By Stuart Rees
At its Annual General Meeting a week ago, the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network (APAN) resolved to support ‘a policy of boycotts, divestments and sanctions (BDS) of Israeli and international institutions complicit in violations of human rights and international law in Israel-Palestine.’
Given that APAN representatives meet regularly with Federal politicians regarding Israel’s policies towards Palestinians, this resolution is highly significant. It comes at a time of random violence by despairing Palestinians and even more violence by Israeli forces who seem to think they are entitled to kill any Palestinian or anyone who looks like an Arab.
Among despondent Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, the Australian APAN initiative will be seen as long overdue but a backlash against APAN will not be slow in coming. The Israel right or wrong lobby will be preparing their usual polemics about BDS being an anti-Semitic plot to abolish the state of Israel and drive its citizens into the sea.
The influential US organization Jewish Voice for Peace says that BDS is a viable, democratic response to the horrific policies practised by the State of Israel against Palestinians. Such perspectives are evident across American and European university campuses, within church groups, trade unions, corporations and member states of the EU. Yet in Australia, efforts to explain the nature of the movement have either been ignored or derided. The derision has been aided by fear mongering.
Facts about the BDS movement need to be considered in the light of a certain well informed rationality which has in mind a lasting peace for all Israelis and all Palestinians.
Since 2005, across Europe, North America and parts of Africa, organizations and individuals on those continents have been committed supporters of the BDS movement.
For most of his Presidency, Barack Obama has been urging Palestinians to adopt non-violent tactics to achieve their goals. The BDS movement has heeded the President. BDS enjoys world-wide support because it is a non-violent means of ending violence, promoting peace, human rights and international law.
BDS is based on the rules and principles of international law. It seeks to end Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands and to cease the process by which a nation state can flout the rules of international law and never be held accountable for its actions.
The most used charge against the BDS movement, which will no doubt be levelled against the APAN leaders, is that it is anti-Semitic. Such a charge is easily made against anyone who dares to criticize Israel’s military governance of Palestinians. Such criticism has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. The BDS movement has always been opposed to racism in all its forms including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
The BDS movement has much in common with the campaign which brought an end to the South African apartheid regime. It boycotts institutions – not individuals – which facilitate the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. It encourages the divestment of funds from banks and corporations which aid the building and expansion of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands.
The APAN resolution needs to be considered in the context of decades of occupation, destruction and slaughter in Gaza, indifference towards hundreds of thousands of Palestinians marooned in refugee camps and fruitless, so called peace talks. These events are the prelude to the current violence in East Jerusalem and in other cities.
It’s time that Australian media and politicians questioned why they have given so much unconditional support to Israel over so many years. Can they, will they hear the plight of Palestinians ?? APAN has given them a cue.
Palestinians’ violence is born of despair. Their loss of homes, land and lives is a daily occurrence, so too is the deprivation of electricity and water, the threatened deprivation of holy sites and the continued arrests and imprisonment of thousands without charge, yet western media outlets depict events as though nothing warrants the violence coming from Palestinians.
Writing in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, journalist Amira Hass, says there is no respite for the Palestinian people because the Israeli regime never stops improving its methods to destroy, fragment, repress, humiliate, disinherit, kill, impoverish, expel or make life unbearable.
In the same newspaper, journalist Gideon Levy writes that Israel’s military dictatorship in one part of its territory is one of the most brutal regimes in existence today.
To support Israeli vigilantes’ hatred of Palestinians and apparently to provide justification for their violence, Prime Minister Netanyahu has attempted to distort history by claiming that the grand Mufti of Jerusalem not Hitler was the architect of the Holocaust.
In my recent meetings with peace activists in Israel, with families and with university students in Gaza and with Palestinian politicians and other leaders in West Bank towns, everyone said that support for a world- wide BDS movement provided the only hope to end the occupation and to give Palestinians a chance to realize their human rights.
The APAN resolution is a protest against massive injustices. It shows a non-violent way to bring a decades long occupation to an end so that Palestinians and Israelis might build a future characterized by the values and language of human rights and not by the bloody deeds of warfare.