Friday, August 31, 2012

Empty-handed in the battlefield (#Justice4Rachel #FreePalestine)

Originally posted by Crazy Country at

Brought to my attention by @YousefMunayyer via Twitter

It was a long and detailed ruling which Judge Oded Gershon of the Haifa District Court had composed, no less than 162 pages. Of course, no media outlet published the entire text. But a few selected sentences starred in all the new items, a representative sample:

"The Philadelphi Route was the arena of constant war, of ongoing sniper fire, rocket fire and explosive charges. None other than combat soldiers ventured there... The bulldozer crew was conducting a clearing operation under fire. The late Rachel Corrie chose to take a risk, which ultimately led to her death... The deceased had gotten herself into a dangerous situation... She did not stay away, as any sensible person would have done. The deceased's death was caused by an accident which the deceased brought on herself, despite the attempts of the IDF troops to remove her and her friends from there... Under the circumstances, the IDF unit's conduct was impeccable."

Indeed, the area known as the "The Philadelphi Route" – originally, a  code name randomly determined by an IDF computer - was a war zone. An arena of the most difficult and frustrating kind of war in which a military force find itself, being charged with maintaining control over a very narrow and very long piece of land, locked between the Gaza Strip on one side and Egypt on the other. Moreover, the force's main task there was to maintain a suffocating siege on millions of people in the Strip and deny their access to essential commodities. Which made Gazans desperate and embittered, with every incentive to confront the Israeli forces in every way available to them.

It was indeed the arena of an ongoing war, a war difficult and frustrating even for the soldiers to whose lot it fell to be sent there. Still remembered is the bitter day when we could see on TV soldiers get on their knees on the land of The Philadelphi Route, trying to find pieces of the bodies of their comrades who had been inside a blown up armored personnel carrier.

Still, Judge Gershon was certainly not accurate when he wrote that combat soldiers were the only people there, in the hell of the battlefield called The Philadelphi Route. Very many, civilians were there, too - men and women,  elderly and children – in their thousands and tens of thousands. The civilians  were there because it was their home, the only home they had - even if it was quite miserable. They had lived there before it became the scene of battle and before it came to be called Philadelphi. Many of them had come to live there because their original homes had become a battle zone in a previous war, the one which convulsed this country in 1948. And they stayed there, even when it had become the Philadelphi battle zone and the Philadelphi corridor became an arena of battle, even when some them got killed by the bullets of snipers and the explosion of explosive devices, because they literally had nowhere else to go.

And then somebody conceived a brilliant idea. The man's name was Yom Tov Samia, and he was an outstanding officer in the Israel Defense Forces who climbed fast through the ranks until he became Commanding General South. And General Samia had an idea how to win the lost war along the Route. To take up "clearing" - a word invented by the Israel Defense Forces, the kind of word which armies make up to hide horrors behind neutral words - on a truly grand scale. To create a "sterile" space, completely sterile and without life, a kilometer or two wide. A completely flattened area with no houses and no people and no animals and no plants, nothing but soldiers and weapons of war moving in safety, as they could notice from far any possible threat and take action to neutralize that  threat. In purely military terms, it must be said, there was some logic to this idea. Only, it implied the destruction of thousands of houses in which tens of thousands of people lived, half or three quarters of a  city called Rafah.

Probably General Yom Tov Samia would have liked to do it all at once, in one blow, to erase "shave off" all these thousands of houses in a single day and by the next  complete the sterilization of the area. But this might have caused a bit too much of an international stir, become an instant item of "Breaking News" on CNN and other networks, and the political echelon did not give its approval. So the Caterpillar D-9 bulldozers were set to working by the good old method of creating "facts on the ground" bit by bit, acre by acre. Each time they erased and "shaved off" another row of houses, sometimes twenty, sometimes thirty. Usually the residents of these houses managed to jump out and run at the last minute, but some were not quick enough and were buried under the ruins of what had been their homes. In the city of Rafah, photos of those victims were printed and pasted on the walls, but media outlets in the wider world were not really interested.

That was the time when volunteers started arriving on the scene, the people of the International Solidarity Movement, ISM. Yes, that organization to which Judge Gershon paid much attention in his verdict, stating that it was "abusing the discourse of Human Rights and morality" and that its acts are "violent in essence". Activists from Europe and America and all over the world came to the Gaza Strip and asked where Palestinians were most suffering from the occupation's harshness and were in greatest need of assistance and international solidarity. And they were told that Rafah was such a place. And they came to Rafah and were hosted by families on the very front line, where their hosts already knew that they were next in line for the D-9's.

