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The Lessons of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) - The Lessons of Boycott

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The Lessons of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
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Since 1967, Israel forced dependency on the Territories by controlling its ports, land crossings, and airports, compounded by hundreds of West Bank checkpoints and the Separation Wall. As a result around 90% of it is with Israel, while 75% of imported goods are Israeli-made. Conditions are especially acute in Gaza because of war and closure, meaning only Israeli-approved goods can enter, and too few of those under siege.

A Working BDS Framework

Just as civil society-led boycotts ended South African apartheid, so can they end decades of Israeli crimes of war and against humanity against Occupied Palestine. They work, more than ever after human rights reports on Operation Cast Lead documented what no longer can be tolerated. The task is to build global outrage to critical mass enough for change.

Organizations in 20 countries now participate under the banner of the International Coordinating Network on Palestine (ICNP). Formed in 2002, it calls itself "a body of civil society organizations....under the auspices of the United Nations Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People."

Its mission "is to strengthen the role of civil society in supporting and demanding, of governments and international institutions, the full implementation" of all Palestinian rights under international law, including to self-determination, national independence, and sovereignty.

ICNP coordinates global campaigns; facilitates communication; aids local organizations' plans civil society conferences; and mobilizes global BDS support. It strives for representation on every continent in many more nations than the following now participating:

-- Australia;

-- Belgium;

-- Canada;

-- the autonomous Catalonian northeast Spanish community and its capital, Barcelona;

-- Denmark;

-- France;

-- Egypt;

-- Greece;

-- Iceland;

-- Italy;

-- Netherlands;

-- Norway;

-- Scotland;

-- South Africa;

-- Spain;

-- the UK; and

-- US.

BDS initiatives include:

-- academic and cultural boycotts to tell Israel that its "occupation and discrimination against Palestinians is unacceptable;" Israel practices militarized apartheid combined with religious fundamentalist bigotry; non-Jewish voices are excluded; Israeli children are taught to deny a Palestinian identity; through close monitoring, Israel cracks down hard against non-compliers;

-- consumer boycotts through bad publicity, building public awareness, pressuring stores to remove Israeli products, encouraging companies to stop buying Israeli technology, and overall creating an inhospitable climate for Israeli commerce;

-- sports boycotts to highlight Israeli oppression and discrimination and stop its self-promotion as a "fair player" in bilateral and international competition; at the same time to promote a Palestinian presence in these events to support their right to identity and self-determination;

-- divestment/disinvestment in Israel and companies globally that support its occupation and oppression; encourage and pressure individuals, businesses, organizations, universities, pension funds, and governments to shed their Israeli investments to exert pressure for change;

-- sanctions, starting with open debate and raising awareness on applying them; followed by implementing comprehensive economic, political, and military measures to isolate the Jewish state; ending Israel's membership in economic and political bodies like the UN, WHO, Red Cross, WTO, and OECD;

-- end cooperation agreements under which Israel gets preferential treatment on trade, joint research and development, and various other projects; Israel's Export and International Cooperation Institute reported in 2006 that participation of its companies in global 2005 projects grew by 150% over 2004 - from $600 million in to $1.5 billion; Israel is the only non-European country participating in the EU's Sixth Framework Programme for R & D and gets preferential treatment as a member; many international agreements have clauses that bind participating countries to human rights, international law, and democratic standards; Israel disdains them, and must be challenged and excluded as a result;

-- efforts at the local, regional, and institutional levels to build greater individual awareness and support;

-- ending military ties over Israel's role as a serial aggressor; militarism and violence define its culture; confrontation is practiced over diplomacy, and peaceful coexistence is a non-starter; despite its own technology, it's heavily dependent on America and other nations for hardware and munitions supplies; breaking that connection can curb its crimes of war and against humanity; heightening public awareness is crucial to accomplishing this goal;

-- involving faith-based bodies and institutions regarding moral and human rights issues, not religion; and

-- working cooperatively with trade unions; Palestinian ones faced Zionist attacks since the 1920s, especially from the Histadrut General Federation of Laborers in the Land of Israel; it's replaced Arab workers with Jewish ones; in 1965, the General Union of Palestinian Workers (GUPW) was founded to organize West Bank, Gaza, and diaspora labor; in 1986, the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) grew out of Occupied Palestine's labor movement; today it's ineffective given condition under Occupation and Israeli discrimination against its Arab citizens, consigning them to low wage, few, or no benefit jobs; Histadrut represents only Jews.

Beyond Boycott

Boycotting Israeli products successfully needs a transition to Palestinian ones, but much work is needed to achieve it, including effective promotion. Several organizations doing it include:

-- PalTrade: an organization mandated to promote Palestinian products locally and internationally;

-- Palestinian Federation of Industries (PFI) and "Watani:" they support local producers to upgrade quality and urge government and institutions to enact policies to back local production; and

-- Intajuna: a three-year project to get Palestinians to prefer locally-produced products.

These initiatives along with a committed, grassroots global BDS movement is crucial to ending decades of subjugation under an oppressive occupier that won't quit until forced by committed pressure. BDS is the tool to do it.

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