After WWII, given the horrors and incredible killing of the Holocaust, people and the media in the Western world tended to look favorably on Israel’s creation in 1948.
Despite concerns raised by some vicious Israeli attacks and Israel’s failure to comply with its commitment to allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, Israel’s founding was followed by a relatively long honeymoon period. The media and Hollywood were particularly sympathetic to and influential in spreading Israel’s version of events.
However, more recent Israeli actions — such as the repeated brutal attacks on Gaza in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014, the attack on Lebanon in 2006, the ongoing illegal and cruel siege of Gaza since 2007, the addition of more illegal colonies in the Palestinian West Bank, the shooting and killing of unarmed protesters, the imprisonment of Palestinian children, and its apartheid government — have turned public sentiment around the world against it.
Despite the weight of public opinion, Israel has been able to commit its human rights violations and war crimes with impunity due to U.S. political protection as well as the cowardice of other Western governments.
In the U.S., in addition to U.S. imperial interests, the strong Israeli lobby of Jewish and Christian Zionists often plays a key role in shaping the U.S. position on the Middle East. Unfortunately, the U.S. position regarding Israel undermines the rule of law and also exposes blatant U.S. hypocrisy, especially on Israel’s nuclear weapons.
The decades-long U.S. failure to stop Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law was one reason that Palestinian civil society reached out with a call for a nonviolent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in 2005.
The BDS website states that: “BDS upholds the simple principle that Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as the rest of humanity. Israel is occupying and colonising Palestinian land, discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return to their homes. Inspired by the South African anti-apartheid movement, the BDS call urges action to pressure Israel to comply with international law.”
The accomplishments of this nonviolent campaign created a panic among the Israeli leadership and its lobby. They started targeting BDS, calling it anti-Semitic and claiming that the BDS goal was to delegitimize Israel. In reality, Israel’s own appalling and criminal actions challenge its legitimacy.
In the past, the lobby has successfully used the charge of anti-Semitism to stifle or to prevent criticism of Israeli policies. However, the charge has been so widely misused that it no longer is as effective. Given this fact, there is an effort to define anti-Semitism so as to make it more difficult to criticize Israeli policies. If the lobby has its way, in effect it would be okay to criticize U.S. policies but not policies of Israel.
Unfortunately, 27 U.S. states have already targeted BDS and Congress has also passed legislation against it. In addition, there has been work in Europe to restate the definition of anti-Semitism and this work has led to lots of controversy about limiting free speech, that is, precluding the criticism of Israeli policies.
BDS is a nonviolent campaign that is worth supporting. Please express your support to your Congressional Representative and Senators.
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center’s “Peace Train” runs Fridays in the Colorado Daily.