Boycotts, shmoycotts – who are the real losers?

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Boycotts shmoycotts on Israelink

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and sanctions) movement sure is noisy. While lacking cerebral substance, they understand the veracity of symbolism and language that is provocative, emotive and emotional. They understand that gratuitous use of the word Apartheid is guaranteed to get an emotional reaction from people.

I use the word gratuitous intentionally because BDS have no respect or understanding of the crime that was Apartheid and the trauma of its victims. To them it is simply evocative, sexy packaging that can be used to market their agenda and make it appealing to the masses who are concerned about human rights.

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If you wrap up hatred and sell it in an emotional package, then surely you must be on the side of good, right?

Wrong. There is a more nefarious agenda at play here and it is time to expose it.

A wolfish agenda in sheep’s clothing

Why is BDS so hell bent on this accusation? The motivation is simple. They want to paint Israel with the same colours as that of Apartheid South Africa and their rationale is that dish out the same treatment, then you can change the political status quo. Sounds simple doesn’t it. Except that in this case, changing the status quo in Israeli politics is not the end game result that detractors hope to achieve. In this case, questioning Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign state is up for debate. Anti-Israelists will passionately argue that this treatment worked for South Africa but fail to realise that the South African paradigm is not one solution fits all.

The question we have to ask ourselves is who really stands to lose in a boycott of Israel.

BDS would have you believe that boycotts and sanctions contributed to the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa and that the same kind of well strategized campaign can do the same to change Israeli policies. There are very clear differences – in Apartheid South Africa, the minority white population had dominion over the majority black population and eventually, it was the citizens of the country who spoke out overwhelmingly in a referendum that the time had long passed to do away with this heinous regime.

Israelis and Palestinians are far more complicated. We desire a divorce from each other – hopefully as amicable as possible because we each have our own desires of national aspiration. It is extremely presumptuous for South Africans to impose their solution on to one of the most difficult political conflicts in history.

Did boycotts and sanctions contribute to the fall of Apartheid?

The idea of boycotts and sanctions was debated in the 1960’s but only really gained traction in the 1980’s. In November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, a non-binding resolution establishing the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid and called for imposing economic and other sanctions on South Africa. All Western nations were unhappy with the call for sanctions and as a result boycotted the committee.

Fast forward to the 1980’s and the height of the regime and it can be said that while sanctions did have an effect on the economy, the credit for ending Apartheid for once and for all has to go to Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk who took great, sometimes unpopular risks, to ensure a better future for South Africans based of the democratic principles of equality and justice for all.

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FW De Klerk and Nelson Mandela

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far, far more complex.  Nobody questioned South Africa’s right to exist as a nation state and the fact that BDS’s endgame is “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” means that we are dealing with a movement that does not seek democratic principles but rather the destruction of one of the main players – Israel.

Who stands to lose the most?

It is very easy for activists on both sides to play armchair politician but the impact is on the citizens. Palestinians stand to lose a lot more than Israeli’s in a boycott.  While the impact on Israelis is largely psychological and the economy continues to grow, Palestinians are impacted the most by this campaign. You would think that BDS would care that this is affecting the very people they purport to help, but they don’t. They prefer to demolish bridges rather than build them.

Human rights activist explains how the BDS movement and their boycott campaigns affects ordinary Palestinians in this video clip:

Bassem Eid demolishes BDS

If BDS really cared about the Palestinians, they would advocate that they become a second Singapore or start-up nation like their neighbour and do away with the murderous incitement and genocidal wishes.

Peace will be built from the ground up. It will start with individuals and communities, business people and investors. Boycotts only create barriers to this and discourage positive discours.

While the situation in the Middle East is not an easy one to fix, and Lord knows many have tried, perhaps the best way forward is to proceed with cautious hope and not to cry boycott at the drop of a hat.

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Palestinian and Israeli workers at the SodaStream Factory

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Mandela, Barghouti and the theft of a narrative

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Barghouti is NO Mandela

One of the questions I am often asked in lectures or interviews is where is the Palestinian and Israeli De Klerk and Mandela when it comes to ending the nearly 70 year conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Where is the Middle Eastern equivalent of brave leaders willing to make uncomfortable sacrifices, to the detriment of support from their constituencies in order to forge peace?

More often than not, this opens up debate about what could be done and what kinds of concessions need to be made in order to achieve peace. While the South African experience is not a “one size fits all” solution, it is clear that in order to achieve peace, both sides will have to commit to negotiations and make painful sacrifices.

South Africa seems to hold a special place of both fascination and significance when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, from both a positive and negative perspective and very often the South African narrative is used by Israel’s detractors to suit their more nefarious agendas. The theft of the South African narratives and many of its symbols and icons is a ploy used by the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions) movement to treat Israel like a pariah and call into question her legitimacy as a sovereign state. The latest is the hijacking of the status of iconic human rights activist and anti- Apartheid leader, Nelson Mandela by arch-terrorist and Palestinian prisoner, Marwan Barghouti.

Nelson Mandela once famously declared that “if you want to make peace with your enemy you have to work. Then your enemy becomes your partner”.

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Marwan Barghouti is hoping to position himself as the “Palestinian Mandela” and a possible successor to President Mahmoud Abbas.

Who exactly is Marwan Barghouti?

Marwan Barghouti is a former leader of Tanzim, the armed wing of Fatah, and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, both terror organisations responsible for the murder of many Israeli civilians. Barghouti is serving time for the planning and directing of the murders of 5 Israelis.

Some have opined that in the early days of the struggle, Mandela advocated terrorism but the fundamental difference was that the ANC adopted a policy of sabotage, while Barghouti is on record as saying, “the time when only we sacrifice victims is past. We must take revenge. We must kill Israelis. Yes. We have bullets. We have rifles, and they will be aimed at the occupation.”

Mandela, who is a symbol of reconciliation, would never have countenanced such appalling actions.

Barghouti, who is entitled to a salary and could earn up to 12,000 NIS a month (about R45,000) because murder is not above his pay grade, has initiated a hunger strike.

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Now many would wonder, why would Palestinian prisoners participate in such a strike because they do receive regular visits from family as well as the Red Cross, access to medical care, education, religious rights and meetingswith attorneys as well as a multitude of other comforts. They can even watch TV although I am sure they would not be supporting Israel at the great superbowl of singing contests, Eurovision.

One would think that there is some great inalienable right that they are striking for. A strike that is garnering similar solidarity initiatives, such as the one supported by a whole bunch of South African politicians, celebrities and ne’er do gooders.  No ladies and gentlemen, the prisoners are striking for…..“Access to satellite channels tailored to the needs of prisoners.”*

No wonder Barghouti was so stressed he felt compelled to sneak into the lavatory of his cell for a chocolate and tortilla break on two occasions!

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With all the controversy and hullaballoo surrounding the strikes one would think that the voices of the truly downtrodden in our region would be heard.

If Barghouti was a fraction of the man he seeks to position himself as he would strike. He would starve for the rights of women in the Middle East, and bring attention to the scourge of honour killings, genital mutilation and second class citizen status of our sisters. He would strike for attention to be brought to the persecution of Christians and Gays, the lack of freedom of expression and the right of a free press. He would draw attention to the treatment of political opposition. If Barghouti gave a damn he would follow in the footsteps of Madiba who was a passionate advocate for education and use his voice to end the flagrant child abuse that passes for schooling in the territories.

He would be a wise leader, not a jailhouse fool.

In the quest for the Palestinian Mandela, one thing is for sure, it sure ain’t Marwan Barghouti!

*Reference NGO Monitor

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