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Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem

Chair of West Midland PSC



Dear Friends,

Will spare you a lengthy intro this evening, as I’m in a rush.  One comment, with respect to item 2 “The War on Israeli Goods”: methinks that the writers protesteth too much—that is to say, while boycott might not have caused huge economic losses (yet),  the very fact that it gets so much attention in our media shows that something is  working—Israel’s image is not so ‘beautiful’ as it once was! Besides, not only is boycott an economic boycott, it is also academic and cultural, and of course sanctions are also asked for.  They (sanctions) will come, eventually.  They will.  Meanwhile, the cultural boycott has had quite a bit of success.

All the best,



1.  Ynet,

February 18, 2011

Previous graffiti at village Photo: B’Tselem

‘Death to Arabs’ spray-painted in village

For second time, Palestinian residents find racist, anti-Muslim graffiti on walls,7340,L-4030565,00.html

Elior Levy

Vandals spray-painted racist and anti-Muslim slogans on the walls of house in the Palestinian village of Beit Ilu near Ramallah on Friday.

The unknown vandals graffitied the messages “death to Arabs” and “Muhammad is a pig” at the site. The IDF was informed of the incident and sent forces to erase the graffiti.

A criminal investigation team has launched an investigation into the incident, which is an apparent “price tag” act by settlers to avenge the razing of an outpost in the area three days ago. During the demolition of Ramat Migron, security forces clashed with young settlers and detained six of them after they hurled stones at the troops and attempted to torch a nearby Palestinian vineyard.

The head of the village council, Mahmad Raduan, told Ynet that the spray-painted walls were discovered this morning and that the vandals also defaced one of the village’s main walls. He said local residents were frustrated by what is the second such incident in the village, adding that no suspects had been nabbed thus far in either case.

“Residents here never hurt the settlers” Raduan said. “I don’t understand why they’re harassing us.”


2.  Ynet,

February 18, 2011

Palestinians calling for boycott (illustration) Photo: AFP

The war on Israeli goods

Boycott movement fails to make financial impact but damages Israel’s global image,7340,L-4029865,00.html

Yedioth Ahronoth

Trionfale Market, suburban Rome. A dozen activists dressed in produce vendor outfits bearing the logo of Israeli produce exporter Carmel Agrexco descend upon the street, offering shoppers avocado smeared with blood.

“Madam, buy our avocado and support the occupation,” one of them yells towards a spectator. “The color of the avocado is red because the water that we Israelis steal is so good.

“It’s the best water in Palest… oh, Israel. Buy Carmel. It’s very tasty,” he adds.

Some passersby ignore the spectacle, while others take interest, asking to look at brochures that the activists distributed.

This anti-Israeli protest is only a fraction of the growing movement that uses demonstrations and media outlets to promote the boycott of Israeli products across Europe. This is not a new phenomenon, but its effects on the Israeli economy are marginal. It has been far more damaging when it comes to the negative image that it spreads.

‘No Israeli products sold here’

A group of activists entered a supermarket in Paris recently, grabbed Israeli-made products off the shelves and threw them on the floor. A London coffee shop hung a sign reading, “No Israeli products are sold here.” Spanish newspapers published articles stating that a chain of toy stores is removing Rummikub, a game manufactured by Israeli company KodKod (the chain later changed its mind.)

“Currently the leaders of this movement are groups of rabble-rousers from the margins of society, anti-globalist, anti-American, anarchists, Islamists and others acting on their own accord,” said DJ Schneeweiss, who coordinates the Foreign Ministry’s anti-boycott strategy. “Sometimes these are people who believe in various conspiracy theories.

‘Movement leaders anti-globalist Islamists’ (Archive photo: AP)

“Their core group is very small and they know it,” he added. “This is why they take steps to increase their influence on public awareness through the media and through ties with professional associations, churches and foundations.”

However, these facts do not stop the Foreign Ministry from identifying the trend as “a growing danger.”

An extensive review conducted by the European Friends of Israel, an organization that liaises between parliamentary groups that work to protect Israeli interests, shows that activities calling for a boycott of Israel took place in almost every European nation over the past year.

Activists make headway in UK

The epicenter of the anti-Israel movement can be found in the UK, where the movement’s greatest success was achieved last year when the government issued a recommendation urging businesses to label products that were made in the settlements or the Golan Heights.