And there were activists who after months in besieged Rafah went to rest and freshen up in their own quiet and safe homes at Copenhagen or Barcelona or Sydney - or Olympia in the  State of Washington in the United States - and when they returned to Rafah they found that the house where they had stayed the last time no longer existed, not a trace of it left, and the plot on which it had stood had become part of the sterile space.  Another house, which had been further back, was now the new front line.

And then they decided to do what a person who cares, who cares very very much, could to do in such a situation. To go unarmed into the battlefield and arena of war called the Philadelphi Route. To stand with empty hands against tanks and bulldozers, and to scream and cry out towards those who did not really want to hear. To face empty-handed and unarmed the might of the Israel Defense Forces. To interpose with their bodies and interfere with implementation of the brilliant strategic plan of General Yom Tov Samia.

Maybe there is something in what Judge Oded Gershon wrote. A sensible person – the kind of sensible person which Judge Gershon himself is, and his friends and acquaintances - would not have done it. Judge Oded Gershon would certainly not have seriously considered facing with his bare hands a giant bulldozer, nearly as big as a house. "The deceased had knowingly gotten herself into a dangerous situation." There is no doubt that she did. A very dangerous situation. Jewish and world history marks a young boy named David, who knowingly placed himself in a very dangerous situation, facing a fearsome giant called Goliath. It might be that he was not a very sensible person, either.

"The bulldozer driver and his commander had a very limited field of view. They could not notice the deceased" wrote Judge Gershon. One might add that also the commander of the commander had a very limited field of view, and even the commander of the commander of the commander. A very limited field of view, in which only the immediate military considerations and objectives could be seen. A very limited field of view in which human beings could not be seen, a living city could not been as it was being destroyed and razed and erazed and made into a sterile zone. A very limited field of view where it was not possible to see a young woman who followed the dicates of her conscience and came all the way from the West Coast of the United States to Rafah in the Gaza Strip, to risk her life in a desperate act of protest.

At the exit from the Haifa District Court, Cindy Corrie, Rachel's mother, spoke to the journalists. Hurt and shaken by the verdict she said "In that home which  Rachel was trying to protect there were children. All of us should have been there, to stand with her."

Two years after the day when the bulldozer crushed Rachel Corrie to death, Israel's political and military leadership decided to terminate the hopeless fighting on the Philadelphi Route and withdraw the soldiers who have endured  Hell there and made a Hell for others. Media attention had impeded  implementation of  General Samia's grand design, and only a portion of the city of Rafah has actually become an "exposed"  sterile area.  Samia himself left the army in frustration and embarked on a successful career in the business world.

The situation of the Palestinians is far from bright. The occupation continues, with many different forms of oppression manifesting themselves every day. Also for continuing the tight siege of the Gaza Strip, new and creative ways were found even without having Israeli troops holding The Philadelphi Route. But that particular battle scene is now quiet, there are no more soldiers or bulldozers there. The home which Rachel Corrie was trying to protect had been rebuilt shortly after the soldiers left, and also the rows of houses in front and behind it. The children are playing there, more or less quietly.

She did not die in vain.

Cindy Corrie following the verdict: ‘I don’t think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her.’ #Justice4Rachel #FreePalestine

Originally posted by Mondoweiss at

By Leehee Rothschild

The Corrie family and their attorney Hussein Abu Hussein at a press conference after the verdict was announced. (Photo: Leehee Rothschild)

