Palestinians are reaffirming that the movement to boycott Israel is part of the global struggle against racism and all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.
“The global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for freedom, justice and equality of the Palestinian people is an inclusive, nonviolent human rights movement that rejects all forms of racism and racial discrimination,” the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said on Tuesday.
“We reject Zionism, as it constitutes the racist and discriminatory ideological pillar of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid that has deprived the Palestinian people of its fundamental human rights since 1948,” the BNC, the civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement, states.
“Since its inception in 2005, the global, Palestinian-led BDS movement has been anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is an inclusive human rights movement that categorically rejects all forms of racism and discrimination,” Rafeef Ziadah, a member of the BNC secretariat, told The Electronic Intifada. “This key anti-racism statement reiterates this long-held principle at a time when the racist and xenophobic far-right is rising in Washington, DC, Tel Aviv and many places in between.”
“On the centenary of the patently racist and colonial Balfour Declaration – which offered Palestine to Jewish-European settlers, disregarding its indigenous Arab population – it is crucial to highlight the timeless values of inclusion and opposition to all forms of racism,” Ziadah added.
The BNC’s statement places the Palestinian cause in the broader context of anti-colonial struggle: “We strongly condemn apartheid, genocide, slavery, colonial exploitation and ethnic cleansing, which are crimes against humanity that are founded on racism and racial supremacy, and we call for the right of their victims, including descendants, to full reparation.”
The BNC affirms that “the BDS movement does not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia or homophobia.”
“The principles of the BDS movement call for proactive solidarity with oppressed communities worldwide and with all the victims of racist acts and rhetoric, as ours is a common cause,” the BNC adds.
There are growing expressions of this commonality. In 2015, more than 1,000 Black artists, intellectuals and organizations recognized “the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians” and called for “unified action against anti-Blackness, white supremacy and Zionism.”
Israel lobby groups have strongly condemned Black support for Palestinian rights and have sought to disrupt such solidarity.
While anti-racism has long been affirmed by Palestinian activists, Israel and its surrogates have made a concerted effort to smear the Palestine solidarity movement as motivated by prejudice.
This logic treats Israeli supremacy and its denial of Palestinian rights on ethno-religious grounds as if they form part of a legitimate Israeli-Jewish identity that is bound to be cherished and respected, instead of resisted and replaced with a system that affords equal rights and protections to all.
Crackdown on free speech
A key tactic has been to try to enshrine in legislation and institutional policies around the world a discredited definition of anti-Semitism that treats criticism of Israel and its state ideology Zionism as forms of anti-Jewish bigotry.
In recent months, US lawmakers have sought to adopt this definition as part of the so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness bill.
Secular and religiously observant Jewish communities have also long rejected Israel’s propaganda conflating Jewish belief and identity on the one hand, with Zionism and support for Israel, on the other.
Israel and its lobby groups nonetheless claim that by opposing Israeli abuses the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. Israel has used this smear to push for draconian restrictions on free speech.
But a broad pushback by supporters of Palestinian rights is scoring successes.
Last year, the European Union joined several of its member governments in recognizing the right of its citizens to boycott Israel.
“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU member states’ territory, including with regard to BDS,” Federica Mogherini, the 28-member bloc’s foreign policy chief told the European Parliament in September.
“As Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid sheds the farcical pretense of ‘democracy’ and adopts more and more racist and exclusionary laws, the BDS movement is further highlighting its inclusiveness and rejection of all forms of racism,” the BNC’s Ziadah said. “Our struggle for freedom, justice and equality is organically connected to global struggles for racial, social, economic, gender, climate and other forms of justice.”