Tell your State Senator and Assembly member to take a stand for human rights and OPPOSE SCR 117.

ACTION ALERT: On June 28, 2010, California State Senator Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks, introduced Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 117, which declares California’s support for Israel’s deadly May 31 attack on the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla and its siege against Gaza.

For the full text of SCR 117, go to:  http://info.sen.ca.gov/pub/09-10/bill/sen/sb_0101-0150/scr_117_bill_20100628_introduced.html

CONTACT:
Senator Darrell Steinberg: (916) 651-4006; Senator.Steinberg@senate.ca.gov.
Assembly Member Dave Jones: (916) 319 – 2009; assemblymember.jones@assembly.ca.gov
For other State Senators: www.senate.ca.gov; for Assembly members: www.assembly.ca.gov

BACKGROUND:

The Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of nine vessels bound for Gaza with more than 10,000 pounds of donated humanitarian and medical supplies, was attacked by Israel while in international waters. Nine unarmed humanitarian activists were killed; several others were injured. Israeli commandos arrested and detained the nearly 800 surviving activists.  Sen. Strickland refers to these human rights activists as “terrorists” in a recent press release.
“What Mr. Strickland is doing is taking the focus off of Israel’s illegal actions in international waters that resulted in the deaths of nine innocent people and the illegal detention of hundreds more,” explains Dr. Hatem Bazian, chairman of American Muslims for Palestine and professor
of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. “It is unthinkable that in the land of freedom and justice, we would have an elected official that would not only praise such rogue behavior but would sponsor a bill officially sanctioning it.”.

More info: www.ampalestine.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1357:california-bill-supports-israels-attack-on-freedom-flotilla&catid=113:action-alerts&Itemid=562

ALSO, please email or call President Obama and tell him you want U.S. aid to Israel stopped now: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact or 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 .

Tell your Congress member the same thing: 202-224-3121; www.house.gov; www.senate.gov

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Israel Responds to BDS:

Witch-hunt Begins in Israeli Schools and Colleges
Minister to Punish Boycott Supporters

by Jonathan Cook
Dissident Voice, July 12th, 2010

Hundreds of Israeli college professors have signed a petition accusing the education minister of endangering academic freedoms after he threatened to “punish” any lecturer or institution that supports a boycott of Israel.

The backlash against Gideon Saar, a member of the prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, comes after a series of moves suggesting he is trying to stamp a more stridently right-wing agenda on the Israeli education system.

The education minister has outraged the 540 professors who signed the petition by his open backing of a nationalist youth movement, Im Tirtzu, which demands that teachers be required to prove their commitment to right-wing Zionism.

Two of Mr Saar’s predecessors, Yossi Sarid and Yuli Tamir, are among those who signed the petition, which calls on the minister to “come to your senses … before it’s too late to save higher education in Israel”.

Mr Saar’s campaign to “re-Zionise” the education system, including introducing a new right-wing Jewish studies syllabus and bringing soldiers into classrooms, has heightened concerns that he is stoking an atmosphere increasingly hostile to left-wing academics and human-rights activists.

Neve Gordon, a politics professor at Ben Gurion University in Beersheva who called for an academic boycott of Israel last year, has reported receiving death threats, as has a school teacher who refused to participate in Mr Saar’s flagship programme to encourage high-school recruitment to the Israeli military.

Daniel Gutwein, a professor of Jewish history at Haifa University, said: “A serious red flag is raised when the education minister joins in the de-legitimisation of the academic establishment. This is a method to castrate and abolish Israeli academia.”

Mr Saar’s sympathies for Im Tirtzu were first revealed earlier this year when he addressed one of its conferences, telling delegates the organisation would be “blessed” for its “hugely vital” work.

The youth movement emerged in 2006 among students demanding that the government rather than ordinary soldiers be held to account for what was seen as Israel’s failure to crush Hizbollah during that year’s attack on Lebanon. It has rapidly evolved into a potent right-wing pressure group.

Its biggest success to date has been a campaign last year against Israeli human rights groups that assisted a United Nations inquiry led by Judge Richard Goldstone in investigating war crimes committed during Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2008. The human rights organisations are now facing possible government legislation to restrict their activities.

Im Tirtzu’s latest campaign, against what it calls “the reign of left-wing terror” in the education system, was backed by Mr Saar during a parliamentary debate last month. He told MPs he took very seriously a report by the movement claiming that anti-Zionist professors have taken over university politics departments and are silencing right-wing colleagues and students.

Mr Saar also warned that calls for boycotts against Israel were “impossible to accept” and that he was talking to higher education officials about taking “action” this summer, hinting that he would cut funds for the professors involved and their institutions.

Yossi Ben Artzi, the rector of Haifa University and the most senior university official to criticise Mr Saar, warned him against “monitoring and denouncing” academics. He added that the Im Tirtzu report “smells of McCarthyism”.

The universities are already disturbed by a bill submitted by 25 MPs last month that would make it a criminal offence for Israelis to “initiate, encourage, or aid” a boycott against Israel and require them to pay compensation to those harmed by it.

The bill is likely to be treated sympathetically by the government, which is worried about the growing momentum of boycott drives both internationally and in the occupied West Bank. Mr Netanyahu has called the emergence of a boycott movement inside Israel a “national scandal”.

Prof Gordon, who wrote a commentary in the Los Angeles Times a year ago supporting a boycott, said Im Tirtzu had contributed to a growing “atmosphere of violence” in the country and on campuses.

Hundreds of students at his university have staged demonstrations demanding his dismissal. He was also recently sent a letter from someone signing himself “Im Tirtzu” calling the professor a “traitor” and warning: “I will reach Ben Gurion [University] to kill you.”

