ABBAS: The Wind of Change 23Apr11 April 23, 2011

by Amin Abbas, A Diaspora Palestinian  -  refused publication by The Australian  -  23 April 2011

Suppose President Obama addressed the Knesset with the following:

“The wind of change is blowing through this region and whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.. and our national policies must take account of it.

Well you understand this better than anyone, you are sprung from Europe, the home of nationalism, here in Israel you have yourselves created a free nation. A new nation. Indeed in the history of our times yours will be recorded as the first of the Jewish nationalists…

will the great experiments.. now being made.. prove so successful .. that the balance will come down in favour of freedom and order and justice? .. What is now on trial is much more than our military strength or our diplomatic and administrative skill. It is our way of life. The uncommitted nations want to see before they choose.”

Replace region with continent, Israel and Jewish with Africa and African and you get extracts from Harold Macmillan’s “Wind of Change” Speech, the prime minister of Britain delivered to the South African parliament in Cape Town in 1960.

In 1962, the UN General Assembly adopted resolution 1761 condemning apartheid South Africa and calling for economic and military boycotts. It only took Australia 23 years to conform, when the world progressively served economic, sports, cultural and academic boycotts.

Australia was not alone in dragging its’ feet to embrace the freedom for the non-whites. The US and Britain considered the ANC terrorists and were protective of the apartheid state vetoing the imposition of UN economic sanctions on South Africa.

Tolerating Apartheid policies was a crime then as it is today. Except that the world has evolved in so many years, Australia itself ended racial discrimination policies in the mid 70s and the US civil rights movement prevailed not long before then.

The recent intense hostility to the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel offers three arguments; Israel policies are not that of apartheid, BDS measures extremist and anti-Semitic should give way to negotiations and that Palestinians themselves would be harmed by it.

In 2009, The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC) released a study confirming Israel policies conform to those of apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The practices exhibit the three ‘pillars’ of apartheid. The first being laws and policies that establish Jewish identity for purposes of law and afford a preferential status and benefits to Jews over non-Jews. The second is to fragment the Palestinian territory to ensure Palestinians remain confined to the reserves designated for them while Israeli Jews enjoy freedom of movement. The third is Israel’s invocation of ‘security’ to validate sweeping restrictions on Palestinian freedoms.

In reality, two people live on the land and only one government controls the lives of everyone that lives on it, always encompassing the “chosen ones” and that is the Israeli government.

Claiming BDS extremist and anti-Semitic is misleading and suggesting only negotiations would resolve the conflict is uninformed. Adopting non-violent measures of economic, academic and cultural boycott is exercising legitimate action to serve human rights and equality against those that commit or tolerate discrimination. Akin to the international movement that liberated the blacks in South Africa, national ones also delivered as in the case of the Montgomery Bus Boycott by the blacks in America and the Swadeshi movement which ended British colonialism in India. None were deemed anti-race then and not all Jews support Israel’s policies today.

The Palestine-Israel conflict is not a borders dispute, an ancient religious struggle or that of two warring countries. Palestine and Israel describe the exact geography representing two different peoples. Six decades on, the former seeking to exist while its people continue to be displaced and the latter fearing for its’ existence as its people continue to flock in. Dividing this geography denies the displaced their legitimate right of return to their homes and displaces even more to make the split happen.

The customary proposition to resort to negotiations is an insult to Palestinians after 63 years of suffering, last 20 out of which were devoted to empty negotiations. When the powerful and the powerless negotiate an ever expanding set of concessions emerge, but never peace. This is precisely what the leaked Palestinian papers showed us. Only global BDS can provide the essential non-violent balance.

Claims that Palestinians will be harmed are deceiving. In fact Palestinian civil society called for BDS. Israelis of Palestinian origin living in their birthplace are considered a fifth column by many including the Moldavian-born Minister of Foreign affairs Avigdor Lieberman. Candidates for potential “transfer”, they have a vested interest in ending their status as second class citizens in their own country. BDS has succeeded in ending exactly that. The rest, behind a concrete wall in the West bank or under siege in Gaza, have nothing to lose. Claims of damaging the economic prosperity of the West bank or preventing Israeli medical help for Gaza can surely be tolerated, as neither ever truly existed.

In the age of universal human rights, acts of colonisation, collective punishment and discrimination must end. The age of global social justice and global social media, gives everyone everywhere a choice. The wind of change is blowing, and time may judge those making the wrong choice harshly.

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