Palestine

A growing number of unions across Australia have backed the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign targeting Israel. The campaign demands that Israel ends its apartheid-like policies towards Palestinians.

The National Council of Churches in Australia (NCCA) said in a July 20 statement that it would “continue to add its voice to the call for an end to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and condemning all acts of terrorism”.

The Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF) apparently screened Iraqi film Son of Babylon against the wishes of the filmmakers — who object to the sponsorship of the MIFF by the apartheid state of Israel.

Israel faces an international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign by opponents of its oppression of Palestinians. As with the international campaign against South African apartheid, this includes a call for a cultural boycott.

Early on July 27, Israeli bulldozers, flanked by helicopters and throngs of police, demolished the entire Bedouin village of al Araqib in the northern Negev desert. Despite having land rights cases pending in the court system, hundreds of al Araqib villagers were instantly made homeless a month after Israeli police posted demolition orders.

Eyewitness reports say the police were accompanied by several busloads of right-wing Israeli civilians who cheered during the demolitions.

In an effort to mitigate the global outrage that followed its May 31 attack on the Gaza aid flotilla, Israel has, ever so slightly, eased its blockade on Gaza. However minimal, this step has only been taken because of the pressure applied to Israel by the international grassroots protest movement.

The Gaza aid missions have aimed to alert the world to the criminality of the blockade. In this, they have succeeded — though the price has been heavy: Nine killed (mostly with shots directly to the head and neck) and 700 others violently abducted, detained and abused.

On July 17, 25 members of Justice for Palestine (JFP) Brisbane met in the CBD to launch their boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli goods and services.

The target for the first BDS action was the Israeli Seacret cosmetics company that uses “mineral-rich mud and natural mineral salts of the Dead Sea”. It makes no mention of the occupied Palestinian land from which the minerals are extracted or the apartheid conditions under which Palestinians live every day.

Al-Sharq al-Awsat said on July 15 the Libyan aid ship, Amaltheal (“Hope”) docked the night before at al-Arish in Egypt. The ship was bearing 2000 tons of aid supplies for the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is blockaded by Israel.

The ship’s odyssey from Greece was marked by uncertainty and danger for the 21 passengers. It developed a mechanical problem that made it move very slowly on July 14. There was a question about whether its captain might try to take it right into Gaza, despite the Israeli military’s blockade.

The board of Pride Toronto held a press conference on the lawn outside its offices on May 25 to announce the phrase “Israeli Apartheid” would be censored from the upcoming 2010 Pride Parade.

The decision, aimed at banning the Toronto-based activist group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from the gay pride parade, set off a firestorm in the community.

This included refusals to take part in the festival and an open letter denouncing the decision by eight founding members who organised the first Toronto Pride parade in 1981.

Hundreds of activists in Washington, DC demonstrated on July 6 outside the White House to protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit.

Protesters held signs calling on the US government to end military aid to Israel as Netanhayu met US President Barack Obama.

After the meeting, Obama said: “I think the Israeli government, working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions, has shown restraint over the last several months that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks.”

Canada & Israel: Building Apartheid
By Yves Engler
Fernwood Publishing/Red Publishing
Toronto, 2010, 168 pages.

Most Canadians today would probably agree that their country's foreign policy is pro-Israel. Even Canada's “liberal” supporters of Israel complain that siding so explicitly with Israel damages Canada's role of a peacemaker. It signals a shift away from the country's perceived balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Leichhardt Friends of Hebron can be very proud of the Festival of Friendship for Hebron it held over June 25-26.

The event raised more than $5000 for a kindergarten in the impoverished village of Um al Khair in the South Hebron hills. It also won a significant political victory over the ban the previous Leichhardt Council administration placed on a Palestinian photo exhibition two years earlier.

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