Wednesday, February 4, 2009

A South African Boycott of Israel

Durban for Palestine via BDS
By Bond, Patrick

The decision on February 3 by South African dockworkers to refuse handling of Israeli imports is of enormous importance for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and will prod more local Durban citizens - including academics and cultural activists - to also raise concerns about institutional linkages that give the Israeli state legitimacy.

This Sunday, the SA Transport and Allied Workers Union aim to repeat last year's feat of turning back a huge ship symbolizing and contributing to oppression. A protest led by Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) president Sdumo Dlamini will be held at the mouth of the port at 10am.

Campaigning against apartheid for many years, international activists found sanctions and divestment a useful tool under these conditions, so as to reduce the monetary incentive for ongoing racism.

The parallel is real. Writing in the Harvard Crimson last Monday, Harvard law professor Duncan Kennedy contextualizes the past month's carnage: "It is important to understand the 1,300 Palestinian casualties, including 400 children as well as many, many women, versus 13 Israeli casualties, as typical of a particular kind of 'police action' that Western colonial powers and Western 'ethnocratic settler regimes' like ours in the US, Canada, Australia, Serbia and particularly apartheid South Africa, have historically undertaken to convince resisting native populations that unless they stop resisting they will suffer unbearable death and deprivation."

Such a gesture - like Israeli BDS on economic, sporting, academic and cultural activities, in solidarity with Palestinians - may at least begin, to borrow Player's words, to "highlight the critical importance of resolving their plight."

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