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May 18, 2007 at 12:00 AM

Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid Urges B’nai Brith to Embrace Human Rights for All

May 18, 2007

The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid was surprised to see a press release issued by B’nai Brith Canada (dated 17 May 2007) characterizing the national campaign to boycott Chapters Indigo bookstores as a “misguided attempt to delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel and its supporters”.

The boycott of the Chapters Indigo book chain was launched at the end of 2006 by the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid in response to the establishment of the “Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers” by the book chain’s majority owners. Heseg distributes scholarships and support to former “lone soldiers” - individuals with no family in Israel who choose to serve in the Israeli military. As Israeli soldiers, they are responsible for enforcing the occupation of Palestinian land and numerous well-documented human rights abuses.

CAIA notes that B’nai Brith purports to be the “Jewish community’s foremost human rights agency”. It is surprising indeed, that their embrace of “human rights” extends to a defence of the Israeli military – an organization that has been noted by almost every human rights organization on the planet as responsible for egregious and decades long violations of human rights. CAIA poses a simple question to B’nai Brith: exactly what would the Israeli military have to do to warrant their condemnation for human rights abuses?

B’nai Brith’s attempt to sanitize Heseg and the support given by the majority owners of Chapters Indigo to this foundation confounds the basic principles of human rights. CAIA notes, according to the Jerusalem Post on 22 November 2006, that at a ceremony honoring a Lone Soldier killed during Israel’s attacks on Lebanon “Levine’s platoon commander handed Levine’s firearm to Canadian business duo and philanthropists Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the financial backers of the Heseg project.” Israel’s invasion of Lebanon killed over 1000 Lebanese civilians and attempted to reduce the country to rubble. What kind of “philanthropic” activity sees the owners of a book chain awarded a gun used in the attempted destruction of a country? Is B’nai Brith concerned with the fact that Heseg’s board of advisors includes Doron Almog, former head of Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip who was in charge of Israeli military command when a one-ton bomb was dropped on a house in Gaza killing 14 civilians, including nine children - an individual for which a warrant for suspicion of war crimes was issued in Britain? Or that other high-ranking Israeli military personnel serve on the board of advisors to this “philanthropic” organization?

Furthermore, it is ironic that B’nai Brith – a supposed human rights organization – decries attempts to “delegitimize the Jewish State of Israel”. This week, Palestinians commemorate the 59th anniversary of Al Nakba (the catastrophe) that saw the expulsion of three-quarters of the Palestinian population from their land in 1948. At least 20% of Israel’s population is non-Jewish. CAIA is opposed to any state that defines itself on the basis of one ethnicity or religion. We wholeheartedly support the right of all Israeli citizens to full equality regardless of their religion, ethnicity or nationality. It is for this reason that we are part of a global campaign against Israeli apartheid that includes boycott, divestment, and sanctions in the manner of the campaign that helped isolate and end South African apartheid.

We challenge B’nai Brith to publicly announce their support for the human rights of all people, including Palestinians, and join us in the campaign to boycott Israeli apartheid. First and foremost, B’nai Brith should endorse the national day of action against Chapters Indigo that will be happening outside bookstores across the country on June 9th. More information can be found at www.caiaweb.org.

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Women's Boat to Gaza Captured

Zaytouna-Oliva Women Deported
Details Emerge about the Capture

Messina, Italy:  All 13 of the women on the Women’s Boat to Gaza are currently in the process of deportation after being captured by Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and detained in a prison at Ashdod. Wendy Goldsmith, a member of the land team working to secure the release of the women stated that, “the deportation was much quicker than in prior flotillas. While we had a great legal team assisting the women, we suspect that the reason for the quick release was because of all the negative media attention Israel has been receiving for its illegal interception.”

According to early reports from the women released, the Zaytouna-Oliva was surrounded by two warships along with four to five smaller naval boats. The IDF gave warning to the Zaytouna-Oliva to stop their course towards Gaza. When the warning was refused, at least 7 IDF members, both male and female, boarded the Zaytouna-Oliva and commandeered the sailboat. This happened in international waters.

In the course of their capture, the women persisted in telling the IDF that Israel’s interception of their boat was illegal and that they were being taken against their will to Israel. 

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