Furthermore, following Operation Cast Lead, British supermarket giant Tesco added a special extension to their customer service phone line to provide information to callers wishing to boycott Israeli products. The chain reported that the large volume of calls made the phone line crash. The hotline was eliminated a few months after its establishment because of pressure from Jewish organizations.

Tesco spokesman David Nieberg told Yedioth Ahronoth this week that the extension was added as result of the numerous inquiries, as part of the company’s policy to respect its customers’ wishes and political opinions. He apologized on behalf of Tesco for any offense it may have caused.

A popular target of UK’s boycott movement is Dead Sea cosmetics company Ahava. The reason for their abhorrence of the company? Its headquarters are located in Mitzpe Shalem, which the leaders of the movement consider a “criminal settlement in an occupied territory.”

Ahava’s London flagship storefront, which is located Covent Gardens, one of the city’s busiest districts, has turned into the protestors’ Saturday hangout; every weekend hordes of people are exposed to the demonstrations that often end with police intervention. More than once, the store suffered damages when the activists threw objects at the window or tried to cause mayhem inside.

And it was only this week that a protest was staged at a British university against Mey Eden, a mineral water company that operates in Europe under the Eden Springs label.

The movement’s efforts have not been successful in stunting sales of Israeli goods in the UK, and no damage was caused to commerce with Israel. The Palestinian lobby for boycott legislation in the British parliament yielded no results so far.

YouTube as weapon

The anti-Israel organizations often operate on a lean budget, so in order to make as much noise as possible they resort to using provocative signage, which includes images of bleeding Israeli oranges, tanks bearing logos of Israeli brands, photographs of injured and dead Palestinian children, and slogans the likes of “Israhell” and “Shopping can kill.”

H&M in Jerusalem (Photo: Noam Moscowitz)

Naturally, they also use the Internet as a tool to promote their cause, most prominently YouTube. One video clip features a group of activists entering an H&M store in protest of the chain’s entrance into the Israeli market. They carry plastic guns and wear camouflage. Another video documents a demonstration staged in front of cosmetics store Sephora in Paris, protesting against its sale of Ahava products. The video calls for a boycott, withdrawal of investments and sanctions against the Jewish state.

“Not every YouTube clip with 100 views is a blow to Israel’s image,” a Foreign Ministry source said. “Most of the shoppers probably treat the group of weird people with contempt, but one of the group members films the activity and uploads it on YouTube. If a local Jewish newspaper writes about the video, they feel like they’ve done their part.”

Using this simple measure the groups have been able to extend the reach of their activity without the need to increase their number or budget.

False advertisement

The Foreign Ministry official also said some retail chains give in to the protestors’ demands. “When we reach out to them and explain that this is just false propaganda, they fix the situation,” he said. “Meanwhile, the anti-Israeli organizations present it as a grand achievement, even though the situation was already fixed.”

Such was the case of Spanish toy store chain Abacus, which announced its decision to replace the Rummikub game with a Chinese knockoff. Anti-Israel organizations proudly displayed the newspaper article that covered the announcement last June, shortly after the events surrounding the Turkish flotilla to Gaza. It was only a day later that Abacus published an announcement denying the content of the article. A chain spokesperson told Yedioth Ahronoth this week that the Chinese version was supposed to be sold as a cheap alternative to the original game; it was not meant to replace it.

In May of last year, a local group called the Italian Coalition Against Carmel-Agrexco, published a notice that the Coop and Nordiconad supermarket chains will suspend sales of produce exported by the Israeli company. While the companies did make such an announcement, explaining that it cannot make the distinction between produce from the territories and Israel, it never actually took the goods off its shelves.

An Agrexco spokesperson told Yedioth Ahronoth this week that it has been dealing with European chains for over 50 years, and through the positive relationships that it has cultivated no harm was done to its business. However, he did say that there is a need for greater government preparation against such attacks.

“The Italians don’t like it when the crazy Middle Easterners bring the hatred and extremism into their grocery stores,” said one source familiar with the Italian market. “They aren’t big Zionists but they don’t love the Palestinians too much either. They just want to but their olive oil and mozzarella in the supermarket without a big commotion. The government does not lean towards the leftists organizations, so Israel is not the subject of the stern feelings it gets in other European states.”

