From Soweto 1976 to Gaza 2012: What we need is People’s Power!
bombed by Israeli Apache helicopters and F16 and V58 fighter planes for 22 days, ultimately causing the deaths of more than 1400 Palestinians, predominatly civlians. Israel, with all the impunity it has enjoyed since its establishment on the ruins of Palestinian society, returned to Gaza two weeks ago and repeated some of the same crimes in 8 days, launching 1800 aerial strikes, killing more than 175 Palestinians -- including 34 children, 11 women, 19 elderly -- and injuring 1399 people, including 465 children, 254 women, and 91 elderely, according to the Gaza Ministry of Health.
Israel’s academic institutions have played a key role in the planning, development, implementation and justification of this and many other Israeli war crimes against the Palestinian people. Tel Aviv University, for instance, takes pride in playing the central role in the development of the Israeli military doctrine of “disproportionate force” against Palestinian and Lebanese civilians. Technion, Israel’s institute of technology, takes credit for developing many of the deadly weapon systems used against civilians in Gaza and elsewhere in the occupied Palestinian territory. And the list goes on. This entrenched and fatal academic complicity in the commission of crimes against civilians has made PACBI and its partners around the world intensify their campaign for a comprehensive academic boycott of Israel in light of the latest massacre in Gaza.
Israel’s belligerent and entirely disproportionate air, land and sea bombardment of the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip always damages vital infrastructure and terrifies the civilian population and is therefore considered a form of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Such war crimes are forbidden under international humanitarian law, especially the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prescribes the manner in which armies must treat civilians during times of conflict.
But Israel has been getting away with these war crimes and crimes against humanity. The “international community,” under U.S. hegemony, seems apathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people. In fact, from diplomatic support to intricate military, academic and economic relations, the US-European establishment has been deeply complicit in prolonging and strengthening Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, as well as in justifying and whitewashing it.
The U.S. president, followed by a chorus of European leaders, duly jumped to Israel’s defense, upholding its mso-bidi-font-weight:bold">“right to defend itself,” ignoring the fact that international law unequivocally stipulates that any injustice or unlawful act cannot give rise to a legal right or entitlement. Missing in such mantras is the right of the Palestinian people, the occupied, ethnically cleansed and oppressed, to self-determination and to defend itself against foreign occupation, a right that is granted by international law, within specific parameters. The British FM William Hague performed skillful acrobatics to spin the blame from the aggressor to the victim of aggression, claiming that “Hamas bears the greatest responsibility for the current crisis, as well as the ability to bring it most swiftly to an end!”
It is crucial to contextualize Israel’s latest war of aggression as part of an ongoing strategy of depriving Palestinians, especially in Gaza, of means of sustenance in order to “sear into their conscience” Israel’s upper hand and the futility of resistance. The hermetic siege imposed on Gaza for more than 5 years, epitomized by Israel’s use of a ‘calorie count‘ to limit the flow of food into Gaza, is the most deadly dimension of this patently criminal strategy .
This strategy, characterized by a former editor of Haaretz, a leading Israeli daily, as one of “expulsion” as well as “territorial seizure and apartheid” has shaped Israel’s policy for a long time. As far back as 1992, the late Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin wished Gaza "would just sink into the sea" . The overwhelming majority of Gaza is made up of refugees ethnically cleansed by Zionist militias and later the state of Israel during the 1948 Nakba. The fact that Gazans are not born to Jewish mothers – the criterion used by Israel to determine who is Jewish -- is enough reason to deprive them of their UN-stipulated right to return to their homes and lands from which they were uprooted and exiled. The deeply colonial and racist Israeli logic views Palestinians, like the Afrikaner establishment viewed the Black natives of South Africa, as an inferior, hostile group of people that must be isolated in Bantustans, in accordance with the Oslo Accords’ terms, without calling them so; and if they show any resistance to this plan, they must get punished severely by transforming these Bantustans into “open-air prisons” or walled ghettos.
As a result of Israel‘s blockade on most imports and exports and its other policies designed to punish Gazans, about 40% of Gaza‘s workforce is now unemployed or without pay, and about 60% of its residents live in grinding poverty, according to various United Nations agencies’ reports. About 1.2 million of them are now dependent for their day-to-day survival on food handouts from U.N. or international agencies; an increasing number of Palestinian families in Gaza are unable to offer their children more than one meager meal a day, often little more than rice and boiled lentils. Fresh fruit and vegetables are beyond the reach of many families. Meat and chicken are impossibly expensive. And fish is unavailable in its markets because the Israeli navy has curtailed the movements of Gaza‘s fishermen.
The UN, EU and the “international community,” by and large, have remained silent in the face of atrocities committed by Israel. Hundreds of dead Palestinians have failed to convince them to act. We are, therefore, left with one option; an option that does not wait for the United Nations Security Council, namely: people’s power. This remains the only power capable of counteracting the massive imbalance between the oppressed Palestinians and their Israeli oppressors.
The horror of the racist apartheid regime in South Africa was challenged with a sustained campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated in 1958 and given new urgency in the wake of the 1976 Soweto Uprising. This campaign led ultimately to the collapse of white rule in 1994 and the establishment of a multi-racial, democratic state.
Similarly, the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) has been gathering momentum since 2005. Gaza 2012, like Soweto 1976, cannot be ignored: it demands a response from all who believe in a common humanity. Now is the time to boycott the apartheid Israeli state, to divest and to impose sanctions against it. A crucial dimension of BDS that is more urgent than ever is an academic boycott of Israel’s universities, which have once again been shown to be full partners in crime.