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Should firedoglake Take a Position on the Global BDS Movement?

Update: For more information on what Global BDS is (the worldwide campaign to encourage boycott, divestment and sanctions of the Israeli state over treatment of Palestinians) please see the bottom of this essay.*


March 30 is Global BDS Day of Action 2011.  According to the BDS Movement’s web site:

Activists in the Europe and North America held actions over the weekend as a contribution towards tomorrow’s Global BDS Day of Action. Looking at some of the planned actions, today is looking like it is set to be the biggest and widest day of action to date!

–       Flashmobs and BDS demonstrations will take place in dozens of cities, from Rabat to Toronto, from Prague to Melbourne.

–       The international campaign against the Jewish National Fund will be officially launched.

–       New initiatives, resources and campaigns will be launched by groups all over the world.

What is a flashmob?

Here’s one, early today from March 26th, creatively protesting in Grand Central Station:

There have been many BDS flashmob actions over the past year or so.  One, held last year in St. Louis, featuring heroic Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, was removed from youtube because the flashmob singers and dancers used material created by Lady Gaga.  Others remain:

What is the international campaign against the Jewish National Fund?

Max Blumenthal has managed to document several aspects of the JNF’s ongoing activities inside Israel itself (as opposed to his documentation of Israeli activities in the occupied territories of the West Bank) that remind me of government actions against black citizens in South Africa in the 60s, 70s and 80s.  Here’s a video Max ran at his blog last month “depicting the 17th(!) pogrom against the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib by the criminal syndicate known as the Jewish National Fund and the End Timers at GOD TV,” as Max described it.

The campaign against the JNF has been described by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:

A key pillar of the colonization of Palestine – from the founding of the State of Israel to the present – has been the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL), commonly known in English as the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF enjoys charity status in over 50 countries. This is despite its role in the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land, the theft of their property, the funding of historic and present-day colonies, and the destruction of the natural environment.

Land Day 2011 will welcome the launch of internationally coordinated campaigns to challenge the JNF-KKL. As part of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and until such time as the State of Israel respects and implements international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee and many other organizations call on global civil society to join in a campaign to challenge the JNF.

Why should firedoglake take a position for or against the BDS movement?

I was not in favor of the idea until 2010, even though I have been arguing for and working for Palestinian rights since late in the last century.  What changed my mind in 2010?

1.  The continuing expropriation of Palestinian lands inside Israel itself, in East Jerusalem and in countless places in the West Bank.

2.  The growing strength of the ultra far right in Israeli politics and government ministries.  Just this week the Knesset passed a new “Citizenship Law” that, although watered down from the initially proposed “Loyalty Oath” legislation, leaves much room for further implementation of apartheid policies or worse against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens:

Initially, Israel Beiteinu pushed for legislation requiring a loyalty oath to a “Jewish and democratic” state, but the current law was the compromise that the faction managed to secure from the coalition.

“Another promise made by Israel Beiteinu to its voters has been fulfilled,” responded Lieberman minutes after the vote. “Without loyalty, there can be no citizenship. Any person who harms the country cannot enjoy the benefits of citizenship and its fruit. The law will help confront the phenomenon by which there are those who take advantage of our democracy in order to undermine it, and by which those who are called citizens collaborate with the enemy.”

In a gibe at Arab MKs who presented outspoken and impassioned opposition to the bill, Lieberman added that “unfortunately, we are witness to these incidents even among members of the Knesset.”

3. The brazenly unlawful and unnecessary attack on the MV Mavi Marmara, the hundreds of deaths or injuries in 2011 of Palestinians, almost half of them children, and the continuing insinuation of Israeli-based interest groups into American politics helped spur me toward supporting BDS.

4. Already, before I supported BDS, I felt strongly about the negative effects of Israeli-centric American policies. I was asked this 15 months ago:

I don’t understand your preoccupation with Palistine. How about giving some balanced blog space and advocacy for the oppressed people of countries such as North Korea, Tibet, China, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, etc.?

My reply,  in January 2010:

We don’t send hundreds of billions of American tax dollars to the North Koreans so that they can drop or shoot white phosphorus onto schools and hospitals, where kids like the one at the upper left have to end up dead or looking like him.

We don’t write tax policies that enable the Han Chinese to invest in housing projects that eject Tibetans from their homes in Lhasa.

We don’t cater to lobbyists from Sudan who constantly encourage us to go to all-out war against a neighboring country that hasn’t attacked one of their neighbors in generations.

We don’t have a Pentagon whose offices are stuffed with people with dual Somali-American citizenship, who manufacture false premises to march us into a series of wars in the heart of Africa.

We aren’t experiencing a time when a small group of ruthless Burmese generals and politicians have hijacked Buddhism, turning it into a militant version of what had once been a great religion, and branding anyone who doesn’t believe in a Myanmar expansion version of Buddhism as anti-Burmese or anti-Buddhist.

Additionally, no North Korean, Chinese, Sudanese, Burmese or Somali general, politician, general or warlord is openly bragging that the United States is fighting two wars and threatening to start a third one, on their behalf.

Also, and importantly, there is no large body of American people who openly believe that we need to foster violence in North Korea, Tibet, China, Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan or Burma, so that we may enable the second coming of Jesus Christ, and implement a new age. And there is no cynical tie-in between Columbian politicians who hope to bring money to their country because of some apocolyptic religious myth, and American fundamentalist sects who total in the tens of millions of misguided believers.

I’ve come to actively support the global BDS movement. I encourage others to do the same. I would like to hear the thoughts of readers on whether or not this might be a laudable goal for fdl to also pursue.

*Update: Here is a statement about the origins and goals of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Israeli Government policies against the Palestinian people:

On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.

The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Resources on BDS can be found at the Global BDS web page:


9 July 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Wikipedia article on this movement (includes criticism of the movement, its goals and methods)

Information on Buy Israeli Day (a reaction to the BDS movement)

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Alaska progressive activist, notorious composer and firedoglake devotee.