With the escalation of the war on Gaza in the past week, now is the time for the Greens to urgently reconsider backing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). This campaign aims to bring international pressure on Israel until it stops human rights abuses against Palestinians.
BDS has grown rapidly in Australia in recent years, though mainstream politics has barely noted its progress.
Even the Greens, generally far more sympathetic to the suffering of the Palestinian people, have now completely abandoned BDS.
However Australian Greens Leader Christine Milne told Green Left Weekly that, “We're doing everything we can for Palestine.”
She explained that the Greens recently raised the issue of Israel's demolition of Palestinian buildings, particularly those constructed with funding from AusAID, with federal foreign minister Bob Carr.
While it's inarguable that the Greens have done more for Palestine than the Liberal or Labor parties, it is similarly obvious that they are not quite doing “everything”.
The NSW Greens rescinded their support of BDS in December 2011. According to Milne: “We had a long debate about that. We're certainly supporting the Palestinians but we don't think a boycott is the proper way to go.
“That's our policy.”
There are, of course, obvious reasons why the Greens backed down on BDS. The smear campaign targeting Greens BDS advocates last year, most notably Lee Rhiannon, was unrelenting. The Murdoch press, Liberal, Labor and the pro-Israel lobby all worked to portray the policy as extremist and unreasonable.
However, the situation in Palestine grows more urgent everyday and the actions of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) in the past week clearly shows the BDS campaign is needed because it calls for an immediate end to Australia's support of Israeli imperialism and apartheid.
According to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), after days of fighting, on November 10, two Palestinian children who were playing football were fired upon by IDF forces east of Gaza City. Both children were killed instantly.
The PCHR report on the incident said that, “following this attack, a number of Palestinian civilians ... rushed to the area, where the [IDF] immediately fired another 3 shells ... 2 Palestinian civilians were instantly killed.
“Additionally, 38 civilians, including 8 children, were wounded.”
In preceding days, two more Palestinians and eight Israeli civilians had been injured by rocket fire. Two Palestinian militants were also killed.
Although BDS was blamed for the Greens' failures in the NSW council elections last year, Socialist Alliance was able to make unprecedented gains in this year's Victorian council elections with the same policy firmly intact.
This pointedly indicates that Australians are not as blind to the crisis in Palestine as the Murdoch press and other pro-Israeli elements believe.
Israeli aggression will continue without reinvigorated mass support for BDS. The Greens could play a crucial role in the struggle for a free Palestine by joining many other groups and individuals in endorsing the BDS campaign.