||On a full-day drive through the Jordan Valley late last month, we skirted the earth’s oldest city and the lowest inhabited point, 400 meters below sea level. For 10,000 years, people have lived along the river separating the present-day West Bank and Jordan.
Since 1967 the river has been augmented by Palestinian blood, sweat and tears, ending in the Dead Sea, from which no water flows out, it only evaporates. Conditions degenerated during Israel’s land-grab, when from a peak of more than 300,000 people living on the west side of the river, displacements shoved Palestinian refugees across to Jordan and other parts of the West Bank. The valley has fewer than 60,000 Palestinians today.
But they’re hanging in. “To exist is to resist,” insisted Fathi Ikdeirat, the Save the Jordan Valley (http://www.jordanvalleysolidarity.org) network’s most visible advocate (and compiler of an exquisite new book of the same name, free for internet download: http://www.maan-ctr.org). At top speed on the bumpy dirt roads, Ikdeirat maneuvered between Israeli checkpoints, through Bedouin outposts in the dusty semi-desert, where oppressed communities eke out a living from the dry soils.
Just a few hundred meters away from such villages, like plush white South African suburbs drawing on cheap black township labour, stand some of the 120 Israeli settlements that since the early 1970s have pocked the West Bank. The most debilitating theft is of Palestinian water, for where once peasants gathered enough from local springs and a mountain aquifer to supply ponds that fed their modest crops, today pipe diversions by the Israelis’ agro-export plantations leave the indigenous people’s land scorched.
From the invaders’ fine houses amidst groves of trees with green lawns, untreated sewage is flushed into the Palestinian areas. The most aggressive Israeli settlers launch unpunished physical attacks on the Palestinians, destroying their homes and farm buildings – and last week even a mosque at Beit Fajjar, near Bethlehem.
The Gaza Strip has suffered far worse. Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’ bombing and invasion in early 2009, the 1400 mainly civilian deaths, the use of white phosphorous, political assassinations and the relentless siege are responsible for untold misery. International solidarity activists – including a Jewish delegation last month – are lethally attacked (nine Turks were killed in May) or arrested while trying to sail ships to Gaza with emergency relief supplies.
As Ikdeirat pointed out, the Jordan Valley’s oppression appears as durable, for Netanyahu vowed in February this year ‘never’ to cede this space to the land’s rightful owners. On our way back up to Ramallah for an academic conference, Ikdeirat looked down on his homeland from the western mountains, and outlined the larger struggle against geopolitical manipulation, land grabbing, minority rule, Palestinian child labour on Israeli farms and other profound historical injustices.
Given the debilitating weaknesses within Palestine’s competing political blocs - Hamas in besieged Gaza and Fatah in the Occupied West Bank, as well as the US-Israeli-Fatah-backed unelected government in Ramallah led by the neoliberal prime minister (and former World Bank/IMF official) Salam Fayyad - this is a struggle that only progressive civil society appears equipped to fight properly.
To illustrate the potential, 170 Palestinian organizations initiated the ‘Boycott, Divest, Sanction’ (BDS) campaign five years ago, insisting on the retraction of illegal Israeli settlements (a demand won in the Gaza Strip in 2005), the end of the West Bank Occupation and Gaza siege, cessation of racially-discriminatory policies towards the million and a half Palestinians living within Israel, and a recognition of Palestinians’ right to return to residences dating to the 1948 ethnic cleansing when the Israeli state was established.
The BDS movement draws inspiration from the way we toppled apartheid: an internal intifadah from townships and trade unions, combined with financial sanctions that in mid-1985 peaked because of an incident at the Durban City Hall. On August 15 that year, apartheid boss PW Botha addressed the Natal National Party and an internationally televised audience of 200 million, with his belligerent ‘Rubicon Speech’ featuring the famous finger-wagging command, “Don’t push us too far.”
