Many people compare the Palestinian's plight to that of South Africans living under apartheid; two peoples living in one country in completely separate circumstances, one being oppressed and treated inhumanely at the rule of the other. Israel's separation wall that is being erected, at its current course annexing yet more Arab land reinforces the Israeli apartheid view.
Palestinians — like South Africans under apartheid — are suffering a great deal, especially in Gaza where they have been forced by an EU and US boycott to live in poverty as bad as anywhere else in the world. Unlike South Africans there is no significant campaign to stop the oppression. The British anti-apartheid movement became extremely popular across the western world, attracting the support of the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. Its campaign of boycotting the South African regime, with such popular support, made a big difference in ending the apartheid, according to the people who lived under the regime.
Last year, in a cry for similar support, authoritative members of Palestinian civil society called for an academic, consumer, and cultural boycott of Israel as well as divestment from churches, universities, states, cities, unions, banks and anyone else who wants to take part. The text of the call was:
We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law by:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands 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.
The call was endorsed by 171 Palestinian organizations, campaigns, unions and refugee rights associations, as the original call said: from "the three integral parts of the people of Palestine: Palestinian refugees, Palestinians under occupation and Palestinian citizens of Israel." The boycott –which could become a major part in the fight to end Israeli oppression– has begun. Several factors are stopping it from having the popular support from mainstream media and western governments enjoyed by the South African anti-apartheid movement:
One: The similarities between Israel treatment of the Palestinians and the South African Apartheid is not commonly connected, especially in the mainstream media, which for whatever reason refuses to make the connection.
Two: We live in a world ruled by the U.S, with Israel by their side, Israel have been extremely keen to have any form of boycott or divestment labelled as anti-Semitic, an almost equal campaign by pro-Israeli media and journalists has begun for people to boycott the boycott.
Three: Fear of terrorism, which gives weight to Islamaphobia and credibility and therefore increasing popularity to far-right wing groups and political parties, happily criticising the entire Muslim community as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers. This means that the Palestinians actively fighting the oppressive Israeli occupation with the only means they have, is played out in the media and therefore seen by the world as terrorism.
Four: Al Qaeda continually seeking to affiliate its cause, which is, in short the murder of Americans and their allies anywhere in the world, with the Palestinians cause, seeking to live in an independent and oppression free-state, and be treated as equals by the world. This adds weight to the media stories, and that the Palestinians fighting the occupation are part of the same Islamic Extremist ideology that is a threat to the western world.
All these factors combine to prevent the calls for boycott and divestment of Israel, attempting similar activities as the anti-(South African)-Apartheid movement and with a similar cause, freeing a people from an oppressive and racist regime, from enjoying anywhere near the same level of support. The campaign is young and this is my way of helping.
Israeli academic and author Ilan Pape is a strong supporter of the boycott. In a recent interview given to Christopher Brown, Mr Pape said of the boycott's value in achieving a just solution for the Palestinians:
"It will be very hard in this globalized world we live in to bring about economic sanctions, which would have been the most effective in forcing a change in Israeli policy.
The second best, and more feasible, [way] is to send a message to Israel from the societies at large that its policies are unacceptable, that as long as it continues to do what it does it cannot be accepted … It cannot be in the community of civilized nations.
I think there is both a symbolic and a very political significance to a coordinated reaction by societies in the west for a message, a clear message, that is conveyed in the way of a boycott of divestment or any other symbolic act which says that there is a price tag attached to the policies that you pursue and as long as you pursue these policies, you are not welcomed here. Not as individuals — you are not welcomed here if you represent a certain ideology, a certain state, and especially if you appear as an official representative of this state."
To the Israeli claims that the boycott is anti-semitic Mr Pape said: "the Israelis are over-using the anti-semitic accusation against anyone who criticizes them. Not only [against] those who call for a boycott, even the mildest criticism of Israel is depicted here as an act of anti-semitism. Maybe one or two known anti-semites have joined the wagon, but that doesn't prove anything. The fact is that Israel wants to be immune from any criticism. And the shield it uses is always anti-semitism."
Mr Pape's final word in the interview was:
"Israel needs a wake-up call. Israelis don't know that this is what the world thinks about them and I think that civil societies around the world can be the alarm clock for them, and they should be the alarm clock."
The daily violence Palestinians have to endure under Israeli occupation, combined with what can safely be called "measured" "genocide" and intentions to ethnically cleanse the West Bank, should mean Palestinians have the massive support of all campaigners against oppression. They don't.
This boycott is a way that you and I can support the Palestinians struggle, a way to let Israel know that the developed and civilized world will no longer tolerate their behaviour, even if our governments will. I will be supporting it, click here to find out how you can too.