Saturday, 29 August 2009
Israel: boycott, divestment and sanctions
There's an excellent article, 'Turning up the heat on a serial abuser', about Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns aimed at Israel. Supporters have scored a noteworthy victory in the last couple of weeks, with Amnesty International's withdrawal from involvement in Leonard Cohen's concert in Israel. Efforts are now being made to get Cohen to scrap the concert, scheduled for 24 September, altogether.
The article refers to the fact a number of trade unions have recently passed BDS motions, reflecting a sea change in public opinion on Israel. There is widespread opposition to Israel's brutal treatment of the Palestinians, on a scale that was once unthinkable. Comparisons with the old apartheid regime in South Africa are now routine; this year we have seen large demonstrations and a wave of student occupations in solidarity with Gaza.
Consumer boycotts are a useful part of the solidarity movement and, as the article indicates, there are various ways of promoting these. Also, the unions have a crucial role to play, in taking practical action and sending a strong message of solidarity, but just as importantly by raising consciousness of Palestinian suffering and the political issues around it.
In this country perhaps the greatest challenge is breaking the links between the arms industry and Israel. Many of the student occupations included a demand for universities to stop investing in research and development for arms production, or to withdraw investment from arms manufacturers.
When students return to Newcastle University next month, for example, they will resume campaigning for complete divestment. Whenever such action is succesful it both harms Israel economically and damages its veneer of respectability. If you are in any doubt about why that's so necessary, just take a look at the map above.