Reflections on Our Local Campaign at One Year

October 23, 2011

Philly BDS, our local consumer boycott and de-shelving campaign against Sabra Hummus and Tribe hummus, was launched at the Peoplehood Parade in West Philadelphia almost one year ago.  After participating in the parade with our Handela puppets, we positioned ourselves at a table in sunny Clark Park where we offered samples of homemade hummus to passersby who received information about our campaign, talked with us, and signed our petitions.

Our now famous Philly BDS flash dance was performed inside the Fresh Grocer store on 40th & Walnut St. the very next day.  It went “viral” on youtube almost immediately, and now boasts 80,000 plus hits! .  The Flashdance was a great idea created by dedicated members of our group and our allies. The huge response it engendered was surprising – a dream come true for our campaign, sparking interest in our campaign locally, nationally, and internationally People continue to come up to us and tell us about what countries where it has been sent.

The success of the Flashdance provided an overwhelmingly positive kick-off for our campaign. Philly BDS went big very early.   We have far surpassed our expectations in many areas.  As a creative coalition, Philly BDS now has 23 local endorsers, 18 national endorsers, and 12 international.  Our outreach extends to campus work and faith-based communities.  We are continuing to build a viable structure for our de-shelving campaign.

Looking back over the year, let’s reflect together on the events and actions organized by Philly BDS, which include:

  • 7 film series “Have You Heard from Johannesburg”  with panel and discussion to educate community about anti-apartheid movement in South Africa
  • Peoplehood launch
  • Flashdance
  • Outreach to endorsers- How to Get Involved Event
  • Mime-in at Fresh Grocer:  “Don’t Be Silent”
  • Participation in First Friday through a/literature hand-out
  • Caroling originally composed Christmas and holiday songs at Fresh Grocer
  • Organizing an evening of creative Valentine letter-writing  and delivering them to Patrick Burns, CEO Fresh Grocer
  • Tabling at Independence Mall with anti-War groups on July 4
  • Organizing demo to support Gaza Freedom Flotilla
  • Handing out information at Fresh Grocer  to encourage de-shelving and not buying Sabra or Tribe hummus
  • Speaking at local churches as part of Christian-Jewish Allies Israel-Palestine educational series
  • Outreach to campus groups in other areas undertaking this campaign or interested in the issue
  • Co-sponsor and support Temple SJP and other Allies for speakers and events
  • Holding a Fundraiser/Art Auction
  • Participating  in national BDS organizers’ conference at Rachel Corrie Foundation in Olympia, WA
  • Community tabling, information, distribution, and  hummus sampling over the Summer in Clark Park,
  • Networking through our Philly BDS Newsletter/Facebook/Twitter
  • Petitioning
  • Holding a film screening and fundraiser dance in cooperation with The Defenstrator
  • Participation in an international documentary by an Australian filmmaker entitled “Make Hummus, Not War.”
  • Participation in Occupy Philly by providing homemade hummus

It’s been only a year!  Philly BDS has organized a well-researched and solid campaign. We take pride in being part of a vibrant and growing international movement.  It will take continuous work on the part of us all to bring justice to Israel-Palestine.  Please consider ways that you can get involved at a level that allows you to contribute skills you can share.

Hold Israel accountable with Leahy law

August 19, 2011

Read this article on the BDS Movement web site on recent efforts by U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy to apply to Israel U.S. legislation that prohibits U.S. military aid to divisions of foreign forces that engage in human rights abuses:

http://www.bdsmovement.net/2011/hold-israel-accountable-with-leahy-law-7870

News: Look Who’s Joined the Philly BDS Coalition!

August 17, 2011

The Delaware County Green Party has endorsed Philly BDS!

The Philly BDS coalition now includes 54 local, national and international endorsers.

Philly BDS is a creative partnership working for human rights in Israel/Palestine. We support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign called for by Palestinian civil society in 2005 to end Israeli human rights abuses.  For more information on Philly BDS, visit www.phillybds.org.

