francesca da rimini on Fri, 3 May 2002 08:47:02 +0200 (CEST)

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[Nettime-bold] Corporate America and Israeli Occupation

(the author of this article has given his permission for it to be
re-posted to nettime. I know the current wars have slipped off the
media art radar recently, but thought this adds to the debate that has
been taking place on nettime. cheers, gash)

Corporate America and Israeli Occupation

by Sam Bahour*

Corporate America and corporate boardrooms across the globe wield enormous
political influence. It may in fact be argued that in today's material
world corporate interests are the primary motivating factors for political
action.  In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that power, for a multitude
of reasons, has been unjustly mobilized to help sustain 35 years of an
illegal Israeli military and economic domination of the Palestinian

In light of this and the deteriorating situation in the Middle East the
time has come for corporate boardrooms of companies involved in that
region to reassess their role, even if that role has been to remain silent
for all these years.  The corporate world must channel its influence to
end the Israeli occupation.  The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached
a dangerous point that has the potential to disrupt business activity,
especially U.S. business interests throughout the Middle East.  Long-term
U.S. national strategic interests in the region are also at risk, namely
the cost and uninterrupted flow of oil.  Millions of U.S. corporate and
citizen tax dollars spent on building the Palestinian economy were lost in
this latest Israeli offensive against the Palestinian civil and national
infrastructure.  It would be negligent for corporate America to remain
silent while its government recommits yet more tax dollars to the region
without addressing the source of the conflict. Ending Israeli occupation
is the only solution that will put the region back on track.

While earning my MBA degree at Tel Aviv and Northwestern Universities,
Professor of Leadership and Ethics, David Messick, assigned two readings
to the class.  One, by Milton Friedman, argued that corporate executives
do not have a social responsibility but they must conform to the "basic
rules of the society, both those embodied in law and those embodied in
ethical custom."  The second reading by Kenneth Goodpaster argued that
corporate managers had a "dual role" in their capacities:  to make
decisions that were best for their corporations and to have an eye focused
on how their business decisions affected the environment external to their
firms.  Both of these writers, although presenting conflicting viewpoints,
are good reference points for the argument that corporations around the
world have a role to play to help end Israeli occupation.  Whether one
solely relies on taking decisions that are legal or instead has a greater
awareness of his or her corporate social responsibility, the result is the
same - be aware how your actions may support the oppression of others.

For corporate executives less inclined to be socially responsible,
U.S. laws that govern U.S. foreign trade must be the guiding light.  There
exist a number of laws that U.S. corporations are legally bound by, such
as the U.S. Foreign Assistance and Arms Export Control Acts.  United
States law stipulates, inter alia, that any defense articles and defense
services to any country shall be furnished "solely for internal security,
[or] for legitimate self-defense" (22U.S.C. 2302 and 2754).   Israel's
excessive and disproportionate use of force to suppress the Palestinian
people and its recent offensive against Palestinian cities with
U.S.-supplied weaponry clearly exceeds the bounds of what could be
considered legitimate self-defense and therefore is in violation of
U.S. law.  Corporations would be ill advised to continue ignoring this
fact in the hope that those persons that are being damaged by their
business decisions will not take legal action in the future.  Legal ghosts
have haunted many firms, especially in Europe, many years after their
neglect of humanitarian law.  Pro-active decision-making today that aligns
a firm squarely against Israeli occupation will spare it the potential
agony of facing criminal charges in the future.

Furthermore, according to U.S. law, "no security assistance may be
provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent
pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human
rights" (22U.S.C. 2304).  The U.S. State Department has repeatedly
documented in its annual reports that Israel engages in "torture or cruel,
inhuman, or degrading treatment of punishment, prolonged detention without
charges and trial, causing the disappearance of persons by the abduction
and clandestine detention of those persons, and other flagrant denials of
the right to life, liberty, or the security of people."  The time is long
overdue for corporate America to take note and act accordingly.

Additionally, there is a multitude of U.S. policies and government
decisions that should ethically guide corporations in this conflict.  For
instance, consider the illegal Israeli settlements that continue to be
built across Palestinian lands in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East
Jerusalem.  Successive U.S. administrations have stated that these
settlements are either, "illegal", "obstacles to peace", "unhelpful",
"provocative" or "impediments" to peace.  The time has come for corporate
executives from firms like Caterpillar, whose equipment is used in
building these settlements, to understand the negative contributions they
make to Middle East peace by not heeding their own government's warnings
over many years.  These negative contributions are above and beyond their
potential violation of U.S. law.  The separation of the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of government, coupled with short-term
goals of powerful interest groups, may complicate or delay legal action
against those corporations that support Israeli occupation, but one should
not be fooled into thinking that such a delay will last forever.

U.S. military-related corporations support Israeli occupation by way of an
institutionalized mechanism provided for by Congress.  Congress has
stipulated that seventy-five percent of U.S. foreign military aid to
Israel, which amounts to over $2 billion annually, must be spent buying
U.S. products and services.  Firms like Lockheed, Boeing, United
Technologies, Raytheon, ExxonMobil, Northrop, Pgsus, General Dynamics and
Oshkosh among others are directly contributing to the tools that Israel
uses to violate international and humanitarian law.  The following are
some specific cases:

*  U.S. weapons manufacture Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, which
provides the fighter jets that have been used by Israel to bomb
Palestinian cities that have been under military closure for 18 months,
proudly announced on September 5, 2001 from Fort Worth, Texas that Israel
had decided to purchase 52 more Lockheed Martin F-16 fighter jets.  The
contract value was reported approximately $1.3 billion for only the

*  Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, a subsidiary of United Technologies
Corporation, sells Israel U.S. armaments used to destroy Palestinian
cities and perform political assassinations of Palestinian civilians from
the sky.  "Our company's relationship of more than 40 years with Israel is
a source of pride," said Sikorsky President Dean Borgman in a February 1,
2001 press release while announcing his firm was awarded a $211.8 million
contract for 24 additional Black Hawk helicopters to serve the Israeli Air

*  Other less visible military suppliers are those like Federal
Laboratories in Saltsburg Pennsylvania, which provides CS tear gas to the
Israeli military.   During the first Palestinian Intifada (Uprising) in
1988, Federal Laboratories witnessed civil disobedience actions at their
plant gate in Saltsburg and a lawsuit in U.S. courts after Israel misused
their lethal tear gas by firing it into closed areas that resulted in the
killing of many Palestinians.  Federal Laboratories stopped exporting the
gas for six months in 1988 and sent a fact-finding team to Israel before
resuming sales.

Corporate America's support of Israeli occupation is not confined to
military equipment suppliers.  In fall 1999, Burger King opened a
franchise restaurant in an illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank,
only to be forced by its customers to close down the store to avoid a
worldwide boycott.

This month alone three U.S. firms have been lured into collaboration with
Israel's illegal occupation.  This week, Fifth Third Bank Northeastern
Ohio purchased $500,000 worth of bonds from Israel.  Robert King,
president and chief executive of the Cleveland affiliate of Fifth Third
Bancorp in Cincinnati proudly stated in a press release saying that, "This
year is the state of Israel's 50th anniversary, and now more than ever, it
is poised to continue its growth as an industrial world leader."  No
mention was made by Mr. King that such growth comes at the cost of
systematic gross violations of human rights by Israel.  I suspect a closer
look at these Israeli bonds will find that they are part of the portfolio
of hundreds of public and private pension funds across America.  Pension
fund managers and their beneficiaries can take an active part in ending
Israeli occupation by immediately divesting their portfolios of these

And earlier this month, Microsoft Israel put company executives in
Redmond, Seattle in an awkward position when they sponsored two large
billboards on a main Israeli highway saluting Israel's armed forces at the
same time the Israeli military was indiscriminately bombing the Jenin
refugee camp into what is rapidly amounting to war crimes.  Only days
after a grassroots letter writing campaign, partly led by the Israeli
peace group Gush-Shalom, Microsoft executives announced that Microsoft
Israel had acted alone and was instructed to take down the billboards,
which they promptly did.  Israel is the largest research and development
site for Microsoft outside of the U.S.  Bill Gates would serve world peace
well by continuing his involvement and requesting Israel to end the
occupation in order to qualify for continued commercial opportunities. The
same can be said for Intel Corporation, which has the largest production
facilities outside of the U.S. located in Israel.

