Abstract: Sixty years after the creation of Israel, the true nature of its underlying ideology of Zionism has become apparent for all to see. The writer examines whether a grassroots global boycott movement will have the same effect of ending apartheid in Israel as happened in South Africa in the Eighties. This article originally appeared in Crescent International (May 2008).
“The problem is not that I met with Hamas in Syria . . . The problem is that Israel and the United States refuse to meet with someone who must be involved.”
These were the words in late April 2008 by former president of the United States, Jimmy Carter, following a visit to Syria to meet Khalid Meshaal, the political head in exile of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. That such a visit, let alone such a statement, could be made by a former US president on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the creation of Israel, is indicative of how realpolitik has changed in the Middle East over the last six decades. Twenty years ago, Hamas had just been officially founded and was heavily involved in the first intifada, drawing up its notorious Charter, which is today regularly quoted by Zionists and their supporters in their desperate attempts to discredit the Hamas administration. Ten years ago, it would have been unthinkable for any senior politician to even suggest that Hamas be involved in peace talks, while Arafat and his cronies surrendered more and more land to the Israelis in return for an endless series of invitations to the White House. Today, having been given an indisputable mandate by the Palestinian people in January 2006 in what hundreds of independent monitors, including Carter, described as the fairest elections ever to be held in the Middle East, Hamas enjoys a legitimacy which can no longer be ignored. Despite the best endeavours of the international community to discredit and displace the Hamas administration through two years of economic sanctions and an attempted coup, Hamas enjoy greater popularity than ever before. Reuters reported that on 17 December 2007, up to 500,000 Palestinians (nearly one third of Gaza’s total population) converged at the Katiba Square in Central Gaza to mark the 20th anniversary of Hamas’ founding, undermining Western propaganda that the movement has little support amongst Palestinians. Even after losing several of its most charismatic leaders by way of assassination, including Sheikh Ahmad Yassin and Dr Abdul-Aziz Rantissi, Hamas has emerged stronger than ever.
Such has been the result of the Islamic movement’s refusal to compromise on its identity and to remain steadfast on its founding aims and objectives. With knowledge that the Truth will always prevail, Hamas has resisted calls from all quarters, including the Muslim and Arab world, to compromise on its core purpose of liberating the whole of Palestine. Even after Carter announced to the world that Hamas was willing to recognise Israel following his meeting in Damascus, Meshaal immediately set the record straight. Reiterating the terms which the Hamas leadership has proposed for several years now, Meshaal stated that what he had offered was a truce of 10 years in exchange for Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders with the removal of all settlements. Lesser men may have gone with the flow comforted by the fact that a former US president and ex-Nobel Peace Prize winner was lending him his support. But not Khalid Meshaal, typifying the indomitable spirit of Hamas and absolute refusal to surrender a land which it knows does not belong to its leaders or even the Palestinian people, but in fact is a trust given by Allah to His righteous slaves.
And the Truth has prevailed. In the sixty years since the creation of Israel, the beast has slowly come to be recognised for what it is and for what it always has been. The glossy veneer is finally coming off as the myth surrounding Israel has slowly faded away. Israel has for sixty years presented itself as an island of freedom, democracy and human rights in an ocean of repressive Arab and Islamic dictatorial regimes. Such an image has recently been tainted however by comments from numerous world leaders, NGOs, veteran anti-apartheid activists, and Israeli academics and writers, which have exposed the true racist and oppressive nature of the Zionist entity. In 2002 Anglican Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu wrote a series of articles in major newspapers, comparing the Israeli occupation of the West Bank to apartheid South Africa, and calling for the international community to divest support from Israel until the territories were no longer occupied. In one such article in the Guardian, Tutu compared Israeli might and power with that of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Pinochet, Milosevic and Idi Amin. Other prominent South African anti-apartheid activists who have made similar analogies, and in fact stated that Israeli policies towards the Palestinians exceed apartheid in their oppressiveness, include Farid Esack, Ronnie Kasrils, Winnie Mandela, Dennis Goldberg and Arun Ghandi. The writing was on the wall however back in 1961 when Hendrik Verwoerd, then prime minister of South Africa and the architect of South Africa’s apartheid policies, said that “The Jews took Israel from the Arabs after the Arabs had lived there for a thousand years. Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state.”
Other world leaders who have drawn this comparison include Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski and South African Professor of International Law and ad hoc Judge on the International Court of Justice, John Dugard. In 2007, serving in his capacity as Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, Dugard described the situation in the West Bank as “an apartheid regime…worse than the one that existed in South Africa.” His proposed successor, Richard Falk, went a step further in this year, comparing the crimes of Israel to those of the Nazis.
