In this latest roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement:
Future clients of pension fund giant TIAA-CREF call for divestment from companies profitting from Israel’s occupation;
Shuggie Otis cancels Tel Aviv performance while activists call on Alicia Keys and Depeche Mode do the same;
Queen Mary, University of London students union votes to boycott G4S and Veolia;
Veolia’s bid for street cleaning contract is withdrawn in Liverpool;
London solidarity protest with Hebron includes BDS de-shelving action;
Palestinian organizations call for boycott of Israeli diamonds;
Palestinian BDS National Committee statement on boycott of individuals; and much more."
"You may have noticed a tabling event Monday in CFSU that was hosted by our university’s Hillel group and addressed a political issue important to them. If you stopped by, you learned of Israeli environmental and sustainability programs, an internship in Israel and were treated to “delicious fruits and nuts and other great Israeli treats.”
Listen to the news these days and you’re more familiar with the pro-Israel argument than Hurricane Sandy’s devastation of the East Coast, Republicans fuming over Secretary Clinton at the Benghazi hearings or Beyonce lip-syncing on the national stage.
Recent memory provides one historical lens through which to understand the issue of Israeli greenwashing; it’s been written in our textbooks, plastered across every plasma screen, in every newspaper and magazine for years. But there is a different side; there is truth.
At Loyola’s Students for Justice in Palestine, we advocate for the liberation of the Palestinian people from Israeli apartheid, oppression and racial discrimination — perpetuated on Arabs in the region for 65 years. Instead of fruits and nuts, let us treat you to some real facts.
Tu B’Shvat, the annual Jewish tree-planting holiday, has been celebrated in a variety of ways throughout Jewish history, adapting to the needs of each new generation. During this holiday, the Jewish people celebrate the unity of people and work toward environmental and social justice as part of their responsibility of tikkun olam, or the work of repairing the broken world.
Since the holiday was first celebrated in Israel, 240 million pine trees have been planted in historic Palestine. This has been celebrated as a great achievement, making Israel the only country to enter the 21st century with a net gain of trees.
Of course, the planting of these non-native, invasive species is done at the cost of uprooting hundreds of native Palestinian olive trees, a fact that is conveniently ignored. According to the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, Israel has uprooted approximately 2.4 million olive trees. Even more, these pine trees make the otherwise-arable land acidic, effectively rendering the land unusable for Palestinian shepherds and farmers.
The Jewish National Fund (JNF), the organization selling trees through Hillel’s table, was founded at the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 to acquire land for the establishment of the Israeli State. Since its inception, the JNF has been used to raise money for the Israeli development of Palestinian land and, in 1961, was recognized as the official caretaker of Israel’s forests.
By 1973, the JNF established Canada Park — a frequently visited tourist location and a violation of international law — on top of the ruins of three Palestinian villages: Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba. In the process, 5,000 people were displaced and, due to Canada Park, will never be able to return.
Olive trees have long been an integral part of Palestinian heritage. The trees symbolize peace and prosperity. The olive oil industry, for example, comprises 14 percent of total Palestinian agricultural output and helps provide for the livelihoods of approximately 80,000 families.
Settler violence against Palestinian olive farm harvesters, for example, has seen a 315 percent increase since 2007; this includes everything from harassment to arson to shooting at civilians. The Israeli army often backs these settler attacks, offering support and protection as settlers harass Palestinians and destroy property.
Beyond issues of uprooting olive trees, Israel has also made agrarian life extremely difficult for the indigenous people by forcing Palestinians to follow strict time structures when tending to their land. Working on your farm at an unauthorized time may get you banned.
Land is trashed by parties held by nighttime settlers; water wells are poisoned with dead chickens; polluted Israeli factories are situated near the Green Line (the demarcation lines laid out in the 1949 Armistice Agreements), or within settlements, allowing waste to flow into the Palestinian territories. Palestinians also have little opportunity to establish sustainability initiatives, since Israel controls imports to the Palestinian territories.
All of this barely touches on the many different problems Palestinians face daily.
Israel has been uprooting everything associated with Palestine for 65 years now. Its culture, traditions and farmers’ livelihoods — an entire way of life — have been dug up and thrown out along with their beloved olive trees.
We at Students for Justice in Palestine wholeheartedly object to the depiction of Israel as a green-friendly country. It is not. For the people of Palestine, all Israel plants is more concrete walls, fence posts and bulldozers.
There is no environmental justice meant for one country, for only one people. Our message is an appeal for real justice, for both Israelis and Palestinians, regardless of race or religion. We hope that the government of Israel will change so the people of Palestine can enjoy equal rights in the land of their ancestors.
Rob Gilmore is a contributing columnist. Contributed writing by Jumana Al-Qawasmi and Zahraa Nasser."