Israel’s double standards about boycotts do not advance peace

First published by the Arab Weekly on 16/7/2017

It is quite hypocritical for Israel to reject BDS while boycotting others for taking legal and moral positions in support of the Palestinians.


 Peaceful expression. An Egyptian man shouts anti-Israeli slogans in front of banners with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) logo at the Journalists’ Syndicate in Cairo. (AP)

The movement to pressure Israel to end its occupation of Arab land, to treat all its citizens equally regardless of race, religion or creed and to imple­ment UN Resolution 194 allowing the Palestinian refugees to return home is 12 years old.

It was called by more than 150 Palestinian civil society organisa­tions to achieve these demands using a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel.

The movement, its website states, “works to end interna­tional support for Israel’s oppres­sion of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with interna­tional law.” Its call for freedom, justice and equality is moral and legal. The movement drew on the lessons learnt from the effort to boycott South Africa until it dismantled its apartheid regime.

Since its launch in 2005, the BDS movement has raised awareness about the plight of the Palestinians and placed pressure on companies and individuals to review their relationship with Israel as an occupying power and to question their role either in its continuation or smoothing its image.

The BDS movement can point to major successes. European companies Veolia, Orange and CRH have withdrawn from Israel.

Significant artists, including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron, Lauryn Hill, Faithless, Marianah, U2, Bjork, Zakir Hussain, Jean- Luc Godard, Snoop Dogg, Cat Power and Vanessa Paradis, cancelled performances in Israel or declined to perform there.

Institutional investors includ­ing the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church, the Dutch pension fund manager PGGM and the Norwe­gian, Luxembourg and New Zealand governments have divested from companies over their role in Israeli violations of international law.

Initially, Israel dismissed BDS as a failure and labelled its effects as insignificant but that approach recently changed. It appointed a minister and ministry to combat those effects and supported the effort to the tune of $50 million. It labelled the movement an anti-Semitic movement and its supporters in the West, particu­larly in the United States, have sought to legislate against companies or organisations that participated in the campaign. Israel recently passed a law that bans supporters of the BDS movement from entering the country, even if their effort is directed at the illegal settle­ments.

Israel’s vigorous opposition to boycotts as a means of achieving political change could be under­stood if it was consistent in this view when it came to exerting political pressure on others. That is not the case, however. Israel regularly imposes sanctions by withholding funds due to the Palestinian Authority (PA) from taxes Israel collects on the PA’s behalf to signal disapproval of actions such as joining UN agencies, including UNESCO.

The minister responsible for combating the BDS movement, Gilad Erdan, boycotted a visiting German delegation because its members refused to meet him in occupied East Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netan­yahu boycotted the German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for meeting with Israeli NGOs he disapproves of. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom has been boycotted for her views on Israeli policies.

It is quite hypocritical for Israel to reject BDS as a peaceful means of exerting pressure on it to end its illegal policies while boycott­ing others for taking legal and moral positions in support of the Palestinians and the pursuit of peace. As the saying goes: “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.”

If Israel put as much energy and effort into meeting the moral and legal demands of the BDS move­ment as it does opposing it, peace would be much closer than it is now.

Interview on Talk Radio Europe about Israel denying me entry to Palestine

I was interviewed by Pippa Jones for Talk Radio Europe on 20/4/2017

Listen below from 3 minutes into the hour.

Press release by PSC on my denial of entry at Tel Aviv airport

Press release by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign on 12/4/2017

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British–Palestinian on Easter family holiday banned from Israel

  • Prominent British-Palestinian Professor Kamel Hawwash was banned from entering Israel under the new Israeli boycott law, following a string of foreign human rights activist deportations. 
  • Prof Hawwash was on a Easter family holiday with his wife and 5 year-old son to see Palestinian relatives in occupied east Jerusalem. He was denied entry Israel and forced to leave his family in tears at the airport. 
  • Outrage mounts as British government fails to protect citizens from discrimination by Israeli authorities.

Prof Kamel Hawwash, a prominent British-Palestinian from the School of Engineering of the University of Birmingham, was banned from entering Israel earlier this week. As Israel controls access to the occupied Palestinian territories, the ban effectively prevents Prof Hawwash from visiting family in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Prof Hawwash has long been a campaigner for justice for the Palestinian people. He has chaired the British Palestine Twinning Network, the Midlands Community Association and served as Vice Chair of Palestine Solidarity Campaign for eight years. This is the first time that Prof Hawwash has been denied entry or detained, despite making regular family visits to Israel / Palestine. He was told he was being deported under the new foreign boycott law.

Prof Hawwash said:

“I am personally devastated at my denial of entry. Firstly because I could not be with my wife and son for our holiday, but also because I have been denied entry to my homeland. I have elderly relatives that I will never see again if I am not allowed to enter in the future. I had to leave my wife and son alone in the airport in tears.”

The Israeli parliament (Knesset) recently passed a law to ban entry to foreigners who advocate the peaceful boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Hugh Lanning, Chair of the PSC, was the first activist to be deported under this new law in March. Israeli authorities also prevented the Chilean head of the Palestinian Federation of Chile, Anwar Makhlouf, (also of Palestinian descent) from entering the country in April.

Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield said:

“Following the Knesset’s decision to pass the new entry restrictions I had already been in touch with the government and the Israeli Embassy over how this ban would affect people living in Britain. My constituent Kamel Hawwash is being denied entry not only to Israel, but to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and access to his family – it is utterly shocking that now he may never see them again. The relaxed attitude our ministers are showing to Israel’s actions is scandalous. Human rights defenders  in Israel have rightly spoken out against this new law preventing peaceful campaigners from visiting their country. It is time for British ministers to speak out too.”

Ben Jamal, Director of the PSC said:

“The bottom line is that Israel is using its new boycott law to ban foreign human rights activists. The BDS movement peacefully pressures Israel to comply with international law and cease human rights violations. It draws directly from the tactics of Gandhi and Mandela to effect positive change. According to the Israeli government, human rights activism is a security threat. Fundamental democratic norms and freedoms don’t matter. The British government must demand that Israel ceases this harassment.”

ENDS

About the Palestine Solidarity Campaign: The Palestine Solidarity Campaign is the largest UK civil society organisation dedicated to securing Palestinian human rights established in 1982. With more than sixty branches across the country, we campaign against Israel’s flouting of international law, the continued military occupation of Palestine, and systematic discrimination against Palestinians. We work to build awareness amongst politicians and the public of the continual injustices and advocate for peaceful and just solutions that respect the rights and dignity of Palestinians and Israelis.

For further information, please contact: Amy Franck, Media and Communications Officer

Amy.franck@palestinecampaign.org / 07590 862268

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