10 years later, BDS movement and impact still spreading

Richard Sudan
Richard Sudan is a London-based writer, political activist, and performance poet. His writing has been published in many prominent publications, including the Independent, the Guardian, Huffington Post and Washington Spectator. He has been a guest speaker at events for different organizations ranging from the University of East London to the People's Assembly covering various topics. His opinion is that the mainstream media has a duty to challenge power, rather than to serve power. Richard has taught writing poetry for performance at Brunel University.
© Rodger Bosch
This month marks the 10-year anniversary of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement, in response to Israel’s decade’s long occupation of Palestine and the humanitarian crisis that has been created as a result.

BDS aims to pressure Israel into halting the occupation and colonization of Palestinians by hitting Israel in its pockets, persuading and pressuring businesses into cutting ties with Israel, hence the name ‘boycott divestment and sanctions’.

The thinking is similar to the campaign that mobilized a boycott of South Africa during the apartheid rule of the country, when the white minority controlled the larger black indigenous population.

A far cry from how many in the media try to characterise the movement, BDS is a legal, peaceful, practical, and effective way of drawing attention to the plight of the Palestinians, while at the same time impacting the apartheid state where it hurts. BDS has enjoyed many successes, having morphed in the eyes of Israel from being a mere side issue a few years ago, to apparently now presenting one of the greatest ‘existential threats’ to Israel’s security.

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Since its inception, many businesses have been forced to withdraw contracts and deals from Israel - ranging from companies that export goods grown or manufactured in Palestinian land at the cost of Palestinian rights. Also affected are companies like G4S that provide ‘equipment’ to the Israeli authorities used at the apartheid-style ‘check points’ preventing freedom of movement for Palestinians, and which also provide equipment to prisons that illegally detain Palestinians, often indefinitely, including the imprisonment of children.

The growth of BDS has resulted in an academic boycott of Israel in university campuses across the world, and also with many world renowned artists cancelling showcases and performances in Israel.

Artists like Lauren Hill, Gil Scott Heron, Snoop Dogg, sports figures like basketball legend Kareem Abdul Jabbar, academics and writers including Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, Arundhati Roy and Angela Davis have all publicly denounced Israel’s human rights abuses and have shown support for the BDS movement. BDS is not some fringe movement of fanatics and crazies as Israel often makes out.

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While Israel receives billions of dollars from the US every year in the way of full-fledged support for the military, as well as unquestioning and unwavering political and diplomatic support, some have suggested that Israel could also lose billions as a result of sanctions waged against Israel, politically, and as a result of the effect the BDS movement is having.

Along with successes have come the inevitable false charges aimed at the BDS movement, which suggest that its supporters are in actual fact secretly conspiring to bring about the end of the state of Israel, which is clearly false.

In a way, this is further evidence that BDS is working; to criticise Israel’s treatment of the indigenous Palestinian population automatically invites these sorts of accusations, with everything including the kitchen sink being hurled at you.

Needless to say, in exactly the same way the people who once called for a boycott of South Africa during the apartheid years were not intent on destroying the whole of South Africa, neither does the BDS movement hope to destroy Israel. Rather, just like in South Africa, the campaign aims to bring about the end of a fascist system which simply, obviously, and provably does not treat Palestinians as human beings.

As the political centre ground has shifted and is shifting ever more to the right, here in Europe and also across the Atlantic, so too have politicians in terms of their actions and also in their rhetoric.

In the same way France has banned pro-Palestinian marches, the right in France in the form of Marine Le Pen has seen fit to also jump on the BDS hate wagon, condemning the movement as racist and anti-Semitic in a bid to court voters and reassure Israel’s supporters. Apart from the fact that the irony here knows no bounds, the hard right in France accusing an anti-racist movement of being ‘racist’ and anti-Semitic, it’s worth noting that recently, the not-so-democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has also followed suit.

Clinton recently condemned the BDS movement along the same lines, and when we consider the fact that she has openly hinted that she’d happily go to war with Iran, it’s clear that attacking grassroots, civil and legitimate movements like BDS, themselves campaigning against apartheid, has become more mainstream and acceptable, becoming part of the right-wing narrative. A figure like Clinton playing ball further entrenches and legitimizes this acceptability.

Clinton clearly feels pandering to this kind of sensational hysteria, and that delegitimizing the call for Palestinian rights is what will make her electable. Clinton is presented as many things, but she is evidently cut from the same cloth as the same kind of fascist leaders she would probably publicly condemn.

In spite of all the evidence - ranging from the views of academics and politicians, to artists and human rights organisations, all backed up by international law, clearly highlight the colonisation of Palestine and the dehumanisation of Palestinians for what it is - Israel has been allowed to persist with its crimes without so much as a slap on the wrist.

For this reason, BDS remains a hugely important pillar, at least for now, in the pursuit for Palestinians rights and justice. Until lawmakers and the media catch up with the rest of the world, which now overwhelmingly recognizes the importance of a free Palestine, the BDS movement will play a crucial role in impacting the Israeli economy, but also in raising the profile of what is happening in occupied Palestine as the movement continues to grow, ultimately winning over hearts and minds, providing an antidote to the insidious narrative of the so-called Israeli/Palestinian ‘conflict’ offered by much of the mainstream media.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.