4 June, 2010 — Omar Barghouti
Only a few days since Israel’s illegal and fatal act of aggression against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, BDS-related reactions around the world were quick and qualitatively consequential.
Building on 5 years of international BDS activism since the Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS was launched on 9 July 2005, a year and a half since Israel’s war crimes in Gaza, when its base criminality and status was revealed to the world, and months after the watershed UN Goldstone report, international civil society’s tolerance of Israel’s impunity and war crimes has grown very thin.
The fact that this latest attack was categorically illegal, immoral and unjustifiable, that it targeted civilian ships in international waters, that it led to the murder and injury of tens of humanitarian relief workers and civilian activists from many countries, that among the siege-breaking activists were prominent intellectuals, a Nobel Peace Laureate, a Holocaust survivor, European and other parliamentarians, a former senior US diplomat, representatives of international media, etc., all triggered mass anger around the world and, unprecedentedly, widespread calls for boycotting Israel as a pariah state.
Below are some of the most significant developments that have every potential to carry the global BDS movement to the next qualitative level.
Beyond Israel’s direct criminal responsibility for this massacre, several governments around the world have some of the blood of those international aid workers and activists on their hands. Their shameful complicity is precisely what has afforded Israel its criminal impunity before international law, nourishing its pathological and extremely dangerous feeling of being invincible and beyond world reproach. When such a high degree of impunity is mixed with colonial hegemony, almost unparalleled racism, and a distinct system of apartheid, as is the case in Israel, the concrete danger to the region and indeed the entire world cannot be underestimated.
States, institutions and even individuals that have been complicit in supporting, justifying, whitewashing or otherwise abetting Israel’s crimes and grave violations of international law carry some of the moral and/or legal responsibility for “preparing the scene” for this Flotilla massacre.
This includes the states that voted to accept Israel’s accession to the OECD.
It includes the EU countries that continue business as usual with Israel under the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
It includes Mercosur countries who are in the process of ratifying their free trade agreement with Israel.
It includes India which has turned from a world leader of the non-aligned nations to the second largest importer of Israeli weapons, “field-tested” on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
It includes the Egyptian and other autocratic Arab regimes that have aided in maintaining the siege or failed to contribute to ending it.
Turkey cannot ignore its own share of the blame, in fact. By speaking loudly against Israel while buying Israeli drones field-tested in Gaza and continuing military cooperation with Israel, it has also aided in creating this monster that is now out of control.
It most certainly includes the South African government which has refused to heed the massive calls from civil society there to cut relations with Israel or lead the way in isolating Israeli apartheid. If for nothing else, the SA government owes this much to the Palestinian people which, along with the Cubans, had led international efforts to support the anti-apartheid movement even much before it became strong and popular.
It includes international artists and writers, including Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh and Elton John, whose “performances’in Israel — in Sir Elton’s case, still to come — put narrow personal interest ahead of principle, making them accomplices in whitewashing Israeli crimes.
It includes academics who still find excuses to participate in conference held at or sponsored by Israeli academic institutions whose complicity in the state’s occupation, colonization and apartheid are now well documented and beyond any reasonable doubt.
It includes corporations, like Veolia, Alstom, Elbit, Motorola, Caterpillar, Boeing, Intel, Ahava, Agrexco-Carmel, Teva, etc. who directly or indirectly profit from Israel’s colonial oppression and its trampling of Palestinian rights.
It includes faith-based organizations, civil society associations and unions that still invest their pension and other investment funds in companies violating human rights and international law.
It includes the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and other unions that have joined the Histadrut in effectively justifying and whitewashing Israel’s latest atrocity.
BDS is about ending ALL these forms of complicity. As we learned from South Africa, only thus can we beat the beast.
BDS-related Responses to Israel’s Flotilla Massacre of 31 May 2010
(1) Authoritative Legal Analysis of the Israeli Attack on the Flotilla
Leading legal expert, Prof. Ben Saul, who served on the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, described the attack as a violation of article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, the fundamental principle of freedom of navigation on the high seas, codified in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982, and article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
According to the Rome Convention of 1988, Saul argues, “One cannot attack a ship and then claim self-defence if the people on board resist the unlawful use of violence.” He adds, “Legally speaking, government military forces rappelling onto a ship to illegally capture it are treated no differently than other criminals. The right of self-defence in such situations rests with the passengers on board: a person is legally entitled to resist one’s own unlawful capture, abduction and detention.”
