In 2005 more than 170 Palestinian civil society organisations launched a call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel (BDS), mirroring the campaign against apartheid South Africa. The BDS movement has been most successful when activists and trade unionists have worked together.
The Egyptian Independent Trade Union Federation, for example, which was established during the revolution, has broken links with Israeli trade union federation, the Histadrut. In Sweden, members of the Dockworkers Union blocked more than 500 containers during a week-long blockade of exports to Israel. The most recent victory is the decision by the Irish National Union of Teachers to fully endorse the academic boycott – becoming the first union to do so.
The continued growth of BDS is significant, especially since many former Palestine activists have (understandably) moved into anti-austerity campaigns. The almost immediate mobilisations against the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2012 are testimony to the pull it still has on the movement.
Furthermore, as Rafeef Ziadah argues in this book: “If we are to wage an effective fight back against neoliberal policies such as privatisation, lay-offs and union busting, then all unions must also stand with workers struggling against oppression internationally.”
There is a fascinating chapter by Ramzy Baroud addressing the historical roots of BDS within the Palestinian liberation struggle. He traces it back to the general strike in 1936 and sees BDS today as the latest stage of that same movement. Other articles take on arguments used against BDS such as those who say it is anti-Semitic, isolates Israeli peace activists or punishes the Israeli working class.
An article by Rifat Odeh Kassis argues compellingly against normalisation. He states that “the goal of ‘balanced dialogue” is impossible in a place where there is no balance, a place of forced silence”.
BDS is a tactic to put pressure on the Israeli state through economic, cultural and academic avenues. What this book puts forward brilliantly is that BDS is not a goal in itself, but rather, is part and parcel of the Palestinian liberation struggle. This growing campaign, in conjunction with the developing political movement in Palestine directly inspired by the Arab Spring, can become the basis for a real political challenge to both the Palestinian National Authority and the occupation.
This book is not only informative but also provides a comprehensive mixture of arguments, ideas and strategies for all of those who want to fight for a better world.
This makes it essential reading for every Palestinian solidarity activist today.
Generation Palestine is published by Pluto, £13
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“I am black, beautiful and proud”
A turbulent journey though Iran
Women between revolution and counter-revolution