Whose Cause!? The BDS Controversy!
Posted on April 29, 2012 by Akashma Online News
BDS The Non Violent Movement That Can Change The Odds
Whose Cause!.. Gilad Atzmon, Norman Finkelstein, Ali Abunimah, Omar Barghouti or Palestine? The BDS Controversy!
What Does it mean to be a Pro Palestinian Activist?
– To be pro-Palestinian does not necessarily mean you want the state of Israel to be wiped off the map; nor does it imply that you agree with either the two-state or one- state solution. The pro-Palestinian movement embraces many ideas and offers much diversity in way of critique and pro-active solutions. For instance, some activists take a stand, drawing upon the premise of Human Rights and International Law while others pursue different strategies outside of U.N. sanctions, precisely because the legal precepts have never been enforced. Similarly, it is with this context in mind, that we can view the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement where we witness much diversity in terms of strategy and goals. The international community of peace activists has been preoccupied with boycotting Israeli products, goods, and services; and also, has taken up the campaign for Cultural/Academic Boycott. However, some blocks of the solidarity movement participate only if the products were exported from the settlements inside the occupied territories, namely the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Essentially, BDS is not a uniform or homogenous movement with a strict set of standards which would end up being restrictive and narrow in focus. Some may view this as a weakness. And yet many others put another spin on it where the BDS is seen as holding out much promise due to its open, versatile, and dynamic appeal to a diverse range of groups. It is this versatility that allows for broad-based support that can only strengthen the movement all the more. As such, it would be a mistake to think that the BDS has to strike a consensus in order to work. We really cannot expect such a consensus since the movement has so many different branches, strategies, goals, and supporters. Nonetheless, one thing is clear in the minds of all supporters: inspired by the South African BDS campaign, most people simply want to put an abrupt halt to the apartheid practices of Israel! On this, I believe, there is a consensus and so it represents the rallying point that shall galvanize the movement into a potent force.
So it is we witness various scenarios where you have Israel citizens who support BDS because they want peace and know that for this to happen, there needs to be compliance with international law to the extent that rights of Palestinians within occupied territories are upheld. Therefore, they will not engage in talks or entertain the ideas of one or two-state solution. Their main concern is to maintain stability within Israel. Meanwhile, other activists take the stance that it is morally wrong to purchase any Israeli-made products; simultaneously, they will target any companies known to have ties with the apartheid state, especially those corporations associated with providing arsenal and weaponry which are used to kill Palestinians. This in turn will weaken the financial empire that continues to support Israel. Whatever the goal of the BDS participants, I personally think that it is a moral duty of every citizen in the world to support the BDS movement! This movement is not exclusive to any one leader or faction. Even Omar Barghouti, often credited as the founder, does not claim a monopoly on BDS; he does not own the movement but prefers to follow and act on the direction of the Palestinian BDS factions. This in no way diminishes the value of the BDS movement! On the contrary, BDS has become massive and global in it’s appeal and should inspire us all the more as active participants, realizing that each and everyone of us has an important integral role to play.
We are already observing the inroads made. Not only has BDS tarnished the false image of Israel as a progressive democratic state, but it has been successful in financially crippling certain sectors of the economy. Furthermore, every time a company comes public in its support of BDS and severes its economic ties with Israel, this captures the attention of the media and serves to act as counter-propaganda to that once-well oiled Zionist machine. Every time we hear of these BDS triumphs, awareness is stepped up a notch or two so that more is known about how Israel’s apartheid system really operates. Subsequently, we cannot discount the achievements nor diminish the value of this campaign based on the opinion of one group, organization, or a handful of high profile activists. While everyone is entitled to their opinion and deserves to be heard, we should take precautions not to restrict our own perspective to one particular position when it comes to BDS, or any issue for that matter. It would help to put the movement, itself, in proper context and consider the implications. For instance, recall that in South Africa it took more than 20 years for the BDS to gain some recognition around the world until finally it did take root as to have moral effect on the conscience of the people. Compare this to the contemporary situation where, with the assistance of technology, the Palestinian BDS campaign, since it’s inception, took only 5 or 6 years to be known at a global level. By this time, the BDS already has taken on a life of its own; the ideology of the founders and/or their political aspirations have nothing to do with BDS anymore. There is no office at this point that can control or organize what people around the world do to support Palestine, so the rhetorical question of the two -state solution that some want to use against the founders or against the movement, itself, cannot undermine the global support for Palestine that BDS is awakening in the people of conscience.
WHAT IS BDS
BDS stands for Boycott and Disinvestment Sanctions and it is aimed primarily at Israel. This movement is intended to pressure Israel economically, financially, and culturally. By no means was it created with the intention to undermine Israel’s legal status as an official recognized State. But as the movement has grown and thousands of organizations and universities across the globe are being more and more involved in the BDS movement, the perception of Israel is changing rapidly and many important academic figures that have been following the development of the conflict over the years are drawing the conclusion that Israel is losing its legal status in the world.
In 2005 the Civil Society of Palestine called the attention of the world when they founded a movement that is known globally simply as BDS and every sector of the population is participating, whether on a small or a grand scale.
