Yesterday afternoon National Public Radio aired two consecutive stories that honored actions people are taking in response to China’s clampdown on Hong Kong and the police killing in Minneapolis. What struck me was that these actions are straight out of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions toolbox; but similar actions are not countenanced in our society/media when they target Israel over Palestinian human rights.
First was a report on possible economic sanctions if China revokes freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong under its joint declaration with the British in 1997 when it regained sovereignty over the island city. Mary Louise Kelly said:
Many in Hong Kong fear the suppression will actually be to civil liberties and that with a loss of freedom could also come enormous economic losses if trade partners revoke special status for the territory. That is exactly the signal coming from the U.S. this week.
Then there was a report on University of Minnesota students demanding that the school end all relations with the city’s police department following the killing of George Floyd. The students object to any normalization or dialogue with the police. Again, Mary Louise Kelly:
[The students’] letter says, quote, “We have lost interest in discussion, community conversations and donut hours. We no longer wish to have a meeting or come to an agreement. There is no middle ground.”
Kelly interviewed student body president, Jael Kerandi, about why the students want the police off campus. Kerandi:
“[I]f you look at the trends and the history of the Minneapolis Police Department, I don’t think that reflects the university’s values. And if the university states values and diversity inclusion and ensuring that those students feel safe, having the presence of the Minneapolis Police Department would be an exact contrary to those value statements.”
Today in my former newspaper I read a report that the University has ended all relations with the city’s police. “We have a responsiblity to uphold our values,” the university president wrote.
So when an armed force commits an atrocity, or a sovereign cracks down on civil liberties, we see routine responses by human rights activists: boycott and sanctions. I don’t need to go into all the injustices that we chronicle on this site. Remember that Israel killed more than 500 children in Gaza six years ago during an onslaught that galvanized American activists and left American politicians tonguetied…. or that it killed over 200 unarmed protesters at the Gaza fence during weekly protests two years ago demanding a return by refugees to their villages…
Yet when solidarity activists use these basic tools, Israel’s supporters and American leaders seek to marginalize us as antisemites, and the activists very rarely get a hearing on public radio. Even liberal Zionists supported legislation last year that characterizes BDS as antisemitic, and they tell us that BDS “is not a friend to Israel.” As if lovers of freedom don’t have a right to choose enemies.