Make Apartheid History – NAKBA events

As the pressure to close down the BDS movement by Israel increases, so the movement gets stronger and the success of the campaign grows. Companies are now responding (albeit reluctantly) to the boycott effort; artists are being  made more and more aware of the cultural boycott; and the academic boycott has been highly effective at raising awareness of the injustices perpetrated on Palestine by the Israeli government and military.

bds-spain
Barcelona has just joined the list of cities now supporting the BDS movement, along with the European Union and the governments of Sweden, Ireland and Netherlands.

Every May, along with so many other organisations and projects around the world, Make Apartheid History commemorates the  ‘Nakba’ – meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic. It refers to the mass expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from British Mandate Palestine during Israel’s creation (1947-49) when between 750,000 and one million Palestinians were expelled and made refugees by Zionist paramilitaries, and subsequently Israeli forces, during Israel’s creation in 1947-49.

This year, we are also marking the tenth year of the blockade of Gaza; the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank; and the centenary of the notorious Balfour Declaration.

Balfour_portrait_and_declaration

Read our recent MAH article ‘Balfour Declaration –Settler Colonialism 100 years on https://makeapartheidhistory.org/news/

NAKBA anniversary events in May
PSC NAKBA Diary of UK wide events, films, talks
https://www.palestinecampaign.org/events/nakba-week-events/

London Events

Monday 15 May 7.30pm
NAKBA SONGS OF EXILE.  Curated by Bethlehem Unwrapped Producer Justin Butcher. A fabulous line-up of singers and performers from many parts of the world, including Palestine, and covering the musical spectrum from classical to folkloric.
Venue: Priory Church of St John, Clerkenwell
Programme & tickets here

Thursday 18 May 7.30pm
CAMOUFLAGE A new play by Ahmed Masoud. Camouflage is about the experience of a Palestinian refugee trying to flee the conflict in Syria, a young girl in Ramallah who is in denial of the situation, a boy in Gaza falling in love for the first time and an aspiring actor in Haifa who has to come to terms with the unjust society he lives in. The play has been written to mark the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank
Venue: Amnesty International 25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA
Book here

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73 European Parliament Members Call on EU to End Support to Israeli Military Companies

Published by WAFA Palestinian News and Info Agency

About 73 members of the European Parliament issued a letter to European Union High Representative Federica Mogherini and Jan Robert Smits – Director-General of DG Research and Innovation asking the EU to end its support to Israeli military companies trough Horizon2020.

The unique cross-party initiative is the first time many MEPs from across the political spectrum have called on the EU not to award money to the Israeli military companies.

“Elbit Systems is one of Israel’s biggest military companies and a major producer of drones, weapons and other technology that is a key part of Israel’s military apparatus. Funding technological development and research to Elbit Systems or any similar company would at the very least infringe the EU’s policy against the funding of dual use projects.’

‘Beyond this, Elbit’s technologies have been developed during the course of Israel’s military actions that have been severely condemned by EU member states and provoked mass mobilizations throughout Europe.” the MEPs from the 5 biggest parties in the European Parliament stated.

The EU “has repeatedly condemned Israeli settlements and policies in Area C. It therefore seems in clear contradiction to established EU policies to award funds for research and development to any Israeli company involved in the settlements or the Wall and that may use its technology to further these policies or improves technologies developed for these purposes”, the MEPs said.

They added, “We believe it is our duty to ensure public money is spent on projects that promote the values and principles of the European Union and respect its general commitment to upholding and promoting international law, as set out in the Treaty of the European Union.”

This unique cross party initiative marks the first anniversary of Israel’s 2014 bombardment of Gaza and echoes an appeal made in May by 30 Palestinian coalitions, trade unions and civil society organizations who wrote to Mogherini with demand to exclude Israeli military companies from EU research programs.

BDS: A Global Movement for Freedom and Justice

By Omar Barghouti

Published by Al-Shabaka (originally published in May 2010)

Editor’s note

The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) was launched 10 years ago, providing Palestinian leadership and strategic guidance to what had been a disparate set of ad hoc boycott actions around the world. Al-Shabaka takes this occasion to republish Policy Advisor Omar Barghouti’s policy brief,which addresses the basic principles and strategies underpinning the BDS movement that have remained constant since its founding.