The situation is more worrisome in Germany. Public attitude is reportedly turning against Israel. Over the course of many years the mere mention of the subject made people quite uncomfortable, especially in light of the fact that the first measures that the Nazis implemented to isolate the Jews in the ’30s was to boycott their businesses. But a constant stream of negative opinion of Israel has been steadily eroding moral sensibilities.

Downplaying Israel on labels

Despite the fact that their attempt to implement a sweeping boycott has generally failed, the anti-Israel activists occasionally do achieve their local goals. In July of 2010, the local government of Villanueva de Duero, Spain banned Eden Springs water from its municipal buildings, due to a campaign lead by the BDS Spain organization. The town of Cigales followed suit the following October.

But there are many Israeli companies not willing to take risks. One example is Spicy Way, which markets spices and tea infusions to the UK, and marks “Made in Galilee” on the labels – not mentioning Israel.

“We had some uncomfortable incidents when we wrote on the label ‘Made in Israel,'” says Karen Pomerantz, one of the two British importers of Spicy Way products. “When we write that the products are made in Galilee, people don’t know where Galilee is, and they don’t necessarily know that they are made by Israelis.”

“Galilee is known around the world as a fertile region with a rich history, and the company is trying to make that stand out,” a spokesperson for Spicy Way said. “Downplaying Israel on the packages contributes in a certain way to marketing it to a wider consumer base.”

Tzach Shpitzen, Yaniv Halily, Eldad Beck, Menachem Gantz, Lior Zilberstein and Maya Mahler contributed to this report


3.  Haaretz,

February 18, 2011

Israel Supreme Court rules Hebron Jews can’t reclaim lands lost after 1948

Court ruled in the past that the wishes of the owners should be taken into account in deciding the use of the properties, but rejected compensating owners of property from before establishment of Israel.

By Chaim Levinson

Tags: Israel news West Bank IDF Middle East peace Israel settlements

The Jewish community in Hebron celebrated this week the decision of Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar to fund Jewish heritage trips for students to the city’s Tomb of the Patriarchs.

But last week, the community suffered a setback when the Supreme Court ruled that Jews could not be given property which belonged to them in the city before 1948, and that they are also not entitled to be given any compensation for it.

Since the re-establishment of Jewish settlement in Hebron in 1968, settlers there have repeatedly demanded the return of Jewish properties abandoned after the War of Independence.

The assets are extensive and include properties in the market area, at the Beit Hadassah compound, Beit Romano, Beit Hizkiya, Tel Rumeida and a plot nearby.

Abandoned Jewish property had been used in the past to establish a Jewish settlement in the city. The neighborhoods of Avraham Avinu, Beit Hadassah and Tel Rumeida were built this way.

The Supreme Court ruled in the past that the wishes of the owners should be taken into account in deciding the use of the properties, but rejected petitions to restore it to its owners.

In 1948, following the Jordanian occupation of the city, the properties were handed over to a Jordanian caretaker whose function was to deal with enemy properties.

The Jordanians razed large portions of the Jewish Quarter and in the 1960s King Hussein built up the market complex.

In 1967, then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan decided to continue the functioning of the office of the Jordanian caretaker, which now functions under the Civil Administration.

Only a small portion of Jewish-owned properties in the West Bank have been returned to their owners.

In 1997 the state decided that the matter would be decided in an agreement between the Civil Administration and the Jews claiming them. One of them was Yossi Ezra, from Jerusalem. His family was the last one to leave Hebron in 1947, the day after the UN decided on the partition plan.

Most Jews fled the city in 1929 following a massacre of 66 members of the community. Ezra is now in a legal battle to receive back the home of his parents, near the Avraham Avinu neighborhood close to the market.

“It is not abandoned property but property that was taken away,” he said.

The issue of Jewish properties in Hebron is also at the center of another petition to the High Court, filed by two Palestinians and Peace Now. The Palestinians had shops in the market that were closed down after 29 Muslims were gunned down at the Tomb of the Patriarchs in 1994. Some of the shop areas were used to expand Jewish homes and the Palestinians want the settlers removed and their property rights returned.


4.  Haaretz,

February 18, 2011

For Egyptians, revolt is a reaction to an oppression overdose

Egyptians explain how their country got the nerve to face down a violent police force, and describe the moment when they knew there was no turning back.

By Amira Hass

CAIRO – “I knew I should document every moment of the revolution, but I wanted to experience it, not observe it. Now it is hard for me to remember what happened, as if it took place 10 years ago, not two or three weeks ago,” says M., a social activist and senior social sciences lecturer at an Egyptian university. Everyone has a moment when he or she understood that there was no way back. Those moments come up time and again in conversations about what followed.

