More victories against Israeli apartheid

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As the Obama administration reversed its decision to force a freeze on West Bank settlements as a pre-condition for restarting the so-called “peace process,” more important developments were happening in Palestine solidarity.

The first is the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation officially endorsed the call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel.

The second is the largest union federation in Britain, the Trades Union Congress, also endorsed the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against the Israeli government.

These votes indicate a shift towards BDS strategies among the progressive and trade unionist Left that is part of a nine year development since the 2nd Intifada began. It could be argued there was an acceleration of this shift since December with the attack on the Gaza ghetto.

What is needed now is a return to the wave of divestment activity that specifically targeted institutions–campus, union and city investments. Support for Israeli apartheid is at the center of U.S. imperialism. Seven million Palestinians live either in bantustans and ghettos, or are in exile, faced with legal and de facto discrimination and segregation. The “peace process” is a sham to legitimize this situation under the watchful eye of a “native administration” in the Palestinian Authority.

The elites are wedded to this regime as a demonstration of their “liberal” credentials. By striking at the link between these institutions of university, union and city, and the apartheid regime, organizers expose its racist and undemocratic character. Finally, this is a an important tactic for the tens of thousands of Arab and Muslim people who have demonstrated and organized during the 2nd Intifada, the 2006 Israeli attack on Lebanon, and the 2008 attack on the Gaza ghetto. It is on this basis that a new Arab and Muslim movement in this country can form and fight back against white supremacy.

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UK trade unions overwhelmingly pass boycott vote
Press release, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, 17 September 2009

In a landmark decision, Britain’s trade unions have voted overwhelmingly to commit to build a mass boycott movement, disinvestment and sanctions on Israel for a negotiated settlement based on justice for Palestinians.

The motion was passed at the 2009 TUC Annual Congress in Liverpool today (17 September), by unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights. We will be working with the TUC to develop a mass campaign to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.”

The motion additionally called for the TUC General Council to put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. Unions are also encouraged to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel’s illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The motion was tabled by the Fire Brigades Union. The biggest unions in the UK, including Unite, the public sector union, and UNISON, which represents health service workers, voted in favor of the motion.

The motion also condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks, and called for a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut.

Britain’s trade unions join those of South Africa and Ireland in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that encourage justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

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0 thoughts on “More victories against Israeli apartheid”

  1. Damn, when we first started organizing divestment back in the day most of the social democratic Left attacked us for it. Now folks are finally taking it up, opening up new possibilities for united front coalitions and movement building.

    Here is another important development. Our friend Jay is part of Hampshire College SJP, the group that got the first college administration in the US to divest. They are hosting a BDS organizing conference Nov 20th-22nd. For more info, go to:
    http://www.hsjp.org/2009/09/21/CampusBDS/

    This is a conference specifically focused on organizing against key institutions as mlove calls for, not an academic teach in. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of active campus based campaigns yet in the US. Hopefully this conference will help circles of students who are interested in starting them to take that leap. With the developments that mlove outlines, hopefully there will be good momentum going into Novermeber.

  2. There’s been news of a general strike among Palestinians living inside Israel on the 1st of October. Some details here:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/cook09092009.html
    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5iqrVpMUISglczJxzUhkA3J0zUvqQ

    Some of the speculation about the significance of the general strike is also swirling that conditions are ripening for a third intifada, at least in terms of the aggressive offensive moves being made by Israel that are likely to lead to widespread protest and mobilization. Here are a couple links discussing this:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/cook10072009.html
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125512744871476859.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_sections_world
    http://www.democracynow.org/2009/10/8/palestinian_authority_president_abbas_faces_growing

    It seems this is based on 3 related factors. One, Israel is making moves in Jerusalem (yet again) to further limit access to Al-Aqsa Mosque and is pushing to open up the excavation tunnels underneath the compound. Two, it’s increasing apartheid measures inside its own borders against Palestinian citizens since Netanyahu was elected (which the links JM shared pointed to).

