This is the second issue of our special Nakba-60 trilogy, and aims the spotlight on the growing global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on Israel. The introductory articles in the issue include a guest commentary by Professor As'ad Abu Sharkh discussing the urgency of global civil society action in light of the disastrous situation in the Gaza Strip, as well as an announcement of the newly launched BDS movement website, and an overview and update about the BDS movement within US churches.
One of the highlights of this issue is an article by Karine Mac Allister about the “Applicability of the Crime of Apartheid to Israel.” This article provides a preliminary legal analysis of Israel's commission of the crime of apartheid against all sectors of Palestinian society: Palestinian citizens of Israel, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian refugees. While it is a work in progress, it is an important step in developing a well-founded legal analysis of Israeli violations of international law.
The main feature of this issue of al-Majdal focuses on BDS campaigns in 17 countries across Europe, North America and South Africa. While the information covered in these articles does not cover all BDS campaign activity, it provides powerful examples and histories of what the campaign has involved in different places, as well as valuable lessons learned by activists involved in the campaign over the past years. The growing effectiveness of the campaign is particularly highlighted in the 12-page-long list of BDS campaign updates and achievements at the end of the magazine.
Also featured in al-Majdal #38 are the winners in the written work category of this year's Expressions of Nakba contest organized by the US Campaign to End the Occupation; a review of Deborah Rohan's new book The Olive Grove as well as a reflection by the author herself on the process of writing the book; as well as several important statements issued over the past months.
As the global movement for BDS continues to grow in size, strength and effectiveness, it is increasingly important to take stock of experiences in different parts of the world by sharing research and analysis, taking strength from successes, and learning lessons from the failures of different campaigns. This issue of al-Majdal is a step in this direction.
This year, the 60th since the establishment of Israel through the systematic forced transfer of most of Palestine's indigenous population, has witnessed the largest global mobilization in support of Palestinian rights since the 1948 Nakba. In cities around the world, supporters of human rights and just peace participated in actions and events demanding that the truth of the Nakba be exposed and calling for the implementation of Palestinian refugee rights. Many of these actions and events were part of the emerging global movement to reverse, and not just commemorate, the 60-year Nakba, through boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law and universal human rights and dismantles its regime of apartheid, colonialism and occupation. This issue of al-Majdal brings together the voices of BDS activists from around the world to describe and evaluate their campaigns to date.
The current BDS campaign is deeply rooted in the century-old history of Palestinian civil resistance against Zionist colonization. In the two decades before the establishment of the state of Israel, the Palestinian national movement had implemented a local boycott of Zionist enterprises that escalated during the uprising of 1936-1939. After 1948, member states of the League of Arab States, Non-Aligned Movement, and Organization of the Islamic Conference launched state-run boycott campaigns to ensure that commercial and financial relations with Israel did not take place, a boycott that began to be reversed under US pressure when Egypt signed the Camp David Accords and other Arab states engaged in the normalization treaties of the 1990s. Anti-normalization, a term that describes opposition to the treatment of Israel as a 'normal state' given its abnormal regime of apartheid, colonialism and occupation, became a central slogan of civil society in Arab countries that initiated relations with Israel, as well as in Palestine after the Oslo agreements.
As Israel celebrates the 60th year since its establishment, the Palestinian people commemorate the 60th year of the Nakba (catastrophe) in which Zionist forces drove out the majority of the Palestinian people from Palestine, deprived them of their homes, lands and property and turned them into destitute refugees. The expulsion of the majority of Palestinians from their homes and replacing them by Jews from various parts of the world over the past 60 years has been a premeditated crime concocted deliberately by the Zionist movement whose ideology continues to be based on the war crime of population transfer aimed at simultaneously pumping out the indigenous Palestinian population and pumping in Jews from the world to create and maintain a Jewish state on the land of Palestine.
On 9 July 2008, the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) launched a major new online resource for the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. BDSmovement.net will bring together news, campaign materials and resources from Palestinian and global activists in a single site to support, coordinate, and provide information, updates and analysis about the international BDS movement.
Apartheid is an Afrikaans term for "apartness," which means to "separate," to "put apart," to "segregate." It can be summed up as the institutionalization of a regime of systematic racial discrimination or more precisely, "a political system where racism is regulated in law through acts of parliament."1
Discussions on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid are not new; numerous articles were published in the 1980s and 1990s concluding that the situation in Israel and to some extent the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) is one of apartheid.2 These discussions were, however, sidelined by the Madrid-Oslo process in the mid-1990s, which was widely expected to bring about at least partial self-determination of the Palestinian people in the OPT. Discussions on the applicability of the apartheid label to Israel have recently re-emerged, mainly as a result of the entrenchment of Israel's regime of occupation and colonization in the OPT and its continued discriminatory policies towards Palestinian refugees and citizens of Israel.3
Applying International Law in Palestine/Israel
“We denounce as immoral an ordering of life that perpetuates injustice…Believing that international justice requires the participation of all peoples, we endorse the United Nations and its related bodies and the International Court of Justice as the best instruments now in existence to achieve a world of justice and law.” --United Methodist Church Social Principles.
On March 12, the new Australian Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd moved a motion calling on the Australian House of Representatives to “celebrate and commend the achievements of the State of Israel in the 60 years since its inception” and to reaffirm Canberra's support for “Israel's right to exist” and a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.1 In moving the opposition-supported motion, Rudd made it perfectly clear that despite the 11 year conservative Howard government being swept from power, there would be no change in Australia's policy in relation to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The boycott campaign in Belgium was started in 2000 by a small but dynamic Palestine solidarity group called Centrum voor Ontwikkeling, Documentatie, Informatie Palestina (CODIP: Centre for Development, Documentation and Information on Palestine). CODIP had emerged from Palestine solidarity efforts active in Belgium through the Limburgs Palestina Komitee (LPK) founded in 1989, and which had evolved into CODIP by 1998. In 2002, the boycott campaign was taken up by the coordinating comittees of the Flemish and French speaking NGO's and social organisations: Actie Platform Palestina (APP) and Association Belgo-Palestine (ABP).
Co-authored by Hazem Jamjoum
The Canadian state is one of the inheritors of Europe's genocide and ethnic cleansing in the Americas. In the face of their ongoing struggle for sovereignty and self-determination, the indigenous people of Turtle Island (the name of this land according to many of its indigenous peoples) have faced wave after wave of expulsion from their land, biological and military warfare, systematic erasure of their identity and way of life, and an accumulation of government policies aimed at finishing them off as peoples and taking what is left of their land and its resources. It should come as no surprise that when the architects of apartheid in South Africa looked to study effective examples on which to base the political exclusion and economic exploitation of South Africa's indigenous peoples; they took Canada as their main case study.
Some of the commercial boycott experiences of the Plataforma Aturem la Guerra (Stop the war platform), Boicot Preventiu (Preventative Boycott) and the Xarxa d'Enllaç amb Palestina (Link Network with Palestine) in Catalonia can be valuable for activists in other places. Despite the fact that the peculiarities of each context have to be taken into account, these experiences illustrate the difficulties and dilemmas as well as the potential of these campaigns. Three different cases will be explained: the boycott of an Israeli product, a campaign for a Catalan company to stop selling Israeli products and two campaigns demanding that the public administration refrain from contracting Israeli product and services.
This article summarizes the current major effort by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and other Palestine solidarity groups in England and Wales to build a really dynamic and concerted BDS campaign across eight action areas for the next year. In the process of describing this, examples will be given of the range of past campaigning actions which are now being drawn together and stepped up, to achieve greater visibility and impact.