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KPFT BDS campaign Frequently Asked Questions

1) Would KPFT signing on to BDS mean that we couldn't include programming that interviews Israelis or pro-Israeli folks? Would BDS "censor" our producers?

2) Why is BDS necessary? Why at Pacifica Radio?

3) Why not have a broader BDS campaign which includes all countries that oppress their minority populations, or where a minority government oppresses a majority population? To do otherwise smacks of anti-Semitism.

4) Isn't the BDS petition is an assault on Israeli universities and academic freedom?

5) Would your proposal require KPFT to subject decision-making regarding which people, organizations, news content and opinions are allowed on its airwaves to approval to a third party (BDS activists)?

6) What individuals and institutions have signed on to BDS?

7) Is BDS a form of censorship?

1) Would KPFT signing on to BDS mean that we couldn't include programming that interviews Israelis or pro-Israeli folks? Would BDS "censor" our producers?

Absolutely not. Despite all the misinformation about the BDS campaign, simply reading our proposal will make clear that there will be no restrictions on individuals, only on official Israeli state institutions. This restriction is only on producing shows, or joint projects, not on being interviewed. Even this restriction would end immediately if Israel would comply with international law.

2) Why is BDS necessary? Why at Pacifica Radio?

Like the struggle against South African apartheid, we have an opportunity now to bring about fundamental change in Israel. Israel will not do it on its own. The UN isn't doing it. Obama isn't doing it. Netanyahu is certainly not doing it. We must bring the pressure. Please join us in this struggle that I have no doubt we will someday look at as pivotal: when we the people ended apartheid in Israel.

Pacifica Radio enjoys the nickname "Radio For Peace." There are times when we must ask what peace and justice entail and how to live up to that title. BDS is a request from an oppressed people to change the nature of their society into a more just one. They have specifically asked cultural institutions like Pacifica Radio to consider joining them. We believe it is important to say yes.

3)Why not have a broader BDS campaign which includes all countries that oppress their minority populations, or where a minority government oppresses a majority population? To do otherwise smacks of anti-Semitism.

BDS is a request that comes from Palestinian civil society. Individuals and institutions can say yes or no to the request, but they can't rewrite it from scratch. this question is akin to responding to Martin Luther King's last campaign on behalf of Memphis sanitation workers "I might support a wider campaign which includes all cities that oppress their sanitation workers, but to support your proposal seems akin to anti Memphis-ism."

Palestinians are living in intolerable conditions and are asking you to take a non-violent action towards the body that is oppressing them: the Israeli government. They have three just demands based on international law and their experience in their country. Not to all governments of the world, but to the one that is currently oppressing them.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955, that helped de-segregate America, did not call for a boycott of all the racist bus lines of the world. When Gandhi called for a boycott of imported cloth in India, he didn't call for all colonized countries of the world to boycott all products of their colonizers. During Apartheid in South Africa, Pacifica Chair Jack O'Dell called upon U.S. citizens to bring pressure on the White House to cut all ties with South Africa. He did not make a general recommendation to cut ties with countries with racist governments.

BDS is a specific non-violent call, from a specific people to right a specific injustice, and people of conscience should say yes, we will support you. It should be a no-brainer for KPFT. If a new petition comes in from Syrian civil society asking us to do something non-violent to support their safety from armed troops, we should do that one too.

This idea that saying yes to BDS is somehow anti-Semitic is itself a racist idea. If an activists has fought against impunity in Mexico, when would he/she ever hear "To cite or single out Mexico as an oppressor without acknowledging the behavior of other Latin American governments, is narrowly focused and smacks of anti-Mexicanism." Activists aren't called racist or bigoted when they stand with indigenous Peruvians on the basis that they haven't done anything for the people of Ecuador and are therefore singling out Peru. American activists weren't called racist when they marched in the streets against the US invasion of Iraq because they hadn't done anything regarding the Russian invasion of Chechnya.

This argument that anything that criticizes Israel without criticizing every other oppressive regime comes from the ADL's guide to defending Israel. It is a rhetorical technique that is itself being used in a racist manner because it is never applied to those who focus on any other one particular struggle in the world. Every activist who focuses exclusively on injustices in Nepal or Darfur is fine, but the ones who focus on Israel are to be called anti-Semitic.

