Monday, March 2, 2009

At UCLA, & at Cardiff University:

More movements to boycott Apartheid Israel:

"Protesters speak out against Israeli incursion into Gaza"

Juliana Gabrovsky

Monday, March 2, 2009

In today's UCLA "Daily Bruin", at:

Approximately 50 people protested outside Royce Hall at the performance of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company on Saturday night in hopes of drawing attention to the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza.

The protest was organized by the recently created U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which saw its membership rise from 15 to more than 230 academics since its inception in January. The demonstrators were mostly professors, but many students participated as well.

“There were repeated efforts to initiate the boycott, but it was not taking off. This last Gaza incursion pushed people over the edge,” said Sherna Berger Gluck, an organizing committee member and professor emeritus of women’s studies and history at California State University, Long Beach.

“I believe that this was a massacre. A horrible, huge, monstrous massacre,” said Edie Pistolesi, an organizing committee member and art professor at Cal State Northridge, referring to the most recent activity in Gaza.

According to Palestinian officials, some 1,300 Palestinians – at least half of them civilians – were killed in the Israeli military incursion that began in late December. Thirteen Israelis were also killed, three of them civilians.

Organizing committee member Dennis Kortheuer, who is Jewish, of Cal State Long Beach said that during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War he thought Israel was “a David against a Goliath.” It was not until 1991 when he visited the Palestinian territory as a student to assess the situation for himself that his opinion changed when he encountered many roadblocks and saw that some of the villages were closed off to any access at all.

“It was like a siege,” Kortheuer said.

While some of the concertgoers expressed sympathies with the Palestinian position, many still disagreed with the dance concert as a forum for a protest.

“There’s not a black or white view on this. They’ve both wronged each other horribly on this. But (the dancers) don’t have anything to do with government officials making decisions,” said concertgoer Emmaly Wiederholz.

Wiederholz said the protest just appealed to people’s emotions without actual substance. She questioned the accuracy of the protesters’ claim that 400 children died.

Others expressed frustration with the protesters.

“It really pisses me off as a Jewish girl,” said Judith Flex, a concertgoer. “If the Palestinians were the performers here, Israelis won’t be demonstrating against their culture. If they’d stop doing things like this they’d have their country by now,” Flex said.

Protesters disagreed that the dance performance was an inappropriate place to express their opinions.

“People feel that you can separate art and politics. But you can’t,” said Christine Browning, a program assistant at USC.

Many of the protesters maintained that the Batsheva Dance Company described themselves as Israel’s leading ambassador.

Ohad Naharin, artistic director and choreographer of Batsheva Dance Company, recently told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that if the protests are “against the abuse of power by the Israeli army in the (Gaza) war,” and “the occupation ... I agree ... on both of those things.”

Pistolesi said she thought the protest was actually true public art and a visual expression of a tragedy.

“Art is about culture, politics and life,” Pistolesi said, “whether you’re looking at a Vermeer or a peace poster.”

Some protesters saw the demonstration not only as a political statement but also as the beginning of a dialogue and forum for discussion.

“The American public has a lot to learn. People are starting to understand that something is not right,” said Paul Hershfield, assistant director of the Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid.

Several of the protesters insisted that Israel acts outside of international law.

“We want to let the Batsheva group know that we’re not going to treat Israel as a civilized country. Israel is a rogue state,” said Yael Korin, a pathology researcher at UCLA who is also an endorser of the campaign.

Korin, who was born in Israel and has family members who are Holocaust survivors, said it is very difficult for her family to come to terms with her political views.

“My mother is 92, and it’s hard for her to understand why I’m doing this. She is a victim of history,” Korin said. While understanding the history, Korin said Palestinians should not have to pay for what happened.

On Friday, Judea Pearl, a UCLA computer science professor and father of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, told reporters at a news conference that Jewish students and faculty at California universities fear for their safety on campus because of threats aimed at them over the Middle East conflict. He also said that anti-Semitic threats have escalated since Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Korin disagrees that there is a rise of anti-Semitism but said she is very pleased anti-Zionism is on the rise.

“People are intelligent in the peace community. They know the difference,” Korin said.

Charla Schlueter, a prospective UCLA graduate student from North Carolina, complained that she had been attacked and called anti-Semitic for expressing her political views.

