Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Greeners in Palestine: Elissa Goss on Israel/Palestine

Evergreen State College Senior and TESC Divest! member Elissa Goss recently returned from a delegation with Interfaith Peacebuilders to Israel/Palestine led by Cindy Corrie in which she assisted Palestinians with the Fall olive harvest. The following article will be published in Evergreen's campus newspaper The Cooper Point Journal in the coming weeks. Read more of Elissa's thoughts at her blog Acts of Humanity. If you’d like to hear more first hand accounts, check out the blog of Evergreen alum Maya Amber Harris who was on the same delegation, as well as alum David Langstaff's blog, both of whom are continuing their time in Israel/Palestine.

Elissa is eager to keep giving presentations about the delegation and can be reached at elissagoss8@gmail.com if you would like to get together and chat or set-up a presentation with a group or program.

Continuing Thoughts on Israel/Palestine
By Elissa Goss  
I was asked to write some final thoughts after my trip to the West Bank and Israel, to round out the blog posts that were printed the past few issues. I realized however, that I don’t have “final” thoughts.  The occupation is still happening, and now that I understand better U.S. complicity in human rights abuses in the region, I can’t stop thinking about it….and trying to do what I can here in the U.S. and more importantly, here on campus and in the community.

So what’s the best thing I could say at this moment? I feel that it is this: supporting Palestinians rights to self-determination doesn't mean you are signing yourself up on a list for the destruction of Israel and greater harm to Israelis. What was deeply moving about our time in the West Bank, was witnessing the majority of Palestinians engaged in non-violence through demonstrations, legal battles, and resistance through existence. The fault of media is to only draw our attention to external forms of violence and ignore the structural violence that is afflicted on Palestinians on a daily basis in the occupation.

What does this structural violence look like? Imagine you are a farmer. You had a profitable olive orchard, but the separation wall built in 2003 cut your land in half and now you are barely able to keep food on the table. Settler children from a nearby settlement ( mini-neighborhoods ranging from a couple hundred to a couple thousands Israeli citizens illegally on Palestinian land)  throw rocks at your and your family when you are trying to harvest what is left of your land. The Israeli court struck down your appeal for a permit to access your olive orchard on the other side of the wall. You are not allowed to build on your property, because of “security measures” and the majority of your money goes to buying water from the Israeli water company because Israel controls all of the aquifers. You have to pass through a military checkpoint to get to next major urban area and you are delayed about 2-5 hours each time because of long lines. No one in your area is involved in violent protests. You or your family have never fought back yet you find yourself subjected to humiliation from soldiers and neighbors, who never once stop to consider your own humanity. Your partner wants you to move, they is tired of the harassment, but you cannot afford the trip and this land has been in your family since the late 1800s. It is your home, these olive trees are like children, and you want your children to inherit this. You want to live in peace.

Structural violence means that every part of your life is impacted by a barrier of some sort: denied equal access to education, land, water, food, political representation, cultural expression….it creates a life struggling to survive in a cage.

I ask that we continue to search for facts on the ground. That we listen to those struggling to have their voices heard because Palestinians are systematically shut-out and forced to subject themselves to U.S./Israel conditions for “peace”. What makes Palestinians needs for peace and justice any less important than Israel’s?

Israel inflicts a violent occupation that seeps through Palestinian life like a virus, killing them one by one, sometimes in small groups, sometimes in large bombs. It kills them through shooting at protests when children throw rocks, when farmers try and harvest their recently confiscated fields, kills their children’s ability to graduate into a thriving economy by crushing Palestinians ability to even build one, it kills them through covering their dreams of ever being able to go to the ocean, telling children and their families that they are threats before they are 5. The occupation kills by preventing access and control of important resources like water and farmland. The occupation essentially silently suffocates daily Palestinian life and growth.

Israel has an imbalance of economical, political and military power in the region and has the responsibility to end the occupation if peace can ever be possible. But it is daily and it is constant. We must recognize the human rights abuses and as a U.S. citizen, I must recognize, speak out and try to end the financial support we provide for these daily, silent attacks.

