Friday, January 8, 2010

Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions

Two years ago I stood on corners all over Seattle collecting signatures for I-97, an initiative calling for the city of Seattle to divest from institutions affiliated with the State of Israel. Although I knew that divesting was an important action towards ending the occupation of Palestine, I did not believe that Seattle would even humor the idea. Sure enough I was right. Before our team could even collect the necessary signatures to get I-97 on the ballot, the opposition crushed our case and for logistical reasons, the city ruled that our specific call for divestment was illegal and could not be brought to a vote.

I walked away disheartened but not surprised and other then my own personal boycott of Israeli goods and services, I did not pursue additional actions in the divestment movement.

My perspective has drastically changed after meeting with multiple Israeli and Palestinian organizations all calling for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) of Israel as a crucial means of resisting Israeli occupation and the brutalization of Palestinians.

The call for BDS was formally issued in July 2000, signed by the majority of Palestinian civil society organizations to be applied until Israel:
1) Stops the occupation of the Palestinian territories
2) All people, including Palestinians enjoy equal rights within Israel
3) Israel acknowledges the right of return as stipulated in UN Resolution 194

10 years later, this movement is growing and organizations all over the world have endorsed the Palestinian BDS call. "We should send a clear message [to the Israeli authorities] that there is no more business as usual", argues Ronnie, an Israeli citizen and member of Boycott: Supporting the Israeli BDS Call from Within. For him, "BDS is a no brainer."

The Palestinian call clearly states that this action is not against Israeli people, it is against Israeli policies and the occupation of Palestine. It is about institutional not individual boycott. Of course, argues Yonaton, another Israeli activist in favor of BDS, " we want to stop the Israelis from killing and harassing innocent people, but we don't want to shoot the soldiers." Yohan, a member of Who Profits? shared Yonaton's concern and fear of negatively affecting Israelis; however, the role of occupier is psychologically and socially more destructive and both agree that without a drastic change in Israeli policy, the citizens of Israel will suffer far greater harm.

I return home with a terrible fear that my community will reject the idea of such a movement while Europe, Arab countries, and Israelis definitively demonstrate their support for BDS. How can I help to show my community how destructive this occupation is on Israeli society and the longevity of the State of Israel and all it's people? How can I convince my community of Americans and Jews who fear the word anti-Semite and stand with Israel without question, that their blind support is far more destructive then taking a stand? How do I help them see that it is with our tax dollars that this bloody, illegal occupation is carried out? I must remind them that it was the BDS movement of South Africa that brought an end to apartheid. "Money speaks."

On January 10th, 2010 the Cairo Declaration was issued by citizens from 42 different countries calling for BDS. I add my name to the long list of individuals who support BDS and I accept my responsibility as an American, as a Jew, and as a human being who has witnessed horrible suffering to guide my community to support BDS out of love for all humankind.

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