Almost ten years after Rachel Corrie, a 23-year-old American peace activist, was run over by a bulldozer in Gaza while trying to prevent the demolition of a house in which a family was hiding, Israel’s First District Court in Haifa handed down its ruling in the civil lawsuit filed by her parents. Judge Oded Gershon cleared the Israeli army from any responsibility in Corrie's death.
Gershon accepted the IDF's arguments that Rachel and her friends were protesting in a combat area, despite the fact that no combat was taking place in the area on that day, and there was no closed military zone order presented in court. Judge Gershon decided that Rachel's death was a sorry accident resulting from her refusal to clear from the area, and not, let's say, from the insistence of the army to clear an area in which people were protesting with an armored bulldozer. He also ruled that the army held a full and thorough investigation of the matter, even though it was managed by a team of 19-year-old inexperienced boys, who never interrogated a single Palestinian or non-military witness.
This decision is yet more proof to the fact that the Israeli courts are but another arm of the occupation and apartheid regime, which fortifies oppression instead of striving for justice. In a press conference with Rachel's family and lawyer held after the hearing, Cindy Corrie, her mother, said "This is a sad day, not only to us, as a family. This is a sad day for Israel, a sad day for human right activists, a sad day for international law, a sad day for justice."
While not holding their hopes high, the family is intent on pursuing the case and appealing to the Israeli Supreme Court. The Corries are seeking to draw attention to the story through the process and they feel obliged to continue promoting Rachel's message of "building connections" through all possible means, among which the legal system is but one.
"We started this trial seeking truth, but we also seek changes," Cindy said. And throughout the conference Rachel's family stressed that their struggle for acknowledgment is inseparable from the Palestinian struggle. They put Rachel's presence in Rafah that day in the context of 16,000 who had lost their homes, in the prior months, as well as the family of Rachel’s friends, amongst them children, who were hiding behind the walls of the house that Rachel was protecting. They emphasized the fact that many more Palestinians killed by the IDF cannot seek justice in the Israeli court systems, as they do, and that their struggle for justice is done in the name of Palestinians as well.
Another major point highlighted both by the family during the press conference, as well as by a dozen or so Israeli activists who held a protest vigil outside the court, was the need to put an end to Israel's impunity. Cindy openly stated "My family and I personally, as well as the Rachel Corrie Foundation are in full support of BDS", as a means to this end. She specifically voiced her support for the campaign targeting Caterpillar, manufacturers of the D9 bulldozer that killed Rachel, with whom the family has tried to communicate throughout the years, to no avail.
The last question that Rachel's family was asked before the conference concluded was how they feel about the fact that the judge in one out of many victim-blaming phrases in his ruling said that Rachel should have moved out of the bulldozer's way. To that Cindy Corrie replied "I don't think that Rachel should have moved. I think we should all have been standing there with her."

#Cartoon – #Israel “justice” blames #RachelCorrie for her own death! by @CarlosLatuff #Justice4Rachel

Originally posted by Latuff Cartoons at

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Help Build Hope by Helping Build Gaza’s Ark (#GazaArk)

Gaza's Ark

The Canadian Boat to Gaza, in cooperation, with international initiatives in the US, Australia and Palestinians in Gaza, is launching a new initiative to challenge the illegal and inhumane Israeli blockade of Gaza, the only Mediterranean port closed to shipping.

This new initiative: Gaza’s Ark, will build a boat in Gaza, using existing resources. A crew of internationals and Palestinians will sail it out of Gaza carrying Palestinian products to fulfill trade deals with international buyers.

Gaza's Ark will be constructed in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise, with international assistance.

Gaza's Ark will help revitalize the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and help ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise (another effect of the blockade) to the younger generations.

Through Gaza's Ark and trade deals secured between Palestinian producers in Gaza and international businesses and NGOs a channel will be established to export Palestinian products from Gaza that are available despite the blockade.

Gaza's Ark will also provide training to Gaza's sailors in the use of up-to-date electronic sailing equipment and techniques which they have been denied for years as a result of the blockade.

Although it will help in a very limited manner to alleviate Gaza’s unemployment crisis by paying wages to the boat builders and providing business opportunities to traders, Gaza's Ark is not an aid project. It is a peaceful action against the blockade which Israel unilaterally and unreasonably imposes on Gaza.

Gaza’s Ark also stands in solidarity with the Palestinian fishery in Gaza whose ability to operate in territorial waters and to derive a livelihood is threatened by the same Israeli blockade which our campaign is challenging.

Gaza’s Ark challenges the blockade by building hope on the ground in Gaza, and affirms our confidence that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.

With your support, the work on Gaza's Ark will start this summer. You will be able to follow its progress with regular updates on the web (, on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GazaArk).

Help us end the blockade of Gaza by supporting Gaza’s Ark.  The estimated cost of this mission is $400,000. Raising this sum will depend on the both the generosity of those who can afford to make large donations such as  $1,000 and all the thousands of smaller donations. So please contribute what you can and join others across Canada in making this project a great success. 

