In 1948, Zionists carried out a brutal ethnic cleansing of more than 700,000 Palestinians to make way for the creation of the state of Israel. More than 700 villages were destoryed as part of this pre-planned forced displacement of Palestinians. A series of laws passed by the first Israeli government forbid Palestinians from returning to their land. Palestinians refer to this ethnic cleansing as al-Nakba, the catastrophe.
Since then, Israel has had one main aim: to control as much of the land of historic Palestine as possible and to drive as many Palestinians from the land as it can.
An ongoing catastrophe
Israel has implemented a brutal system of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people.
Israel has stolen and expelled Palestinians from their lands, built Jewish-only settlements, cornered Palestinians into ghettos, surrounded by walls, military watchtowers and checkpoints. About 38% of the Palestinian people still live in the occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza strip.
In 2014, Israel carried out one of its bloodiest massacres of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip. More than 2,300 people were killed, a quarter of them children. Israel deliberately targeted civilians and civilian buildings, which is a war crime. Israel’s brutal and medieval siege of Gaza has now been ongoing for more than 8 years, and Palestinian organisations there say that life is “reaching a fatal tipping point”.
12% of the Palestinian people live inside Israel and are subjected to a system of racial discrimination, implemented through more than 50 racist laws and many policies, that amounts to apartheid, as defined by the UN.
A whole 50% of the Palestinian people continue living outside Palestine/Israel as refugees, denied their right of return to their homes, simply because they aren’t Jewish.
International support for Israel’s crimes
Israel is only able to maintain its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid through the support of international governments and corporations.
International governments fail to hold Israel to account for its persistent violations of international law. Despite being condemned by more UN resolutions than any other country, Israel still enjoys normal relations with many countries and does not face the kinds of sanctions that some other countries that commit war crimes and human rights abuses are subjected to.
Many governments, and the US and western governments in particular, actively shield Israel from accountability measures. Many western governments are seeking to prevent Palestinians from taking cases against Israel to the International Criminal Court (ICC). In July 2014, the US voted against and several EU member including France, Germany and the UK abstained from voting on the establishment of a UN Gaza Commission of Inquiry into Israel’s 2014 massacre of Palestinians in Gaza
In addition, Israel also receives direct support for its crimes from governments, companies and institutions around the world. For example, the US has provided Israel with military aid worth more than $100 billion since 1962.
Private businesses trade with Israel despite its oppression of Palesitninas and provide it with equipment and services that facilitate its crimes. Academic and cultural institutions maintain links with Israel despite its apartheid policies, whitewashing Israeli crimes.
The role of BDS
When those in power refuse to act to stop Israel’s crimes against the Palestinian people, we need a global citizens’ response to stand alongside Palestinians in their struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
The BDS movement is tackling the international support on which continued Israeli impunity depends.
As Israeli corporations, institutions and organizations become isolated or suffer economic setbacks due to international BDS campaigns, Israel, including business and society, will find it more difficult to maintain its system of apartheid, colonialism and occupation.
BDS campaigns also play an important educational role. The BDS movement gives a particular focus to the apartheid nature of Israel’s regime and has played an important role in the popularisation of the apartheid analysis of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.
The growth of the BDS movement sends a clear message that public opinion is increasingly supportive of the Palestinian people.
When figures such as academic Stephen Hawking or superstars like Roger Waters from Pink Floyd reject invitations to appear in Israel, or when a major European bank divests from a company because of its support for Israeli crimes, it generates huge media attention and shines a light on the Palestinian struggle against Israeli apartheid.
The BDS campaign against Israel is a form of effective solidarity with resistance and struggle by Palestinians. BDS can help to isolate Israel and end international support for its crimes.
Crucially however, BDS is just one tool of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and equality. The success of the Palestinian struggle depends on several other important factors, including popular resistance and mobilisation by Palestinians.