The brief tackles the reason why the movement has not specified a political outcome; highlights the “unambiguous invitation” to Israelis of conscience to support the Call and the efforts of the Zionist left to undermine it; and points to a key reason for the movement’s success – the freedom to design BDS actions that are context specific, gradual, and sustainable. While BDS opponents accuse the movement of seeking to “destroy Israel” Barghouti makes it clear that the aim is simply to hold Israel accountable to international law, and that Western civil society bears a unique responsibility to do so given Western governments’ complicity in enabling Israel’s rights violations.

Overview

While media attention over the past few months has focused on a brewing third Palestinian intifada in response to the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Al-Shabaka policy advisor Omar Barghouti argues that a far more widespread, nonviolent grassroots movement originating in the Occupied Palestinian Territories has been building and spreading around the world. He reviews the formation and evolution of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement, including its rights-based (as opposed to solutions-based) approach, its collective leadership, its call to Israelis of conscience, and its promotion of context-specific strategies.

Not only friends of Palestinian rights recognize the potential of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign; foes do too. In May 2009, at AIPAC’s policy conference, Executive Director Howard Kohr warned that BDS was reaching the American mainstream and “laying the predicate for abandonment [of Israel].” (1)

Kohr added, “This is a conscious campaign to shift policy, to transform the way Israel is treated by its friends to a state that deserves not our support, but our contempt; not our protection, but pressure to change its essential nature.”

BDS does indeed challenge Israel’s “essential nature.” Rooted in almost a century of civil resistance to Zionist settler colonialism, the Palestinian Civil Society Campaign for BDS against Israel was launched on 9 July 2005, (2) ushering in a qualitatively new phase of resistance to Israel occupation, dispossession and apartheid against the indigenous people of Palestine. (3)

The global campaign in response to the Palestinian BDS Call, which is guided by its Palestinian leadership, has made significant inroads into the Western mainstream over the past few years. The global BDS Campaign asserts a new, rights-based discourse in dealing with the question of Palestine. By so doing, it decisively exposes the double standard and exceptionalism with which the United States and most of the West have to varying degrees treated Israel ever since its establishment through the carefully planned and methodically executed campaign of forcible displacement and dispossession of the majority of the Palestinian people in the 1948 Nakba. (4) The official western collusion reached its height when Western states collectively ignored the historic advisory opinion issued by the International Court of Justice on 9 July 2004, which affirmed that Israel’s colonial Wall and settlements were contrary to international law – at a time when Palestinians were still reeling from Israel’s violent take over of cities and refugee camps in the occupied West Bank in 2002. This factor was the direct trigger for the BDS Call a year later.

Rights-Based Approach

The BDS Call identifies the fundamental rights that correspond to the three main segments of the indigenous people of Palestine. Based on international law and universal principles of human rights, the Call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

The BDS Call, signed by over 170 Palestinian organizations, political parties, trade union federations, and mass movements, expresses the collective aspirations of the Palestinian people by asserting that only the fulfillment of the Call’s three basic demands would satisfy the minimal requirements for the people of Palestine to exercise the inalienable right to self determination.

The BDS Call has laid “the predicate” for transcending the failed official Palestinian policy of reducing Palestinian rights to the attainment of a Bantustan under Israel’s overall control.

It presents a popular Palestinian response to the incessant concessions by the so-called leadership over basic rights. Palestinian officials, lacking a democratic mandate and running after the trappings of power, narrow economic interests, and privilege, have through years of a US-Israeli designed and managed “peace process” effectively surrendered the right of return as it is defined by the UN; accepted Israel’s occupation and colonization of key parts of the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem; expunged the 1948 Palestinians, citizens of Israel, from the very definition of the Palestinian people, indirectly legitimizing Israeli apartheid; forsaken the moral high ground by accepting a symmetry between the “claims of both sides;” and played along Israel’s public relations campaign of portraying its colonial conflict with the Palestinian people as merely one over some disputed land.

