Chris Hedges: Why I Support BDS
The Palestinians are poor. They are powerless. They have no voice or influence in the halls of power. They are demonized. They do not have well-heeled lobbyists doling out campaign contributions and pushing through pro-Palestinian legislation. No presidential candidate is appealing to donors—as Hillary Clinton did when she sent a letter to media mogul Haim Saban denouncing critics of Israel—by promising to advance the interests of the Palestinian people. Palestinians, like poor people of color in the United States, are expendable.
Justice for Palestine will never come from the traditional governmental institutions or political parties that administer power. These institutions have surrendered to moneyed interests. Justice will come only from us. And the sole mechanism left to ensure justice for Palestine is the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Sanctions brought down the apartheid regime of South Africa. And they are what will bring down the apartheid regime of Israel. BDS is nonviolent. It appeals to conscience. And it works.
All Israeli products including Jaffa citrus fruits, Ahava cosmetics, SodaStream drink machines, Eden Springs bottled water and Israeli wine must be boycotted. We must refuse to do business with Israeli service companies. And we must boycott corporations that do business with Israel, including Caterpillar, HP and Hyundai. We must put pressure on institutions, from churches to universities, to divest from Israeli companies and corporations that have contracts with Israel. The struggle against apartheid in South Africa was long and hard. This struggle will be too.
Gaza, a year after Israel carried out a devastating bombing campaign that lasted almost two months, is in ruins. Most of the water is unsafe to drink. There are power outages for up to 12 hours a day. Forty percent of the 1.8 million inhabitants are unemployed, including 67 percent of the youths—the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. Of the 17,000 homes destroyed by Israel in the siege, not one has been rebuilt. Sixty thousand people remain homeless. Only a quarter of the promised $3.5 billion in aid from international donors has been delivered—much of it diverted to the Palestinian Authority, the Israeli puppet regime that governs the West Bank. And no one in Washington—Republican or Democrat—will defy the Israel lobby. No one will call for justice or stay the Israeli killing machine. U.S. senators, including Bernie Sanders, at the height of the Israeli bombardment last summer voted unanimously to defend the Israeli slaughter of a people with no army, navy, air force, mechanized units, artillery or command and control. It was a vote worthy of the old Soviet Union. Every senator held out his or her tin cup to the Israel lobby and chose naked self-interest over justice.
Israel, like the United States, is poisoned by the psychosis of permanent war. It too is governed by a corrupt oligarchic elite for whom war has become a lucrative business. It too has deluded itself into carrying out war crimes and then playing the role of the victim. Israeli systems of education and the press—again mirrored in the United States—have indoctrinated Israelis into believing that they have a right to kill anyone whom the state condemns as a terrorist. And Israel’s most courageous human rights campaigners, intellectuals and journalists are slandered and censored in their own country, just as American critics such as Norman Finkelstein, Max Blumenthal and Noam Chomsky are in the United States.
Those who become addicted to the wielding of the instruments of war, blinded by hubris and a lust for power, eventually become war’s victims. This is as true for Israel as for the United States.
Israel’s goal is to make life a living hell for all Palestinians, ethnically cleansing as many as it can and subduing those who remain. The peace process is a sham. It has led to Israel’s seizure of more than half the land on the West Bank, including the aquifers, and the herding of Palestinians into squalid, ringed ghettos or Bantustans while turning Palestinian land and homes over to Jewish settlers. Israel is expanding settlements, especially in East Jerusalem. Racial laws, once championed by the right-wing demagogue Meir Kahane, openly discriminate against Israeli Arabs and Palestinians. Ilan Pappe calls the decades-long assault against the Palestinian people “incremental genocide.” [Continue Reading]
Copyright 2015 Chris Hedges. First published in TruthDig.
Chris Hedges is one of the most important journalists and public intellectuals of our time. Like him, I deplore Netanyahu’s hypocritical “commitment” to the peace process, the racist thuggery of his colleagues and minions, which is evident for all to see, and last but not least, his well-documented corruption. Moreover, had it not been for Adelson’s millions, and his control over much of the Israeli press, Isaac Herzog would probably be Israel’s Prime Minister now, reviving the (now dormant) peace process. It took him much, much too long to do so – (God only knows why) – but Obama got this one right, finally. There will never be peace while Netanyahu is in power. Despite his deceitful public statements to the contrary, Netanyahu NEVER intended to negotiate in good faith with the Palestinians, and has done everything in his power to hobble and humiliate the government of Mahmoud Abbas.
Meanwhile, however, characterizing the Palestinian Authority as a “puppet regime” strikes me as unhelpful and unfair. Why? Because it gives the misleading impression that the PA are not engaged in vigorous resistance to Israel’s ongoing annexation of Palestinian lands. This is simply untrue. Indeed, this characterization sounds a lot like Hamas rhetoric. Though he does not say so in so many words, the tacit implication of Hedges’ article seems to be that Hamas is somehow preferable to the PA – a dubious assertion, at best. Remember, Hamas is an Islamist organization, a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is not only anti-Zionist, but profoundly anti-Western as well. The behavior of Mohamed Morsi’s government in Egypt – rising to power on a wave of populist revolt, then stifling all forms of democratic opposition once it consolidated its hold on power – follows a similar pattern to the one that Hamas took. Much as they deplore the brutality of the coup that unseated Morsi, the fact remains that majority of Egyptians really wanted Morsi out, and deemed a return to a Mubarak-style secular oligarchy preferable to an Islamist regime. (Surely they had their reasons . . .)
The sordid and bloody rivalry between Hamas and the PA – occasionally papered over by truces and talk of unity governments, that never last more than a few weeks or months – is one of the saddest and most disheartening episodes in the whole history of the region. But if Hamas allowed freedom of the press, fostered equality for women and gays, welcomed religious pluralism (and freedom *from* religion), and devoted the bulk of its financial resources to building infrastructure that benefits its citizens, rather than destroying Israel, Gaza would probably be a thriving Palestinian enclave today, not the “world’s largest open air prison.” Not to acknowledge this fact is another way of turning a blind eye to oppression. Sadly, BDS supporters do this kind of PA bashing, offering their tacit or enthusiastic support to Hamas in the process, far too often.
Thank you, Chris Hedges! Your powerful advocacy is crucially needed and appreciated. Hard to imagine how anyone could overlook or justify the devastation of last summer’s massacres by Israel paid for with U.S. money, again and again. Shameful beyond measure.