“Boycott – basically is a tool of the weak, who individually are weak but collectively can have some strength against overweening power. The first use of the word [originated] with tenant farmers in Ireland against their land agent. Famous cases are the Montgomery Bus boycott and, more recently, the sporting boycott and other boycotts against South Africa. There are differences between all these boycotts, and I would stress that by taking the archetypal case of that of the tenant farmers who resisted the land agent Charles Boycott, who gave his name to the whole process, in the 1880s in Ireland. Boycott was the land agent for an absentee English noble. And what they did, when he became too domineering, is they denied him labour to save the harvest, they put him into isolation -refused to talk to him under any circumstances, the shops wouldn’t serve him, the workers wouldn’t go and look after his house for him, and the person wouldn’t deliver him letters. And in reasonably short order, by the end of the year Boycott had been forced out and returned to England. So very direct.” Professor Jonathan Rosenhead, Novemeber11, 2011
Professor Jonathan Rosenhead is chair of the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) which is the main organization in the UK supporting the academic and cultural boycotts of Israel, it parallels PACBI in Palestine. Professor Rosenhead is also an activist, took part in the flotilla, sailing to Gaza to break the Israeli siege.
If we take this case as an archetype, or at least one standard by which to view the BDS movement in general, it reminds us to use our own critical thinking whenever high-profile people as intellectuals, writers, emeritus, professors, Nobel Prize laureates, politicians, scholars, and internationally-acclaimed activists speak on a issue. Many of us may be tempted to automatically think and feel that our support for an issue is validated merely because someone of high stature takes a stand in favor. On the other hand, if these same people speak against a campaign that we support, we may feel betrayed and angry. Some of us even go to the extreme of doubting our own convictions and moral standing and then we prematurely switch sides. It is, at that moment, we become followers and lose our ability to think independently for ourselves. This should be taken as a precautionary note, especially when we are addressing the issue of the BDS movement since the campaign is so immense and, therefore, cannot be accepted as a uniform doctrine expected to fit all necessities. Rather it is versatile, diverse, and dynamic in appeal. What we can say in terms of technicalities, it is not a movement that necessarily seeks the liberation of Palestine, because at its CORE, it was founded on 3 main premises: rights of return for refugees, equality for Arabs in Israel, and the end of occupation. These three points, if satisfied, will comply with international law! Even as we consider this official position, it is important to realize that the movement, itself, has evolved, the ideas have evolved as well, and by natural effect, the goals have changed, at least for some.
For pro-Palestinians that seek the liberation of Palestine, it is not enough to satisfy the 3 points, because such according to their interpretation would be akin to recognizing and legalizing Israel as a one-state solution. Palestinians and non- Palestinians alike, who take this line of reasoning, refer to the partition of
Palestine as illegal and thereby, will never accept Israel as legitimate state. While we may understand this position, the concern and grievances are misplaced: the original founders of BDS and the fulfillment of the three premises, does not entail debating the one or two-state solution; nor does it imply recognition of Israel as either legal/legitimate or illegitimate. One could argue to the contrary, that the original founders of the movement, whether they accept Israel as legitimate or not, nonetheless view the BDS goals as a beginning for a broader movement with effective outcomes that perhaps could eventually lead to dissipation of Israel. Consider the various variables at work here, such that the population growth of Palestinians is on the rise and could imply the best tool to defeat Israel.
Norm Finkelstein’s Position on BDS:
On his Interview with Frank Baratta, a well known Human Rights Activist, on February 9, 2012 attended the Imperial college London, and delivered astonishing statements that left us all surprised and wondering “what got into him????”.
Norm Finkelstein is now famous for repeating The Law is Clear, and he shields his views on BDS charging the founders of the movement as dishonest that Israel it is a State and that it is the law, but sadly he forgets easily how Israel had disregarded the law thousands of times when it comes to respect the life and property of Native Palestinians.
“When the law is criminal, you must break it to be human.” – FendLOTRO youtube user responded to Norman Finkelstein
The controversy arose when Professor Finkelstein slammed the BDS movement as a cult! I heard his argument and he does not mean the literal definition of a cult; but rather is referring to the centralized idea that forcing Israel to comply with the 3 points of the BDS movement will destroy Israel. He goes on to say that he will support the BDS movement if the organizers will honestly speak on their goals, because he senses that they are not being genuine due to what he considers “vague” statements made by Barghouti. In this sense, Finkelstein’s interpretation imparts a misleading and inaccurate appraisal of the BDS movement. Meanwhile, Ali Abu Nimahk, from the electronic intifada who has been a harsh critic of Finkelstein, started a campaign against him by drawing the line on disinformation coming from Finkelstain side, accusing Finkelstain on supporting Israel on the two state solution. When every body knows that it is not possible, but this point does not discredit Finkelstain as a pro-Justice man, Subsequently, Ali Abu Nimahk supporters, fell for his arguments, without question, and failed to seriously consider the words of Finkelstein where he stated “I support the BDS, but I said that it will never reach a broad public, until and unless they’re explicit on their goal, and their goal has to include recognition of Israel, or it is no starter. It won’t reach the public, because the moment it goes out there, Israel will start to say, what about us? and they won’t recognize our right, and it fact that is correct, you can’t answer the Israelis on that, because they are making a statement that is factually correct. It is not an accident and unwitting omission that BDS does not mention Israel….you know that and I know that…is not that OH! we forgot to mention Israel!” Professor Norman Finkelstein.
I highly respect the point of view of these personalities and their approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because each of them have worked tirelessly for the Palestinian cause! Nonetheless, all of them have their own goals, and because their goals differ in nature, their arguments also differ. It becomes problematic, however, where this turns into a “mud-slinging” fest and divides the various supporters affiliated with each of these high-profile personalities, as those aforementioned. We all can be peace activists and be pro-Palestinians and not have an opinion on the one or two-state solution – that has been the center point for Ali Abu Minah. Yet when he criticizes Finkelstein, he ignores the position regarding the legal question of Israeli actions against occupied territories. Furthermore, he fails to pursue the probable outcome of the BDS movement where we could envision the prospect of an eventual dissipation of Israel as a legitimate state according to international law.
I make mention of these disparate views above because they have played a role in disseminating rumors regarding the BDS. Furthermore, it would be unfair to give credit to or to discredit the words of any of these heavy-weights, without first analyzing their background, their profession, their nationality, and ultimately, the real motives behind the positions they promote in public forums. Take the case of Norman Finkelstein where many questions arise regarding his recent, often contradictory and confusing arguments. What goals does he have in mind? He has been a peace activist for years and out of moral duty has stood firmly behind the Palestinian cause to defend truth, justice, and law. He has in the past taken enormous professional risks to do this. But now he is in the process of selling his image as a writer, political scientist, scholar, and activist, as well as his books. This means his integrity is at stake and once again he is taking a risk and has to step cautiously into the Mid East arena regarding BDS. When he bashes Israel, we give him credit for his courage. And yet, we must be skeptical here since, of recent, he has taken the position that “the law, it is clear. We cannot be selective with the law”. Moreover, he slams the BDS for not staying within the bounds of the law because the movement doesn’t explicitly give recognition to the state of Israel.
Did Finkelstein forget the stipulations placed on Israel by the League of Nations during the time that Palestine was partitioned to create Israel? And it isn’t it true that Israel, in order to have legitimacy, would have to respect the rights of the inhabitants of the land with particular emphasis on all groups including Palestinians Muslims, and Palestinians Christians? Now it is obvious to human rights watch groups and it should be obvious to Finkelstein, himself, that since the moment of it’s inception, Israel has violated every international law in the books and was never held accountable! Due to this violations, it’s status as a legitimate/legal state should be considered dubious, at best. Ironic it is, then, that Finkelstein criticizes the BDS movement due to it’s failure to make an official statement in recognition of Israel. Why should the founder/s be pressured to do so, in the first place? especially when Finkelstein stresses the idea that “the law is clear and is not selective”? What he fails to address is the obvious – why when it comes to Palestine, is the law selective and why are those legally-binding resolutions (in favor of Palestinians rights) NOT enforced? Disturbing about this is the fact that he takes a legal stance against BDS, but in this case he appears to use it selectively in favor of Israel. Below I provide two screen shots of the original documents of the United Nations – Resolution 194-8 and 194-11 agreed and signed
All things being equal, the truth will prevail. When given a fair chance, the truth should survive, because it is more natural, more attractive, and less contrived than falsehood. In a democracy, certain rights are inalienable, so that all men are equal before the law. On that assumption we must pressure Israel to adhere to it’s own propagated idea that as “the only democracy in the Middle East”, it must abide by the law. Since this stands as a fundamental principle of democracy, defending the truth will reach a conclusion. The anti-BDS propaganda must be challenged at it’s source. The fact that such heavy-weights as Ali Abu Nimah, Omar Barghouti, Norm Finkelstein, and Gilad Atzman have all entered the fray and media frenzy, opinions have likely been taken out of context and the issues have been blown out of proportion.
Gilad Atzmon’s Position on the BDS:
“Gilad Atzmon: “For more than a while, myself and others are very suspicious of the BDS. For some peculiar reason the BDS in the West is dominated by Jewish activists. Though the BDS’ principle is valid and worth a fight, it has become clear to many of us that something went wrong along the way. Last month we have seen BDS calls to stop Norman Finkelstein; this month we see BDS calls to stop me. Great, isn’t it. The BDS is now used to stifle freedom within the solidarity discourse.”
I m not blaming Gilad Atzmon for the anti-BDS sentiment that is circulating! Rather, I am quoting those words that were picked up by media and likely contributed to the the controversy that arose following the interview of Norman Finkelstein, as well as, Ali Abu Nimah‘s heated debate on the issue. I think we can trace the roots here. In addition, the people pushing hard on the surface of the BDS movement, are hijacking the campaign where we observe attempts to silence the dissident Jews as Gilad Atzmon and Norman Finkelstein. Because they are taking center stage in the Palestine Justice Movement, many people followed the line being pushed by an anonymous group that seems to operate behind the scenes, implying that there may well be a few spy rings. (Where these spy rings arise, they can do damage because they plant “ideas” that are hurting the BDS). Many of the same dynamics mentioned above were also witnessed during the Jewish global boycott of Germany goods to weaken Hitler’s economic power during WWII, as well, to force the government to finance the Jewish Transfer to Palestine. Additionally, we saw similar factors at work in South Africa during the horrible apartheid era.
I agree with Gilad Atzmon where he criticizes certain groups that have infiltrated the BDS and have been used to silence Jewish dissidents as himself. Unfortunately, though, his defensive position has become offensive and imparts a false impression that the BDS campaign in general is not trustworthy. Sadly, I have seen good friends and pro-Palestinian activists write against BDS, without considering the consequences of doing so. We must put this in a broader perspective and push aside the infighting upon realizing that this is an immense movement in which millions of people are doing their level best to keep up the campaign against apartheid. Meanwhile, I can only hope that those people of high-profile who have great influence over public opinion reflect upon the damage that could be done to Palestine whenever they overgeneralize their personal opinions in attempt to defend themselves against rogue BDS elements/agents.
With this in mind, I cite Gilad’s own words to remind us to stay focused on the real issues:
“For more than ten years I have been writing about Israel, Zionism and Jewish identity. I am engaged in a process of deconstruction and critique of different Jewish texts, ideas, politics and practice. My intent is aiming towards some deeper realization of what Zionism is. In my opinion, Zionism is one of the most dangerous political movements. It is a global operation that threatens world peace on a daily basis.” Gilad Atzmon
When citing any position, it is important to keep in mind that the BDS movement is not the property of few persons. This is a global campaign of awareness, to pressure Israel to end her apartheid practices inside the occupied territories and to force Israel to respect the human rights of Palestinians that live in West Jerusalem, Gaza and West Bank.
“Boycott is a real complicated issue. For years we’ve been arguing in favour of divestment and boycott. At the time I supported any form of boycott in Israel, its products and its culture.There are some elements in the boycott that are obviously very welcome. For instance, the fact that UK unions are standing up against Zionist evil is a major shift in the very right direction. The Boycott is certainly bad news for Israel and this is wonderful news in itself. Yesterday, I went to a reading of a play, it was actually a theatrical adaptation my latest book. The producer is Jewish, and at a certain stage when we were discussing the meaning of the play he stood up and said. “You see, we had a Jewish State, it is now sixty years later, and it is a very horrible place, it is so horrible that it has now been boycotted. And this is there to make us think, where did it go wrong?” This is the most positive impact of the boycott. It makes people reflect.” Gilad Atzmon July 2007
When Gilad Atzmon refers to the Jewish, you have to understand his philosophy and point of view regarding the modern Jewish sentiment of ” the chosen ones”. This mentality is more intrinsic and is best exemplified by the Jewish Only political spectrum in Israel, as well as, powerful Jewish lobby groups around the world. But let us not confuse Israel Jewish Only Policies with Judaism. “Jewish” refers primarily to ethnicity while “Judaism” refers to religion. For instance, those who support “Jewish only” policies in line with apartheid, play upon the concept “the chosen few”, not as a matter of religious principles, but more so, a matter of political arrogance. Furthermore, it is notable that there are a number of Jewish groups of orthodox faith who take offense to Israeli Zionist practices of apartheid and occupation. Neturei Karta Orthodox Jews are but an example.
Recently a group of intellectuals, and pro-Palestinians endorsed Ali Abu Minah in a letter against Gilad Atzmon. I think that some people are using the spotlight of others to upstage their popularity within the Palestinian movement. Meanwhile, there are thousands of pro-Palestinians who have invested their time and sometimes their money without thinking twice. Additionally, there are those who have and continue to make a profession out of the Palestinian cause, dedicating much of their life to this. Such is to be respected where and when these people are clearly focused on the objectives to serve justice. Moreover, it is only fair that they be paid for their time and service since they, as anyone else, need money to live and support themselves and families. Sometimes the tasks do involve various campaigns for private donations, or setting up Non-Profit Organizations where the structure is similar to the official NGO’s that participate in charities (unlike many NGO’s, this participation in charities is not merely a means to deduct taxes). Then, too, there is a group of individuals who have thrown their support behind Palestine, not out of love for Palestine, but more so as a matter of fighting injustice due to violation of human rights. Chomsky and Finkelstein may very well fall into this camp since they do not want to see Israel wiped off the map; rather, they would prefer to see an Israel that behaves democratically by working inside the parameters of international law. Like Professor Horowitz, Finkelstein engages in discussions with pro-Israeli supporters. BUT UNLIKE Horowitz, Finkelstein cites factual information regarding atrocities against Palestinians and also clearly recognizes the need for Israel to put an end to human rights abuses. As mentioned earlier, the argument may initially sound appealing. However, delving further into Finkelstein’s various discussions and interviews, many contradictions arise and are worthy of further examination if we are to assess his position on BDS.
Assessing the Implications of the Key Players Involved in the Controversy:
On February 2012 a video clip was released on youtube entitled “Arguing the BDS Movement: Interview with Frank Barata and political Scientist, Writer, and Activist Norman Finkelstein“. According to Finkelstein, international law is unambiguous and could be used as a tool to compel Israel to adhere to human rights. Meanwhile, he sees little value in the so called Palestinian Authority’s efforts to conduct peace talks and negotiations that have led nowhere, and also implies that the P.A. is a collaborator of Israel since the leaders often strike bargains that actually come at the expense of the Palestinians, themselves. In a sense, he is right! This rather cozy relationship became more evident especially after Abbas’ presidency. For instance, corruption is observed in many instances, among all things, the criminalization of protests against the occupation. Given the P.A.’s collaboration with Israel, along with U.S. aid to the Zionist entity, it is hard to envision the possibility of a peaceful outcome. According to Finkelstein, Palestine will never win the conflict since it is inconceivable that Israel will give an inch. Not only is it equipped with one of the most technologically advanced military and powerful armies, Israel too has the moral and financial backing of the United Sates, as well as other nations. The fact that the U.S. provides more than 3 billion dollars a year in military aid and loan guarantees makes the prospects for Palestine look all the more bleak, especially considering this one-sided war, if it can even can be called a war. In reality this is unprecedented and unwarranted aggression against the virtually defenseless Palestinian population. As such, Israel would have to be extracted by force, either through the Palestinians use of militancy or through strict judicial procedures within the bounds of international law.
It is on the point of international law that Finkelstein makes his case for Palestine, but in the meantime, also applies the argument to undermine the legitimacy of the BDS campaign. What unravels in his position, is an argument replete with serious flaws, contradictions, assumptions, and confusion. It is no wonder then that many of his own supporters have been left bewildered. The major criticism regards the three strategies put forth by the BDS. To Finkelstein, while these may be “ideologically possible”, on pragmatic terms and according to international law, the three-pronged approach can’t work since it excludes Israel as a viable state. Even if these strategies did have effect, eventually this would culminate in the end of Israel. This is particularly problematic to Finkelstein because the scenario is feasible given that the return of 6 to 7 million Palestinian refugees will shift the balance of power due to disproportionate representation in terms of a diminished Israeli population. This prospect, accompanied by the BDS’ call for equal rights to Arabs within Israel will quite likely result in a panorama view where Palestinians as majority will be the major political players. On these grounds, Finkelstein accuses the BDS of being dishonest since it does not acknowledge this possibility nor officially claim it as a goal. Subsequently, he believes the campaign will never take root because the international community simply will not accept these terms, whether they are explicitly stated or not.
The bewilderment and confusion arising out of Finkelstein’s stance can be traced to the manner in which he takes comfort in citing the 1967 borders that are supposedly the legal borders of Israel! Disturbing about this argument is the failure on behalf of Finkelstein to acknowledge those disenfranchised Palestinians who were illegally driven and forced out of their homeland prior to 1967. Did he forget the history, the Nakba for instance, which violated international law prior to 1967? Did he forget how the so The State of Israel was created through war crimes when it was violently inserted into the heart of the Middle East? There is reason for concern insofar he draws scarce attention to and virtually ignores the atrocities and plight forced upon Palestinians who became refugees in neighboring countries where they are not accepted as citizens, and on the other hand Majority of Israelis enjoyed double Nationality. If it is so as Finkelstein reiterates over and over that “the law is clear”, why is it that he ignores the resolutions adopted by the General Assembly at it’s third session on November 27, 1948? (refer to illustration 1 and 2). Moreover, if he is going to use the stance that “the law is clear”, it is incumbent on him as a political scholar, to admit that Israel violated most of the U.N. resolutions and was never held accountable since the moment of it’s inception.
Yes, the law in this case is clear, but it is unfair and unjust, because it has not been enforced!!!! By all standards then, Israel’s legitimacy as a state, is dubious and up for question. So we are left to ponder why Finkelstein places the burden of proof upon the Palestinians rather than on Israel. And why does he uses such a flawed argument to slam the BDS campaign? If anything, one could turn the tables here and apply “the law is clear” premise to work in favor of the BDS. Finkelstein’s argument would be far more credible had he used it to acknowledge that, by all international standards/UN resolutions, Israel technically is not a legal nor legitimate state. In this sense, the BDS movement, could satisfy the three pillars, and could very well become a potent force enough to garner the attention of the international and global community. It could reach a climax of mass proportions in which the international players will no longer have the luxury of appeasing Israel. The world will soon become weary and tired of Israel arrogance and impunity. Sooner or later, Israel will be forced to follow the path of South Africa!
Upon revisiting controversy surrounding Gilad Atzmon’s position, it is important to note that he is very critical of the Zionist ideology, insisting with reason, that the state of Israel has instilled exclusivity of “the chosen few” in the minds of Jewish citizens to advance colonial rule in Palestine.
Meanwhile, Atzmon’s detractors are working hard to undo the work that he has done on behalf of Palestine. They are using the wrong arguments for the wrong reasons for the right cause, that is Palestine. Some of these people get entangled in the criticism, some are genuine pro-Palestinians, and some are misled by the well- oiled Zionist propaganda that is trying to destroy the career of Gilad Atzmon, that it is being cemented on the Palestine Conflict and Zionism. It is no secret, after all, that
has published in favor of the Palestinian cause and due to his fame and popularity, has much influence. Subsequently, Zionist groups have an obvious motive for bashing his work. But the move to do so may be premature, ill-conceived, and in fact, may backfire. As with any issues that come under the spotlight due to controversy, the media attention can serve both sides of the divide: on one hand it reinforces arguments by the detractors, and on the other, it inspires greater interest and curiosity in Atzmon’s work. The same could be said of Finkelstein as well. So the question comes to mind, whether or not this anti-BDS campaign is actually a stunt employed to sell books, or at the very least, an opportunistic ploy conveniently playing in the hands of the authors and publishers.
The claims articulated by both Finkelstein and Atzmon, strongly suggest both are pro-justice, pro-peace, and ultimately, pro-Palestine.
“For me to be Jewish is, above all, to be preoccupied with overcoming injustice and thirsting for justice in the world, and that means being respectful toward other peoples regardless of their nationality or religion, and empathetic in the face of human suffering whoever and wherever victimization is encountered” (Gilad Atzmon, “On Jewish Identity,” 1/15/2011).
In Atzmon’s words, we find credibility in his cause and struggle for justice. However, if this trumped up anti-BDS campaign has been used as a propaganda scheme to gain free advertizement for books recently published, then this is disturbing, to say the least. To attack the BDS campaign as a means of serving one’s own interests is beyond irresponsible and irreproachable since authors of high stature have great influence on the pro-Palestinians. I would hope that these are not the motives here. Whatever the case, there is no doubt that the controversy did have spin-off effects that have undermined BDS proponents and, meanwhile, divided the solidarity movement. For instance, I recently heard some statements against the BDS movement asserting that the strategies have not worked since Israel’s economy is more “economically solvent than ever”. Yet pursuing this at greater length, tells us that nothing can be farther from the truth – the economic meltdown is a global phenomenon and it’s to a point where even Israel is not immune. Taken in this context, we can quite confidently assume that certain sectors of the economy will inevitably be hurt, as some already have suffered losses. Add to this, the Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Many high-profile personalities, as internationally-acclaimed author and activist Alice Walker, have already entered the fray, inspiring the BDS campaign once again with enthusiasm and optimism; meanwhile, striking fear into the heart of Zionist lobby groups. Indeed Zionist Israel has reason for concern; and it is high time that the key political players are shaken enough to take note! Economic collapse may be more imminent than they are willing to admit! And if this is what it takes to put an end to apartheid, occupation, and genocide; then we owe at least some credit to the BDS movement.
Consider too, how the average Israeli citizen is impacted by the government’s heavy investment into security and weaponry used against Palestinians. Simultaneously, the middle class is beginning to feel the crunch as elsewhere in the world. Growing inequality, in terms of both socioeconomic status and political policies, is the first sign spotted by the ordinary citizen. The Occupy movement has actually reached the Holy Land and has stirred up protests. Change is on the horizon. Even Israel can no longer afford it’s own arrogance. Moreover, there is no magical wand that can grant them immunity from global or economic evolution where society is evermore awakening to mass consciousness. The conditions exist and the time is ripe for the BDS to make inroads and impact enough to dismantle apartheid Israel. On this optimistic note, it is relevant to examine the ideas of Omar Barghouti.
Revisiting the Controversy Surrounding Omar Barghouti’s Position on BDS:
It would be remiss not to assess the credibility of Omar Barghouti also, since he too has become central to this BDS debate and as mentioned earlier, he did emerge on the scene to espouse the values and the 3 main objectives of the campaign against apartheid Israel: right of return for refugees, equal rights for Arabs within Israel, and termination of the occupation. Barghouti, also emphasizes that the direction of this movement is to be in the hands of the Palestinians themselves. While other affiliated groups and participants across the globe are recognized as major players, the movement must not be monopolized by any set of elites. It belongs to the grassroots people, particularly guided by the Palestinians. While statements have been embraced by most in the BDS movement, he too has come under attack by both Finkelstein and Atzmon. According to Finkelstein, the goals are too vague and cannot work. Atzmon makes similar claims but stepped it up a notch when he unfairly referred to Barghouti as a racist against whites . Such an accusation, however, should not be taken seriously since Atzmon took Barghouti’s words out of context without giving accurate representation to the postmodern argument from which Barghouti implied that those of Euro centric ethnicity/background have no right to dictate the terms or set the agenda for the Palestinians. Here, Barghouti was making reference to the colonial mentality where white supremacy is still very much a denominator in international relations between the imperialistic “colonizers/occupiers” and the “colonized/occupied”.
In yet another instance, March 7/2011, the London Review Bookshop was host to Barghouti’s launch of the work entitled “BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions – The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights”. Here Barghouti again came under attack, accused of taking a “hypocritical position on academic boycott” simply because he had attended an “Israeli University” to obtain his Ph.D.. Even so, Barghouti’s rebuttal was swift, to the point, and “very rational” which according to staff of Inminds.com suggests “that unless someone is being dishonest with themselves, they will have no choice but to accept the arguments”. The integrity with which Barghouti replied is nicely captured in the following excerpt:
Audience Question: Omar, you are living in Israel, you are doing a PhD, you are
studying in an Israeli university. How does that equate with your boycott campaign, isn’t that hypocritical to live in Israel and consume everything Israeli, then call for a boycott of Israel? And secondly, if God forbid, you ever needed a life saving medicine, or a member of your family in Israel, would you accept that medicine or would you reject that life saving medicine?
Omar Barghouti: I think Mandela went to an apartheid university, when you are living under apartheid you have no choice. You pay taxes to the apartheid regime, you accept services from the apartheid regime, how else can you survive? You go to hospitals, you go to universities, you go to the post office, you go to government offices in the apartheid regime. You are a ‘subject’ of that colonial system, there is no other way. Gandhi studied at a British university as well. The point is that when you are under occupation, when you are under apartheid, you have no moral choice. There is no choice. We ask people from outside to boycott because they have a moral choice. Responsibility comes with choice. Germans under Nazi rule who couldn’t open their mouths were cowards; but we can perhaps forgive them for not opening their mouths when you think you would be shot by the Nazi genocidal regime if they opened their mouths. Israelis that stay silent are far more cowardly because they do have a choice and they wont get shot if they stand up against the occupation. So we measure this with how much choice you have. When you have no choice what do you do? So there is absolutely no double standard for people under oppression to call on people who are not under oppression, standing in solidarity with them, to oppose and boycott a completely the oppressive regime. What we cannot do, you can do in the UK. The second part of your question.. of course we do not boycott Israeli medicines in Israel. What else can we buy? We are not irrational. I don’t know your view of the Arabs.. but you know we are not suicidal..
A Q. [interrupts]: Why do you live there if you don’t like it there?
Omar Barghouti: Its my country, I’m a Palestinian.
A Q: You were brought up in Egypt
Omar Barghouti: I’m a refugee. Refugee’s have a right to go home. I’m a Palestinian. The two-state solution, besides having passed its expiry date, it was never a moral solution to start with. In the best-case scenario, if UN resolution 242 were meticulously implemented, it would have addressed most of the legitimate rights of less than a third of the Palestinian people over less than a fifth of their ancestral land. More than two thirds of the Palestinians, refugees plus the Palestinian citizens of Israel, have been dubiously and shortsightedly expunged out of the definition of the Palestinians. Such exclusion can only guarantee the perpetuation of conflict.”