Prof Gordon said: “I have tenure and Im Tirtzu cannot easily get me fired. But they are trying to become the ‘guards at the gate’ to make sure other academics do not follow in my path.”

Only three Israeli acadmics have so far openly endorsed a boycott, he added, with many others fearful that they will be punished if they do so. But Im Tirtzu and its supporters were using the issue as a pretext for cracking down on academics critical of rightwing policy. He called Israel an increasingly “proto-fascist” state.

Prof Gordon cited the recent case of Assaf Oren, a statistics lecturer and peace activist who had been told he was the leading candidate for a post in Ben Gurion’s industrial engineering department until right-wing groups launched a campaign against him.

In a further sign of what Prof Gordon and others have labelled a McCarthyite climate, MPs in the parliamentary education committee — which has come to closely reflect Mr Saar’s views — summoned for questioning two head teachers of prestigious schools after they criticised official policies.

One, Ram Cohen, has condemned Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, while the other, Zeev Dagani, has spoken against the programme to send army officers into classrooms to encourage pupils to enlist.

Mr Dagani was the only head teacher in the 270 selected schools to reject the programme, saying he opposed “the blurring of boundaries when officers come and teach the teachers how to educate”. He subsequently received a flood of death threats.

The education ministry has announced a new core curriculum subject of Jewish studies in schools that concentrates on nationalist and religious themes and is likely to be taught by private rightwing and settler organisations.

Avi Sagi, a philosopher at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, warned in the liberal Haaretz newspaper that the syllabus offered “an opening for dangerous indoctrination”.

A modern history curriculum published this month has been similarly criticised for leaving out study of the Oslo peace process and Palestinian politics.

Also in the sights of education officials are hundreds of Arab nursery schools, many of them established by the Islamic Movement. Zevulun Orlev, head of the education committee, has accused the schools of “poisoning the minds” of Arab children in Israel.

Mr Saar appointed a special committee last month to inspect the schools and shut them down if they were found to be teaching “anti-Israel” material.

Arab MPs have called the claims “ridiculous”, pointing out that the schools were set up after the education ministry failed to build nursery schools in Arab communities.

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The BDS Campaign demands that Palestinian citizens of Israel be accorded the same rights as benefits as Jewish-Israelis:

A State for All Its Citizens

The United States should not be fooled by Israel’s claim that it can be both Jewish and democratic.

BY NADIM N. ROUHANA, April 22, 2010   (Foreign Policy on-line)

In the conflict studies courses I teach, I expose my students to theories that claim state-sanctioned inequality is a source of perpetual conflict. I know this to be true not only from my academic research, but from personal experience: I also run a small research institution in the northern Israeli city of Haifa that focuses on the status of the Palestinian citizens in Israel and their relationship with the state. This population, with the silent complicity of the United States, has long been the target of official state policies of discrimination.

In spite of America’s professed commitment to equality, the U.S. government makes an exception when it comes to Israel’s insistence on being recognized as a Jewish state, which in theory and practice means privileging Jewish citizens over all other citizens. U.S. President Barack Obama declared his support at the United Nations last September for “two states living side by side in peace and security — a Jewish state of Israel, with true security for all Israelis, and a viable, independent Palestinian state.” Similarly, Vice President Joe Biden told an audience at Tel Aviv University in March that negotiations should lead to “a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders.” It appears that affirmation of Israel’s identity as a “Jewish state” is becoming a routine part of U.S. discourse on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

But it would be politically and morally wrong for the United States to support recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. Israel’s Palestinian minority makes up between 16 to 20 percent of the population, depending on whether the Palestinians in East Jerusalem are counted — a larger percentage than the African-American population in the United States. The total percentage of non-Jews in Israel — Muslims, Christians, and others — reaches approximately 25 percent. To recognize Israel as a Jewish state excludes this sizable minority from full and equal participation in Israel’s political and civic life. This is a recipe for enduring social strife and conflict.

There are few honest observers in Israel who dispute that a Jewish state, by definition, privileges one group of citizens over another. This inequality is expressed in various ways, including in Israel’s Basic Laws and its laws of land control, immigration, and resource distribution. The modern Israeli state belongs only to its Jewish citizens — and even to non-citizen Jews in the diaspora — but not to its Palestinian citizens. As a result, a sizable minority of Israel’s citizens have no state to call their own. Israel’s Basic Laws stipulate that “a candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset … if the goals or actions of the list … expressly or by implication” negates Israel as a Jewish state. Thus a party that explicitly requires Israel to become a state for all its citizens and not a Jewish state runs the risk of disqualification.

Is this really what Obama wants? Has he contemplated the built-in inequality that accompanies a “Jewish state”?

The U.S. government’s ironclad commitment to Israel’s security is the result of international politics, on which there can be differing views. However, supporting Israel’s continued privileging of one group of citizens over another on the basis of national identity or religious affiliation is neither morally defensible nor harmonious with America’s founding principles. The concept of a “Jewish state” is not equivalent to the still-objectionable term “Christian state” used by some groups in the United States. Rather, it is akin, in the eyes of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, to the concept of a “white state” — a notion that is completely unthinkable in the West.

The United States has previously overlooked Israel’s settlement policy for reasons related to its national interests and domestic political considerations. Now Israel is confronting the grave consequences of these policies: Difficult political choices over West Bank settlements have precipitated increasingly sharp divisions within Israeli society. Similarly, the diplomatic support the United States lends to Israel’s ambition to be recognized as a “Jewish state” does not serve either country’s long-term interests. Israel’s welfare is best ensured by a system that guarantees real equality for all its citizens and national groups, rather than state-sanctioned ethnic discrimination.

Nadim N. Rouhana is professor at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and director of the Haifa-based Mada al-Carmel, the Arab Center for Applied Social Research.

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