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First, a summary of recent news about the BDS campaign; then we feature a recording of speeches by Frank Barat, Coordinator of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine and Ilan Pappé, Israeli historian and professor at Exeter University in Great Britain who spoke at Northeastern University this past January 16. These are the same voices you heard last week, in a new setting.
Truth and Justice Radio (WZBC, Newton, MA)
There is growing evidence everywhere that the BDS movement is achieving results in unnerving Israel. This week, for the first time Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced and then cancelled an in depth discussion of developing a strategy to counter the plethora of boycotts reigning down on Israel. Netanyahu has maintained that BDS is not a serious threat to Israel, but is now beginning to realize that it needs to be dealt with at the highest levels of the government. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the decision by the Dutch Pension Fund PGGM to divest from Israel’s five largest banks due to their involvement in financing companies and groups involved in settlement construction. A few weeks earlier the Dutch company Vitens canceled a contract with the Mekorot Water Company for similar reasons.
In a meeting at Oxfam America’s Boston headquarters Tuesday afternoon, local human rights advocates urged representatives of the international aid agency Oxfam to be true to the organization’s principles and cut ties with their Global Ambassador Scarlett Johansson if she remained the Global Brand Ambassador for SodaStream, a company that operates a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. In Los Angeles and New York, human rights groups delivered a petition with more than 10,000 signatures to Johansson’s representatives at Creative Artists Agency. The petition called on the Hollywood actress to end her relationship with SodaStream. However, This past Wednesday evening, Scarlett Johansson announced she was ending her role as “Global Ambassador” with Oxfam rather than cutting her ties with Sodastream. A statement released by Johansson’s spokesperson said the 29-year-old Hollywood actress “has ‘a fundamental difference of opinion’ with Oxfam International because the humanitarian group opposes all trade from Israeli settlements, saying they are illegal and deny Palestinian rights,” the Associated Press reported. The bottom line: Johansson chose Sodastream over Oxfam. She chose to keep her lucrative contract to be a spokesperson for a settlement business over her role as a human rights activist with Oxfam.
And the fine hand of the Israeli lobby was evidenced this week in the New York State legislature where a bill that targets the American Studies Association over its decision to boycott Israel passed its first test: a vote in the New York Senate. The bill, introduced by Democratic Senator Jeff Klein, the co-leader of the body, passed by a vote of 56-4. The measure prohibits colleges and universities from spending taxpayer funds on academic groups that support boycotting Israel. While the measure applies to any academic organization that boycotts countries where the New York Board of Regents has chartered a school, the focus is on Israel. A companion bill is currently being considered in the New York State Assembly. If it passes there, it will be up to Governor Andrew Cuomo to either sign the bill or veto it. The bill’s passage marks the first time a legislative body has successfully passed a bill to target the ASA over its decision in December to boycott Israeli academic institutions. That decision, a landmark victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, unleashed a torrent of opposition from Israel lobby groups and university administrations.
So BDS builds and week-by-week we see how the impact on Israel is taking its toll. So much for the news.
Now for the January 16th event at Northeastern University here in Boston: We have featured several testimonies given before the Russell Tribunal on This Week in Palestine, and this morning we will hear more about this tribunal from its chief coordinator, Frank Barat. And then we hear from from Ilan Pappé who will take a look at what is happening to the Zionist movement in Israel, and the reaction to it throughout the world.
This Week In Palestine 2-2-2014
Frank Barat & Ilan Pappé at Northeastern U
Northeastern U (Boston) and WZBC studios (Newton, MA)