Etsy and the power of solidarity

Thanks to an astonishing display of solidarity from our supporters, customers and donors, we received a prompt response from Alison at Etsy.  In the first 24 hours we received 500 hits at our website as well as indications that tens of thousands received our appeal by email and social media.  Several of you made purchases at the store on our website.  Much love and thanks to you all.

The messages of solidarity show that support for Palestinian rights is a juggernaut compared to what it was only a few short years ago.  Where we were once a movement we are becoming an irresistible force.  Whatever the outcome of our struggle with Etsy, it feels good to be winning on a regular basis.

Here is what Alison wrote to us, and our reply.

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Etsy shut down our store

If you have wanted to buy a Palestinian-made keffiyeh or Palestinian olive oil or soap or zaatar from our Etsy store since March 9, 2015, and wondered where we are, now you know.

Our Etsy customers gave us the highest possible ratings on Etsy.  At least 65 of you gave us five stars out of five and one four (our lowest rating), all with glowing comments about our prices, quality and service.  Many expressed endorsement for the use of our fundraising to support the Palestinian economy and culture, as well as nonviolent resistance in Palestine.  We are fairly sure that we were the most popular site for Palestinian products.

Etsy’s complaint against us was that our items are not hand made by us.  That is of course only partly true, because nearly everything that we sell requires the time and effort of our group volunteers to finish the product and make it ready for shipping.

A more telling point, however, is that there are nine other Etsy sellers offering keffiyehs for sale, and theirs are not any more handmade than ours.  In fact, four of them offer the exact same product as us, from the exact same supplier in Palestine (Hirbawi factory).  Why are we being singled out?  We think it is precisely because we

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The following message from the PCWF shows what’s possible when we work together and don’t take no for an answer.  For more information, go to  Hopefully one day we will be able to say the same for Palestinian rights.
What did you do???  Less than three hours after we sent out yesterday’s announcement, we got word from Bank of the West Chief Counsel Quinn Osborne that he had retrieved the money from Bank of New York Mellon.  They weren’t able to get it to us by the end of the day, but told us to pick it up in the morning.  Now it is actually in our hands, which is why we waited until now to tell you.

You will recall that on Monday the same Mr. Osborne told us that we delivered the required information too late and that the funds were now frozen.  However, something must have happened after we sent yesterday’s message abo Read more

The kindness of banks

With apologies to Barb Weir, the title is obviously tongue in cheek.  And doubly ironic after yesterday’s developments.

Yesterday we thought we might have a breakthrough when we finally received a statement from Bank of the West Chief Counsel, Quinn Osborne, that Bank of New York Mellon was in fact refusing to return our funds without the information that they were requesting about the beneficiary of the transaction that we cancelled, the Charitable Association for Palestinian Refugees.  We needed this in case they continued to hold the funds even after we provided the information, so that we could demonstrate that their action is illegal.

We are certainly glad that we did, because no sooner had we submitted the requested information than Mr. Osborne informed us that BNY Mellon would not be returning the funds.  None of the requested information was relevant, because the transaction had been cancelled and we had instructed that the money should be returned to our account, not to the beneficiary.  To give you an idea of the absurdity of most of the questions, however, you are welcome to read the text of our letter, which we sent to Tanya Kazak, Bank of the West VP for Compliance.

With your calls, emails and threats to move your banking away from Bank of the West, we had hoped to resolve the matter this week.  It may take longer, but here is what we plan to do:

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Message to Tanya Kazak, Bank of the West, Feb. 23, 2015

Message to Tanya Kazak, Vice President and Compliance Manager, Bank of the West, dated February 15, 2015 and immediately forwarded to Quinn Osborne, Chief Counsel, Bank of the West


Ms. Kazak,

Our legal counsel, Tom Nelson, has finally received the unequivocal statement we have been seeking concerning BNY Mellon locking the return of our funds.  Therefore, we are providing the requested information to the best of our ability.  We believe that this meets and exceeds the requirements of due diligence under OFAC regulations, which are not even applicable in the case of a cancelled transaction, rendering the BNY Mellon action illegal.

Full Name and Address of Parent Company;

We do not have this information and assume that, like the Association for Investment in Popular Action Committees and other NGOs, there is no parent company, but rather that it is a society supported by charitable donations.