By avoiding the prescription of any particular political formula, the BDS Call insists, instead, on the necessity of including the three basic, irreducible rights above in any just and legal solution. It presents a platform that not only unifies Palestinians everywhere in the face of accelerating fragmentation but also appeals to international civil society by evoking the same universal principles of freedom, justice and equal rights that were upheld by the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the civil rights movement in the United States, among many others.

In this way, the BDS movement has dragged Israel and its well-financed lobby groups onto a battlefield where the moral clarity of the Palestinian struggle for self determination, justice, freedom and equality neutralizes — even outweighs — Israel’s military power and financial prowess. BDS is the classic right over might paradigm, with the international public increasingly recognizing that Israel’s criminality and impunity place a moral burden on all people of conscience to act fast, and with effectiveness, political suaveness and nuance.

Collective Palestinian Leadership and Reference

In 2008, the formation of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the BNC, created a unified Palestinian referenceand guiding force for the global BDS movement. The BNC is a broad coalition of leading Palestinian political parties, unions, coalitions and networks representing the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees; Palestinians in the occupied West Bank (including Jerusalem) and Gaza Strip; and Palestinian citizens of Israel. (5)

An important component of the BDS Call that is often overlooked is the unambiguous invitation to conscientious Israelis to support the Call, recognizing the important role anti-colonialist, anti-racist – i.e., anti-Zionist — Israelis can and ought to play in ending Israel’s criminal impunity and apartheid.

A fast growing group of principled Jewish-Israeli supporters of BDS fully recognizes this Palestinian reference. (6) Some Zionist “left” voices, on the other hand, have recently presented their own versions of “BDS,” after the movement started having a palpable impact on the western mainstream. In several instances, these voices have ignored or undermined the Palestinian BDS Call and leadership as the reference for the global movement, in an attempt to project themselves as an alternative, Israel-centered reference. Their ultimate objectives are clear: salvaging their lost, unwarranted agency and inflated sense of entitlement to speak on behalf of the Palestinians; forestalling any challenges to Israel’s system of apartheid and denial of refugee rights by circumscribing Palestinian rights to the “ending the occupation” in return for dropping “all claims” paradigm; and restraining solidarity initiatives to conform to their selective and ideologically motivated agendas.

As in the struggle against South African apartheid, genuine solidarity movements recognize and follow the lead of the oppressed, who are not passive objects but active, rational subjects that are asserting their aspirations and rights as well as their strategy to realize them. (7)

Moral Consistency and Context-Specific Strategies

The BDS Call builds on many Palestinian and international initiatives for boycotting Israel and/or divesting from it, particularly since the UN Conference Against Racism in Durban in 2001. Whereas moral consistency and commitment to universal human rights are the overriding principles of the global BDS movement, operationally, BDS is based on three basic principles: context sensitivity, gradualness, and sustainability. Conscientious academics, intellectuals, human rights activists and civil society organizations in any given country, the movement recognizes, know best how to apply BDS most effectively in their particular circumstances, taking into consideration their respective political realities, constraints and potential.

Several BDS recommendations were adopted at a civil society forum held in Bilbao, the Basque Country (Spain), in November 2008, with the participation of tens of Palestinian, European and Israeli progressive organizations endorsing BDS. (8) Some of these recommendations are included in the following BDS campaign priorities, which reflect the collective experiences in the BDS movement since its inception in 2005:

