Friday 26 September 2014

The Power of BDS

Yesterday we attended the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy’s 20th annual conference at the Red Crescent Society in Ramallah. It was called “Palestinian Political Economy under Occupation: Crucial Issues in the Ongoing Crisis” and was broken down into three sessions. The subjects discussed ranged from the aftermath of the most recent assault on Gaza, the ramifications of Palestine’s water and electricity crises, the consequences of capitalism in Palestine and the relationship between peace building and counterinsurgency in the Occupied Territories.

Another element of the conference focused on the BDS Movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement) and in particular the concept of normalisation as an effective Israeli weapon against the movement. Omar Barghouti, an independent researcher and founding member of BDS, spoke eloquently about the dangers of normalisation and how BDS challenges its manifestations.

“The interests of Palestinian elites have merged with those of Israeli elites and led to a stance of normalisation that depicts Israel as a civil, friendly state” Barghouti stated. He warned that normalisation humanises the actions of the State of Israel and supports the narrative that is propagated by the Zionist project. 

The BDS Movement is an international campaign to pressurise Israel through academic, cultural and economic boycotts. Its three main aims are:

- To end the occupation and colonisation of Palestine, including the dismantling of the Apartheid Wall;
- To recognise the rights of Palestinians and end the system of apartheid and;
- To respect and promote the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

The movement is based on peaceful, popular resistance and hugely inspired by the series of boycotts in apartheid South Africa. Barghouti argued that BDS “should be a main element of the Palestinian struggle to gain their rights”.

One of the most prominent contradictions of the notion of normalisation and the BDS Movement, acknowledged by Barghouti, is that normalisation does not extend beyond the context of 1967 - when both Gaza and the West Bank were occupied by Israel. By delving further back into history and at least recognising the importance of the Palestinian Nakba in 1948, many critics of normalisation claim the mind of the oppressed - in this case the Palestinians - would not be easily acquiescent to the supposed reality of the oppressor - the State of Israel.

The Israel-Palestine conflict is not a balanced conflict. As Omar Barghouti described: it is a “struggle between indigenous people and settler colonialists”. It is an anti-colonial struggle, perhaps one of the last of its kind, and, therefore, processes of normalisation and balanced negotiations between two “equal” parties should not be the method of diplomacy.
Mainstream support for the BDS Movement, including the recent action of world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking in pulling out of Israel’s 2013 Presidential Conference, demonstrates the great international sympathy for the Palestinian cause. It has enabled the world to recognise the moral superiority of the Palestinian right to freedom, equality and social justice; despite the advanced capabilities of Israel’s military and media machine. If the BDS Movement is effectively combined with internal Palestinian grassroots resistance, this moral superiority may become reality. 

No comments:

Post a Comment