We already have the tool “to stop Israel’s war crimes”, says Naomi Klein. It’s “BDS” – that it, it’s the strategy of using ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ against Israel. Indeed, she is right. It is a powerful weapon for non-violent change. Even so, a generation of propaganda has made it is almost impossible for Western governments to employ this strategy.
I still remember when our local council – Marrickville (in the inner-West of Sydney) –officially adopted BDS in 2011. It caused such an uproar that the state government threatened to sack the Council unless we rescinded the decision!
I had the privilege of addressing the Council twice, if I remember, in support of the BDS proposal. I remember the second time especially. It was when the proposal was under threat of being rescinded. I arrived before the meeting started but was told there was no room for more spectators in the Council chamber! I persuaded the security guard that I was scheduled to speak and eventually squeezed my way through and was able to voice before the Council what they already knew – that BDS was a non-violent strategy for ending the oppression of the Palestinian people and since we, the people of Marrickville, were in a sister-city relationship with the city of Bethlehem, it was only right that we support our sister and brothers there in the way they ask us to support them – by implementing BDS.
The reaction from both sides of government was extraordinarily hostile, and I had one of my Council friends coming to me for confession before the second meeting, saying that his party was giving him no choice but to oppose the BDS motion. God knows who was pulling the strings. What really occurs to me now is that the carnage we are seeing across Gaza now might have been avoided if we and other Councils around the world had not backed down.
We have a tool to stop Israel’s war crimes: BDS
By Naomi Klein
In 2005, Palestinians called on the world to boycott Israel until it complied with international law. What if we had listened?
Exactly 15 years ago this week, I published an article in the Guardian. It began like this:
Enough. It’s time for a boycott.
It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa. In July 2005 a huge coalition of Palestinian groups laid out plans to do just that. They called on ‘people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era’. The campaign Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions was born.
Back in January 2009, Israel had unleashed a shocking new stage of mass killing in the Gaza Strip, calling its ferocious bombing campaign Operation Cast Lead. It killed 1,400 Palestinians in 22 days; the number of casualties on the Israeli side was 13. That was the last straw for me, and after years of reticence I came out publicly in support of the Palestinian-led call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights, known as BDS.
Though BDS had broad support from more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, internationally the movement remained small. During Operation Cast Lead, that began to shift, and a growing number of student groups and trade unions outside Palestine were signing on.
Still, many wouldn’t go there. I understood why the tactic felt fraught. There is a long and painful history of Jewish businesses and institutions being targeted by antisemites. The communications experts who lobby on Israel’s behalf know how to weaponize this trauma, so they invariably cast campaigns designed to challenge Israel’s discriminatory and violent policies as hateful attacks on Jews as an identity group.
For two decades, widespread fear stemming from that false equation has shielded Israel from facing the full potential of a BDS movement – and now, as the international court of justice hears South Africa’s devastating compendium of evidence of Israel committing the crime of genocide in Gaza, it truly is enough.
Read the full article in The Guardian here.