Two days before Israel’s latest criminal attack on the Gaza Strip, I wrote an article in which I tried to explain exactly what the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, want from the international community. I argued that as we embark on our own long walk to freedom, we have come to the conclusion that we can no longer rely on governments; that only civil society is able to mobilise for the implementation of international law and an end to Israel’s unprecedented impunity.
Our inspiration is the anti-apartheid movement. The intervention of civil society was effective in the late 1980s against the apartheid regime of white South Africa, and it can do the same thing in support of a just peace in Palestine. Nothing can really force Israel to abide by international law except people of conscience and civil society.
I also argued that without the intervention of the international community which was effective against apartheid in South Africa, Israel will continue to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. That is exactly what happened just two days after writing that article, when apartheid Israel launched a massive attack violating — as it did in 2009, 2012 and 2014 — an undeclared ceasefire brokered by Egypt with the Palestinian resistance groups in Gaza.
In fact, we in Gaza are no longer interested in the sterile opposition to the normalisation process initiated by the Camp David Treaty and the Oslo Accords, and solidified by the Gulf Sheikhdoms. Rather, we are keen on formulating the kind of response that could actually defeat the multi-tiered system of Zionist oppression: occupation, ethnic cleansing and apartheid. The moment that the international community — civil society and governments — decides to act the same way that it did against the apartheid system in South Africa, Israel will succumb to the voice of reason represented by the 2005 call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) issued by more than 170 civil society organisations and endorsed by almost all influential political forces in historic Palestine and the Diaspora.
The urgent question, then, is how long will the world tolerate Israel’s blatant constitutional racism? We know for a fact that it took the international community thirty years to heed the call made by the oppressed people of South Africa. How long will the oppressed people of Palestine have to wait?
The latest BDS successes are what we have been calling for since 2005. It is hard for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to understand how, despite Israel’s ethnic cleansing policy and the latest war crimes committed against us; the ongoing war crimes documented by major human rights organizations; and the Israeli colonisation and apartheid, for some reputable companies and international institutions it remains “business as usual” with Israel.
Isn’t it crystal clear to such companies, after all these years and thousands of reports by mainstream human rights bodies, that millions of Palestinians are denied their basic rights to education, free movement, employment and health provision? We are deprived of a normal life because of more than 600 Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem; the medieval siege of Gaza; and the official apartheid discrimination faced by Palestinian citizens in Israel itself. To put it bluntly, we are discriminated against because we are not Jews, just as Black South Africans were discriminated against simply because they were not white.
Thousands of Palestinians are in Israeli prisons having been sentenced by military courts; hundreds of them are held with neither charge nor trial. All credible international human rights organisations have detailed how Israeli forces deliberately target Palestinian students and education institutions, including UN-run schools. Shouldn’t academics and researchers be familiar with such reports?
We believe that it is our right to expect people of conscience to join us in our struggle against Israel’s apartheid by boycotting the racist and militarised regime and the institutions that keep it thriving. The Palestinians are an oppressed people without a state. We rely increasingly on international law and solidarity for our very survival.
What we want, therefore, is the implementation of international law to put an end to the Israeli military occupation of Arab lands occupied in 1967; to fight against Israel’s colonisation and apartheid as enshrined in its laws targeting the indigenous population of Palestine since 1948; and to allow the legitimate return of Palestinian refugees who were ethnically cleansed when Israel was created in their land. Is that a call for the end of the state of Israel? Was the boycott of apartheid meant to end South Africa as a country, or to end the state’s racism in its ugliest from?
Israel is a settler-colonialist, apartheid state and the tools used against apartheid South Africa can be the model in our struggle against apartheid Israel. Transforming Israel from an ethno-religious, apartheid state into a genuinely democratic entity should be the objective of every single person who believes in liberal democracy.
With pressure imposed by the international community through a BDS campaign along the lines of the Anti-Apartheid Campaign which brought an end to racist South Africa, we believe that Israel can be persuaded to get rid of its structures of oppression. What we need urgently is an arms embargo on Israel to stop its frequent bloodletting in Gaza.
The BDS campaign is intended to restore the democratic rights of the Palestinian people. We believe that the struggles of the Palestinian people in Israel itself, the territories occupied since 1967 — the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem — as well as in the Diaspora are inseparable. That is why we believe that the alternative, rights-based approach instead of Oslo’s façade of “peace” based on normalisation, can provide all Palestinians with a solution that guarantees peace with justice, namely the right of return and equality.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.