Israel has elected the most fanatic government in its history. But many Palestinian human rights activists and politicians expect this government, an unpalatable cocktail of right, far-right and fundamentalist Jewish parties, to be the mother of all silver-lined clouds.This drastic shift to the right cannot, in the short term, bode well for Palestinians languishing under Israel’s regime of oppression. The siege of Gaza, the illegal construction of settlements, especially in Jerusalem, the destruction of Palestinian communities in the Jordan Valley and the Naqab (Negev) will get worse, exacting an even steeper human price.
But Israel’s shedding of democratic pretenses and adoption of unmasked colonial policies will also enhance the already impressive growth of the global, nonviolent, Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (B.D.S.) movement.Launched in 2005 by the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society, B.D.S. calls for ending Israel’s 1967 occupation, ending its institutionalized racial discrimination, which fits the UN definition of apartheid, and upholding the right of return for Palestinian refugees uprooted and dispossessed in 1948.
A government led by a prime minister who rejects Palestinian statehood and publicly race-baits Palestinian citizens of Israel and whose key partner, the Jewish Home, advocates for creating Palestinian Bantustans will make it much more difficult to defend Israel in the court of world public opinion.American star Lauryn Hill’s recent cancellation of a concert near Tel Aviv was only the latest indicators of the impact of B.D.S in the mainstream. [NOTE: this paragraph was cut out of the online version despite appearing in the final, agreed upon version]
Almost 1,000 artists in the U.K. signed a pledge to boycott Israel culturally.In 2014, major Dutch and Norwegian pension funds divested from Israeli banks and companies for illegally operating in the occupied Palestinian territory.Several U.S. academic associations have adopted the academic boycott of Israeli institutions, shattering a taboo, while divestment has spread among elected student governments on U.S. campuses.Jewish support for B.D.S. has also grown significantly. A recent poll reveals that nearly one in six Jewish Americans supports boycotting products from Israel, and 25% support settlement boycotts.
The former Mossad chief ShabtaiShavit is convinced that B.D.S. has become a “critical” challenge to Israel, while the former prime minister Ehud Barak admits it is reaching a “tipping point.” Barak’s 2011 warning that Israel’s defiant right-wing leadership would bring about a “tsunami” of sanctions sounds quite prudent and relevant now.Israel may soon face its South Africa moment.
* Omar Barghouti is a Palestinian activist and one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He is the author of “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights.”
This article has appeared in the New York Times.