Valentine’s Day Actions

February 15, 2011

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
widely.

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.”

Palestine Rights Activists Sing Holiday Carols in Support of Boycott Campaign

December 19, 2010

(Philadelphia, 12-18-2010) –Philly BDS, the local campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, brought holiday caroling to the sidewalks of West Philadelphia on Saturday afternoon.  The group of singers, often joined by supportive passers-by, offered a spirited short program of Hanukkah and Christmas songs with lyrics revised to reflect support of Palestinian human rights. The caroling began outside the Fresh Grocer flagship store at 40th and Walnut Streets, and continued outside the Fu-Wah grocery on South 47th Street.  These two stores are targets of the Philly BDS call for businesses to stop selling Sabra Hummus and Tribe Hummus, both of which support Israeli human rights abuses of Palestinians.

“We want to remind people that Israel continues its human rights violations as we speak.  Gaza is under siege, and just two years ago Israel launched a brutal attack on Gaza, killing close to 1400 people, most of whom were women and children,” said Kate Zaidan, one of those singing.  “It’s wonderful to spend time with family this time of year, but we ask that people not place Sabra and Tribe hummus on their holiday tables.”

In late October, Philly BDS launched the Sabra and Tribe Hummus boycott campaign with a flash dance in the Fresh Grocer store including rewritten lyrics to Lady Gaga’s song, “Telephone.”  The YouTube video of the flash dance has been viewed more than 50,000 times and has sparked similar actions in cities around the country.  Saturday’s caroling is the latest public action of a growing national movement of Palestinian human rights activists to boycott the Sabra and Tribe hummus brands.

Last month, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Strauss Group, a co-owner of Sabra hummus, had removed its support for the Israeli military’s Golani Brigade from its English-language site (though not its Hebrew site) in response to pressure from the global BDS movement against Israel. The Strauss Group has since modified its English website, renewing its support for the Golani brigade, a military unit that is responsible for numerous human rights violations.

The Osem Group, owner of Tribe Hummus, is a prominent endorser of Israel’s Jewish National Fund (JNF).  Since 1948, the JNF has played a key role in the dispossession of Palestinians from their homes as well as the disappearance of Palestinian heritage through an elaborate village-razing and tree-planting campaign.

In 2005, 171 organizations representing Palestinian civil society issued a call for a global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel until Israel complies with international law—ending its occupation of Palestinian lands, dismantling the “separation barrier” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, granting full and equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognizing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to their country.  Organized in the vein of the anti-Apartheid movement against the South African government, the BDS movement has burgeoned globally over the past five years, with hundreds of individual campaigns targeting Israel’s economic, academic, and cultural institutions.

Philly BDS is a creative partnership working for human rights in Israel/Palestine as part of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign.

Community Members Urge Boycott of Apartheid Hummus

December 6, 2010

Philadelphia, PA 12/5/2010.   Members of Philly BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) staged a weekend “Mime-In” at the Fresh Grocer supermarket’s flagship store at 40th and Walnut Streets in Philadelphia on Saturday.  The action was the latest public demonstration in a growing international campaign to boycott Sabra and Tribe hummus brands because of their owners’ support for human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine.  Dressed as mimes, standing silently
outside the store’s entrance holding signs reading “Don’t be silent about Israeli apartheid,” the activists distributed information about the boycott and collected signatures on a petition asking the store’s management to stop selling Sabra and Tribe hummus.

A smaller group of activists inside the store formed a silent shopping caravan, pushing grocery carts through the store while wearing placards about the boycott.  Most shoppers reacted to the caravan with curiosity, and some expressed strong support of the boycott.  After one activist was seen photographing the caravan inside the store, security personnel detained him for over an hour and threatened to have him arrested unless he destroyed the photographic images on his camera.  Though police were summoned, no arrests were made.

Six weeks ago in the same West Philadelphia store, Philly BDS staged a flash dance to a Lady Gaga hit and sang lyrics urging shoppers to support the boycott.  The video of that action, which to date has been viewed over 34,000 times on YouTube, sparked a rapid expansion of interest in the hummus boycott, particularly on college and university campuses in the United States.  Students at Princeton and DePaul Universities have recently initiated calls for boycott of Sabra on their campuses, and groups at several other campuses are considering doing so.

