How banking technology can dismantle apartheid Israel

Palestine Update  116

How banking technology can dismantle apartheid Israel
Israel is a dependent economy which manages its advancement by soliciting aid through the dual – financial and military- threat of blackmail and creating an artificial fear of extinction by projecting make-believe enemies’ risks gaining more enemies. Today tens of thousands campaigners around the world oppose Israel’s racist-colonialist system through the BDS. They are convinced that it is the most effectual tool to end Israeli apartheid. This article is an extract from a larger version, which draws an absorbing comparison between BDS in South Africa and the ongoing movement for sanctions against Israel. Please read and disseminate.

Ranjan Solomon

The Question of sanctions: South Africa and Palestine
An extract from Eurasia Review (News and analysis)

“Given the success of sanctions in ending apartheid, there was considerable interest for some years in sanctions as a means of resolving other long-standing international conflicts. There has been blatant misuse, and consequent discrediting, of sanctions by US as an instrument to assert American military and financial hegemony in the world. This is illustrated by US sanctions against Iraq, Venezuela, Libya and Iran, which sought payment for oil exports in other currencies and/or gold instead of US dollars, and then followed by “regime change.”

Banking technology has of course advanced dramatically in the subsequent three decades since the South African banking sanctions campaign. The place of leverage is no longer in New York, but in Brussels where Society for Worldwide Inter-bank Financial Telecommunications (SWIFT) is headquartered. SWIFT is essentially a giant computer which authenticates the payment instructions of more than 11 000 banks in over 200 countries. Every bank has a SWIFT code, the fifth and sixth letters of which identify the country of domicile.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement was established in 2005, and is modeled after South Africa’s experience. Whilst it took more than 25 years for sanctions against apartheid South Africa to make significant impact, the Israeli government is increasingly frantic about BDS which, inter alia, has been nominated for the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. It is noteworthy that the award of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize to Desmond Tutu gave huge momentum to international solidarity with the anti-apartheid movement. The Norwegian Pension Fund, which administers funds of over US$1 trillion, has blacklisted the major Israeli arms company, Elbit Systems.

Other Scandinavian and Dutch institutions have followed suit. Church pension funds in the US are also becoming engaged. Younger and progressive Jewish Americans increasingly distancing themselves from the right-wing Israeli government, and even sympathizing with Palestinians. European governments in 2014 warned their citizens of the reputational and financial risks of business transactions with Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The UN Human Rights Council in January 2018 has collated a list of over 200 Israeli and American companies that are actively involved in facilitating and funding the Occupation of Palestinian Territories in defiance of the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international law. In response, the Israeli government has allocated substantial financial and other resources in legislative initiatives – both within Israel and internationally — to criminalise the BDS momentum, and to smear the movement as anti-Semitic. This is however, already proving counter-productive, as illustrated by controversies and court cases in the US.

The letters IL in the SWIFT code identify Israeli banks. Programmatically, it would be a simple matter to suspend transactions to and from IL accounts. This would block payment for imports and receipt of proceeds for Israeli exports. The difficulty is political will, and the influence of the Israeli lobby. The precedent and efficacy of SWIFT sanctions has however, already been established in the case of Iran. Under pressure from the US and Israel, the European Union instructed to SWIFT to suspend transactions with Iranian banks in order to pressure the Iranian government to negotiate the 2015 Iranian nuclear weapons agreement.

It is now acknowledged that the so-called “peace process” mediated by the US government was simply a cover to extend the Occupation and further Israeli settlements “beyond the green line.” The prospect now of new negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations between Palestine and Israel challenges the international community to assist in ensuring that such negotiations are successful.

To the objective of assisting such negotiations by balancing the scales, it is suggested that SWIFT sanctions against Israeli banks would strike at the Israeli financial and political elites, who have the clout to influence the Israeli government to comply with four stipulated conditions, namely: To release immediately all Palestinian political prisoners; To end its occupation of the West Bank (including East Jerusalem) and Gaza, to dismantle the “apartheid wall; recognize the fundamental rights of Arab-Palestinians, , and to acknowledge the right of return of Palestinians”