Stephen Hawking Joins BDS Movement: This week, Professor Stephen Hawking threw his weight behind the academic boycott of Israel pioneered by the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, refusing to attend a June conference hosted by Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem. In a letter written to Peres, Hawking announced he had decided not to attend the conference, in the words of a statement published with Hawking’s approval, “based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there.” In 2009, Hawking visited Israel and the West Bank and denounced Israel’s brutal treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, remarking that “the situation is like that of South Africa before 1990 and cannot continue.”
Foreclosing on Wells Fargo: Protesters in downtown Los Angeles briefly shut down the branch of a Wells Fargo bank on Tuesday to draw attention to its foreclosure practices. About 80 activists, some of whom were owners of foreclosed homes, blockaded the bank’s entrance for half an hour in an action organized by Occupy Fights Foreclosures, an Occupy Los Angeles subcommittee. The group, which has been defending a home in East Los Angeles for six months, pressures banks to negotiate with underwater homeowners. In several cases, it has taken dramatic direct actions to keep families in their homes, such as barricading the houses to prevent law enforcement and mortgage companies from entering .
Cooper Union Occupation: On May 8, students at New York’s Cooper Union occupied the President’s office, days after the startling announcement that the historically free school would begin charging tuition to undergraduates. At least 50 students took over President Jamshed Bharucha’s office and signed a statement of no confidence, which has been circulating among students and faculty. The Students For A Free Cooper Union have been waging a war of publicity and direct action against the administration’s fight to erode the full scholarship it awards to every student, which activists claim is a hallmark sign of the neoliberal trend in education.
from In These Times
Letting the Fizz Out of SodamStream: SodaStream’s post-Super Bowl feud with Coke and Pepsi isn’t the only controversy surrounding the Israeli home beverage company. Its operations in the Israeli settlement of Ma’Ale Adumim has made it the target of what organizers say is the first-ever interfaith boycott. The Interfaith Coalition Campaign to Boycott SodaStream, launched Sundayto coincide with a SodaStream ad that aired during the Super Bowl, says that the company’s products are “produced in an illegal Israeli settlement in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.” In response, representatives from Jewish, Muslim and Christian organizations are calling for consumers to shun the carbonated beverage producers. As an Israeli-only settlement built on occupied land and flanked by a network of settler-only roads and infrastructure, Ma’Ale Adumim denies Palestinians freedom of movement within their own territory.
Tunisian Revolution Redux: Following the assassination of secular human rights lawyer Chokri Belaid on Wednesday, Tunisia’s trade union federation has called for a general strike. On Thursday, hundreds of protesters gathered near the interior ministry in Tunis to chant “the people demand the fall of the regime,” the same rallying cry that sparked the Tunisian Revolution two years ago. Deep uncertainty plagues the country, as polarizations that caused the fall of Ben Ali two years ago threaten to resurface.
Black Bloc in Egypt: On February 6, over 1000 protesters rallied in downtown Cairo, calling on Egyptian President Morsi’s Islamist government to protect female demonstrators from sexual assault in Tahrir Square. Women, raising knives defiantly into the air and holding signs reading, “Those silent against the harassers are devils,” were joined in the rally by men from all sectors of Egyptian society and by a black bloc, who chained themselves together in a human shield to protect protesters. The long-standing issue has taken center stage since January 25, when a rally marking the two-year anniversary of the uprising that toppled Mubarak saw 19 reported violent attacks against women, including one in which a 19-year-old woman was raped with a sharp object by a mob of men.
The End of Solitary?: In a major victory for human rights groups and advocacy organizations, the Bureau of Prisons agreed to a full review of the use of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons on February 4. An independent auditor will carry out the review based on the recommendations of a congressional hearing held last year. According to the online project Solitary Watch, over 11,000 prisoners are held in some form of ‘segregated housing’ in America.