The Green Party of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, is committed to fostering progressive policies locally and supporting the efforts of Greens in neighboring counties, throughout the state and the nation. For more information on the Green Party of Delaware County, visit  www.delcogreens.org.

Become a part of our coalition! Visit www.phillybds.org/allies.

Read the Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sactions Against Israel: www.phillybds.org/the-call.

Philly BDS is teaming up with the Defenestrator for a film screening and dance party!

July 15, 2011

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More Than 50 Human Rights Activists Protest Greek Government Detention of U.S. Boat to Gaza

July 3, 2011

Philly BDS | No Justice, No (Chick)peas

Philadelphia, PA, July 2, 2011 – More than fifty human rights protesters came out onto the streets today in response to recent action by the Greek government preventing the US Boat to Gaza from leaving port at Athens.  The protesters held signs, chanted and talked to holiday vacationers in front of the Federal Building at 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia.

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Scheduled to sail as part of an international flotilla to break the blockade of Gaza, the U.S. Boat to Gaza—The Audacity of Hope—was stopped on Friday by the Greek Coast Guard.  After a stand off that unfolded over several hours a second Greek Coast Guard boat arrived carrying heavily armed Greek commandos. The boat was eventually taken back to dock in Athens and the captain arrested.

Protesters carried signs that read “Free Gaza,” “End the Blockade of Gaza,” “Let our Citizens Sail,” and “End the Siege of Gaza.”  The crowd of fifty, sometimes joined by passersby, repeated chants like “The whole world is watching Gaza, let the boats sail!” and “Justice will prevail; let the boats sail!”  Protesters also chanted “Hey, hey Barack Obama, Let our people sail to Gaza!” Today’s protest drew cheers from passersby and honks of support from passing cars.

Also during the protest, Alice Walker’s poem written aboard the Audacity of Hope was read aloud by the father of a local Jewish American activist who was violently arrested in a Jerusalem Day protest while traveling with an Interfaith Peace Builders delegation last month in East Jerusalem.

Passengers aboard The Audacity of Hope include 36 Americans, among them Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker and 85-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein. Four crew and ten reporters are also on board.

Susan Landau of Philly BDS commented:  “The Greek government is caving into pressure from Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  The activists on the boat are peaceful human rights activists.  The Israeli government is going to great lengths to prevent their journey and maintain an illegal naval blockade that violates Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. And Greece is trumping up charges against the boat’s captain because it is bowing to pressure from the U.S. and the Israeli government.  All the support we’ve gotten today shows that freedom-loving people here and elsewhere won’t be fooled.”

Similar protests are being held in other cities, such as New York, Boston, Washington D.C., Chicago, San Francisco, Albuquerque, Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.

DePaul students to participate in historic vote on Sabra hummus referendum in election this week

May 16, 2011

DePaul students to participate in historic vote on Sabra hummus referendum in election this week

by Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) DePaul

The Student Government Association at DePaul allows a referendum on Sabra hummus for upcoming election ballot in response to a request from Students for Justice in Palestine.


CHICAGO, IL (May 15, 2010)—Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at DePaul University has been campaigning for the University to stop selling Sabra hummus products on its campuses. SJP is concerned with the actions of Sabra’s parent company, the Strauss Group, which provides financial support and supplies to two Israeli military brigades, the Givati and Golani.

These brigades have committed a series of human rights abuses since their formation in 1947 and 1948, respectively. Numerous instances have been reported by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the United Nations. Recent examples include Givati brigade soldiers endangering Palestinian children by forcing them to serve as human shields; members of the Golani brigade opening fire on a civilian home, killing three young girls; and a Givati brigade soldier shooting and killing a Palestinian mother and daughter as they were carrying white flags during Israel’s military assault on the Gaza Strip from December 2008 to January 2009.

On Thursday, May 12, members of SJP DePaul presented a referendum to the Student Government Association (SGA) concerning Sabra and asked them to place it on this year’s SGA election ballot. The language of the referendum states:

“Sabra, which currently supplies hummus to the DePaul cafeteria, is co-owned by the Strauss Group. The Strauss group provides financial support and supplies to the Golani and Givati brigades of the Israeli military, which have been found by the United Nations to be violators of human rights. Are you in favor of replacing Sabra with an alternative brand of hummus?”

After deliberation, the SGA decided to place the referendum on the ballot for students to consider during the upcoming election. This referendum is the first student referendum on a SGA ballot in at least ten years.

Students may vote on the referendum from midnight on Monday, May 16th until 9:00am on Friday, May 20th.  It will pass if 1,500 students vote and the majority votes in favor of replacing Sabra with an ethically conscious brand.

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Press Contact: Trent Carl (832) 244-2285 orilmprocess@gmail.com

Philadelphians Protest Jewish National Fund’s Poker Tournament Fundraiser

May 5, 2011

May 4, 2011

Philadelphians Protest Jewish National Fund’s Poker Tournament Fundraiser

JNF protest May 2011 More than two dozen local residents gathered outside Del Frisco’s restaurant in Center City on Wednesday evening for a noisy picket of the Jewish National Fund’s “Philadelphia Poker & Blackjack Tournament.”   Proceeds from the annual fundraising event, which is co-sponsored by prominent Philadelphia corporations and firms, support the Jewish National Fund’s activities in Israel.  The protesters oppose the organization’s treatment of Palestinian land and people.

As the poker players arrived at the restaurant on the corner of 15th and Chestnut Streets, they were greeted by a vocal picket line denouncing the JNF’s role in the ongoing destruction of Palestinian villages.  Carrying signs reading “Land Theft is Not Charity,” the protesters took aim at the JNF’s status as a charity that pays no taxes under U.S. law.  “It’s absurd that an organization involved in ethnic cleansing gets to count as a charity,” said Susan Landau, who took part in the protest.  “Why are American taxpayers subsidizing an organization whose mission is to support land acquisition for one ethnic group only?  I’m Jewish, it’s my ethnic group, but I don’t support what they do.”

“The JNF is at the heart of Israel’s ongoing dispossession of Palestinians from their land,” said Elliott batTzedek, another picketer.  “For over 60 years, the JNF has been destroying Palestinian homes and villages. They cover up the destruction by planting forests over the ruins and calling them parks.  One village in the Negev desert has been leveled over a dozen times in the last year to make room for a JNF forest.”

Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund originally collected money from Jews throughout the world to “redeem the land of Israel” by purchasing land in Palestine.   Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF has raised tens of millions of dollars for planting trees in Israel, many of which are planted on the ruins of demolished Palestinian Arab villages.  For example, after the Israeli army’s 1967 capture of the Palestinian village of Imwas – which was the town of Emmaus in Biblical times – the population was forcibly expelled and the town was bulldozed.  The Jewish National Fund’s “Canada Park” was built over the ruins.

The protesters said that much of the land controlled by the JNF was never actually purchased at all. “After 1948, the Israelis didn’t have to buy land, the state just took it and then sold it to the JNF,” explained batTzedek.  “Under Israeli law, any land that comes under the control of the Jewish National Fund then becomes available only to Jews forever.  So while Israel claims to be a democracy that respects equality and justice, in fact more than 90 percent of its land is inaccessible to Palestinians, who make up more than 20 percent of the population in Israel.”

“The JNF wants to be thought of as an environmental organization, but what they planted were non-native trees that actually hurt the natural environment,” noted Landau.   “A long time ago, I believed the Jewish National Fund did good things.  I hope some of the people who came to play poker tonight will eventually understand that the JNF exists in order to maintain an apartheid system in Israel and Palestine.”