Like the struggle against apartheid, we have an opportunity now to bring about fundamental change in Israel. Israel will not do it on its own, but it is my sincere belief that when Israel does transform and become a more democratic society, all of its people will thank those of us who were in the struggle, just as the same whites in South Africa who had once fought against our campaign later came to thank us. The end of apartheid not only liberates the oppressed, but also the oppressor. We must never become distracted by empty rhetorical techniques that seek to undermine our efforts to pressure Israel to do better. The UN isn't doing it. Obama isn't doing it. Netanyahu is certainly not doing it. We must bring the pressure. Please join us in this struggle that I have no doubt we will someday look at as pivotal: when we the people ended apartheid in Israel.

4) Isn't the BDS petition is an assault on Israeli universities and academic freedom?

"It can never be business as usual. Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. [Ben Gurion University] is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli defence forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation."
Desmond Tutu, talking shortly before the University of Johannesburg cut its ties with Ben Gurion University.

Indeed, the first step in understanding the need for any form of boycott is the question of whether or not Israel is an apartheid state. If it is not, then boycotts are inappropriate.

Here are some of the key ways that Israel is like an apartheid state:

- a more powerful group came into an area where people were already living, killed many, moved many around with violence or threats of violence, and became dominant

- the dominant group is defined by racial, cultural, financial and religious differences and the less powerful group cannot simply join in

- the dominant group places the less-powerful group into areas in which hardly any of the dominant group members live and conditions are terrible

- the dominant group controls the walls, entryways, and access to separate out members of the less-powerful group

- every aspect and moment of the lives of the less-powerful group is defined by having to fit into complications set by the dominant group

- in conflicts, the kill ratios are completely out of proportion, with the dominant group inflicting death tolls of 10 to 1, and often much more

- government issued ID cards have different categories based on race

- the dominant group commits extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests of members of the less-powerful group and holds them in jails with human rights abuses occurring regularly

For a more detailed and legal discussion on the question of Israeli apartheid, see: Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel, Possibilities for the Struggle Within, Zed Books, London, 2003; Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC): "Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A Re-Assessment of Israel's Practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories under International Law," Capetown, South Africa, May 2009; the reports of UN Special Rapporteurs on human rights in the OPT (John Dugard, Richard Falk), in particular: A/HRC/4/17, 29 January 2007 and A/HRC/16/72, 10 January 2011. Also: Also: Human Rights Watch, Separate and Unequal. Israel's Discriminatory Treatment of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, December 2010; p. 143 to 150.

In politics, we often use the same words to describe systems that are not identical. We use terms like "democratic" or "socialist" to describe wide ranges of systems. Modern Israel and apartheid era South Africa have much more in common than "democratic" ancient Athens does with modern Japan, or "communist" China does with Kerala, India.

The essential question is: What is it like for Palestinians stuck on the wrong side of the divisions? Is it similar to those of black South Africans under apartheid? Israel supporters that may well be genuinely offended by the comparison to South Africa should at least make an effort to search for the honest answer to this question. Luckily, we have those very voices. Many black South Africans have spoken out about whether the analogy is apt:

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

"I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, "Why are our memories so short?" Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their own previous humiliation? Have they forgotten the collective punishment, the home demolitions, in their own history so soon? Have they turned their backs on their profound and noble religious traditions? Have they forgotten that God cares deeply about all the downtrodden? Together with the peace- loving peoples of this Earth, I condemn any form of violence but surely we must recognise that people caged in, starved and stripped of their essential material and political rights must resist their Pharaoh? Surely resistance also makes us human? Palestinians have chosen, like we did, the nonviolent tools of boycott, divestment and sanctions." sources:
Israeli ties: a chance to do the right thing and BBC: Tutu condemns Israeli 'apartheid'

John Dugard

(South African professor of international law, Judge: International Court of Justice, Special Rapporteur for both the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the International Law Commission.) "Israel's policies resemble those of apartheid... It is difficult to resist the conclusion that many of Israel's laws and practices violate the 1966 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination," "Can it seriously be denied that the purpose [...] is to establish and maintain domination by one racial group (Jews) over another racial group (Palestinians) and systematically oppressing them? Israel denies that this is its intention or purpose. But such an intention or purpose may be inferred from the actions described in this report.... [The situation in the West Bank is] an apartheid regime ... worse than the one that existed in South Africa." sources: UN agent: Apartheid regime in territories worse than S. Africa and also more info, and Occupied Gaza like apartheid South Africa, says UN report

