Why Block the Boat?
I have been watching the situation for a long time now. I’ve paid particular attention to efforts to make war and peace such as the series of battles between Israel and Hamas that have occurred since the capture of Gilad Shalit on June 25, 2006 and the commencement of Operation Summer Rains by the Israeli Defense Force on June 28, 2006.
One year earlier, (on July 9, 2005), “Palestinian Civil Society Calls for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights.” The BDS call was [originally] endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The Movement initially focused on 3 goals;
1) “Ending [Israel’s] its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2) Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3) Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”
There have been many attempts to engage the BDS program in Israel, Europe, here in the United States and beyond with campus and community based political campaigns including the recently successful multi-year effort, (concluding with a 310 to 303 vote on June 21, 2014), requiring the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to divest from three American companies, (Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solution), whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories. Over the past few years rising international pressure has been applied to promote the academic; Stephen Hawking and cultural boycott; Elvis Costello, of Israel with mixed success. In 2014 enormous pressure was applied to Scarlet Johansson to sever ties with SodaStream, an Israeli company with a factory and Palestinian employees in the West Bank. Ultimately, Johansson chose instead to sever ties with the humanitarian NGO Oxfam and very publicly continue her support of SodaStream.
It must be stated that every day that peace is not only not on the table but not actively pursued by the State of Israel it is openly inviting a delegitimization that is growing exponentially around the world, because increasingly the international community labels Israel as an occupier and worse, (given its 47 year record of aggressive occupation of the West Bank), and the view that Israel has become a mean-spirited Goliath that is unwilling to make peace with its ineffectual junior partner. Add to that the optics of a Gaza war with Hamas that has killed at least 1950 Palestinians and 67 Israelis in which some large number, (let’s say at least 50% are Palestinian civilians versus 3 Israeli civilians), underline the death of Palestinian children in a guerrilla war in which Hamas has successfully utilized its population as the first line of defense. War is terrible and its costs are forever, beginning re Operation Protective Edge with the kidnapping and killing of three additional young Israeli civilians; Naftali Fraenkel; 16, Gilad Shaer; 16 and Eyal Yifrah; 19. The kidnapping fired up the IDF and the Israeli population and led to an exhaustive search, the arrest of dozens of Hamas members in the West Bank and the outpouring of anger with the location/identification of the bodies and their burial on July 1, 2014 in the Modi’n Cemetery before thousands of Israelis including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who gave one of the eulogies. In the aftermath there were angry mobs in Jerusalem yelling death to Arabs and a group of extremists captured, burned alive and buried Mohammed Abu Khdeir; 16, who had been taken while waiting on the street to go to his mosque to make early morning prayers during Ramadan.
Israel as a target for BDS has expanded once again exponentially through its current conflict with Hamas and the focus of the campaign is changing dramatically from that of human rights, (sometimes limited to the occupied West Bank), to a far more general response to Israeli Apartheid and a genocide in Gaza. Demonstrations in the West Bank, Europe and America are large and angry and not always non-violent. Anti-Zionism has morphed into anti-Semitism on the streets of Paris and in cities across the United States and Jewish institutions are increasingly being challenged including through a protest at the Jewish Federation here in Philadelphia on August 8, 2014 by the Jewish Voice for Peace.
On the West Coast a new BDS campaign; Block the Boat, is being coordinated by a number of organizations including the Arab Resource and Organizing Center. This effort is to Block the Zim, (Israeli), cargo ships that are due to arrive in three ports; Tacoma, Seattle and Oakland. It is an effort that is utilizing the war between Israel and Hamas as a vehicle to re-frame the international delegitimization of Israel to accomplish three new goals:
1) “Severance of diplomatic ties with Israel
2) Trials for war crimes; and
3) Immediate international protection of the civilians of Gaza:”
Social media is carrying the message across the globe instantaneously and creating a new and far more challenging local, regional, national and international network against the government of Israel. It is well past time for people to take notice.