Protesters Condemn Israeli “Ambassador of Apartheid” Michael Oren

Activists Protest Brandeis Commencement, Jerusalem Day Event at BPL

By: Boston BDS Activists

Press Contact: Heike Schotten, bdsbostonma[at]gmail.com

Waltham, MA, May 25, 2010 – Boston area activists voiced their opposition to Brandeis University’s honoring of Israeli-U.S. Ambassador Michael Oren as this year’s commencement speaker.

Standing in solidarity with the more than 150 Brandeis students who protested Oren’s visit via a letter to university administration, more than sixty demonstrators castigated Oren for being a “Mouthpiece for War Crimes” and an “Apologist for the Gaza Genocide.” In his article for the New Republic, Oren declared that South African jurist Richard Goldstone, author of the Goldstone Report documenting multiple atrocities and war crimes committed by Israel during its 2008-09 Gaza offensive, went “further than Ahmadinejad and the Holocaust deniers” in denying Israel’s right to defend itself (http://www.tnr.com/article/world/deep-denial).

Photo 1: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/MichaelOrenSpeaksAtBrandeisCommencement#5474870272217609922

Photo 2: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/MichaelOrenSpeaksAtBrandeisCommencement#5474869494282542626

Photo 3: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/MichaelOrenSpeaksAtBrandeisCommencement#5474870282100781970

Activists also produced a duplicate graduation program containing the real résumé of Oren’s ambassadorial “accomplishments” and detailed excerpts from the Goldstone report (download a copy here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/31870882/Brandeis-Commencement-2010-Program). Two activists dressed for graduation managed to distribute 500 of these programs to graduates and their families, many of whom mistook the activists for Brandeis staff. Brandeis students also attempted to insert a letter critiquing Oren into the official graduation program inside the ceremony: http://innermostparts.org/2010/ 05/23/anti-oren-letter-slipped-in-with-graduation-programs/

Photo 3: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/MichaelOrenSpeaksAtBrandeisCommencement#5474870302915112642

In a related action, Boston area activists protested the “Jerusalem Day Celebration” held at the Boston Public Library (BPL) sponsored by the Israeli Consulate and The Zionist House of Boston two weeks earlier (5/12/10). Protesters targeted the event to commemorate Nakba Day, the annual memorial of the 1948 dispossession of the Palestinian people.

Protesters insisted on the historical continuity between the land theft, racism, and ethnic cleansing of 1948 and the ongoing house demolitions and settlement construction occurring today in Jerusalem. More than fifty people from multiple groups—including the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, American Jews for a Just Peace, United for Justice with Peace, Jewish Women for Justice in Israel/Palestine, Code Pink, the Stop the Wars Coalition, and the Students for Justice in Palestine from Northeastern University and the University of Massachusetts Boston—converged in front of the BPL. They carried signs protesting the continuing ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem and calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

Photo 5: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5470856565545520258
Photo 6: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5470856556898987762

Protesters also distributed a flyer to passersby detailing the Israeli takeover of East Jerusalem from 1967 to the present day. The flyer emphasized the illegality of this occupation and linked it to Israel’s overall colonization of Palestine (download a copy here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/31461134/Jerusalem-Day-Celebration-Event-Flier).

Meanwhile, fifteen demonstrators infiltrated the Jerusalem Day event inside the BPL and interrupted it. During the program, demonstrators stood up and donned tunics bearing the photograph of a Palestinian girl surrounded by armed Israeli soldiers in East Jerusalem. The image bore the caption “Hands Off East Jerusalem.” Messages on the back of the tunics included “Nakba: 62 Years of Ethnic Cleansing” and the three demands of the BDS call from Palestine: “Right of Return,” “End the Occupation and Colonization,” and “Equal Rights for Palestinians.” The demonstrators walked silently through the aisles of the auditorium in mournful commemoration.

Photo 7: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5472086193816047058
Photo 8: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5470856622840129426
Photo 9: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5472060616813808866

Initially taken aback by the protesters’ actions, security staff escorted the demonstrators out, who were booed and jeered at by the audience. Once removed to the lobby, police threatened the demonstrators with arrest if they did not leave the premises, despite the fact that the BPL is a public space. Police also confiscated an activist’s camera, which was returned on condition that he delete the video taken of the police evicting the protesters from the BPL.

Undeterred, inside the auditorium yet another group of activists disrupted the Jerusalem Day proceedings ten minutes later. Wearing t-shirts declaring themselves to be Israeli settlers, three activists unfurled a banner saying “We Want it All” and explained to the audience that they were being evicted so that a new settlement could be built where they were sitting. As the protesters were escorted out by security, they assured the audience that they would be back, for Israeli settlers are relentless and experienced in the practice of dispossession. They told the audience that they would not rest until they had taken every bit of land that they wanted.

Photo 10: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5470856624283251410
Photo 11: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5470856630046355506
Photo 12: http://picasaweb.google.com/bdsbostonma/JerusalemDayActionBostonPublicLibrary#5470856592811715362

The activists’ presence at both of these events was a reminder that Israel’s attempt to “re-brand” itself as a liberal democracy is a deceitful propaganda campaign that will never successfully obscure its colonization of Palestine. Boston is proud to be part of the larger, international movement calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until Israel ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantles the Wall, recognizes the equal rights of Palestinian citizens, and respects the right of return of Palestinian refugees.

To learn more about the call for BDS:
http://www.bdsmovement.net/ – site of the global BDS movement; you can read the call for BDS here
http://www.pacbi.org/ – site of the Palestinian campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/ – site of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

I'm a teacher, writer, and activist based in Bangalore. I am dedicated to various issues including #BDS and Palestine, living Zero Waste, and reversing the effects of climate change.

Posted in Boycott, Student Organizing, U.S. Academica, U.S. Organizing
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