Divesting in countries that are in blatant violation of international and
humanitarian law is not new.  The divestment campaign that targeted
apartheid in South Africa is a case in point.  When South African business
leaders saw that apartheid was jeopardizing their own business interests
they played an important role in convincing their government to fall in
line with international law, which led to the ending of apartheid. One
might argue that no grassroots commercial divestment in Israel can be
large enough to convince the Israeli government to change paths.  This is
debatable. However, it is clear that such a campaign would send the right
signals that the time has come for Israel to join the world community by
ending its oppression of Palestinians.  (It is interesting to note that
Israel was one of the closet allies to the South African apartheid

Corporate responsibility is difficult to gauge.  Most serious business
decisions take place behind closed doors, outside of public view.  As
executives struggle to climb the corporate ladder they are loathe to offer
any comments that may "rock the boat" with regard to
Israel.  Nevertheless, standing on the right side of history with regard
to the occupation is what will set apart the leaders in corporate
America.  The separation of personal convictions from corporate policy is
a must and is always in the best interest of the firm.  Otherwise, an
ill-founded personal conviction may unnecessarily put the corporation on
the front lines of a future legal battle that it does not desire.  Today
many European firms are learning this lesson the hard way after it was
proved they supported discrimination and atrocities against Jews in Europe
during WWII.  To this date, many are still paying the price both morally
and financially.

Israel has been able to sustain its illegal occupation largely for two
reasons.  First, the U.S. government, shackled by the special interest
groups such as the pro-Israel lobby AIPAC, has continuously provided
Israel with unfaltering political, economic and diplomatic cover.  Even
though this is the case, U.S. administrations have systematically provided
the world with signals (SOS's if I may) that wrong is being done.  This
can be seen in the repeated statements regarding Israeli settlements and
in the State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.  The
U.S. government needs corporate America's help to realign its policy in
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  After all these years, corporate
America should be hearing these signals and acting accordingly.

Secondly, and equally important, the Palestinians have failed so far to
translate their struggle into a sustainable grassroots strategy that
seriously engages the millions around the world who are in support of
their cause.  Grassroots activism played a significant role in the success
of the South African movement against apartheid and creating such a
comprehensive grassroots campaign will remain a burden that the
Palestinian leadership must carry.  It is not enough to have a just
cause; you must also have a realistic strategy and campaigns that serve
that strategy.  Given the unrelenting Israeli campaign against
Palestinians, we cannot let a lack of such a strategy be an excuse for
U.S. companies to continue breaking U.S. law or for international venues
to be intimidated to delay overdue justice.

Corporate boardrooms in America and around the world are positioned to
contribute to ending Israel's occupation.  Not only is it part of their
moral and legal obligation to do so, in the end it will make good business

* Sam Bahour is a Palestinian-American businessman living in the besieged
Palestinian City of Al-Bireh/Ramallah in the West Bank and can be reached

all women are ghosts and should rightly be feared

US Dept of Defense billion dollar + playmate of the month of april is
.. Northrop Grumman Ship Systems

Northrop Grumman Ship Systems, Ingalls Operations, Pascagoula,
Miss., is being awarded a $1,369,507,077 modification to a
previously awarded contract (N00024-00-C-2217) for the detail
design and construction of the LHD 8 multi-purpose amphibious
assault ship.  The contract modification also provides for
technical manuals, crew familiarization, coordinated shipboard
allowance list material, major shore based spares and related
engineering and technical services.  Work will be performed in
Pascagoula, Miss. (76 percent), and various other subcontractor
facilities (24 percent) and is expected to be completed by July
2007.  Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current
fiscal year.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, D.C.,
is the contracting activity.

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