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September 24, 2012 0

Anti-Israel Teach-in Held During Occupy Wall Street “Free University Week”

A work­ing group affil­i­ated with the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) move­ment held a teach-in over the week­end on advo­cat­ing for and sup­port­ing Boy­cott, Divest­ment and Sanc­tions (BDS) cam­paigns against Israel. The group, known as the “Global Jus­tice Work­ing Group,” used the ses­sion to demo­nize Israel and to demon­strate how the pro-BDS agenda goes hand-in-hand with the goals of OWS.

A sign at the Occupy BDS teach-in New York

The event was held on Sat­ur­day, Sep­tem­ber 22, as part of an OWS-organized week­long pro­gram in New York called “Free Uni­ver­sity Week.”

Speak­ers dur­ing the event con­demned Israel as a “Euro­pean set­tler move­ment” and Israeli pol­icy as extremely oppres­sive. Riham Bargh­outi, a found­ing mem­ber of the Pales­tin­ian Cam­paign for the Aca­d­e­mic and Cul­tural Boy­cott of Israel (PACBI) and activist with Adalah-NY, a local pro-boycott group, described the sit­u­a­tion for Pales­tini­ans as a “strug­gle of indige­nous peo­ple against col­o­niz­ing set­tler tac­tics.” Another speaker accused Israel of hav­ing “vio­lated every arti­cle in the 4th Geneva Con­ven­tion.” The speak­ers rep­re­sented a vari­ety of domes­tic anti-Israel groups, includ­ing Adalah-NY, Punks against Apartheid, New York­ers against the Cornell-Technion Part­ner­ship and CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” cam­paign, which calls for a boy­cott of AHAVA products.

The activists also repeat­edly sought to demon­strate that  the goals of OWS and the BDS move­ment are inter­con­nected. One OWS speaker, for exam­ple, warned the par­tic­i­pants that Israel trains Amer­i­can law enforce­ment and equips police with weaponry and riot con­trol tools. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Occupy Oak­land move­ment then delib­er­ately “con­nected the dots,” alleg­ing that the “same type of tear gas being used against them [Occupy Oak­land] is being used against the Palestinians.”

Saturday’s event rep­re­sents the lat­est effort by anti-Israel activists to inject their cause into the now year-old OWS social protest move­ment. Up until now, these efforts – which included wav­ing anti-Israel signs and chant­ing anti-Israel slo­gans at OWS demon­stra­tions – were not offi­cially sanc­tioned by OWS or any of its affil­i­ated groups. In what could be a pos­si­ble shift, the teach-in was spon­sored by a group for­mally tied to OWS and was pro­moted on the offi­cial New York Gen­eral Assem­bly web­site, which hosts con­tent from “dozens of groups work­ing together to orga­nize and set the vision for the #occu­py­wall­street move­ment.

While one might imag­ine that a group called “Global Jus­tice Work­ing Group” would focus on a vari­ety of issues of global injus­tice, the group seems to main­tain a sin­gu­lar focus on crit­i­ciz­ing Israel. Indeed, its Face­book page and web­site are reg­u­larly updated with anti-Israel con­tent, includ­ing claims that Israeli check­points are a “tool of sup­pres­sion” and calls for the Red Hot Chili Pep­pers to refuse to per­form in Israel. [The con­cert was held as planned on Sep­tem­ber 10.]

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