Nelson Mandela

The temptation in our situation is to speak in muffled tones about an issue such as the right of the people of Palestine to a state of their own. We can easily be enticed to read reconciliation and fairness as meaning parity between justice and injustice. Having achieved our own freedom, we can fall into the trap of washing our hands of difficulties that others face. Yet we would be less than human if we did so. It behoves all South Africans, themselves erstwhile beneficiaries of generous international support, to stand up and be counted among those contributing actively to the cause of freedom and justice.
Nelson Mandela source.
When in 1977, the United Nations passed the resolution inaugurating the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, it was asserting the recognition that injustice and gross human rights violations were being perpetrated in Palestine. In the same period, the UN took a strong stand against apartheid; and over the years, an international consensus was built, which helped to bring an end to this iniquitous system. But we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians; without the resolution of conflicts in East Timor, the Sudan and other parts of the world.
source: UJ must cut ties with Ben Gurion

Prominent S. Africans Who Have Used the Apartheid Analogy

William Henry Bloomberg Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School Farid Esack, Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, anti-aparthied activists Dennis Goldberg, politician Ronnie Kasrils, human rights lawyer Fatima Hassan, and Arun Ghandhi. source.

Others Who Have Called Apartheid in Palestine Even Worse than in S. Africa

ANC's international relations Manager Ribbon Mosholi, Congress of South African Trade Unions President Willie Madisha, former President of South Africa Kgalema Motlanthe. source.
In 2009, The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa released a legal study with the findings that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories. According to this study, Israel practices the "three pillars" of apartheid in the occupied territories: The first pillar "derives from Israeli laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential legal status and material benefits to Jews over non-Jews." The second pillar is reflected in "Israel's 'grand' policy to fragment the [occupied territories] OPT [and] ensure that Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews are prohibited from entering those reserves but enjoy freedom of movement throughout the rest of the Palestinian territory. This policy is evidenced by Israel's extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, which continues to shrink the territorial space available to Palestinians; the hermetic closure and isolation of the Gaza Strip from the rest of the OPT; the deliberate severing of East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank; and the appropriation and construction policies serving to carve up the West Bank into an intricate and well-serviced network of connected settlements for Jewish-Israelis and an archipelago of besieged and non-contiguous enclaves for Palestinians." The third pillar is "Israel's invocation of 'security' to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association and movement [to] mask a true underlying intent to suppress dissent to its system of domination and thereby maintain control over Palestinians as a group." source.

Please read the eloquent statement from the University of Johannesburg about their historic decision to support the academic boycott.

Israeli academic institutions are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights, whether through their silence, actual involvement in justifying, whitewashing or otherwise deliberately diverting attention from Israel's violations of international law and human rights, or indeed through their direct collaboration with state agencies in the design and commission of these violations. There is a comprehensive report on this very topic.

For people who come to agree about the nature of the apartheid state, and about the complicity of Israeli academic institutions, the next logical step is to support the academic boycott. Of course, even in these cases, care needs to be taken not to boycott people who are merely affiliated with an academic institution, but rather to boycott activities and presentations that explicitly represent the complicit institutions.

Yes - an academic boycott is a big deal. Take the time to research enough to see whether such a big deal is justified.

5) Would your proposal require KPFT to subject decision-making regarding which people, organizations, news content and opinions are allowed on its airwaves to approval to a third party (BDS activists)?

Apparently you have been reading the counter BDS petition which contains some incorrect statements. Again, simply reading our petition, immediately makes clear that there will be absolutely no new authority arbitrating BDS compliance. The BDS document, when passed, will make a new commitment for Pacifica much like our other commitment such as our Mission and Bylaws.

6) What individuals and institutions have signed on to BDS?

Many progressive institutions and Universities have passed BDS. Here are some:

University and College Union (UCU) in the United Kingdom Passes Key Motions

University of Johannesburg ends Israeli links

Scottish council reaffirms boycott policy in face of smear campaign

Dr. Cornel West endorses BDS, supports Ethnic Studies at University of Arizona

Marrickville puts BDS on the map in Australia

PGFTU Reaffirms call for Boycott of Israel

Palestinian civil society salutes Olympia Food Co-op's decision to boycott Israeli goods!

