In an Opinion submitted to the Electronic Intifada on 4 March 2010 entitled: Moment of Truth, Rifat Kassis rightly asks: what does ‘boycott’ mean, how far does it go, and what does it call for?
We, at 1948: Lest We Forget, wish to respond to any call for a selective boycott of Israel, and to defy those voices which warn us Palestinians (and many international activists, for that matter) who criticise Israel for fear of being labelled ‘anti-semites’ (although we are Semites). We also wish to challenge politicians who call for yet another round of talks (proximity or otherwise) on the Palestine/Israel question as we lost count of how many of these talks have we had in the last 62 years? All to no avail. In fact, with each set of talks, Palestine seems to be shrinking and it people squeezed within dozens of Bantustans.
A boycott cannot be selective anymore. As Mr Kassis wrote: “The occupation is not a random onslaught of power, and it isn’t conducted on some remote soil: it is a complete matrix of control, a strategic, consistent, deliberate, historically constructed, externally condoned…” and, lest we forget, perpetrated on Palestinian land.
The point being missed by many calling for a selective boycott is that the decisions being made inside Israel, inside the OPT and throughout historic Palestine, are made by the Zionist leadership (and its collaborators), whose aim is the total annexation, occupation and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian territories, not just post UNRES 181, not just post the Armistice Lines of 1949, not just post the 1967 conquests, but throughout historic Palestine. The recent tug of war of words between the US Administration and Israel on the settlement question proves that this most rightwing of Israeli administrations under B Netanyahu is adamant in its drive to build more settlements throughout annexed East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.
The last 62 years of illegal Zionist conquest and occupation, cannot be swept aside by simply agreeing to a temporary status-quo pending final status agreements. These painful 62 years cannot be parcelled into some kind of colonial areas called A, B, C, Gaza or Jerusalem. They cannot be relegated to the dustbin of history by a ceasefire, a checkpoint or an Apartheid Wall. As the occupation is total and internationally illegal, then the boycott must also be total and considered legal.
We should not just boycott the olive oil produced in the ‘West Bank’ because it is produced in an illegal settlement on the West Bank, but must also boycott all products produced in all illegal settlements. We should not just boycott an academic institution involved in state financed military projects, but must also boycott others involved in state financed cultural, scientific and academic activities. We should not just boycott an Israeli sports teams playing internationally under the Israeli banner, but must also boycott an Israeli dance or theatre company sent abroad to whitewash the fascist image of a cruel fascist State. We should not only boycott Caterpillar for demolishing homes and uprooting Palestinian olive groves, but must also boycott other contracting companies which supply the sand and cement that build the Apartheid Wall.
We challenge those who call for a mild and selective boycott to identify any Israeli institution, whether large or small, which is not part of this ‘matrix of control’ that suffocates our Palestinian nation.
As this occupation is total and unmerciful, so must our universal approach to fighting it and ending it be. As Israel’s cruel occupation covers all of historic Palestine, so must our call be for the reversal of the processes which lead to that occupation and replacing them with the instruments of democracy and justice to include all of historic Palestine. A Palestine for all its people: Jews, Muslims, Christians, Coptic, Atheists, and non-Conformists.
In order to achieve this goal, we need a total boycott of the Zionist State. In order to achieve this aim, we need to identify that State. In order to identify that State, we need to untangle the politics of intrigue which produced the 181 UNRES which paved the way for the creation of that State. In order to untangle the tangled politics of that Resolution, we need to sit down, dust-off and read the official archives that go back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration. We need to dig deep into the dark politics and personalities that gave the nation of one people to the people of many nations. And to do this against the will of the over 1 million indigenous Palestinians simply adds insult to injury.
We have come full circle now and so our boycott must be a full boycott.
Therefore, let us not read the pages of only one chapter of this saga and leave others unturned simply because it is easy to ‘let bygones be bygones’. Israel has never compromised on its aims, its goals or its determined aggression against the Palestinian people. It has never compromised its defiance of international law. It has never compromised its arrogance towards its most powerful ally, the United States.
Why should we compromise the boycott battle. The initial cure to all this is a total boycott.
Total boycott against a total occupation. Nothing less will do.
* Antoine Raffoul, is a Palestinian architect working in London, and the coordinator of 1948.Lest.We.Forget, a campaign group aiming at the roots of the Palestinian/Israeli problem. 1948: LEST WE FORGET