  1. Promoting a general boycott of all Israeli products and services until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law; (9)
  2. Promoting a boycott of all Israeli academic, cultural and tourist institutions that are complicit in maintaining the Israeli occupation and apartheid regime.  (10) This demands raising awareness among academics, artists and cultural workers about the role these institutions have played in perpetuating injustice and colonial oppression;
  3. Implementing ethical investment principles by trade unions, faith-based organizations, local councils and national pension funds, among others, by divesting from Israel Bonds and from all companies, banks and other financial institutions that profit from or are otherwise complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights. Major Christian Palestinian figures recently issued “A Moment of Truth,” a document by the Palestine Kairos group calling on churches around the world “to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth” and explicitly endorsing BDS “as tools of justice, peace and security;”  (11)
  4. Promoting divestment from and/or a realistic boycott of products of companies — whether Israeli or international — that are implicated in violations of international law and human rights, such as Elbit Systems, BAE, Veolia, Alstom, Eden Springs, Agrexco-Carmel, Ahava, Lev Leviev Diamonds, Motorola, Caterpillar, among others;
  5. Promoting ethical pilgrimage to the Holy Land by directly benefiting Palestinian hotels, restaurants, coach services, guides, etc., denying Israel, its airlines and its apartheid institutions the lucrative revenues that accrue from such pilgrimage;
  6. Applying public pressure to ostracize the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and deny it its current legal status in most western countries as a tax exempt, charitable organization;
  7. Lobbying local councils and regional governments to strictly apply domestic and international laws which urge them to preclude from public contracts companies that are involved in “grave misconduct,” especially at the human rights level;
  8. Applying effective pressure on public officials and political parties to heed Amnesty International’s call for an immediate arms embargo on all parties of the “conflict;”  (12)
  9. Calling for an immediate suspension of all free-trade and other preferential trade agreements with Israel due to its violations of international law and Palestinian rights;  (13)
  10. Applying pressure for the immediate and unconditional implementation of the recommendations included in the Goldstone Report, adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and backed by the UN General Assembly and almost every major international human rights organization, to hold Israel accountable for committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In challenging Israel’s oppression, the global BDS campaign does not call for Israel to be treated according to higher or lower standards than those that apply to any other state committing similar crimes and violations of international law. Although Israel is by no means the most atrocious offender around the world, it is the only ongoing offender that has constantly been treated as an honorary member of the Western club of “democracies,” with the Holocaust cynically — and quite irrelevantly — summoned as a smokescreen to cover up this collusion. The virtually unparalleled state of exceptionalism and impunity that Israel enjoys today allows it to pursue its agenda of apartheid, ethnic cleansing and slow-genocide against the indigenous people of Palestine without any regard to international law or concern about possible punitive measures for violating it. As some progressive Jewish intellectuals have stated recently, “Never Again!” must always be understood to mean: never again to anyone.  (14)

Western civil society carries a unique responsibility to hold Israel accountable to international law due to the incomparable level of complicity of Western governments in sustaining Israel’s system of colonial and racial oppression through vast diplomatic, economic, academic, cultural and political support – all in the name of Western citizens and using their tax money. Deep complicity engenders profound moral responsibility. While several Arab regimes – including parts of the Palestinian Authority – are also colluding in the implementation of the Israeli-US agenda in the region, their impact is considerably less significant that that of Western states in sustaining Israel’s three-tiered system of oppression. (15)

Collusion and moral duty aside, the responsibility to promote and support the BDS campaign against Israel also derives from common interest. While the US and other Western states fund Israel’s endless wars and system of apartheid to the tune of billions of dollars every year, millions of children in the West are still left behind in substandard housing, inadequate or non-existent health care, poor education and an establishment that effectively disenfranchises them when they grow up from effectively participating in the democratic political process. A progressive transformation in US and European Union (EU) priorities from directing these nations’ great human and material resources into wars and imperial hegemony on the international scene to investing in universal health care, dignified housing, a school system that is conducive to critical and contextual learning and development, decent jobs, and reversing the fatal damage to the environment, is not only good on its own merits for the peoples of the West; it is also great for the world — for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Latin America, Africa, and, most certainly, Palestine.

The global BDS movement for Palestinian rights presents a progressive, anti racist, sustainable, moral and effective form of civil, non-violent resistance for Palestinian human rights that is also fast becoming one of the key political catalysts and moral anchors for a strengthened, reinvigorated international social movement capable of ending the law of the jungle and upholding in its stead the rule of law, reaffirming the rights of all humans to freedom, equality and dignified living.

Indeed, BDS may well prove to be the most powerful form of popular Palestinian resistance ever.

