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Est. April 5, 2002
June 23, 2016 - Issue 659

American Politicians Opposing BDS
Ignore Oppressed Palestinians


"Most of the powerful pay lip service
to these rights, but, when it comes to
their own political careers, they will do
whatever they can to continue in their
positions of power and their close association
with the rich who fund their political lives."

In their haste to ensure the Israelis and the Right Wing Republicans and Democrats that they will fully support the government of Prime Minister Netanyahu, American politicians in this political season have rushed to express their fealty by fighting against the people-powered move to end the colonial state in which Palestinians live.

Nothing the government of Israel has done to control the Palestinian population, numbering in the millions, is off limits for full support by the politicians of this country, such as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Hillary Clinton.

Cuomo, earlier this month, issued an order to state government entities over which he has control to stop doing business with any organization or company that supports the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement (BDS), putting his office and the entire state behind political efforts to stop the movement that is supported by rank-and-file Americans and others around the world.

In doing so, Cuomo has stepped to the forefront of the world’s powers to curb the right of the people to support a boycott of some Israeli goods that are the result of the oppression of the Palestinians. In this country, at least, that was the right of the people under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The right of the people to speak freely, to freely associate with others for a political or other goal, and to petition their government for redress of grievances.

Most of the powerful pay lip service to these rights, but, when it comes to their own political careers, they will do whatever they can to continue in their positions of power and their close association with the rich who fund their political lives. So it is with the BDS movement, which is feared by both Israeli and U.S. politicians of the right, but at the same time, it is discounted as a dwindling movement that will count for nothing in short order. They can’t have it both ways, and it appears that they fear BDS.

The governor’s executive order has the commissioner of the Office of General Services compiling a list of organizations and individuals that have done anything to boycott, divest from, or sanction Israel or any Israeli company. The possibilities are endless and it is hard to imagine any commissioner finding the time to examine the activities of New Yorkers to determine which or who has furthered the BDS movement. But, in this presidential election year, it seems to be a good idea.

Any group or individual found to be a supporter of BDS, whether direct or indirect, through a parent or subsidiary company, will be prohibited from doing business with New York State. Much of state government falls under the aegis of the executive branch, so the possibility of being sanctioned by Cuomo’s order are pretty good, if one is an advocate of justice for Palestinians.

And, there lies the rub. No mention is made about the conditions of the lives of Palestinians living under the rule of Israel and, at this time at least, under a Right Wing government that favors neither a one-state solution nor a two-state solution. Where do they go from that position, one held by Netanyahu? Successive U.S. administrations have had little success bringing the two sides together to resolve the seemingly intractable problem. Meanwhile, there have been generations of Palestinians who have been born and raised in refugee status and millions in both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank who have seen their condition worsen, year by year.

The Strip, as it is called by Israel, has been described as an open-air prison, because everything about it is controlled by Israel. Residents of Gaza are even prohibited from fishing off The Strip’s seacoast to feed their families, and Israel controls everything that goes in and out of the enclave. On top of that, Gaza is said to be the most densely populated area on earth. It would seem that U.S. politicians and the millions of fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who support Israel without question would, once in a while, give lip service to the plight of the Palestinians. They rarely do.

Much has been reported about the condition of Palestinians, but mostly it is reported in the alternative news outlets. The really gritty stuff has rarely been reported by the mainstream press and networks, except for the occasional body count and the “war” between Gaza and Israel, so it should not be necessary to repeat it here and at this time. You get the idea about how Palestinians are viewed by Israelis, when one official remarked that one occasionally has to “mow the grass,” in reference to keeping the Palestinians in line. That is, properly obedient to the endless rules of the occupation.

Both major parties in the U.S. have pledged their fealty to Israel and both have indicated in so many ways that they will support it, no matter what the circumstances and no matter what they do, and that includes occupying more and more of the Palestinians’ West Bank or causing worsening conditions in Gaza.

The BDS movement appeared a decade ago and, as so many movements have in the past, it started small. It was a way to non-violently induce change in the way Israel is handling its occupation. That is, lighten up, allow a measure of free movement by Palestinians, allow farmers to farm their smallholdings without fear of being shot with impunity, allow access to hospitals and clinics without hours of waiting at checkpoints, and all of the other ways that people are allowed to express some semblance of free will.

There are peace movements inside of Israel that support the BDS movement and there are Jewish groups in the U.S. and other countries that strongly support peace and the BDS movement. Members of these groups want Israel to survive. It’s a matter of their own survival, but they want to see the country live up to its democratic ideals. They do not want it to continue to be an oppressor. The government response there and in the U.S. has been the usual complaint that adherents of the BDS movement want to damage Israel or want to “delegitimize” Israel. And, worse, they are all anti-Semites and “self-hating Jews.”

Earlier this year, during the Democratic presidential primary elections, Hillary Clinton appeared before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and did a pretty good job of pandering to her audience. Among other things, she promised that, if elected president, she will do everything in her power to destroy the BDS movement and she mouthed the same old imprecations against the people who would stand against the oppression of Palestinians. With supporters of Israel like that, what chance do Palestinians have of ever having their own state, the substance of which is being chipped away, acre by acre, by Netanyahu’s Jewish settlement program throughout the West Bank?

Clinton, without mentioning the Methodist church by name, responded in May to a letter from the Israel Action Network, not long before the church, her church, was considering divestment or boycott from some Israeli entities. In the letter, she wrote, “I believe that BDS seeks to punish Israel and dictate how the Israelis and Palestinians should resolve the core issues of their conflict,” Clinton wrote. “I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority, and that we need to work together — across party lines and with a diverse array of voices — to reverse this trend with information and advocacy, and fight back against further attempts to isolate and delegitimize Israel…” She added that the BDS movement is counterproductive and harmful to both Israelis and Palestinians.

Cuomo’s executive order this month, attacking BDS and its adherents could have been inspired by Clinton’s assurances to AIPAC that she will do whatever Israel wants and surely will protect it from a citizens’ movement like BDS. He is making the very same assurances by attacking individuals and organizations that support the BDS movement. Keep in mind that these groups, like the Methodist church and other religions, carry out much of the nation’s social and welfare programs, much of it with their own money collected from people in the pews. What his order does is make hundreds or thousands of groups that provide vital services to the poor families around the state at risk of losing the small amount of New Yorkers’ money that help sustain the programs.

Why would they do this? After all, AIPAC is not a lobbying organization and functions on an annual budget of only about $77 million. But, its members know people with very deep pockets who contribute to political campaigns and it is those people who are sought for their contributions. Wall Street, banks, insurance companies, hedge funds, pharmaceutical companies, real estate developers, oil companies, giant agri-business companies, and chemical companies, among others, all have the same deep pockets and thus are wooed by politicians, who will do anything to maintain their positions of power, such as Clinton and Cuomo.

But, attacking rank-and-file citizens’ rights to express their political sentiments through the likes of the BDS movement is an attack on the principles on which the U.S. was founded. It’s wrong and it’s un-American. Both Cuomo and Clinton are guilty. Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State. In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.




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