Journal des Alternatives

Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions

Can it bring peace and justice to Israel-Palestine?

Ceyda Turan, 15 February 2009

In July 2005, a large coalition of
Palestinian civil society groups
issued a call for a global Boycott,
Divestment and Sanctions strategy
(BDS) against Israel until it complied
with international human rights
agreements and UN resolutions.
Calling on people of conscience all
over the world, these organizations
propose a non-violent tactic similar to
that of the African National Congress
in their struggle against apartheid in
South Africa.

Israel’s dual laws for Jewish settlers
and Palestinians, the segregation of
roads and housing, and restrictions
on Palestinians’ freedom of movement
strongly recall apartheid South Africa.
The BDS campaign calls for an
immediate withdrawal of Israel
from the occupied territories (UN
Resolution 242), respecting,
protecting and promoting the rights
of Palestinian refugees to return
to their homes and properties (UN
Resolution 194), giving all citizens
of Israel equal treatment under the
law (Declaration of Human Rights,
Articles 2 and 7), tearing down the
wall, which has been deemed illegal
by the International Court of Justice,
ending the seizure of Palestinian
lands and house demolitions,
providing compensation to those who
have lost homes or land (Declaration
of Human Rights, Article 17), and
the recognition of the Palestinian
people’s inalienable right to selfdetermination
(Declaration of Human
Rights, Article 15).

Noam Chomsky, however, raised
questions regarding the effectiveness
of a BDS campaign before the
necessary educational groundwork
is laid down.

The majority of the public is not
aware that Israel has expelled and intimidated into flight the majority
of the country’s population and
then denied them internationally
recognized rights to return to
their homes; it has seized, without
compensation, the properties
of hundreds of thousands of
refugees; it systematically tortures
detainees and holds many of them
without a trial, and assassinates its
opponents, including those living in
territories it occupies; it demolishes
thousands of homes belonging to
Palestinians, and settles its own
people in their land.

Until the falsification and deceit are
overcome, well-merited punitive
actions are likely to backfire. It is
not well known that Israel does not
recognize Palestine’s right to exist,
rejected Hamas’ call for a long-term
ceasefire to allow for negotiations on
the international consensus of a twostate
solution, refuses to denounce
violence, and does not comply with
previous agreements— including the
US-sponsored Road Map.

Samer Elatrash, a prominent
Palestinian activist, also argues that
the groundwork for raising public
awareness of the occupation and
Israeli crimes has to be done first.
There needs to be a significant
portion of public opinion that would
support the tactic and lobby the
government to implement it.

Nonetheless, he does not dismiss
targeted boycotts. Calls for an
arms embargo against Israel, or the
banning of settlement products,
which most governments are actually
legally obliged to to do, would be a
step in the right direction.

According to Jason Kunin, a member
of the administrative council of
the Alliance of Concerned Jewish
Canadians (ACJC), the BDS
would primarily be an educational
tool aimed at provoking awareness
and action at the grassroots level.
The goal would be “to provoke in Israelis a change of consciousness
by stripping away the veneer of
normality that disguises from
them the true nature of the
Israeli state and enables them to
believe they can continue to have
an occupation and be a normal
country. Hopefully, this will be
done through education, though
failing that it will have to be done
through shame and isolation from
the international community.”

The US, EU and Canada have not
been passive collaborators; rather
they are amongst the most active
supporters of Israel’s crimes against
humanity. US aid to Israel has been
the lifeblood of the occupation.
A November 2008 Washington
Report article put a conservative
estimate of total direct US aid to
Israel at $118 billion, averaging
$3 billion a year. Likewise, the EU
is the biggest importer of Israeli
goods; the total trade between
the EU and Israel amounted to
$36.7 billion in 2007, according
to an economic analysis prepared
by the Commercial Department
at the Israeli Mission to the EU.
The Canada-Israel Free Trade
Agreement blatantly legitimizes the
Israeli occupation by applying to the
entire territory of historic Palestine,
including the territories that Israel
has occupied since 1967, the West
Bank and Gaza.

In a trade-dependent country like
Israel, BDS can work. It is up to
American, Canadian and European
taxpayers to determine if they want
to reward unlawful Israeli behaviour
or pressure their governments to
pull back their support and to stop
the occupation and apartheid once
and for all.

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