Here are some messages from and about the Middle East we want to share: testimonies from the civilian front line, Arab news updates and links for background, action and protest.

the page below brings most recent posts.
follow these links for previous posts:

January - December 2010
March 16 - December 27, 2009

January 14 - March 4, 2009
December 27, 2008 - January 13, 2009
January 2008 - December 2008
October 2006 - December 2007
Mid August till end of September 2006
August 2006 14 / 13 / 12 / 11 / 10 / 9 / 8 / 7 / 6 / 5 / 4 / 3 / 1
July 2006 31 / 30 / 29 / 28 / 27 / 26 / 25 / 23 / 22 / 21 / 20 / 19 / 18 / 17 / 16 / 15 / 11 / 8 / 6 / 5

send feedback to sonicsquare(at)

We're posting on a very irregular basis, so please follow these links for most recent news and updates:

Electronic Intifada:
Vrede.Be (voor acties en intiatieven in België):
The Guardian's Gaza page
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel:
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions for Palestine
Laila al Haddad's blog about gaza:
Stop the wall
information clearing house:


here's a longer list


From: BNC
Date: Friday, october 14, 2011 13:01:42 GMT+02:00
Subject: Occupy Wall St. not Palestine!

Occupy Wall Street not Palestine!

We are part of the world’s 99% yearning for freedom, justice and equal rights!


If a people one day wills to live fate must answer its call

And the night must fade and the chain must break


-- Abou-Al-kacem El-Chebbi (Tunisia)


Occupied Palestine, October 13 -The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest Palestinian civil society coalition struggling for Palestinian rights, is proud to stand in solidarity with the movements struggling for a new world based on democracy, human rights and economic justice. From New York to Athens, from Madrid to Santiago, from Bahrain to Rome, these huge mobilisations provide a much needed reminder of something that Palestinians have always known – that another world, a dignifying one, is possible and ordinary people can create it.

Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rights, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace. We can no longer afford to be splintered and divided; we can no longer ignore our obligations to join hands in the struggle against wars and corporate exploitation and for a human-friendly world community not a profit-maximizing jungle.

The Occupy Wall Street movement and its counterparts across the US, Europe, Latin America and elsewhere are -- at least partially -- inspired by the Arab Spring for democracy and social justice. Leaders of the Arab popular revolts tell us that they, in turn, were largely inspired by our own, decades-old struggle against Israel’s occupation of our land, its system of discrimination that matches the UN’s definition of apartheid, and its denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return home.

The rapidly emerging movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law is a key and effective part of the Palestinian struggle. Anchored in universal principles of human rights and struggling for freedom, justice and equality, the BDS movement, established in 2005, is deeply rooted in decades of Palestinian peaceful resistance to colonial oppression and is inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid as well as the civil rights movement in the US. It is adopted by a near consensus among Palestinians everywhere, with all the main political parties, trade unions, professional syndicates, women’s unions, student groups, NGO networks and refugee advocacy networks represented in the BNC, the reference for this growing movement to end Israeli impunity.

The Palestinian-led BDS movement is a global effort of groups, from South Africa to Britain, from Canada to India, and within Israel itself, all committed to ending Israel’s denial of basic Palestinian rights. It is endorsed by towering moral leaders of the calibre of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Holocaust survivor and co-author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Stephane Hessel. It is supported by world renowned cultural and intellectual figures such as Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, Roger Waters, Judith Butler, Sarah Schulman, John Berger, Ken Loach, John Greyson, and Adrienne Rich. Massive trade union federations such as COSATU (South Africa), CUT (Brazil), TUC (UK), ICTU (Ireland), among many others, have also adopted BDS.

The movement has scored in the last two years some spectacular achievements when internationally renowned artists and music groups heeded the cultural boycott of Israel and refused to perform there or cancelled scheduled appearances. These have included the Pixies, Elvis Costello, Snoop Dogg, Meg Ryan, Vanessa Paradis, Gil Scott-Heron, among many others. The Norwegian state pension fund, among others, major European banks and some corporations have all been convinced to divest from businesses implicated in Israel’s violations of international law. Increasingly, BDS is recognized as a civic movement capable of ending Israeli impunity and, crucially, contributing to the global struggle against the war-mongering, racist agenda which Israel has persistently played a key role in.

