I’m writing this after one of the deadliest days in the recent bombing of Gaza. As of right now, estimates place the Palestinian death toll for the past 24 hours as being over 100, with many lost after the IDF (“Israel Defense Force”) bombed a UN school-turned-refugee shelter. With the total death count standing at 1,336, it can be tough in such times to feel that there’s any hope- but readers, there is a way to fight back.
It’s called “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions“.
“Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (or simply “BDS”) is an international grassroots organization founded in 2005 with the aim of challenging and ultimately ending Israel’s apartheid policies. Utilizing the same tactics which helped bring down the apartheid system of South Africa, BDS seeks to pressure Israel into:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 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.
Ever since Cardiff University voted in 2009 to divest (“sell off”) its holdings in arms manufacturer BAE for the company’s relationship with Israel, the movement has grown exponentially. The governments of Luxembourg and Norway have both eliminated Israeli and Israeli-related firms from state pensions. Denmark’s largest bank has cut ties with Israeli financial groups. Countless retail stores and co-ops across both Europe and North America have refused to stock Israeli made products, and in what is one of the most amazing victories for justice in Palestine in recent memory, 2014 saw the Presbyterian church divest itself of all Israeli holdings.
We’re not just talking about money here- Israel is being hit on the academic front as well. Universities, colleges, and teacher’s unions around the globe have voted to suspend ties to their counterparts in Israel, research projects have banned Israeli collaboration, and Stephen ****ing Hawking himself has refused to even set wheels on Israeli soil in response to their oppression of the Palestinian people.
Culturally, Israeli performers have been boycotted from performing at venues all over the world, and such figures as Alice Walker and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lending his support to the movement.
For ****’s sake, there’s support for BDS coming from Israel.
You read that right. There are elements within Israel supporting the boycott of their own nation to hasten the fall of its system of racism, bigotry, and fascism.
And yes, readers, BDS is working. Estimates place the boycotts at having cost the Israeli economy some 30 million dollars this year alone– and we’re just now past the halfway mark. As BDS victories continuing to snowball (just yesterday, Tesco voted to ban products produced in the West Bank), pressure for reform is only going to intensify.
Now you might be saying “But Gordon, you relentless cascade of righteous indignation, won’t this hurt innocent Israelis?”
Eh- that’s a tough one. One might have argued the same thing about the white population of South Africa, or the employees of businesses targeted by civil rights boycotts. At the end of the day, I think you gotta lay it on the line. You’re either going to try to maintain Israel’s tradition of racial supremacy or you can campaign for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multi-cultural society. Whether you do so out of the goodness of your own heart or out of a simple need to avoid the liquidation of your business doesn’t matter that much to me, just so long as justice gets done.
Or you might be asking “But Gordon, you unimpeachable visage of anarchic rebellion, isn’t this hypocritical? The US does bad stuff too- would you support other countries banning your products or cutting ties with your cultural and academic institutions?”
Honestly… I don’t know. I’m tempted to say yes- if an international boycott of this nature could force my own country into addressing its injustices, I’d probably try to knuckle through it. Heck, I’ve already had to give up plenty of the stuff I enjoy for the sake of boycotts. The issue here isn’t one of hypocrisy- it’s one of efficacy. I don’t think you’d be able to put all that much economic, academic, or cultural pressure on a nation as big as the US. One as small and isolated as Israel, on the other hand- I’d be hard pressed to think of a better strategy.
And there’s no time better than the present.
Israel has found itself rapidly running low on the blind-support it once enjoyed from the US, with more and more citizens openly questioning the necessity of American-Israeli relations. With the recent slaughter of civilians in Gaza (again), Israel is only digging its own grave, and now faces a truly unprecedented level of opposition- even from the global Jewish community.
Even as the bombs continue to fall on Gaza, there is hope. And not just hope, but slow and steady progress, picking up speed all around the world. And yes, you too can help bring down Goliath. Read up and join up with BDS’s consumer boycott. Petition your student government or university to join in the academic ban on apartheid. Appeal to the leadership of your union. Fight back.
This is a battle that can and will be won.