Letter sent to Washington State Congressional delegation on May 8:
We are Washington residents and Washington organizations joining with Washington Freedom to Boycott because of our grave concerns about the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, S. 720 and H.R. 1697. These bills are part of a concerted campaign to suppress criticism of Israeli policies and to condemn the grassroots Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement. Even in their amended forms, these bills would have a chilling impact and possible serious consequences for our freedoms of speech and action.
Whatever your views on Israel, Palestine, or the BDS movement, we urge you not to support or vote for any anti-boycott measure that threatens our right to take collective action against injustice.
The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that boycotts are a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. From the boycott of British tea in 1773 to the boycott of segregated buses in 1956 and beyond, boycott campaigns have a long and proud history in social justice and civil rights movements in the U.S.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement is a grassroots campaign to gain equal rights for Palestinians and to pressure Israel to abide by international humanitarian law. While BDS is modeled after the South African boycott and thus calls for broad boycotts against Israeli institutions, nothing in it calls for discrimination against individuals solely because of their national origin, religion, or ethnicity.
S. 720 seeks to prohibit boycotts called by foreign governments or government entities. BDS is not a governmental entity. It is a call to action issued by a group of individuals and civilian associations. However, S.720 specifically defines the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHCR) as a governmental organization. As a result, anyone who boycotts any of the Israeli products the UNHCR has listed could be subject to the penalties delineated in the 1979 Export Administration Act as referenced by S. 720.
Despite arguments to the contrary, S. 720 and H.R. 1697 can be used to target individuals. Their terminology of “domestic concern” can be interpreted to mean a corporation, a church, a sole proprietorship, or even an individual participating in an organization. Although the amended version of S. 720 has removed the possibility of a prison sentence, the bill still threatens a fine for noncompliance and therefore unconstitutionally threatens protected boycott actions.
These anti-boycott measures are not standing up to legal and other scrutiny. In Dickinson, Texas, the City Council had to reverse its position on aid to individual hurricane victims after a national outcry about how a Texas anti-BDS law was being applied. The ACLU has mounted lawsuits on behalf of a Kansas teacher and an Arizona lawyer who have been negatively impacted by anti-BDS legislation in their respective states. On January 30, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Kansas anti-BDS law that calls for contractors to certify that they are not engaged in boycotting Israel, saying that “the Supreme Court has held that the First Amendment protects the right to participate in a boycott like the one punished by the Kansas law.”
Brian Hauss, ACLU attorney, stated, “The court has rightly recognized the serious First Amendment harms being inflicted by this misguided law...This ruling should serve as a warning to government officials around the country that the First Amendment prohibits the government from suppressing participation in political boycotts.”
We ask that you refuse to sign, sponsor, endorse or vote for any form of anti-BDS or anti-boycott legislation. Please stand firm in support of our constitutional rights and freedoms.
Washington Freedom to Boycott
Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites
Council on American-Islamic Relations of Washington State (CAIR)
Episcopal Bishop’s Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land
(Diocese of Olympia)
Evergreen Students for Justice in Palestine
Freedom Socialist Party
International Trauma Treatment Program
Jewish Voice for Peace – Seattle
Jewish Voice for Peace - Tacoma
Kairos Puget Sound Coalition
Northwest Detention Center Resistance
Northwest Regional BDS Coalition
Occupation Free Seattle
Olympia Movement for Justice and Peace
Pacific Rim Solidarity Network (PARISOL)
Palestine Solidarity Committee - Seattle
Peace and Justice Action League of Spokane
Peace Justice and Healing - Tacoma
Race & Climate Justice – Seattle
Rachel Corrie Foundation for Peace and Justice
Rising Tide - Seattle
Seattle Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (Seattle CISPES)
Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign (SeaMAC)
Stop Veolia – Seattle
Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), Antioch University – Seattle
Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights - University of Washington (SUPER-UW)
United for Peace of Pierce County
Vancouver for Peace
Veterans for Peace - Greater Seattle Chapter 92
Veterans for Peace – Rachel Corrie Chapter 109
Voices for Palestine
Washington Fair Trade Coalition
Whatcom Human Rights Task Force
Whatcom Peace and Justice Center
The Whatcom Peace & Justice Center is now accepting applications for summer interns. We have three positions: nonviolence, communications, and militarism research. Interns will be expected to put in an average of 4-7 hours per week through September 2018 and attend a weekly intern meeting, though scheduling is flexible. Internships are unpaid.
Interns will gain experience in nonprofit management and community organizing, will learn about local and international issues, and may get to know Bellingham and Whatcom County through new eyes. There will be ample opportunity to shape your internship experience. Background experience in living/studying critical race theory, legal work, social inequality, community organizing, media, fundraising, and/or event planning will be helpful, as will a growth mindset.
Please email email@example.com to request an application.
The Whatcom Peace & Justice Center works to create a voice for peace and social justice in Whatcom County through partnerships with local community and religious organizations, direct action, public witness, and education on alternatives to violence and war. We call on our government and society to disavow policies of violence and seek a culture of peace.