I also must connect their struggle for self-determination with voices for justice such as Jewish Voices for Peace, working to end the occupation and follow the threads of power. I must connect their struggle with the struggle of self-determination for people all over the word, resisting against white supremacy, imperialism, aggressive capitalism and other systems that dehumanize people and erases their history. I must connect their struggle with home. I must, and we must, not only look outside our border at injustice, but work to end injustice here. We must work together to understand the connections all of our struggles, find the axes of accumulated power and transform them.

I honored and humble from witnessing such strength to just survive….both there, and here in the U.S. This experience has shown me that injustice is never too complicated to understand, and justice is not impossible achieve. I understand that I have a responsibility to be apart of dismantling systems of power that favors some over others because I have had the privilege to be on the receiving end of a world superpower…at the expense of millions around the world. I am also understanding that with this responsibility, comes great joy as well, the joy of being fully human by being apart of making justice happen.

On one of the days in the delegation, we tackled a field of olive trees trying to help finish the harvest with our host families but were unable to finish. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that we were leaving so soon. One of the aunts saw that I had gotten very quiet and after I replied to her question as to why I was upset, she smiled and told me, “ Oh, we will get the harvest done. It takes all of us, but we will do it. And it will take all of you, doing the work you’re doing, to truly help us.”

She is right. Justice will take all of us if we want peace to be more than lip-service and if there is a community that I trust to do that with, it is ours here at Evergreen.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Elissa Goss: Israel/Palestine & the Question of the West Bank

Student Reportback: Israel/Palestine and the Question of the West bank

Tuesday, Dec. 4th


2700 Evergreen Pkwy NWOlympia, Washington
CAB Conference Room (3rd floor of the CAB)

Please join Evergreen Senior Elissa Goss as she shares what she learned while over in Israel and the West Bank, Occupied Palestinian Territory this fall as part of an Independent Learning Contract looking at the economics and ideology of the occupation. This will be an informative and inspiring presentation focusing on key findings, how we frame the narrative of the conflict, and what the next steps are as part of the international movement to end the occupation. 

Sponsored by Mid-East Solidarity Project and TESCDivest!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Solidarity with Gaza in Olympia

In response to Israel's bombing attacks on civilians in Gaza, Olympians gathered in the streets to protest and to show solidarity with Gazans.

Pictures via The Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Earlham College Ends Sales of Sabra Hummus!

Yet another campus BDS victory!

On September 13th, BDS Earlham, a BDS organization at the Quaker-affiliated Earlham College, announced that Earlham's Dining Services would cease sales of Sabra Hummus after BDS proponents brought to light Sabra's complicity in Israel's human rights violations against Palestinians. Sabra Dipping Company is a subsidary of Strauss Group LTD.

BDS Earlham:

The decision comes after a group of concerned students and faculty approached Earlham’s dining services requesting the removal of the product from the college’s facilities.
Strauss Group Ltd. provides financial support and supplies to the Golani and Givati brigades of the Israeli army, which is responsible for enforcing Israel’s illegal, 45-year-old military occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands, and other grave and systematic human rights abuses.

“We applaud Earlham College’s dining service for taking this principled stand and refusing to do business with Sabra Dipping Company,” said Basil Farraj, of BDS Earlham. “Earlham students will no longer be unwittingly supporting Israeli abuses of Palestinian human rights when they purchase hummus and other products on campus.”

Earlham College’s dining services has promised to provide an alternative for the removed product, and were quick to note that they take student concerns seriously and follow through with immediate action.

TESC Divest! applauds Earlham College and congratulates BDS Earlham on this amazing victory.

Earlham's successful boycott of Sabra Hummus follows a victory at The Evergreen State College this past spring when Evergreen's student-run cafe, The Flaming Eggplant, announced that it would boycott Israeli products in solidarity with the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

BDS Earlham is in the midst of a campaign to encourage Earlham to divest from companies materially supporting or profiting from Israeli violations of International law and the universal principles of Human Rights.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Support the Olympia Food Co-op in the latest hearing of the Anti-BDS Lawsuit!

