Archive for March, 2010

UC BERKELEY STUDENTS UNION VOTES TO DIVEST FROM CORPORATIONS INVOLVED IN GAZA INVASION

Thursday, March 18th, 2010

A Bill to In Support of UC DIVESTMENT FROM WAR CRIMES

Authored By: Emiliano Huet-Vaughn and Tom Pessah

Sponsored By: Senators Gaurano , Carlton, Kwon, Oatfield

1. WHEREAS, the ASUC notes the complexity of international relations in all cases, including the Middle East, and recognizes the inability of a body such as the ASUC to adjudicate matters of international law and human rights law, or to take sides on final status issues on wars and occupations throughout the world. Yet, we do note the following findings from the United Nations and other leading human rights organizations regarding the Israel/Palestine conflict, and use it as a case study; and,

2. WHEREAS, prior and subsequent to the bombing the Israeli government has engaged in collective punishment of the whole of the Palestinian population, in the view of the human rights community,[1] as exemplified by the ongoing 32 month blockade on Gaza, of which Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has written, “the prolonged siege imposed by the Israeli government on Gaza, the closing of its borders, the tightening of policies regarding permission to exit Gaza for medical purposes, and the severe shortage of medications and other medical supplies all severely damage the Palestinian health system and endanger the lives and health of thousands of Palestinian patients,”[2] and of which the Red Cross has said “the whole strip is being strangled, economically speaking” making life in Gaza “a nightmare” for the civilian population, with essential supplies, including electricity, water, and fuel, being denied to the 1.5 million inhabitants 90% of whom depend on aid to survive;[3] and

3. WHEREAS, within the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem), the Israeli government continues a policy of settlement expansion that, in the opinion of the United Nations Security Council, Human Rights Watch, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and numerous other organizations concerned with enforcement of international law, constitutes a direct violation of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the 4th Geneva Convention which declares “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.”[4]; and

4. WHEREAS, in the context of this bill, “occupation” refers to the current state of Palestinian life under Israeli’s military control in the West Bank and Gaza; a definition that is consistent to commonly-held international law; and

5. WHEREAS, student research[5] has revealed that, according to the most recent UC investment report[6], within the UC Retirement Program fund and the General Endowment Program fund there exist direct investments in American companies materially and militarily supporting the Israeli government’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, including American companies General Electric and United Technologies; and

6. WHEREAS, General Electric holds engineering support and testing service contracts with the Israeli military and supplies the Israeli government with the propulsion system for its Apache Assault Helicopter fleet, which, as documented by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, has been used in attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese civilians, including the January 4, 2009 killings of Palestinian medical aide workers[7]; and

7. WHEREAS, United Technologies supplies the Israeli government with Blackhawk helicopters and with F-15 and F-16 aircraft engines and holds an ongoing fleet management contract for these engines, and, Amnesty International has documented the Israeli government’s use of these aircraft in the bombing of the American School in Gaza, the killing of Palestinians civilians, and the destruction of hundreds of Palestinian homes;[8] therefore, be it

RESOLVED, that the ASUC will ensure that its assets, and will advocate that the UC assets, do not include holdings in General Electric and United Technologies because of their military support of the occupation of the Palestinian territories; be it further

RESOLVED, that the ASUC will further examine its assets and UC assets for funds being invested in companies that a) provide military support for or weaponry to support the occupation of the Palestinian territories or b) facilitate the building or maintenance of the illegal wall or the demolition of Palestinian homes, or c) facilitate the building, maintenance, or economic development of illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories; be it further

RESOLVED, that if it is found that ASUC and/or the UC funds are being invested in any of the abovementioned ways, the ASUC will divest, and will advocate that the UC divests, all stocks, securities, or other obligations from such sources with the goal of maintaining the divestment, in the case of said companies, until they cease such practices. Moreover, the ASUC will not make further investments, and will advocate that the UC not make futher investments, in any companies materially supporting or profiting from Israel’s occupation in the abovementioned ways; be it further

RESOLVED, that this ASUC resolution not be interpreted as the taking of sides in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, but instead as a principled expression of support for universal human rights and equality; be it further

RESOLVED, that the ASUC Senate engage in education campaigns to publicize the divestment efforts and violation of international human rights law, and that furthermore, a committee of 5 members, 2 senators selected by the senate body as a whole, 2 members of or students selected by the UC Berkeley Divestment Task Force, and the ASUC President or a representative from his/her office, form at the end of this semester to monitor and promote university progress in regards to the above mentioned ethical divestment goals; be it finally

RESOLVED, that this Committee will recommend additional divestment policies to keep university investments out of companies aiding war crimes throughout the world, such as those taking place in Morocco, the Congo, and other places as determined by the resolutions of the United Nations and other leading international human rights organizations.

