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July 21/28, 2014

Palestinians protest
the separation barrier
19
in the West Bank
city of Tulkarem,
May 31, 2014.

The Nation.

ON ISRAEL-PALESTINE AND BDS

Those dedicated to the Palestinian cause should think carefully about the tactics they choose.
by NOAM CHOMSKY
he misery caused by israel’s actions in the
occupied territories has elicited serious concern
among at least some Israelis. One of the most outspoken, for many years, has been Gideon Levy,
a columnist for Haaretz, who writes that “Israel
should be condemned and punished for creating insufferable life under occupation, [and] for the fact that a country
that claims to be among the enlightened nations continues
abusing an entire people, day and night.”
He is surely correct, and we should add something
more: the United States should also be condemned and
punished for providing the decisive military, economic,
diplomatic and even ideological support for these crimes.
So long as it continues to do so, there is little reason to

T

Noam Chomsky,
Institute Professor
emeritus at MIT,
has written many
books and articles
on international
affairs, in particular on Israel
and Palestine.

expect Israel to relent in its brutal policies.
The distinguished Israeli scholar Zeev Sternhell, reviewing the reactionary nationalist tide in his country,
writes that “the occupation will continue, land will be
confiscated from its owners to expand the settlements, the
Jordan Valley will be cleansed of Arabs, Arab Jerusalem
will be strangled by Jewish neighborhoods, and any act of
robbery and foolishness that serves Jewish expansion in the
city will be welcomed by the High Court of Justice. The
road to South Africa has been paved and will not be blocked
until the Western world presents Israel with an unequivocal choice: Stop the annexation and dismantle most of the
colonies and the settler state, or be an outcast.”
One crucial question is whether the United States will

However. by a group of Palestinian intellectuals in 2005. The only slim hope for realizing (3) in more than token numbers is if longer-term developments lead to the erosion of the imperial borders imposed by France and Britain after World War I. are not on the horizon—one of the many significant differences from South Africa. BD and other tactics have to be carefully thought through and evaluated in terms of their likely consequences. obligations to ensure respect for international law. In June. and recognized as such by virtually the entire world apart from Israel and the United States since the presidency of Ronald Reagan. It is not expansion of the huge settlement and infrastructure program (including the separation wall) that is the issue. in my view. but also in stimulating other forms of opposition to the occupation and US support for it. HRW also called on the United States to suspend financing to Israel “in an amount equivalent to the costs of Israel’s spending in support of settlements. the Presbyterian Church resolved to divest from three US-based multinationals involved in the occupation.” rected retailers to “distinguish between goods originating from Palestinian producers and goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements. often citing South African models. and in the real world no less plausible than the “one-state solution” that is commonly. But if we’re concerned about the fate of the victims.” since sanctions. there is virtually no meaningful support for (3) beyond the BDS movement itself. Meanwhile. divestment and sanctions”) has been formed. The text of UN General Assembly Resolution 194 is conditional. as in February 2011. supported by the Arab states—and vetoed by the United States. The Presbyterian Church divested from Caterpillar because its products “contribute to the Israeli occupation.” There have been a great many other boycott and divestment initiatives in the past decade. This was not the first time Washington had barred a peaceful diplomatic settlement.” One way to punish Israel for its egregious crimes was initiated by the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom in 1997: a boycott of settlement products. where all settlements are illegal. Nor is (3) dictated by international law. and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. While there is near-universal international support for (1). have no legitimacy.S. including prohibitions against discrimination. T JUSTIN MCINTOSH 20 . who supported Israel’s 1971 decision to reject a settlement offered by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. and (3) Respecting. but mistakenly. occasionally—but not sufficiently—reaching to the crucial matter of US support for Israeli crimes. 2014 The Nation. The pursuit of (1) in the above list makes good sense: it has a clear objective and is readily understood by its target audience in the West. or state actions. discussed as an alternative to the international consensus. demanded that Israel fully comply with international law by “(1) Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall. protecting. which. Failed initiatives harm the victims by shifting attention to irrelevant issues and by wasting opportunities to do something meaningful. territorial integrity and political independence of all states in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries. Such initiatives have been considerably expanded since then. Syria and Jordan. which is why the many initiatives guided by (1) have been quite successful—not only in “punishing” Israel. This could lead to a “no-state solution”—the optimal one. Britain had already di- July 21/28. more accurately. as determined by the UN Security Council and the International Court of Justice.” This call received considerable attention. he opening call of the bds movement. Sometimes Washington’s position becomes almost comical.” and to verify that tax exemptions for organizations contributing to Israel “are consistent with U. which favors a two-state settlement along the internationally recognized border (the Green Line established in the 1949 ceasefire agreements). when the Obama administration vetoed a UN resolution that supported official US policy: opposition to Israel’s settlement expansion. Human Rights Watch called on Israel to abide by “its international legal obligation” to remove the settlements and to end its “blatantly discriminatory practices” in the occupied territories. (2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. choosing expansion over security—a course that Israel has followed with US support ever since. but rather its very existence—all of it illegal. with guarantees for “the sovereignty. who downgraded “illegal” to “an obstacle to peace. research awards or any similar relationship with any Israeli entity that has “direct or indirect links” to the occupied territories. like similar borders. and in any event it is a recommendation. a BDS movement (calling for “boycott. as the EU declaration reiterates. the abbreviation should be “BD. this is not the case for (3). Insistence on (3) is a virtual guarantee of failure. The prize for that goes to Henry Kissinger.” Four years ago. The most far-reaching success is the policy directive of the European Union that forbids funding.” That was the wording of a resolution brought to the UN Security Council in January 1976 by Egypt. without the legal force of the Security Council resolutions that Israel regularly violates. cooperation. which continues (also with US support) despite some whispers of disapproval. and deservedly so.stop undermining the international consensus.

