From the Mondoweiss blog. Although I am a strong supporter of full
BDS, I have mixed feelings about what is going on here. Should
Pacifica radio stations be restricted to, or the sole domain of,
listeners who agree fully with BDS? Or should it instead be a forum
(one that the mainstream media is not providing) for debates over the
issue, without taking sides and thus driving away listeners it wants
to pull in?


Community board of leftwing radio station in Houston is so freaked out
by boycott it calls for boycotting 21 countries, including US
Aug 06, 2011 10:11 am | Rob Block

Last December the Pacifica radio station in Houston, KPFT, offered a
programming segment to the Israeli consulate. The move angered
activists and led to a proposal to join the international boycott call
against Israel. Rob Block is one of the activists.

We had a really weird meeting at the Houston Pacifica station KPFT
Thursday night about the BDS resolution we're trying to pass there.

How did a proposal asking for KPFT to support the human rights of
Palestinian by supporting BDS turn into a resolution that makes no
mention of the responsibility of Pacifica Radio and instead requests
the United States government to impose weapons embargoes on 21
countries in The Middle East, North Africa, South Asia and North
America-- including itself--as well as call to limit aid to countries
that don't have a constitutional provision similar to the US First
amendment against having a state ordered religion?

Here's the story. This was the first meeting of the committee created
by the Local Station Board [LSB] , early in 2011 (I think March). It
was represented to some of the people working with the KPFT BDS ad hoc
committee as follows:

    “After polling the LSB, it looks like everyone who's interested
can come to a meeting Thurs. of next week to work on the language of
the BDS resolution: ...

    I hope we don't have to do much to the resolution language,
although it might help to add some intro language (whereas clauses or
whatever) that address some of the objections people have offered --
that BDS is somehow like censorship, that it would turn over decisions
to some outside BDS organization, etc.

    Thanks again to all of you for your interest and patience.”

Myself and Nick Cooper from the committee went to the meeting
expecting to talk about the language of the original proposal which we
had submitted to the Local Station Board and expected a meeting where
we could try to make the language of the proposal as palatable as
possible to board members who had concerns about it. Present were
seven board members (on both sides of the BDS proposal) and seven
people who came to speak in opposition to the BDS resolution.

The opponents to the resolution were at the meeting to attempt to shut
down the process and stop a proposal that represented the concerns of
our group, many KPFT listeners, and human rights activists across the
world. Some of the people who objected to the proposal acknowledged
that they were not familiar with Pacifica but still felt that the
proposal violated our mission. When polled, none of them were members
of KPFT. Most of them refused to talk about the language of the
proposal and alleged that the language did not matter and that BDS was
a either a shadowy secret group or Hamas sponsored.

    Board Member: "Do you have specific concerns with the language of
the proposal?"

    BDS opponent: "Yes very specific. When I think of BDS I think of
blood, [unintelligible] and suppression. I think of KPFT adopting BDS,
I think BDS becoming a governing body for this community, for you to
signing up to a third party telling us what to do in this country, and
supporting through the threats and hatred and bigotry of the community
that launched BDS. When you say no to to BDS what you are doing is
saying no to; threats, hypocrisy prejudice, suicide bombers.."

Steve Tobias in particular led the apparently faith-based charge that
there is a BDS central (he repeated this a dozen times, as though
saying it enough will make it true) and that this proposal will hand
over editorial control to this “BDS Central.” To support this claim he
cited an article for the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural
Boycott. I was able to see this email "from BDS central" and pointed
out that

1. the US in USCACBI stands for United States, not Palestine.

2. It is a campaign supporting BDS in academic venues, not a “BDS Central”

We also pointed out that the proposal concludes: “This proposal is not
meant to set up a new review board or authority, but to establish a
new commitment for our programmers, staff and management in addition
to our Mission and Bylaws.” Steve maintained that the language did not
matter, our resolution would be handing over authority to a foreign

The structure of the meeting was very confusing. I would like to
commend the chair for trying to get as much feedback as possible, but
ultimately the mass of people at the meeting demanded a vote on
substituting a previously-written proposal by LSB chair Robert Marks
which calls for “BDS” of 21 other countries. Eventually they pushed
for this vote to be taken, and the majority (most of whom are not
members or familiar with KPFT), replaced the proposal submitted by our
group with the one written by Marks. What is wrong with the resolution
by Marks?

1. It represents itself as a BDS proposal while not addressing the
demands of the BDS (which are A. an end to occupation and colonization
of Arab land, B. equal rights for Arab citizens of Israel and C.
recognition of the right of return as described in UN resolution 194).
It maintains a sad tradition of American arrogance that we can come up
with our own ideas about how to solve problems on the other side of
the world instead on engaging with and supporting the leadership of
the Palestinian movement and their call for non-violent movements for
social change.

2. It ignores the responsibility the KPFT has to address this issue,
making demands on the US government that will obviously not be met,
like and arms embargo on itself.

3. It jumps into whether or not we give relief aid to countries
depending on their constitutional provisions, a pretty serious
digression away for the demands for the human rights of Palestinians

4. It won't work. The objective of the group of people who have
manipulated the process to stop a BDS resolution will not address the
concerns of the KPFT community that wants a BDS proposal, and want our
community radio station to take a stand in support of human rights for
Palestinians by respecting their just call for non-violent action and

It is unclear what the fallout of this meeting will be if this outcome
will stand. But it is clear that the call for BDS at KPFT is just
starting, and will continue until it gets a fair hearing.

Here are the competing proposals:

Original boycott proposal for KPFT’s Local Station Board KPFT LSB members:

    We ask that you pass this proposal locally and instruct our
representatives on the National Board to pass this resolution for the
Pacifica Network:

    ———— Proposal for Pacifica to sign on to the BDS campaign

    Media collaboration boosts Israel’s image on the international
stage. By refusing to participate in media partnerships, media
institutions globally can send a clear message to Israel that their
occupation and discrimination against Palestinians is unacceptable.
While Israeli media enjoys relatively free global freedom of movement
and access to well equipped facilities, Israel has subjected
Palestinians to movement restrictions and a lack of adequate funding,
economic damage caused by the occupation, and restrictions for media

    Whereas all forms of international intervention have until now
failed to force Israel to comply with international law or to end its
repression of the Palestinians, which has manifested itself in many
forms, including siege, indiscriminate killing, wanton destruction,
and the separation wall built on occupied land and ruled illegal by
the International Court of Justice,

    In light of the escalation of human rights violations in the
Occupied Territories of Palestine,

    And until Israel meets the minimum obligations under international law by:

    1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and
dismantling the Wall,

    2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian
citizens of Israel to full equality, and

    3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian
refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN
resolution 194,

    KPFT’s LSB recommends Pacifica Radio agree to join AMARC (The
World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters) in supporting
Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment, and
Sanctions; and in particular:

    a. There will be no form of restriction on the work of individual
Israeli media workers, or on conducting interviews and debates with
people from any institution, but we will not turn over program
production, or enter into collaboration or joint projects with
official Israeli institutions or institutions supported by the Israeli

    b. We will discuss and hold dialogs about BDS on the air.

    c. We will support Palestinian media institutions directly without
requiring them to partner with Israeli counterparts as an explicit or
implicit condition for such support.

    We affirm our commitment to anti-racism by adding that Pacifica
will not turn over program production, or enter into collaboration or
joint projects with anti-Jewish racists, white supremacist, Nazi
Holocaust deniers, as well as Islamophobic, or any other type of
racist groups.

    This proposal is not meant to set up a new review board or
authority, but to establish a new commitment for our programmers,
staff and management in addition to our Mission and Bylaws.

KPFT Pacifica Substitute Resolution on Boycott, Divestment and
Sanction (Minority Report)

    Whereas, The violence in Israel and Palestine is intolerable and
must not continue, and

    Whereas, the violence in the Middle East is a threat to the peace
and security in the entire world and to civilization generally.

    Now Therefore it is resolved that Pacifica Radio should support a
network wide resolution condemning violence in all forms and on all
sides of the political conflicts In the middle east generally and to
Israel/Palestine in particular.

    Further resolved, that Pacifica condemns the import or export of
weapons and articles of war to or from the following countries: The
United States of America, The Palestinian Occupied Territories,
Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain,
Qatar, United Arab Emirates. Kuwait, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
India. Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia.

    Further resolves, that the United States shall limit any form of
aid or assistance to any nation of the world that does not have a
constitution guaranteeing the civil rights of all persons living
within said nation and which does not have a constitution guaranteeing
the civil rights of all persons living within said nation and which
does not have a constitutional protection against State ordered or
sanctioned religion similar to the first amendment to the United
States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court
as of the date of passage of this Resolution, exempting disaster
relief, food, medical supplies and children's educational materials.
Said relief shall be delivered only in the form of commodities and not
cash and be administered only by international relief agencies upon a
demonstration that such aid is being used in those countries for the
intended purpose of disaster relief, feeding the people, medical
assistance and education. In no way should any such government of said
country grant or receive assistance in the form of cash for these
purposes, and

    Further resolved, that Pacifica calls for a general effort to
boycott, disinvest from and sanction nations that perpetuate violence
as a means of resolving political disputes or making profit from war
across the globe, but specifically by the above nations (including the
United States of America).

Michael Balter
Contributing Correspondent, Science
Adjunct Professor of Journalism,
New York University

Email:  [log in to unmask]

“Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is
no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof."
                                                  --John Kenneth Galbraith