    Three, Abbas is facing a growing political crisis among Palestinians and especially within his own party. In the last week of so he (initially) supported the move by Israel & the US to postpone a UN vote on the Goldstone investigation into Israel’s assault on Gaza. The Goldstone investigation basically said that Israel was culpable for war crimes for the January attack. Abbas quickly took it back and said he made a “mistake”, but I think that was icing on the cake of the fact that he has been participating in these sham talks with Israel & the US where it’s been made clear that nothing is going to change, Israel will not be held accountable to any standards or “preconditions” for peace talks, that settlements will continue to be built, etc.

    Anyways, I need to do some more following up on this. I’d be interested to hear other folks’ thoughts on these developments. More will go into laying the groundwork for a third intifada than just what Israel does on its end; there’s also the question of self-organization and of political program among the social forces that might make up a new intifada…

  3. Ahh, the hypocrisy of U of C inviting this racist scum with the blood of thousands of Palestinians on his hands, and then the Dean complaining that protestors aren’t respecting democratic standards and free speech.

    That video at that link is great. There was a protest this week against Olmert at Tulane University in New Orleans as well, though I don’t know if they got people inside to shout him down.

  4. http://www.economist.com/world/middleeast-africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14587828&source=hptextfeature

    Just wanted to add this to the mix on Palestine. Looks like this Goldstone report has some important consequences for the PA. Not that their legitimacy hadn’t been undermined again and again in the last ten years or so, but Abbas’s vacillation on submitting Goldstone to the UN was a further nail in the coffin. In addition, he agreed to sit down at the table with Israel and talk “peace” even after they refused to stop building settlements, and Obama dropped it as a condition for starting talks up again.

    One key thing to consider is the effect this has on Hamas. The article I’ve attached in the Economist suggests that as the PA loses, Hamas gains. Is this the case? Is there a “third option” developing within Palestinian society opposed to both Hamas and the PA that advances a different perspective?

    More broadly, what are the limits of thinking about Palestine as a national liberation struggle, as both Hamas and the PA have historically? The description of the situation as more akin to apartheid has been gaining ground recently. Has this had any effect on resistance among Palestinians? Is there a “third pole” cohering anywhere around an apartheid analysis? I think one answer to this lies in the dynamics of the struggle we’re seeing among Palestinians living in Israel, and the links they might be making with Palestinians in the occupied territories.

  5. Good questions Mikey. My questions have more to do with the solidarity movement here in the U.S.

    i agree it is exciting that more and more organizations are joining the call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. But, i have some questions and concerns:

    1) The US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is about as broad a coalition as you can come by. On their website (http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=44), their listed principles and purpose state:
    “* We stand for freedom from occupation, and equal rights for all. International law guarantees these human rights, including the right to exist in peace and security.

    * We aim to change those U.S. policies that sustain Israel’s 40-year occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, and deny equal rights for all.”

    These principles leave a lot of room for left and liberal Zionists to be part of the coalition, and i would guess that that is what has happened. So, my question is whether having left Zionists in such a coalition has potential consequences for the BDS movement? Or is this an acceptable time to join in a united front with organizations that aren’t explicitly anti-Zionist?

    2) A related point came up when i was reading the electronic intifada article on the US Campaign’s adoption of the academic and cultural boycott (it is the second link in the original post above). The author said, “Anyone who fears that ending apartheid in Israel would ‘destroy’ that country probably believes, or logically should believe, that South Africa was ‘destroyed’ in 1994.”

    The author is right that a boycott by itself would not destroy Israel, and that the S. African anti-apartheid movement did not destroy South Africa. But, what is S. Africa like today? While there may not be de jour apartheid and segregation anymore, there most certainly is de facto segregation, and rampant racism and oppression. Perhaps, the boycott movement should have gone further to dismantle the S. African state. Maybe the people of S. Africa would be in a better position today. The same can be applied to Israel. Why would Palestine solidarity activists want to keep the state intact? It was founded on white supremacy. The statement that the author made makes it sound as if those calling for the boycott don’t want any harm to come to the state of Israel, they just want it to be nicer to Palestinians. To me, this is a dangerous position to take – one that could send the campaign down the road of letter writing campaigns and worthless appeals to the UN. As people who would hope to push the movement much further than this, is it prudent to join in coalition with the “human rights” pole of the movement, or should we form our own organizations and coalitions that are explicitly anti-Zionist and wiling to call for the fall of the state and ruling class of Israel?