So as you break your own chains and build your own effective resistance against corporate tyranny, we ask you to demand a just peace for all the peoples in the Middle East, based on international law and equal human rights. Palestinians, too, are part of the 99% around the world that suffer at the hands of the 1% whose greed and ruthless quest for hegemony have led to unspeakable suffering and endless war. Corporate power has not just profited from our suffering but has colluded in maintaining Israel’s occupation and apartheid to perpetuate an unjust order that profits oil and military companies and multinational financial institutions.

We call upon all the spreading social movements of the world to think critically when considering their attitude towards the Israeli ‘social justice’ protests, which have almost completely ignored the key issue at the heart of all of the problems faced by ordinary Palestinians and even Israelis: Israel’s costly system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people. Without putting an end to that multi-tiered Israeli system of oppression, our entire region will never enjoy a comprehensive and lasting peace, one that is based on justice and human rights.

Money for jobs, health and education, not for racist oppression and occupation!


Nowhere is this more important than in the United States. Despite Israel’s persistent denial of Palestinian rights, the US has provided Israel with unconditional political and military assistance that directly contributes to the denial of Palestinian rights, but also to the problems faced by ordinary US citizens. Could the $24bn of military aid provided to Israel in the period 2000-2009 not been better spent on schools, healthcare and other essential services? Did Israel not play a major role in prodding the US to launch and continue its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, at immense human and material cost, mainly borne by the poorest in those countries?

But, we must remind ourselves all the time that this struggle will never be easy, and reaching our objectives never inevitable. As Martin Luther King once said:

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent."

The refreshing scenes of determined peaceful protest for justice from around the world tell us that we, the 99% of the world, are in the process of straightening our backs, collectively, with unwavering fortitude and boundless hope.

BNC Secretariat


From: Omar Barghouti
Date: Tuesday, september 27, 2011 11:09:56 GMT+02:00
Subject: UN Application of the State of Palestine - Disappearing the PLO - Part 2

In response to my quick note yesterday (which Mondoweiss has posted) on the Palestinian application for UN membership and the expected damage to Palestinian interests it entails, some readers have inquired whether Annex II to the membership application sufficiently addresses the concerns that many have raised.

The quick answer is, of course NOT. This is why I've ignored it. It is irrelevant.

I am not a lawyer (at all), but I have some common sense, some logic, and I've read enough to remain very alarmed about this whole process.

Here’s the language from Annex II that is being referred to:

"Palestine’s application for membership is made consistent with the rights of the Palestine refugees in accordance with international law and the relevant United Nations resolutions, including General Assembly resolution 194 (III) (1948), and with the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people." [Emphasis added]

During the debate leading to the submission of this membership application, some Palestinian officials had said that they can address the legitimate concerns -- arising from replacing the PLO by the “State of Palestine” at the UN -- by including language in the application letter that explicitly says that this application for membership is submitted “without prejudice” to the status of the PLO or to the Palestinian right of return, in accordance with UNGA 194. This “without prejudice” phrase was finally not adopted; it was replaced by this “made consistent with,” which does not carry the same weight, clearly. But even the “without prejudice” phrase would have been almost as politically irrelevant in reality, even if it sounds legally more solid.

You simply and logically cannot actually replace the PLO as the representative of the Palestinian people at the UN by some hypothetical “State of Palestine,” which at best would represent its “citizens” within its “borders” (whatever Israel is kind enough to “concede” to us!), while claiming that such a move is "consistent with" or does not "prejudice" the current status of the PLO. It does, without doubt, and no fancy phrasing can change that.

After all, this is not about undermining the legality of our rights (they remain valid no matter what), but about the political representation and our ability to assert them in international forums, especially the UN. Removing the PLO from the UN seat thus denies most Palestinians the one voice that can speak for all our inalienable rights.

If some army general, say, impeaches a president and imposes some other figure instead but writes in the affirmation oath that such a change is done “without prejudice” to the former’s status, what in reality would that mean? The first president, legally, may still claim legitimacy, but he cannot assert any power from the dungeons where he was thrown! The problem is when the said general presents himself as representing the people, no less. That makes the legitimacy claim of the deposed president even more tenuous in front of the world.

Even if outside the UN the PLO will continue to be regarded by Palestinians as our true legitimate representative, the fact that we have another representative recognized by the UN speaking on our behalf (or at least on behalf of a minority among us) jeopardizes our claim to our comprehensive rights and our political ability to assert them. We cannot have two representatives, one “domestic,” and one at the UN!

