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Organise boycotts to inflict defeats on Israel

In my role as an editor over at The Electronic Intifada, I deal with comments submitted from readers, moderating them as they come in. Over the last couple of weeks we have had record traffic to the site, as more and more people want to find out about the latest Israeli outrage.

Many of these comments clearly come from people who are new to the issues. Most times they are completely outraged to learn of Israeli atrocities such as the one inflicted on 16-year-old Muhammad Abu Khdeir, who was kidnapped, forced to drink petrol and then burnt to death by Israeli settler fanatics in Jerusalem. Or like the entire family that was wiped out by Israeli bombs in this latest attack on the civilian population of Gaza.

Upon learning about such crimes, readers often comment along the lines of: OK, but what can we do about it? Thankfully, there is a simple answer to that, one provided by the Palestinian people themselves.

The idea of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel has been kicking around for a while, and certainly gained traction in the last decade. But it was in July 2005 when the idea really took its most concrete form, with the publication of a document called the Palestinian Civil Society Call for BDS.

Hundreds of associations, NGOs, trade unions, refugee groups, and political and human rights groups have by now signed up to the BDS call. Crucially, these groups are all Palestinian, from across all sections of the Palestinian homeland and diaspora.

Many Palestine solidarity groups across the world now take their lead from this document. The fact that it is Palestinian-initiated and led is crucial: it means the occupied are taking the means of resistance into their own hands, where it should be.

The strength of the BDS movement has been in recognizing the importance of BDS as a campaigning strategy, not as just some sort of tokenising morality test.

Lists of Israeli products for you not to buy as a consumer are nowhere near as important as campaigns that can effect real economic and psychological losses against Israel.

One such victory came last week, when SodaStream's Brighton store was forced to close down after only two years after it opened. The store sold goods made in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

A dedicated group of activists had kept up sustained weekly protests against the store. A few days after SodaStream's announcement, John Lewis stated it would be taking SodaStream products off its shelves. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign has held regular protests outside the flagship branch of John Lewis on Oxford Street in London.

While the profits from the sale of gimmicky fizzy water machines would have paled in comparison to the Israeli arms industry, this victory should not be underestimated. Israel's propagandists around the world really feel the heat of such successful campaigns.

Lamenting the withdrawal of SodaStream from Britain, barrister Jonathan Goldberg of UK Lawyers For Israel wrote in the Jewish Chronicle that it was "a defeat for Zionism and Israel." BDS has progressed to the point where Israeli cabinets meet in concerned sessions in order to brainstorm how they can combat it.

Concerned citizens anywhere can do this. Pick a strategic BDS target in your workplace, university campus, whatever. Chose winnable battles and stay in it for the long haul. Boycotting Israel is not going to liberate Palestine: that is the job for the Palestinians themselves. But, in a way, it is the minimum we can do. Palestinians themselves are asking us to do it: so let's inflict inflict more defeats on Israel using BDS.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

ArticleInquiryIsraelMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
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