Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) gaining traction

Those who follow this blog regularly know that I'm convinced that no amount of diplomacy alone (the 'political solution') will solve the Palestinian question and lead to a sovereign Palestinian State on the remainder of Palestine. The power differential between Palestinians and Israelis is so wide that Israel is unlikely to give up more than a few crumbs, on which the Palestinian divided leadership would then have to construct what would amount to no more than a little non-contiguous fiefdom. Such a pseudo-solution would in the medium-long term be unacceptable to large swathes of Palestinians and inevitably more 'trouble' (read: fighting) would ensue.

For Israel, a permanent state of low-level warfare against a largely unarmed population is a fight they cannot lose and a price worth paying for hanging on to more than they deserve. A badly negotiated deal, followed by renewed attacks on Israel, would play into Israeli hands and strengthen their 'no land for peace' stance, under the guise that 'the sandniggers can't be trusted with sovereignty', a mantra we've been hearing for the last few decades now.

And the mood among the Israeli general public doesn't bode well either: despite Operation Cast Lead in part being designed to 'rehabilitate' the IDF from its 'defeat' in the Lebanon war, Barak and Livni's incessant competition for 'who actually is the toughest war commander' and Livni and the outgoing PM Olmert setting their differences aside for the duration of the War, the likely winner in the upcoming elections is Benjamin Netanyahu, with other nationalistic parties possible making gains too. Somewhat predictably, the war and the nationalistic hysteria that accompanied it have made Israel list even further to the right. In short, the country isn't in a concessionary mood right now (if it ever was).

Now we are being led to believe that the excellent negotiator and new US Special Envoy to the Middle East George Mitchell may be able to pull off another Northern Ireland. But while there are several parallels between the Troubles and the I/P conflict, the dynamic is also very different in some respects. The power differential between Unionists and Republicans for example wasn't anything near the discrepancy in power between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. Furthermore, while in the Troubles the US was largely an impartial third party, by contrast in the I/P conflict the US has been the unwavering supporter of the Israeli cause for some four decades, tying in its support for that country with its designs for hegemony in the broader Middle East. In terms of (Palestinian) confidence building alone, Mr Mitchell's task will be Herculean: why trust the Americans?

And so, to achieve anything worthy of note the power balance has to recalibrated more in favour of the Palestinians, diminishing US/Israeli bargaining power considerably. Only outside pressure can achieve that.

Over the last few weeks a veritable grassroots movement in support of the Palestinian cause has sprung into being in many parts of the world among people of many different colours, nationalities and creeds, Gentiles and Jews alike. Despite the War being over for some time now, popular support for this cause isn't exactly waning, quite the contrary. More kerfuffles surrounding accusations of Israeli war crimes, a PM of a country allied with Israel walking out in public on an Israeli president, several occupations of British universities, a major BBC scandal, increased US media coverage of the Palestinian plight and more besides that, are all keeping Israel firmly in the headlights.

Such grassroots movements can only be effective when politicians' ears start to prick up, in other words when we can start to punish them convincingly with the vote and that takes the power of numbers. But it should never be forgotten that none of the rights most common people enjoy today in 'the civilised world' were ever obtained without a popular struggle. Even Liberal Democracy itself would never have come about without a grassroots liberation struggle. Nothing worth fighting for was ever obtained without a struggle.

And now something very significant is also happening: South African dock workers are responding to Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and in their footsteps the Maritime Union of Australia (Western Australia) resolved to boycott all Israeli vessels and all vessels bearing goods arriving from or going to Israel. Please read about it in great detail here.

Feel a little 'underpowered'? Want to help but not sure how to go about it? Journalist, blogger and mother from Gaza, Laila came up with more than 10 ways 'ordinary people' can help.



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