Boycott the Arava Institute’s “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East”

Callng for the boycott the Arava Institute’s “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East”

Initiative Press Releases: 

Update 3/9/2011: Adalah-NY takes factual accuracy extremely seriously. Following the meeting that representatives of Adalah-NY and ICAHD had with Mr. Seeger, all parties reviewed and agreed to the Adalah-NY/ICAHD February 28th press release and the quotes in it before it was issued.

After our February 28th press release, other callers published statements from Mr. Seeger that could be interpreted as somewhat different from those in our press release, quoting him as saying that his “opinions waver” with new information. We do not consider this to be a retraction of his stated support for BDS. We are happy that increasing numbers of performing artists are studying the colonial situation in Palestine and supporting the Palestinian call to pressure Israel through boycott. We applaud Pete Seeger for his active concern with this issue and are certain his statements will encourage other artists to participate as well.

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February 28, 2011- Folk music legend Pete Seeger has come out in support of the growing Palestinian movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a program for justice for Palestinians and a route to peace in the Middle East.

Seeger, 92, participated in last November’s online virtual rally “With Earth and Each Other,” sponsored by the Arava Institute, an Israeli environmental organization, and by the Friends of the Arava Institute. The Arava Institute counts among its close partners and major funders the Jewish National Fund, responsible since 1901 for securing land in Palestine for the use of Jews only while dispossessing Palestinians. Although groups in the worldwide BDS movement had requested he quit the event, Seeger felt that he could make a strong statement for peace and justice during the event.

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September 10, New York, NY  - Folk music icon Pete Seeger has been urged by over 40 organizations, along with musicians close to him, to cancel his participation in a November internet event organized by the Israeli groups the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and others. The organizations called on Seeger to support the Palestinian-led movement for a cultural boycott of Israel, modeled on the artists’ boycott that helped end Apartheid in South Africa.

The event, “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East,” is presented as a support effort for Arava, which claims to carry out environmental projects in the Negev desert in Israel. Arava has said and done nothing about the destruction – four times – of the Bedouin village Al-Araqib in the Negev by Israeli forces this summer to make way for a forest to be planted by the Jewish National Fund. The destruction of Al-Araqib is part of a larger Israeli government strategy of dislocating Palestinian Bedouin citizens of Israel, to facilitate the expansion of communities for Israeli Jews.

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New York, NY – In a November 2nd letter, seventeen organizations in the US and abroad were urged by several groups, including Adalah-NY, to respect the Palestinian boycott call and cancel their participation in a November 14th internet event, “With Earth and Each Other.” The event is organized by Friends of the Arava Institute, and other partners, including the Jewish National Fund (JNF), to benefit Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.

The November 2nd call to cancel the organizations’ participation has led to email exchanges between Adalah-NY and the Director of Friends of Arava and some of the participating groups, but it is not clear if any groups will withdraw. The event on November 14th has attracted attention due to calls by many groups for legendary folksinger Pete Seeger to withdraw from it. In a recent interview, Seeger said he supports the economic boycott of Israel, but not a cultural boycott.

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In July, 2010, over 1000 Israeli police entered the Palestinian Bedouin village of Al-Araqib in the Negev, and demolished the village to make room for a forest planted by the Jewish National Fund, a close partner of the Arava Institute. Al-Araqib has since been rebuilt and demolished four more times. The Arava Institute. located in the Negev, has not commented on the demolition of Al-Araqib. (Photo by ActiveStills )

 

 

Dear Participants in “With Earth and Each Other,”

November 11, 2010

 

We are writing because we’ve uncovered very troubling new information to add to the information that we have already publicized[i] about Israel’s Arava Institute for Environmental Studies[ii] and the online event “With Earth and Each Other: A Rally for a Better Middle East.”[iii] We fully understand that many of you are participating in the event from a sincere desire to build “a better Middle East.” Unfortunately, it has become increasingly clear to us that supporting the Arava Institute and this event will actually damage the causes of justice and peace in the Middle East because Arava is a close and seemingly uncritical partner with right-wing institutions that continue to dispossess Palestinians from their homes and communities. Any efforts by Arava and the November 14th event to foster dialogue and improve the environment are just minor sideshows to the larger projects of Palestinian dispossession implemented by Jewish National Fund[iv] and the Israeli government that Arava is serving to legitimize. Therefore, the best action that you can take to help create a better Middle East is to withdraw from this event.

 

The Arava Institute’s online event “With Earth and Each Other,” held Sunday, November 14, exemplified why the Palestinian call for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions is vital. The event was billed as a celebration of Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians working together for the environment. But it failed to educate viewers about the most basic facts of Israeli policies, and thus simply reinforced the status quo. The event, billed as not “political,” suggested that the Middle East conflict can be resolved if people of different religions and ethnicities are nicer to each other. It presented no information on the fundamental and systematic inequalities that are at the root of the conflict.

Adalah-NY and numerous other groups had urged participants, including religious and environmental organizations and performing artists like Pete Seeger, Dan Bern, and Mandy Patinkin, to respect the Palestinian boycott call and bow out. Arava Institute was targeted for boycott due to its failure to condemn Israel’s on-going ethnic cleansing of Bedouin residents of the Negev desert, where Arava is based, and Arava’s very close partnerships with the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and the Israeli government. The Israeli government and the JNF have been instrumental in cleansing the land of the indigenous Palestinian residents and planting over their villages with trees. While Arava extolls international cooperation in service of the environment, they remain silent about Israeli and JNF policies, including, as one recent example, the Israeli government’s destruction (five times in succession) of Al Araqib, a Bedouin village in the Negev, to make way for a JNF forest.

September 9, 2010

Dear Pete,

As long-time admirers of your music and your commitment to social justice, and as justice-seeking activists ourselves, we were surprised and troubled to learn that you plan to participate in the event “With Earth and Each Other: A Virtual Rally for a Better Middle East” this November.

As part of the 2005 Palestinian civil society call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS), and inspired by the cultural boycott of apartheid South Africa, Palestinian people have asked international artists to join the BDS movement by refusing to perform in Israel or participate in events that serve to equate the occupier and the occupied and thus promote the continuation of injustice. Participation in “With Earth and Each Other” undermines the call for BDS until Israel meets the basic requirements of human rights and international law by ending its occupation, ensuring equal rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and respecting the rights of Palestinian refugees.

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Initiative Press Coverage: 

The Jerusalem Post

Abstract: 

American folk music legend Pete Seeger has apparently joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. According to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the American musician expressed regret for his previous support of an event sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and threw his support for the BDS movement at a meeting in New York last month.

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