This article was published first on The National
The Palestinian cause is not a charity. The international community, however, has often failed to grasp the nature of the struggle for justice, preferring to channel funds to Palestinian “development” projects to compensate for the lack of will to put serious pressure on Israel. That mentality has been challenged by two recent reports that suggest that lip service to justice for Palestinians could be transformed into critical action. The report Trading away peace: How Europe helps sustain the illegal Israeli settlements, written by more than 20 European nongovernmental organisations and published last week, reveals that the value of EU imports from settlements is approximately 15 times the annual value of EU imports from Palestinians.
Moreover, much of the EU money given to Israel for research and development has been used to directly support activities in settlements. The report explains that many European-owned companies are profiting from Israeli settlement and the occupation, such as G4S (UK/Denmark), Alstom (France), Veolia (France) and Heidelberg Cement (Germany).
“If EU aid is to have lasting impact and not only perpetuate the status quo,” the report reads, “governments need to invest not only money, but also political will to address the root causes of Palestinian poverty and aid dependency.”
The authors recommend several measures, including a ban on imports from settlements, a cessation of funding for settlements and the exclusion of settlement products, and of companies operating in settlements, from the public procurement process.
The European NGO report follows another important development: a senior United Nations official formally proposed boycotting companies that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise in the West Bank. In a report to the General Assembly on October 25, special rapporteur Richard Falk wrote this: “My main recommendation is that the businesses [named in the report] – as well as the many other businesses that are profiting from the Israeli settlement enterprise – should be boycotted until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards.”
Mr Falk, a retired international-law professor from Princeton University in New Jersey, reiterated his support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and his advocacy of action by state and non-state actors to hold Israel and all complicit corporations and institutions accountable.
Boycotting the settlements is the minimum that must be done. The settlements, colonisation of Palestinian land and the continuing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians who are being forced from their homes are all part of Israel’s plan. This affects all Palestinians, not only those who are in the territories occupied since 1967. Israel as a whole should be boycotted and isolated to force it to end these policies.
The European report is significant because it asserts that economic boycott is crucial, and the UN report elevates the BDS movement beyond the grassroots level.
The BDS call, asserting comprehensive Palestinian rights, freedom, dignity and the right of return, was launched in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil-society organisations. It has become one of the most effective tactics of Palestinian resistance.
Palestinians have often heard people around the world questioning the effect of any international effort, including BDS, as long as Palestinians lack an effective resistance movement on the ground.
But Palestinian resistance precedes the Nakba and the establishment of Israel in 1948, and it has never stopped. That resistance includes the armed struggle led by the PLO in the 1960s and 1970s, and the two intifadas in 1987 and 2000. Today, resistance takes many different forms, but it is very much alive. Perseverance is a form of resistance in the face of Israel’s continuing attempts to finish the job of 1948, to ethnically cleanse historical Palestine by making life so miserable that we all depart. Another form of resistance is through education and culture.
Prison hunger strikes, popular resistance rallies and various actions are all taking place, attempting to break the apathy of Palestinians.
On the other hand, Palestinians too question the effect of their resistance in the absence of real pressure on Israel from the international community. The support we seek is not charity – Palestinians are seeking justice, not mercy. International aid has established a dependent society, and provided an excuse for donors to take no furher action.
And while world leaders are still far from taking serious action, popular movements in many countries provide precious support for persecuted Palestinians. One of the most crucial elements of this worldwide movement is the BDS campaign.
The boycott movement, popular resistance actions, hunger strikes and other forms of resistance all come from the ground up, bypassing the obsession with the endless “peace process” that has only covered up continuing Israeli crimes.
What Palestinians need now from the rest of the world is to have Mr Falk’s report, the European NGOs’ findings and the BDS campaign translated into concrete actions.