Nikki Silvestri. Michael Peck and representatives from the Mondragón Cooperatives in Spain. In contrast. a growing domestic opposition in the United States to Israeli crimes.org or call 707-939-2973 SPEAKERS: Gar Alperovitz. social justice. please visit our website: www. where the white nationalists needed the black population: it was the country’s workforce. SA N FR A NCISCO. and why. separating it from the West Bank. PARTNER: Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network CO-SPONSORS INCLUDE: The Nation Magazine RSF Social Finance Firedoll Foundation Appleby Foundation YES! Magazine Organic Valley Move to Amend Ethical Markets Media and others .” but that is far from accurate. Ellen Brown. Janet Redman. when BD tactics began to be used extensively in the United States. In the occupied territories. David Korten. Michael Brune. as commonly alleged. Congress was legislating sanctions and overriding Reagan’s vetoes on the issue. the handwriting was on the wall. he described Israel as the most promising country for investors outside the United States itself. 2014 21 The Nation. the nationalist government devoted resources to sustaining and seeking international recognition for them. initiatives focusing on (2) have been a near-uniform failure. There are “prohibitions against discrimination” in international law. academic freedom. But pursuit of (2) at once opens the door to the standard “glass house” reaction: for example. Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.July 21/28. Others are being invited now. activism had created such overwhelming international opposition to apartheid that individual states and the UN had imposed sanctions decades before the 1980s. Years earlier—by 1960—global investors had already abandoned South Africa to such an extent that its financial reserves were halved. While there is. and will continue to be unless educational efforts reach the point of laying much more groundwork in the public understanding for them. OCTOBER 6 –9.praxispeace. This has not always been the case (Michael Neumann discusses one of many examples of this failure in the Winter 2014 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies). 2014 FORT M A SON. Mark Hertsgaard. and as grotesque as the bantustans were. Israel wants to rid itself of the Palestinian burden. they must be based on a realistic assessment of actual circumstances. Georgia Kelly. The road ahead is not toward South Africa. Much the same is true of the invocation of apartheid. although there was some recovery. Concern for the victims dictates that in assessing tactics. But it is not South African–style apartheid. finally. When Warren Buffett bought an Israeli tool-making firm for $2 billion last year. The same concern dictates that we must be scrupulous about facts. As Sternhell observes. CA For details and to register. And if tactics are to be effective. Richard Heinberg. constantly cited in this context. as HRW observes. By then. Failed initiatives harm the victims doubly—by shifting attention from their plight to irrelevant issues (anti-Semitism at Harvard. Randy Hayes. but toward something much worse. Within Israel. Where that road leads is unfolding before our eyes. then why not boycott Harvard because of far greater violations by the United States? Predictably. if we boycott Tel Aviv University because Israel violates human rights at home. it does not remotely compare with the South African case. It is a very dubious one. There’s a reason why BDS tactics were used for decades against South Africa while the current campaign against Israel is restricted to BD: in the former case. and economic democracy become our way of life. etc. as the United States and Israel have been doing ever since they Praxis Peace Institute presents THE ECONOMICS OF SUSTAINABILITY Emerging Models for a Healthy Planet Our challenge is to bring forth a transformation of cultural and economic relationships so that environmental sustainability. US investment is flowing into Israel. the situation is far worse than it was in South Africa. In sharp contrast. Jihan Gearon. Israel will continue its current policies. Don Shaffer. Take the South African analogy. Osprey Orielle Lake. the land laws are just the most extreme example. Spokespeople for the BDS movement may believe they have attained their “South African moment. discrimination against non-Jews is severe. The case for (2) is more ambiguous. and by wasting current opportunities to do something meaningful. It will maintain a vicious siege of Gaza. as was done in the case of South Africa. we should be scrupulous in recognizing what has succeeded or failed.). The necessary educational work has not been done.