The PLO already enjoys recognition by most of the world. It already has an observer status at the UN. It formally represents the entire Palestinian people and our rights. It has, by proxy, already won an ICJ ruling against Israel's wall and colonies in the OPT (and did absolutely nothing with it!). Why do we need membership for a hypothetical state that will, without doubt, undermine our struggle for our basic rights by denying most Palestinians any representation at the world's most important forum?



From: Omar Barghouti
Date: Monday, september 26, 2011 16:25:27 GMT+02:00
Subject: UN Application of the State of Palestine - Disappearing the PLO

As expected, rhetoric notwithstanding, the actual application -- reproduced below -- submitted by Mr. Abbas to the UN General Secretary for admission of the "State of Palestine" as a full member in the UN does not contain any clause that may arguably protect the status of the PLO as the sole, legitimate representative of the entire Palestinian people.

For fairness, Abbas did, without doubt, raise the ceiling of his political and legal discourse from -10 to just about +50 (out of a 100). His description of Israel as an apartheid state (twice); his mention of the 1948 Nakba and dispossession; his condemnation of Israeli state terrorism; his endorsement of peaceful resistance (it is not everyday that Abbas even utters the R word!), etc. were all appreciated departures from his usual, lackluster, compromised, low-ceiling discourse, for sure.

Still, the fact remains that the very application for membership undermines Palestinian interests and directly jeopardizes the representation of most Palestinians at the UN and their ability to politically assert their inalienable rights. While our inalienable rights cannot be voided or extinguished by this or any other "diplomatic" maneuver, our ability to struggle for these rights in international forums will be severely damaged if the PLO is replaced by this imaginary "State of Palestine" at the UN.

Also, nothing has changed about the fact that we do not have a democratically elected leadership that is mandated to speak for all of us. It is more urgent than ever to revive -- or what I've called, TAKE BACK -- the PLO from the grassroots up by holding free, democratic, representative, inclusive elections for the Palestine National Council (PNC), our parliament in exile, in which every Palestinian is formally represented.

I, therefore, stand by every word I'd written in my opinion column prior to Abbas's UN speech. Here's a link to my article, for convenience:

Also, even in his speech, Abbas repeated his religious commitment to the patently futile and damaging "negotiations" and, more crucially, to the most dangerous concession ever made by any Palestinian official -- replacing the inalienable right of the Palestinian refugees to return, in accordance with UN res. 194, with the "just and agreed upon solution" adopted in the so-called Arab Peace Initiative under heavy pressures from the US. This formulation effectively gives Israel veto power over our refugees' return. Not to mention Abbas's failure, still, to even mention the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality. He did, to his credit, describe them for the first time as Palestinians, when in the past he used to consider them, more or less, part of Israel's "domestic issues."

It is not for nothing that Israel's wisest Zionist, Shimon Peres, today called Abbas "the best Palestinian leader Israel will work with."


Haaretz 25.09.11

Application of the State of Palestine for Admission to
Membership in the United Nations

23 September 2011

Application of the State of Palestine for Admission to Membership in the United Nations


I have the profound honor, on behalf of the Palestinian people, to submit this application of the State of Palestine for admission to membership in the United Nations.

This application for membership is being submitted based on the Palestinian people's natural, legal and historic rights and based on United Nations General Assembly resolution 181 (II) of 29 November 1947 as well as the Declaration of Independence of the State of Palestine of 15 November 1988 and the acknowledgement by the General Assembly of this Declaration in resolution 43/177 of 15 December 1988.

In this connection, the State of Palestine affirms its commitment to the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the vision of two-States living side by side in peace and security, as endorsed by the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly and the international community as a whole and based on international law and all relevant United Nations resolutions.

For the purpose of this application for admission, a declaration made pursuant to rule 58 of the Provisional Rules of Procedure of the Security Council and rule 134 of the Rules of Procedure of the General Assembly is appended to this letter.

I should be grateful if you would transmit this letter of application and the declaration to the Presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly as soon as possible.

Mahmoud Abbas
President of the State of Palestine
Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization


To see the full Palestinian application for UN statehood:


From: Omar Barghouti
Date: Wednesday, march 23, 2011 13:25:10 GMT+01:00
Subject: Barghouti: I Wish You Egypt! (Huffington Post)

Omar Barghouti Founding member, BDS movement
Posted: March 22, 2011 06:02 PM

An open letter to people of conscience in the West.