Proof of Registration;

The headquarters are in Palestine and the license number is 8126, registered with the Ministry of the Interior.  The Lebanese branch office is licensed with the Lebanese Republic, but we do not have the documentation or reference number.

Ownership Details (full name(s), address, date of birth, nationality/citizenship);

Keep calling the Banksters. Your actions are helping.


Yesterday we received a call from Tanya Kazak, the Vice President and Compliance Manager for Bank of the West within 15 minutes of posting our appeal for your action.  She had already received five calls and by the time we finished talking, she had received twelve.  Karen Nelson at the local branch was routing her calls to the 800 number, but here is a new number for her: +1 510 235 2981.

Here also is the text of a message that we sent after hours to Ms. Kazak after consulting with our attorney.  It explains further actions that we intend to take.  Your suggestions are welcome, and if you learn anything that might be of use, please send it to us.


Tanya Kazak
Vice President, Compliance Manager
Bank of the West
Ms. Kazak,
Our legal counsel advises us that Bank of the West is illegally withholding our funds and that you have provided no justification to demand the information that you are asking.  He advises not to provide that information until and unless you de Read more

Stanford Senate reverses divestment vote, passes resolution

After a re-vote at the ASSU meeting on Tuesday, the divestment resolution passes. (ARNAV MARWALA/The Stanford Daily)

After a re-vote at the ASSU meeting on Tuesday, the divestment resolution passes. (ARNAV MARWALA/The Stanford Daily)

The 16th Undergraduate Senate passed the resolution supporting divestment from corporations identified as complicit in human rights abuses in Israel and Palestine. The vote comes a week after the Senate did not pass the same resolution.

The re-vote saw 10 Senators vote in favor of the bill, while four voted against and one Senator abstained.

Last week’s vote fell two percentage points short of passing – nine Senators voted in favor, five opposed and one abstained, meaning 64 percent of the Senate favored the bill, falling short of the two-thirds majority.

Read more here.

Settlers uproot hundreds of olive trees


Israeli settlers uprooted around 550 newly planted olive saplings Wednesday in the town of ash-Shuyukh to the northeast of Hebron, according to local sources.

Sources told the Palestinian News and Info Agency that settlers from the illegal settlements of Asfar and Bani Kadim uprooted olive trees’ saplings belonging to the families of Abd al-Qader and Mousa al-Ayaydeh.

Local residents strongly denounced settlers’ ‘heinous actions’ of destroying residents’ land, stressing that they will remain steadfast in their land and replant the trees again.

Read more here.

Thousands of Palestinian homes on Israeli demolition ‘shortlist’

File photo of Israeli bulldozers demolishing a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina

File photo of Israeli bulldozers demolishing a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina


More than 20,000 Palestinian homes in Jerusalem have been shortlisted to be demolished by the Israeli occupation authorities, Jerusalem Centre for Social and Economic Rights (JCSER) has revealed.

The centre’s head, Ziad Hamouri, said that the reason these homes have been shortlisted for demolition is that they were built without building licences issued by the Israeli municipality in the occupied city. Applications for such licences from Palestinians are rarely approved.

See full story from Middle East Monitor here.

University of California – Davis student senate votes to divest from corporatations supporting Israeli human rights violations

The International Solidarity Movement Support Group in Northern California congratulates the students of the University of California at Davis for their principled stand against Israeli human rights violations.  When the universities become as principled as their students these violations will end.  Below is the announcement.

On the night of January 29, 2015, a historic vote in support of global justice  and racial equality was taken by students at UC Davis as ASUCD passed a divestment resolution (Senate Resolution #9) with a two-third majority vote. The resolution called for the university to divest from American corporations (Caterpillar, Veolia, G4S and Raytheon) that are complicit in the ongoing human rights violations in Palestine, stating that:
“The investment portfolio of the University of California’s endowment and pension funds includes holdings in these corporations, making the University of California a complicit third party in the aforementioned human rights violations against the Palestinian people;”

This vote was the outcome of a democratic process and a grassroots student movement that was built over three years. UC Davis Senators, directly elected by and representative of the students of UC Davis, showed overwhelming support for the resolution due to its underlying anti-racist, anti-war message that is at the core of the Boycot Read more