Read this article on the BDS Movement web site on recent efforts by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to apply to Israel U.S. legislation that prohibits U.S. military aid to divisions of foreign forces that engage in human rights abuses:
Philly BDS | No Justice, No (Chick)peas
Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 2011 – More than fifty human rights protesters came out onto the streets today in response to recent action by the Greek government preventing the US Boat to Gaza from leaving port at Athens. The protesters held signs, chanted and talked to holiday vacationers in front of the Federal Building at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.
Scheduled to sail as part of an international flotilla to break the blockade of Gaza, the U.S. Boat to Gaza—The Audacity of Hope—was stopped on Friday by the Greek Coast Guard. After a stand off that unfolded over several hours a second Greek Coast Guard boat arrived carrying heavily armed Greek commandos. The boat was eventually taken back to dock in Athens and the captain arrested.
Protesters carried signs that read “Free Gaza,” “End the Blockade of Gaza,” “Let our Citizens Sail,” and “End the Siege of Gaza.” The crowd of fifty, sometimes joined by passersby, repeated chants like “The whole world is watching Gaza, let the boats sail!” and “Justice will prevail; let the boats sail!” Protesters also chanted “Hey, hey Barack Obama, Let our people sail to Gaza!” Today’s protest drew cheers from passersby and honks of support from passing cars.
Also during the protest, Alice Walker’s poem written aboard the Audacity of Hope was read aloud by the father of a local Jewish American activist who was violently arrested in a Jerusalem Day protest while traveling with an Interfaith Peace Builders delegation last month in East Jerusalem.
Passengers aboard The Audacity of Hope include 36 Americans, among them Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. Four crew and ten reporters are also on board.
Susan Landau of Philly BDS commented: “The Greek government is caving into pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The activists on the boat are peaceful human rights activists. The Israeli government is going to great lengths to prevent their journey and maintain an illegal naval blockade that violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. And Greece is trumping up charges against the boat’s captain because it is bowing to pressure from the U.S. and the Israeli government. All the support we’ve gotten today shows that freedom-loving people here and elsewhere won’t be fooled.”
Similar protests are being held in other cities, such as New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.
May 4, 2011
Philadelphians Protest Jewish National Fund’s Poker Tournament Fundraiser
More than two dozen local residents gathered outside Del Frisco’s restaurant in Center City on Wednesday evening for a noisy picket of the Jewish National Fund’s “Philadelphia Poker & Blackjack Tournament.” Proceeds from the annual fundraising event, which is co-sponsored by prominent Philadelphia corporations and firms, support the Jewish National Fund’s activities in Israel. The protesters oppose the organization’s treatment of Palestinian land and people.
As the poker players arrived at the restaurant on the corner of 15th and Chestnut Streets, they were greeted by a vocal picket line denouncing the JNF’s role in the ongoing destruction of Palestinian villages. Carrying signs reading “Land Theft is Not Charity,” the protesters took aim at the JNF’s status as a charity that pays no taxes under U.S. law. “It’s absurd that an organization involved in ethnic cleansing gets to count as a charity,” said Susan Landau, who took part in the protest. “Why are American taxpayers subsidizing an organization whose mission is to support land acquisition for one ethnic group only? I’m Jewish, it’s my ethnic group, but I don’t support what they do.”
“The JNF is at the heart of Israel’s ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their land,” said Elliott batTzedek, another picketer. “For over 60 years, the JNF has been destroying Palestinian homes and villages. They cover up the destruction by planting forests over the ruins and calling them parks. One village in the Negev desert has been leveled over a dozen times in the last year to make room for a JNF forest.”
Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund originally collected money from Jews throughout the world to “redeem the land of Israel” by purchasing land in Palestine. Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF has raised tens of millions of dollars for planting trees in Israel, many of which are planted on the ruins of demolished Palestinian Arab villages. For example, after the Israeli army’s 1967 capture of the Palestinian village of Imwas – which was the town of Emmaus in Biblical times – the population was forcibly expelled and the town was bulldozed. The Jewish National Fund’s “Canada Park” was built over the ruins.
