Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Erickson Report. Page 5: A Longer Look at BDS and Israel

The Erickson Report. Page 5: A Longer Look at BDS and Israel

It's time for us to take A Longer Look.

Because the right to engage in peaceful political boycotts is under active attack in the US.

Well, to be precise, it's under active attack if the target of a peaceful political boycott is Israel.

Twenty-seven states covering more that 250 million people have laws that in some way punish people or businesses or both for daring to engage in or support any sort of economic boycott of Israel, even if that boycott is limited to the Occupied Territories, which Israel holds and controls in clear violation of international law and UN resolution.

These US laws are part of a nationwide assault on the Boycott-Divest-Sanction - or BDS - Movement, the goal of which is to use economic pressure to force Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories. The attacks on the movement are mostly based on taking various clearly anti-Semitic statements by one founder of the movement and projecting those attitudes wholesale onto every person, every business, and every group supporting the boycott, purposely forgetting that BDS is a movement, not an organization taking orders from the top down.

Congress has played its part in the assault as well: Last year, the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, sponsored by two Rs and two Ds, tried to flat-out make it a crime to boycott Israel. It failed, but there is talk of it being reintroduced this year.

This session has seen Senate passage of the Combat BDS Act, which encourages states to create laws that three federal courts have now blocked as unconstitutional. In late July, the House easily passed H. Res 24, which condemned BDS, claiming the movement "promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment, and group isolation." Among those voting "aye" were progressive heroes Ro Khanna and Ayanna Pressley, who were described by some on Twitter as "progressive - except for the issue of Israel and Palestine."

By the way, I'll note, because it's important that we do, the exact same description of BDS in that resolution could have been applied to the anti-apartheid movement aimed at South Africa as well as any number of other political boycotts - remember the boycott of North Carolina over its anti-transgender so-called "bathroom bill?" Couldn't that have been called "collective guilt?" The boycott was of the state, not of the particular legislators who voted for the bill. Couldn't that have been called "mass punishment?" The economic impact by definition was spread across the whole state's economy. Should that have been condemned by the House of Representatives?

Happily there is some pushback against this; Representatives Ilhan Omar, John Lewis, and Rashida Tlaib hsve introduced a resolution reaffirming the First Amendment right to participate in political boycotts as grounded in America’s history. Lewis's support is particularly important because he opposes BDS but he opposes restrictions on our Constitutional rights even more. Pressley, for her part, tried to defend her vote to condemn BDS by pointing to her support for this resolution, but that shows either low-grade CYA or a fundamental ignorance of the issues at hand.

Why is something like BDS needed? Two recent reasons.

The first is in Gaza. According to the conservative Israeli newspaper the Jerusalem Post, "thousands of Gazans protest along the security fence on a weekly basis ... calling for an end of the 12-year-long Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip." The "security fence"  is a barrier that Israel built to keep those living in Gaza penned in.

Israel has responded to the protests violently. According to a UN report, between March 30 2018, when the series of demonstrations started and the end of the year, Israeli snipers killed 180 unarmed Palestinian protesters and wounded more 6100 others. "The Israeli security forces killed and maimed Palestinian demonstrators who did not pose an imminent threat of death or serious injury to others when they were shot, nor were they directly participating in hostilities," the report said.

Now, to prove how decent and moral they are, Israeli officials have said that snipers are going to aim at the ankles of protesters rather than shooting them anywhere on the body, because of the unfortunate tendency of the previous policy to kill people.

But as noted by Jon Heller, an associate professor of international law at the University of Amsterdam,
Israel’s “most moral” IDF admits sniping legs has an unfortunate tendency to kill, so it instructs its snipers to shoot at ankles. Sniping innocent protesters, however, is still fine.
The Israeli civil rights organization B'Tselem declared that the change in policy
in no way suggests that the military attaches great value to human life. On the contrary, it shows that the military consciously chose not to regard those standing on the other side of the fence as humans.
For our second recent reason, we move from Gaza, which has rightly called the "largest open air prison in the world," to Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, on July 22 Israeli forces demolished scores of homes in Sur Baher, a Palestinian village that straddles East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Parts of Sur Baher lie inside the municipal boundary of East Jerusalem, Israeli-occupied and still a point of contention, and parts lie outside the apartheid wall that Israel has built between itself and the West Bank. However, some parts of the village lie in between: outside the boundary of Jerusalem but still on the Israeli side of the barrier, which there, as in several other places, wrongfully intrudes into the West Bank. Because it outside the boundary of Jerusalem, the area is ostensibly under control of the Palestinian Authority.

Israel doesn't care. It declared those houses "illegal" because they didn't have Israeli building permits, which are almost impossible for Palestinians to get and ignoring that the area is supposed to be under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. It also declared them a "security risk" because of their proximity to the fence - a risk, never forget, that Israel created by building the damn fence - and then used those excuses to demolish the homes and drive out the residents.

The move was denounced by Amnesty International, calling it "part of a systematic pattern by the Israeli authorities to forcibly displace Palestinians in the occupied territories," actions which which "amount to war crimes."

In joint statement, three key officials of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs declared that "Israel's policy of destroying Palestinian property is not compatible with its obligations under international humanitarian law."

The European Union issued a statement opposing the operation, which said in part that
Israel's settlement policy, including actions taken in that context, such as forced transfers, evictions, demolitions, and confiscations of homes, is illegal under international law.
So here's the deal: If you think that shooting nonviolent protesters in the world's largest outdoor prison, if you think an on-going policy that "amounts to war crimes," is in violation of international law, and amounts to at least a type of ethnic cleansing, if you think that is not a valid basis for an economic boycott, especially one against a nation whose leader, Benjamin Netan-yo-yo, has proven himself a liar and a hypocrite with regard to the two-state solution in which our own leaders claim to believe so fervently, if you think that is not sufficient cause for a nonviolent economic boycott, then I would challenge you to come up with a program for justice in the Middle East that does not involve suppression of Constitutional rights here and passive submission by Palestinians, dreamy wishful thinking, blind trust in those who have proven their bad faith, or willful blindness and probably all three there.

Just know that if you try, you will fail.

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