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December 27, 2013 5

Campaigns In Atlanta And London Target Israeli Policy In Bethlehem

st-james-church-wall-bethlehem

St. James Church Wall

Right in time for Christ­mas, two cam­paigns have begun that demo­nize Israeli pol­icy in the West Bank city of Beth­le­hem, the birth­place of Jesus.

In Atlanta, Geor­gia, five elec­tronic bill­boards are cur­rently on dis­play for a two week dura­tion that depict Jesus’s par­ents Mary and Joseph being unable to gain entry into Beth­le­hem in mod­ern times because of Israel’s secu­rity bar­rier on the bor­der of the West Bank (the image was cre­ated by the artist Banksy). These bill­boards are spon­sored by If Amer­i­cans Knew (IAK), a vir­u­lently anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tion that has been run­ning anti-Israel bill­boards in cities across the United States over the past year.

In Lon­don, Eng­land, St. James’s Church erected a large dis­play out­side of the church to depict the secu­rity bar­rier that sur­rounds Beth­le­hem. The church’s rev­erend, Lucy Win­kett, claimed that the dis­play, which resem­bles the secu­rity wall in Israel, was designed to show passersby “what the peo­ple of Beth­le­hem are expe­ri­enc­ing today.”

The mock secu­rity wall out­side St. James’ Church is part of a fes­ti­val called “Beth­le­hem Unwrapped,” which is being spon­sored by the Holy Land Trust, a Bethlehem-based group that advo­cates for Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel. The fes­ti­val will take place in Lon­don from Decem­ber 23, 2013 until Jan­u­ary 5, 2014. It will fea­ture, among other pro­grams, a com­edy show called “Stand Up Against the Wall,” a “Beth­le­hem Christ­mas din­ner,” and a debate titled “Both sides of the Bar­rier – Sep­a­ra­tion or Secu­rity?” which will fea­ture Jeff Halper, the founder of the Israeli Com­mit­tee Against House Demo­li­tions; Leila San­sour, a res­i­dent of Beth­le­hem; Yif­tah Curiel, the Pub­lic Affairs spokesman at the Embassy of Israel in Lon­don; and Alan John­son, a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from the Britain Israel Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Research Centre.

Both the bill­board and mock wall dis­play delib­er­ately fail to account for Israel’s legit­i­mate secu­rity con­cerns. While IAK claims that their bill­boards, “will be seen an esti­mated 4 mil­lion times,” those who view the bill­boards will not receive any infor­ma­tion about why the secu­rity bar­rier was built and what it has done to thwart ter­ror­ist attacks.

Indeed, Israel’s secu­rity bar­rier was built as a defen­sive mea­sure that was first approved by the Israeli gov­ern­ment in 2002 to pre­vent Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ists from reach­ing their civil­ian tar­gets inside Israel. Since it was built, there has been a sharp decrease in Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism – not because there have been no attempted attacks, but because the secu­rity bar­rier has impeded ter­ror­ists from reach­ing Israeli cities, or has forced them to take more cir­cuitous routes, lead­ing to their capture.

Although both cam­paigns seek to rein­force the point that Beth­le­hem has become inac­ces­si­ble because of the wall, thou­sands of Chris­t­ian pil­grims from around the world visit Beth­le­hem for Christ­mas Eve cel­e­bra­tions every year. This year was no excep­tion, accord­ing to news reports, the turnout was “the high­est in years.”

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March 8, 2013 1

Anti-Israel Activity Reached Fever Pitch This Week

Anti-Israel activists took a multi-faceted approach to attack­ing Israel in the pub­lic sphere this week. In the span of 7 days, divest­ment res­o­lu­tions were con­sid­ered at three col­lege cam­puses, ten anti-Israel bill­boards were put up in Atlanta, over 30 col­lege cam­puses hosted Israeli Apartheid Week pro­grams and two day­long BDS con­fer­ences were scheduled.

These ini­tia­tives are for­mally or infor­mally part of a global effort to advance the Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) move­ment against Israel. They demon­strate the anti-Israel movement’s com­mit­ment to employ­ing mul­ti­ple tac­tics and cam­paigns to attract sup­port for its positions.

A flyer adver­tis­ing the first pub­lic dis­cus­sion on the divest­ment res­o­lu­tion at UCSD

Here’s a closer look at what’s taken place this week:

