PRESS RELEASE: Supporters of BDS South Africa hold successful picket outside Johannesburg South Gauteng High Court
Today supporters of BDS South Africa including members of the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI), the Right2Know Campaign, Media Review Network (MRN), South African Students Congress (SASCO), Congress of South African Students (COSATU), ANC Youth League, Congress of South African Students, Young Communist League, Zimbabwe Communist League various other organizations held a successful "Freedom of Expression" and solidarity picket outside the Johannesburg South Gauteng High Court. The freedom of expression picket was in support of BDS South Africa in its court matter with Continental Outdoor Media. Click here for photos.
Later on in the day a trailer with a large over five meter high banner was parked outside of the court house also in support of BDS South Africa. The banner had a image of a bird perched on barb wire with the well-known Harry Belafonte words: "You can cage the singer but not the song". Click here for a photo.
In 2012 Continental Outdoor Media, after coming under pressure from the Israeli lobby (see below press release for more information or click here
), removed several Palestine solidarity billboards put up in Gauteng by BDS South Africa and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA). The Palestine solidarity billboards graphically explained the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. In particular, the billboards which were removed, in a series of maps, depicted a shrinking Palestinian territory by an increasing Israeli Occupation over the years. Under the maps, "Palestinian Loss of Land - 1946 to 2010" was printed in large letters.
BDS South Africa campaigner, Mthunzi Mbuli, said after today's picket: “We as BDS South Africa thank everyone who came out to the freedom of expression picket today and supported BDS South Africa and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance. This court matter is important because of its consequences for freedom of expression and we are hope that Continental Outdoor Media realizes that it did the wrong thing by removing our billboards and succumbing to pressures of the Israeli lobby. This court matter is also important because it sends a clear message to the Israeli lobby that, firstly, we will not be silenced by their attempts to censor members of the Palestine solidarity movement. But, secondly, it is also important because it sends a clear message to the Israeli lobby including organizations like the SA Jewish Board of Deputies and the SA Zionist Federation that we peace and justice loving peoples will fight for the hard won freedom that our parents laid their lives down for, including the freedom of expression. We do not take the attempts by the Israeli lobby to censor free speech lightly."
Inside the Johannesburg South Gauteng High Court a special full day allocation request for the matter between BDS South Africa & Other vs Continental Media & Other was made. The request for a full day allocation was made in part due to the complexity of the issue. The request is currently being considered by the Judge President of the High Court and the matter is expected to be heard later this week.
BDS South Africa is represented pro bono by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), one of South Africa's largest and most prominent public interest and human rights law clinics.
ISSUED ON 19 MAY 2014 BY MUHAMMED DESAI ON BEHALF OF BDS SOUTH AFRICA
[MORE INFORMATION ON THE COURT MATTER FOLLOW BELOW THIS PRESS RELEASE OR CONTACT MUHAMMED DESAI (0842119988) OR MTHUNZI MBULI (0849843078)]
BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL in SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
11th Floor |
Braamfontein Centre |
23 Jorissen Street |
PO Box 2318 |
+27 (0) 11 403 2097 | M:
+27 (0) 84 211 9988 | F:
+27 (0) 86 650 4836
W: www.bdssouthafrica.com | E:
www.facebook.com/bdssouthafrica | www.twitter.com/bdssouthafrica
BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO
BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446
INSPIRATION FOR SOUTH AFRICAN PALESTINE
SOLIDARITY BILLBOARD CAMPAIGN
- Early in 2012, Henry Clifford, a resident of New York City in the USA, personally backed a campaign to have adverts explaining the Israeli Occupation and Israeli Colonization of Palestine put up in New York metro stations. Israeli supporters in the USA tried to have these adverts in New York City removed but failed (see below for more information). Click here to watch this CBS TV news clip.
- Later in 2012, a local black South African businessman was inspired by Henry Clifford's campaign in New York and decided to back something similar in South Africa.
REMOVAL OF THE PALESTINE SOLIDARITY BILLBOARDS
- Early in October 2012, several Palestine solidarity billboards were put up along highways by BDS South Africa and the Palestine Solidarity Alliance (PSA) using various billboard companies.
