Monday, August 31, 2009

Against the Israel Boycott

by Uri Avnery, August 31, 2009

"How much did the boycott of South Africa actually contribute to the fall of the racist regime? This week I talked with Desmond Tutu about this question, which has been on my mind for a long time.

No one is better qualified to answer this question than he. Tutu, the South African Anglican archbishop and Nobel Prize laureate, was one of the leaders of the fight against apartheid and, later, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the crimes of the regime......

The matter of the boycott came up again this week after an article by Dr. Neve Gordon appeared in the Los Angeles Times, calling for a worldwide boycott of Israel. He cited the example of South Africa to show how a worldwide boycott could compel Israel to put an end to the occupation, which he compared to the apartheid regime.........

"The boycott was immensely important," Tutu told me. "Much more than the armed struggle."

It should be remembered that, unlike Mandela, Tutu was an advocate of nonviolent struggle. During the 28 years Mandela languished in prison, he could have walked free at any moment, if he had only agreed to sign a statement condemning "terrorism." He refused.

"The importance of the boycott was not only economic," the archbishop explained, "but also moral. South Africans are, for example, crazy about sports. The boycott, which prevented their teams from competing abroad, hit them very hard. But the main thing was that it gave us the feeling that we are not alone, that the whole world is with us. That gave us the strength to continue."......

In this country, Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs have nothing in common – not a common national feeling, not a common religion, not a common culture, and not a common language. The vast majority of the Israelis want a Jewish (or Hebrew) state. The vast majority of the Palestinians want a Palestinian (or Islamic) state. Israel is not dependent on Palestinian workers – on the contrary, it drives the Palestinians out of the working place. Because of this, there is now a worldwide consensus that the solution lies in the creation of the Palestinian state next to Israel.

In short: the two conflicts are fundamentally different. Therefore, the methods of struggle, too, must necessarily be different......"

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