It was the brightest red flag to our anti-apartheid bull. Immediately as protests resumed, Pretoria’s frightened international creditors – subject to intense activist pressure during prior months - began calling in loans early. Facing a run on the SA Reserve Bank’s hard currency, Botha defaulted on $13 billion of debt payments coming due, shut the stock market and imposed exchange controls in early September.
Within days, leading English-speaking businessmen Gavin Relly, Zac de Beer and Tony Bloom began dismantling their decades-old practical alliance with the Pretoria racists, met African National Congress leaders in Lusaka, and initiated a transition that would free South Africa of racial (albeit not class) apartheid less than nine years later.
Recall that over the prior eight years, futile efforts to seduce change were made by Rev Leon Sullivan, the Philadelphia preacher and General Motors board member whose ‘Sullivan Principles’ aimed to allow multinationals in apartheid SA to remain so long as they were non-racist in employment practices.
But the firms paid taxes to apartheid and supplied crucial logistical support and trade relationships. Hence Sullivan’s effort merely amounted, as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it, to polishing apartheid’s chains. Across the world, taking a cue from the internal United Democratic Front, activists wisely ignored attempts by Sullivan as well as by ANC foreign relations bureaucrat (later president) Thabo Mbeki to shut down the sanctions movement way too early.
Civil society ratcheted up anti-apartheid BDS even when FW DeKlerk offered reforms, such as freeing Nelson Mandela and unbanning political parties in February 1990. New bank loans to Pretoria for ostensibly ‘developmental’ purposes were rejected by activists, and threats were made: a future ANC government would default.
It was only by fusing bottom-up pressure with top-down international delegitimization of white rule that the final barriers were cleared for the first free vote, on April 27 1994.
Something similar has begun in the Middle East, as long-overdue international solidarity with Palestinians gathers momentum, while Benjamin Netanyahu’s bad-faith peace talks with collaborationist Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas go nowhere. Yet if another sell-out soon looms, tracking the 1993 Oslo deal, we can anticipate an upsurge in BDS activity, drawing more attention to the three core liberatory demands: firstly, respecting, protecting and promoting the right of return of all Palestinian refugees; secondly, ending the occupation of all Palestinian and Arab lands; and thirdly, recognizing full equality for the Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Abbas and Fayyad are sure to fold on all of these principles, so civil society is already picking up the slack. Boycotting Israeli institutions is the primary non-violent resistance strategy.
BDS, says Omar Barghouti of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (http://www.pacbi.org), “remains the most morally sound, non-violent form of struggle that can rid the oppressor of his oppression, thereby allowing true coexistence, equality, justice and sustainable peace to prevail. South Africa attests to the potency and potential of this type of civil resistance.”
For more than 250 South African academics (plus Tutu) who signed a BDS petition last month, the immediate target was Ben Gurion University (BGU). During apartheid, the University of Johannesburg (UJ, then called Rand Afrikaans University) established a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for scientific exchanges with BGU, which came up for renewal at the UJ Senate on September 29 (details are at http://www.ujpetition.com/).
Perhaps influenced by Mandela’s ill-advised acceptance of an honorary doctorate from BGU, the UJ Senate statement was not entirely pro-Palestinian, for it promoted a fantasy: reform of Israeli-Palestinian relations could be induced by ‘engagement’. Shades of Sullivan empowering himself, to try negotiating between the forces of apartheid and democracy.
On the one hand, the UJ Senate acknowledged that BGU “supports the military and armed forces of Israel, in particular in its occupation of Gaza” – by offering money to students who went into the military reserve so as to support Operation Cast Lead, for example. To its credit, the UJ Senate recognized that “we should take leadership on this matter from peer institutions among the Palestinian population.”
On the other hand, in an arrogant display of constructive-engagement mentality, the UJ Senate academics – many of whom are holdovers from the apartheid era - resolved to “amend the MOU to include one or more Palestinian universities chosen on the basis of agreement between BGU and UJ.”
