Whether the current phase of Israel’s intensified repression and Palestinian popular resistance will evolve into a full-fledged intifada or not, one thing is already evident—a new generation of Palestinians is marching on the footsteps of previous generations, rising up en masse against Israel’s brutal, decades-old regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid.
World governments, especially in the west, are calling this a “cycle of violence” where both sides are to blame, ignoring the root cause of the colonial conflict and their own complicity in enabling Israel to maintain it and to violate international law with impunity. Almost all Palestinians today are calling for a full boycott of Israel and for isolating it internationally, in all fields, just as apartheid South African once was.
In this latest round, Israel has fanned the flames of Palestinian grassroots resistance by stepping up its attacks against al-Aqsa mosque compound, the Noble Sanctuary, located in the heart of the Israeli occupied Old City of Jerusalem. Fanatic, government-backed Jewish fundamentalist settler groups have persistently desecrated the compound, often verbally insulting worshippers with vile racism and openly calling for the destruction of the mosque. This has triggered widespread anger and protests in Jerusalem and among Palestinians everywhere in historic Palestine.
Typically, the Israeli army’s response was to protect the criminal settlers and punish the Palestinian victims, ultimately denying almost all Palestinians access to their holy site.
These threats are taken seriously by Palestinians who suffer daily the consequences of Israel’s official policy of “Judaization” of the city, a policy of gradually colonizing the land and replacing its indigenous Christian and Muslim Palestinian population with illegal Jewish settlers. This policy, which amounts to ethnic cleansing and a war crime under international law, is implemented through incessant land confiscations, expansion of the colonial wall, house demolitions, settler take-overs of Palestinian homes, extrajudicial killings, arrests and expulsions, all supported by Israel’s “justice” system, a constantly reliable, rubber-stamp partner in crime.
The latest Israeli attack against the al-Aqsa mosque in occupied East Jerusalem, moreover, is not an isolated incident. Hundreds of historic churches and mosques have been destroyed by Zionist militias and later the Israeli state since 1948. Last summer, during the massacre in Gaza, Israel bombed to the ground 73 mosques. Many Palestinian churches and mosques have been defaced or otherwise desecrated this year alone by Jewish extremists in so-called “price tag attacks,” including the Church of Loaves and Fishes (Multiplication), overlooking Lake Tiberias, which was set on fire last June.
These racist and criminal attacks against Palestinians and their freedom of religion come as an extension of a massive shift in Israel to the extreme right and the unprecedented prevalence in Israeli society of overt, deeply-seated colonial racism and racial hatred against the indigenous Palestinian people.
Virtually all Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza are denied access to Jerusalem, which is besieged by walls, watch towers and barbed wire, and are subject to daily assault and humiliation.
In a typical so-called “period of calm”, Israel enforces its medieval siege of Gaza, conducts incursions into Palestinians cities, confiscates Palestinian land, including in the Naqab (Negev), destroys Palestinian property, and builds illegal Jewish-only settlements. In its ongoing attempts to entrench its system of apartheid and colonial rule, Israel denies Palestinians their full spectrum of rights in the most banal of ways, from a child’s right to education to a mother’s access to health care, to a farmer’s ability to reach his/her land and to the right of a family to even live together in one home. And all this is done with the blessing of the courts.
In light of the apathy or direct complicity of world governments and the UN, and as a result of Israel’s impunity in perpetuating this system of injustice against Palestinians, in historic Palestine as well as in exile, the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement has made great strides in redefining Israel’s positioning in the world stage as a pariah state.
Through boycotts of institutions that are complicit in Israeli violations of international law, through divestment from corporations supporting Israeli oppression and through a principled call for sanctions against Israel, the BDS movement has increased the isolation of Israel and started to impose costs on its regime of settler-colonialism, apartheid and occupation.
The World Bank has revealed that Palestinian imports from Israel are falling significantly. Israeli businessmen are reporting that European investors are no longer willing to invest in Israel, while a UN study confirms that foreign direct investment in Israel dropped by 46% in 2014, as compared to 2013. A Rand study predicts that BDS may cost Israel between 1% and 2% of its GDP each year over the next ten years, and, most recently, credit rating agency Moody’s has reported that BDS is a potential threat to the Israeli economy.
More needs to be done, however, to hold Israel to account and shatter its still strong impunity. Complicit governments must be exposed. Corporations that are enabling and profiting from Israel’s human rights violations must pay a price in their reputation and revenues. Israel’s military machine, including its research arm, must face a comprehensive international military embargo, and all Israeli leaders, officers and soldiers who are involved in the commission of the current and past crimes must be prosecuted at the International Criminal Court as well as national courts that respect international jurisdiction.
Israel is not just oppressing Palestinians; it is exporting its ruthless model of securitization and repression to the world. Israel is deeply involved in training and arming death squads in Latin America, often as a US proxy, selling weapons and military expertise to dictatorships in Asia and Africa, often to both sides of a civil war, and militarizing police forces in Ferguson, Los Angeles, London and cities around the world. Israel today is a key player in domestic repression against racial, social, economic and environmental justice movements around the world.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the Palestinian leadership of the global BDS movement, calls on people of conscience around the world to support Palestinians in their quest for freedom at this crucial moment by stepping up BDS activities against Israel’s regime of oppression. In particular, and related to the current mass revolt on the streets of Palestine, we call on supporters of the Palestinian struggle to:
- Build awareness about Palestinian rights under international law and support for BDS through media outreach, including social media;
- Pressure parliaments to impose a military embargo on Israel;
- Campaign against Israeli military companies such as Elbit Systems;
- Support boycott and divestment campaigns against complicit companies, such as G4S and HP, that are most blatantly complicit in Israel’s infrastructure of oppression;
- Pass effective and strategic, not just symbolic, BDS resolutions in unions, academic associations, student governments and social movements that can lead to concrete measures, and enhance the cultural boycott of Israel;
- Consider legal action against Israeli criminals (soldiers, settlers, officers and decision-makers) and against executives of corporations that are implicated in Israel’s crimes and violations of international law.
Like their parents’ generation, the thousands of Palestinian youth in Jerusalem, Gaza, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jaffa, Nazareth and elsewhere who have taken to the streets in large protests against Israel’s occupation and apartheid are first and foremost shaking off despair and liberating their minds of the myth of oppression as fate. They are also nourishing the entire Palestinian people’s aspiration to self-determination and living in freedom, dignity and a just peace.
It is high time to isolate Israel’s regime of militarization, securitization and racism as a danger not just to Palestinians and the Arab region, but to humanity at large.