Your endorsement is much needed and your financial support is very much appreciated.

Please make your checks payable to:

Alternatives (please write: “Gaza’s Ark” in the memo field)
and mail it to Canadian Boat to Gaza
C.P. 92087, Portobello
Brossard, Quebec
J4W 3K8

Or donate and/or endorse online at

You can reach us by email at

Gaza’s Ark Mission Statement (#GazaArk #FreePalestine)

Originally posted by Gaza's Ark at

Gaza’s Ark, will build a boat in Gaza, using existing resources. A crew of internationals and Palestinians will sail it out of Gaza carrying Palestinian products to fulfill trade deals with international buyers.
Gaza’s Ark will be constructed in Gaza by Palestinian hands and expertise, with international assistance where requested.
Gaza’s Ark will help revitalize the dwindling ship building industry in Gaza and help ensure the transmission of this disappearing expertise (another effect of the blockade) to the younger generations.
Through Gaza’s Ark and trade deals secured between Palestinian producers in Gaza and international businesses and NGOs, a channel will be established to export Palestinian products from Gaza that are available despite the blockade.
Gaza’s Ark will provide training to Gaza’s sailors in the use of up-to-date electronic sailing equipment and techniques, which they have been denied for years as a result of the blockade.
Although it will help in a very limited manner to alleviate Gaza’s unemployment crisis by paying wages to the boat builders and providing business opportunities to traders, Gaza’s Ark is not an aid project. It is a peaceful action against the blockade which Israel unilaterally and illegally imposes on Gaza.
Gaza’s Ark stands in solidarity with the Palestinian fishers in Gaza whose ability to operate in territorial waters and to derive a livelihood is threatened by the same illegal Israeli blockade which our campaign is challenging.
Gaza’s Ark challenges the blockade by building hope on the ground in Gaza. It affirms our confidence that the Palestinians of Gaza can rebuild their economy through outbound trade that threatens no-one’s security.
Important points relevant to this post that can be found at
When do you expect Gaza’s Ark to be ready to leave Gaza?
Our initial goal is to raise US$400,000 US dollars to purchase and renovate a used boat that can be refurbished to meet the needs of Gaza’s Ark, and then pay for the renovations. The funds will provide materials and parts — which are in short supply due to the blockade. Support of international donors is urgently needed. Once the boat is purchased, we will get it ready to sail and negotiate contracts to purchase products to ship. We estimate that the boat will sail in Spring 2013.
How can I get involved in Gaza’s Ark?
What we need most right now is funds in order to purchase the boat in Gaza so it can be renovated. Please consider making an online donation now, via the links on this website, either as an individual or from your organization. You can donate in Australia, Canada, and the U.S. or via an international link ( If you pay taxes in the United States, your donation will be tax-exempt, through the fiscal sponsorship of Nonviolence International. A confirmation letter of your donation will be sent to the email address you list.
In addition, we are looking for individuals willing to organize a fundraiser, develop relationships with businesses and other organizations interested to purchasing Palestinian products via Gaza’s Ark, or have other skills to donate. Please contact us through the email address listed on this website for your country. We also are looking for individuals who would like to establish a Gaza’s Ark team in countries not yet represented– please contact us at .
You will find answers to many questions about past boats to Gaza, humanitarian law and the blockade of Gaza here (
Will you be accepting volunteers who would like to be on the Gaza Ark?
That has not yet been decided, but those who have worked on the project will be given priority. Watch this website for updates.

You Will Never Make It (#FreePalestine #FreedomSailors)