there would be some black faces in the limousines. even Israel—perhaps the only country then violating the arms embargo against South Africa—agreed to “reduce its ties to avoid endangering relations with the U. as commonly alleged. Israel will continue to take whatever it finds valuable—land. As long as the United States supports Israel’s expansionist policies. Cuban internationalism. their country will become an apartheid state. were a key factor in releasing Namibia from their brutal grip. casting its first-ever veto of a Security Council resolution. Washington became the UN veto champion by a wide margin. There is no reason to expect Israel to accept a Palestinian population it does not want. In effect. Israel has made essentially the same judgment. For more on that debate.” the director general of the Israeli foreign ministry reported.” As usual. “what mattered perhaps more than all other votes put together was that of [the] U. but even continued afterward to support the murderous Angolan terrorist forces of Jonas Savimbi. Tactics have to be designed accordingly. There was ample reason why Nelson Mandela visited Havana soon after his release from prison. resources—dispersing the limited Palestinian population while integrating these acquisitions within a Greater Israel. The proper criticism is that this common belief is a mirage. in view of its predominant position of leadership in [the] Western world. the United States joined Britain to block action against the racist regime of Southern Rhodesia.S.” A few years later. and huge infrastructure projects linking all these acquisitions to Israel proper.com/BDS. ruling over a territory with an oppressed Palestinian majority and facing the dreaded “demographic problem”: too many non-Jews in a Jewish state. declaring: “We come here with a sense of the great debt that is owed the people of Cuba. Eventually. corridors to the east creating unviable Palestinian cantons.” Cuban “soft power” was no less effective. there is one comparison to South Africa that is realistic—and significant. a compromise was reached that was satisfactory to the country’s elites and to US business interests: apartheid was ended. and made it very clear to the apartheid regime that its dream of imposing its rule over South Africa and the region was turning into a nightmare. The concern was that Congress might punish Israel for its violation of recent US law. South Africa’s last supporters in Washington joined the world consensus. In 1987. In South Africa. which has no real analogue today. go to TheNation. The UN may harshly condemn South Africa.” in official Israeli parlance the West Bank and Gaza have become “two separate and different areas. the British ambassador to Angola—a verdict seconded by the CIA.000 highly skilled aid workers and scholarships in Cuba for thousands of Africans. Cuban forces “destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor. In the West Bank. Another decisive factor in South Africa was Cuba. there is no reason to expect them to cease. BDS has been a topic of vigorous debate in the Nation community. “a monster whose lust for power had brought appalling misery to his people. BERNAT ARMANGUE/AP 22 . But by the 1980s. Cuban forces drove the South African aggressors out of Angola. South Africa’s strategy was losing its efficacy. Israel’s relentless settlement expansion continues with US support. Palestinians can hope for no such savior. but. In 1958. As Piero Gleijeses has demonstrated in his masterful scholarly work. In 1970. he said. This is the realistic alternative to a two-state settlement. South Africa’s foreign minister informed the US ambassador that it didn’t much matter if South Africa became a pariah state.S. and the apartheid regime soon collapsed. This includes the vastly expanded “Jerusalem” that Israel annexed in violation of Security Council orders. primarily in defense of Israeli crimes. everything on the Israeli side of the illegal separation wall. This is all the more reason why those who are sincerely dedicated to the Palestinian cause should avoid illusion and myth. which collapse quickly upon examination. there is no similar compromise in prospect. In Palestine. In radical contrast. Israeli officials assured their South African friends that the new sanctions would be mere “window dressing. The road ahead leads not to South Africa. Congress. there are security pretexts. However. and for a range of responses to this article in the coming days. including 70. Although Oslo declared Palestine to be “a single territorial unit. and think carefully about the tactics they choose and the ■ course they follow. where Palestinians are being systematically expelled and Jewish settlements established. July 21/28. but privilege and profit would not be much affected. 2014 for a long time. but the socioeconomic regime remained. For South Africa. the Jordan Valley. as the ambassador put it.” which he said “was the turning point for the liberation of our continent—and of my people—from the scourge of apartheid. water. John Kerry was bitterly condemned when he repeated the lament—common inside Israel—that unless the Israelis accept some kind of two-state solution. but toward something much worse. a move that was repeated in 1973. played a leading role in ending apartheid and in the liberation of black Africa generally.accepted the Oslo Accords in 1993. despite some whispers of disapproval. In private. ever since it chose expansion over security. Washington was not only the last holdout in protecting South Africa.” For forty years. the calculation was fairly successful The Nation. but rather to an increase in the proportion of Jews in the Greater Israel that is being constructed.” in the words of Marrack Goulding. In Mandela’s words. What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?” He was quite correct. The road ahead is not toward South Africa.

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