  • Cam­pus Divest­ment Res­o­lu­tions: Stu­dent gov­ern­ments at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity, the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia (UC), River­side, and UC San Diego con­sid­ered divest­ment res­o­lu­tions tar­get­ing multi­na­tional com­pa­nies that work with Israel like Cater­pil­lar, Gen­eral Elec­tric and Northrup Grum­man. The results were mixed: the res­o­lu­tion at Stan­ford was voted down; UC San Diego did not vote on its res­o­lu­tion (after a dis­cus­sion that lasted until 2am) and will resume dis­cussing it next week, while UC River­side passed its res­o­lu­tion in a stealth man­ner rem­i­nis­cent of the recent res­o­lu­tion at UC Irvine. The divest­ment res­o­lu­tion at River­side was intro­duced with­out advance notice and seems to be part of an effort to ensure that pro-Israel stu­dents are left in the dark and are there­fore not present at the pub­lic dis­cus­sion to voice their per­spec­tive and advo­cate against the bill.
  • Israeli Apartheid Week: At least 35 col­lege cam­puses in the U.S. are par­tic­i­pat­ing in IAW this year, the ninth con­sec­u­tive year that the pro­gram has been held in cities around the world. Most of the events in the U.S. were for­mally sched­uled to take place March 4–8 but some are stretch­ing into next week as well (due to var­i­ous university-related sched­ul­ing con­flicts). IAW events this year have pri­mar­ily included anti-Israel speak­ers, mock “apartheid walls” and check­point dis­plays on cam­pus, and screen­ings of two crit­i­cal of Israel films,  the Oscar award-nominated “5 Bro­ken Cam­eras” and a more extreme film called “Roadmap to Apartheid.” “Roadmap to Apartheid” is nar­rated by The Color Pur­ple author Alice Walker and analo­gizes Pales­tin­ian refugees to Jews in the War­saw Ghetto and par­tially con­dones ter­ror­ism as a “symp­tom” of the conflict.
  • BDS Con­fer­ences: This past Sat­ur­day the Uni­ver­sity of Texas, Austin, hosted a day­long “BDS Con­fer­ence” that fea­tured extreme speeches by Nada Elia, a fac­ulty mem­ber at Anti­och Uni­ver­sity in Seat­tle, and Sherry Wolf, a Jew­ish social­ist and activist. Elia avowed that she would not reject Pales­tin­ian extrem­ism because Pales­tini­ans “have a right to resist” and com­pared Israelis to Amer­i­can slave-owners. Wolf used the plat­form to claim that the notion that Israel is the Jew­ish people’s home­land is “bulls–t” and accused Israel of “ter­ror­ism” and insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism against the Pales­tini­ans. She fur­ther described Zion­ist Jews as “white suprema­cist racist[s].” On Sat­ur­day, March 9, a sim­i­lar con­fer­ence will take place on the Auraria cam­pus in Den­ver. Par­tic­i­pants will “learn about the his­tory of both Pales­tine and the global BDS move­ment, hear what coali­tion groups are work­ing on, and par­tic­i­pate in BDS and coalition-building train­ing,” accord­ing to the event flier.
  • Anti-Israel Bill­boards: The Coun­cil for the National Inter­est, an anti-U.S. aid to Israel group based in DC, recently started a cam­paign called “Stop the Blank Check to Israel” which hopes to place bill­boards in cities across the coun­try. Ten such ads, which read, “$8 Mil­lion a day to Israel just doesn’t make sense! STOP The Blank Check.org,” have recently been erected in Atlanta. Ads with sim­i­lar mes­sages have appeared in the past year in Den­ver, Detroit, Los Ange­les, Chapel Hill and New York.

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July 11, 2012 2

New Biased Billboard Campaign in Westchester

Sev­eral mis­lead­ing bill­boards fea­tur­ing maps of Palestine/Israel from 1946–2010 spon­sored by a local anti-Israel group are cur­rently on dis­play in Metro-North train sta­tions in Westchester.

The bill­board at a Metro-North train station  

The bill­boards attempt to show­case that all of Israel was owned by Pales­tini­ans pre-1948 when, in real­ity, much of the land was owned by non-Palestinian absen­tee land­lords who lived in Cairo, Bagh­dad, Dam­as­cus and Beirut.

They also try to con­vey that Israel is rapidly tak­ing con­trol of land that would com­prise an even­tual Pales­tin­ian state. ADL issued a state­ment on the bill­boards, describ­ing them as “delib­er­ately mis­lead­ing and biased.”   

The group that placed the ad, the Com­mit­tee for Peace in Israel and Pales­tine (COPIP), and its chair­man, Henry Clif­ford, have a record of advo­cat­ing against Israel. The group, for exam­ple, recently endorsed the Jew­ish Voice for Peace–led divest­ment cam­paign tar­get­ing TIAA-CREF for invest­ing in com­pa­nies that allegedly help Israel main­tain the occupation.

In the past, Clif­ford has inflam­ma­to­rily alleged that Israeli lead­ers have “always planned to take over all or most Pales­tine and to expel as many Arabs as would be necessary.”

What is per­haps most trou­bling is the group’s attempt to explain Pales­tin­ian ter­ror­ism as a result of Israeli pol­icy or U.S. aid to Israel. A post on COPIP’s blog from May 2011 includes a flier that reads, “Moth­ers do not raise their chil­dren to be ter­ror­ists. Only when all hope is lost for a decent, secure life is a ter­ror­ist cre­ated.” It later asks, “Could it be that bil­lions of dol­lars in U.S. aid to Israel is actu­ally help­ing to cre­ate terrorists?”

COPIP is a mem­ber group of the US Cam­paign to End the Israeli Occu­pa­tion, a large anti-Israel coali­tion based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

In the past year, anti-Israel bill­boards have appeared in sev­eral cities across the coun­try, includ­ing Den­ver, Detroit and, most recently, Los Ange­les.

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