With the horrors of Israel’s massacre currently bearing down on Gaza, it is hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, at least 522 Palestinians, the vast majority civilians, have been slaughtered by Israel so far, including 129 children.
But as happened after Israel’s 2008-09 “Cast Lead” massacre of more than 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza, there are early signs of a global intensification of calls for the boycott of Israel.
In Palestine, the BDS National Committee is seizing the moment to focus on a new call for an arms embargo. The BNC is the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society groups, and coordinates joint actions for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
The group explains in a statement today: “Israel’s ability to launch such devastating attacks with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and arms trade that it maintains with complicit governments across the world.”
They are calling supporters of the embargo to sign a petition that will be presented to the new UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in September, and to Tweet about it using the hashtag #StopArmingIsrael.
On Friday in parliament, Stone Sizani, the chief whip of the ruling African National Congress, joined growing calls in South Africa for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled from the country, and for the South African ambassador to be recalled from Tel Aviv.
“We echo the widespread condemnation of these senseless attacks on defenseless Palestinians and call on the government of Israel to immediately cease with this blatant act of criminality,” he said.
“As the ANC in parliament, we stand unapologetically with the people of Palestine and pro-Palestinian campaigners … As one of the measures to put pressure on Israel, we are of a firm view that our government must recall our ambassador to Israel and also ask the Israel ambassador to South African to leave with immediate effect,” he added.
BDS South Africa, a leading Palestine solidarity group in the country, put out a statement today listing some of the many leaders and groups who have called for ties with Israel to be severed. “The virtual entirety of South African political and civil society is calling for the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador,” the group stated.
As well as parts of the ANC, the activists listed examples including the left-wing Economic Freedom Fighters, the Young Communist League, trade union federation COSATU, many leading South African Jews, and anti-apartheid veterans like Ronnie Kasrils.
Calls for concrete action
Kasrils, well-known in recent years as a Palestine solidarity activist, said in a letter to a South African newspaper last week: “It is quite frankly hypocritical of the ruling ANC and its SACP [Communist Party] allies to merely protest against Israel’s actions while … continuing to do business with the Zionist regime.”
“Our South African government must show leadership, take decisive action and move beyond words,” BDS South Africa demanded.
In Ireland too there have been increasing calls by activists for the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador, as The Electronic Intifada reported last week. On Friday, Ecuador recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv, demanding “an immediate cessation of Israeli military operations and indiscriminate attacks against the civilian population in the Gaza Strip.”