M.’s moment, for example, came when her 5-year-old daughter picked up a chant – “The people wills the end of the regime” – and kept repeating it. On the first two or three days of the demonstrations, M. beseeched her daughter not to use the slogan outside their home. Members of the state security apparatus, police, ruling party activists – there was no knowing who might overhear and harm them.

“In the past decade there were many popular protests in various forms,” M. notes, “but with the January 25 demonstration, I felt there was a clear quantitative change.”

Or, in the words of Prof. Khaled Fahmy, head of the history department at the American University in Cairo: “Suddenly it is not 500 demonstrators surrounded by 5,000 policemen. Suddenly we outnumber them, and we know it is also happening in other places at the same time.”

Still, M. preferred that her daughter confine her verbal subversion to the safety of home. But on January 28, the first Friday of the demonstrations, M. says, “I realized that the change was qualitative, not just quantitative.” There was no longer any need to censor the little girl.

“There are moments that are unmistakable: the panic of the police, the courage of the demonstrators,” Fahmy explains. “On that Friday the police retreated – true, only for half an hour, and then they returned with reinforcements – but it was a wonderful feeling. We pushed them back on Galaa Bridge. That is one of many ironies: galaa means evacuation, and in this case it refers to the expulsion of the British in 1954. And now it is we who are pushing back the Egyptian police. I was below, on the bridge; a journalist friend saw from a high building what I could not see: column after column of police retreating, while we, the citizens, pressed forward. ‘I had tears in my eyes, I started to cry,’ he told me.”

The revolution did not spring out of the blue. Protests and political campaigns built up over the past decade. Many cite the Egyptian demonstrations against the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq as a watershed event. “We were 20,000 and it looked like a huge number to us,” S., 31, a human rights activist, recalls with a smile. “That was also the first time that people denounced Hosni Mubarak.”

The pro-democracy movement Kefaya (Enough ) sprang out of these demonstrations, S. relates. While its strength has diminished since its founding, over time other groups of young people appeared. The presidential elections in 2005 and the parliamentary elections in 2010, both of which were undemocratic and rife with deception and crooked practices, brought activists into the streets. The elections last year left S. feeling frustrated and despairing. However, younger people drew encouragement because the system had been exposed in all its ugliness.

In 2006, there were mass demonstrations in solidarity with Lebanon during the Israeli assault. And two years later, in solidarity with Gaza. That was direct criticism of Mubarak’s foreign policy.

D., an artist of 49, says she is one of the people “who always demonstrated over the past 30 years, but felt constant frustration.” The demonstrations “were conducted like a ritual: the chosen place, the police who encircled it, a handful of demonstrators marching toward the police and being arrested. There was no attempt to change the style, no imagination.”

The first time she noticed a change was in 2003, when the demonstrators managed to confuse the police. They announced they were meeting at Al-Azhar Mosque, but set out simultaneously from several mosques. The creativity that began to develop in the past decade ripened into the demonstrations at Tahrir Square.

Growing boldness

The last landmark event came on June 6, 2010. A young man named Khaled Said was sitting in an Alexandria Internet cafe. Two police officers entered and demanded money from him. He said he had none. They beat him to death.

“Similar murders had occurred before,” D. explains. “It’s not clear why this particular case stirred such anger. It wasn’t the beating itself, but the fact that the police could show up and assault you, claim you were guilty of something and not be punished themselves. A Facebook group was created called ‘We are all Khaled Said.’ Now there are 800,000 members. Afterward, people were urged to go to the banks of the Nile and the seashore, in his memory. The instruction was to wear black and remain silent. It was not to be a demonstration and therefore would not be dispersed. We were not to stand in one place but to spread out to gain visibility.”

People showed up, among them D. and her friends. There weren’t many of them, but they generated a presence. Afterward, similar protests were held.

The Tahrir Revolution is said to have been fomented by the middle class and the white-collar workers. But many of the activists attribute their experience and boldness in part to workers’ strikes, which became widespread in 1998.

