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By Omar Barghouti


Thursday, April 16, 2009.


As Israel shifts steadily to the fanatic, racist right, as the latest parliamentary election results have shown, Palestinians under its control are increasingly being brutalized by its escalating colonial and apartheid policies, designed to push them out of their homeland to make a self-fulfilling prophecy out of the old Zionist canard of "a land without a people."


In parallel, international civil society, according to numerous indicators, is reaching a turning point in its view of Israel as a pariah state acting above the law of nations and in its effective action, accordingly, to penalize and ostracize it as it did to apartheid South Africa.


Palestinian communities in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Hebron, the Jordan Valley and the Naqab (Negev), among others, have been recently subjected to some of the worst, ongoing Israeli campaigns of gradual ethnic cleansing intended to "Judaize" their space. Qalqilya is suffocated by the colonial apartheid Wall that surrounds it from all sides, while Nablus is under constant siege.


A few months ago, the Palestinian community in Acre was brutally attacked by Jewish-Israeli fundamentalists and xenophobes in one of the worst pogroms witnessed by Palestinians inside Israel. Still, Gaza today stands out as the test of our common humanity and our indispensable morality. A thorough analysis of the role played by Western and some Arab governments in regards to Israel's criminal war of aggression against Gaza will demonstrate a resounding failure on both accounts.


Throughout the atrocious assault, the official West, along with the governments of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority and the UN leadership, were willing accomplices in Israel's grave violations of international law and basic human rights.


In words that can quite accurately be used to describe Israel, Robert Kagan, a leading neo-conservative ideologue, justifies hegemonic tendencies as a prerogative of the mightiest:


"The United States remains mired in history, exercising power in the anarchic Hobbesian world where international laws and rules are unreliable and where true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military might."


True to this paradigm, Israel has for decades maintained a regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid over the indigenous people of Palestine through the "possession and use of military might," in addition to the indispensable collusion of Western powers, whose unconditional largesse has for six decades enabled Israel to maintain and develop its multi-faceted system of colonial oppression against the Palestinian people.

By contributing to Israel's illegal blockade of Gaza and its criminal war against it, the EU and other Western states have reached a qualitatively different stage of complicity, becoming, more blatantly than ever, full partners in the US-Israeli policy of undermining the rule of law and espousing in its stead the law of the jungle, thereby promoting the Bush-Bin Laden self-fulfilling prophecy of a dichotomous world divided surgically into good and evil, with each side regarding the other as evil.


In response to this fatal alliance of savage capitalism in the West with Israeli racism, exclusion and colonial subjugation, the global movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, BDS, against Israel presents not only a progressive, anti racist, sophisticated, sustainable, moral and effective form of civil, non-violent resistance, but a real chance of becoming the political catalyst and moral anchor for a strengthened, reinvigorated international social movement capable of reaffirming the rights of all humans to freedom, equality and dignity and the right of nations to self determination.

. . .


According to respected human rights organizations active in the field, Israel's 23-day military offensive, which started on December 27, 2008, led  to the death of more than 1,400 Palestinians, approximately 83% of whom are civilians, and to the complete or partial destruction of thousands of homes; the leading university; 45 mosques; several ministries, including those of education and justice; scores of schools; a Red Crescent Hospital and tens of ambulances and clinics; as well as thousands of factories and small businesses. Several massacres were committed and well documented.


The ICRC accused Israel, in an unusually sharp tone, of failing to provide medical care to the injured and impeding medical relief from reaching them, thereby causing their bleeding to death, both severe violations of international humanitarian law. More than 400 Palestinian children were killed by the three-week long Israeli bombing, many due to burns caused by Israel's illegal use of phosphorous bombs.


On the opening day of its assault on Gaza, the Israeli military caused massive destruction of civilian infrastructure and massacred close to 200 Palestinian civilians, many of whom were non-combatant police trainees, while no Israeli civilians were reportedly killed. Nevertheless, Western leaders were quick to issue statements expressing concern about the loss of life and suffering on "both sides," blaming the Palestinian resistance for provoking the atrocities, and absolving Israel of any responsibility under the pretext of its "right to defend itself."


Leading international jurists, however, categorically rejected Israel's self-defense argument, accusing it of committing war crimes. The UN Human Rights Council and the UN Secretary General have called for impartial, independent war crimes investigations. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the main Israeli human rights organization, B'Tselem, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, among many others, have similarly accused Israel of committing war crimes, completely refuting its self-defense claim, particularly since it was Israel that first violated the June 2008 ceasefire with Hamas on November 4th, when it attacked and killed 6 resistance fighters without any provocation.


Gerald Kaufman, a senior Jewish Labor Party member of the British Parliament compared some Israeli actions to those of Nazis. So did Noam Chomsky and Holocaust survivor and senior academic, Hajo Meyer, of A Different Jewish Voice in the Netherlands. Echoing Kaufman, Chomsky and Meyer, prominent Jewish British intellectuals and academics compared Gaza to the Warsaw Ghetto in a letter to the Guardian, as did the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network on this year's Holocaust Remembrance Day.

. . .
Israel's state terrorism in Gaza, enabled by virtually unlimited support from the US and Western governments in general, was a key catalyst in spreading and deepening BDS around the world, prompting advocates of Palestinian rights to feel that our South Africa moment has finally arrived. Israel is now widely perceived, at a grassroots level, as an international pariah that commits war crimes with impunity and that needs to be held accountable to international law and basic principles of human rights.


The last few weeks alone witnessed some of the most significant indicators to date of this phenomenon. The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario's University Workers Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) at its annual conference last February endorsed a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. A few days ago, the Fédération autonome du collégial (FAC), Quebec College Federation, also joined the BDS campaign.


In Durban, South Africa, the COSATU-affiliated dock workers union refused in early February to offload an Israeli cargo ship, reminding us of similar sanctions taken against South African ships during the apartheid era. An Australian dock workers union and a group of American progressive union leaders endorsed the South African BDS action.


In the US, Hampshire College set a historic precedent by announcing its divestment from six companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. Significantly, Hampshire was also the first college in the US to divest from apartheid South Africa in the 1970s. In Wales, Cardiff University acceded to demands by students and decided to divest from companies supporting the occupation. Even in France, where BDS had faced an uphill struggle for several years, a statement was lately issued by leading academics explicitly endorsing BDS to end Israel's impunity.


The latest spectacular entrenchment of the BDS campaign, especially since the Israeli aggression against Gaza, gives us hope that one day Israel's impunity and Western, UN and Arab collusion with it will come to an end, allowing a genuine, just peace to flourish in Palestine and the entire region. Only thus can ethical coexistence have a real chance to be realized.


In his poem, Message to the Living, Henk van Randwijk, a Dutch poet of resistance against the Nazis, wrote:


A people giving in to tyrants

will loose more than body and goods

the light will be extinguished


On Saturday, 24 January 2009, two days after the end of Israeli hostilities and despite all the death, devastation and trauma, hundreds of thousands of Gaza's children almost literally rose from under the rubble that most of Gaza was reduced to and went with enthusiasm to their damaged schools, carrying their torn bags, scarred books and injured souls. Their agony was deep and anger deeper; but their eyes were still shining with defiance, ambition and hope for emancipation. Do not extinguish their light.


Omar Barghouti is an independent Palestinian political and cultural analyst and a founding member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. This article was published in its entirety on www.zmag.org on 19 March, 2009.


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