BDS- Trashing Israel’s claims to legitimacy through global mobilization

Opinion
BDS- Trashing Israel’s claims to legitimacy through global mobilization

I have had frequent requests for an article on BDS especially from several readers outside Palestine. They have wanted information that outlines the moral and legal dimensions of BDS as an instrument of Palestinian resistance and as a viable mechanism for ending the occupation.BDS is not only a method of resistance through non-violent means; it offers the international community a way of demonstrating concrete solidarity by threatening Israel’s economic comfort zone. After all, it was always the combination of armed resistance, internal dissent, and the BDS which brought about the collapse of apartheid in South Arica.

With the recent victory in the Al Aqsa face-off, movements like ‘Youth against settlements’ and many persistent and sturdy people’s movements at the political front, art-culture, and other creative protests, one awaits the day when Israel’s apartheid will crumble and defeat itself.

The first article: ‘How BDS Shows Way to a ‘South Africa Moment’ by Ramzy Baroud discusses how the BDS Movement is growing “growing because it is both a moral and legal obligation to support oppressed people and pressure those who violate international law to end their unwarranted practices. Building on a decades-long tradition of civil disobedience and popular resistance, and invigorated by growing international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle

The second article is a report that outlines how the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights sent letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The letters reminded these companies that their operations in and with illegal Israeli settlements are in violation of “international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.” They also requested that these companies respond with clarifications about such operations.

We invite readers to read two articles we feature below and widely disseminate it among those who could be prompted to join the BDS Movement.

Ranjan Solomon
Editor


How BDS Shows Way to a ‘South Africa Moment’
By Ramzy Baroud*

BDS, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was the outcome of several events that shaped the Palestinian national struggle and international solidarity with the Palestinian people after the second intifada in 2000.

Today, it is growing because it is both a moral and legal obligation to support oppressed people and pressure those who violate international law to end their unwarranted practices. Building on a decades-long tradition of civil disobedience and popular resistance, and invigorated by growing international solidarity with the Palestinian struggle as exhibited in the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa in 2001, Palestinians moved into action.
In 2004, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) called for the boycott of Israeli government and academic institutions for their direct contributions to the military occupation and subjugation of the Palestinian people. This was followed in 2005 by a sweeping call for boycott made by 170 Palestinian civil society organizations.

PACBI has been a conduit through which the Palestinian point of view is articulated and presented to international audiences through the use of media, academic and cultural platforms. Because of its continued efforts and mobilization since 2004, many universities, teachers’ unions, student groups and artists around the world have endorsed BDS and spoken out in support of the movement.

The BDS movement’s three main demands are ending Israel’s illegal occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Apartheid Wall; recognizing the fundamental rights, including that of full equality, of Palestinian citizens of Israel; and respecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

n the absence of any international mechanism to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, and the lack of international law being enforced, as expressed in dozens of un-implemented UN resolutions, BDS has grown to become a major platform to create solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to apply pressure on and demand accountability from Israel and those who are funding, or in any way enabling, Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

The call for BDS comes from Palestinian society. This is important, for no one has the right to represent the Palestinian struggle but Palestinians themselves. However, the BDS movement itself — although centered on Palestinian priorities — is an inclusive global platform. Grounded in humanistic values, BDS aims to court world public opinion and appeals to international and humanitarian law to bring peace and justice in Palestine and Israel. In fact, there are many notable historical precedents that guided BDS from the very start.

The boycott movement was at the heart of the South African struggle that ultimately defeated apartheid. Roots of that movement in South Africa go back to the 1950s and 1960s, and even before. However, it was accelerated during the 1980s, which led to the collapse of the apartheid regime in 1991.

There are many other precedents: The Boston Tea Party, protesting at unfair taxation by the British Parliament; the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955 (which ushered in the rise of the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King); and the Salt March led by Mohandas Gandhi in 1930, which initiated the civil disobedience campaign that was a major factor leading to India’s independence in 1947.

These are all powerful examples of popular movements using economic pressure to end the subjugation of one group by another. BDS is no different. However, Israel is relentless in levying accusations against the movement and its founders. By equating any criticism of Israel and its right-wing government with anti-Semitism, Israeli supporters accuse BDS of being an anti-Semitic movement. For example, the pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League bases such an accusation on the premise that “many individuals involved in BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state.”

This is one of many claims that misrepresent the BDS movement. They are also meant to confuse and distract from the discussion. Instead of engaging with internationally supported Palestinian demands for justice and freedom, anti-BDS campaigners disengage from the conversation altogether by levying the accusation of anti-Semitism.

But BDS is not anti-Semitic. In fact, (it is) quite the opposite. BDS opposes the supremacy of any racial group or the dominance of any religion over others. It challenges the Israeli legal system that privileges Jewish citizens and discriminates against Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

The Israeli government has sponsored several conferences aimed at developing a strategy to discredit BDS and to slow down its growth. It has also worked with its supporters across North America and Europe to lobby governments to condemn and outlaw BDS activities and the boycott of Israel in general. These efforts culminated on March 23, 2017 with Senate bill S720, which, if passed in its current form, will make the boycott of Israel an illegal act punishable by imprisonment and a heavy fine.

Meanwhile, Israel has already enacted laws that ban foreign BDS supporters from entering the country. This also applies to Jewish BDS supporters. The massive campaign to discredit BDS is a testament to the power and resolve of the civil-society centered movement. Palestinians are determined to achieve their own “South Africa moment,” when apartheid was vanquished under the dual pressure of resistance at home and the global boycott campaign.

BDS is successfully pushing the conversation on Palestine away from the margins to the center. It seems that the more Israel attempts to thwart boycott efforts, the more opportunities BDS supporters have to engage the media and general public. The accessibility of social media has proven fundamental to that strategy.

*Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Palestinian-American journalist and former Al-Jazeera producer. He has taught Mass Communication at Australia’s Curtin University of Technology, is editor-in-chief of “The Palestine Chronicle” and a noted publicist.
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————————————————————————————————UN takes first concrete step to hold Israel accountable for violating Palestinian Human Rights
by Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC)*

On September 27, 2017  media reports revealed that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights began sending letters two weeks ago to 150 companies in Israel and around the globe, warning them that they could be added to a database of complicit companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements based in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem. The letters reminded these companies that their operations in and with illegal Israeli settlements are in violation of “international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.” They also requested that these companies respond with clarifications about such operations.

According to senior Israeli officials, some of the companies have already responded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights by saying they won’t renew their contracts or sign new ones in Israel. “This could turn into a snowball,” worried an Israeli official. Of the 150 companies, some 30 are American firms, and a number are from nations including Germany, South Korea and Norway. The remaining half are Israeli companies, including pharmaceutical giant Teva, the national phone company Bezeq, bus company Egged, the national water company Mekorot, the county’s two biggest banks Hapoalim and Leumi, the large military and technology company Elbit Systems, Coca-Cola, Africa-Israel, IDB and Netafim. The Trump administration is reportedly trying to prevent the list’s publication.

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, commented:After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical step to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. Palestinians warmly welcome this step. We hope the UN Human Rights Council will stand firm and publish its full list of companies illegally operating in or with Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, and will develop this list as called for by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016”.

It may be too ambitious to expect this courageous UN accountability measure to effectively take Israel “off the pedestal,” as South African anti-apartheid leader Archbishop Desmond Tutu once called for. But if implemented properly, this UN database of companies that are complicit in some of Israel’s human rights violations may augur the beginning of the end of Israel’s criminal impunity.

*The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BDSmovement.

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