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EINSTEIN ON ISRAEL AND ZIONISM

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

Fred Jerome,  Einstein on Israel and Zionism

We keep learning that the supposed morality of our fathers (פרקי  אבות or Pirkei Avot)‎ does not describe their actual history.  Jerome has given us another welcome piece of the untold real story of Zionism.  The Einstein of my childhood (the forties and early 50s) was the Dalai Lama of his day, a great humanitarian, humble being but also revolutionary scientist.  He was not only thought of as a supporter of Israel but of other liberal causes.  In the writings of revisionist historians, Israel, Zionism and the history of the Jews  begins to look a lot different than what I was brought up on and what the Israeli propaganda machine wants the world, or at least, the US populace to believe.

Jerome brings us many of Einstein’s own writings and speeches on Zionism and Israel.  While some of what Jerome offers is well known, the additional source material fleshes out Einstein’s views.  And  though Jerome wants Einstein to speak for himself, Jerome’s comments and placement of Einstein’s utterance in context is what gives the book life beyond simply a resource for scholars.   For myself I wish Jerome had put more of himself in the book. 

Einstein, of course, is an interesting character, but as he was wrong about Quantum Mechanics, and wrong for maybe 30 years, so too he was naïve about certain history, even the anti-Semitism through which he lived in the 1920s. 

While Einstein, the transnationalist, had doubts about Zionism’s nationalism and even accused both Irgun and the Stern gang of being like the Nazi’s, he somehow never seemed to unabashedly attack Jewish nationalism that treated the Arabs in ways akin to which the Jews had been.  Yes, he uttered harsh words—calling Menachim Begin a Nazi—but his accusations never seemed to stick.  He and Buber, and maybe Magnes wanted a binational state but that was never in the cards for the Zionists.  When offered the Presidency of Israel, Einstein turned it down saying he was not qualified and would have to say things people did not want to hear.   Still he did not use the occasion to criticize Israeli racism and ethnic cleaning.

Einstein had a kind of garbled view of Jews, as nation, as culture, as race.  I couldn’t quite follow his reasoning.  It seems limp.  He saw people sticking together because of cultural/religious differences with others  and thus different peoples could never live together.  I can’t figure it out.  Einstein was the epitome of the “enlightenment” Jew and yet he criticized them.   The assimilated German Jews of Einstein’s era were much more interested in being German than Jewish, although some were torn, like Heine.  After the defeat of Napoleon and the ensuing reaction when Jew were stripped of some Napoleonic rights, there were many conversions like Karl Marx’s father.  German Jews shared the German dislike of Eastern European peasants and from the 1880s to WWI facilitated the quiet transport of Ostjüden across Germany by packing them into cattle cars and hiding them in warehouses and cheap hotels in Bremenhaven and Hamburg before they set sail on German shipping lines for America.   Jewish assimilation in Germany was an up and down affair.  During WWI they were patriotic and included.  In its disastrous aftermath, nativism waxed and waned and with it Jews’ feelings of belonging.  The Jewish bourgeoisie was always threatened by economically induced xenophobia (as happened in the US)  but we get no sense from Einstein how influential Jews were in the Weimar Republic.  Nor, except for a mention of the Jewish autonomous Birobidjan in ’45, do we get a sense from Einstein about how liberated Jews were in the Soviet Union prior to Stalin’s paranoia after WWII.  After all Hitler and the Nazi’s identified Jews with communists, and they were proportionately right when it came to Soviet commissars.  Einstein did go against both German and Jewish xenophobia by holding university classes for Ostjüden.

One of the most interesting parts of the book was Einstein’s attempts to communicate with Nasser in 1952-53 through an Egyptian journalist/diplomat.  Einstein didn’t want to be a mediator but he even sought the help of Nehru to try to get Egypt to negotiate with Israel.  While he felt Begin was like the Nazis, he saw Ben-Gurion as different: to which the journalist replied that Ben-Gurion acted no differently.  As the author claims, this bit of history has not been presented elsewhere.  And we owe him a dept of gratitude for this.  It is key because Einstein was never able to clearly strip the enlightenment demeanor from the major Zionists who recruited him while concealing their insidious goals.  If he had, his opposition to their program might have been more open and aggressive.

None-the-less I am grateful to the author for giving us a picture of Einstein’s dissent which has not been part of the history Zionists would have us believe.    

Charlie Fisher, emeritus Professor, Brandeis Univesity