“The project of neo-liberal economic restructuring [in Egypt] has been under way since 1991. Economic growth has been impressive … The upper-middle class and the elites have prospered. But there has been very little trickle down,” historian Joel Beinin from Stanford University wrote in the January 31 issue of Foreign Policy. “According to the World Bank, more than 40 percent of all Egyptians live at or near the poverty line. The price of food has skyrocketed. Consequently, the wages of most blue- and white-collar workers are insufficient to sustain a family.”

The cuts in social services destroyed the social safety net created by the populist-authoritarian Nasserist regime. “What is left is an authoritarian kleptocracy,” Beinin wrote.

‘Reactionary assumption’

The wave of strikes peaked in 2004, following the installation of the “government of businessmen” that July. “Over 2 million workers participated in more than 3,000 collective actions in this period,” according to Beinin.

The government acceded to a substantial portion of the demands, hoping in this way to prevent the disparate economic issues from metamorphosing into a political struggle.

One result of these developments was the formation of two independent trade unions, of the real estate tax authority workers in 2008, and of the health technicians in December 2010. The government was also forced to quadruple the monthly minimum wage, to 400 Egyptian pounds.

On January 30, in the midst of the revolution in Tahrir Square, the two independent unions and representatives of about a dozen industrial cities declared their intention to establish a general labor federation, separate from the existing government federation. Under Egyptian law the establishment of an independent institution based on a popular movement (rather than on a government directive ) is illegal, Beinin noted.

“Egyptian intellectuals are prone to a reactionary assumption,” Prof. Fahmy notes. “They reiterate the comment of the geographer Gamal Hamdan to the effect that Egyptians are docile. Even leftists asked why Egyptians do not revolt. I respond by saying that there have been many uprisings in the past 200 years, but the history books do not mention them, ostensibly because they failed, but really because they targeted local tyrants, not foreign oppressors.”

Indeed, in 1821 there was a large-scale revolt in Upper Egypt against compulsory conscription, which was introduced by the ruler at the time, Muhammad Ali, and against taxation and the local government. Some 20,000 people took part in the revolt, at a time when Egypt’s population numbered 2.5 million. Four-thousand people were killed in the suppression of the revolt.

Fahmy cites a long list of similar uprisings during the 19th century. He has researched the Egyptian Army during that era, and is currently studying the history of torture in his country. This is his way to show that the state not only controls its citizens, but also invades their bodies. In police archives he found an astonishing trove of testimonies by families who demanded that the death of their loved ones be investigated and the torturers punished.

“Rural families, illiterate and poor, insisted on autopsies being performed in order to prove that the death was not from natural causes, even though autopsies are contrary to religious and traditional customs,” he says.

In 1857, an estate owner who was close to the ruling family sentenced his black slave to 1,500 lashes for going to Cairo without permission. His fellow slaves filed a complaint against their owner, who was expelled from the country as punishment. In 2006, 150 years later, an 8-year-old boy from a small village in the Delta took a box of matches from a small store. Arrested for theft, he was beaten unconscious at a police station and dumped on a Cairo street. By sheer luck, a driver from his village found him and brought him to his mother. The doctors at the hospital said they could not save him, but they videotaped his last hours. The boy’s mother, an illiterate peasant, demanded that her son’s body be exhumed for an autopsy. She sent repeated petitions to the various authorities – the last one to President Mubarak himself. No one paid attention.

“In the 19th century such requests were acceded to, there was a judicial system that was responsive,” Fahmy says angrily. “This is Mubarak’s legacy: What he managed to do was to undermine the institutions of the state – including the judicial system – and morality.”

Fahmy says this is why the case of Khaled Said is so central to understanding the uprising. The state claimed Said died from drugs. The family demanded an autopsy. “It is not only the fact that he was beaten to death, it is a question of who owns the body,” Fahmy says. “The state claims ownership but the people say ‘It is our body.'” Hundreds of thousands of young Egyptians identified with his case, because they felt it represented their reality.

The two policemen suspected of murdering Said were arrested, but they escaped from jail during the demonstrations. Years of police violence engendered powerful hatred for that security force. So the restraint shown by most of the demonstrators toward the police in recent weeks is doubly interesting. Fahmy witnessed two instances in which policemen who happened to cross a demonstration were almost lynched. In both cases, it was enough for someone to say “silmiye” (meaning, not by violence, by peaceful means ) for everyone to go back to “default position,” as Fahmy puts it.

“It’s as though there was a collective decision in the square, without orders from above, for us to behave in the opposite way from how the regime behaved with us,” D. says.

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