Some of the poker players seemed disturbed by the protest.  A few stopped to argue, with a few using epithets.  One man denounced the picketers as “Nazis.”   Most paused briefly to watch and listen before entering the restaurant for an evening of festivities and high rolling.

Outside, the protesters distributed postcards explaining their action and continued their chant:  “Dirty money, dirty dealing:  Palestine is what you’re stealing!”

Letter: Palestinian Land Day 2011

March 29, 2011

Dear Friends, Allies, and Supporters of Philly BDS,

Land-DayWe write to you on the occasion of Palestinian Land Day 2011, the annual commemoration of the 1976 general strike and non-violent protests against massive land appropriation by Israel in which six Palestinians were killed and hundreds of others were jailed and wounded.  Since then it has been a day to recall many decades of Palestinian resistance to historic and on-going displacement and dispossession.

Given the significance of this day to Palestinians, it is particularly offensive that the Jewish National Fund has just proclaimed March 30 as “Buy Israeli goods Day.”   Nevertheless, we take this as a measure of the growing power of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

March 30,  2011 also marks the launch of an important internationally coordinated campaign to challenge the JNF.  The Jewish National Fund is a quasi-governmental organization that has spearheaded and provided cover for the ongoing appropriation of land by the Israeli state.  We urge you to sign the Stop the JNF Call to Action at http://stopthejnf.org.

Through the boycott of  Tribe Hummus and Sabra Hummus, launched in Philadelphia in 2010, individuals and organizations have the opportunity to be personally involved in stopping the JNF;  Osem Corporation, owner of Tribe, is a major corporate patron of the Jewish National Fund.  If you’d like to become more involved in our local campaign, we’d love to hear from you.

We hope that Land Day 2011 is a day of renewed commitment to the struggle for a free Palestine.

In strength and solidarity,

Philly BDS

Statement by Jewish Activists and Organizations active in BDS against Israel

March 16, 2011

http://www.ijsn.net/657/

A Jewish response to the February 2011 Statement of Jewish Zionist Organizations on Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaigns Against Israel.

Because academic, cultural and commercial boycotts, divestments and sanctions of Israel:

are being called for by Palestinian civil society in response to the occupation and colonization of
their land,
are a moral tool of non-violent, peaceful response to more than sixty years of Israeli
colonialism, and,
rightfully place accountability on Israeli institutions (and their allies and partners) that use
business, cultural, and academic ties to white-wash Israel’s responsibility for continuing crimes
against humanity,

The undersigned organizations and individuals stand firm in our support of Boycott, Divestment
and Sanctions (BDS) initiatives against Israel until it meets its obligation to recognize the
Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of
international law.

BDS is not anti-Semitic. We reject the notion that the 2005 BDS call from Palestine, and the BDS
campaigns the world over which it has inspired, are rooted in anti-Jewish sentiment. On the
contrary, BDS is an anti-racist movement against the daily, brutal occupation of Palestine and
military threat to the region by the State of Israel. False claims of anti-Semitism distort the true
nature of the Palestinian struggle and are an affront to, and betrayal of, the long history of Jewish
survival and resistance to persecution.

BDS is not anti-democratic. We also reject the assertion that the cultural and academic boycotts
of Israel defy the democratic principle of free speech. Research and development in academic
institutions play a central role in designing and defending Israel’s military and intelligence
machinery. Cultural institutions perpetuate the deception of Israeli democracy. To defend freedom
of speech for those who disregard justice while demonizing those who struggle for justice is a great
disservice to genuine democracy.

Through boycott, divestment and sanctions, civil society asserts our commitment to not contribute
to the Israeli state, which is responsible for atrocious acts of disregard for human life and well
being. Attacks against BDS campaigns will not prevent us from taking this stance against Israeli
impunity. For the Jewish organizations signed onto this letter, self-determination for Jews includes
the right to participate in the movement for justice in Palestine and to live in the world with our
fellow citizens in peace, freedom, and equity. It does not include the domination and colonization of
other people or living separate from our fellow human beings in a state that privileges Jews.

