In Support of the BDS Movement Against Israel

ARGUMENT (Declared Bias: Far-Left Libertarian)

On Sunday, April 16, the Pitzer College Student Senate passed an amendment to their budget bylaws [1] which read that “Student Activities Funds shall not be used to make a payment on goods or services from any corporation or organization associated with the unethical occupation of Palestinian territories.” This is one of the first successful moves in the Claremont Consortium in support of the wider Boycott, Sanction, and Divestment (BDS) movement against the State of Israel. Launched in 2005, the BDS movement was called upon by over 170 [2] Palestinian civil society organizations including labor unions, refugee advocacy networks, cultural institutions, and political parties. The movement pressures the international community in boycotting and disinvesting in Israeli companies, cultural and academic institutions, and corporations that support the occupation, and through pressuring governments sanctions. All these organizations support BDS’s efforts to have the international community pressure the State of Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian lands and the apartheid conditions in which Palestinians live. Inspired by the 1980s BDS movement against South Africa’s apartheid regime, Palestinian civil society hopes that through BDS, Israel will be held accountable for the horrid, inhumane conditions that they have placed Palestinians under during the past 70 years, preventing Palestinians from attaining self-determination in forming a state of their own.

Since the founding of Israel in 1948, Palestinians have been systematically removed from their own land and have been constantly disenfranchised by Israel. During the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, over 750,000 Palestinians [3] were forcibly removed from their homes and over 400 towns and villages [4] destroyed in order to assure an Israeli state with a Jewish majority — an event known by Palestinians as the Nakbah, or the Catastrophe in Arabic. Palestinians were reduced to what we now call the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which were not under Palestinian control, but under the control of Jordan and Egypt, respectively. About 150,000 Palestinians remained in what became the State of Israel, many of whom internally displaced and under martial law until 1966 [5]. The State of Israel by 1949 controlled around 72% of historic Palestine. A second wave of aggression came in 1967 with the Six-Day War. After the Six-Day War, Israel managed to not only occupy remaining Palestine, but also the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The international community responded to such aggression with U.N. Resolution 242 [6], which stated that Israeli forces had to retreat from all land occupied during the War. Israel did not fully comply and to this day have kept their military occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Golan Heights. Israel breached international law not only in their refusal to retreat, but also by placing Palestinians under military occupation and by the building of settlements in the occupied lands — both are which are against the 4th Geneva Convention [7], specifically Article 49 (6).

"Israel breached international law not only in their refusal to retreat, but also by placing Palestinians under military occupation and by the building of settlements in the occupied lands..."

The ongoing occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has led to apartheid conditions for the Palestinians who live there. The United Nations’ Economic and Social Commission of West Asia released a report back in March claiming that Israel is indeed pursuing an Apartheid regime [8]. The term has been used by numerous individuals, such as former President Jimmy Carter, to describe the separate systems in which Jews and Palestinians live in the occupied territories; the U.N. report merely reaffirms a fairly open suspicion. Many apologists of Israel’s regime claim the term “apartheid” to be inaccurate and insulting, yet we need to recognize that apartheid is a legal term [9] as defined by the 1973 U.N. International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (signed by almost all U.N. members except the U.S. and Israel) as a system that is “committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them” with racial discrimination being defined as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life,” in accordance to the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination [10]. The acts of the Israeli state against Palestinians fit the definition as set on by international law. This includes the fact that Palestinians in the West Bank do not have political representation [11] in the Knesset or other Israeli government body, the entity that is pursuing the military occupation; Palestinians do not control the borders, air space, water, tax revenues, and other vital matters; Palestinians’ right of movement is infringed by checkpoints; Palestinians are systematically disposed of their land through home demolitions that occur in order to clear space for Israeli settlements; and, Israel has the sole authority to issue identification. Additionally, Palestinians in the West Bank do not have access to the same infrastructure as Israelis living in settlements [12]. The State of Israel does not conduct apartheid and occupation alone. Companies such as Caterpillar [13] and HP [14] are still complacent to the occupation, providing the technology necessary to put up apartheid. This includes providing the heavy machinery necessary to demolish homes and the servers and IT help needed to run checkpoints. The United States, too, is complacent to apartheid. Not only is Israel the largest benefactor of U.S. foreign aid, but we have increased our commitment to Israel with a $38 billion boost [15] for the next decade — aid that supports Israel’s security apparatus which includes running the checkpoints, crowd control, and the military penal system Palestinians in the West Bank have to face. Thus, the successful implementation of BDS could pressure the United States to finally end its blind support of the State of Israel, just like how BDS pressured the U.K. to do the same with South Africa [16] in the 1980s.

"...the international community must hear Palestinian civil society’s call in supporting their resistance to occupation and apartheid through BDS."

With the Palestinian National Authority providing nothing but complacency and incompetence in this situation and other Arab states being completely apathetic to the Palestinians, the international community must hear Palestinian civil society’s call in supporting their resistance to occupation and apartheid through BDS. So far, numerous prominent figures have spoken for BDS, including Pink Floyd’s lead singer Roger Waters [17], the Nobel prize-winning cleric and South African Apartheid activist Desmond Tutu [18], and renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking [19]. In addition, numerous banks, churches, and local governments have divested from Israel [20] such as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the national pension funds of Sweden, Norway, and New Zealand; and the U.S. Presbyterian Church, United Methodist Church, and the United Church of Christ. Despite this large international support, some anti-BDS advocates argue that BDS chokes the economic viability of the West Bank because of the fact that many Israeli corporations which do business in the West Bank employ Palestinians. BDS pressures have forced companies such as SodaStream to move their factories back to the other side of the Green Line, but it is important to note that when these companies move out of the West Bank they refuse to grant working permits [21] to Palestinians in order to work outside of the West Bank — done especially to form a narrative that discredits the BDS movement, which only shows that Israel sees the momentum brought on by BDS.

We clearly see a growing, multifaceted movement in support of Palestinian’s struggle for self-determination, which must be encouraged and expanded. Because of the complex nature of the occupation in which a wide network of multinational institutions are involved, a BDS strategy is necessary to hit all actors that are complacent to the occupation. Palestinians cannot resist apartheid alone, and it is our responsibility to join Palestinians in their call for BDS.

Edited by General Editor Aary Sheoran

Featured Image Source: "Manif ! Solidarité avec Gaza" by Heri Rakotomalala — Own work. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 via Flickr Creative Commons —

[1] [2] [3] [4] Ibid. [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21]

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