Last month the US House of Representatives voted by an overwhelming 398 to 17 margin to pass a resolution condemning the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
BDS is nonviolent pressure on Israel to respect Palestinian rights and to enter into negotiations to settle the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
As a veteran of the anti-apartheid boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement in the 1970s and 1980s, I feel strongly that the sanctions imposed on apartheid South Africa by the US in 1986, which led to a democratic transition over the next several years, shows that this kind of nonviolent economic pressure can work. In both countries there was broad support among the oppressed group for the call for economic sanctions to promote equal rights and democracy.
The US should use escalating BDS to pressure Israel to end the blockade of Gaza, stop expanding West Bank settlements, and respect Palestinian human rights and equality under the law. The first step should be a comprehensive military embargo against Israel.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee calls for “immediate international action towards a mandatory comprehensive military embargo against Israel similar to that imposed against apartheid South Africa in the past.” The military embargo should cover governments, companies, and research centers that cooperate with and support Israel’s military and security industry.
Israel acts with impunity because the United States has given Israel a blank check diplomatically and militarily for more than 30 years during the administrations of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. The United States must end its unconditional support for Israel by stopping aid to Israel as long as it continues to violate international law and the human rights of Palestinians.
I have long supported BDS pressure on Israel. In 2002, as the Green candidate for New York Comptroller, I called for divestment of state pension funds from companies involved in the occupation of Palestinian territories as Israel began constructing its Separation Barrier, dubbed the “Apartheid Wall” and the “Berlin Wall” by Palestinians. In 2005, as a Green Party national committee member, I voted in favor of the BDS policy adopted by the Green Party of the United States. In my 2006 campaign for US Senate against Hillary Clinton, I called for a cut-off US military and economic aid to Israel after its military attacks on Gaza. In my three campaigns against Governor Andrew Cuomo, I called for BDS in criticizing Cuomo’s unconditional support for Israel as it again and again bombed the Gaza Strip, already besieged by the Israeli embargo, during each of my campaigns in 2010, 2014, and 2018.
Israel is currently arresting immigrants and their children and holding them in prisons. Trump’s policy of imprisoning immigrant children is now being copied by Israel, and I am strongly opposed to both.
With the passage of the Nation State Law last year, Israel has further codified its nature as an “apartheid state.” The US will never play a positive role as a neutral broker in negotiating an Israeli/Palestinian settlement until it ends its unreserved support for Israeli government violations of international law and Palestinian rights.
US policy in the past was not always as submissive to Israeli demands as it has been in the last 30 years. For instance, President Eisenhower threatened military and economic sanctions against Israel, France, and the UK when the three countries invaded Egypt to seize the Suez Canal in 1956. The three countries withdrew after Eisenhower’s threat. In 1991, President Bush delayed $11 billion in loan guarantees to Israel until it halted its settlement building in the West Bank and Gaza and entered a peace conference with the Palestinians.
It is a sad commentary on American politics today that almost all the Democrats and Republicans today are far less willing to challenge Israeli wars and human rights abuses than were Dwight Eisenhower and George H.W. Bush, both of whom were traditional imperialists who presided over US-led coups and military interventions in several countries during their administrations. That’s another reason why we need the Green Party.