    3) Finally, i’ve been trying to think about the different models, strategies, and tactics of international solidarity activism, and i’m a little unclear about what the various options are. Obviously with BDS, we have boycotts of several kinds, divestment, and sanctions. There are liberal methods of appealing to politicians and the ruling elite through emails and letter writing. What else?

    mlove wrote in the original post that “It is on this [striking at the link between these institutions of university, union and city] basis that a new Arab and Muslim movement in this country can form and fight back against white supremacy.” Why does targeting institutions like universities, unions, and cities have more promise in building a new Arab and Muslim movement in this country than other strategies?

  6. with respect to your first question gila, i would say that while it is most likely true that left Zionists are part of the coalition, at the same time, I am sure there are anti-Zionist organisations and groups that are part of the same coalition that aim to push the coalition to the left towards being anti-Zionist. my question would be: can a coalition that claims to be a Palestine solidarity coalition succeed with Zionist members or groups as part of that coalition, however liberal/progressive/radical they may be. At the end of the day, such Zionists are not calling for an end to the state of Israel as it is constituted right now- basing itself on occupation, apartheid, white supremacy, etc. the list goes on. At best, I would foresee that having left Zionists in such a coalition has the potential consequences of reforming the state of Israel to be, as you put it, nicer to Palestinians. At worst such a coalition would disintegrate because different groups in the coalition would not be able to agree on the question on the nature of the state of Israel and what it means to oppose it and its policies.

    With regards to your 3rd question, I would say that the reason that targeting institutions like universities, unions, and cities has more promise in building a new Arab and Muslim movement in this country that other strategies is because of the work being done in the campaign itself. Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are all reformist strategies. However in the course of the campaign, questions of the validity of the state structure, white supremacy, racism, equality and justice all come up and how a group chooses to answer some of these questions can be more radical than the tactics of bds.

    Also, for example when a group does a campus-based campaign for divestment, the question of how the university chooses its investments is brought up. Clearly if the university is investing in an apartheid state or does business with companies that invest in the state of Israel and profits from this business, it shows the bankruptcy of the university administration. This leads to the question of how university investments should be chosen. By the administration? Or by the students and workers on campus?

    While BDS certainly are the most popular tactics amongst Palestine solidarity activists today, you asked what other tactics/forms of struggle can be used to support the Palestinian cause. Perhaps there can be working class struggles that incorporate the Palestinian cause into their own list of demands. Workers here and in other countries outside of Palestine/Israel could, alongside their demands, make demands to support the Palestinian struggle. Tactics they could use include rallies, demonstrations, and perhaps workers could do solidarity/sympathy strikes or when they strike in order to gain their own demands, they can also make the same demands that a Palestinian movement does. I’m not sure either but these are some ideas.

  7. It’s great to see this white supremacist asshole get disrupted everywhere he goes.

    Even though the rhetoric of a lot of these protestors is liberal (“he’s a war criminal! see you in the Hague!”), objectively their actions exposes all of the limitations of liberal reformism. They’re thrown out of the room for breaking assembly hall etiquette while this racist goes free after murdering thousands. This shows how representative democracy on the terms of white supremacy and empire is completely morally bankrupt.

    Now imagine if there was a contingent of folks in the room saying “you are a white supremacist, you are representing apartheid, and white supremacy and apartheid are not welcome in OUR city on OUR campus” As Easy E laid out, the same tactics can be used by people with different political tendencies, but if the content of the politics are more explicitly anti-racist this creates more of a political crisis locally and has more potential to galvanize youth of color to fight the presence of Israeli apartheid in our own communities here.