By Greta Berlin

London, UK, August 23, 2012
Four years ago, 44 bedraggled passengers on two rickety boats sailed into the port of Gaza. They were the first international passengers to enter this tiny port in 41 years. Members of the Free Gaza movement, these sailors had spent two years, over $700,000 and untold hardships to land that day, met by over 40,000 cheering Palestinians standing on every piece of rock, sand and grass that dotted the coast near Gaza City.
Cynics said they would never make it. The Israeli military had been threatening their organizers for weeks, stating they would never let the two fishing boats enter the port of Gaza. The group had raised money from around the world; women on social security sending their checks, sailors from the USS Liberty donating their pension checks, a swelling grassroots movement determined to break Israel’s illegal siege on 1.5 million Palestinians.
Now the book, Freedom Sailors (, has been published; a love story to the people of Gaza and a confirmation they will not be forgotten. The story is told by 24 people who were either passengers or were waiting in Gaza for the boats to arrive. Proceeds from the book will go to Gaza’s Ark, a new project where Palestinians will build the boat in Gaza and sail out to Europe loaded with products from the people there. Other proceeds will go to the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme,
Mahfouz Kabariti, head of the Palestine Association for Fishing and Marine Sports and project manager for Gaza’s Ark stated, “Really it was the nicest dream for us to receive these two ships coming into Gaza without having to ask permission from Israel occupation force.  For the first time since 1967, boats appeared on the horizon, a signal to us that we were not forgotten. Now we will build a boat to sail out of Gaza.”
Greta Berlin, +33 607 374 512
Bill Dienst, MD, +1 509 322-2595,
Mahfouz Kabariti +970599745666,
Ehab Lotayef, Gaza’s Ark & Canadian organizer +1.514.941.9792,

Call for Cross-#Canada and International Day of Action for #Gaza Fishers and Farmers: September 30, 2012 (#FreePalestine #GazaArk)

Gaza’s Ark endorses this call and will be present in support of Palestinians. Our own mission is to disclose the illegality of the Israeli blockade of Gaza. We work with the Palestine Sailing Federation and the Fishermen’s Solidarity Campaign in Gaza. WE encourage everyone to attend and participate!

A call from the Union of Agricultural Work Committees in Palestine
The farmers and fishers of Gaza, Palestine are under siege as they work to defend their land and sea from occupation and continue their harvest and their livelihoods. Many people in Gaza have always relied on the land and the sea for their livelihood. Generations of Palestinian fishers have worked the sea, and farmers harvested the land, to support their communities and their lives. Today, the fishers and farmers of Gaza are under attack – braving death and imprisonment to continue to harvest the land and sea. The Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) in Palestine has called for international action and solidarity to support fishers and farmers under siege.
The UAWC, a grassroots organization that works to support Palestinian agricultural workers and develop their steadfastness on their land, connected with the Vancouver Delegation to Gaza on our recent delegation, and has initiated a call to organizations across Canada, and around the world, to hold events, actions and protests in solidarity with Fishers and Farmers under attack in Gaza and throughout Palestine on a Day of Action on Sunday, September 30, 2012.

“Build an Ark in #Gaza” flashmob in Toronto (#Canada #GazaArk #FreePalestine)

Originally posted by Gaza's Ark at

Gaza’s Ark activists sing and dance at Toronto’s HarbourFront (ferry docks to the Toronto Island, popular with summer crowds).
Gaza Under Siege

International #flotilla sets sail to break #Gaza blockade (#FreePalestine)

