Friday, April 15, 2011

BDS Rooted in law and human rights

by Samah Sabawi

Note: This article first appeared on the web site of Australians for Palestine and is being published here, slightly revised, with the permission and approval of the writer and the editor of the original web-site

The pro-Israeli groups launch again and again unrelenting attacks on the Greens and on the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign. One such recent attack was published on April 7, 2011 in “The Australian” in it’s opinion piece entitled “A party of ignorant extremists” by Foreign Editor Greg Sheridan. In this piece, Sheridan lists a number of services Israel offers the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and asks if the Greens are willing to boycott these institutions that provide health care, electricity and jobs for Palestinians. This argument is voiced repeatedly by pro-Israel media all over the world and deserves to be answered.

First of all, the services listed fall under Israel’s obligations as an occupying power under the 4th Geneva Convention. They are offered on a very limited basis and are paid for by the PA from internationally paid funds. The insinuation that Boycotts of Israel would harm the Palestinians is at best patronizing.

The call for Boycotts came from Palestinian Civil Society, and is supported by most Palestinians living today in the iron grip of occupation. To try to brand the occupation as being good for the Palestinians reflects a colonial outlook which Palestinians strongly reject.

This orchestrated campaign of misinformation and slurs launched against the Greens and the BDS is intended to send a chilling message to all politicians and human righs activists. Speak out on the rights of Palestinians and you will be called extreme and anti-Semitic.

Anyone who has been involved in the BDS campaign knows that a growing number of Diaspora Jews as well as Israelis from within have also joined this call because they view it as the only way to save Israel from its path of self-destruction. World leaders and politicians everywhere need to understand that as well.

Throwing around words like ‘supporting the two state solution’ is empty rhetoric in light of the facts on the grounds today. If not boycotts, what are world leaders, reluctant to impose sanctions on Israel or take other measures to force Israel to end its illegal occupation and bring about a Palestinian State – what are these world leaders doing to ensure the viability of the two-state solution?

Israel has used decades of negotiations with Palestinians only to expand their settlements and to entrench their occupation. A look at the Palestinian Papers Leaks provides a clear picture of how much Palestinians were willing to compromise – including on the right of return – and how uninterested the Israeli government was in making any head way.

It needs to be made clear that the call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions is fully rooted in International Humanitarian Law. BDS demands an end to the systematic discrimination against Palestinians citizens of the state of Israel, an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land as per UNSC resolution 242 and for Israel to meet its obligations under International Humanitarian Law and UN Resolution 194. How can any of these three demands be considered extreme or anti-Semitic?

BDS activists, Israelis and Palestinians, firmly reject the idea of turning their human tragedy into a football match, with members of governments choosing teams, this one is pro-Israel and that one is pro-Palestinian. Palestinians and Israelis have had enough of being used for political gains. BDS activists want the governments of the world to take a pro-justice and pro-human rights stand. Supporters of the BDS amongst the Greens should be congratulated for supporting justice and equality in Palestine/Israel and for endorsing a movement that is rooted in International Humanitarian Law and the Universal Declarations of Human Rights.

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About the author:Samah Sabawi, recently appointed Public Advocate for the Melbourne based advocacy group Australians for Palestine, is a Human Rights and Social Justice advocate. She has lived and worked in many countries around the world and is currently residing in Melbourne, Australia. In addition to numerous articles and poems (published in as many publications and web-sites), she has also co-authored with her father, Abdel-Karim Sabawi, a play “Cries from the Land”. She has also produced the play “Three Wishes” based on her adaptation of Deborah Ellis's book "Three Wishes: Palestinian and Israelis Speak Out". Samah Sabawi is former Executive Director and Media Spokesperson for the National Council on Canada Arab Relations.

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