    To do that sort of thing like that we’d have to be in at least a temporary united front with the liberal BDS folks to pull of a protest of this size.

    But the key thing about a united front is we reserve the right to criticize our coalition partners openly. I think in particular that any liberal Zionists in these BDS coalitions need to be exposed and called out for their racism. Repeatedly over the last decade they’ve tried to function like movement cops to hold back the development of an authentic anti-apartheid movement. For a great analysis of this, see: http://psreview.org/content/view/36/99/

    If liberal Zionists are not okay being called out for their racism then they should leave the Palestine solidarity movement. They have no right to tell us to leave if we speak out against them.

    For a second in January it seemed like it’d actually be possible to treat the liberal Zionists this way. The broad Palestine solidarity organizing united fronts were swinging in an anti-Zionist direction. It seemed like it was possible to build coalitions on the terms of anti-Zionists and the liberal Zionists were too weak to try and stop this, their arguments made no sense considering Israel’s actions in Gaza, and it was easy to keep them from dominating solidarity activism. I’m not sure if that’s the case anymore. Anti-apartheid activity is still going relatively strong as these videos show but it’s not where it was in January and now there might be more of a basis for the liberal Zionists to try to hijack the movement and shut out anti-Zionist groups. If that’s the case we anti-Zionists certainly should be more wary of putting time and energy into coalitions which could quickly become liberal Zionist popular fronts. The key thing is to build up anti-Zionist organizations that can do militant direct action and that are prepared to hold our own and throw our weight around in any coalitions we choose to form. Beyond that I’d say the decision about whether to be in a coalition with liberal Zionists is a tactical question we should decide on a case by case basis in terms of the specific action we’d be working on and in terms of how much power we’d have relative to more conservative groups in the coalition.

    Gila’s second question about how South Africa is still racist today seems to be separate but related. I do think that it’s possible for well meaning folks to take an anti-Zionist position that is not anti-state. I could see someone calling for the dismantling of all apartheid laws and calling for one unified state where Jews, Arabs, Muslims, and Christians live side by side as equals. In pracitce this means a Palestinian majority with one person-one vote; therefore it means dismantling the state of Israel as we currently know it, so this is an anti-Zionist perspective. I’d say these folks would be close allies of ours in anti-apartheid organizing even though we’re critical of all states and ruling classes, even ones that are not explicitly based on legal apartheid. The flaw with this perspective though is that Palestinian liberation requires economic equality for Palestinians, not just equal political rights. Palestinians historically have been a large part of the working class in Israel (before they were shut out from employment there) and elsewhere in the Middle East. Simply dismantling apartheid political structures, or simply allowing more Palestinians positions in the Israeli government, will not change this, just as the fall of apartheid in South Africa has not brought economic equality for Black South Africans, as the recent Gathering Forces post on Abahlali shows. Also, as the recent post on the labor movement in Egypt lays out, the Palestinian struggle is a key part of a broader regional struggle against US imperialism and the authoritarian regimes it supports, from Israel to Egypt to Saudi Arabia. This struggle is tied up with every day Arab folks struggles to control their own resources and labor in the region. It could be the case that the Palestinian liberation movement will not succeed at overthrowing Israeli apartheid without opening up more space for organizing and regrouping by challenging and possibly overthrowing the Egyptian or Jordanian governments. In Southern Africa, the anti-apartheid movement found this space in revolutionary Mozambique and elsewhere…. the movement was part of a broader southern African movement against white supremacy and empire and didn’t narrowly focus on changing the state structure in South Africa alone. The post-apartheid ANC has failed to continue this legacy and hasn’t moved further to challenge US imperialism and white supremacy throughout Africa. To do that would involve challenging capitalism and the very nature of the state because the state structures in both Southern Africa and the Middle East are so closely tied to the needs of US capitalists and their military/ security bodyguards. After all, the very borders of these states were drawn by white settlers and colonists and simply putting people of color in charge of a state forged by colonialism will not bring true liberation.

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