While Palestinian, Israeli and international non-violent protesters who march against Israel’s policies in the Occupied Territories are literally showered in sewage, beaten, arbitrarily arrested and sometimes killed by Israeli forces, the battle against non-violent resistance has taken its own ugly form in Australia.
Supporters of the non-violent global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement — especially members of the Greens — have been subjected to abuse in a deliberate national campaign of misinformation and slurs orchestrated against them. It has questioned their values and integrity and falsely accused them of anti-Semitism.
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The war on BDS is part of a concerted effort to sabotage Palestinian and Israeli non-violent resistance against Israel’s 43-year-old illegal occupation and its 63 years of discrimination against non-Jewish Israeli citizens.
Our political elites here in Australia who profess their love for Israel and who have come out strongly against BDS have yet to offer Palestinians and Israelis any real alternative to alter Israel’s behaviour and to force it to comply with its obligations under international humanitarian law and the Universal Declarations of Human Rights.
Instead they stoop to play the old and abused anti-Semitism card to manipulate the discourse and to silence debate.
Recently, Federal MP Andrew Robb on ABC radio attacked the Greens accusing them of being anti-Semitic. Does Robb believe that all Jews are Israelis?
Does he believe that Israel represents all Jews? Does he hold all Jews world wide collectively responsible for the actions of the state of Israel?
Is he telling us that Jews have a political monolithic view and follow one agenda? The idea of lumping all Jews in the world into one category is inherently a racist idea that must be seen for what it is.
The BDS campaign rejects all forms of stereotypes, all forms of discrimination and all forms of racism including the kind Robb has indulged himself with on air.
The call to boycott Israel did not come about because Israel has a Jewish population but because the state of Israel practises discrimination and apartheid policies. When Palestinian civil society initiated the calls for BDS, it could not care less if the state was Jewish, Muslim or Hindu.
The fact that Israel is a state that oppresses the Palestinians, that denies them their rights and colonises them is the reason they have issued this call.
Robb asked the question “what drives BDS?” If he were genuine in his thirst for knowledge, a quick online search would have pointed him to the three demands made by the BDS call.
The first demand is for an end to the systematic discrimination against Palestinians who are citizens of the state of Israel. Surely no Australian political party is against the idea of equality for all citizens of a state.
The second demand calls for the end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land as per United Nations Security Council resolution 242.
This is completely in line with Australia’s stated foreign policy, which views the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as occupied land. Why is that considered extreme?
The third and final demand of the BDS movement calls on Israel to meet its obligations towards Palestinian refugees under international humanitarian law and UN Resolution 194.
How can any of these three demands be considered extreme or anti-Semitic?
Unfortunately, our right-wing press is telling our politicians that BDS is part of a campaign to delegitimise Israel, a state they say is based on the foundation of liberal democracy.
But you cannot have a state that has two sets of laws — one for Jews and one for non-Jews — and call that a liberal democracy. They claim that BDS demonises Jews, but this is incorrect.
Boycotts in South Africa were never put in place to demonise white people but to bring about change to a racist regime. BDS aims to delegitimise Israeli policies of discrimination and oppression and not, as some have claimed, to destroy Israel. The boycotts against South Africa did not destroy that country; they only dismantled its system of apartheid.
The Israeli government recognises the power of the BDS movement. It sees it as a threat to its current policies of discrimination and apartheid. As a result, it is cracking down on internal dissent and is in the process of making it illegal for Israeli citizens to support BDS.
This is not how democracies work. This is hardly the blueprint on which Australia should model itself.
BDS activists, Israelis and Palestinians are fighting an uphill battle in their quest for equality, freedom and civil liberties. Supporters of BDS in the Greens should be congratulated for supporting justice and equality in Palestine/Israel and for endorsing a movement that is rooted in international humanitarian law and the Universal Declarations of Human Rights.
[Samah Sabawi is a Palestinian-Australian writer, playwright, producer, political analyst, commentator and public speaker on human rights. Sabawi is the public advocate of the Australian advocacy group Australians for Palestine. To download the BDS manual visit www.australiansforpalestine.com .]