Time for BDS to Oppose Israeli War Crimes
TMS PEACE JOURNALISM, 21 Jul 2014
16 Jul 2014
“This is not war – it’s a massacre”. The slogan has appeared on placards at demonstrations around the world, calling for an Israeli ceasefire in Gaza. The ‘Dahiya doctrine’, named after the suburb of south Beirut where it was first applied, is in operation: an attempt to turn the population against an armed group – Hamas, in this case – by destroying civilian infrastructure. That is why the civilian death toll – including children – has mounted so rapidly.
Pitted against Israel’s hi-tech killing machine are rockets with all the efficacy of a peashooter. These are indiscriminate by nature, and firing them therefore also constitutes a war crime. It can be of little comfort, to Israelis cowering in shelters, that the primitive projectiles have ‘only’ killed one person – so far. For zero military advantage, they come with a heavy political price-tag, allowing Israel to claim “self-defence” and a false equivalence, thereby distracting from the essential imbalance between occupier and occupied, oppressor and oppressed.
There has to be a better way, and it can be glimpsed in the twin tracks of diplomacy and nonviolent resistance. The world must cease tolerating the illegal military occupation of Palestinian territory, with the abuses it entails. And we can bring that day closer by responding to the call from Palestinian civil society for support through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.
That is why I have spent the last year defending my right, through Australia’s Federal Court, not to take part in fellowship schemes that link the University of Sydney, where I direct the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, and two institutions from Israel. This week, Judge Alan Robertson dismissed the case against me and awarded costs.
It will mark the termination of a complaint by an Israeli legal centre, Shurat HaDin, that boycotting such links amounts to a form of anti-semitism, and should therefore be ruled in breach of Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act.
Shurat HaDin is the last of five original claimants still standing, and wanted the Court to order me to apologise, and recant. It was joined, in bringing the original Statement of Claim, by others including Israeli tour operators catering for international visitors. They sought to blame me for decisions by performing artists, such as Snoop Dogg and Elvis Costello, not to play in Israel.
Once these allegations were struck out for lack of evidence, the case boiled down to my refusal to endorse a fellowship application by a professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. With the claim thus narrowed, however, Shurat HaDin lost its legal standing, since – not being linked to a university – it could not possibly be affected by my policy towards collaboration with fellow academics.
This narrow, technical basis for dismissal should not disguise its strategic importance. The program of Israeli ‘lawfare’ against international solidarity actions has stepped up, in multiple jurisdictions, since the vote by the United Nations General Assembly, in late 2012, to grant Palestine the status of a non-member state, the biggest diplomatic gain so far.
Pro-Israel groups here responded to the UN vote by persuading Australian politicians, led by then-Prime Minister Julia Gillard, to sign the so-called “London Declaration on Combating Anti-Semitism”, which seeks to criminalise not only “anti-Semitic discourse” but also “calls for boycotts”.
Ronald Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress, hinted at a concerted campaign underway to stifle BDS activism, telling the Jerusalem Post: “We realized that many countries have laws against boycotts, and these lawyers came up with very interesting solutions, and this is a way to defeat them”. A US State Department memo published by WikiLeaks revealed Shurat HaDin’s Director, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, admitting to taking directions from Mossad, Israel’s secret service, over whom to target.
US Secretary of State John Kerry made two significant ‘slips of the tongue’ while chairing the ill-fated talks which ended back in April. Israel risked becoming an “apartheid state” without a peace agreement, he said, in what was described as a private briefing, never intended for public consumption; and that a failure of negotiations would lead to “more boycotts”.
These may have been inadvertent, but were more likely an attempt to turn up the heat on the Israelis. Ultimately, Kerry failed because the Obama White House would not back him up with the required political capital. The annual $3 billion in military aid keeps flowing, American investment cash keeps piling in and American diplomacy still provides a capacious shelter.
We are here today because Israel still faces too little pressure to turn away from its routine recourse to militarism. But that pressure is building from below, through the BDS movement, and in diplomatic arenas as public outrage feeds through into political process.
That is why there has been a coordinated campaign to outlaw and exclude boycott activism from the repertoire of legitimate political expression. With my court victory, that campaign in Australia has sustained a significant setback. It represents an opportunity for BDS to be more widely taken up. Anyone who does will be making their own contribution to peace with justice.
Jake Lynch, former BBC newsreader, political correspondent for Sky News and Sydney correspondent for the Independent, is Associate Professor of Peace Journalism and Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney, Australia. He is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment and the advisor for TRANSCEND Media Service-TMS. Lynch is the co-author, with Annabel McGoldrick, of Peace Journalism (Hawthorn Press, 2005), and his new book, Debates in Peace Journalism, has just been published by Sydney University Press and TUP – TRANSCEND University Press. He also co-authored with Johan Galtung and Annabel McGoldrick ‘Reporting Conflict-An Introduction to Peace Journalism,’ which TMS editor Antonio C. S. Rosa translated to Portuguese.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 21 Jul 2014.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Time for BDS to Oppose Israeli War Crimes, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.