This latest attempt to break the siege is organised by the Swedish based Shipt to Gaza inititative which is being aided by a coalition called Freedom Flotilla III. Organisations aiding the Ship to Gaza-Sweden umbrella organisationinclude organisations in France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Canada, the United States, and Australia.Mikael Löfgren, the media coordinator for the initiative has said that there are organisations “from all over the world but the main coalition is with organisations along the way.”Estelle is now in Norway after arriving there on Friday. The ship is expected to reach Gaza “sometime within October” said Löfgren.
A screen capture image of SV Estelle, from the Youtube video
The Estelle
Throughout its journey the ship will raise awareness of the Gaza blockade. Estelle will make several stops on its way to Gaza in which there will be “speakers, concerts and public festivals providing information about the situation in Gaza.”Dror Feiler, Swedish-Israeli musician and one of the spokespersons of the initiative, said in a video released by the group “after the two flotillas, we have decided of course that we have to continue because the siege is still on and we have said and we will say it again and again that as long as the siege exists, we will come, and again and again until the siege is lifted totally and permanently.”
Ship to Gaza marks the latest attempt to break the siege on Gaza. In 2010 the Mavi Marmara, which was part of a coalition called the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, was raided by Israeli forces leaving nine activists dead. Following their deaths, there was widespread condemnation of the killings which Israel claimed were done in self defence.
Last year, Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human which included several ships and activists from all over the world was prevented from going to Gaza by Greek authorities. According to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), Greece announced that it will prevent the Ships from sailing following “intense pressure from the United States and Israeli governments.” Ship to Gaza has contributed in both attempts.
Other attempts to break the blockade on Gaza include the Flytilla campaign in which activists attempted to show solidarity to Gazans by flying to Palestine through the Ben Gurion Airport in July 2011, were most were denied entry. The Freedom Waves Flotilla ships which were on their way to Gaza in late 2011 were forcibly taken from international waters to the Israeli Port of Ashdod, according to the ISM.
Löfgren is not at all discouraged by the experience his own experience in Freedom Florilla II. He does not expect a similar attempt to stop Estelle this year. “We hope to create such an opinion pressure on our governments so that we don’t get hindered this year. The situation here in Sweden, the Scandinavian countries and Europe is very positive about the attempt to break the siege. Most people think the siege is destructive. I don’t think any government would dare get in our way.”
Another attempt to break the siege, one that is markedly different from the others conceived of before, it is called Gaza’s Ark. It is an attempt to break the siege from within. The initiative is a joint one by solidarity activists from Palestine Canada, Australia, and the US.
Mahfouz Kabariti, the coordinator of the initiative in Palestine said activists in the group “will renovate one of the boats on Gaza’s shores now in order to allow its owners to export products from Gaza,” he explained. “The people in Gaza are deprived from the right to export their products namely, agricultural products and handicrafts.”
Regarding the possibility that the boat will be intercepted by Israel, as has happened in the past, Kabariti said that “Israel shows no respect whatsoever for international law and claims that these ships have weapons on them, but what weapons?”
He added that, “If the boat is prevented from sailing by Israel, this itself will be a success. It will be a message to the world telling it that Israel still occupies the strip and that it is still exercising a siege on 1.5 million.”
Kabariti believes that the ship will be ready to sail by spring.

Video: Estelle is sailing to break the siege on #Gaza (#flotilla #svEstelle)

Originally posted by Gaza's Ark at

III Freedom Flotilla.

Published on Aug 1, 2012 by 
Estelle, a beautiful sailing ship, is going to play a key role in Freedom Flotilla’s renewed attempt to break the blockade on Gaza. This summer we will be launching an entirely new project. This time, we are going to sail from Umeå [in northern Sweden] to Gaza, stopping on the way at ports in the Baltic Sea, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. At each stop, there will be speakers, concerts and public festivals providing information about the situation in Gaza. We will be bringing a cargo of necessities that have been requested by the non-partisan, independent organizations in Gaza that we work together with.

The "pop-washing" of apartheid? Veolia sponsors "green" music festival (#ApartheidIsrael #BDS)

Originally published by the Electronic Intifada at
First came the news that Lollapalooza, one of the world’s biggest and best-known alternative music festivals, was headed to Israel next year. And with it, producer Perry Farrell is likely bringing millions in revenue, not to mention a massive boon in cultural cache designed to portray the world’s last legal apartheid state as a bastion of diversity. 
Those who haven’t read Benjamin Doherty’s in-depth post on The Electronic Intifada’s blog absolutely should. Doherty is thorough in not just describing how virulent the supposedly liberal Farrell’s Zionism is (he raised funds for soldiers during Operation Cast Lead for example) but also in revealing that next year’s Lolla Israel will literally sit atop the ruins of a Palestinian village.
Now, however, one has to wonder whether there isn’t something larger at play. Last week, advertisements went up around Chicago stumping for the “Rock the Green” festival in nearby Milwaukee. Presented as a “green music fest,” Rock the Green front-loads its rhetoric about environmental sustainability. Its commitment to “near-zero waste” is touted, and interviews with its headlining artists (including Third Eye Blind, Switchfoot and others) all feature their thoughts on what it means to be green.
Just as up front in the publicity for Rock the Green is its primary sponsor and financial backer: Veolia Environmental Services.

