Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Global BDS Movement

Rabbi Arthur Waskow is a longtime antiwar and civil rights activist who is the founder and director of the Shalom Center. Unfortunately, when he discusses with Omar Barghouti from the Gobal BDS Movement, a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions for Palestine, on ' Democracy Now' he, possibly unknown to himself, degenerates into a defender of Israel. Firstly, the idea of some sort of ecumenical alliance between Catholic, Protestants, Jews and Muslims to change American government policy would only be successful if it were accompanied by an anti-apartheid campaign of the type being advocated by the Global BDS Movement but, secondly, and more importantly, the Rabbi's idea of a Palestinian state in "approximately" the 1967 borders fails to address a number of issues.

These are the issues that Global BDS Movement does address, namely, taking on an apartheid state which discriminates against its own "Israeli Arab" population, a colonialist state which has been occupying the West Bank uninterrupted for over forty years and which mistreats those living under its occupation and, finally, a state which continues to ignore UN General Assembly Resolution 194 and allow those who were forced out of their homes to either return or to offer them adequate compensation should the refugees desire this alternative. It would seem to me that a Global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions for Palestine and against the Zionist state not only has legitimacy but it could also offer a very real contribution towards a real solution in the Middle East. Indeed, so much so, that it is something which Israel and its backers in Washington might genuinely fear; and frightened they should be because it is a movement that could finally knock Israel off of that very exlusive pedestal which it has occupied for so long.

Indeed, this is where the Rabbi Waskow, "the longtime antiwar and civil rights activist" lets himself down. For in just a few minutes he is trying to put Israel up on that pedastal by saying that the Global BDS Movement would demonize Israelis, Israelis "have a society with a decent substructure: culture, economics, life process, the revival of Hebrew, the creation of novels, etc., etc." Yes, what in German would be called a "Kulturnation" and we know where that "Kulturnation" went between 1933 and 1945, and how many books were wrtiten, operas performed, paintings painted while Friedrich Meinecke's "German Catastrophe" was taking shape? However, I am digressing and Omar Barghouti provides a most pertinent riposte to the Rabbi's sally by saying, quite rightly, that white people were not demonized in South Africa by the Anti-Apartheid campaign but rather the system of apartheid was demonized. Unfortunately, the Rabbi persists and it is not the "unreasonable military aid the United States gives to Israel—and, by the way, to Egypt, as well" that is the problem" but the "ten or twenty or thirty times that amount of money is being spent on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan." "Which is the same agenda", counters Barghouti, touché Omar, touché.

The denial of the right of return, the treatment of Israeli Arab citizens and the occupation, each of them on their own provide sufficient grounds to boycott Israel. Such a boycott might if nothing else, pull Israel down from that pedestal which has allowed it to be a law unto itself, which has allowed it to cultivate the illusion that it is a "society with a decent substructure" and who knows in the unlikely event that such a boycott leads to the United States rethinking the billions it gives to the Israeli military, I am sure that the patients using the hospitals or the students using the schools which that money might build instead won't be thinking it is only peanuts when compared to the billions spent on Afghanistan and Iraq. Nevertheless, I will agree with Mr Barghouti here and yes, it is the same agenda. That, however, is another story.

No comments: