I am writing this piece in response to a questions raised by a Western, liberal friend of mine who wanted to “understand” as to why I have been calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against apartheid Israel.
I live in Gaza which has been under a hermetic Israeli siege for ten years. We have shortages of everything from electricity and water, to medicines and chocolate. Israel does not allow books and cement into Gaza, so we cannot nourish the brains of our children, nor can we build homes for them. Israel has been allowed to dehumanize and dispossess Palestinians for decades with impunity. US and international support have given Israel free rein to separate Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and 1948 and increase the number of Palestinian refugees whenever it felt like.
But with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, we’re fighting back.
I a nutshell, BDS is a Palestinian-led movement for freedom, justice, and equality. Israel has been violating international law by occupying and colonizing Gaza and the West Bank, including Jerusalem, since 1967; and denying millions of Palestinian refugees their right of return to their villages and cities from which they were ethnically cleansed in 1948, and discriminating against its Palestinian citizens.
Both my parents died in 2005 dreaming of the day of their return to Zarnouqa, their village. Never in their life did they abandon that idea. I grew up calling myself a Zarnouqi, a villager from that village erased from the face of earth by Zionist gangs in 1948. BDS will make that, i.e. my return, possible!
The BDS movement, inspire by the South African anti-apartheid movement of last century, aims to exert pressure of Israel to put an end to Israel’s multi-tiered system of oppression, namely, occupation, colonization, and apartheid, in order to enable the Palestinian people to practice its right to self-determination. In the absence of any serious step by the official bodies of the international community, and I must add here that we have given up on those bodies, while Israel is expanding and building more settlements, Palestinian Civil Society decided in 2005 to address unions, syndicates, churches, schools, academic and cultural institutions and grassroots movements across the world calling on them to treat Israel the same way they did Apartheid South Africa until it complies with International Law.
Having learned from the South African experience, BDS is a non-violent, volunteer movement modelled on the anti-apartheid movement. We, like our South African comrades before us, have managed to get the attention of Israeli and global politicians and businesses by our consistent messaging and persistent activism.
We have done so with the support and commitment of local and international volunteers and supporters who want to end Israeli impunity and Palestinian dispossession.
We have enjoyed a tremendous amount of success because of their commitment and dedication. Universities in the US have been forced to divest from Israeli companies, Norwegian pension funds have done the same. South African trade unions and ministers have supported BDS, and so have academics like thousands of members of some of the most important American academic associations, University of Johannesburg, and the most well-know Physicist of our time Professor Steven Hawkings.
Israel would like nothing more than for the world to be unaware of the human cost of its actions and for the world to be silent so that it can continue with its occupation and dispossession of Palestinian lands.
Through BDS, we have an historic opportunity to ensure that Palestinian rights are protected, and that justice prevails. BDS has become a culture of resistance exactly like it had been against the Apartheid Regime of South Africa. We want to reach that phase in which Israel is held accountable. And that is not a distant dream, but a near future realization.
– Haidar Eid is a member of The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and Al-Shabaka (The Palestinian Policy Network) Policy Adviser. He is the author of Worlding Postmodernism: Interpretive Possibilities of Critical Theory. He contributed this article to