Sunday, February 28, 2010

Solidarity in Action with the Palestinians: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions


March 1-7, the Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week will be held around the globe.

Since it was first launched in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 40 cities around the world participated in the week's activities, which took place in the wake of Israel's brutal assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. IAW continues to grow with new cities joining this year.

IAW 2010 takes place following a year of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of theses successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid. Speakers and full programme for each city will be available soon.

For details on the actions planned in many cities, click on


For an account of the achievements of the campaign to date, and suggestions for the steps ahead, see “Palestine Solidarity Victories Alarm Pro-Israel Lobby” and “Next Steps for the Palestinian Solidarity Movement”.

The BDS campaign has been met by a vicious reaction from Zionist and pro-imperialist circles, including leading figures in the Canadian government and all parties in Parliament. Not to be outdone, the Ontario legislature voted February 25, with all-party support, to denounce Israeli Apartheid Week. Predictably, press reports highlighted the support for the motion by the NDP representative, Cheri DiNovo. Support by the NDP and many trade-union officials is highly valued by these reactionary circles.

In sharp contrast to the NDP, the new left-wing party Québec solidaire, at its November 2009 convention, voted unanimously to support the BDS campaign. And the February-March 2010 issue of the popular Quebec magazine À Bâbord !, which is generally sympathetic to Québec solidaire, carried the following article, entitled “Boycott d’Israël (BDS): Réflexions sur la campagne palestinienne”. My translation.

Boycott of Israel (BDS): Thoughts on the Palestinian campaign

by Fabienne Preséntey

member of Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)[1]

Launched in 2005, the call by more than 150 organizations of Palestinian civil society for a campaign of “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) is shaking an Israeli society immured in its refusal to confront more than 60 years of life built on lies erected around a founding vision proclaiming “A land without people for a people without land”.

The BDS campaign defies the anti-Arab and Islamophobic Western propaganda that permeates North American and European economic and geopolitical positions. This propaganda implies that Israel is a “watch-dog” for their interests in the Middle East — a role that Israel has agreed to play since 1948.

Despite the realities — the flouting of the human rights of the Palestinians, the non-compliance with international law, the fanaticism of the messianic colonists — the BDS campaign arouses uneasiness, anger and accusations of anti-Semitism. A campaign to boycott Israel represents a choice that is hard to accept in Western countries, for the Palestinian campaign challenges the foundations of two major myths of victimization, in that it urges us (1) to act against some Jews, the archetypal victimized people of the 20th century, and to break with 60 years of Western guilt related to their massacre; (2) to dare to consider the Palestinian people not as a grouping of exemplary victims but as a people who are capable of gaining control over their fate.

The BDS campaign is a Palestinian act of refusal of resignation. An attempt to innovate in action, it demonstrates the capacity of the Palestinian people to take control of their own affairs, outside of the existing political authorities, and to send an unequivocal message to the State of Israel. It also demonstrates that over the long term no people accepts domination, occupation and colonization.

Apartheid, Israel and the BDS campaign

Israel is not South Africa. Unlike South African apartheid, the Zionist movement did not foresee the establishment of Bantustans for the Palestinian Arabs. Its objective was the creation of an exclusively Jewish state, a national homeland without an Arab presence. But it is no accident that the State of Israel today includes the attributes of an apartheid state, albeit with some particular features that differentiate it from the South African model. The similarities are clear in Israeli-style “structural separation”:

1. two countries conceptualized as “European states” in non-European settings, the latter viewed as inferior;

2. two states founded on inequality of rights based on ethnic identity reinforced by the legal apparatus and discriminatory political practices;

3. two states in which military force is essential in securing colonization, occupation and social and territorial segregation.

The BDS campaign collides not only with the historical construct aimed at overcoming the memory of the prior occupation of the territory by the Arabs, but also with the thesis that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a clash between two national movements of equal legitimacy. It is threatening, for its objective is quite clear: to force Israel to comply with international law. Moreover, it brings hope to the Palestinian people, as was the case during the boycott against South African apartheid.

The BDS campaign aims to win recognition of the fundamental individual and collective rights of the Palestinians, putting an end to the occupation and colonization of their territory. The discriminatory dimensions of Israeli policies are “ignored” by the majority of Israelis and disguised in the Jewish communities around the world. Today in Israel, a majority of the population does not perceive itself as colonizers or as an occupying nation.

The BDS campaign is necessary for it is ONE way to resist the highly sophisticated public relations campaign conducted by the Israeli government and world Jewish organizations to counter the negative images of the war and occupation. As Naomi Klein notes:

“The Israeli government openly uses culture as a military tool.... So the foreign ministry launched a campaign called "Israel Beyond the Conflict," which involves using culture, film, books, the arts, tourism and academia to create all kinds of alliances between Western countries and the state of Israel, and to promote the image of a normal, happy country, rather than an aggressive occupying power.... We are dealing with a state strategy to co-opt all of that to make a brutal occupation more palatable.”[2]

Finally, let us note that the BDS campaign is not aimed at Israelis but at a state that systematically violates international law, and fails to comply with the Geneva conventions or the countless agreements signed over the last 60 years. Issued by Palestinian civil society and supported by the movement against the Israeli occupation, it urges us to view the Israeli-Palestinian conflict otherwise than through our old eyeglasses fogged by ancient fears and dogmas.

“No Israeli who claims to support the rights of the Palestinian people can reasonably turn his or her back to this campaign; having stated for years that ‘armed struggle is not the right option,’ it would be over the top for those Israeli militants to seek to discredit this BDS strategy. On the contrary, we should all join the campaign to ‘Boycott from within’.’... That is the least we can do, and it is the least we must do.” – Michel Warschawski, Founder of the Alternative Information Center

[1] “Jewish Conference Votes to Support Boycott of Israel”,

[2] Naomi Klein, “Naomi Klein Shows You Can Boycott Israel Without Cutting Off Dialogue Over Palestine”,

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