By Matteo Tamburini, WPJC Board Member
In the midst of horrible news from Gaza, the ongoing tensions with North Korea, the rise of neo-fascist and anti-immigrant movements throughout Europe (especially in my other home country, Italy), and the ongoing string of racist incidents, including the epidemic of police officers killing unarmed Black people, in this country, I would like to focus on John Oliver, darling of a certain subset of Progressives. His TV show, “Last Week Tonight,” which often offers insightful analysis on commentary on recent events, had a piece on Venezuela on May 13 (watch below) dedicated to mocking the country's president, Nicolas Maduro, and apparently absolving the United States of any responsibility for the current crisis in Venezuela.
Around 14 minutes into the segment, Oliver says: “America has undoubtedly done some awful things in Central and South America. We backed coup attempts, juntas and atrocities in Chile, Argentina and Guatemala but refreshingly, what is happening in Venezuela is actually not our fault.”
As any even casual observer of history knows, the United States has done a lot more, and much worse throughout its history. Since Mr. Oliver and his famously thorough research team apparently don’t know hardly anything about U.S. involvement in Latin America, I will offer a very incomplete syllabus for further investigation below.
Let’s start from Smedley Darlington Butler (July 30, 1881 – June 21, 1940), a United States Marine Corps major general, who at the time of his death was the most decorated Marine in U.S. history.
He is famously quoted as saying: "I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. "
Let’s follow up on a list of U.S. interventions after World War 2.
Nicaragua: The United States supported the Somoza dictatorship until 1979, then funded the Contras to attack the Sandinista government, along the way selling cocaine in the United States while the CIA and DEA looked the other way. This also conveniently provided President Reagan with a pretext to wage a disastrous “war on drugs” against Black people in the United States. Our support for the Contras was condemned by the International Court of Justice in 1986, and then our government vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions calling for the ICJ decision to be upheld.
Guatemala: After orchestrating the overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz (on behalf of the United Fruit Company), the United States then supported a genocidal campaign that claimed the lives of well over 200,000 indigenous people. https://www.aaas.org/sites/default/files/migrate/uploads/mos_en.pdf
Bolivia: The United States was the major foreign backer of the dictatorial regime of René Barrientos, who seized power in a 1964 military coup. The CIA and U.S. Special Forces played a key role in suppressing a leftist peasant uprising that followed, including the 1967 murder of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a key leader in the movement.
El Salvador: The United States funded and supported the slaughter of thousands during the Salvadoran Civil War, including many catholic priests and nuns, most prominent among them the archbishop Oscar Romero (killed in 1980), victims of people trained at the “School of the Americas” (look it up).
Brasil: The United States supported the 1964 coup that overthrew Joao Goulart and led to a 20-year military dictatorship.
Haiti: Don’t get me started. Let’s just leave it at the forcible removal of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 2004. And then read up on how white elites in the United States have always been terrified of a country that arose from a successful revolt of African people who had been enslaved.
Cuba: Our embargo has been denounced at the United Nations General Assembly every year almost unanimously.
Dominican Republic: The United States government supported Rafael Trujillo, whose 31 years in power are considered one of the bloodiest eras ever in the Americas.
Honduras: The Obama administration supported the coup in Honduras that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya in 2009
Venezuela: Perhaps not irrelevant context for the rest of his story, Oliver failed to mention that the United States supported the coup in Venezuela that temporarily overthrew Hugo Chavez in 2002.
Given the United States’ record (of which the list above is a woefully incomplete snapshot, and certainly does not come close to properly accounting for the atrocities and horrors visited on millions of innocent men women and children), and the role that the media have historically played in demonizing foreign leaders when their agendas run afoul of the economic interests of our domestic elites, I would like to suggest that at the very least John Oliver and his researchers owe themselves and their viewers a second history lesson.
Lessons from refugee communities, skateboard cultures, and Andean agriculture to be shared by WWU students on May 21
On Monday, May 21, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center (1220 Bay Street) will host a presentation by three Fairhaven College students who each spent last school year traveling and learning internationally. Their projects focused on refugee communities in Greece, farming practices in the Andes mountains, and skateboard cultures in Guangzhou, China, Cape Town, and Seoul.
The three presenters, Alia Taqieddin, Zi Zhang, and Grace Coffey, are students at Western Washington University. They were recipients of Fairhaven College’s Adventure Learning Grant in 2016-2017. This grant allows three students annually to challenge their perspectives, enrich their education, expose themselves to intellectual risk, and help embody challenge and adventure as integral to a Fairhaven education. Grantees receive a $20,000 stipend to travel internationally.
Alia Taqieddin is in her final quarter at WWU. She is a student of Community Health, and is currently completing an interdisciplinary concentration at Fairhaven College. This quarter, she is student-teaching a Fairhaven course entitled “The Syrian Refugee Crisis.” Alia was awarded the Adventure Learning Grant for the 2016-2017 school year to explore community health and resistance to occupation in the West Bank of Palestine. After having to change her plans unexpectedly, she lived and worked in central Athens alongside an international community during what has come to be known as the European Refugee Crisis. Despite being in a geographically different location than her original proposal, Alia found that resistance, home, and memory still emerged as central themes throughout her months in Greece.
