Why BDS Cannot Lose: A Moral Threshold to Combat Racism in Israel
26 March 2016
By Ramzy Baroud
A foray of condemnations of the boycott of Israel seems to have fallen on deaf
ears. Calls from Western governments, originating from the UK, the US, Canada
and others, to criminalize the boycott of Israel have hardly slowed down the
momentum of the pro-Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).
On the contrary, it has accelerated.
It is as if history is repeating itself. Western governments took on the
pro-South African Anti-Apartheid Movement, fighting it at every corner and
branding its leaders. Nelson Mandela and many of his comrades were called
Once he passed away in 2013, top US politicians vied for the opportunity to
list the late African leader's great qualities in their many press
conferences, speaking of his commitment to justice and human rights. However,
Mandela's name was not removed from the US terrorism watch list till 2008.
The Reagan administration called the African National Congress – the main
platform for the anti-apartheid struggle – a terrorist group, as well. The
ANC's strategy against the Apartheid government was ''calculated terror'', the
administration said in 1986.
Many South Africans would tell you that the fight for equality is far from
over, and that the struggle against institutional apartheid has been replaced
by equally pressing matters. Corruption, neoliberal economics, and
disproportionate allocation of wealth are only a few such challenges.
But aside from those who are still holding on to the repellent dream of racial
superiority, the vast majority of humanity looks back at South Africa's
Apartheid era with revulsion.
The South Africa experience, which is still fresh in the memory of most
people, is now serving as a frame of reference in the struggle against Israeli
Apartheid in Palestine, where Jews have been designated as a privileged race,
and Palestinian Muslims and Christians are poorly treated, oppressed and
While racism is, unfortunately, a part of life and is practiced, observed and
reported on in many parts of the world, institutionalized racism through
calculated governmental measures is only practiced – at least, openly – in a
few countries around the world: Burma is one of them. However, no country is
as adamant and open about its racially-motivated laws and apartheid rules as
the Israeli government. Almost every measure taken by the Israeli Knesset that
pertains to Arabs is influenced by this mindset: Palestinians must remain
inferior, and Jews must ensure their superiority at any cost.
The outcome of Israel's racist pipe dream has been a tremendous amount of
violence, palpable inequality, massive walls, trenches, Jews-only roads,
military occupation, and even laws that outlaw the very questioning of these
Yet, the greater its failure to suppress Palestinian Resistance and to slow
down the flow of solidarity from around the world with the oppressed people,
the more Israel labors to ensure its dominance and invest in racial
''The whole world is against us,'' is quite a common justification in Israel
itself, of the international reaction to Israel's Apartheid practices. With
time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and feeds on past notions that are
no longer applicable. No matter how many companies divest from Israel – the
latest being the world's largest security corporation G4S – and, no matter how
many universities and churches vote to boycott Israel, Israeli society remains
entrenched behind the slogan and its disconcerting sense of victimization.
Many Israelis believe that their country is a ‘villa in a jungle' – a notion
that is constantly enforced by top Israeli leaders. Right-wing Prime Minister,
Benjamin Netanyahu, is purposely advancing the crippling fear in his own
society. Unable to see the unmistakable crimes he has carried out against
Palestinians for years, he continues to perpetuate the idea of the purity of
Israel and the wickedness of everyone else.
In February, he spoke of the need to create yet more fences to keep his ‘villa
in the jungle' safe, and, to quote, ''to defend ourselves against the wild
beasts'' in neighboring countries. The statement was made only a few weeks
before the launch of the annual Israel Apartheid Week in numerous cities
around the world. It is as if the Israeli leader wished to contribute to the
global campaign which is successfully making a case against Israel as being an
Apartheid state that ought to be boycotted.
Israel is, of course, no ‘villa in the jungle'. Since its inception over the
ruins of destroyed and occupied Palestine, it has meted out tremendous
violence, provoked wars and harshly responded to any resistance carried out by
its victims. Similar to the US and the UK designation of Mandela as a
‘terrorist', Palestinian Resistance and its leaders are also branded, shunned,
and imprisoned. Israel's so-called ‘targeted killings' – the assassination of
hundreds of Palestinians in recent years have often been applauded by the US
and other Israeli allies as victories in their ‘war on terror.'
Comforted by the notion that the US and other western governments are on their
side, most Israelis are not worried about exhibiting their racism and calling
for more violence against Palestinians. According to a recent survey conducted
by the Pew Research Center and revealed on March 08, nearly half of Israel's
Jewish population want to expel Palestinians to outside of their historic
The study was conducted between October 2014 and May 2015 – months before the
current Intifada began in October 2015 – and is described as a
first-of-its-kind survey as it reached out to over 5,600 Israeli adults and
touched on myriads of issues, including religion and politics. 48% of all
Israeli Jews want to exile Arabs. However, the number is significantly higher
– 71% – among those who define themselves as ‘religious'.
What options are then left for Palestinians, who have been victimized and
ethnically cleansed from their own historic homeland for 68 years, when they
are described and treated as ‘beasts', killed at will, and suffer under a
massive system of apartheid and racial discrimination that has never ceased
after all of these years?
BDS has, thus far, been the most successful strategy and tactic to support
Palestinian Resistance and steadfastness while, at the same time, holding
Israel accountable for its progressively worsening policies of apartheid. The
main objective behind BDS, an entirely non-violent movement that is championed
by civil society across the globe, is not to punish ordinary Israelis, but to
raise awareness of the suffering of Palestinians and to create a moral
threshold that must be achieved if a just peace is ever to be realized.
That moral threshold has already been delineated in the relationship between
Palestinians and South Africans when Mandela himself said, ''We know all too
well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.''
He was not trying to be cordial or diplomatic. He meant every word. And,
finally, many around the world are making the same connection, and are
wholeheartedly in agreement.
– Dr. Ramzy Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for over 20
years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an
author of several books and the founder of PalestineChronicle.com. His books
include ‘Searching Jenin', ‘The Second Palestinian Intifada' and his latest
‘My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza's Untold Story'. His website is: