The BDS movement will continue to grow as long as Israel avoids accountability

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Above is Tuesday’s episode of Laura Flanders’s show Grit TV discussing the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Remember when Ali Abunimah was on Grit TV and had to beg the other guests to even mention Gaza immediately after the fighting? Well times are changing and the protests in Toronto, the success of Adalah-NY’s campaign against Lev Leviev, Code Pink’s Stolen Beauty campaign against Ahava, ongoing campaigns against Motorola and Caterpillar as well as growing calls in support for BDS like the one from Israeli professor Neve Gordon show that BDS is squarely on the Left’s agenda.

And people are starting to take notice. Gal Beckerman has a great overview of the BDS movement in this week’s Forward. Beckerman quotes Omar Barghouti – “Our South Africa moment has finally arrived." The connections to apartheid and South Africa are inescapable. Neve Gordon repeatedly references Israeli apartheid above when discussing his decision to support BDS. Jay Michaelson’s wonderful piece in the Forward also gives a snapshot of how Israel is increasingly perceived in the liberal and progressive community:

in my social circles, supporting Israel is like supporting segregation, apartheid or worse. I know this is a sign of weakness of will on my part, and I hope that the Times-magazine-sanctioned rise of J Street changes things, but I don’t think advocates of Israel understand exactly how bad the situation is on college campuses, in Europe, and in liberal or leftist social-political circles. Supporting Israel in these contexts is like supporting repression, or the war in Iraq, or George W. Bush. It’s gotten so bad, I don’t mention Israel in certain conversations anymore, and no longer defend it when it’s lumped in with South Africa and China by my friends.

This growing perception is being met by a total unwillingness in the international community to hold Israel accountable. In that void, the BDS movement has flourished.

Beckerman makes another important observation in his article that the war in Gaza served as an important tipping point in the growth of the BDS movement:

According to David Hosey, national media coordinator for the [US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation], the group resolved at the conference to extend its activities for the first time to the more sensitive cultural and academic boycott. Like many other pro-Palestinian activists, Hosey dated this willingness to increase boycott activity to the Gaza incursion of this past winter.

“It was a big shock to the system, and it caused a big sea change in what people were willing to do,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the national director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

The carnage in Gaza moved Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and other leaders on the left who had been reticent to engage with Israel/Palestine to jump in full force. The fact that the Goldstone report has coincidentally been released as the debate in Toronto rages over Israeli attempts to "re-brand" itself after the Gaza war serves as a perfect microcosm of the moment. Israel has yet to be held accountable for the incredible carnage in Gaza, and has already announced that it rejects the Goldstone report’s recommendation for an independent investigation of war crimes committed in the fighting. Although a report like this might have been ignored in the past, protests like the one in Toronto are making this more difficult to do, and in turn the Goldstone report is a chilling reminder of why such protest is unfortunately necessary.

The BDS movement is a nonviolent grassroots attempt to hold Israel accountable while the international community refuses to. After Gaza, Israel will face increasing criticism and rebuke whenever it tries to avoid the issue or change the subject. Although world leaders may not want to sanction Israel quite yet for its ongoing abuse of human rights and international law, it’s becoming clear that there is a growing global movement willing to take up the challenge.

Update: This just in –

17 September 2009

Britain’s unions commit to a mass boycott movement of Israeli goods

In a landmark decision, Britain’s trade unions have voted overwhelmingly to commit to build a mass boycott movement, disinvestment and sanctions on Israel for a negotiated settlement based on justice for Palestinians.

The motion was passed at the 2009 TUC Annual Congress in Liverpool today (17 September), by unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights. We will be working with the TUC to develop a mass campaign to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.’

The motion additionally called for the TUC General Council to put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. Unions are also encouraged to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel’s illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The motion was tabled by the Fire Brigades Union. The biggest unions in the UK, including Unite, the public sector union, and UNISON, which represents health service workers, voted in favour of the motion.

The motion also condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks, and called for a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut.

Britain’s trade unions join those of South Africa and Ireland in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that encourage justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

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