Zi Zhang’s interdisciplinary concentration is called “Urban Sustainability” and focuses on Urban Planning, Design, and Global Issues. He engaged in participant observation of skateboard cultures in Cape Town, South Africa, Guangzhou, China, and Seoul, South Korea.
Grace Coffey is a Fairhaven and Huxley student studying agriculture and Urban Planning (but not urban agriculture). She has devoted much of her life in Bellingham battling blackberries in the Outback Farm and has journeyed through some corners of the world volunteering on farms. Her other very varied interests include bread baking, ceramics, blues dancing, housing issues, Harry Potter, trees, and climate justice. Over the course of a year, Grace traveled down through the Andes Mountains. In Medellin, Colombia, she experienced the city’s innovative urban planning while volunteering in informal settlements. She lived in a rural isolated community on the border of Ecuador and Colombia for three months, teaching English and learning about rural economies and agriculture. In Chile, she experienced urban planning and life in Valparaiso, then lived and worked on a small dairy farm. Finally, in the high mountains of Peru, she was welcomed into indigenous Quechua farming life.
The presentation is open to the public. For language interpretation and disability accommodations, please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-734-0217.
The Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, located at 1220 Bay Street in downtown Bellingham, works to create a voice for peace and social justice in Whatcom County through partnerships with local community and religious organizations, direct action, public witness, and education on alternatives to violence and war. We call on our government and society to disavow policies of violence and seek a culture of peace.
S.J. Res. 54 is a joint resolution to direct the removal of the United States Armed Forces from hostilities in the Republic of Yemen that have not been authorized by Congress. The resolution was authored by Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, Republican Mike Lee, and Democrat Chris Murphy.
There will likely be a Senate vote on the resolution this week, and our senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray have not yet taken a stance on it. We are asking you to contact our senators in order to show public support for the resolution, in the hopes it will be passed by the Senate. Please make a call today and let them know why you support this resolution.
You can reach their local offices at these phone numbers:
Sen. Patty Murray: (425) 259-6515
Sen. Maria Cantwell: (425) 303-0114
More information here: https://act.mpowerchange.org/call/call-senate-yemen
Antisemitism vs Anti-zionism: Behind the controversy
Published March 5, 2018 in the AS Review
I want to thank Gwen Frost for a thoughtful article on Noa Raman’s visit to WWU. Both anti-semitism and routine Israeli violations of International Law deserve serious scrutiny.
However, the discussion overlooks one crucially important fact: our United States government has given Israel over $3 billion each year in foreign aid for decades, more than to any other country. Our government also gives Israel ongoing, bipartisan diplomatic support. For example: President Trump announced that he would move the United States embassy to Jerusalem; the UN General Assembly voted on a resolution calling President Trump’s decision “null and void”; only seven other countries joined the US and Israel to vote against that resolution.
The Obama administration engaged in the largest joint military exercise ever to be held between the two countries, and repeatedly cast the only “no” votes on measures critical of Israel at the UN Human Rights Council.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that Israel is violating international law with its establishment of settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, and should return the land and property it seized. The ICJ also ruled that “all states [including the United States] are under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created [by the settlements].”
It is not Israeli violations of International Law that should concern us: as United States citizens, we should be concerned with the fact that our own government is criminally sponsoring, supporting, and in fact makes possible those violations.
WWU alumnus, MS in Mathematics 2009
Board Member, Whatcom Peace and Justice Center
At our January 31 letter-writing night, we gathered together to talk about why we write letters to elected officials and news media. We talked through some of the features of effective letters, such as conciseness and the inclusion of a fact and a personal story. With the State Legislature in session in Washington, we talked about the ways things work in Olympia. We practiced some research skills, including how to look up information about legislation being considered at the state and federal levels.
We had a small group with a range of experiences in participating in democracy. Some had written letters before, and even run for office. Others wrote their first letter that night. Everyone wrote a letter on a topic of their choice, which included abolishing the death penalty in Washington, stopping the defunding of UNRWA, and passing Congressional resolutions to prevent unconstitutional war with North Korea.
One participant wrote a letter to the editor of the Cascadia Weekly, and the letter was published in today's edition:
Publishing a letter to the editor or opinion piece is one way for everyday people to have their voice included in a public platform. You can reach fellow community members with important perspectives and information that can challenge or amplify narratives presented in the news media.
Additionally, staffers for members of Congress monitor regional news media for letters to the editor and opinion pieces that mention policymakers by name.
Write a letter that gets attention by responding to a recent article in the paper, mentions lawmakers by name and makes a specific ask of them, includes 1-2 facts, and illustrates your personal interest in the issue.
For more: Tips from FCNL
1,400 characters or less
Online form: http://www.cascadiaweekly.com/cw/contact
Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 250 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it. If your letter is published, please wait 30 days before submitting another.
The Daily Herald
P.O. Box 930
Everett, WA 98206
We invite the WPJC community to contribute fact-checked submissions on local, national and global current events. Linking to original sources and articles is required. Submissions may be sent to email@example.com for review.