Sabra Hummus is jointly owned by Pepsico and by the Strauss Group, an Israeli corporation that has proudly supported a unit of the Israeli military, known as the Golani Brigade, which is known as particularly brutal toward Palestinians.  The Golani Brigade has been cited for numerous human rights violations since 1948, including Israel’s 2008-2009 assault on Gaza that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians, most of whom were unarmed civilians, in just three weeks. The Jerusalem Post reported last month that Strauss’ support for the Golani Brigade had been deleted entirely from the English-language portion of its website in response to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, though the Hebrew portion of the site remained unchanged.  The Strauss Group has since modified their English-language website to reassert the company’s support for the Golani Brigade.

In addition to Sabra Hummus, the boycott also targets Tribe Hummus, which is owned by the Osem Group, a key corporate supporter of the Jewish National Fund.  Because by Israeli law all land owned or administered by the JNF is reserved for the exclusive use of “the Jewish people in perpetuity,” the JNF has played a key role in the “judaization” of Palestine and the ethnic cleansing of its indigenous people.

In 2005, Palestinian civil society representatives issued a call for a global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel until Israel complies with international law by ending its occupation of Palestine lands, dismantling the “separation barrier” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, granting full and equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognizing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to their country.  Organized along the lines of the Anti- Apartheid movement against South Africa, the BDS movement has burgeoned globally over the past five years, with hundreds of separate campaigns targeting Israel’s economic, academic, and cultural institutions.

The boycott of Sabra hummus gains momentum

November 30, 2010

by Samuel Nichols | November 29, 2010, 4:06 pm
An organized flash dance in Philadelphia seems to have sparked a serious movement against Sabra Dipping, hummus manufacturers co-owned by the Israeli food and beverage company Strauss Group.

The company has close ties to the Israeli military through its support of the brutal and repressive Golani Brigade, which has gained a reputation as an aggressive combat unit that routinely violates human rights and international law standards. Golani soldiers have been convicted of beating Palestinian detainees and forcing them to sing humiliating songs while blindfolded. The Israeli daily newsaper Haaretz reports that the Golani Brigade, “struggles with no small number of disciplinary problems and scandals, caused by bad behavior ranging from revolts against commanders to abuse of Palestinians.”

Before the Philly BDS flash dance video [above] circulated around the internet, the Strauss Group’s English-language website stated that its “connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support, to enhance their quality of life and service conditions, and sweeten their special moments. We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years and provide them with an ongoing variety of food products for their training or missions, and provide personal care packages for each soldier that completes the path.”

Soon thereafter, Strauss Group removed the reference to the Israeli military and the Golani Brigade from its English-language “Community Involvement” page.  The Hebrew-language version of the site retains the word-for-word reference to the Golani Brigade.

The campaign against Sabra hummus, the largest producer of hummus in the world, has quickly spread to numerous US universities. DePaul’s Students for Justice in Palestine was prompted to ask for Sabra to be removed from the campus when they learned that Chartwells, a large dining services company, had introduced the hummus to various campus locations.  One week after writing a letter to university administrators, the organizers were informed that the product would be removed from the shelves for the remainder of the quarter and likely for the foreseeable future.

The campaign to de-shelve Sabra has also spread to Georgetown and Princeton, where the latter’s Committee on Palestine has sponsored a referendum asking dining services to remove Sabra hummus. Unfortunately, the Daily Princeton editorial board has written against the hummus referendum, citing what they see as a weak connection between Sabra hummus and human rights abuses.

But I’ve heard first hand the apprehension and fears of Palestinians who experienced aggressive and brutal treatment at the hands of Golani soldiers. Back in November 2009, when I was with a Christian Peacemaker Team in the West Bank, the Golani brigade was stationed in Hebron. Throughout their stay I witnessed and documented the extreme and unwarranted use of violence on Palestinian residents as Golani soldiers inflicted head wounds, broke civilians’ hands, and sexually harassed women at checkpoints. The Israeli military’s occupation of Hebron is consistently inhumane, but the maltreatment of Palestinian residents by the Golani Brigade is unparalleled.

