8 Jun, 2015
June 5, 2015 – As organizations committed to freedom, justice, and equality for all peoples in Palestine, Israel, and beyond, we believe the meeting that right-wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson is reportedly holding this weekend in Las Vegas to counter the grassroots boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement is the latest evidence of BDS’ success, and of the moral bankruptcy of its opponents. The meeting is expected to raise millions to counter the growing movement to boycott, divest, and sanction (BDS) Israel’s unequal treatment of the six million Palestinians under its rule. This is the moral equivalent of fundraising to preserve apartheid in South Africa, or Jim Crow in the United States.
For nearly half a century, Palestinians have lived under a form of apartheid in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, denied the most basic of freedoms and rights. They have been ethnically cleansed, imprisoned en masse, walled up in ghettoes, and had their lands stolen and their homes and agricultural crops destroyed. And for nearly 70 years, Palestinian citizens of Israel, who comprise approximately 20% of Israel’s population, have endured systematic discrimination in a state that explicitly privileges Jewish citizens over all others.
In 2005, more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a historic call to the international community for BDS campaigns aimed at protecting Palestinian rights. The BDS movement calls for an end to Israel’s military occupation of Arab lands that began in 1967, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the dismantling of Israel’s Apartheid wall, built mostly on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. It also calls for Palestinian citizens of Israel to be granted full and equal rights, and for Palestinian refugees to be allowed to exercise their internationally recognized legal right to return to homes and lands they were expelled from during Israel’s creation and subsequently. The Palestinian BDS movement was inspired by the US Civil Rights and South Africa anti-Apartheid movements, and promotes peaceful, time-honored tactics that have been used by those seeking justice, human rights, and equality throughout history.
Since the call for BDS was issued a decade ago, people of conscience around the world have taken action to support the Palestinian struggle for freedom and justice. Due to BDS campaigns, numerous companies have stopped operating in the occupied territories, artists have cancelled performances in Israel, and institutions and church groups have divested from corporations that are complicit in Israel’s war crimes.
Here in the United States, a growing number of Americans, especially young people and people of color, are increasingly critical of Israeli policies and supportive of BDS. This is particularly significant considering the United States is the main backer of Israel, providing an estimated $5 billion in military aid in 2015 alone. At the same time, attacks from BDS opponents have been increasing and becoming more vitriolic, with numerous anti-BDS bills being introduced to Congress and at the state level in places like Illinois, and bullying and McCarthyite tactics being used by often anonymous attackers.
The contrast between those who are for the status quo of occupation and apartheid in Palestine and Israel, and those working for freedom and equality for all peoples of the region could not be more clear. On the one side, there is a diverse group of grassroots human rights activists struggling for freedom, justice, and equality, and on the other, a narrow, top-down, anti-democratic, pro-war and pro-occupation movement aimed at maintaining apartheid and ethnic privilege for one group over all others. The fact that this weekend’s anti-BDS summit is being held in the wake of the latest Israeli election, which witnessed a racist campaign by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and brought to power the most extreme, right-wing government in Israel’s history, makes it even more troubling.
In addition to marking the ten-year anniversary of the BDS call, this July will mark the one-year commemoration of Israel’s most recent war on Gaza, which killed an estimated 2,200 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including 500 children. The continued lack of accountability for any of Israel’s war crimes and the reality of an Israeli government openly committed to denying fundamental Palestinian rights and further entrenching its nearly half century old occupation are clear evidence of the importance and urgency of BDS. Attacks from opponents, like those gathering in Las Vegas this weekend, will not succeed in intimidating BDS advocates, or in denying Palestinians their freedom.