Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in the U.S. this month to meet with U.S. leaders and to address the annual American Israeli Public Affairs Committee convention in Washington DC. One focus of that conference was to getting support for a national U.S. law to outlaw the Movement to Boycott Divest and Sanction Israel.
But the struggle will not be outlawed. Even in Washington, the capital of his closest ally and chief benefactor, Netanyahu was met by hundreds of protesters supporting BDS demands, calling for justice for Palestine and for the U.S. to stop funding Israeli apartheid.
BDS was begun in 2005 and endorsed by 170 organizations representing Palestinian civil society. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S., BDS seeks to pressure the Israeli government to comply with international law in its treatment of Palestinians. The movement calls for Israel to: 1) withdraw from the occupied territories and remove the separation barrier in the West Bank, 2) grant full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and 3) allow Palestinian refugees their right to return to the homes.
While Israeli repression and theft of Palestinian lands continue, BDS is growing. It is now a worldwide movement, made up trade unions, academic associations, churches, and grassroots movements. It is having a major impact, and is challenging Israeli apartheid and settler colonialism.
The 14th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week of actions is taking place around the world between Feb. 19 and April 17. To mark anti-apartheid week, this article will review some of the gains of BDS and related struggles that rarely make it into the corporate media.
South Africans stepping up
South Africans have a long history of supporting Palestine, with many people recognizing the similarity of Israel’s apartheid system to the one in their own country that the struggle abolished in 1991. Under public pressure, South Africa’s governing political party, the African National Congress, has recently downgraded the Israeli embassy to a “liaison office’”in a show of support for the Palestinian people. At a UN Human Rights Council session in Geneva in January, the South African representative condemned Israel as the only nation in the world still practicing apartheid.
In February, South Africans supporting a boycott of Israeli athletes rallied outside a Davis Cup tennis match between an Israeli and South African player. Even the South African Sports and Recreation Minister,Thulas Nxesi, boycotted the event. “International solidarity and the boycott against apartheid South Africa played a big role in our liberation,” he explained in an open letter. “Indeed one of the most well-known slogans came out of that context – ‘no normal sport with an abnormal regime!’”
In London: A rallying cry for Ahed Tamimi
The December jailing by Israel of then 16-year-old Palestinian West Bank activist Ahed Tamimi drew outrage around the world. Immediately after her arrest, activists in London began a campaign to bring attention to her situation. Their tactics included rallies, speak outs and putting up posters at bus stops calling for her release. On March 21, Israel sentenced Ahed to 8 months in jail, and fined the teenager almost $1,500 for ‘assault.” Meanwhile, an Israeli soldier who executed a prone Palestinian will serve only 9 months in jail. (Electronic Intifada)
Under public pressure, more than a dozen members of the British Parliament, including one from the Conservative party, have condemned Israeli political suppression. Ahed is being targeted, their statement said, because, “She is the daughter of parents who are leading activists in the popular struggle against the occupation in the village of Nabi Saleh.” The statement acknowledged “The reality of repression against ordinary Palestinians” and “the disproportionate response to any action taken by Ahed.” The statement condemned “the routine use of night arrests and interrogation of minors by Israeli military forces which further fuel hatred and division.”
In the US: Ahed Tamimi compared to Trayvon Martin
While no major politicians in the U.S. have been so bold, the arrest of Ahed has generated outrage here. Recently 27 prominent figures, including actors, academics and athletes, signed a petition in support of the young woman, comparing Ahed to murdered African-American teenager Trayvon Martin. Among them were actors Rosario Dawson, Jesse Williams and Danny Glover, and activists authors Angela Davis and Cornel West. The statement said, ”From Trayvon Martin to Mohammed Abu Khdeir and Khalif Browder to Ahed Tamimi – racism, state violence and mass incarceration have robbed our people of their childhoods and their futures.”
The people will not be silenced
Some 24 U.S. states already have laws in place making BDS illegal. This has not stopped U.S. campuses from becoming a heated arena of struggle over Palestinian rights, as student groups seek to support BDS and to get their schools to divest from investors who profit from Israeli apartheid. Graduate student workers at the University of Massachusetts and the University of Wisconsin are among those who have endorsed BDS. In Wisconsin they voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution to divest from the Israel and from corporations that profit from the illegal occupation of Palestine. (Mondoweiss)
“Student groups have continued to support the Palestinian cause in spite of conservative college administrations trying to silence or suppress them,” explained Sapphira Lurie, a member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and founding member of Students for Justice in Palestine at Fordham University. “Historically, university campuses have played a progressive role in American history,” she said. There has been a “shifting momentum in favor of Palestine on campuses.” SJP is suing Fordham for their right to have a chapter.
BDS nominated for Nobel Peace Prize
The BDS movement was just recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize by leftist Norwegian lawmaker Bjornar Moxnes. He described the BDS movement as not just for Palestine, but also as part of a global trend of resistance, “stopping an ascendant racist and right wing politics sweeping too much of our world.”
Norway’s largest trade union, the Norwegian Confederation of Trade Unions, representing a million workers, has endorsed a full boycott of Israel in order to obtain Palestinian rights. Israel has retaliated by banning all leadership of the trade union from entering Israel.
Millions in India give their support
Seven organizations from India’s Women’s movement have demanded the release of Ahed Tamimi and have formally endorsed BDS, asserting that endorsing BDS is the most effective form of solidarity with Ahed and other child prisoners. These organizations represent 10 million women.
All India Kisan Sabha, which represents 16 million farmers and agricultural workers in India, has joined BDS. It plans to resist the corporate takeover of Indian agriculture sector by Israeli companies, denounce and document any cases of Israeli corporate takeover in the Indian agro-sector, and raise awareness among Indian farmers to prevent Israel and its corporations from reaping profits in India that finance military occupation and apartheid in Palestine Joining BDS, AIKS said, “ is saying no to the hateful politics of [Indian] Prime Minister Modi, Netanyahu and Trump, and joining to build a more free, just and equal world.”
AIKS was formed in 1936 and played a pivotal role in organizing farm workers against British imperialism. Just as in South Africa, this is another great example of working and oppressed people remembering their history and extending international solidarity to those who face similar situations.
Solidarity the way forward
Student, labor, women’s and many other groups are unifying around Palestine as they pursue their own demands for justice, living wages, freedom from repression and equality. International solidarity and support, and recognition of common enemies worldwide, can only strengthen all movements of working class and oppressed people.