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
As the people of the world have slowly awoken from their slumber and begun to observe the sheer immorality of supporting Israel against the Palestinians, they too have taken whatever action they can. Calls for a boycott of and divestment from Israel are now more popular than ever whereas proposals for such action just twenty years ago would have been stifled by obscure allegations of anti-Semitism. Today calls for boycott and divestment from Israel, inspired by similar action taken by civil society organisations around the globe against South Africa during apartheid, come from all four corners of the globe with NGOs, trade unions and churches all voting to boycott Israel in various aspects including tourism, academia, sport and culture. Although the official unified Palestinian call for a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign was made on 9 July 2005, one can trace the roots of the movement to the September 2001 UN Conference against Racism and Xenophobia which took place in Durban, South Africa. There thousands of pro-Palestinian activists lobbied for resolution equating Zionism with racism and calling for a boycott of Israel. Since that time, BDS initiatives have been multiplying all over the world.
In 2007, both TGWU, the largest general union in the UK, and UNISON, the biggest trade union of public workers in the UK representing 1.3 million workers, voted for a total boycott of Israel following the precedent of other unions in Ireland (SIPTU), Ontario (CUPE) and South Africa (COSATU). Across the sea in Ireland, the largest trade unions on both sides of the border, IMPACT and NIPSA have called for a similar total boycott. Most recently, in June this year, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which has 832,000 members and 55 affiliated unions, issued a report calling for disinvestment from Israeli companies and a boycott of all Israeli goods and services. Significantly, the report came on the 24th anniversary of the beginning of the inspirational anti-apartheid boycott by 11 workers at leading Irish supermarket, Dunnes Stores, who refused to handle South African goods in the store, choosing instead to strike in opposition to the stocking of the goods. The daily picket lasted almost three years during which time it gained international support and only ended when the Irish government agreed to ban the import of South African produce until the apartheid regime was removed. This action was the spark which ignited the fire of anti-apartheid activism all over the globe.
The most high profile attempt to boycott was that proposed against Israeli academia by the National Executive Committee of the University College Union in May 2007. The motion was subsequently withdrawn following international outcry on the basis that it would be “unlawful”. In March 2008, the UCU again voted to submit a motion to its annual conference to revive the proposal. In June, the UCU called upon its members to question the “appropriateness of continued educational links with Israeli academic institutions”. The effect of this has appeared to hit a raw nerve with both the British and Israeli governments who have reacted with hysteria. Earlier this month, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in a desperate attempt to bolster his credibility as an international leader as he fights plummeting approval rates back home, pledged in the Knesset to fight against any attempt to boycott Israeli academia. To this end, he announced the setting up of a British- Israel Research and Academic Exchange Partnership.
Moreover, it has steadily come to pass that Israeli war criminals can no longer simply come and go around the world as they please without hindrance or accountability for their actions. Although we have not yet reached the stage whereby Israeli soldiers are being brought before war crimes tribunals, such as those established for the Former Republic of Yugoslavia and Rwanda, we are on that road. In November 2002, then Israeli Defence Minister Lieutenant-Genral Shaul Mofaz was forced to cut a speaking tour to the UK short when the Director of Public Prosecutions asked police to investigate war crimes allegations against him.
In September 2005, Major General Doron Almog was unable to disembark from an El Al flight after it landed at Heathrow airport after being tipped off about his impending arrest while in the air and stayed on the plane for 2 hours to avoid capture until it flew back to Israel. Scotland Yard detectives were armed with a warrant naming Almog as a war crimes suspect for ordering the demolitions of 59 civilian Palestinian homes. The arrest warrant, issued at Bow Street magistrates’ court, central London, was the first warrant for war crimes of its kind issued in Britain against an Israeli national over conduct in the conflict. Ignoring the fact that it later emerged that British detectives refused to board the plane for fear that attempts to arrest him could lead to a firefight, it was a landmark in the struggle for justice for the Palestinians that an arrest warrant was even issued for Almog. Subsequently, then Israeli chief-of-staff Dan Halutz and his predecessor, Moshe Ya’alon were warned against visiting the UK for fear of similar arrests. The following year in November 2006, Ya’alon did have a warrant for his arrest issued by a District Court on a trip to Auckland, New Zealand. He was ultimately also spared by the Attorney General but the message is becoming very clear – Israeli war criminals will be hunted down around the world until they refuse to even leave Israel for fear of prosecution. In February 2006, IDF Gaza division commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi, cancelled a leave to study in England, fearing he would be arrested and tried for war crimes. Kochavi also played a key role during Operation Defense Shield in 2002 in which hundreds of Palestinians were massacred during an Israeli offensive. An Israeli security source was quoted at the time as saying “At this point, to send him to London, or any other officer who fought in the territories, is a danger.”
Over 60 years, Israel’s image as a peaceful victim of Arab and Islamic aggression has slowly disappeared as the true pariah nature of the Zionist entity has become apparent to the world. On the other hand, an increasing number of voices at all tiers of society now call for Hamas to be included in any decision making process, something unimaginable even 10 years ago. Palestinian scholars such as Dr Azzam Tamimi have predicted that the state of Israel in its current state will no longer exist after another 40 years – studying the pattern that has emerged in the last six decades, this thought is very conceivable.