Fat chance. The UJ statement forgets that Palestinian universities are today promoters of BDS. Even Al Quds University, which historically had the closest ties (and which until Operation Cast Lead actually encouraged Palestine-Israel collaboration), broke the chains in early 2009, because, “Ending academic cooperation is aimed at, first of all, pressuring Israel to abide by a solution that ends the occupation, a solution that has been needed for far too long and that the international community has stopped demanding.”
The man tasked with reconciling UJ’s Senate resolution with Middle East realpolitik is UJ Deputy Vice Chancellor Adam Habib. In 2001 he founded our University of KwaZulu-Natal Centre for Civil Society, and led substantial research projects nurturing progressive social change. Habib was banned from entering the United States from 2006-10, for his crimes of being Muslim and speaking at a 2003 anti-war protest, and he is probably the most eloquent and highest-profile political analyst in South Africa today.
However, Habib made a serious mistake, when recently remarking: “We believe in reconciliation... We’d like to bring BGU and Palestinian universities together to produce a collective engagement that benefits everyone.”
Even Habib’s enormous persuasive capacity will fail, if he expects liberal Zionists to recognize the right of Palestinians to self-determination and Israel’s obligation to comply with international law. Writing in the newspaper Haaretz in early October, BGU official David Newman celebrated Habib’s remark and simultaneously argued, point-blank (with no acknowledgement of the South Africa case), “Boycotts do nothing to promote the interests of peace, human rights or – in the case of Israel – the end of occupation.”
(Yet even Israel’s reactionary Reut Institute recognizes BDS power, arguing in February 2010 that a “Delegitimization Network aims to supersede the Zionist model with a state that is based on the ‘one person, one vote’ principle by turning Israel into a pariah state” and that “the Goldstone report that investigated Operation Cast Lead” caused “a crisis in Israel's national security doctrine… Israel lacks an effective response.”)
Habib deserves far better than a role as a latter-day Leon Sullivan uniting with the likes of Newman, and I hope he changes his mind about ‘engagement’ with Zionism.
After all, last year I witnessed an attempt to do something similar, also involving Habib and BGU. At the time of Operation Cast Lead and the imposition of the siege, Habib, Dennis Brutus, Walden Bello, Alan Fowler and I (unsuccessfully) tried persuading two academic colleagues - Jan Aart Scholte of Warwick University and Jackie Smith of Notre Dame - to respect BDS and decline keynote speaking invitations to an Israeli ‘third sector’ conference (http://web.bgu.ac.il/NR/rdonlyres/E6905E1E-6760-4E01-9BB2-D9161225BF97/0/ICTR_0209_En.pdf).
BGU refused to add Palestinian perspectives (a suggestion from Habib), and the lesson I quickly learned was not to attempt engagement, but instead promote a principled institutional boycott. Today as then, what Habib forgets is Barghouti’s clear assessment of power relations: “Any relationship between intellectuals across the oppression divide must be aimed, one way or another, at ending oppression, not ignoring it or escaping from it. Only then can true dialogue evolve, and thus the possibility for sincere collaboration through dialogue.”
The growing support for Palestinian liberation via BDS reminds of small but sure steps towards the full-fledged anti-apartheid sports, cultural, academic and economic boycotts catalyzed by Brutus against racist South African Olympics teams more than forty years ago. Today, these are just the first nails we’re hammering into the coffin of Zionist domination – in solidarity with a people who have every reason to fight back with tools that we in South Africa proudly sharpened: non-violently but with formidable force.
(Bond, a Durban-based political economist, was a recent visitor to Palestine at the invitation of Birzeit University in Ramallah.)
Inkululeko yasePalestine ifuna ukusebenzisa amacebo esawasebenzisa silwa nobandlululo ngokuzimela
Yahunyushwa nguFaith kaManzi
Kungekudala‑nje ngike ngahambela eJordaan , idolobha elilidala kakhulu
emhlabeni, elingamamitha anagmakhulu amane ngaphansi kokulingana
nolwandle. Kwiminyaka yezinkulungwane eziyizimkulungwane (10 000) abantu bebehlala eduze komfula namhlanje ohlukanisa olumanje sekuyiWest Bank kamye neJordaan.
