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Israel’s Freedom Flotilla Massacre underlines the urgency of intensifying BDS

terça-feira 8 de junho de 2010, por ,

Occupied Palestine, 08 June 2010 — In light of Israel’s massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla on 31 May 2010 and its insistence to continue its illegal siege on Gaza, pressuring Israel to comply with its obligations under international law has become of undeniable urgency. Drunk with power and impunity, Israel has ignored recent appeals by the UN Secretary General as well as a near consensus among world governments to end its deadly siege, putting the onus on international civil society to shoulder the moral responsibility of holding Israel accountable to international law and ending its criminal impunity. The Palestinian- led global campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel has shown the most effective way of achieving this.

Israel’s ongoing blockade of essential food, health, educational and construction supplies is not only immoral; it is a severe form of collective punishment, a war crime that is strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. It is inducing mass poverty, water contamination, environmental collapse, chronic diseases, economic devastation and hundreds of deaths. This three-year old medieval siege against 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza has been squarely condemned by leading legal experts, including UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the oPt, Prof. Richard Falk, who described it as constituting "slow genocide."

Israel’s widely condemned attacks on the unarmed ships of the Freedom Flotilla, as prominent international law experts agree[1], are in violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes." Under article 3 of the Rome Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Maritime Navigation of 1988, it is an international crime for any person to seize or exercise control over a ship by force, and also a crime to injure or kill any person in the process. As international law scholars have confirmed, there is absolutely no legal justification for Israel’s act of aggression against international civilian ships carrying humanitarian and developmental aid to civilians suffering under occupation and a patently illegal blockade, which has created a man-made and deliberately sustained humanitarian catastrophe. Our response must be commensurate with the horrific suffering resulting from this siege as well as decades-old, multi-tiered systems of Israeli oppression.

The reaction of the international community and people all over the world must understand the latest Israeli atrocities in the context of decades of Israeli impunity, afforded to it by Western governments and, lately, the United Nations. Since the Nakba, Israel’s establishment through the dispossession and ethnic cleansing of a majority of the indigenous Palestinian people, Israel has been allowed to deny the over 6 million refugees from their UN-sanctioned right to return to their homes of origin. In the same period, Israel managed to get away with its system of legalized and institutionalized racial discrimination that conforms to the definition of apartheid under the 1993 International Convention for the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.[2] For exactly 43 years, Israel has maintained its occupation of the West Bank, including Jerusalem, and Gaza and continued to expand its illegal colonies, committing grave violations of international law and war crimes with immunity. Even the ruling by the International Court of Justice in 2004, which found Israel’s Wall and colonial settlements illegal and directly called on all states to bring about an end to both, was ignored.

Today we see signs that the unconditional support given to Israel over the decades by the international community to protect it from being held accountable, or indeed criticized, is showing cracks. Israel’s Flotilla Massacre has been met with international sanctions including Nicaragua’s suspension of diplomatic relations with Israel[3]; South Africa[4] and Turkey[5] recalling their respective ambassadors from Tel Aviv, as well as a unanimous call in the Turkish parliament to "revise the political, military and economic relations with Israel" and to "seek justice against Israel through national and international legal authorities."[6] Furthermore, Norway’s minister of education and head of the Socialist Left party, Kristin Halvorsen, reconfirmed Norway’s arms ban on Israel and called all other states to "follow the Norwegian position which excludes trading arms with Israel."[7]

International civil society has also responded swiftly and effectively to Israel’s attack on the Flotilla. The Swedish Port Workers Union heeded the BNC appeal[8] by deciding to blockade all cargo to and from Israel from June 15 to 24.[9] The South African trade union federation COSATU called for "greater support for the international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel," urging "all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses."[10] The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU), which pioneered the boycott against Israeli maritime trade in February 2009, refusing to offload a ship in Durban, also heeded the BNC appeal, calling upon its members "not to allow any Israeli ship to dock or unload" and calling upon fellow trade unionists "not to handle them." [11] The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) unanimously called for making every municipality in South Africa an Apartheid Israel free zone.[12] Britain’s largest union, Unite, unanimously passed a BDS motion to boycott all Israeli companies at its first policy conference in Manchester.[13] Norway’s largest trade union federation, LO, comprising almost one fifth of the entire Norwegian population, called on the State Pension Fund, the third largest in the world, to divest from all Israeli companies.[14] A poll taken after the Flotilla attack showed more than 42% of Norwegians now supporting a comprehensive boycott of Israeli goods.[15]

Leading cultural figures have also had their say. World renowned British writer, Iain Banks, wrote in the Guardian that the best way for international artists, writers and academics to “convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation” is “simply by having nothing more to do with this outlaw state.”[16] The Klaxons and Gorillaz Sound System cancelled their scheduled concerts in Israel, due to the Flotilla attack,[17] and so did the Pixies.[18] World best-selling writer, the Swedish Henning Mankell, who was on the Freedom Flotilla when attacked, called for South-Africa style global sanctions against Israel in response to its brutality.[19] The best-selling US author, Alice Walker, reminded the world of the Rosa Parks-triggered and Martin Luther King-led boycott of a racist bus company in Montgomery, Alabama during the civil rights movement, calling for wide endorsement of BDS against Israel as a moral duty.[20]

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) warmly welcomes these brave, principled and effective international positions and actions to end Israel’s siege and criminal impunity. We salute the artists, sportspersons, and trade unions for heeding Palestinian civil society calls for effective solidarity with the Palestinian people in the form of BDS.