The connection between Sabra hummus and human rights abuses is not weak; it is as plain as day. Support the boycott of Sabra hummus and sign the petition letter to Strauss Group, asking them to drop their connection to Israeli army units.

Strauss Group Revises Website as Boycott Campaigns Spread to Campuses

November 24, 2010

Philadelphia, PA 11/24/2010: Strauss Group, the Israeli company that co-owns the Sabra Hummus brand softened language on its website relating to its support of the Israeli Defense Force elite unit, the Golani Brigade. The Jerusalem Post reported last week that Strauss support for Golani had been deleted entirely from its English site (but kept up in Hebrew) in response to pressure from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) Movement. This stirred up a maelstrom of controversy for Strauss, with boycott threats from Zionists in and out of Israel, furious that Israel’s second largest food and beverage company would bow to the global BDS movement.

“The revised language on the Strauss site makes clear that purchasing Sabra Hummus subsidizes Israeli soldiers who commit human rights abuses and violate international law. That’s precisely the reason for our boycott. Strauss support for the Golani is a political act, not a humanitarian gesture,“ says Susan Landau, a member of the Philly BDS Coalition, the group that organized a “flash dance” action to the tune of Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” in a supermarket near the University of Pennsylvania last month, urging customers not to buy Sabra hummus. The videotape of the action garnered national and international attention and has been viewed 30,000 times since it was posted on YouTube by Philadelphia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

The original website read: “Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support…We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years…”. And it was changed to: “As part of its donations program, the Sales Division of Strauss Israel has made a contribution to the men and women who serve in the Golani brigade. The funds are designated for welfare, cultural and educational activities, such as pocket money for underprivileged soldiers, sports and recreational equipment, care packages, and books and games for the soldiers’ club. Yotvata, our dairy in the south, contributes likewise to the southern Shualei Shimshon unit.”

This latest move by Strauss happened simultaneously with the public launch of an anti-Sabra campaign at Princeton University, and DePaul University’s decision to stop selling Sabra because DePaul refuses to support “Any product or company involved with flagrant human rights violations against Palestinians or any other people does not mirror the principles on which the university is founded and is therefore not welcome on campus.”

In 2005, Palestinian civil society representatives issued a call for global a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel until Israel complies with international law by ending its occupation of Palestine lands, dismantling the “separation barrier” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, granting full and equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognizing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to their country. Organized along the lines of the Anti-Apartheid movement against South Africa, the BDS movement has burgeoned globally over the past five years, with hundreds of separate campaigns targeting Israel’s economic, academic, and cultural institutions.

Chicago’s DePaul University Deshelves Sabra Hummus

November 20, 2010

Congrats to DePaul’s Students for Justice in Palestine for their successful campaign! Read more about it here.

The letter sent from DePaul’s SJP to its administration:

Hello Stephanie and Joe,

My name is Shirien and I’m part of Students for Justice in Palestine at DePaul. I’m writing you because it has recently come to our attention that Chartwells has started selling Sabra hummus products at DePaul. Many SJP members, as well as several other students, are deeply disturbed about this development. SGA President Ross R., as well as DePaul alumni Ben M. (both CC’d) recommended that we get in contact with you both in order to assist us with this matter.

The reason why we are concerned is because the company which manufactures Sabra hummus, the Strauss Group, has been a voice of support for the ongoing Israeli occupation through its ties with Israel’s military.  This is apparent in their vocal support and material sustenance of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), namely the Golani Brigade.  The Golani Brigade, Israel’s elite force, is known for its history of severe human rights violations. Many instances of these violations are well documented, from the assassination of Israeli PM Yitzhak Rabin to the torture and humiliation of Palestinian detainees. Because of this, a boycott campaign against Sabra is happening at many universities in cities across the nation.