Kusukela ngonyaka ka1967 lomfula usugwcaliswe igazi, izinyembezi kanye
nemizamo yabantu basePalestine, kuze kufike oLwandle oLufile (Dead Sea),
lapho kungagelezi khona manzi, avele‑nje aphelele emoyeni.Izimo zakhona
zabi nzima lapho abantu abangu 300 000 abahlala ngasentshonalanga
komfula, ngokuphelelwa indawo yoluhlala bebalekabaphoqeleka ukuthi
bawelele ngaphesheya kweJordaan nezinye izingxenye zaseWest Bank.
Namhlanje sekusele abantu abangaphansi kuka60 000 basePalestine kulendawo.
Kodwa abadikibali. Bakholelwa ukuthi “Ukuphila ikona olubenza
bazabalaze”, kugcizelela uFathi Ikdeirat, inhlangano yeSave the Jordaan
Valley (http: www.jordaan valley solidarity.org) iyona ehlanganisa
ezinye izinhlangano futhi egqame kakhulu ngokukhuluma futhi ehlanganise
incwadi ngegama layo lenhlangano, etholakala mahala uma uya kwikheli
labo kwi‑internet.http:/www.maan‑ctr.org/pdfs/exit.pdf. Sishayela ngelikhulu ijubane uIkdeirat ngokukhulu ukucophelela wangihambisa phakathi kwezindawo lapho lakwaIsrael libeke khona imingcele , nangesemgceleni waseBedouin eduze kwendawo elihlane enothuli, lapho imiphakathi ecindezelwa izama ukuziphilisa ngenhlabathi eyomileyo.
Kumamitha ngamakhulu ambalwa uba usuka lapho, njengezindawo ezinhle
ezihlala abamhlophe baseNingizimu Afrika ezakhiwe ngamandla abasebenzi
abbeholwelwa imali encane abahlala emalikishini, izabelo lapho kuhlala
khona abafiki baseIsrael ezinezakhiwe eziyikhulu namashumi amabili
enhlabeni owathathwa ngokungemthetho eWest Bank. Lapho ezikhathini
ezedlule imiphakathi yasePalestine yayikha khona amanzi ukuchelela
izitshalo zawo, namhlamje lemifudlana isifakwe amapayipi ahambisela
amanzi ezabelweni zezitshalo zamaIsrael, lapho abantu basePalestine
beshiye izwe labo lokhokho selomile.
Kubafiki abahleli ngenkani baseIsrael, abahleli ezindlini zabo
zikanokusho, indle ichithwa ezindaweni ezihlala abantu basePalestine.
Lezizifiki zaseIsrael ngesikhulu isihluku lesi ziye zihlasels abantu
basePalestine ngaphandle kokuchukuluzwa ngoba zazi ukuthi ngeke
zijeziswe, bese zicekela phansi izindlu zabantu basePalestine kanye
nezakhiwo zamapulazi – futhi ngesonto elidlule ngisho nendlu
yokukhonzela iMosque eBeit Fajjar, eduze kwaseBethlehem.
Njengoba‑ke umhlaba wazi, ukuhlasela kweIsrael iGaza Strip kuskela
ku2008 kuya ku2009 okwabulala abantu basePalestine abayizinkulungane
ezintathu zifile kwaholelwa osizini olungaxoxeki. Ukuphikelela
kwezishoshovu emhlabeni wonke zimele nalokhu, njengoaba sazi ngisho
ezamaJuda ngenyanga edlule – kwasho ukuhlaseleka nokuboshwa ngenkathi
bezama ukungena ukuze banike abantu basePalestine izinto abazidingayo.