Notes:

  1. http://www.aipac.org/Publications/SpeechesByAIPACLeadership/HowardKohr.pdf
  2. http://bdsmovement.net/?q=node/52
  3. For an in-depth analysis of Israel’s apartheid and colonial system see the strategic position paper published by the BDS National Committee (BNC), titled “United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation,” October 2008: http://bdsmovement.net/files/English-BNC_Position_Paper-Durban_Review.pdf
  4. For more on the systematic forcible displacement of the Palestinians see: Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Oneworld. (Oxford: 2007).
  5. BNC members include: Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, General Union of Palestinian Workers, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Palestinian National Council for NGOs, Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Initiative, General Union of Palestinian Women, Union of Palestinian Farmers, Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW), National Committee for Popular Resistance, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba, Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), Coalition for Jerusalem, Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations, Palestinian Economic Monitor, Union of Youth Activity Centers-Palestine Refugee Camps.
  6. See, for example: http://boycottisrael.info/ and http://www.alternativenews.org/
  7. The Cairo Declaration, produced and endorsed by representatives of solidarity groups from more than 40 countries who protested in Egypt as part of the Gaza Freedom March, provides a distinguished example of such principled solidarity: http://cairodeclaration.org/
  8. http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/213
  9. For arguments against strategically restricting the boycott to “settlement products” see: http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article9948.shtml
  10. For more on the academic boycott see: http://www.PACBI.org. Also a recent study published by the Alternative Information Center documents many aspects of the complicity of the Israeli academy in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people: http://alternativenews.org/publications/econoccupation/2223-the-economy-of-the-occupation-23-24-academic-boycott-of-israel.html
  11. http://www.kairospalestine.ps/sites/default/Documents/English.pdf
  12. Regardless of the valid criticism against Amnesty’s morally and legally flawed equation between the occupying power on the one hand and the people under occupation and their resistance movement on the other, this call still includes a ban on arms trade with Israel and on shipping arms to Israel through any country’s ports and airspace.
  13. The EU-Israel Association Agreement and the MERCOSUR-Israel FTA are high priority targets.
  14. See, for instance, Naomi Klein’s statements in this regard at a lecture last year in Ramallah covered by Haaretz –Yotam Feldman, Noami Klein: Oppose the State Not the People, Haaretz, 2 July 2009: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1097058.html
  15. The PA as an entity plays an indispensable role in legitimizing Israel’s claims and in whitewashing its violations of international law and war crimes. Gradually dissolving the PA and the democratic, bottom-up take over and reconstruction of the PLO to reinstitute it as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people everywhere, inclusive of all major national and Islamist political parties, would deny Israel its most valuable asset and help undermine its regime of oppression against the people of Palestine.

US churches vote on joining BDS movement targeting Israel

Published by the Guardian

United Church of Christ joins Boycott, Divest and Sanction campaign in protest at treatment of Palestinians, with two other denominations due to decide.

The international movement to boycott Israel over its treatment of Palestinians has received backing from one of the largest Protestant churches in the US, as two other major denominations prepare to vote on whether or not to divest money from the Jewish state.

The United Church of Christ’s general assembly on Tuesday voted overwhelmingly in favor of divesting funds at its synod in Cleveland. Further votes by the Episcopal Church and the Mennonite Church USA were expected on Tuesday night and Wednesday.

Inspired by the sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa, the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) campaign, encourages organizations and institutions such as universities and churches to divest from Israel until “the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel” have been recognized.

Anna Baltzer, a Jewish American national organizer with the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, was in Cleveland for the UCC vote.

“To me it’s very symbolic to see that this is not one church, this is not two churches, this is churches of the United States moving on this issue,” Baltzer said. “And in some it might take a few more years, it did for all those who have voted so far, it took many years, but they got there and they will get there and the message is clear that things have changed in this country.”

She said that organizations that support divestment show solidarity with Palestinian people. “It sends a message to our US leaders that they should stand on the right side of history because things are changing quickly in this country and we can see it as high up as mainstream US churches,” Baltzer said.

The United Church of Christ, a Protestant denomination with around a million members, unanimously approved a divestment resolution on Sunday night, but it did not become official until the general assembly voted in favor of divestment on Tuesday. The General Synod voted 508-124 in favor of divestment, 38 people abstained from the vote.

Rev James Moos, executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries and co-executive of Global Ministries, said that the vote was representative of the church’s commitment to peace in the Middle East.

“The United Church of Christ condemns all forms of violence and antisemitism, and affirms Israel’s right to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders,” Moos said in a statement. “We similarly assert the right of Palestinians to have a sovereign, independent and viable state within secure and recognized borders.”

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon told the AP that the UCC’s vote “in no way reflect a moral stance or reality-based position”.