Many of us students are concerned about DePaul affiliating with a company with such strong military and political ties. We feel that continuing the sale of Sabra products at DePaul is in violation of our Vincentian values, which require us to stand against injustice. This goes for any other companies affiliated with human suffering.

We would like to meet with you both so that we can discuss this matter more in-depth. CC’d to this email are key board members from SJP, as well as Erez, who is on the Fair Business Practices Committee. We want to voice our concerns and perhaps present alternative hummus brands that are more socially conscious. We hope that you can hear us out and help steer us in the right direction of how to go about addressing this.

Would it be possible to set up a meeting some time next week? I included everyone in one email thread so we can all be in the loop. Please let us know what you think. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Sincerely,

Shirien

Sabra Hummus Owner Strauss Group Deletes Support for Israeli Army from Website

November 17, 2010

Philadelphia, PA-11/17/2010: Strauss Group, the Israeli company that co-owns the Sabra Hummus brand, has removed all references to its support of the Israeli military from the English-language portion its website after a video criticizing its support for Israel human rights abuses circulated widely around the internet. Sabra is the number one selling hummus brand in the United States.

As part of a campaign to pressure a local grocery chain to stop selling Sabra Hummus, Philadelphia activists had staged a “flash dance” action in a supermarket near the University of Pennsylvania on October 24. In the action, approximately 25 black-attired protesters in red-sequined headbands danced to the tune of Lady Gaga’s popular song, “Telephone,” sang lyrics urging the store and its customers not to “buy into Israeli apartheid,” and chanted “No Justice, No Chickpeas!”

The videotape of the action garnered national and international attention and was viewed over 20,000 times in the first week after it was posted on YouTube by Philadelphia Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, a recently-formed coalition that works to support human rights in Israel/Palestine and to change U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

Kate Zaidan, a spokesperson for the group, reported that the Strauss Group had boasted of the company’s “adoption” of the Golani Reconnaissance platoon and other Israeli soldiers as recently as October 31st on its website, but that this language has since disappeared. Strauss is known for its vigorous moral and financial support of the Israeli army, particularly the “elite” Golani Brigade, which has a history of severe human rights abuses against Palestinian and Lebanese people.

Prior to October 31st, 2010, the English-language Strauss website stated:

“Our connection with soldiers goes as far back as the country, and even further. We see a mission and need to continue to provide our soldiers with support…We have adopted the Golani reconnaissance platoon for over 30 years…” (Corporate Responsibility, Over 70 years of Community Involvement, www.strauss-group.com).

“We notice that while Stauss’s English-language website no longer makes these claims, the Hebrew-language part of the site still includes them,” Ms. Zaidan said. She added, “Philly BDS is asking that Strauss Group clarify whether the removal of the references means that Strauss no longer supports the Golani brigade, or whether it is simply an acknowledgment that support for the Israeli military is no longer seen as beneficial to Strauss’s international image. We hope Strauss will confirm that the company now supports the 2005 Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.”

In 2005, Palestinian civil society representatives issued a call for global a boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel until Israel complies with international law by ending its occupation of Palestine lands, dismantling the “separation barrier” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, granting full and equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recognizing the right of exiled Palestinians to return to their country.

In recent months, BDS activists in cities including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and New Orleans have staged creative actions that interfere with stores, restaurants, and public gatherings in efforts to dramatize and call attention to the worldwide campaign for justice in Palestine and Israel. The BDS Movement, which is modeled after the international movement that helped to bring an end to apartheid in South Africa, has racked up increasing successes as unions, governments and individual consumers are choosing to refuse to do business with companies that support Israeli human rights violations.

My Hummus Tastes Like Apartheid

November 9, 2010
The Golani Brigade that is responsible for numerous human rights abuses.
By Abbas Naqvi

The recent attacks by Israel on the humanitarian Flotilla is yet another signal for us, as citizens of the United States, to hold the Israeli regime accountable for its reckless and illegal behavior. Israel has consistently prevented aid from entering the Gaza Strip, including medical supplies, cement and food. Consequently, the three-year old blockade has turned Gaza into the world’s largest open-air prison, with an entire population starved and deprived of basic necessities.

