Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions:
Anti-Apartheid Organizing Strategy for the Liberation of Palestine
Over the past five years, I have written countless articles in the Bard press describing in horrible detail some of the most destructive and pervasive policies of Zionist colonialism in Palestine.
A short list of Israeli abuses against the Palestinians include: the massive ethnic cleansing campaign of 1947-1949, during which over one million Palestinians were forced from their homes, and to this day are prevented from returning, even though a UN resolution was passed supporting their unassailable right to return and reclaim their properties; water confiscation and well destruction en masse; agricultural theft and destruction en masse; cultural imperialism and colonialism (i.e. language, culture, food, relationship to the land); mass imprisonment and torture of civilians, including children; the wholesale destruction of hundreds of Palestinian villages, many of which now lie under so-called “Israeli National Forests” composed of post-1949 planted pine trees (an invasive species); and complete Israeli domination over Palestinian time and space, executed through control over personal and commercial freedom of movement, identification systems, surveillance and brute military force, among many other means.
Another, central element to Israeli oppression in Palestine is terrorism, marked saliently by the Israeli tendency towards collective punishment. Israel ignores international law as it does all of these things, and continues to press towards the complete de-Arabization of all of Palestine through its government and right-wing supported colonial movement in the West Bank, which comprises only 22% of historic Palestine. That is to say, although Israel took more land than it was offered and much more than it needed for its minority population, it has never once stopped taking more from the Palestinians.
As it has since 1948, Israel stands on the brink of formal apartheid, which will occur when the Palestinian population surpasses the Jewish Israeli population. In order to counter this so-called “demographic threat,” the Jewish state offers generous packages to potential Jewish immigrants to beef up the Jewish population. In other words, the Palestinians are being ethnically cleansed to make room for people who have yet to become Israeli citizens, or even express an interest in wanting to move to Israel. Today, the ethnic cleansing campaigns that began in 1947 continue, albeit through less obvious means than forced expulsions and massacres. Now, mystical, meaningless military orders and permit regulations are held up as “legitimate” means towards the de-Palestinianization of Palestine in its entirety.
I am one of billions of people on this planet who find Israel’s behavior, historically and through to the present day, unacceptable, illegal and immoral. For various reasons both real and imagined, US Americans, particularly whites, have a very skewed perception of what happens (and what happened) in Palestine. As Ilan Pappe cautioned in his groundbreaking new work, “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine,” I hold no illusions that telling the truth about Zionism and Palestine will change the views most Americans hold. It is incredibly difficult, approaching impossible, to convince the public that a people who have been colonized, dispossessed and oppressed for 60 years are not the victimizers. Equally difficult is convincing people that those who do the colonizing, dispossessing and oppressing are not heroes.
Noel Ignatiev, author of “How the Irish Became White,” argues that the goal of “those commonly associated with whiteness” (i.e. white people) should not be to convince other white people of the ills of white supremacy. This is a waste of energy and time. Instead, white radicals should make every effort to find other whites who are “dissatisfied with the terms of membership in the white club” and develop solid bases from which to organize meaningfully against white supremacy.
In the same vein, I do not believe that educating the Zionist masses about Palestinian suffering under their boots will do much to stop the domination or reverse the racism inherent to Zionist ideology. Instead, people who are already committed to real and lasting justice in Palestine, with peace to come later, must band together and call in a loud and unified voice for a widespread “BDS” campaign. Boycott, divestment and sanctions worked in South Africa, and there is no reason to suspect that it cannot work in Palestine.
White South Africans did not want to be boycotted or divested from. In the USA, the racist bus companies in the South did not want to be boycotted, either. Obviously, the Zionist organizations and individuals who “support Israel” will reject the “BDS” strategy from the outset. And this is good. The moment radical justice organizations are praised by the powers that be, we should all quit and go home. Only real economic and political pressure from the outside will force Israel into complying with international law and UN resolutions. We must act now…before it is too late.
For information on various boycotts, see www.boycottisrael.org
For a Palestinian perspective on the necessity of the boycott campaign, see Omar Barghouti’s article “Why Boycott Israel” at http://www.zmag.org/content
For an Israeli perspective on the necessity of the boycott, see the debate between Israeli historians Baruch Kimmerling (opposed to the boycott) and Ilan Pappe (in favor) at http://www.zmag.org/content