“People of faith ought to be acting to help Israel and the Palestinians to renew efforts to achieve peace, rather than endlessly demonizing one party in the conflict – in our view, the aggrieved party,” Nahshon said.

It has been nearly 10 years since the BDS campaign began in July 2005. Some pro-Israel groups have said that the movement is motivated by antisemitism, though movement leaders deny those assertions.

The Episcopal Church, which has around two million members, is likely to vote on divestment resolutions at its general convention in Salt Lake City on Tuesday. The church’s presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said in 2012 that the church does not support divestment.

On Wednesday the smaller Mennonite Church USA – which has around 97,000 members – will vote on divestment at its national convention in Kansas City.

In June 2014 the largest Presbyterian group in the US narrowly voted to divest from Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett Packard because the multinational corporations supply Israel with goods.

UK actors, directors and writers demand immediate sanctions on Israel

Published by the Palestine News Network

Actors, authors, academics and architects have today called on the UK government to push for immediate sanctions on Israel until it abides by international law and ends its occupation of Palestinian land. 

They join other big names from the world of film and rock music, as well as 20,000 members of the public, who have signed a petition which will be delivered at the Houses of Parliament today.

The film directors, Ken Loach and Peter Kosminsky, actors Maxine Peake, Samuel West and Miriam Margolyes, musician Brian Eno, poet Benjamin Zephaniah and the writers and academics, Tariq Ali and Karma Nabulsi, are among those* who have put their name to the call.

Will Alsop OBE, the RIBA award winning architect, another signatory, said: “‘I have signed the petition as I object to the people in the Gaza Strip being forced to live in a prison camp.”

Miriam Margolyes OBE, who played Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter films, said: “To my immense sadness, I feel bound to sign the petition calling for sanctions against Israel.

“Netanyahu is clearly committed to the continuation of the occupation, the settlements and the blatant flouting of UN resolutions. Only international sanctions can perhaps percolate the Israeli sensibility and persuade them to halt the wickedness they perpetrate.”

Explaining his reasons for adding his name to the petition, the film director Ken Loach said: “We should no longer accept Israel’s brazen flouting of international law, theft of Palestinian land and oppression of the Palestinian people. When political leaders tolerate such brutality, civil society must take action. That means an international campaign of boycotts, disinvestments and sanctions to show the Israeli government that it cannot act in this manner with impunity.”

The petition has been organised by Palestine Solidarity Campaign, an organisation dedicated to campaigning for human rights and justice, in response to the hardline attitude of Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Cabinet, whose members have been vocal in voicing their opposition to a Palestinian state.*

Hugh Lanning, Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “One day before he was re-elected in March, Netanyahu stood in an illegal Israeli settlement and gave a televised interview in which he made it clear there would never be a Palestinian state on his watch.

“Since the election, members of his Cabinet have stated explicitly that they will not give up an inch of land to the Palestinians, and new settlement building has been announced in East Jerusalem.

“It is clear that this Israeli government, like others before it, has no commitment to international law or any kind of ‘peace process’. It is now imperative that our government pushes the EU to impose immediate sanctions on Israel, including a full two-way arms embargo.

“The Palestinians deserve a future free from occupation, apartheid and, in Gaza, crippling siege. The imposition of sanctions by our government and the EU will go a long way to achieving this.”

Lanning will join Richard Burden MP, Chair of the Britain-Palestine All Party Group, Haya Al-Farra from the Palestinian Mission in the UK, and Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, to deliver the petition to the office of the Prime Minister.

The hand-in will take place at 2.15pm on 23rd June, during PSC’s National Lobby of Parliament for Palestine, during which up to 168 MPs will be lobbied by constituents on the subject of Palestine.

*Signatories to the petition include: Tariq Ali (writer, journalist, filmmaker), Will Alsop (architect), Jonathan Chadwick (theatre director, writer), Selma Dabbagh (writer),Brian Eno (musician),Peter Kosminsky (writer, director, producer), Paul Laverty (lawyer, scriptwriter),Ken Loach (director), Miriam Margolyes (actor), Karma Nabulsi (writer, academic), Maxine Peake (actor), Alexei Sayle (comedian, writer, presenter), Ahdaf Soueif (writer, commentator), Samuel West (actor), Benjamin Zephaniah (poet, writer, musician).