Prof. Saul concludes: “This latest sad and shocking episode is a reminder of Israel’s recklessness towards the lives of others, its utter disregard for international opinion, and itsincivility as an outlaw of the international community.” www.abc.net.au/unleashed/stories/s2915343.htm
(2) The United Nations
– The UN Human Rights Council voted with an overwhelming majority (32 to 3) to strongly condemn Israels actions against the Flotilla and to dispatch an independent, international probe into violations of international law resulting from the incident.Only Italy and the Netherlands joined the US in voting against this simple measure of accountability, putting both governments squarely against the emerging world consensus against Israel’s siege and criminal impunity. www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=10095&LangID=E
– UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and his top assistants condemned the attack and called on Israel to immediately end its illegal siege of Gaza. www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=34863&Cr=gaza&Cr1=
– As expected, the clearest and most principled position in the UN came from UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territory, Prof. Richard Falk, who stated, “It is essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless and murderous behavior, including political leaders who issued the orders, be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts,” adding, “The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political imperative, and needs to be supported and strengthened everywhere.” gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/israeli-leaders-should-be-brought-to-justice-un-rights-expert-1.635049
(3) International Sanctions
– Nicaragua suspended its diplomatic relations with Israel as a response to the www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3897773,00.html
– South Africa recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?sid=a_vBbjBZJ6LM&pid=20601087
– Turkey recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv for “consultations” www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-212110-100-ambassador-celikkol-back-in-ankara-for-consultations.html
The Turkish parliament unanimously called on government to “revise the political, military and economic relations with Israel,” and to “seek justice against Israel through national and international legal authorities.” www.news-gazette.com/news/news/2010-06-02/turkeys-parliament-wants-review-israeli-ties.html
– Norway’s minister of education and head of the Socialist Left party, Kristin Halvorsen, reiterated Norway’s arms ban on Israel and called all other states to “follow the Norwegian position which excludes trading arms with Israel.” www.swedishwire.com/nordic/4809-norway-calls-for-boycott-on-arms-to-israel
(4) Major BDS-Related Reactions Worldwide (Civil Society)
– In response to an appeal by the BNC, theSwedish Port Workers Union decided to blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel from June 15to 29. ibnkafkasobiterdicta.wordpress.com/2010/06/03/the-swedish-dockers-union-decides-on-a-blockade-against-israeli-ships-and-goods/
– South African trade union federation COSATU called for “greater support for the international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel,” urging “all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.” www.cosatu.org.za/show.php?include=docs/pr/2010/pr0531d.html&ID=3395&cat=COSATU%20Today
– The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU), which pioneered the boycott against Israeli maritime trade in February 2009, refusing to offload a ship in Durban, also heeded the BNC appeal, advocating “an escalation of the boycott of Israeli goods” and calling upon its members “not to allow any Israeli ship to dock or unload” and calling upon fellow trade unionists “not to handle them.”
– Swedish under-21 football team refuses to play in Israel, following a similar decision by Turkey’s under-19 team. www.haaretz.com/print-edition/sports/after-flotilla-raid-sweden-wants-out-of-soccer-match-with-israel-1.293650
-LO, Norways largest trade union federation, comprising almost one fifth of the entire Norwegian population, called on the State Pension Fund, the third largest in the world, to divest from all Israeli companies. www.nrk.no/nyheter/norge/1.7148110
In reaction to the Flotilla attack, a public opinion poll revealed that 42% of Norwegians now support a boycott of ALL Israeli products. www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3898052,00.html
– World renowned British writer,Iain Banks, wrote in the Guardian that the best way for international artists, writers and academics toconvince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolationissimply by having nothing more to do with this outlaw state. www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/03/boycott-israel-iain-banks