The simple but tragic truth is that Israel acts with such audacity because the international community fails to hold it responsible for the ongoing occupation and apartheid system against the Palestinian people.  However, this is slowly changing as people around the globe have begun to question Israel’s policies, with an increasing number and visibility.

As people of conscious, it is our obligation to join the global cry for justice. When we ask ourselves questions like the type of role we play in this mess, and the extent of responsibility that we bear as citizens of a country that heavily finances Israel– we are actually undertaking a personal struggle that will hopefully transform us into more conscientious individuals. It is normal to feel helpless and incapable of contributing anything substantial to the struggle against the illegal Israeli occupation.  Understandably, we become overwhelmed with the atrocity. It’s difficult to ascertain where we can start and what we can do, and furthermore, we also have careers and families to be concerned about. Unfortunately, many of us cannot directly challenge the Apartheid State due to the distances and various circumstances. However, one major and effective way to help confront a rogue state is by joining the growing global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Since the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions from Palestinian civil society, activists have worked to build an organized BDS movement. The strategy has been modeled after the struggle against Apartheid South Africa and has been promoted by both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. In the last two years, there has been a major spike in BDS campaigns that have implemented practical and accessible campaigns all of us can implement in our own lives and that of our communities.

Some of the targets of the campaign include boycotting Israeli and international corporations that are directly involved in the occupation. This would include those who participate in the construction of Israeli colonies in the occupied territories, the settlements’ economy, building walls and checkpoints, and the supply of specific equipment used to control and repress the civilian population under occupation. For example, American-made Caterpillar’s D-9 bulldozers have been responsible for destroying farmland, homes, buildings, and human life in the occupied territories. The consumer boycott is another tactic implemented around the world. BDS activists ask their fellow consumers to stop buying Israeli products, and work to generate negative publicity for the offender, which is done in multiple ways from writing letters to merchants to protesting outside these establishments.

Since our government has failed to heed our call to divest from Israeli apartheid, a growing number of US-based groups and organizations have joined the call for BDS in their communities. Successes have become increasingly apparent and widespread across the country. It is now even more evident that the BDS campaign is a threat to the Zionist establishment with the announcement from Hasbara, a propaganda tool for Tel-Aviv, that a 6-million dollar budget will be allocated to fight against the BDS movement. One example of a community taking action is a new coalition in Philadelphia, called Philly BDS. With multiple organizations coming together to support a single cause, Philly BDS launched into the global BDS movement, as of October 23rd, 2010.  Philly BDS is a consensus-based group that consists of Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others and their first campaign is a consumer boycott that targets Sabra and Tribe Hummus. Sabra and Tribe products directly subsidize Israeli human rights abuses through their support of the Israeli Defense Forces and occupation infrastructure of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

Sabra and Tribe are companies intricately tied to subsidizing the Israeli government’s abusive policies against Palestinians. Both companies are subsidiaries of large Israeli corporations: Sabra is owned by the Strauss Group and PepsiCo, and Tribe is owned by Osem. Both the Strauss Group and Osem have ties to the Israeli government and military. The Strauss Group provides political support and food to Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), in particular to the Golani Brigade that is responsible for numerous human rights abuses according to various UN reports. Tribe’s owner, Osem, is linked to the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which contributes to building settlement infrastructure in the West Bank and confiscates land to build from Bedouin villages to make Jewish-only neighborhoods in the Negev desert.

With the launch of the campaign, Philly BDS performed a flash dance in a neighborhood grocery store to put pressure on them to remove Sabra and Tribe hummus from their shelves. Approximately twenty neighborhood residents, dressed in black and wearing sequined red accessories, danced in unison and sang an adaptation of a popular song by Lady Gaga to deliver their request that the store and its customers stop selling and purchasing Sabra and Tribe hummus products. A member of the group stated that “As a customer and as a Jew, I’m hoping that Fresh Grocer will pay attention to the concerns of its community and stop carrying Sabra and Tribe hummus. Not only would it be a significant step in support of justice and peace in Palestine and Israel, but it would also help educate our own community about the power of our consumer choices.”