The protesters said that much of the land controlled by the JNF was never actually purchased at all. “After 1948, the Israelis didn’t have to buy land, the state just took it and then sold it to the JNF,” explained batTzedek. “Under Israeli law, any land that comes under the control of the Jewish National Fund then becomes available only to Jews forever. So while Israel claims to be a democracy that respects equality and justice, in fact more than 90 percent of its land is inaccessible to Palestinians, who make up more than 20 percent of the population in Israel.”
“The JNF wants to be thought of as an environmental organization, but what they planted were non-native trees that actually hurt the natural environment,” noted Landau. “A long time ago, I believed the Jewish National Fund did good things. I hope some of the people who came to play poker tonight will eventually understand that the JNF exists in order to maintain an apartheid system in Israel and Palestine.”
Some of the poker players seemed disturbed by the protest. A few stopped to argue, with a few using epithets. One man denounced the picketers as “Nazis.” Most paused briefly to watch and listen before entering the restaurant for an evening of festivities and high rolling.
Outside, the protesters distributed postcards explaining their action and continued their chant: “Dirty money, dirty dealing: Palestine is what you’re stealing!”
Philadelphia, 14 February 2011. The Philadelphia campaign to boycott two popular snack
foods that fund Israeli human rights abuses in occupied Palestine took new steps today to
pressure a local supermarket chain to “de-shelve” Sabra Hummus and Tribe Hummus. In a
videotaped “direct action for Valentine’s Day,” five members of the Philadelphia Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions Coalition delivered over a hundred hand-crafted and hand-written
valentine cards to Patrick Burns, CEO of the Fresh Grocer stores, at the chain’s Drexel Hill
corporate offices. The visit was filmed by the group, which has said it will make the videotape
available on YouTube and other websites within the next several days and expects it to be seen
In October, members of “Philly BDS” surprised customers and employees of the Fresh Grocer’s
flagship store at 40th and Walnut Streets near the University of Pennsylvania by staging a “flash
dance” in which they sang and danced to a tune by Lady Gaga with lyrics adapted to their
boycott message. The videotape of that action has now been viewed by more than 67,000
people worldwide, inspiring similar flash dance actions in cities from St. Louis to Tel Aviv.
Following the Philly BDS lead, campaigns to boycott Sabra and Tribe Hummus are currently
being planned on university campuses and in several cities around the United States.
The Valentine-themed event began at a silent art auction and fundraising dance party
entitled “Make Love Not War,” which was held by the group last Friday evening in West
Philadelphia. In addition to dancing and dressing up for photographs taken in an on-
site “kissing booth,” party attendees bid on crafts, paintings, collectible posters, photographs
and other donated art work. Most also found a few minutes at an oversized crafts table
to make personalized cards using red construction paper, bits of paper doilies, glitter and
glue provided by Philly BDS. “Dear Mr. Burns, Please spread love, not apartheid hummus,”
read one of the cards handmade by a party-goer who supports the Sabra and Tribe Hummus
boycott but otherwise has not been part of the local campaign to support human rights of
Palestinians. Other hand-crafted cards called on Fresh Grocer to “C’mon and Be Our Valentine,
Support Human Rights in Palestine.”
After delivering the large basket of valentine cards to Mr. Burns in Drexel Hill on Monday
afternoon, the activists returned to West Philadelphia where they joined a large crowd
of boycott supporters sporting the group’s signature red sequined headbands in front of
the Fresh Grocer store on Walnut Street. Buoyed by their afternoon “love caravan,” they
distributed valentine candy with cards describing the Sabra and Tribe boycott campaign to
shoppers and passers-by. “We’re in this campaign for the long haul,” said Evan Hoffman,
whose face poked through a tall red cardboard heart. “We will do what it takes to make sure
that our message of love for the people of Palestine stays visible and that Fresh Grocer knows
we’re serious about getting Sabra and Tribe out of their stores. We believed Fresh Grocer
when they said they cared about human rights and community – now we want the corporation
to live up to its word.”