I wish you Egypt!

I wish you empowerment to resist; to fight for social and economic justice; to win your real freedom and equal rights.

I wish you the will and skill to break out of your carefully concealed prison walls. See, in our part of the world, prison walls and thick inviolable doors are all too overt, obvious, over-bearing, choking; this is why we remain restive, rebellious, agitated, and always in preparation for our day of freedom, of light, when we gather a critical mass of people power enough to cross all the hitherto categorical red lines. We can then smash the thick, cold ugly, rusty chains that have incarcerated our minds and bodies for all our lives like the overpowering stench of a rotting corpse in our claustrophobic prison cell.
Your prison cells, however, are quite different. The walls are well hidden lest they evoke your will to resist. There is no door to your prison cell -- you may roam about "freely," never recognizing the much larger prison you are still confined to.

I wish you Egypt so you can decolonize your minds, for only then can you envision real liberty, real justice, real equality, and real dignity.

I wish you Egypt so you can tear apart the sheet with the multiple-choice question, "what do you want?", for all the answers you are given are dead wrong. Your only choice there seems to be between evil and a lesser one.

I wish you Egypt so you can, like the Tunisians, the Egyptians, the Libyans, the Bahrainis, the Yemenis, and certainly the Palestinians, shout "No! We do not want to select the least wrong answer. We want another choice altogether that is not on your damned list." Given the choice between slavery and death, we unequivocally opt for freedom and dignified life -- no slavery, and no death.

I wish you Egypt so you can collectively, democratically, and responsibly re-build your societies; to reset the rules so as to serve the people, not savage capital and its banking arm; to end racism and all sorts of discrimination; to look after and be in harmony with the environment; to cut wars and war crimes, not jobs, benefits and public services; to invest in education and healthcare, not in fossil fuel and weapons research; to overthrow the repressive, tyrannical rule of multinationals; and to get the hell out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and everywhere else where under the guise of "spreading democracy" your self-righteous crusades have spread social and cultural disintegration, abject poverty and utter hopelessness.

I wish you Egypt so you can fulfill your countries' legal and moral obligations to help rebuild the ravished, de-developed economies and societies of your former -- or current -- colonies, so that their young men can find their own homelands viable, livable and lovable again, instead of risking death -- or worse -- on the high seas to reach your mirage-washed shores, giving up loved ones and a place they once called home. You see, they're "here" because you were there... and we all know what you did there!

I wish you Egypt so you can rekindle the spirit of the South African anti-apartheid struggle by holding Israel accountable to international law and universal principles of human rights, by adopting boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS), called for by an overwhelming majority in Palestinian civil society. There is no more effective, non-violent way to end Israel's occupation, racial discrimination and decades-old denial of the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return.

Our oppression and yours are deeply interrelated and intertwined -- it is never a zero-sum game! Our joint struggle for universal rights and freedoms is not merely a self gratifying slogan that we raise; rather, it is a fight for true emancipation and self determination, an idea whose time has vociferously arrived.

After Egypt, it is our time. It is time for Palestinian freedom and justice. It is time for all the people of this world, particularly the most exploited and downtrodden, to reassert our common humanity and reclaim control over our common destiny.

I wish you Egypt!

Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian human rights activist, former resident of Egypt, and author of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS): The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights (Haymarket: 2011)


From: BNC
Date: Thu 17 Feb 2011 09:29:40 GMT+01:00
Subject: The "Palestine Papers": Grave Palestinian concessions met with utter Israeli rejectionism

*****Please disseminate widely*****

BDS National Committee (BNC)

The "Palestine Papers": Grave Palestinian concessions met with utter Israeli rejectionism

With revolutionary change across the Arab World eroding Israel's power in the region, BDS has become a key strategy of the Palestinian people for a global struggle to hold Israel accountable and assert our inalienable rights under international law

Occupied Palestine, 17 February 2011 – The recent public exposure of a large number of documents related to the U.S.-sponsored "peace process" between Israel and Palestinian officials provides hard evidence, if any was needed, not only of readiness on the part of unrepresentative Palestinian "negotiators" to concede basic Palestinian rights, but also of Israel's rejectionism and unwillingness to negotiate even an unjust and unsustainable peace. The leaked documents also reveal the arm-twisting employed by international "peace brokers" to compel – unelected -- Palestinian officials to serve Israel's expansionist and colonial agenda through the surrender of UN-sanctioned rights of the Palestinian people. It is now clearer than ever that the so-called negotiations were never based on principles of international law and human rights and never promoted just peace.

