Barghouti and Nader Accept Gandhi Peace Award

by Stanley Heller, Promoting Enduring Peace

Hundreds gathered at Yale’s SSS building on April 23 to celebrate the Gandhi Peace Award being jointly given to Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader. The award has been presented since 1960 by Promoting Enduring Peace (PEP).

Omar Barghouti

Omar Barghouti was introduced by Rebecca Vilkomerson, the Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace. She decried his Israeli arrest on March 19 as “politically motivated.” She called him a “charismatic speaker, a brilliant writer, savvy campaign strategist, and a principled thinker.”

Barghouti began his talk by noting Palestine “lingers on in colonial chains.” He dedicated his award to Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike in Israel. He asked that his $2,500 prize money be given in equal shares to Black Lives Matter, Students for Justice in Palestine, Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and Friends of Sabeel North America. He talked about the “striking similarities” between Israeli treatment of Palestinians and that of blacks in the days of apartheid South Africa. He noted the recent decision of Barcelona, Spain, which ended its complicity with Israeli settlements and explicitly defended boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). He also listed many other BDS victories.

Ralph Nader was introduced by activist and mediator Charles Pillsbury, who said he was inspired to be a lawyer by Nader and wanted to be one of the activists dubbed “Nader’s Raiders.”

Ralph Nader said he was a student of Gandhi’s thinking that “open non-violent disobedience be active and not passive.” He said, “Peace is desirable not just on philosophical, religious or argumentative grounds, but a survival mechanism which transcends cultures.”

He talked about terrorism, and said the worst terrorism was “state terrorism” which “is always legitimized as in the ser-vice of national defense.”

At the end of his talk, he mentioned Palestinians and Israelis.

He denounced settlements as “illegal colonies.” He talked about breaking the grip of the lobby AIPAC on Congress and categorized some of the resolutions it advances as “bloody beyond belief.” He asked “Who has killed more than 400 times the number of innocent men, women, and children than the other side? The answer is the Israeli government.”

The talks were warmly received with standing ovations.

For more on this year’s awards, visit http://www.pepeace.org/gpa-2017-video-and-photos.

Arrest of Omar Barghouti Complicates Gandhi Peace Award

by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP

At 4 p.m. on April 23, Promoting Enduring Peace is to hold its 46th Gandhi Peace Award ceremony, honoring consumer activist and Pentagon critic Ralph Nader and Palestinian BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) activist Omar Barghouti. On March 19, Israeli authorities arrested Barghouti supposedly for “tax evasion.” (Download the event flyer here)

A special meeting of the Board of Directors of Promoting Enduring Peace reaffirmed its choice of Omar Barghouti as co-winner of the Gandhi Peace Award despite the arrest. The Board has full confidence in Omar Barghouti and assumes that Israel is carrying through on its threats to harass and silence Palestinian activists. Barghouti is being honored for his leadership in the BDS movement, which uses the peaceful tactics of boycott, divestment and sanctions to pressure the Israeli government to respect Palestinian rights.

The Gandhi Peace Award has been awarded for over fifty years. It was first given to former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Other laureates include Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, Amy Goodman, Rabbis Arik Ascherman and Ehud Bandel, Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Tom Goldtooth and Kathy Kelly.

Promoting Enduring Peace was originally founded in 1952 to foster world peace, in particular to help prevent a world war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and has since embraced efforts to avoid catastrophic climate change and species extinction. Its motto is: “Peace on Earth, Peace with Earth.”
The award ceremony this year will take place at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 23 in New Haven at the Strathcona Hall, 1 Prospect St.

In the past year the Israeli government has threatened BDS activists and Omar Barghouti in particular. At a conference in Jerusalem one Israeli minister called for Barghouti to be denied residence rights in Israel. Another called for the “civil targeted elimination” of BDS leaders. Last May Barghouti’s travel permit was revoked. Now he’s been arrested (though released on bail).

You can sign a petition urging the Israeli government to drop the gag order Omar Barghouti’s case, dismiss the charges, and restore his permission to travel abroad and to return to his home.

We could use your help in gaining Barghouti’s ability to come to the U.S. for the award and for the ceremony in general. Contact PEP at office@pepeace.org.

Calling on Senator Murphy to Oppose Senate Bill #170

by Stanley Heller, Middle East Crisis Committee

Imagine if your business or group supported Cesar Chavez grape boycott your state government put you on a blacklist, and you would be forbidden all state contracts and any pension fund investment. Or maybe state authorities punish you because you refused to buy Nestle products in the ’70s when it was dressing up saleswomen as nurses and pushing baby formula on women in the poorest countries in defiance of all good health sense. Imagine if when Macy’s and Woolworths boycotted Nazi German goods in the ’30s they would be sanctioned. What if the states did something similar to groups demanding action against Sudan because of what its government did in Darfur?

Senate Bill #170 proposes just that in regard to one boycott, the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement that works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law. It was proposed by Florida Sen. Rubio and has 28 cosponsors including CT Senator Blumenthal. It goes beyond boycotts. It punishes any “entity” that advocates “sanctions” so it could be triggered if a group called for a cut-off of cluster bombs to Israel. If passed SB #170 would be an outrageous violation of free speech and a very bad precedent for trade unions who use the weapon of boycott to support striking workers. An effort is being made to persuade CT Senator Chris Murphy to oppose the bill. Labor lawyer John Fussell wrote a terrific letter to Murphy about #170 and 194 CT residents signed on to a similar letter opposing #170 that was hand-delivered to him at his town meeting in West Hartford. Email him through his website or even better call his office in DC at (202) 224-4041. For details see www.TheStruggle.org.

Far from punishing people for advocating BDS, state governments should support it. A few years ago Connecticut’s Treasurer reported that the state had $32 million invested in State of Israel Bonds or stocks in Israeli companies.

Seeking Your Help to Protect Next Gandhi Peace Award Winner

by Stanley Heller, Administrator, PEP

Promoting Enduring Peace has set up a “Freedom to Travel” committee to pressure the Israeli government to allow one of its Gandhi Peace Award winners to travel to the United States. At a telephone press conference the 64-year-old peace and environmental group announced the Gandhi Peace Award will be given jointly to Ralph Nader (pictured on the left) and Omar Barghouti (right) at a ceremony in New Haven in April 2017.

nader-and-barghouti-620x330

Ralph Nader is known for over five decades for his consumer and civic activism and for being among the first nationally known figures to criticize Israeli abuses and to speak up in support of the Israeli peace movement. Omar Barghouti is one of the best-known leaders of the BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which calls for economic pressure against Israel until it withdraws from the land it occupies, gives full civic equality to Palestinians citizens inside Israel and allows Palestinian refugee families their right to return to their homeland and homes.

Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, talked about Omar Barghouti. He said the Palestinian was a “central player in the Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.” And “Omar’s voice has been a crucial one in the past several years and one that should be increasingly amplified to all those asking about Palestinian non-violence.”
Rebecca Vilkomerson, Executive Director of Jewish Voice for Peace, said she first met Barghouti in 2009 and that’s when Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP) starting working on BDS issues. She hailed Barghouti’s leadership and “impeccable ethical framework” and his continued work “at great cost and risk to himself.”

The Israeli government has refused to renew Barghouti’s travel document and he is effectively banned from leaving Palestine/Israel. Vilkomerson said JVP would be working with PEP and other groups to restore Barghouti’s ability to travel and to come to the U.S. to accept the award.

Those interested in working on the “Freedom to Travel” committee should write to office@pepeace.org. A recent TSVN You Tube interview with Barghouti can be heard by going to http://www.pepeace.org.