Boycott: Put more pressure on Israel to change
Published: Tuesday, November 23, 2010, 5:41 AM
By Steven Goldberg
As Israel increasingly ignores our government’s objections to the expansion of settlements, its primary concern is with placating its own right-wing parliamentary coalition. And why should Israel be concerned with the protests of the Obama administration when U.S. military aid to Israel – now billions of dollars per year, paid by U.S. taxpayers at a time when they have no jobs and are losing their homes – continues unabated?
Israel is increasingly a rogue nation under international legal standards. Decisions from the International Court of Justice declaring the separation wall illegal, United Nations reports detailing Israel’s illegal actions during its invasion of Gaza (the Goldstone Report), and the recent U.N. Human Rights Council report criticizing Israel’s attacks on the Gaza flotilla are bolstered by ongoing reports by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch detailing Israel’s illegal actions. In past generations, American policy has often led us to support dictatorships and overlook gross violations of human rights. The Obama administration promised a different path, but not in its unquestioned support for Israel as legal, ethical and moral concerns are readily tossed aside.
Oregon has not done much better. Our progressive politics and concern about the environment don’t seem to apply to the Israeli government’s policy of destroying Palestinian homes and crops as Israel expands its borders. Ethics and morals be damned if Israel promises opportunities for Oregon businesses. Thus our governor leads a trade delegation to Israel, the city of Portland promotes seminars encouraging investment in Israel, and local stores such as New Seasons – which tout their commitment to promoting local communities and agriculture – stock products made in Israel.
There are ways of putting pressure on Israel to change its policies. Military aid provided to Israel can be reduced by our government. Of course this is little more than a fantasy as our senators and representatives receive millions of dollars a year in contributions from political organizations that support Israel. (There are exceptions: former Rep. Brian Baird of Washington spoke out strongly against the invasion of Gaza and Rep. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon courageously speaks out against Israel’s actions as violations of international humanitarian law).
Several decades ago, when the white South African government instituted a policy of apartheid against its black citizens – justifying the policy as a response to alleged terrorist acts – U.S. citizens, students, labor unions and ultimately our government responded through a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions against the South African regime. Inspired by the success of this model of political action, a campaign to boycott Israeli products has begun in Europe, and has now spread to the United States, as one method of putting pressure on Israel to end its policies of occupation and discrimination against Palestinians. (More information about this campaign is available at www.bdsmovement.net.) If our government is unwilling to meaningfully pressure Israel to change its policies, then, as our recent elections have shown, it is time for the people to act.
Steven Goldberg lives in Southwest Portland.