With popular revolutions scoring immense successes in the region, particularly in Egypt, against despotic regimes that were deeply implicated in protecting Israel and complicit in its war crimes and crimes against humanity, Israel's impunity, intimidation and "deterrence" power, and its ability to maintain occupation, colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people have been substantially weakened. The lightening speed at which democratization and freedom are taking hold in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab states ruled by authoritarian regimes will undoubtedly boost Palestinian popular resistance, including the boycott movement, in an unprecedented way.

In light of these radical developments in the region, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) calls upon people of conscience worldwide to view these documents ("Palestine Papers") as the final nail in the coffin of the so-called "peace process." We urge international civil society and concerned citizens of the world to redouble support for the more ethically consistent and effective alternative: a dignified and rights-based strategy for just peace, in particular the Palestinian civil society-led, global Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and respects the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.

The recently published documents include protocols, maps and correspondence from almost 10 years of political negotiations, including direct meetings between Palestinian and Israeli delegations and preparatory talks with U.S. officials, as well as summaries of numerous meetings in which U.S. and European official and non-official parties exert pressure on what seemed to be pliant Palestinian counterparts. A series of papers from the preparatory meetings of the latest round of failed peace summits (2007 Annapolis Conference) document Israel's rejection of a joint platform based on the traditional two-state model for peace, i.e., a Palestinian state alongside Israel, and the persistent efforts of then Israeli Prime Minister Tzipi Livni to extract recognition of the racist concept of the "Jewish state" from the Palestinian negotiators, who refused to accede to this dictate. Livni’s words, “I am a lawyer… But I am against law - international law in particular. Law in general,”[1] uttered during a negotiating session are telling of Israeli contempt for international law and disregard of Palestinian rights.

While the "Palestine Papers" have not revealed any major news that was unknown to keen Palestinian and international observers, they have painted a detailed picture of a negotiation process characterized by disrespect of ethical and legal standards, lacking any accountability (especially on the Palestinian side), and fraught with blatant unwillingness of Israel and international actors to address the real obstacles to just peace, i.e., Israel's ongoing practice of apartheid, colonialism and occupation.

In summary, the "Palestine Papers" offer a glimpse of the reality of 20 years of "peace" making which has failed because the U.S. and the Quartet as sponsors have ignored what the United Nations has recognized at least since 1974, i.e., that exercise of the inalienable rights of self-determination, independence and sovereignty by the Palestinian people, and return of the Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties from which their were uprooted, constitute the key preconditions for achieving just peace (UN General Assembly Resolution 3236). In other words, Israel's three-tiered system of oppression must be brought to an end before any real peace negotiations can succeed. Peace talks should be conditioned upon recognition by all parties of the applicability of relevant precepts of international law, human rights principles, and the inalienable rights of the indigenous Palestinian people, paramount among which is the right to self determination. Negotiations can then focus on the modalities and timelines of implementing international law, not on whether or not to recognize its reference.

The BDS Campaign against Israel presents a strategic alternative on this basis. Guided by the 2005 BDS call, the Palestinian civil society-led global BDS Campaign focuses on the comprehensive rights of the Palestinian people and strives to realize them through dismantling Israel's discriminatory and oppressive regime over the Palestinian people in its entirety. Specifically, the BDS Call highlights the three basic rights that constitute the minimal requirements for the Palestinian people to exercise its right to self determination: ending the 1967 occupation and colonization; ending the institutionalized and legalized system of racial discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel; and recognizing and enabling the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin and receive reparations. Only thus can comprehensive and lasting peace be built.

Palestinian citizens of Israel have for more than six decades faced a system of discrimination enshrined in law. This system is now being further entrenched by a raft of new legislation that aims to undermine Palestinian rights in all areas of life.[2] At this crucial time, the demand that these1.3m Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up one-fifth of the population of Israel, enjoy full equality is more important than ever. Any proposal for a just peace must enshrine this basic demand for equality.

As for the refugees, at the end of 2008, there were at least 7.1 million displaced Palestinians, representing 67 percent of the entire Palestinian population (10.6 million) worldwide. Among them were at least 6.6 million refugees and 427,000 internally displaced persons.[3] The denial of these refugees' right of return has been described by Prof. John Dugard, former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as “perhaps the greatest injustice of the post-World War II period, and certainly the most long-standing.” The right of return is at the heart of the question of Palestine.

Rooted in a century of popular, non-violent Palestinian struggle against settler-colonialism and – later – dispossession and apartheid, and largely inspired by the heroic struggle against apartheid in South Africa, the BDS Campaign for Palestinian rights has scored major successes since its launch less than six years ago, confirming the effectiveness of its rights-based approach. Two recent developments attest to the spectacular growth of the Campaign's influence. A few weeks ago, 155 Israeli scholars, including Israel Prize laureates, have called for a boycott of the colonial Ariel College due to its existence on occupied Palestinian land in contravention of international law.[4] Around the same time, the Jewish Federations of North America announced a $6m fund to counter BDS and other efforts accused of promoting the “deligitmization” of Israel.[5] The two examples, coupled with the characterization of BDS as a "strategic threat" by top Israeli officials, show that the BDS movement, which has a vibrant and growing Israeli chapter, is creating significant fear in the Israeli establishment of becoming the world pariah in the way that South Africa once was. Visible and effective BDS action is striking real victories against Israeli apartheid and its complicit institutions and is in turn creating a challenge to the colonial consensus within Israeli society.

In response to the publication of the "Palestine Papers," the Palestinian BDS National Committee reiterates the centrality of recognizing and implementing the full set of rights of all Palestinians and the need for credible alternatives, in particular of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law and respects Palestinian rights. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu once wrote, “I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”[6]


[2] and






From: Al mamal Foundation
Date: Monday, february 14, 2011 12:37:08 GMT+01:00
Subject: Congratulations Egypt


From: Omar Barghouti
Date: Tuesday, february 1, 2011 20:56:47 GMT+01:00
Subject: Why is BDS a Moral Duty Today? A Response to Bernard-Henri Levy (Huffington Post)

Why Is BDS a Moral Duty Today?

A Response to Bernard-Henri Levy

Omar Barghouti

Founding member, BDS movement

Huffington Post: February 1, 2011

In his angry attack on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, Mr. Bernard-Henri Levy desperately attempts to smear the movement by presenting a number of patently false, regurgitated, and misleading premises and reaching, as a result, unwarranted, even illogical, conclusions. What Mr. Levy peculiarly tries to hide or obscure are the real objectives of the movement, who stands behind it, and the reasons behind its spectacular rate of growth lately, especially in France and other Western countries.

The fact is the BDS Call was launched by a great majority in Palestinian civil society on July 9, 2005, as a qualitatively new phase in the global struggle for Palestinian freedom, justice, and self-determination. More than 170 leading Palestinian political parties, trade union federations, women's unions, refugee rights groups, NGOs, and grassroots organizations called for a boycott against Israel until it fully complies with its obligations under international law. Rooted in a century-old history of civil, nonviolent resistance against settler colonialism, occupation and ethnic cleansing, the effort recalls how people of conscience in the international community have "historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa," calling upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to "impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era."

Since 2008, the BDS movement has been led by the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations inside historic Palestine and in exile, the BDS National Committee (BNC). Anchored in deep respect for international law and universal human rights, the movement has spread across the world, empowering and mobilizing creative energies and emphasizing sensitivity to the particularities of each context. BDS activists anywhere select their own targets and set the tactics that best suit their political and cultural environment. The fact that BDS categorically rejects racism of all sorts, including anti-Semitism, has further increased its appeal among liberal and progressive movements everywhere.

While several leading BDS activists openly endorse the unitary state solution, most of the members of the coalition leading the movement still subscribe to the two-state solution. This is, however, an irrelevant issue, as the BDS movement, being strictly rights-based, has consistently avoided taking any position regarding the one-state/two-states debate, emphasizing instead the three basic rights that need to be realized in any political solution. Ending the Israeli occupation that started in 1967 of all Arab territories, ending Israel's system of legalized and institutionalized discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, and recognizing the UN-sanctioned rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes of origin are the three basic principles of the movement. Everything else is secondary and tactical.

Mr. Levy completely misrepresents my position on the matter. Citing a 2003 article of mine, he outlandishly claims that I endorse a "two-Palestines" solution. Here are my exact words: "... one must not deny that the right of return of Palestinian refugees does contradict the requirements of a negotiated two-state solution. Israel simply will never accept it, making it the Achilles' heel of any negotiated two-state solution, as the record has amply shown." The point was that a negotiated two-state solution will de facto exclude the right of two-thirds of the Palestinians, the refugees, to return to their homes, as all refugees are entitled to according to international law.

