children, during Israel’s 51-day bombardment of the Gaza Strip that ended in a ceasefire agreement on 26 August.

Such images help us to understand the reality behind the shocking statistics about the physical destruction: 108,000 people have had their homes destroyed or severely damaged and will need permanent rehousing, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA).

As the ceasefire allows for more in-depth assessments “it is clear that the scale of damage is unprecedented, with approximately 13 percent of the housing stock affected,” UN OCHA says. “Five percent of the housing stock is uninhabitable – an estimated 18,000 housing units have been either destroyed or severely damaged.”

This on top of a shortage of 71,000 housing units before the Israeli attack.

Since there is no functioning airport in Gaza and Israel controls the skies, many people have wondered how the aerial video was taken. more