In their extremist incitement against the BDS movement, Israeli leaders, from right to extreme-right, made it absolutely clear that they were serious about seeing the end of the movement before it achieves its objectives, namely freedom, justice, and equality. They have labelled the BDS movement a “strategic threat” to Israel’s system of occupation, colonization, and apartheid adopted and enforced by the ruling Zionist establishment. At the Yediot Ahronot “Stop BDS” Conference, minister after minister, leader after leader, used inflammatory rhetoric that must be very familiar to Anti-South African Apartheid Movement activists, most of whom must have felt a sense of de ja vu listening to the tirade.
Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, called for the expulsion of BDS leaders because “you cannot turn the other cheek to those who beat us.”
The most serious threat, however, came from the Minister of Intelligence, Israel Katz, who used intentionally ambiguous language to send a message of terror to Palestinian and international BDS activists: “You had better stop BDS, or we will resort to “civic assassination!” He went to on to explain what he meant by that:
“[It] is to expose the actors, the people, the system, the mechanisms and their connections to the organizations that have already crossed the threshold of military and terrorist activity. And definitely, through this exposure, to know how to act against them, how to isolate them, also to transfer information to intelligence agents around the world, and other agents. We have to understand that there is a battle here. It is wrapped in many covers.”
This is not news anymore! But what does it mean to those of us, BDS activists based in Palestine?
I, myself, live in besieged Gaza. I have witnessed three huge massacres committed by apartheid Israel, almost lost my life more than once, lost very close comrades, colleagues, relatives, and students. I have lived through an indescribable, ongoing trauma, and seen horror beyond words. I have been prevented from attending my parents’ funerals, deprived of seeing my sister and nephews who live in Bethlehem, a one-hour drive away, for more than 16 years, and have been without a consistent source of electricity and clean water since 2006. I have seen the Baker children being slaughtered in broad day light on a Gaza beach, read with agony the names of 66 families that were totally wiped out by Israeli weapons and deleted from the civic registry. I had to consciously fight against the possibility of becoming just a number in a news report on CNN, BBC, and Sky News! 2200 people, including 551 children, were not that lucky in 2014! Nor were 1200, including 443 children, in 2009, or 200 in 2012! The Israeli war machine and the international conspiracy of silence took their lives.
And now I am being told that by calling non-violently for Israeli accountability, which is what BDS does, and in spite of the failure of the so-called international community to hold Apartheid Israel accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, that my colleagues and I would be targeted for “civic assassination” unless we are quiet and become “good, native boys and girls,” – Uncle Tom of the State of Israel.
So, what have we done to drive Israel’s leaders, right and extreme-right, to the brink of madness?! After all that we have gone through from 1948 until today, does Apartheid Israel really think that we would budge? Did the icons of the anti-apartheid anti-colonial movements show any sign of weakness in the face of similar threats? Did the millions of South Africans, African Americans and Indians stop their fight against apartheid, inequality and colonialism in the face of such threats? They did not and the names of leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Steve Biko, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks are but a few whose names live on today. Gandhi told us “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” And judging by the achievements of the BDS movement over the last 10 years, we can say that we are winning. Mandela reminded us all that “South Africa’s freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.’” He would be arrested, if not assassinated, for saying something like this in Israel today!
Steve Biko, founder of the Black Consciousness Movement, cannot escape my mind. His racist murderers are now in the dustbin of history; so are Ariel Sharon, Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, even Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Dayan, and soon all those Israeli ministers and opposition leaders who consider the call for freedom and equality an “existential threat!”
The real tragedy of Post-Oslo Palestine is not that the majority of Palestinians had no say in whether or not they wanted this new “administrative autonomy;” rather it is that we have never been given the tools to negotiate our new reality.” Isn’t it glaringly obvious by now that Apartheid Israel signed the Oslo Accords and gave us “limited autonomy” only because this costs Tel Aviv less?!
Herein comes the importance of our BDS movement as it represents the expression of our determination to develop our own voice, a new vision of freedom from occupation and our desire to accomplish justice and equality. BDS, in different words, is driven by our own desire to decolonize and de-Osloize our minds in our fight to forge an emancipatory Palestinian subject of liberation, away from the hallucinatory façade of “independence.”
To claim that the fight for equality and justice is anti-Semitic is not unlike saying that Mandela was racist and Gandhi was violent! Our choices, as BDS activist, are limited: we either follow in the footsteps of Biko, Mandela, Gandhi, Parks, King, or switch sides and take the infamous Bantustan leaders like the Mangopes and Buthelezis of this world as our role models.
We’ve taken the first option because that is the only choice that will lead us to a free Palestine, with peace and justice for all its inhabitants.