17. juni 2010
Looking Critically at the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine:
Could BDS be a peaceful way forward for the future of Israel and the Palestinians or does BDS lead to further divisions?
The ISS International Relations Committee hosts Hazem Jamjoum, Communications Officer at the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency & Refugee Rights in Bethlehem, Palestine – one of the organizations that drafted the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS, to discuss what role BDS, as a non-violent tool, has played in this impasse / conflict. Furthermore, he will shed light on the recent events of the aid flotilla in conjunction with the way in which non-violent actions are framed by the state of Israel. Could BDS be a peaceful way forward for the future of Israel and the Palestinians or does BDS lead to further divisions?
Over sixty years have passed since Israel came into being at the cost of several million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, most of whom remain in exile, including the majority of people living in Gaza. More than forty years have passed since Israel gained control of the Gaza strip during a war in 1967, and five years since Israel withdrew most of its troops and illegal Jewish settlements from Gaza, which some saw as a signalling an end to its Occupation. However, the territory remained occupied as Israel retained control of Gaza’s coastline and airspace and, with Egypt, its land borders. In 2007, when the Hamas government took power within Gaza after a closely monitored democratic election, Israel intensified its blockade, declaring Hamas to be a terrorist organisation and Gaza to be an “enemy entity”. Israel limited the inflow of basic necessities such as food, water, medicines and fuel; blocking exports; restricting the movement of Gazans into and out of Gaza through controlled check-points as well as foreign intellectuals, artists, jurists, engineers, aid agencies and medical and educational workers. In effect, Israel has constructed more than a boycott of Gaza through its control and attacks on the population, most recently exemplified by operation Cast Lead in 2008 and its attacks on the Free Gaza Aid Flotilla on the high seas of the Mediterranean on May 31st, 2010.
The Unified Palestinian call for BDS launched in 2005, and now headed by the BDS National Committee Boycotts, started BDS as a powerful and proven form of non-violent resistance to Israeli occupation. Originally endorsed by Palestinian refugees in exile, Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and citizens of the Israeli state, BDS has grown worldwide, including in Israel, and calls for the economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israeli products and services as well as intellectual and artistic institutions, divestment from Israeli and Israeli-friendly companies, and sanctions against Israel including embargos, trade sanctions and severing of diplomatic ties.
Within Israel and elsewhere, boycotts are mostly viewed as illegitimate, even percieved as anti-semitic, and as undermining the state’s very right to exist as a Jewish state, while its own cultural, economic, and military boycott of Gaza is largely regarded as legitimate and justified.
Many International Institutions, including the European Court of Justice, and the United Nations, have condemned and ruled against the blockade of Gaza. However, it continues to this day. Meanwhile, the BDS movement against Israel continues to grow. Could BDS be a peaceful way forward for the future of Israel and Palestine or do they serve to further divide? Furthermore, are greater civil society actions needed to de-legitimize the occupation given that international condemnation and rulings against the occupation have proved unsuccessful?