BDS: a moral strategy

June 17, 2010

This is from the Israeli Occupation Archive by Stéphane Hessel, “diplomat, former ambassador, French resistance fighter and BCRA agent. Born German, he obtained French nationality in 1937”. It is an article decrying the inaction and even connivance of western governments with regard to Israel’s criminality and suggesting what can be done about that. It’s BDS, of course!

The Freedom Flotilla brings to mind the kind of civil society solidarity initiatives which brought an end to segregation laws in the US and apartheid in South Africa, an analogy impossible to ignore. Like the apartheid regime of South Africa, Israel”s reaction has been to label this non-violent act an “intentional provocation.” As in the case of South Africa, the call for international solidarity, in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) came from an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society unions and organizations in 2005, and is being embraced by citizens of conscience and social movements worldwide. The BDS initiative calls for effectively isolating Israel, its complicit business, academic and cultural institutions, as well as companies profiting from its human rights violations and illegal policies, as long as these policies continue.

I believe that the BDS initiative is a moral strategy which has demonstrated its potential for success. Most recently, German Deutsche Bank became the latest of several European financial institutions and major pension funds to divest from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. Last week, two main Italian supermarket chains announced a boycott of produce from illegal Israeli settlements. Last month, performers Elvis Costello and Gil Scott-Heron cancelled appearances in Israel. Reminiscent of the South African anti-apartheid popular struggle, the current generation of students across university campuses is actively calling upon their administrations to adopt divestment policies.

I don’t want to get overconfident but the movement against Israel is growing and growing, as is the gulf between governments and governed in western countries.

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