Veolia’s record contradicts “socially responsible” image

Veolia is a name infamous among Palestine solidarity activists, and the French company’s role in Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid is a far cry from the “socially responsible” image they attempt to promote with events like Rock the Green.
In an effort to see how the organizers might excuse this glaring contradiction, I emailed the following inquiry via the festival’s website:
My name is Alexander Billet; I’m a freelance journalist and social activist in Chicago. I’m wondering if I might be able to get some information and/or a response from some of the organizers or publicists about Rock the Green’s connections with Veolia Environmental Services.
As you may know, Veolia is in charge of constructing a transit system in Jerusalem that solidifies illegal settlements in the West Bank. These settlements are literally built on top of the wreckage of recently evicted homes of Palestinians. It’s this that’s led the UN to condemn the tramway in 2010, calling it “in clear violation of international law.”
What’s more, despite Veolia’s environmentally responsible image, its waste in Israel is summarily dumped in a rather un-green way in the Jordan Valley. The Tovlan Landfill, as it’s known, collects 200,000 tons of trash from Israel and the settlements annually, and thus far there has been no plan to establish any infrastructure to prevent ground pollution. A nearby Arab village, Abu Ajaj, has been left ‘virtually uninhabitable.’
I am not looking to barrage Rock the Green’s organizers here, but do, as a journalist, want to know how it is that the festival squares its socially responsible practices while doing business with a company recognized by the UN as guilty of human rights abuses and environmental degradation.
If someone from Rock the Green may respond to this in a prompt manner, I would appreciate it.
Thank you,
Alexander Billet
At the time of this writing, nobody has responded, which isn’t really surprising. 
Music festivals are surefire ways for corporate sponsors to burnish their image. Over the past thirty years they’ve gone from being a relatively independent venture (sometimes with small local businesses as sponsors) to being backed by some of the largest companies in the world. 
It would be wrong to simply say that all these companies get out of music festival sponsorship is a large cut of extra cash, though they certainly get that. Rather, what these companies really get is something that money can’t really buy: cultural caché. Massive institutions like Veolia, Nike, even the US Army get into the festival business for largely the same reason that they spend so much on advertising — to make capitalism, with all its ugly and oppressive contradictions, look cool.
After all, how could the US Army, who provide the rad rock-climbing wall at the Warped Tour, also be responsible for war crimes? How could Nike, who sponsor the Afro-Punk festival for crying out loud, also be guilty of sweatshop labor? Answering these question means digging through a pile of bullshit — but undeniably well-crafted bullshit. Bullshit that certainly plays a role in obscuring some very real crimes that otherwise might get in the way of profits.
That’s what Israel gets out of Lollapalooza, and it’s what Veolia gets out of Rock the Green.

Time to boycott whitewashing music festivals

What both examples force to the front, however, is whether it is now time for cultural activists to call for a boycott of certain music festivals. For sure, Israel itself hosts several music fests of various genres, all of which have rightfully been the target of boycott campaigns — and some with real success.
However, Rock the Green is the first time — at least in this writer’s memory — that a company connected with Israeli apartheid has so obviously placed themselves at the center of a music festival outside the 1948 borders. It is also worth recalling that Lollapalooza in Chicago will still be happening, and if all goes well in Israel, then the two festivals will likely be spoken of in the same breath for some time to come. 
Whether Rock the Green and the recent Lolla announcement represent anything like a “trend” for Israel or companies that do business with it is too soon to say. It would make sense, however.
The deep and seemingly never-ending slump in global capitalism certainly puts extra pressure on every corporation to appear “responsible” or “hip.” Likewise, the need for Israel to ramp up the hasbara has been clear given the country’s precipitous decline in credibility over the past several years. Several Israeli officials have said as much, pointing to culture’s unique role in promoting a better image for the state.
In some ways, Veolia encapsulates both of these processes. Public pressure and targeted “drop Veolia” campaigns have taken root in cities across the world, particularly in Europe. Several local and city governments have refused to carry through contracts with Veolia due to local boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign efforts. 
According to The Electronic Intifada’s Nora Barrows-Friedman, the company “has lost tens of millions of dollars in the last year due to concentrated efforts by BDS groups in Europe.” This is definitely a firm that could benefit from a bit of an image boost abroad.
BDS activists, however, should be taking these efforts and throwing them right back in Veolia’s face — and, for that matter, Israel’s. Acts that are playing at Rock the Green need be made aware of their festival’s ties to gross human rights violations. They need to be reminded that apartheid never deserves to be green-washed, or entertained. To be sure, acts have cancelled their Tel Aviv dates with far less notice after being approached by the movement. Perhaps the Milwaukee festival itself should be picketed by BDS activists.
As for Lollapalooza, perhaps it goes without saying that both its incarnations need to be boycotted too. This is a tall order for BDS activists to take on, but given the massive amount of clout that Lolla carries in the music world, it also presents an opportunity to bring cultural boycott efforts to a whole new level.