ONE OF THE greatest free speech threats in the West is the growing, multi-nation campaign literally to outlaw advocacy of boycotting Israel. People get arrested in Paris — the site of the 2015 “free speech” (for Muslim critics) rally — for wearing pro-boycott T-shirts. Pro-boycott students on U.S. campuses — where the 1980s boycott of apartheid South Africa flourished — are routinely sanctioned for violating anti-discrimination policies. Canadian officials have threatened to criminally prosecute boycott advocates.
This month Palestinians around the world mark 68 years of exile and dispossession – what we call Al Nakba, the word for catastrophe in Arabic, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to flee our homes in small boats or walk for miles with little belongings to become the world’s largest refugee population.
The case for football boycott of Israel is just as compelling as that for football boycott of South Africa. South Africa was excluded from international football for twenty eight years (1964 to 1992) because of apartheid, rather than for football reasons. South African sport was, and is, really important internationally while Israeli sport is not. So why bother with sport boycott?
Following a wave of accusations made against some members of the Labour party for claims of anti-Semitism, the saga reached absurd new lows last week, when long-standing anti-racist activist Jackie Walker was suspended.
There comes a time in a movement’s struggle when success is both a rewarding moment but also a very dangerous one. The apartheid regime in South Africa pursued its most vicious and lethal policies shortly before the fall of the regime. If you do not threaten a certain unjust regime or state, and their supporters, they will ignore you and will see no need to confront you; if you are hitting the nail on its head, the reaction will come.
This is what has happened to the boycott divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Last month, in a landmark decision, the United Nations Human Rights Council decided to establish a database of all companies implicated in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied Palestinian West Bank, including the city of East Jerusalem.
Finally, after years of toothless UN condemnations of settlements – which are a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to justice and peace in the region - there will be an official UN list that names and exposes businesses that have for decades enabled and profited from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other human
In 2005, a draft, working definition of antisemitism was circulated by the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). To the dismay of its critics, the document confused genuine antisemitism with criticism of Israel, and was repeatedly, and erroneously, promoted by Israel advocacy groups as the EU definition of antisemitism.
By 2013, the EUMC’s successor body, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), had abandoned the politicised definition as unfit for purpose.
State legislatures across the country are considering a spate of bills that would blacklist companies (and, in the case of New York, individuals) that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which tries to impose economic pressure on Israel to end its occupation of Palestinian land.
Such repressive legislation threatens the right of all Americans to engage in boycotts and other economic acts of conscience.
Churches, student and faculty groups, musicians and artists are among the groups legislators seek to silence.