Update: Boycott – Divestment – Sanctions until Israel Complies withInternational Law and UN Resolutions

Update: Boycott – Divestment – Sanctions until Israel Complies withInternational Law and UN Resolutions

On 9 July, the first anniversary of the ICJ advisory opinion on Israel’s illegal Wall in the OPT, over 170 Palestinian civil society issued their joint Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. Endorsing organizations reflect the three integral parts of the Palestinian people: Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under occupation, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.

 The signatories call for Israel’s isolation until it respects three basic conditions for the exercise of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination: ending the occupation and colonization; full equality of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and, the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties (See, “Visions – Missions – Strategies: Can Palestinian NGOs Make a Difference?”, al-Majdal 26, Summer 2005). Subsequent events and developments have shown that a global civil society BDS Campaign is both justifiedandfeasible.

Although Israel’s withdrawal of settlers from the Gaza Strip was a momentous event, the Gaza Strip has remained occupied territory. Moreover, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the OPT since 1967, John Dugard, findsinhismostrecentreport:“ThehumancrisisinGazaislikelytocontinueas the economy will further deteriorate because of Israeli control. [] The construction of the wall and the expansion of settlements [in the West Bank] seriously threaten the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people and undermine the prospects for Palestinian statehood. The annexation of Palestinian territory is probably already a fait accompli” (Report of the Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel since 1967, 18 August 2005, para. 37.)

Although the ICJ held that states are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the construction of the wall and not to render aid or assistance, and although politicians express their support for a two-State solution, the international community has failed to take action in order to bring Israel in compliance with international law. The UN Special Rapporteur, for example, reports that on 30 June, Switzerland, in its capacity as depository to the Geneva Conventions, informed the General Assembly that there was little support for resuming the Conference of High Contracting Parties, although it found that the majority of States believe that the legal framework for confronting the situation in Palestine was provided by the ICJ advisory opinion; moreover, on 21 July, the UN Security Council decided not to embark on a consideration of the construction of the wall and the advisory opinion.

Recent statements of the Quartet and the comprehensive EU strategy announced on 5 October 2005 fail to mention the construction of the wall, the expansion of colonies in the West Bank including eastern Jerusalem, the violations of human rights in the OPT and self-determination of the Palestinian people (See: http://europa.eu.int/comm/external_relations/mepp/index.htm). The United Nations itself has so far failed to make progress in the implementation of General Assembly resolution ES-10/15, which, persuant to the ICJ advisory opinion, requested the Secretary-General to establish a register of damage caused to all natural or legal persons who have suffered as a result of the construction of the wall.

As states and the United Nations show a lack of commitment to the rule of law and human rights, civil society organizations worldwide are taking action. On 13 July, the Palestinian BDS Call was unanimously adopted by the participants in the UN International Conference of Civil Society for Peace in the Middle East held in Paris. It has since served as a reference for declarations, petitions and debates over appropriate campaigns and strategies for holding Israel and other states to account, including:

– a 28 August statement issued by a European fact-findingdelegation of former ministers from the Netherlands, Ireland and Germany welcoming divestment from Israel and calling upon the EU to suspend all forms of military cooperation with Israel and to inform Israel that its Association Agreement with Israel will be suspended if it does not live up to relevant bench marks and obligations under the Agreement’s human rights clause;

– a resolution passed by faculty of the University of Michigan calling on the University administration to review University investments in Israel and Palestine and to investigate if divestment is warranted;

– a public call “Boycott Apartheid – Free Palestine” launched during a soccer game of Israel’s and Switzerland’s team in Basel on 3 September;

– and, preparations of a Europe-wide enlargement meeting on sanctions and other campaigns to be convened by the European Coordinating Committee on Palestine (ECCP) in Brussels in October.

Throughout the summer and fall, faith-based organizations, large NGOs, unions, campus student committees, academia and solidarity organizations continued efforts at clarifying their policy regarding Israel divestment, boycott, arms embargoes and sanction campaigns. Several Israeli organizations, such as the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition (ICAHD) and Yesh Gvul, also launched calls for boycott and/or sanctions, or joined in law suits filedabroadunderuniversal jurisdiction legislation against former and acting Israeli military personnel allegedly involved in war crimes and crimes against humanity in the OPT. By September, Israeli media and politicians could no longer ignore the growing threat of isolation and pressure deriving from BDS campaigns and war crimes suits abroad, and the broad Israeli public was – for the firsttimesincelong–confrontedwiththe possible cost of continued violation of international law in the OPT (See for example: Amiram Barakat, “The Divestment Snowball”, Ha’aretz, 14 September 2005).

The current picture of global and local civil society efforts at building pressure for enforcement of international law and human rights – a condition for Palestinian freedom and a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis – is one of multiple and diverse campaigns. However, if Palestinian and international civil society can create the conditions, and an umbrella, for sustained involvement of diverse actors and initiatives, these campaigns can be transformed into a concerted, broad, and likely more effective campaign.

Muhammad Jaradat is the Coordinator of the BADIL Campaign for Palestinian Refugee Rights.