University of California Berkeley Student Senate Passes Israel Divestment Bill

Statements Great Songs of Indifference?: Bob Geldof, do not Ignore the Call

51 Canadian filmmakers protest festival's normalization with Israel

Washington University Hip-Hop Program Revokes Invitation to Israeli Cultural Ambassador

Pink Floyd's Roger Waters endorses BDS

News World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Joins BDS Movement

International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network

Not In Our Name (Argentina)

Jewish Voice for a Just Peace in Middle East (EJJP, Germany)

Not in Our Name: Jews Opposing Zionism (Canada)

Jews for a Just Peace (Fredericton, Canada)

Independent Jewish Voice (Canada)

Middle East Children's Alliance (USA)

Critical Jewish Voice (Austria)

Women in Black (Austria)

French Jewish Union for Peace (UJFP)

Bay Area Women in Black (USA)

St. Louis Women in Black (USA)

Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace (USA)

American Jews for a Just Peace (USA)

Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (Britain)

JUNTS, Catalan Association of Jews and Palestinians, Spain)

Ronnie Kasrils, former South African government minister, writer, founder Not In My Name, South Africa

Antony Loewenstein, Independent Australian Jewish Voices

Peter Slezak, Independent Australian Jewish Voices

Moshe Machover, Professor (emeritus) (UK), founder Matzpen

Felicia Langer, Israeli lawyer, author, Right Livelihood Award 2006 (Alternative Nobel Prize) 1990, Bruno Kreisky Prize 1991

Mieciu Langer, Nazi Holocaust survivor

Hedy Epstein, Nazi Holocaust survivor

Hajo G. Meyer PhD, Nazi Holocaust survivor

Kamal Chenoy, IJAN India & The All India Peace and Solidarity Organization

Paola Canarutto & Giorgio Forti, Rete ECO, Italy

Liliane Cordova Kaczerginski, IJAN France

Sonia Fayman, IJAN France & UJFP

Ernesto Rosenberg, GRAMARPAL (Argentine-Palestinian Friendship Group, Neuquen, Argentina)

Mark Elf, blogger, Jews sans Frontieres." [1, 2].

7) Is BDS a form of censorship?

Equating BDS with censorship is an absurd charge that shows no understanding of what the word means. Saying that it is censorship for us not to turn over program production to Israeli institutions is as ridiculous as saying that the Houston Chronicle is censoring Fidel Castro because it doesn't run a weekly column by him. Editorial decisions are made at every media institution based on their criteria, their mission, and the whims of whatever editors / boards they happen to have.

Among the hundreds of KPFT listeners, members, programmers, concerned citizens, etc. who have signed our petition so far, you will find Lee Loe, David Atwood, Ray Hill, Patricia Nichols, Herbert Rothschild Jr., Steven "Scooter" Schroell, Michael Woodson, Don Cook, Art Browning, Larry Winters, and Wally James, and many other people who have fought for freedom of speech their whole lives, earning them a special place in KPFT and Houston history. Ray Hill even went to the Supreme Court to fight for free speech and won (Hill V Houston 107 S Ct 2502, 1987). We know all about struggling for free speech and censorship at KPFT, and crucial voices in this long tradition have signed on to our petition.

Any attempt to characterize our petition as censorship is a ridiculous charge that lifelong free speech activists have suddenly forgotten entirely what the term means, as well as forgetting their own beliefs and life's work.

Censorship is suppression of information. In the American media market, the Israel narrative is dominant over any Palestinian narrative. There is not the slightest attempt in the corporate news to include Palestinian perspectives. The budget that Israel has for PR will continue ensure that the Zionist narrative will dwarf the Palestinian narrative regardless of what our little station does. It is repugnant to see a country that has such military and PR dominance trying to pretend that it is being silenced. In fact it has done the exact opposite, by passing a new law that BDS supporters in Israel must pay compensations that are not dependent on proving any actual damage. This is censorship: the state itself makes it so that its citizens can't speak anywhere in public or private about what they believe without being fined unspecified amounts.

Israel flies tens of thousands of young Americans over to Israel for a free PR tour every year. Palestinians have no such budgets. When Israel's Prime Minister who presided over dropping white phosphorus munitions in deeply populated civilian areas wanted to talk to Congress, he was welcome and even got 29 standing ovations. Fox, ABC, CNN all lined up to interview Netanyahu. This is the man who defied Obama's demand to stop settlement expansion. This is the same man who rejected the major elements of the "roadmap for peace." Would the leaders of any Palestinian group whether they be violent or non-violent have any such welcome to talk to the Congress or the mainstream press? Censorship indeed!

If saying no to Israel state institutions programming on KPFT is censorship, then logically, saying no to Hamas programming would also be censorship. A policy not to give shows to other armed groups and nations involved in war crimes is entirely consistent.

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