The following letter was sent to Stephen Hawking by 20 scientists urging him to reconsider his participation, as a keynote speaker, at Israel’s Presidential Conference, a major public event attracting world figures such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Professor Hawking has since declined the invitation to attend.
In our letter to you we make reference to a range of aspects of Israel’s treatment of Palestine and the Palestinians. Our descriptions there are necessarily abbreviated, and this note provides a little more detail.
Chomsky, a US professor and well-known supporter of the Palestinian cause, joined British academics from the universities of Cambridge, London, Leeds, Southampton, Warwick, Newcastle, York and the Open University to tell Hawking they were “surprised and deeply disappointed” that he had accepted the invitation to speak at next month’s presidential conference in Jerusalem, which will chaired by Shimon Peres and attended by Tony Blair and Bill Clinton.
Israel’s increasing integration into European competitions, despite its refusal to revive peace talks with the Palestinians, respect human rights and halt illegal settlement, is, according to critics, contrary to sporting values and should be met with international opposition of the kind faced by apartheid South Africa.
[W]e were saddened to hear that you have been awarded the 2013 Israeli Wolf Prize for Architecture, not because you are not deserving of such awards, but that it is being offered to you by the Israeli state, in a very cynical move that would give them the respectability that is not deserved. It is ironic that the award is for architecture, since the practice of architecture in Israel defies international norms and codes of ethics and demeans the humanity and high ideals of our profession.
I support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign because, especially in our instantly connected world, an injustice committed against one, or against one group of people, is an injustice against all, against every one of us; a collective injury.
The resolution demands that the university administration “abides by the BDS call” and urges York to “withdraw its investments from Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Amphenol and other companies that are selling weapons and military equipment to Israel.”
G4S is up for the Public Eye People’s Award 2013, the ‘name and shame’ award no company wants to win. G4S, the world’s largest private military and security company, is complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine and is profiting from conflict and insecurity around the world. Please take a minute to vote for G4S and then tell your friends to do the same.
Mouin Rabbani: Many of those who favor a one-state solution see it as the antithesis of the two-state solution, yet you seem to be suggesting a continuum.
Noam Chomsky: I don’t know of any other sensible way that has been proposed to move towards a binational, or one-state, solution other than accepting the world as it is and then taking the next step, which has been pretty clear for thirty years. There’s an overwhelming international consensus behind the two-state settlement essentially along the internationally recognized borders. I think it’s a rotten solution but I think it’s a stage towards a better solution, and I don’t know of any other approach.
Abigail Disney: “Recent evidence from the Israeli Civil Administration documents that Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories sources mud used in its products from the occupied shores of the Dead Sea, which is in direct contravention to provisions in the Hague Regulations and the Geneva Convention forbidding the exploitation of occupied natural resources.”
The UMass Boston Undergraduate Student Government unanimously passed a bill demanding that the UMass Foundation, the university’s investment fund, divest from Boeing and other companies profiting from war crimes and/or human rights violations. This motion is a resounding victory for student activists nationwide and contributes to broader international solidarity movements, including the movement for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions of Israel (BDS) as called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005.
Not a political organisation per se, the BDS is rather a manifestation of numerous collectives in uncountable cities and towns around the world. The decentralisation of the BDS is one of its greatest assets and also challenges. On the one hand, it cannot be easily thwarted. On the other hand, the efforts of a movement of this scope cannot be summoned into action through a single call by one or a small group of individuals. Its unity is not based on any political treatise or ideological framework.
We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has invited Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May. The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation “an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel”. But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.
Norman Finkelstein: “They don’t want Israel… They think they’re being very clever. They call it their three tiers… We want the end of the occupation, we want the right of return, and we want equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever, because they know the result of implementing all three is what? What’s the result? You know and I know what’s the result: there’s no Israel.”
JVP has grown dramatically in size and influence in the past two years. As part of the ongoing assessment sparked by this growth, JVP reviewed its BDS policy. On the basis of an organization-wide conversation about BDS, we have refined our position while maintaining our strategy. JVP shares the aims of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee — ending the occupation, achieving equality for Palestinians now living in Israel, and recognizing Palestinian refugees’ right of return. JVP focuses our efforts on boycott and divestment campaigns that directly target Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip. We believe this to be the most effective way for JVP to help bring about the aims we share with the Palestinian BDS call.
Veolia is not only still involved in the illegal Israeli tram project connecting Israeli’s colonies to Jerusalem, it also owns and operates (through its subsidiaries), the infamous Tovlan landfill which processes Israeli waste on occupied Palestinian land in direct violation of international law.
On Tuesday six Palestinian activists boarded Israeli buses in an attempt to challenge the system of segregation in the West Bank. They were arrested at Hizmeh checkpoint, interrogated by Israel’s internal intelligence agency, the Shabak [Shin Bet], and released. In the West Bank, segregation is both visible with the separation wall, fence, and separate cities for Israelis and Palestinians and invisible with separate legal and security systems for the two peoples.
Professor Norman Finkelstein stormed UK campuses in November, lecturing to packed auditoriums in London, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Nottingham on How to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict.
The responsibility of the solidarity movement … is not to get caught up in wonkish or wishful “one-versus-two-state” disputations, but to do everything we can to advance the bottom-up struggle where we are. This is all the more important because, while gains can be won now to get the occupation’s foot a little bit off the Palestinians’ neck, no lasting solution seems possible in isolation from a broader democratic revolutionary transformation of the region.
Last week the Presbyterian Church (USA) published a report containing a resolution recommending that the Presbyterian Church divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions for their non-peaceful pursuits in Israel and the Occupied Territories. This call for divestment is not the first instance of the Presbyterian Church’s involvement in the Palestine question. Rather, it is the result of ongoing efforts by the Presbyterian clergy to educate their communities and to promote socially responsible positions on issues in the Middle East.
Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign: “Would the London Philharmonic Orchestra have punished musicians speaking out against apartheid South Africa, when a similar call for boycott was supported by artists, performers and sports people internationally? … If the LPO really wishes not to appear to be taking sides, and supporting an occupying nation against an occupied people, it must end the ridiculous suspension of these four musicians immediately.”
Campaigners for Palestinian rights are celebrating after the primary Israeli agricultural produce export company Agrexco, which has been a key target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights, has been ordered into liquidation after being unable to pay its creditors… Agrexco is a partially state-owned Israeli exporter responsible for the export of a large proportion of fresh Israeli produce, including 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israel’s illegal settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
A group of pro-Israel activists has filed a lawsuit against the Olympia Food Co-op (OFC) [Washington State, US] to try to force it to end its boycott of Israeli goods.
Thanks to more than 5,300 individuals and 55 organizations asking the National Building Museum to rescind its annual prize to Caterpillar for “innovation in construction technology,” the museum has cancelled its public award ceremony… However, we can’t be content with the National Building Museum’s decision because they have not yet completely agreed to rescind the award. Next week, Cindy and Craig Corrie (Rachel’s parents), will hand-deliver the petition to the National Building Museum urging them to rescind the award to Caterpillar. Let’s help them meet their goal of delivering 10,000 petition signatures.