If Israel doesn’t want to obey international law then why should Israel be recognized as a legitimate state? Israel can’t have it both ways! The Case for BDS:
Reflecting upon the controversies, debates, and the infighting, we are left to assess and evaluate the merits of the BDS campaign. Essentially, we need to do some of our own soul-searching, put aside petty disputes, and ask the key question: What variables should we consider in using our discretion either in favor or against the BDS? Because Omar Barghouti says we should? because Ali Abu Minah says it is the right thing to do? because Gilad Atzmon has been unfairly accused of anti-Semitic by some rogue boycott members? or because Gilad Atzmon has unfairly accused Barghouti of racism? or because the highly respected Norman Finkelstein suggests that the boycott has no clear goals and is unworkable? Do these questions make your head spin, and confuse the issue rather than clarify it? If so, then we need to get beyond the ambiguity and propaganda that the infighting and divisiveness has created. If we really are focused on the goal of serving the interests of Palestine, then it is necessary to put an end to the “mudslinging” and dirty politicking. After all, this is playing into the hands of Zionist tactics of divide and conquer. Wouldn’t we fair much better if we refused to be followers, used our own critical thinking, and put an abrupt stop to the ungrounded attacks that deflect from the goal to end injustice? The BDS campaign, in a sense, has become a battleground, a war zone. And now is the time when we can refuse to enlist in that war and instead, become conscientious objectors as we collaborate under the banner of BDS to restore justice to Palestinians. By doing so, we shall partake in the movement, doing so for Palestine only for Palestine! To restore their rights, to help them to be heard by a world that for years has turned its back and failed to listen.
Letter from Palestinians To the World
“The goal of the Palestinian people has always been clear: self determination. And we can only exercise that inalienable right through liberation, the return of our refugees (the absolute majority of our people) and achieving equal rights to all through decolonization. As such, we stand with all and any movements that call for justice, human dignity, equality, and social, economic, cultural and political rights. We will never compromise the principles and spirit of our liberation struggle. We will not allow a false sense of expediency to drive us into alliance with those who attack, malign, or otherwise attempt to target our political fraternity with all liberation struggles and movements for justice.
As Palestinians, it is our collective responsibility, whether we are in Palestine or in exile, to assert our guidance of our grassroots liberation struggle. We must protect the integrity of our movement, and to do so we must continue to remain vigilant that those for whom we provide platforms actually speak to its principles.
When the Palestinian people call for self-determination and decolonization of our homeland, we do so in the promise and hope of a community founded on justice, where all are free, all are equal and all are welcome”.
Until Liberation and Return
- Ali Abunimah, Naseer Aruri, Professor Emeritus, University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, Omar Barghouti, human rights activist
- Hatem Bazian, Chair, American Muslims for Palestine, Andrew Dalack, National Coordinating Committee, US Palestinian Community Network, Haidar Eid, Gaza. Nada Elia, US Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Toufic Haddad, Kathryn Hamoudah
- Adam Hanieh, Lecturer, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London, Mostafa Henaway, Tadamon! Canada
- Monadel Herzallah, National Coordinating Committee, US Palestinian Community Network, Nadia Hijab, author and human rights advocate. Andrew Kadi, Hanna Kawas, Chair person, Canada Palestine Association and Co-Host Voice of Palestine
- Abir Kobty, Palestinian blogger and activist, Joseph Massad, Professor, Columbia University, NY, Danya Mustafa, Israeli Apartheid Week US National Co-Coordinator & Students for Justice in Palestine- University of New Mexico
- Dina Omar, Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine, Haitham Salawdeh, National Coordinating Committee, US Palestinian Community Network, Sobhi Samour, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), London
- Khaled Ziada, SOAS Palestine Society, London, Rafeef Ziadah, poet and human rights advocate
It is my hope that the non-violent BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement, of which I am part, will have enough of an impact on Israeli civilian society to change the situation. In that regard, I offer an earlier example of THE COLOR PURPLE’s engagement in the world-wide effort to rid humanity of its self-destructive habit of dehumanizing whole populations. When the film of The Color Purple was finished, and all of us who made it decided we loved it, Steven Spielberg, the director, was faced with the decision of whether it should be permitted to travel to and be offered to the South African public. I lobbied against this idea because, as with Israel today, there was a civil society movement of BDS aimed at changing South Africa’s apartheid policies and, in fact, transforming the government. Alice Walker
Israelis have many other ways to show their dissatisfaction with the status quo: They can boycott institutions that profit or take part in the occupation, avoid the draft, take part in Palestinian-led protests or lead their own demonstrations. Ultimately, this debate will also lead to dealing with the question of BDS, though it’s clear that actual support for BDS will remain very marginal in Israeli society. Still, as long as no real alternative for the occupation is brought from the Israeli side, I think it’s very important not to oppose any form of Palestinian non-violent resistance, even if one is not taking part in it personally. Noam Sheizaf
In the frenzy to discredit BDS, it’s perversely easy for critics to forget these facts, to get lost in the abstraction (and sometimes distraction) of arguments about the uplifting effects of transnational corporations, the benevolence of 1948 Israel and the lurking anti-Semitism of the BDS agenda. These arguments are not just misleading but often downright dangerous and offensive; the anti-Semitism charge in particular is probably the most often cited and potent. So let’s be clear: vile and frightening anti-Semitism certainly exists, but BDS is not an example of it. As a nonviolent movement dedicated to human rights and nondiscrimination it is, in many ways, its opposite: the lesson of “Never Again” interpreted universally, a reminder that in the face of extreme horror, it is incumbent upon people of conscience to rally around the inalienable rights of the abused. Lizzy Ratner
Some BDS Triumphs
250 European academics call for exclusion of Ahava and Israeli arms companies from EU research projects – Article 3 of the Treaty on European Union obliges the EU to uphold human rights and to strictly observe and support the development of international law in all of its external
The largest Presbyterian group in the US is considering divesting from three major global companies over the Israeli military’s use of their products in the Palestinian territories.Pension funds in Norway and Sweden have divested themselves of holdings in some firms involved in building settlements or helping to erect Israel’s contentious West Bank separation barrier. European activists have stepped up pressure on companies by exposing their West Bank ties and picketing stores that sell goods produced in Israeli settlements.