- Late in October 2012, two of the over two dozen Palestine solidarity billboards were contracted out to Continental Outdoor Media. Continental Outdoor Media accepted the artwork for the billboards and accordingly erected the billboards. However, after the Continental Outdoor Media billboards were put up the company came under pressure from members of the Israeli lobby and in particular from the South African Zionist Federation and its sister body the South African Jewish Board of Deputies.
- On 30 October 2013, Continental Outdoor Media, under pressure from the Israeli lobby, removed the Palestine solidarity billboards. No prior notification, explanation or communication was sent by Continental Media to BDS South Africa before the removal. Instead, a joint email circular (click here) was sent out by the South African Zionist Federation and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies claiming credit for removing the billboards: "On contact with the owners of the billboard site [Continental Outdoor Media]... literally within 6 working hours of the [Palestine solidarity] billboard having gone up – it was removed."
- On 01 November 2012, the chairperson of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) said: "On being approached...[the Continental Outdoor Media] CEO expressed his most 'serious and sincere apologies' to the Jewish community and ensured that immediate steps were taken to remove it [the Palestine solidarity billboard]. Kol Hakavod [congratulations] to Ben Swartz [of the SA Zionist Federation] and Shira Goldblum for their excellent work in dealing with this matter....[However] it may prove to be only a temporary reprieve."
- On 02 November 2012, BDS South Africa responded to the Chairperson of the SAJBD in a press release making it clear that: "The SA Jewish Board of Deputies, for as long as they champion Zionism, do not speak on behalf of all South African Jews but only on behalf of those who believe in the racist ideas of Zionism and the state of Israel - there are many principled Jews who do not consider themselves Zionists or supporters of Israel. Thus, the apology from Continental Outdoor Media to the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, is an apology to racism."
During the course of 2013, BDS South Africa tried for several months through its representatives to resolve this issue. Continental Outdoor Media later claimed that the billboards were also removed because they were not allowed by the City of Johannesburg, because the billboard's artwork violated certain standards and a host of other reasons. The removal of the billboards, BDS South Africa maintains, is an infringement on the basic principles of Freedom of Speech and Expression. BDS South Africa is forced to now go to court due to Continental Outdoor Media's refusal to respect the contractual and constitutional rights of BDS South Africa.
WHAT WAS PRINTED ON THE
PALESTINE SOLIDARITY BILLBOARDS?
The Palestine solidarity billboards that were put up by BDS South Africa and the PSA graphically explained the Israeli Occupation of Palestine. In particular, the billboards in question (which were removed) depicted a shrinking Palestinian territory by an increasing Israeli Occupation over the years in a series of maps. Under the maps, "Palestinian Loss of Land - 1946 to 2010" was printed in large letters. Click here for photos of the Palestine billboards that were removed by Continental Outdoor Media.
ISRAELI LOBBY HAS HISTORY OF USING THREATS
AND INTIMIDATION TO SILENCE EXPRESSION
- In 2010, the Israeli lobby in South Africa threatened to prevent Judge Richard Goldstone from attending the Bar Mitzvah of his grandson because Goldstone was part of a United Nations investigation that found Israel guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
- In March 2012, the Israeli lobby in South Africa made financial threats against Wits University to have charges laid against students who had protested against an Israeli-embassy funded concert.
- In April 2013, South African activists laid charges against the South African Jewish Community Security Organization (CSO), the South African Zionist Federation (SAZF), the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD). Charges were laid after a violent assault of two young women Palestine solidarity activists (including the daughter of a senior official from South Africa's trade union federation, COSATU) and four others. One Palestine solidarity activist was left in a state of concussion due to the assault injuries.
- In September 2013, members of the Israeli lobby in South Africa forced a Ster Kinekor movie theater to remove a Tri-Continental Film Festival and BDS South Africa banner because it had a map of Palestine and a quote by Nelson Mandela. The quote by Mandela on the banner that was removed read: "we know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians..."