Palestinian BNC Mourns Loss of Anti-Apartheid Icon Ahmed Kathrada

March 28, 2017, Occupied Palestine —The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) has heard with great sadness the news of Comrade Ahmed Kathrada’s passing. Mr. Kathrada, born to an Indian Muslim family, was the most prominent Asian South African in the movement to end apartheid, the system of racial discrimination, segregation and white dominance that existed in South Africa until it was defeated in 1994.

Comrade Kathrada was also an active and consistent supporter of the Palestinian struggle for freedom. He visited Palestine, and saw the apartheid system we endure for himself. He said when in Palestine: "In our short stay here we have seen and heard enough to conclude that Apartheid has been reborn here. In its reborn form it is however worse than its predecessor. Even during the worst days of Apartheid we did not have walls to divide and control people, we also did not have separate roads for separate races, and we did not have the system of checkpoints that exist here."

The Foundation which bears his name engages in activities in support of Israeli Apartheid Week, which aims to raise awareness of Israel's apartheid policies towards Palestinians. It also supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement for Palestinian rights, believing that this is the way to bring an end to Israel's apartheid policies and violations of international law. 

Kathrada’s own long imprisonment — 26 years and 3 months — alongside the anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela and his lifelong struggle against apartheid and injustice are an example to all Palestinians that integrity and perseverance will lead to justice and freedom.

The BDS movement is working to increase international civil society and government support for the Palestinian struggle for justice. We were honored to count Comrade Kathrada as a supporter of our struggle and remain inspired by his life.

We send out our condolences to his family, friends, comrades and all South Africans during these difficult days.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. 

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If you’re willing to support a boycott of US academic conferences over Trump’s ban, why not BDS?

February 5, 2017
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Over 6,000 academics across the world have announced that they will boycott any academic conference held in the US until Trump’s travel ban—on refugees, and on men and women from seven Muslim-majority countries—is lifted. This has drawn widespread and mostly positive attention in the media. Even the more critical responses have been self-questioning and exploratory rather than hostile and negative.

This is all to the good and as it should be.

It should also answer what I always found to be one of the stranger critique of BDS: namely, people ask me and other supporters of BDS, if you think Israel is so bad, why don’t you support a boycott of the US? As if proponents of BDS like myself would suddenly, in the face of an academic boycott of the US, get worked up into a self-righteous defensive lather on behalf of American academe.

But let me push the comparison a little further because I see that a lot of people who support this type of boycott of US academic conferences over the Trump refugee/Muslim ban drawing a line against the wider academic boycott of Israel. (Truth be told, most of these folks wouldn’t even support a more limited type of boycott, in the case of Israel, of the sort that Trump’s ban has provoked.)

What these folks on social media say is this: This type of boycott of US academic conferences is more contingent and small-scale. It’s not a boycott of US academia tout court or of the US as a whole. And the reason it’s more limited is that it recognizes that the action that provoked this limited boycott—Trump’s refugee/Muslim ban—is itself a contingent feature of the American polity, specific to one presidency. It is not a feature of the American whole. It acknowledges that the majority of the people voted against Trump and that the ban might one day, perhaps even soon, be overturned.

But doesn’t that argument provide the very reasons for why we should undertake a more comprehensive academic boycott of the State of Israel?

Since its founding, Israel has had a ban on the return of Palestinian refugees—initially, some six to seven hundred thousand; now, in the millions—to the State of Israel. The older among these refugees are not seeking admission to a new home; they are seeking a return to their original home. That is not a contingent feature of the State of Israel, peculiar to one bad hombre like Netanyahu, opposed by the great majority. That is a permanent feature of the State of Israel, constitutive of its founding and identity as a Jewish state, enforced by politicians and state officials across the political spectrum for nearly seven decades now.

Wouldn’t the simplest rules of proportionality suggest that if you support a boycott of conferences held in the US—or don’t think it’s a bad thing—because of the Trump travel ban that a far more comprehensive academic boycott of the State of Israel is warranted? Or at least should be considered a legitimate topic of rational debate?

February 5, 2017
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