Boycott, divestment and sanctions

Justice Lovin

There are a lot of terrible things going on in the world today—horrible, awful things that any decent person feels an obligation to condemn and fight against when they learn about them. There are so many things one can’t possibly do something about all of them. That’s the beauty of the boycott; you can help people by not doing something, in this case, by not buying products from companies that fund immoral and unethical practices both here in the U.S. and abroad.

One particular boycott, which deserves much more support than it’s gotten lately, is the BDS movement lead by the anti-apartheid activists in Palestine. The BDS, or boycott, divestment and sanctions, movement calls for people all over the world to withdraw their support from products and businesses that give money to the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and for international sanctions to be used against apartheid in the Middle East as they were against South Africa in the ‘80s.

Critics of the BDS movement will typically call it anti-Semitic, but this is untrue. The BDS movement does not seek to create ethnic or religious persecution but rather to end it. The non-government organization Human Rights Watch has repeatedly condemned Israel for major violations of international human rights laws including “unlawful killings; forced displacement; abusive detention; the closure of the Gaza Strip and other unjustified restrictions on movement; and the development of settlements, along with the accompanying discriminatory policies that disadvantage Palestinians.”

Other critics will make some version of the ‘violence on both sides’ argument. This also is inaccurate and inappropriate. While it is true that some Palestinians have retaliated with violence, they have not done so on nearly the same scale as the violence they have been subjected to. A Vox article claiming to document “every person killed in the Israel Palestine conflict since 2000” shows that between 2005 and 2014, 96 percent of those who were killed were Palestinians.

Moreover, a UN human rights council report has concluded that the Israeli armed forces have “sought to construct a scope for their activities that, in the Mission’s view, was designed to have inevitably dire consequences for the non-combatants in Gaza,” which is to say that in addition to arresting and imprisoning hundreds of Palestinian children, the IDF has targeted civilians and done so on a much larger scale than Palestinian forces have.

The Israeli state is a racist, colonial state. It has different laws and rights based on the ethnicity of citizens. It is currently perusing the deportation or incarceration of 40,000 African refugees who, if deported, will almost certainly be killed or subjected to human trafficking. For decades, Israel has pursued policies intended to subjugate and displace the indigenous Palestinian people. As such, any moral person ought to condemn and oppose the IDF. The very least one can do is to abstain from supporting apartheid by participating in the BDS movement.