Occupied Palestine, 1 June 2011 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) warmly salutes the Nakba commemoration mass Palestinian marches on 15 May which rekindled a unique spirit of resistance, real hope and heroic initiative in the struggle for the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. These marches, led mostly by young Palestinian refugees, gave new impetus to the Palestinian struggle for self determination, justice, and return of the refugees ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias and later Israel during the 1948 Nakba.
The Arab Spring of freedom, democracy and social justice that is blossoming across the region was itself largely inspired by decades of Palestinian popular resistance against Israel’s settler colonialism, occupation and apartheid. This Arab Spring is today, in turn, inspiring Palestinian mass peaceful protests, after demonstrating that when the threshold of fear is crossed by enough committed activists and when there is a clear vision of a future free of oppression and subjugation any seemingly invincible oppressor can be overcome.
The large non-violent marches by Palestinian youth in the West Bank, Gaza, Damoun, Jaffa, Maroun er-Ras (Lebanon) and Majdal Shams (Syria) have put the refugees’ right of return back at the core of the question of Palestine. By crossing hitherto impenetrable Israeli lines, real and imagined, into the occupied Golan Heights young Palestinian refugees from Syria, in particular, were able to demonstrate to the world, like their brethren in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere had done, that the will to restore rights is mightier than all the swords, including Israel’s futile nuclear arsenal and other weapons of mass destruction.
Aside from the spreading Arab peoples’ revolutions and their ability to topple some of the most brutal dictatorships anywhere, these Nakba Day return marches were buoyed by the ongoing popular resistance to Israel’s illegal wall and colonies built on occupied Palestinian territory and the fast growing global, Palestinian-led BDS movement that is scoring victories surpassing the most optimistic predictions.
The recent establishment on the May Day anniversary of the Palestinian Trade Union Coalition for BDS (PTUC-BDS), by far the largest alliance of Palestinian workers’ and professionals’ unions is but the latest sign that beyond a near consensus in supporting BDS, Palestinian society is gradually implementing BDS tactics in all sectors as part of an effective popular and civic resistance strategy. BDS has also grown at an unparalleled rate lately. Most recently, Stop the JNF, a BDS campaign coordinated with the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK, and other partners, played a key role in pressuring British Premier David Cameron to drop his honorary patron status in the racist organization.
The withdrawal of the German state-run Deutsche Bahn rail company from Israel’s illegal A1 railway project connecting Tel Aviv with Jerusalem has also set a precedent whose impact cannot be overestimated.
The continued loss of billion-dollar contracts by Veolia, the French company implicated in the illegal tram project connecting Israel’s colonies around Jerusalem with the city, is also a fresh reminder to international corporations that partnership in and profiting from Israel’s violations of international law is not only unethical and socially irresponsible; it may also cost them dearly, financially speaking.
The University of Johannesburg’s severance of ties with Israel’s Ben Gurion University over the latter’s complicity in human rights violations also broke a taboo and gave the BDS movement its most concrete academic boycott victory to date.
The growing ranks of artists and music groups boycotting Israel has also been quite heartening for the movement. In short, BDS is reaching new horizons and causing serious alarm among Israel’s establishment, as manifested in Israeli minister Ehud Barak’s warning that pressure against Israel threatens to hit “like a glacier, from all corners.”
This September will mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process” that is widely recognized as a total failure, by any objective standard. This sham process has served as a cover for Israel’s intensive colonization of Palestinian lands, continued denial of Palestinian basic rights, and gradual ethnic cleaning of Palestinians, while simultaneously giving a false impression of peacemaking. In this context, the BNC welcomes the recognition of a great majority of states around the world that the Palestinian right to statehood and freedom from Israeli occupation are long overdue and should no longer to be held hostage to fanatically biased US “diplomacy” in defense of Israeli expansionism. However, recognition of Palestinian statehood is clearly insufficient, on its own, in bringing about a real end to Israel’s occupation and colonial rule. Neither will it end Israel’s decades-old system of legalized racial discrimination, which fits the UN definition of apartheid, or allow the millions of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin from which they were violently uprooted and exiled.
Diplomatic recognition must result in protection of the inalienable right to self-determination of the entire Palestinian people represented by a democratized and inclusive PLO that represents not just Palestinians under occupation, but also the the exiled refugees, the majority of the Palestinian people, as well as the discriminated citizens of Israel.. For it to go beyond symbolism, this recognition must be a prelude to effective and sustained sanctions against Israel aimed at bringing about its full compliance with its obligations under international law. As shown in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, as well as in the current struggles for freedom and justice in the Arab region, world governments do not turn against a patently illegal and immoral regime of oppression simply on ethical grounds; economic interests and hegemonic power dynamics are far weightier in their considerations. In fact, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s militant and war-mongering speech before the US Congress, coupled with US President Barack Obama’s latest humiliating submission to Israel’s will, shows beyond doubt that anyone still holding on to the hope that Washington is capable or willing to contribute to building a just peace in our region is delusional.
The key lesson learned from South Africa is that, in order for world governments to end their complicity with Israel’s grave and persistent violations of human rights and international law, they must be compelled to do so through mass, well organized grassroots pressure by social movements and other components of civil society. In this context, BDS has proven to be the most potent and promising strategy of international solidarity with the Palestinian people in our struggle for self determination, freedom, justice and equality.
In light of the above, and inspired by the will and the power of the people which have given rise to the Arab spring, the BNC calls upon people of conscience and international solidarity groups to proceed with building a mass BDS movement in the US and elsewhere in the world’s most powerful countries before and after September. Only such a mass movement can ensure that whatever diplomatic recognition transpires at the UN in September on Palestinian statehood will advance the rights of the Palestinian people and raise the price of Israel’s occupation, colonialism and apartheid by further isolating it and those complicit in its crimes. A mass solidarity movement that can hold elected officials, especially in the US, accountable to the people, rather than to a Zionist lobby serving Israel’s colonial and belligerent agenda that directly conflicts with the interests of the American and other peoples, is the only hope for a comprehensive and sustainable peace based on justice.