“That sort of automatic response doesn’t work anymore. The whole world sees what the massacre was,” Schlueter said.

This protest took place amid preparations for a Gaza reconstruction conference in Egypt scheduled for today, which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is expected to attend.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned Sunday as Clinton arrived in Egypt that Israel’s retaliation would be painful, harsh and strong if the rocket fire from Gaza continues.


Also today...

"University abandons arms investments"

Cardiff University abandons its investments in arms after students stage two-day lecture theatre occupation.

Cardiff University has divested itself of all investments in BAE systems and the infrastructure arm of General Electric following a student-led protest last week.

Students protesting against Cardiff University’s involvement in the arms trade left the Main Building victorious last Thursday, having occupied the Shandon lecture theatre for since Tuesday.

The protestors led a procession out of the Main Building to the Students’ Union and then to the Bute Building, chanting “Cardiff divest: occupation success.”

Megan Price, a third year Philosophy student and participant, said: “Cardiff University, as a direct result of our actions, has divested from BAE systems and GE (General Electric) so this is a victory for Cardiff, for the occupation and for Gaza.”

Upon leaving the lecture theatre at 4pm, which has been the protestors’ home for the last two days, Megan said: “We were so settled in the lecture theatre it seemed a shame to leave, but it had gone on long enough. An occupation does not achieve everything and we know we have much more to do, but at least we have raised awareness.”

The ‘Books Not Bombs’ protest began on Tuesday February 24, when students gathered outside the Students’ Union to campaign against Cardiff University’s £225,000 of investment in the arms trade.

The protesters’ demands also included the adoption of an ethical investment policy by the University, the issuing of a statement condemning Israel’s bombing and the blockade of Gaza, University promotion of the Disaster Emergency Appeal for Gaza, and a ban on Israeli products sold in University shops.

So far, none of these other demands have been met; however, a statement issued by Louise Casella, Director of Strategic Development for the University, states that the University will put a proposal in relation to an ethical policy before University Council and will examine the feasibility of the other proposals.

Seb Cooke, a student present at the protest, explained their demands: “What people are doing here today is making their voices heard in solidarity of the people in Gaza.

“But also we want Cardiff University to divest all of its shares in BAE systems and the arms trade and we want to ensure that, in the future, it never, ever invests in the arms trade again.”

The protestors aimed to discuss their demands with the University’s Director of Strategic Development, Louise Casella, but were at first refused permission. This led to their decision to remain in occupation of the lecture theatre.

As time went on, the University was generally tolerant of the protestors’ decision to stay, although they did receive some antagonism.

The University allegedly threatened to take away heating or to put on the fire alarm to chase the protestors away; however, for the most part their relationship was amicable.

“We received some support from professors and from the security staff. Some of them are not on side, and some of them would like to see us leave, but there has been some support,” said Dan Drummond, a first year Politics and Sociology student at the occupation.

The protestors also received food and drink donations from a local Mosque and from Clark’s pasties.

Eventually, on Wednesday afternoon, Ms Cassella spoke to the protestors and announced that some of their demands would be met. The protestors chose to remain in occupation of the lecture theatre overnight, but faced difficulties continuing the protest on Thursday morning.

At 1.15pm on Thursday, the protestors were told to abandon the occupation on the recommendation of the NUS.

Tony Oliver, Head of Security, said: “Casella repeats the request for students to leave the lecture theatre now. The University will negotiate no more.

“The NUS is withdrawing their support and as of 2pm the University is taking that stance.”

The NUS state that protests lasting longer than 48 hours can be disruptive, and Oliver therefore announced that from 2pm onwards, the students would be occupying the theatre illegally.

But the students remained in high spirits, having achieved a large part of what they set out to achieve.

Students’ Union President Andy Buttons-Stephens said: “It’s great to see student activists passionately engaging and lobbying the University over these issues.

“The protestors clearly made an impact on the University and thankfully with minimal disruption to other students who wish to attend their lectures and learn.”

He added: “Any efforts to improve ethical investment by the University are hugely welcomed. It is something that is on the agenda for my discussions with the University and is equally something that I know Sam Knight, the Union’s Ethical and Environmental Officer, is working hard on.”