The Shout Heard ‘Round the World – Sanction Israel!
The BDS movement has three parts: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
The first two are in the hands of ordinary people. Boycott – just choose not to buy products made by companies you choose because they deny human rights: the second, divestment, withholds financial investments by schools, churches or institutions because goods are made “illegally” in defiance of UN international law or deny human rights.
Sanctions have a social, moral and psychological impact on trade between nations. They shape trade agreements mutually beneficial to nations agreeing to trade with one another. When sanctions are imposed, they disrupt the flow of goods into another nation.
The United Nations passed a resolution condemning the Jewish only colonies built inside the Palestinian West Bank. The resolution, which passed in 2016, does not impose any punitive measures on Israel.
In November 2017, Professor Michael Lynck, UN rapporteur for human rights in the occupied territories, delivered a report questioning the legality of the longest occupation in modern history and chastising the world for its passivity concerning occupation.
But unless there is understanding of the region and its history, it’s easy to be pulled into believing the BDS movement condemns all Israel. Since 1948 when Israel was carved out of historic Palestine, walls and checkpoints divided the once united region into Israel and Palestinian territory. Scattered throughout the Palestine West Bank, Jewish only communities – illegal by United Nations law- grow unabated in defiance of international law. About 700,000 Jewish residents now live and run industries inside the Palestinian territory.
Israel regards these settlements as part of the Jewish state of Israel and protects them with armed Israeli military. The settlers travel on designated Jewish only roads connecting colonies with each other and with Jerusalem. BDS supporters are divided. Some maintain a boycott of Israel including the settlements; others advocate a boycott of only the illegal settlements. What they agree on is a support of governmental sanctions that will force Israel to comply with International Law.
In 2014, I met Alon Liel in Sheikh Jarrah, the East Jerusalem neighborhood where Palestinian and international supporters hold a weekly protest against the eviction of Arabs from their homes in East Jerusalem, an act regarded as “ethnic cleansing.” Liel, a former director general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Israel, met with members of Breaking the Silence that brought harsh criticism including charges of being a “traitor” for his sharp criticism of Israel’s policy and his lack of trust in Israel’s political establishment.
Liel spoke with me about the need for human rights organizations to be proactive in moves to influence local and world opinion. His call for the international community to put pressure on Israel inspired critics such as Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely to define him as one of “Israel’s enemies.” Supporting a clear distinction between products originating in Israel and those made in “illegal” settlements became significant. In his opinion column in the Guardian stated that South African and Danish governments followed the United Kingdom’s request that supermarkets prevent goods produced in settlements from being labeled “Made in Israel,” Liel called on other governments to follow their lead.
At the weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah, where we met, Jewish supporters stand with Palestinians. Judy is with the Women in Black, the group of Jewish Israeli women who oppose the occupation. I met other supporters from the U.S., Sweden and the U.K. and spoke with Johannes, who had come from South Africa and joined EAPPI, the world council of churches. He says he sees the same conditions here as were imposed on apartheid South Africa – evictions, house demolitions, imprisonments. “We carried ID and had to have permits to move.”
Liel, who served as Israel’s past ambassador to South Africa, says he sees similarities but also differences. The Palestinian West Bank is being gobbled up by growing settlements, erasing the Green Line and eradicating all efforts for peace; and Netanyahu’s answer to then President Obama’s plea to freeze settlement growth, was his defiant announcement to accelerate settlement construction. “It seems that we Israelis have come to the conclusion that we no longer need peace…,” Liel states in his op-ed in the Guardian.
Palestinians lament, “Israel does what it wants and no one stops them.” BDS stands as the final gasp of a dying hope for peace, one that is working at a steady pace. Proof of BDS success comes from many corners: growing international as well as internal support from Israeli Jews. The main BDS success is evidenced by the desperation of the Israel government.
Hastily passed laws geared to punish supporters of BDS are bootless cries of the desperate who must brandish guns and flourish threats that in the long run amount to “sound and fury,” signifying defeat.