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[The following statement was issued by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) on July 31, 2011.]
Israel’s Anti-BDS Law: Proving the Effectiveness of the Boycott
This last month has seen the Israeli government reach an unprecedented level of desperation in its attempt to counter the spread of international solidarity with Palestinian rights. Early in the month, Israel employed the embattled Greek government to act as a proxy force to stop the Gaza-bound flotilla before it could even take off into international waters. Israel also outsourced its repression against human rights activists to some western states, especially France, which colluded in thwarting the planned fly-in of hundreds of solidarity activists. Finally, there was the new anti-BDS law, another seemingly futile attempt to counter the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement which Israel views as a "strategic threat" to its system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
The fact that the BDS movement is today the main international challenge to Israel's impunity and exceptional status as a state above the law, and that it has effectively exposed international state and non-state complicity in maintaining Israel's multi-tiered system of oppression has made the movement the target of Israel's rage. On 11 July, the Israeli parliament passed a law that would ban support for BDS as well as for partial boycotts targeting Israel or any of its complicit institutions. This recently passed draconian anti-BDS law deems it a civil wrong to call for a boycott of the State of Israel and any area under its control. Under this law, boycott advocates may be subjected to significant financial penalties without the plaintiffs, whether individuals or institutions, having to prove that the call for boycott in question resulted in any real damages.
We in the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) strongly condemn this anti-BDS law as the latest indicator of Israel's decades-old repression and apartheid policies. We firmly stand in solidarity with our principled Israeli partners, such as the Coalition of Women for Peace, Boycott from Within, Alternative Information Center, and Israeli Coalition Against House Demolitions, who may, as a result of this law, face punitive measures for supporting the Palestinian-led BDS campaign.
Far from being deterred by such cynical attempts to instill fear in the movement, we shall carry on and intensify our civil resistance to Israeli apartheid and colonial oppression with unprecedented resolve and determination. We see the passing of the anti-BDS law as a clear sign of the irrefutable effectiveness of the BDS movement, both internationally and within Israel, and of the failure of Israel's other potent weapons, such as intimidation, bullying and smear campaigns, to counter the movement. The BDS movement's slogan, “Freedom, Justice, Equality,” its creative and de-centralized global tactics, the Palestinian consensus around it, and its foundation in respect for international law and universal human rights, have all made BDS a formidable strategy of resistance that has rendered much of Israel's might, with all its nuclear weapons, largely ineffective.
The anti-BDS law is first and foremost an attack on the rights of Palestinians and meant as a repressively blunt measure against Palestinian nonviolent resistance and effective solidarity with it. It prevents all Israeli citizens and permanent residents, regardless of background, which is an ironic exception in a state with apartheid laws, from standing in solidarity with Palestinians, whether in the occupied Palestinian territories, in Israel, or in the diaspora. While clearly eroding whatever free speech Jewish Israelis once had, the primary and ultimate targets of this law, then, are not Jewish Israelis, who have the privilege to not engage in boycotts and resistance if they so choose, but Palestinians, who must resist to exist in the face of Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
PACBI is troubled, therefore, by biased media representations of the impact of this law as merely infringing on the rights of Israelis and as eroding the supposed "democratic nature" of the Israeli state. Focusing on the infringement of freedom of speech of Israelis, while ignoring Israel's ongoing grave violations of international law and Palestinian rights, fits well with the typically racist attitude in the Israeli mainstream media towards Palestinians, and fails to consider the reasons for the passing of this law in the first place.
Moreover, a state that is built on apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing and denial of basic human rights cannot and should not be considered a democracy by any fair standard. Israel's self-definition as a "Jewish and democratic state" is an obvious oxymoron. Israeli "democracy" has always been a myth since it only applies to Jewish citizens, excluding undesirable "others" – the indigenous Palestinians. In this sense, Israel has always been a “democracy” only for a privileged part of its population, just as apartheid South Africa.
The reason this law has become controversial is precisely because it encroaches on the taken for granted rights of Jewish Israelis. Had this law targeted the Palestinian citizens of Israel alone, as dozens of apartheid laws in Israel actually do, it would have hardly caught media attention, not to mention a dedicated New York Times editorial on the issue. After all, the rights of those Palestinians are violated persistently and systematically through dozens of racist Israeli laws that span marriage, land and nationality, and that are condemned even by the US Department of State which sees them as constituting "institutional, legal, and societal discrimination." With this in mind, all what has been eroded is the façade of democracy enjoyed by Israeli Jewish citizens. And if the Israeli courts decide to nullify this law it would only be for the purpose of protecting this fraudulent façade and maintaining the overall system of oppression and racial discrimination.
Perhaps this anti-BDS law will show many Israelis that under circumstances of occupation and apartheid, to co-exist is to “co-resist” this oppressive system. Perhaps it will help them recognize and motivate them to act to end the profound injustices and utter lack of freedoms Palestinians have been subjected to for 63 years, and in doing so, to broaden their scope of boycotts and demand more than just an end to the occupation, but also equal rights for all and the right of return for Palestinian refugees. Only then can comprehensive and sustainable peace be reached, on a solid foundation of freedom, justice and equality.
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