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Hilary Aked

Thorns in the lawnmower: BDS can help stop Israel

The growing BDS movement is considered by Israel as a national threat [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 October, 2015

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Comment: The non-violent boycott movement can sabotage the machine of Israeli oppression, writes Hilary Aked

Israel is "mowing the lawn" again. That the Israeli military refers to its killing sprees this way gives us a sense of how routine and banal this lethal method of maintaining control has become.

As Mouin Rabanni has pointed out, in this analogy the grass consists of Palestinians.

While unlike the onslaughts of 2008-9, 2012 and 2014, the so-called "precision" weaponry has yet to be rolled out, Israel's killing is being practiced with the usual impunity - and is still being blamed squarely on the victims.

The Palestinian Human Rights Centre records, for example, that 23-year-old Omer Mohammed al-Faqih from the village of Qatnah, in the northwest of occupied East Jerusalem, was murdered on the false pretext that he had attempted to stab an Israeli soldier at Qalandia military checkpoint.

Instead, witnesses reported that he argued with an Israeli soldier who was checking Palestinians' ID cards. Annoyed, trigger-happy and emboldened by the knowledge that he could wield his power without consequences, the soldier shot at Omer, who fell to the ground wounded.

     The young Palestinian paid with his life for daring to challenge his self-appointed rulers. And his story is far from unique


A second soldier then approached him and fired from close range.

The young Palestinian paid with his life for daring to challenge his self-appointed rulers. And his story is far from unique.

Even in cases where there have been actual stabbing attacks, it is worth noting the contrast between how Palestinians wielding knives - often teenagers - are immediately shot and usually killed, and how Yishai Schlissel, the Jewish Israeli who went on a stabbing rampage at a gay pride parade in Jerusalem, killing a teenage girl, was arrested unharmed.

The double standards are clear for anyone willing to see. The impunity enjoyed by Israeli soldiers who kill has been documented by human rights organisations for decades now.

And while the all-important context of the killings - and the difference between the colonial violence of the occupier and the violence of the oppressed - may be missing from Western media reports, a growing global solidarity movement is increasingly finding ways to punctuate the propaganda of Israel's hasbara apparatus.

This educational role for solidarity activists around the world is vital.

The more awareness there is that Israel is the party with the power to end both kinds of violence by ceasing to subordinate, ethnically cleanse and dispossess Palestinians, the more support there will be for the international Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

So let us extend the lawnmower metaphor to incorporate a role for resistance - and observe that if, and when, there are enough thorns in the machine, it will no longer be able to function.

In this sense we can all be thorns in the Israeli war machine.

In the ten years since Palestinian civil society called for BDS, the movement has gone from strength to strength. Will the combination of Palestinian popular resistance and the transnational BDS movement be able to throw enough spanners in the works that the system jams completely and the entire contraption ceases to function?

Two things seem clear. First, as the recent #SolidarityWaveBDS protests showed, the struggle for justice in Palestine is viewed by many social justice activists around the world as the critical pivot in their generation's wider struggle for global justice.

     The struggle for justice in Palestine is... the critical pivot in their generation's wider struggle for global justice


It is the Palestinians' own unique struggle for freedom, justice and equality - but it is also the epicentre of wider struggles against militarism and racism. On this understanding Black Palestinian Solidarity has emerged, especially in the US, and the Stop Arming Israel campaign has found its voice in the UK.

Second, BDS is working. In the same way that apartheid South Africa was isolated, Israel is steadily becoming a pariah state. Its supporters know this and are reacting by bringing in repressive measures to stop the boycott.

But every time it massacres Palestinians, Israel is sowing the seeds of its own demise - that is to say the delegitimisation of the Zionist project in Palestine - because new breakthroughs in the boycott movement are being made.

The anger and despair people feel when they witness Israel slaughtering Palestinians is being channelled into constructive solidarity through BDS. But only time - and hard work - will tell if the combination of Palestinian resistance and international grassroots solidarity can yet make Israeli apartheid unworkable.

Hilary Aked is an analyst and researcher whose PhD studies focus on the influence of the Israel lobby in the United Kingdom. Follow her on Twitter: @HilaryAked


Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

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