Kodwa njengokusho kukaIdeirat, ukucindezelwa kwabantu basePalestine
kusazoqhubeka, njengoba noNetayanhu efunga ethi ngisho nangalonyaka
ngeke balibuyisele izwe lasePalestine kubanikazi balo. Endleleni yethi
sesiphindela kwinhlokodolobha yasePalestine, eRamallah kwimbizo
yezifundiswa, uIkedairat wabuka izintaba ezingasentshonalanga, futhi
wachaza kahle ngomzabalazo omelenie nokuthathwa komhlaba, ukubuswa
ngabayingcosana, ukusetshenziswa kwezingane (zamabantu basePalestine
emapulazini amaIsrael), ukuntshotshwa kwamanzi ezindaweni ezomileyo,
kanye nomlando omukhulu ongenakho ubulungiswa.
Njengoba kunalonunuthakathaka obenza ungabi namphumela umzabalazo
wabantu basePalestine phakathi kwamaqembu awo amabili aphikisanayo
ezombusazo – iHamas eGaza nayo engaphansi kwengcindezi enkulu kanye
neFatah eduze kwaseWest Bank engaphansi kokubuswa ngendluzula izwe
lakwaIsrael sengathi iwona kuphela umzabalazo umphakathii okufanele
Uma singase sikhombise okunethemba, izinhlangano ezimbalwa zabantu
basePalestine zizimbandakanye ngaphansi kohlelo lwe Boycott, Divest,
Sanction Israel, (BDS) eminyakeni eyisihlanu edlule, lapho befuna khona
ukubuyiselwa komhlaba kubantu bakwaIsrael abahleli ngokungemthetho
(njengoba kwenzeka futhi baphumelela abantu baseGaza Strip ngonyaka
ka2005) lapho kwaphela khona ukuhlalwa ngenkani eWest Bank futhi
kwaphela imithetho eyayilawula ngobandlululo kwisigidi sesizwe samaArab
ayehlala ngaphakathi kwaIsrael, futhi nokubhekelelwa kwelungelo labantu
basePalestine ukuthi babuyele ezweni labo njengoba babehlala khona
ngaphambi kuka1948 lapho abantu babebulawelwa ukungabi isizwe
sakwaIsrael (ethnic cleansing) futhi ngaphambi kokuthi kubunjwa izwe
Njengoba ngangilokhu ngikhunjuzwa ubumbano iBDS yayithola
ukugqugquzeleka ngendlela esaluchitha ngayo ubandlululo: impi yokuvikela
umbuso esasiyilwa ngaphakathi ngokuhlangayelwa kwamalokishi nabasebenzi, kanye nolunsinywa kwezezimali okwakokhelela kakhulu phakathi nonyaka ka1985 ngenxa yengozi eyenzeka eThekwini. Mhla ziwu15 kuAgasti 1985 uBasi wobandlululo Upw Botha wethula inkulumo yakhe eyayaziwa ngokuthi iRubicon Speech phambi kwezintatheli zomhlaba wonke ezibalelwa emakhulwini amabili, kwinhlangano yakhe yezombusazwe iNational Party lapho waxwayisa khona umhlaba ukuthi “Ningasenzi senzo okungaphezu kokwakwenzeka” (Don’t push us too far).
Lokhu kwabanomphumela omuhle kakhulu kwizinhlangano ezazilwa
nobandlululo ngoba iziteleka zaqhubeka ngomfutho omkhulu kwathi
abatshali bezimali basaba kakhulu befuna uhulumeni wobandlululo akhokhe
inali eyezikweleta zona.
Ezinsukwini ezimbalwa emva kwalokhu, osomabhizinisi bamaNgisi
baseNingizimu Afrika oGavin Relly, Zac de Beer kanye noTony Bloom baqala
babhidla iminyaka yobungani ababekade benayo nohulumeni wobandlululo
weNational Party babhekisa amabombo eLusaka ukuyohlangana nabaholi
bakaKhongolose (African National Congress), lapho kwaqala khona
ukukhulunywa “ngokubuswa yizicebi” okwakuzokhulula iNingizimu Afrika
kubandlululo emimyakeni eyisishagalolunye elandelayo.