The overall reaction to the performance was amazing. Within a few days of the action-video being posted on YouTube, there were over 13,000 hits with comments of praise and support from around the world, including Israel and Palestine. Immediately, the next day, the Northwest Greens, a Philadelphia-based neighborhood organization with 450 members, sent a letter of endorsement and participation in the Philly BDS boycott of Sabra and Tribe Hummus. Other groups, representing a wide-spectrum of diversity, have given similar statements of approval and endorsement.

Dancing in a store is one creative way to get communities energized and there are countless ways to get involved. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are doing our part to end the occupation. Are we silent because we don’t want to jeopardize our career or social standing? Have we forgotten what our true role models endured in the struggle for justice? Are we going to betray them so that we can live a life of convenience while completely disregarding the oppression in front of our eyes? Justice is inevitable, but we must honestly ask ourselves if we will be on the right side of history.

- This article was contributed to PalestineChronicle.com.

In major boycott movement success, Africa Israel says no plans to build more settlements

November 4, 2010

In major boycott movement success, Africa Israel says no plans to build more settlements

Media Contact: info@adalahny.org

For Immediate Release

November 3, New York, NY – Africa Israel, the flagship company of Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, announced this week that it is no longer involved in Israeli settlement projects and that it has no plans for future settlement activities. Africa Israel subsequently denied that this was a political decision. However, in the last few years numerous organizations, firms, governments and celebrities have exerted pressure and severed their relationships with Leviev and his companies over their involvement in settlement construction and other human rights abuses, in response to a boycott campaign initiated by Adalah-NY.

Israel’s Coalition of Women for Peace disclosed on Monday that in an official letter to the Coalition, Africa Israel stated, “Neither the company nor any of its subsidiaries and/or other companies controlled by the company are presently involved in or has any plans for future involvement in development, construction or building of real estate in settlements in the West Bank.” In follow-up articles in the Israeli media on Monday, Africa Israel said that the statement was “a description of the business today” and that “Africa Israel builds for all the public in Israel, and does not deal in politics or any other policy.”

Ethan Heitner from Adalah-NY explained, “Following years of settlement construction, and pro-settlement statements and activities by Lev Leviev, the public announcement by Africa Israel that it has no plans to build Israeli settlements is clearly a result of pressure from the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This provides concrete evidence of the way in which the BDS movement can change companies’ behavior. But Africa Israel can’t speak out of both sides of its mouth and expect a clean bill of health. Africa Israel must unambiguously renounce settlement activity, and all other involvement in violations of Palestinian rights. And Lev Leviev needs to end his involvement in settlement construction through other companies like Leader Management and Development, as well as his support for human rights abuses in the diamond industry in countries like Angola and Namibia.”

Adalah-NY began a campaign to boycott the companies of Lev Leviev in November, 2007, which has since gained support from allies around the world. As a result, the Norwegian, Swedish and Dutch governments have divested from Africa Israel, as have a number of major international investment firms. The British government, UNICEF, Oxfam and CARE have all severed ties with Leviev, and major celebrities have quietly disassociated themselves from him.

From 2000-2008, Danya Cebus, the construction subsidiary of Africa Israel, built homes in the settlements of Har Homa, Maale Adumim (two different projects), Adam, and Mattityahu East on the land of the West Bank village of Bil’in. In late December, 2009, Africa Israel sold Anglo-Saxon Real Estate, a company that sold settlement homes. Another Leviev-owned company, Leader Management and Development, still owns and operates the expanding settlement of Zufim, built on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous. In what is now Tel Aviv, Danya Cebus has supported Israeli efforts to erase Palestinian claims and heritage, by building projects on top of the remains of Palestinian villages like Sheikh Muwanis and Sumail that were ethnically cleansed by Israel in 1948. Leviev has also been a donor to two Israeli groups – the Land Redemption Fund and the Bukhara Community Trust, both of which have been involved in expanding Israeli settlements. Leviev has also been rumored to donate to Elad which is taking over the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.

