Dalit Baum interview in Vue Weekly

This week’s Vue Weekly features an interview with Dalit Baum, who will present at next week’s Israeli Apartheid Week on Occupy the Occupation: Corporations, Profit and the Israeli Occupation of Palestine, Thursday, March 8 (7:00 – 9:00 pm) at the Engineering, Teaching and Learning Complex (ETLC) Room E 2-002 (East of 116 Street between 91 and 92 Avenues, U of A Campus).

Who profits?
Activist Dalit Baum will discuss the financial side of Israel’s occupation

Bryan Birtles / bryan@vueweekly.com

When the call from Palestinian civil society came out in 2005 for a boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against illegal Israeli settlements, a big piece of the puzzle was missing: not a lot of people knew what kind of products were being manufactured in the settlements, nor which companies were profiting by having their products utilized to facilitate the illegal occupation of Palestine.

Enter Dalit Baum, who will deliver one of the keynote speeches at this year’s Israeli Apartheid Week in Edmonton. Her work with Who Profits from the Occupation, a research initiative she co-founded in Israel, as well as her more recent work in the United States with the economic activism for Palestine program at San Francisco’s Global Exchange, provides context and information about which companies are making money through the systematic discrimination of Palestinians. This research helps inform campaigns all over the world, dealing with issues far beyond the occupation of Palestine.

“The same corporations that limit civil liberties [in Israel] are the same corporations that manufacture tear gas used on the Occupy demonstrators are the same corporations involved with the privatization of prisons [in the US],” explains Baum of the scope of her research. “It’s not just about educating people about what’s going on in Palestine, it’s way beyond that.”

These campaigns are having an effect, says Baum, and their successes are threefold. Not only has the BDS campaign built a worldwide network of activists able to put pressure onto a corporation from a number of different angles, it has also forced Israelis to take a hard look at the policies of their government, as every new boycott becomes big news inside the country. Perhaps most importantly, the BDS campaign is having an effect on the ground, in the illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

“If you look at the settlement industry and the production in settlements, it’s failing,” Baum says. “We have a series of big corporations that have announced they will pull their production from these sites because they’re afraid of litigation, because it’s illegal according to international law, because they don’t want to be involved in something viewed so unfavourably in Europe and they have business in Europe, because of all these reasons. We are building a movement that is not only relevant locally but also has some traction and effect on the ground. We didn’t have that before.”

As a queer activist in addition to an anti-Apartheid activist, “pinkwashing” is something Baum has dealt with for years. Seeking to discredit the anti-Apartheid movement, opponents will call Israel “the only democracy” in the Middle East or proclaim it the only country in the region with respect for gay rights. Baum rejects these arguments as propaganda.

“Why all of a sudden do you care about gay and lesbian Palestinians when you don’t care about them any other day of the week?” she asks rhetorically. “It’s preposterous how this is used as a form of propaganda … when people hear how Israel actually treats, for example, queer Palestinian youth looking for asylum—they don’t give these people any kind of asylum.

“There’s seven million Israeli citizens and then four million Palestinians who have no civil rights but are controlled by the same government—that’s a very flawed democracy.”

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