Tel Aviv’s panic shows boycotts are having effect

By Joseph Dana, published by The National

This month marks 48 years since the start of Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank. What is remarkable about this sober anniversary is not the longevity of Israeli control over Palestinian life or the failure of various peace efforts, but that it took so long for a grass roots boycott movement to come into being that could apply serious pressure on Israel.

Such a boycott movement is now fully deployed on multiple fronts, from diplomatic initiatives to sport to pressure on international companies complicit in Israeli occupation.

Last week, Palestinians stopped just short of forcing a vote at Fifa’s world congress on suspending Israel from international football. At the same time, years of pressure on French telecom giant Orange resulted in blistering remarks from its chief executive, Stephane Richard, stating he would pull his company out of Israel immediately if it were not for the legal quagmire that would ensue. On the diplomatic front, the European Union appears poised to start labelling Israeli goods produced in illegal settlements.

While Mr Richard quickly backtracked his statements and proclaimed that Orange will stay in Israel, the damage had been done and Israel’s leadership showed itself to be in utter disarray as to how to contain futhur boycotts. Israel’s hysterical reactions speak volumes about the direction the country is heading.

At this stage, Israel is ironically playing directly into the hands of the boycott movement. In essence, the movement’s major selling point is continued Israeli arrogance, which underlines the boycotters’ mantra that only outside pressure can force Israel to stop its intransigence. Pending a radical announcement of an end to the occupation or even the serious curtailing of the settlement movement, both of which Israel is unable or unwilling to do, Tel Aviv seems helpless to defend itself against additional boycotts. After all, there is nothing unique to this boycott of colonial Israel. Boycotts are tried and true non-violent ways to force change on stubborn regimes the world over.

It is a testament to Israel’s hubris that it has allowed itself to be placed in such a position, seeing as it had intimate exposure to the boycotts of apartheid South Africa.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed an Afrikaner politician from the Democratic Alliance in his wood-panelled office in South Africa’s parliament in Cape Town. A former member of the National Party, which instituted and oversaw the apartheid government, the politician described how Israeli businessmen would visit South Africa in the 1980s to help white South African businessmen circumvent the international boycott by purchasing their products, smuggling them across the border to Zimbabwe, and then selling them on the open market with Israeli labels replacing the South African ones.

Stories like these demonstrate just how closely Israel watched the boycott bring down apartheid South Africa. Israeli strategists at various levels of government are familiar with the history of anti-colonial movements.

That Israel created a network of Palestinian collaborators and disrupts Palestinian political unity on every level is testament to this fact. And yet, despite this wealth of information and experience, Israel is reacting to its own boycott in the same hysterical way that apartheid South Africa did in the 1980s.

Last week, justice minister Ayelet Shaked forcefully argued that Israel should boycott the boycotts and “return fire”. Other senior members of the Israeli leadership have dismissed the boycott as an “industry of lies” and labelled the movement anti-Semitic.

By equating boycotts with anti-Israel actions, Tel Aviv has sent a clear message to the world that its occupation and domination over Palestinian life are part and parcel of the country. Israelis don’t even pay lip service to the idea that their occupation is a temporary measure that will end when a peace agreement comes into being and a two-state solution is realised.

Israel defends its behaviour in a manner that erases the Green Line that separates recognised Israel from Palestine and embraces the occupation as a permanent facet of Israeli statehood. In so doing, the Israeli leadership and the majority of Israelis essentially make the boycotters’ case for them.

A similar situation unfolded for the apartheid regime in South Africa when it was forced to its knees by boycotts. Apartheid leaders often argued that the regime was a necessary fact of life and even a right, in the same way that mainstream Israeli leaders speak about the occupation as their “right” to security and their “right” to build anywhere in the West Bank.

Regardless, Israel now stands naked in its colonial ambitions for the world to see. The most frightening part is that a majority of Israelis have come to embrace this position. History often repeats itself first as tragedy then as farce. We have entered the farcical episode of Israel’s colonial history. It is unlikely that the country will enjoy the same sort of international support and protection now that its ambitions are clear and unavoidable.