Support the Olympia Food Co-op at the latest hearing in the anti-BDS lawsuit

Come out and show your support for the Olympia Food Co-op at the latest hearing regarding the fees and fines from the lawsuit filed this past year in an unsuccessful attempt to force the store to rescind its historic boycott of Israeli goods.  Supporters of the co-op call for a show of community solidarity at the Thurston County Superior Court this Thursday, July 12th at 8:30 AM.

Despite the fact that their anti-BDS lawsuit was thrown out and declared an illegal attempt to stifle free speech, the plaintiffs in the anti-BDS lawsuit contend that as members of the food co-op, they sued on behalf of the store, and therefore all financial penalties that they accrued in their lawsuit should be paid by the co-op itself.  In addition, the plaintiff’s lawyer has promised to appeal, in an attempt to draw the co-op into a long, drawn out, legal battle that could last years.

The lawsuit against the co-op in Olympia, backed in part by Stand With Us, a national far-right pro-Israel group, and the Israeli Consulate of the Pacific Northwest, is part of a larger campaign to silence debate about Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Please join us to demonstrate our community’s overwhelming support for the co-op’s brave stand for Palestinian human rights and freedom of speech!

Additional information regarding the lawsuit can be found at http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/davis-v-cox and http://www.olympiabds.org/.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

BDS Victory: TIAA-CREF Removes CAT from their SRI Fund!

This is a major victory! From our partners at WE DIVEST:

Caterpillar Removed from TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice Funds
Victory for Pro-divestment Advocates

June 21, 2012-
Pension fund giant TIAA-CREF has removed Caterpillar, Inc. from its Social Choice Funds portfolio. As of May 1, 2012, financial data posted on TIAA-CREF’s website valued Social Choice Funds shares in Caterpillar at $72,943,861. Today it is zero.

“We applaud this decision,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, Director of Campaigns at Jewish Voice for Peace and National Coordinator of the We Divest Campaign (www.wedivest.org). “It’s long past time that TIAA-CREF began living up to its motto of ‘Financial Services for the Greater Good’ when it comes to the people of Israel and Palestine.”

Since 2010, We Divest has been urging TIAA-CREF to drop Caterpillar and other companies profiting from and facilitating Israel’s 45-year-old military occupation and colonization of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip.

“By selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel, Caterpillar is complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Rabbi Wise. “We’re glad to see that the socially responsible investment community appears to be recognizing this and is starting to take appropriate action.”

Caterpillar has come under increasing criticism from human rights organizations in recent years for continuing to supply bulldozers to Israel, which uses them to demolish Palestinian civilian homes and destroy crops and agricultural land in the occupied territories, and to build illegal, Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land.

In the coming weeks, many will be watching the Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly taking place in Pittsburgh, where church commissioners will vote on a motion to divest from Caterpillar and two other companies, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, that remain in TIAA-CREF’s Social Choice Funds.

Last month, Friends Fiduciary, a Quaker institution, divested $900,000 worth of shares in Caterpillar stating: “We are uncomfortable defending our position on this stock.”

What Others are  Saying
Omar Barghouti, Palestinian human rights activist and founding member of the BDS movement said, “CAT is out of the bag of TIAA-CREF’s socially responsible companies thanks to the inspiring campaign waged by JVP and its partners, with vision, persistence and tactical skillfulness. Palestinian civil society, represented by the BDS National Committee (BNC), deeply appreciates these efforts and believes that more pressure will ultimately convince TIAA-CREF to fulfill its basic moral obligation to finally divest from CAT and all other corporations that are complicit in Israel’s grave and escalating violations of international law and human rights.”

