17 May 2019

In recent weeks, BDS Australia and its supporters, particularly in the Australian Greens and the ALP, have been the subject of concerted attacks in the pages of the Murdoch press and the Australian Jewish community media.

#BDS is an international grassroots campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005. In the face of the repeated failure of official negotiations to secure peace, the boycott movement emerged as a large-scale, civil-society response to Israel’s ongoing, murderous and illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, and the egregious war crimes and violations of human-rights and international law that accompany it.

Since March last year, as UN figures show, the Israeli military has killed no fewer than 271 Gazans and wounded around 30 000 others, mostly during peaceful protests. In that light, the claim that Israel is committed to peace demonstrates a cynical contempt for the truth.

Israel is an apartheid state. It is not a democracy, nor a model of anti-racism, religious tolerance, democratic freedom or indigenous rights, as its supporters ludicrously claim. The accuracy of apartheid as a characterisation of Israel’s practices towards Palestinians has often been confirmed internationally, including by experts in international law. Already in 2013, writing in The European Journal of International Law, John Dugard and John Phelan concluded that ‘Israeli practices in the occupied territory are not only reminiscent of – and, in some cases, worse than – apartheid as it existed in South Africa, but are in breach of the legal prohibition of apartheid.’ A 2017 report for the UN by Emeritus Professor Richard Falk, who will visit Australia in July, and Professor Virginia Tilley, also concluded that ‘Israel has established an apartheid regime that dominates the Palestinian people as a whole.’

People of conscience cannot remain silent while Israel pursues the ruination of Palestinian lives, the confinement of nearly two million people in the open prison of Gaza, the engulfing and de facto annexation of much of the West Bank by illegal settlements, the denial of dispossessed refugees’ right to return to their homes, and the treatment of its own Palestinian citizens as second-class citizens, now constitutionally ratified by last year’s Nation-State law.

Boycotts are a well-established international mechanism of political pressure. BDS aims to end apartheid in Palestine-Israel and secure a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis alike through pressure on those responsible for and complicit with Israeli apartheid, just like the boycott of South Africa did. Far from manifesting racism against Jewish people, as our opponents claim, BDS is an anti-racist campaign, unreservedly opposed to hatred and discrimination in all its forms, and embraced by, among others, many Jews in Israel and elsewhere. The conflation of BDS with anti-semitism is a deliberate tactic used by the Israeli state to slander BDS supporters and to maliciously misrepresent the movement and its aims.

The Greens are to be congratulated on the support they have expressed for Palestinian rights. They have not yet, however, gone far enough. The Greens, along with the ALP and indeed all political parties, must fully embrace Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS.

In its refusal to take a principled and long-needed stand against Israel’s crimes against Palestinian people, Australia has positioned itself as a particularly blinkered and irrational obstacle to peace in the Middle East. BDS Australia urges all Australians committed to peace and justice in the world, and the political parties that represent them, to adopt BDS as a matter of urgency.