Izinhlangano ezazilwa nobandlululo zaqhubeka nokuqinisa ngokulwa ngokuthi iNingizimu Afrika insinywe noma ude Klerk ayesenza izincomo
zokuthi akhulule uNelson Mandela nokuthi izinhlangano zomzabalazo ezazikade zivaliwe ziphinda zilwe nobandlululo ngoFebruary ngo1990.
Kwaze kwaqala ukubangcono lapho ukubuswa ngabamhlophe umhlaba wonke
sekukhishwa emthethweni wminyakeni yokuqala yama90s lapho kwabona khona ukuthi kungenzeka ngomhlaka 27 April 1994.
Lomthelela uyaqala manje ukubonakala eMiddle East, njengoba
ukuhlanganyela komhlaba okufanele ngabe kade kwenzeka nabantu
basePalestine sekuqala ukubonakala. Ngesikhathi abavikeli noma amasosha
akwaIsrael eqala ukubhidliza izakhiwo zaseJordaan ngenyanga kaJuly,
kwaveza ukuthi izinkulumo zokuthula phakathi kukaBenjamin Netanyahu
ngokuhlanganyela nomholi wasePalestine uMahmoud Abbas kwakungezokuzenzisa.
Ukunswinya ngokungayithengi imikhiqizo yakwaIsrael kungumzabalazo
onokuthula, futhi ngaphezu kwezakhamuzi ezingamakhulu amabili
ezifundiswa zaseNingizimu Afrika ngenyanga edlule, indawo yokuqala
engansinywa yisikhungo semfundo ephakeme iBen Gurion University (BGU),
ngoba iyona egxile kakhulu ngokuqeqesha ukuhlasela kanye nokubuswa
ngendluzula umhlaba wabantu basePalestine. Ngenkathi yobandlulo
isikhungo semfundo ephakeme saseGoli, iUniversity of Johannesburg (UJ,
isabizwa ngokuthi iRandi Afrikaans University), yayenze izivumelwano
neBGU, njengoba esinye salesozivumelwano sike savela phambi kwebhodi
uaseUJ ukuthi sibuye sivuselelwe kodwa okuyinto engeke yenzeke.
Njengoba kuzobakhona futhi ingcindezi phezu kweDurban Water and
Sanitation ukuthi buphele ubuhlobo phakathi kwabo neVeoila, ibhizinisi
elizimele laseParis elenza izidingo ezifana namanzi ukuthi zikhokhelwe
izindidla zezimali, ilona futhi elisetshenziswa iIsrael ukuhambisa
imikhiqizo yokwakha izakhiwo ezingekho emthethweni zokuhlala abantu
bakwaIsrael eWest Bank.
Ukwesekwa kakhulu komzabalazo wasePalestine ngecebo leBDS njengoba
kwenzeka nje kungikhumbuza ukudutshwa ngempumelelo kwezemidlalo kanye namagugu okwakuholwa nguDennis Brutus ngenkathi yobandlululo akwenza iminyaka engamashumi amane adlule. Lokhu okwenzekayo kuseyizipikili zokuqala esizifaka ebhokisini lokubuswa ngokucwaswa kubuzwe ngamaZionists kubantu abanelungelo lokuthi bazilwele ngezikhali ezaqale zacijiswa yithina la‑eNingizimu Afrika futhi esiziqhenyayo ngazo:
ezingenalo udlame kodwa ezinemiphumela ehlonishwayo nesatshwayo.
(UPatrick Bond, ungomunye wabahleli bencwadi entsha, iZuma’s Own Goal,
ubekade evakashele ePalestine eyisimenywa sesikhungo semfundo ephakeme