How do we persuade people to support BDS? We point out the ethnic cleansing of 700,000 Palestinians in 1948. We point out the systematic theft of Palestinian land in 1967 to today with a further 25,000 new illegal dwellings in occupied East Jerusalem, announced in June. We point out the theft of water in the West Bank and possibly the most serious is the establishment of an Apartheid state in the West Bank. Finally we point out that the people who are oppressed by Israel, the Palestinians, via their organisations have asked us to do something non-violent to enable them to get basic human rights.
We rightly expect scrutiny of what we claim. The most controversial is that Israel has established an apartheid state. Are there separate roads for Palestinians and Israelis in the West Bank? Are there separate schools? Are there separate law enforcement systems for Palestinians and Israelis? Are there separate residential areas? As a matter of observable fact the answers to all these are yes. These are sufficient for the system to be designated Apartheid. Many of us opposed the South African Apartheid, as racist and oppressive, and see the same with Israeli Apartheid.
We meet opposition. Douglas Murray is associate Director of the Henry Jackson Society. (Last Wednesday, 5th July, the BBC Today program called it a “highly respected” think tank, I beg to differ.) The objectors raise three strategies. The first is insult/slander.
“There are a lot of Nazi caparisons being thrown around these days. Where might they be most accurately directed? Toward the State of Israel? Or against the growing number of people who believe that it is permissible to boycott any herb, any product or indeed any tune if it comes from the hand or the heart of a Jew?”
I know of no individual or organisation that proposes a boycott of Jewish products. The nasty piece of misinformation slanders us, and if taken seriously, spreads fear within the Jewish community. It is pollution in the arena of public debate.
Secondly there is “Israel is wonderful” approach. This is Douglas Murray again. “How can a man as brilliant as Hawking boycott Israel when it makes the microchip that enables him to talk?” This is called a non sequitur. Israel has created some wonderful products therefore it can create an Apartheid state, really?
Can a burglar say let me go because there is a murderer free? Or can a murderer say “Ah but I only killed one person. Why pick on me when Assad/Bush/ Blair killed tens or even hundreds of thousands?” Of course not.
Douglas Murray believes the solution is a Palestinian state beside Israel with only some of the illegal settlements being removed. Why on earth would Israel accept even this miserable compromise? It is taking chunks of Palestinian land because it has the military power to do so. It is robing Palestine of its natural capital, Jerusalem, by systematic building of Israeli estates because it has the power to do so. It ignores the ICJ ruling on the illegality of the Apartheid wall because it has the power to do so. Israel can do these things while ever it has Western Governmental support and cheerleaders like Douglas Murray. He makes me think of a man on the flying Scotsman who professes to want to go to London, while heaping coal into the boiler of the Edinburgh bound train.
Israel has created an Apartheid state. It robs Palestinians of land, water and freedom of movement. Israeli Apartheid is not the only bad thing in the world. But it is one that anti-racists, anti-Apartheid activists, and people who want dignity for everyone should campaign against. Join us.