For more than 27 years, I've consistently and openly advocated a secular, democratic state in the entire area of historic Palestine, where everyone enjoys equal rights, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or any identity attribute. This, to my mind, is the most ethically-consistent formula that can accommodate the inalienable Palestinian right to self determination, including the return of refugees, with the rights of all the inhabitants of the land to justice, peace, dignity and democratic rights. Regardless, even if my real position on this issue were presented by Mr. Levy, extrapolating from this alleged position of mine to implicate the entire BDS movement not only lacks intellectual honesty; it is logically equivalent to claiming that the anti-war movement in France, say, is plotting to replace the capitalist system with a socialist order based on having a communist (or one merely claimed to be a communist) among its leaders.

Like any large, democratic coalition of groups that is built on common principles but espouses and dearly respects pluralism, the BDS movement, as anyone can conclude from examining the huge record of official statements and documents issued in the last five years, does not endorse any specific political solution to this colonial conflict. The common denominator of the movement is upholding Palestinian rights in accordance with international law.

Another serious fallacy in Mr. Levy's article is his rhetorical characterization of Israel as a "democracy." South Africa was also the only "democracy" in Africa during apartheid. The U.S. was a "democracy," as well, when in the South millions of African-Americans were thoroughly segregated and racially oppressed. An ethnocentric state, like Israel, that discriminates by law against people who are not Jewish and that occupies, forcibly displaces, colonizes and commits what leading international law experts and human rights organizations describe as war crimes, cannot remotely be called a democracy. If France were to adopt laws discriminating against its Jewish citizens and favoring its Catholic citizens, would we call it a democracy?

Former South African government minister Ronnie Kasrils and British author Victoria Brittain addressed this point quite well. They wrote:

The desire for an ethnic-religious majority of Israeli Jews has seeped across from the occupied territories to permeate the Israeli 'national' agenda... The Palestinian minority in Israel has for decades been denied basic equality in health, education, housing and land possession, solely because it is not Jewish. The fact that this minority is allowed to vote hardly redresses the rampant injustice in all other basic human rights. They are excluded from the very definition of the "Jewish state", and have virtually no influence on the laws, or political, social and economic policies. Hence their similarity to the black South Africans.

Furthermore, at a time when a wave of popular uprisings is sweeping the Arab region, demanding freedoms, social justice and democracy, it is quite telling, if largely expected, to see Israel -- and the US government -- in such a panic and uproar, standing on the wrong side of history, with despots and authoritarian regimes against the people. Unnerved by the storm of criticism, albeit polite, of the Egyptian dictatorship by its hitherto European allies and even some in the US administration, Israel has launched a diplomatic campaign to convince key capitals to support Hosni Mubarak lest stability is lost and Israel's other despotic friends in the region feel abandoned.

In Tunisia, as well, the vaunted electronic surveillance apparatus of the former dictator Ben-Ali was run in close cooperation with Israel, as Tunisian civil society organizations systematically reported. With more of Israel's friends in the region being dethroned, it is becoming abundantly clear how much Israel and its Western partners have invested in safeguarding and buttressing the unelected, autocratic regimes in the Arab world, partially to make a self-fulfilling prophecy of Israel as the "villa in the midst of the jungle" -- the myth often repeated by Israel's lobby groups.

The fact that Israel was for decades apartheid South Africa's best friend, helping it to develop nuclear weapons, to crush popular resistance by the black majority, and to dodge the widespread boycott against it has not helped Israel's case in projecting a deceptive brand of democracy and enlightenment either.

Finally, regarding the patently misleading and unfounded claim that a boycott of Israeli products is tantamount to boycotting "Jewish merchandise," one can only ask whether a boycott of Sudan, or Saudi Arabia, for that matter, would be considered Islamophobic? Was the boycott against South Africa anti-Christian? Why the double standard when it comes to Israel? The BDS movement against Israel could not care less whether it is a Jewish, Muslim, Catholic or Hindu state; all that matters is that it is a colonial oppressor that persistently denies the Palestinian people their basic rights. Is this too difficult to understand? A boycott of Israel today is a moral duty for all those who care about the rule of law and universal rights for all humans, equally.


Omar Barghouti is a founding member of the BDS movement and author of " Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights," (Haymarket, 2011).



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