As recently as 2008 Leviev expressed strong support for Israel’s continued takeover of Palestinian land. In a March 2008 interview in Ha’aretz Daily, reporter Anshel Pfeffer asked Leviev, “Do you have a problem with building in the territories?” Leviev responded, “Not if the State of Israel grants permits legally.” According to an English translation of the same Ha’aretz interview published in the Jewish Chronicle, Leviev explained, “For me, Israel, Jerusalem and Haifa are all the same.” “So are the Golan Heights. As far as I’m concerned, all of Eretz Israel is holy. To decide the future of Jerusalem? It belongs to the Jewish people. What is there to decide? Jerusalem is not a topic for discussion.”

Modeled on the worldwide campaign against apartheid-era South Africa, the movement for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, which was called for in response to Israel’s many violations of Palestinian rights, has grown and achieved significant successes, particularly following Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip in 2009, which killed over 1400 Palestinians.

Flash Dance for Boycott Hits West Philly Supermarket

October 27, 2010

Shoppers and employees at the Fresh Grocer’s flagship store at 40th and Walnut Street were surprised by a choreographed flash dance that was performed in the store this afternoon by activists calling for a boycott of products that support Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians.  Approximately twenty neighborhood residents, dressed in black and wearing sequined red accessories, danced in unison and sang an adaptation of a popular song by Lady Gaga to deliver their request that the store and its customers stop selling and stop buying Sabra and Tribe hummus products.

Sabra & Tribe products directly subsidize Israeli human rights abuses through their support of the Israeli Defense Forces and infrastructure of the occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza.

The store’s security staff attempted to intervene and stop the disruption, but the flash dancers were able to finish performing their act that included lyrics urging Fresh Grocer that shoppers  “Don’t buy into Israeli Apartheid!”   As customers watched and applauded, the dancers left the store chanting “No Justice, No Chick Peas!” in a humorous play on the popular “No Justice, No Peace!” chant. They then repeated their performance on the sidewalk, directly in front of the store.

“As a customer and as a Jew, I’m hoping that Fresh Grocer will pay attention to the concerns of its community and stop carrying Sabra and Tribe hummus, said Hannah Schwarzschild, a member of Philly BDS.  “Not only would it be a significant step in support of justice and peace in Palestine and Israel, but it would also help educate our own community about the power of our consumer choices.”

Organizers said they had previously requested meetings with Fresh Grocer management to request stores to stop carrying Sabra and Tribe products, but their requests had been ignored.  Fresh Grocer, based in Drexel Hill, has eight supermarkets in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware.  Philly BDS activists said they are asking Fresh Grocer to stop stocking Sabra and Tribe because of Fresh Grocer’s stated commitment to meeting the needs of the communities in which their stores are located.

“We don’t think the communities where Fresh Grocer is doing business — West Philadelphia, North Philadelphia, and Germantown, for example — would appreciate their stores helping to sustain the racial discrimination and human rights violations that Sabra and Tribe hummus are supporting in Palestine and Israel,” Schwarzschild said.

“This campaign marks a new and exciting era of Philadelphia’s involvement in the growing global BDS movement, which is building strong support amongst labor unions, NGOs, religious organizations, universities, grocery stores, and individuals,” commented Mendal Polish, another organizer with Philly BDS.

Philly BDS is creative partnership, including Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Arab and non-Arab organizations working for human rights in Israel/Palestine.  The campaign to Boycott Sabra and Tribe has been endorsed by Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace; SUSTAIN: Stop U.S. Tax Aid to Israel Now!; Adalah-NY: The New York Coalition for the Boycott of Israel; Brandywine Peace Community; Build Bridges Not Walls: Grandparents for Peace in the Middle East; Global Women’s Strike-Philadelphia; Hudson Valley BDS; Jews Say No!; Middle East Crisis Response; Network of Arab-American Professionals in Philadelphia; Nico Amador, Training for Change; Payday Men’s Network; Temple Students for Justice in Palestine; Whites in Anti-Racist Solidarity; and Working Group for a Grassroots Movement.