Do Unto Others focuses on the Middle East, (nonviolent) social movements, and how I make sense of my place in the world. I'm currently based in Cairo, Egypt doing peacebuilding and community development.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Shocks and Boycotts

On July 1st, I attended my first ever book launch event. But, it wasn't so much as a book launch event as it was an occasion to call for an economic and cultural boycott of the State of Israel.

In The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism (a MUST read), Naomi Klein documents the rise of free-market fundamentalism around the world. Klein suggests that widespread fundamentalist economic reforms take place after a major shock has occurred (hurricanes, tsunamis, terrorist attacks, bombing campaigns, etc.). For more see the Shock Doctrine website and the NY Times review.

Naomi Klein has been in Israel/Palestine for the last week because her book has been translated into Hebrew and Arabic. This is especially relevant because Klein dedicates a chapter of her book to the boom in Israel's economy that resulted from the continuous 'war on terror' and occupation of the Palestinian territories. Israel's economy is largely built upon the security and defense industries, and has marketed that expertise around the world. Israel thrives financially on continual destabilization in the region, specifically in the Palestinian territories.

Now that you have been briefed, and maybe convinced to buy the book (there's also lots of good stuff about the War in Iraq and Hurricane Katrina), I want to talk a bit more about Naomi's speech.

Klein's itinerary in the Holy Land involved participating in the weekly nonviolent protest against the separation wall in Bil'in, speaking engagements in Jerusalem, Ramallah, Haifa, Jaffa, and she also spent 2 days in Gaza. I saw her speak in Haifa, just after she had returned from Gaza, and she decided not to speak about her book because she wanted to tell some stories from what she saw in Gaza, she felt the stories were more important than the book. She told stories of heartbreak, but one particular thing stood out for me.

Several Gazans shared with Klein the sentiment that during Israel's onslaught in Gaza, there was hope. People, despite the fear, pain, and destruction, had hope. Gazans truly believed that Israel was finally digging it's own grave. The videos, images, and reports of the destruction and annihilation in Gaza were all over the airwaves and the printing presses. The world saw that Israel had innocent blood on its hands. Surely the international community would put pressure on Israel, and things would be different. Gazans believed that they would be entitled to something more than living in the biggest-open-air prison in the world, the Gaza Strip. But alas, six months after hundreds of Palestinian children were slaughtered by Israeli bombs, the siege continues, Gaza remains destroyed, and people continue to camp in the rubble of their former homes, as they mourn the loss of their loved ones.

Klein used this point to transition into her main point of the night, a call for the boycott of Israel. She emphasized this boycott is not against Israelis, but is against Israel. It is a boycott of the Israel economy and Israeli institutions. It is a call for individuals, churches, institutions, governments to boycott the Israeli economy. To divest from the Israel economy. To place sanctions on the State of Israel. See the website dedicated to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign.

These same tactics were used against South Africa to place pressure on the government to end apartheid. The reason the strategy worked is because once the business sector began to falter because of BDS (boycotts, divestments, and sanctions), it petitioned the South African government for help. The only thing that would 'work' is to end the apartheid system so that BDS would be lifted. In order to keep South Africa afloat, the white government was forced to end apartheid.

Palestinians have exhausted most forms of nonviolent resistance. The 1st intifada was nonviolent, and was crushed violently by Israel. Demonstrations, protests, and actions continue to happen around the world and around Palestine. These acts of resistance need to continue, but it's time to take measures which will force Israel's hand. In the present situation, Israel benefits economically from the occupation, and continues to get unconditional support from the U.S. and continues to develop trade agreements with blocs such as the European Union.

Palestinian groups have been calling for BDS since 2005. It's well past time the international community hears that call. It's time for people of conscious to put pressure on churches, universities, large investors, and governments to boycott Israel.

For too many years, Israel has been granted exception from international law, such as Geneva Conventions and UN Resolutions. Rather than listening to Israel's calls for continued exception, it's time to boycott Israel until they abide by international and end the criminal occupation, siege, and disappearance of the Palestinian people.