Cindy and Craig Corrie, Rachel Corrie’s parents said, “For nearly a decade, we have witnessed human rights abuses committed with Caterpillar equipment in the West Bank and Gaza and have joined thousands who have asked the company to stop supporting these actions.  We are hugely gratified that TIAA-CREF has taken this step.  When governments and corporations avoid responsibility, we must refuse to profit from their abuses. Our family salutes and thanks TIAA-CREF for this decision that moves all of us closer to accountability.”
Student groups at Evergreen have endorsed a CAT-boycott on campus

This is a significant victory for Evergreen State College where there has been a campaign to boycott and divest from Caterpillar for several years. Evergreen student Rachel Corrie was crushed to death by a Caterpillar D9 weaponized bulldozer in Rafah, Gaza Strip, as she attempted to prevent the illegal demolition of a Palestinian family's home in 2003. Up until today, Evergreen State College faculty whose retirement funds are administered by TIAA-CREF, including many of Rachel's teachers and friends, had no investment options that excluded the corporation that was complicit in her death.

In 2010, the Evergreen student body voted in a landslide victory (71.8%) to declare Evergreen a CAT-Free zone and to endorsed a boycott of Caterpillar Inc. products on campus.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Student-run cafe at Evergreen State College boycotts Israeli products over human rights abuses

Student-Run Cafe at The Evergreen State College Announces Boycott of Israeli Products
The Flaming Eggplant Café joins the global movement for Palestinian Human Rights

Olympia, WA -- On Monday June 4, 2012 The Flaming Eggplant Café, a student worker collective at The Evergreen State College (TESC), formally announced its decision to boycott Israeli goods, becoming the most recent business to join the growing international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to the Flaming Eggplant’s mission statement, one of the cafe’s goals is to “nourish the local food system by making delicious, healthy, ecologically and socially just food accessible to all.” In its statement of principles, the collective also expresses its commitment to “supporting political participation and direct action to create a just and egalitarian society.” Office Coordinator Cris Papaiacovou said, “We came to a consensus as a collective to support the Palestinian civil society call for BDS because it is directly in line with our mission and statement of principles.” He added, “We are proud to join this non-violent movement to pressure Israel until it ends its human rights violations against Palestinians.”

The BDS movement began in 2005, when over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a call for widespread BDS campaigns against Israel until the country abides by international law and human rights standards. The BDS call has become an international movement, endorsed by renowned figures such as Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, and Angela Davis.

The café’s support of the boycott becomes the latest victory in ongoing student-led activism for Palestinian human rights at TESC. In the Spring of 2010, the student body voted overwhelmingly to support two resolutions, one calling for divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and the other prohibiting the use of Caterpillar Inc. equipment on campus. Rachel Corrie, an Evergreen student, was killed in 2003 by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer operated by the Israeli military as she attempted to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian family’s home in the Gaza Strip.

“We are incredibly proud of the Flaming Eggplant for taking this stand,” said Elizabeth Moore, a student and TESC Divest! organizer. “Due to the absence of accountability shown by our administration, we as students will continue to take the initiative in promoting a just peace in Palestine and Israel.”

TESC Divest! is a student-led organization in Olympia, Washington working to end Evergreen State College’s complicity in Israel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights through the non-violent tactic of divestment.

The Statement released by the Eggplant collective below:

Statement on Boycott of Israeli Products From The Flaming Eggplant

We, The Flaming Eggplant Cafe, have decided to join the call from Palestinian civil society to boycott Israeli products. "These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;        

2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and        

3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194." (from the Palestinian Civil Society call for BDS)

Our Mission Statement outlines a commitment to serving socially just food. Israel’s policy of illegal land seizure and destruction on Palestinian lands means purchasing items from Israel is in conflict with our mission.

As a student-run collective with the stated principle of supporting direct action for a just and egalitarian society, and as a café representing the student body at large, we feel it is important to uphold the desire for boycott and divestment as voted for by the students at The Evergreen State College. "

Update : June 5

Wanna learn more about the work and vision of The Flaming Eggplant Cafe? Check out this documentary!