Palestinians do not currently have another avenue by which to access their inalienable right to justice
BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) is a call for the Cultural, Academic and Material boycott of Israel and its institutions with the express hope and aim that in doing so, Israel will be pressured into respecting international law with regards to its treatment of the Palestinian people, whose rights have been systematically violated since 1948, to varying degrees in a multitude of ways.
It must be repeated that BDS is a Palestinian-led movement which started with the Palestinian call for boycott of Israel’s institutions in July 2005, towards the end of the Second Intifada, where Palestinians’ second major attempt to shake off Israel’s Occupation had failed and led to a brutal, drawn-out, military crackdown by Israel.
Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories since 1967. Almost all major civil society groups in Gaza and the West Bank support the movement and have called for it, as a last resort to gain their human rights. It is this call for solidarity which advocates of BDS are responding to.
The BDS movement is grounded in international law and every one of its demands is enshrined by international law; which therefore flies in the face of those who would brand it as ‘anti-semitic’. How can solidarity with an oppressed people struggling to live under a brutal occupation and siege be an expression of racism? The answer: it is not and never was.
BDS’s demands are simple:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights, which include but are not limited to the demolition of Palestinian homes to make way for illegal settlement expansion; the imprisoning of thousands of political prisoners in Israeli jails, the confiscation of occupied Palestinian land (which under the Oslo Accords Israel agreed to withdraw from over the 5-year period between 1993-1998), the poisoning of land in the West-Bank with Israeli industrial waste, the illegal and inhumane siege on the Gaza Strip, and the arresting of children as young as 8; are nothing to do with Israel’s identification as a Jewish State; they are to do with the oppression of the weak by the powerful, and with the obsession with domination, power and expansion which has come to characterise the global holders of power in our current age.
Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” is nothing more than a consolidation of the “Might Is Right” ideology; Israel took that land by force, scuppering any chance of a sovereign Palestinian State alongside it, and as Israel has established businesses on this stolen land it has also made a profit out of maintaining its illegal occupation. This profit is enabled by European and International readiness to trade with these illegal institutions and part of the tragedy is that if international law had only been upheld and an international boycott imposed on Israel until its withdrawal from the Occupied territories, it would have led to a situation where maintenance of the Occupation would have been damaging to Israel’s economy. This in turn could have led to a strengthening of the internal call for an end to the Occupation within Israel, and possibly an end to the Occupation itself. As it stands, the Trump ‘deal’ gives everything that was stolen from a defenceless and occupied people to Israel and makes a mockery of international law.
The Palestinians do not have many cards to play. The international community has failed them politically – despite there being more UN resolutions condemning Israeli expansionism and aggression than on anything else – these are powerless in the face of consistent US vetoing. It is becoming increasingly obvious that our current world system is willing to trample on human rights and social justice in favour of the profit, power and absolute domination of those at the top of the hierarchy, and therefore it is up to ordinary people to express their solidarity with those peoples who are marginalised and not included in those who ‘deserve’ to have international human rights applied to them. A comprehensive international boycott of all complicit Israeli institutions and businesses may be the only chance that Palestinians have to achieve these rights.
It must also be stated that the weaponization of Anti-Semitism to combat BDS; a non-violent movement calling for equality and the implementation of international law; is perverse and of gross insult to Jewish people, in addition to severely undermining calls for solidarity with Palestinians. If there are people calling for the boycott of Israel because it is a Jewish State, they should be rooted out of the BDS movement because racism has no part to play in the defence of international law and human rights. However the BDS movement, as a response to a call for solidarity by the Palestinian people, is akin to the call for solidarity with black South Africans in their fight against Apartheid; it is a call for the universality of human rights and we should all join it and help build the struggle to achieve these rights. We should remember (in the face of UK Government support for Apartheid Israel) that the UK and many Western governments also refused to boycott Apartheid South Africa; the anti-apartheid movement was led by Black South African activists whose resilience and example may serve as inspiration to Palestine supporters here, as can the unquenchable spirit and steadfastness of the Palestinian people themselves. And we must remember that ordinary people can make a difference.
As the message from the Boycott Movement against Apartheid stated in 1959:
“We are not asking you, the British people, for anything special. We are just asking you to withdraw your support from apartheid by not buying South African goods.”
So the message from Palestinians calling for BDS stated in 2005:
We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.
To quote the Israeli Human Rights collective B’TSELEM:
The occupation must end. Israel’s ongoing, prolonged control over millions of people, whose lives are subject to its wants and needs – is entirely unjustifiable, inexcusable and unacceptable…. Unless a nonviolent way out of the current reality is found, the violence of the past half century – both organized and spontaneous – might be just a preview of much more to come. The effort to create a different future for this piece of land is not just an urgent moral imperative; it is a matter of life and death.
Image: Riya Hassan (via Flickr)