Last week, the US investment firm MSCI Inc. announced it had removed Caterpillar from three of its popular indexes that track socially responsible investments, leading mutual fund giant TIAA-CREF to divest $72 million in Caterpillar stock.
Israel cited in Caterpillar’s delisting from influential investment index – The sale of Caterpillar tractors to Israel was a factor, but not the determining one, in the delisting of the company from an influential index that prioritizes good governance and human rights.The move, however, is poised to further complicate the difficult ongoing conversation about Israel taking place between American Jewish gruops and the Presbyterian Church (USA).
BDS it is the Only Hope For Palestine to Become Independent
Palestine Treasure Land; Holy Land Economic Independence
Do you know that Palestine will be self sufficient if Israel stopped stealing the natural resources?
Palestine will be rich if allowed access and control over the minerals in the Dead Sea or the Natural Gas recently discovered in Gaza Shores?
If Israel would stop uprooting The Olive Trees that have been one of the sources of income for Palestinians – they have commercialized the olive oil and olives for hundreds of years.
If Israel would would remove the physical barrier that separated Palestinians from their farms and business, this alone will save them thousands of hours that are wasted on walking great distances to cross the check points illegally installed by Israel in Palestine.
Just the time saved in removing barriers and checkpoints, itself means money. Ultimately, efforts and resources to be fighting a worthless occupation will be employed to restore people’s properties and revive the Palestinian economy. Just Imagine the possibilities!!!! These are just some of the issues that the BDS is trying to resolve for Palestinians. Of course, there are more pressing issues yet that need to be acknowledged by the international community; but we should not underestimate the capacity of BDS to play a pivotal role in these very factors.
Right now under apartheid Israel, Palestine loses close to 7 billion dollars every year:
“The economy of the Palestinian suffers annual losses of seven billion dollars because of the occupation, which has turned these territories into one of the most aid-dependent economies in the world. In this respect, the ambassador of PNA in the UN, Riyad Mansour, said in an interview with Prensa Latina that the cost of domination is easily quantifiable, so that if this policyends, “we will be able to be self-sufficient and not need external help.”The seven billion dollars lost to the Palestinian economy in 2010 amounts to almost the entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, and this damage was produced by depriving the residents in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza from using their natural resources.” Correspondent for Prensa Latina in Egypt.Palestinian numbers, a despicable occupation – Translated from the Portuguese version by: Lisa
Follow your conscience. Follow what you feel is right. Propaganda is cheap and costs great division. Use your own mind, heart, judgement on this matter and try not pin your hopes and faith exclusively on one source or person of influence. What ever works to create awareness counts; any efforts aimed to let the world know that Palestine has been suffering under apartheid for 60 plus years. We know BDS is working. We know that boycotting Israel is one means of reigning in this rogue state! It is a human duty and obligation to rally together against any state that continually uses brutality and violates human rights and international law, in the manner that Israel has done, to the point of genocide. The BDS is beyond reproach, and trying to stop us from exercising a rightful humanitarian cause is a treason against our own human nature.
“The end of the Cold War, moreover, changed the West’s attitudes towards Africa. Western governments no longer had strategic interests in propping up repressive regimes merely because they were friendly to the west. Along with the World Bank, they concluded that one party regimes lacking popular participation constituted a serious hindrance to economic development and placed new emphasis on the need for democratic reform” The Struggles for Democracy- Martin Meredith -The Fate of Africa
At The End The US and Britain were forced to Boycott South Africa Apartheid: Library of Congress 1987
The Fate of AFRICA – Martin Meredith -Public Affairs Series – 2005
How Israel was won – – June 17, 1999
Palestinians Civil Society Calls for BDS- BDS National Committee- July 9, 2005 –
Gilad Atzmon Interviewed: Each Village is a Reminder by Brian Lenzo- July 13. 2010 –
Why Is BDS a Moral Duty Today? A Response to Bernard-Henri Levy – Omar Barghouti
– January 11, 2011- Huffington Post The Blog
Boycott Divides Jews In Britain, The New York Times, March 26, 1983 -0 Pasadena Library
Opening Chris Hedges-Norman Finkelstein, Talk, 6 December 2011 – Video-Cultural
Freedom,Nonfiction,Video-Recorded at the James A. Little Theater in Santa Fe, New
Mexico on December 6, 2011.
Alice Walker Stand on BDS: She has visited many places that have suffered injustices like Post Apartheid South Africa and knows of the terrible life the Afrikaans had it, and because she knows thru her own experiences the real story, she adds her voice to the people of Palestine, which sufferings are very similar to the blacks of the south where she grew up, or the South Africans of the Apartheid Era.
On Gilad Atzmon-Disavowal: “…a mental act that consists in rejecting the reality of
a perception.”–by William A. Cook