Boycotts from Arizona to Palestine

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Tell me if this sounds familiar:

A new order allows enforcement officials to stop anyone who “looks illegal” (read: has brown skin) and demand that they produce documents proving their right to be in a place they call home. Failure to produce such documents can lead to fines, jail time, or deportation. Widely seen as a violation of basic rights, this new order leads to widespread calls for boycott.

I’m speaking, of course, about Arizona’s new racist law, SB1070–but I could just as easily be talking about Palestine.

If you haven’t heard, SB1070 effectively mandates racial profiling by giving local police officers the right to demand immigration documentation from anyone they think might be in the country without documents. Here’s the Washington Post summarizing the new law (and insisting on calling human beings “illegal”):

“The law gives local police broad authority to stop and request documents from anyone they reasonably suspect is an illegal immigrant. It calls for aggressive prosecution of illegal immigrants, and officers can be sued if they do not enforce the law.”

SB 1070 is so racist and over the top that it has led to a wave of outrage around the country, including condemnation from a wide spectrum of faith leaders and President Barack Obama. Many organizations and individuals have called for a boycott of Arizona, including Arizona Member of Congress Raul Grijalva, award-winning author Tayari Jones, and Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney.

I support these calls, just as I support efforts to oppose so-called “Secure Communities” initiatives that would require local law enforcement to work with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in a manner sure to promote racial profiling and ruin community policing efforts.

I have to wonder, though, how calls to boycott Arizona–including sports boycotts and boycotts on travel to the state–are so easily endorsed in the Washington Post (McCartney: “I like the idea of a boycott because it’s so all-American”), while calls to boycott Israel for its consistent violations of Palestinian human rights and international law are deemed “controversial.”

The connections are eerie: earlier this month, a new Israeli military order came into effect in the Palestinian West Bank, which would allow the military to demand that any Palestinian, anytime, produce proof of their right to be in a place they call home. According to the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz:

“A new military order will take effect this week, enabling the army to deport tens of thousands of Palestinians from the West Bank and prosecute them on infiltration charges, which carry long prison terms….The order’s vague language will allow army officers to exploit it arbitrarily to carry out mass expulsions, in accordance with military orders which were issued under unclear circumstances. The first candidates for expulsion will be people whose ID cards bear addresses in the Gaza Strip, including children born in the West Bank and Palestinians living in the West Bank who have lost their residency status for various reasons.”

Sound familiar? As with SB1070, the Israeli military order purports to be in response to illegal migration (“infiltration”), but is actually a license for racial profiling and mass deportation–i.e., ethnic cleansing. And yet where was the Washington Post call for boycott?

There’s more: The Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli violations of international law came one year after the International Court of Justice ruled against the Israel’s “Separation Barrier,” which annexes massive sections of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. That “Barrier” (read: apartheid Wall) is being built, in part, by Elbit, an Israeli military contractor that also has half of the contract on the U.S./Mexico Border Wall.

And SB1070 is likely to lead to the type of checkpoints and arbitrary “searches” and arrests that have been daily reality for West Bank Palestinians for decades. The West Bank currently has over 500 checkpoints, roadblocks, and closures–in an area the size of Delaware, not Arizona.

Of course, in Arizona and in Palestine/Israel, many of the people affected by racist laws and policies can trace their ancestral connection to the place back well before the current (predominantly white-skinned) regimes making such racist laws came into power. That’s how colonialism and occupation works. And as Jewish Israeli Assaf Oron writes at DailyKos, racial profiling linked to ID documents is a fact of life for Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel as well.

So here’s what I’m saying: all those calling for boycotting Arizona because of a racist “documentation and deportation” law–I’m with you. And everyone who supports the Palestinian BDS call should be with you too. But we’re asking you to support boycotts targeting such racist laws, mandating displacement and ethnic cleansing, that are supported by U.S. policy and U.S. corporations, no matter where these “laws” are being made.

And yes, that includes you, faith leaders who have rightfully condemned SB1070. The Palestinian Christian community is asking you for your support, too.

Now is the time. It’s the right thing to do. And it just makes sense.

David Hosey is the National Media Coordinator of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. For more information on how you can get involved with boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS), check out the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s BDS resources.

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