Statement by the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality
The Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice & Equality is issuing this statement in solidarity with The Mapping Project and the members of Boston BDS who are under attack for exposing companies that support the Zionist Occupation of Palestine.
On June 3, 2022, The Mapping Project was launched on the Internet exposing Boston-based organizations complicit in imperialism, militarism, the prison-industrial complex, Zionism and the displacement of people domestically and abroad. These entities were depicted on a map with explanations about their roles in carrying out and maintaining colonialism and U.S. hegemony. The map depicts the overlap of Zionism, Western imperialism and their intersections in structural networks of oppression. Among the entities are universities, police departments, army bases and weapons manufacturing companies that are complicit in U.S. imperialism abroad. The entities contained within the map can be found here.
The Mapping Project was first publicized by BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Boston. Since then, the initiative and the local BDS organizers have been slandered by Zionist organizations and U.S. politicians and have even been subjected to an FBI investigation. The project has been falsely labeled, according to Josh Gottheimer, a Democrat who represents New Jersey’s fifth congressional district in Congress, as “a roadmap for terrorists and violent extremists to intentionally target Jewish groups.”
According to Palestine Legal, an independent organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of pro-Palestine activists, there currently are 32 states with legislation in effect targeting advocacy for Palestinian rights. In addition to legislative suppression, pro-Palestine activists face doxxing and the subsequent harassment and intimidation by a McCarthyite-style Zionist campaign called Canary Mission.
Boycotting Israeli apartheid and institutions complicit in U.S. imperialism is fundamental for the liberation of oppressed peoples around the world. And supporting organizations and projects under attack for carrying out this important work is a responsibility for all progressive organizations.
In addition to declaring our support for The Mapping Project and BDS Boston, the Defenders want to help expose Virginia-based entities that are complicit in Israel’s occupation of Palestine as well as U.S. war crimes:
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- VCU’s School of World Studies and the Global Education Office host a study-abroad program in Israel where students travel throughout occupied Palestinian land, including the Old City in Occupied East Jerusalem. East Jerusalem is the current focus of the Zionist occupation’s campaign of Palesintian evictions and home demolitions with the goal of populating the area with Israeli settlers. Information on the VCU-sponsored trip to occupied Palestine can be found on the webpage for the study abroad program.
- The Virginia Israel Advisory Board
- The Virginia Israel Advisory Board is a state agency with the mission of promoting commerce with a particular country. It is funded by Virginia taxpayers with the purpose of advising the governor on ways to improve economic and cultural links between Virginia and the Israeli occupation. The VIAB also works against the BDS Movement. Information on the VIAB can be found here.
- The police departments of Fairfax County, Richmond City, Smithfield, Prince William County and Virginia Beach
- According to the Virginia Coalition for Human Rights, of which the Virginia Defenders are a member, these police departments are among many across the country that receive “counter-terrorism” training in Israel. Law enforcement agencies and government officials meet with Israeli military and police forces for conferences, training, and workshops. Repressive methods used by the Israeli occupation to brutalize and incarcerate indigenous Palestinians are then used to subjugate African-Americans and protestors here in the United States. Further information about these Virginia police departments’ training in Israel can be found here.
- Sabra Dipping Company, LLC
- Sabra is a U.S.-based company that produces various food products, including hummus and guacamole. It is co-owned by PepsiCo and the Strauss Group, one of the largest food product manufacturers in Israel. Sabra has a major, state-of-the-art plant in Chesterfield, Va. The company is on the official BDS list due to its support for the Israeli military, specifically the Golani and Givati brigades, both of which have been credibly accused of human rights abuses against Palestinians. (See this 2011 article from the Guardian for further information on Golani brigade atrocities, and this 2014 Haretz reporting about the Givati brigade). Additionally, Strauss Group Chairperson Ofra Strauss sits on the advisory board of the Foundation for Former Soldiers (HESEG), an organization that pays non-Israelis to serve in the Israeli occupation forces. Information about boycotting Sabra Hummus can be found here.