A ferocious media campaign, led by the Murdoch press, has been unleashed against Sydney’s Marrickville Council over a motion it passed endorsing the global campaign of boycott, disinvestment and sanctions targetting Israel.
Whatever happens tonight when a bullied, threatened and smeared Marrickville Council faces motions to rescind its support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli apartheid, we will know one thing for sure: The apologists and supporters of Israeli apartheid fear BDS.
And the conclusion that the movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people should draw from this is to persevere with BDS and take the campaign to more councils, trade unions, universities and other institutions.
The campaign against Marrickville Council’s support for BDS included smears, abuse and even death threats against Greens Mayor Fiona Byrnes. Swastika symbols were sprayed on Greens election billboards and vicious lies were spread that the supporters of BDS were racist and anti-Semitic. A prominent blogger on the Daily Telegraph website posted a graphic which featured the Marrickville Council logo and the words “Jew-free since 2003″ beneath.
The anti-BDS campaign was bullying, deceitful and criminal. The apologists of Israeli apartheid have exposed their nasty side.
The long-string of right-wing politicians, shock jocks, columnists and commentators — and the powerful and reactionary Murdoch media empire — who joined the campaign have made a layer of people uncertain about this issue quite a bit uneasy. These people need to reflect on the question: Whose side are you on in this conflict? On the side of the rich, powerful and reactionary oppressors or on the side of the oppressed and the likes of Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and and host of other voices for human rights and justice.
The attempt to slur BDS as “anti-Semitic” is being demolished as more and more Jewish people with conscience and courage, many from within Israel, declare their support for BDS and Marrickville Council’s principled stand.
The movement should learn from the history of the boycott and other non-violent resistance tactics that were used so powerfully in the long struggle against South African apartheid. The Defiance of Unjust Laws Campaign in the 1950s, the defiance of the hated Pass Law, the rent boycotts, economic boycotts, the school boycotts, the international sanctions, divestment, and boycotts, the sporting boycotts, all were met with violent attacks from the apartheid state and from other states. However, this violence and intimidation failed to kill off the popular defiance. On the contrary, the bloody massacre in Sharpville 1960 became a turning point in the struggle.
If the movement against Israeli apartheid today perseveres we can expect to be ruthlessly attacked, as Marrickville Council was, by an alliance of powerful and reactionary forces determined to silence any rational and justice-focussed debate on Palestine. But we can used these atacks to expose the oppressors and broaden the alliances against them. That’s how the BDS tactic works. That’s how it can become a powerful movement.
I began my political life as an anti-racist campaigner in the early 1970s and while campaigning against South African apartheid heard arguments that have been regurgitated by the supporters and apologists for Israeli apartheid today. Back then they said you should not criticise South Africa or white-supremacist Rhodesia because there was repression going on in African-governed Africa states.
It was not a good excuse then and it is not a good excuse now.
And a tumultous political development in the Middle east today is smashing this argument. A new generation has launched a democratic wave of struggle right across the Arab world, in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Iraq and so on. And amidst all this the Israeli government sided with the Arab despots!
The fence-sitters should think about this, draw the right conclusion and take the side of those fighting oppression and repression.