Sushovan Dhar

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has spread around the world. It should not be judged by economic success alone

Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s latest military action in Gaza, has amply unmasked the Zionists and their defiance of international law. Israel is wrong-footed with the growing support for the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Certainly, the latest military aggression has contributed to create favourable conditions for this movement. The BDS movement was launched in July 2005 by an overwhelming majority of the Palestinian civil society to respond to the military occupation by Israel and also to challenge a host of corresponding repressive policies directed at Palestinians.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls on all supporters of human rights “to take effective actions, particularly in the shape of BDS campaigns, to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism, and apartheid.”

In the words of political scientists Abigail B Bakan and Yasmeen Abu-Laban: “This campaign has challenged an international racial contract which, from 1948, has assigned a common interest between the state of Israel and international political allies, while absenting Palestinians as simultaneously non-white, the subjects of extreme repression and stateless. The BDS campaign also points to an alternative – the promise of a real and lasting peace in the Middle East.”

The Palestinians face the worst denial of human rights in the world. Do we have instances of even greater undeniable realities? Forcibly thrown on the other side of a “separation” wall, they are locked in a place that can easily win the race for the largest prison on the world.

The world looks at the fencing with amazement. However, there are also hundreds of checkpoints at the borders and inside the Palestinian territory which produces apathy. These posts are diligently maintained to systematically harass and humiliate the people. There is an immensity of segregation between the Jews and the Palestinians enforced by the Israeli State, pervading all spheres of life.

The Palestinians are permanently under surveillance and need permits for many things, including going to Israeli hospitals. Everything in the West Bank and Gaza, including the air, trade, and commerce, and essential supplies like water and electricity as well as access to the Mediterranean Sea, are under Israeli control. A few thousand Palestinians are permanent residents of Israeli jails.

They neither have any knowledge of crimes committed by them, nor any charge registered against them for those alleged crimes. The Zionists have no fear in carrying on occupation in violation of international laws but with the support of the “international community.” Palestinians are second-grade citizens in the lands they historically considered as their own while the occupying army settles thousand of outsiders in Gaza, West Bank, and East Jerusalem.

The Palestinians have no military machine nor any Wehrmacht. In the face of the extreme brutalities unleashed by the Israeli forces, they are forced to defend themselves. The 2005 BDS call emerged from such historical specificity. 170 Palestinian civil society groups joined hands. Taking inspiration from the successful anti-apartheid struggles of South Africa they launched the movement.

In the meantime, Unesco organised a World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance at Durban South Africa in 2001. This conference issued a statement against “movements based on racism and discriminatory ideas, in particular the Zionist movement, which is based on racial superiority.” Palestinian intellectuals and academics, in 2003, initiated the call for a boycott of the academic institutions of Israel and within a year they set about the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

From Ramallah, they appealed to Palestinian intellectuals and academics to unite with the growing international boycott movement. Out of this, a national committee was established, that brought together Palestinian civil society groups the BDS movement, was launched.

More than 20 years have passed since the signing of the much touted Oslo accord. The fiction of this “peace process” now stands emptied of any meaningful content. With the signing of the Oslo Accords (1993-1994), presidents, diplomats, and commentators around the world jumped with joy. It was seen as the “the death of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

However, most ignored the fact that these accords were a hash over of the old Israeli project, called Allon Plan which targeted to shift the cost of occupation to a Palestinian puppet regime. The situation now has only worsened. Under such conditions, the BDS is an indispensable and ethical response. The regime of illegal and brutal occupation is most embarrassed with the movement.

In the eight years since its existence, the movement has only grown. Israeli companies can’t help the fact that Scandinavian nations like Norway and Sweden, and also Holland, have withdrawn their retirement funds from them. The US retirement funds like TIAA-CREF faces pressure, both from home and abroad, to disinvest from corporations that support the occupation.

The most interesting part is that there is growing support for the BDS from the international Jewish community and in Israel itself. This ranges from a total boycott of all Israeli merchandise to boycott of settlement projects. Last month, 60 leading Israeli actors and playwrights refused to play in the new theater in Ariel, one of Israel’s largest settlements.

They were attacked by the Israeli government but another 150 major Israeli academics and writers came to their defense. The campaign for BDS in the “mainland” is spearheaded by an Israeli group, Boycott from Within.

The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement has spread around the world. It should not be judged by economic success alone, it is certainly a powerful political strategic plan of action. We must force all actors towards a just solution of the Palestinian cause based on equal rights and respect and status for all. Till that time, the BDS is here to stay.

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