BDS was a key strategy in ending the white South African system of apartheid by applying
international pressure. In pursuit of justice, peace and freedom for all, we speak out as Jews
committed to BDS and Palestinian liberation.

Signed

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
Not In Our Name (Argentina)
Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in Middle East (EJJP, Germany)
Not in Our Name: Jews Opposing Zionism (Canada)
Jews for a Just Peace (Fredericton, Canada)
Independent Jewish Voice (Canada)
Middle East Children’s Alliance (USA)
Critical Jewish Voice (Austria)

* Women in Black (Austria)
* French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP)
* Bay Area Women in Black (USA)
* St. Louis Women in Black (USA)
* Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace (USA)
* American Jews for a Just Peace (USA)
* Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (UK)
* – JUNTS, Asociació catalana de Jueus i Palestins (Asociación Catalana de Judios y Palestinas,
Spain)
* Ronnie Kasrils, former South African government minister, writer, founder Not In My Name,
South Africa
* Antony Loewenstein, Independent Australian Jewish Voices
* Peter Slezak, Independent Australian Jewish Voices
* Moshé Machover, Professor (emeritus) (UK), founder Matzpen
* Felicia Langer, Israeli lawyer, author, Right Livelihood Award 2006 (Alternative Nobel Prize)
1990, Bruno Kreisky Prize 1991
* Mieciu Langer, Nazi Holocaust survivor
* Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor
* Hajo G. Meyer PhD, Nazi Holocaust survivor
* Kamal Chenoy, IJAN India & The All India Peace and Solidarity Organization
* Paola Canarutto & Giorgio Forti, Rete ECO, Italy
* Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, IJAN France
* Sonia Fayman, IJAN France & UJFP
* Ernesto Rosenberg, GRAMARPAL (Grupo de Amistad Argentina-Palestina, Neuquén, Argentina)
* Mark Elf, blogger, Jews sans Frontieres

We welcome organizations and individuals to join us in condemning false claims of anti-
Semitism for the purposes of attempting to discredit our collective anti-racist activism
against Israeli apartheid.

Click here to sign letter: http://www.ijsn.net/657/

PhillyBDS Stands with NYC Siege Busters

March 8, 2011

PhillyBDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) stands with NYC Siege Busters and their unity with the broader social justice community. Activists fighting for human rights and dignity, be it for Palestinians, the LGBT community or any oppressed group, only stand to gain from working together, and we urge the Manhattan LGBT center to uphold it’s long tradition of standing up for those that are marginalized in society.

NYC Siege Busters is a organization formed to support the end of the siege on occupied Gaza, where Israel’s blockade, now almost 4 years old, has strangled the people there by restricting access to food, construction materials, and other necessities for survival. This is an issue that all people of conscience should concern themselves with, and certainly an issue that is in no way divergent from the Manhattan LGBT Center’s stated mission of “empowering individuals and groups to achieve their fullest potential.”

Many defenders of Israel’s abuses against Palestinians use racist caricatures of Arabs, Muslims and Palestinians, using stereotypes of homophobia to characterize a complex and multi-faceted society. This is “pinkwashing”; the cooptation of the queer movement by Israel as a way to detract attention from its daily violations of International Law. Queer people in the Middle East will not be safe so long as Israel continues to restrict the ability of Palestinians to live full and self-determined lives.


Limiting access to the LGBT Center only perpetuates the systemic oppression of the Palestinian people.  Our American society, and the LGBTQ community in particular, should stand for open doors and open spaces, rather than excluding particular peoples, ideas, or identities.

It is our hope that the Manhattan LGBT Center will stand on the side of human rights and intersecting struggles. The struggles against racism, homophobia, and all forms of oppression are all part of the same struggle for free spaces, freedom of expression and the freedom to exist, regardless of identity.