Another Brick in the (Apartheid) Wall


The good news and bad. First, the bad.

 

In Palestine, the Israeli government is pushing ahead building the Apartheid Wall, cloistering Palestinians into myriad jails of various sizes. Hardly a day passes without any number of Palestinians dying from Israeli bullets or shells.

 

Meanwhile, the victory of Hamas in the last Palestinian elections acted as a truth serum, revealing the true allegiances of Northern governments. With Javier Solana and Angela Merkel alternating in the role of Torquemada the EU, together with the U.S. and Canada, set out to torture Palestinians until they confess their democratic heresy, repent and publicly declare their allegiance to the true faith of Zionism (Israel’s so called “right to exist” which is a right no other government possesses).

 

This international auto da fe consists in starving Palestinians, disrupting medical services, and causing as much hardship as possible to the a population already living under barely imaginable conditions. The sickening Dov Weissglas, Israel’s PM advisor at the time, called the coming economic siege “an appointment with the dietician.” That a racist advisor to a racist government would make a concentration camps joke is perhaps unremarkable — like the famous “dog bites man” news item. But Europe’s decision to help administering the starvation “diet” to Palestinian is more disturbing. It raises an important question: can Europe ever shake off its bloody heritage?

 

Doubts linger. Franziska Voboril, a spin-doctor dutifully toiling in the belly of the EU press office, authored a public letter in defense of EU policies, in which she had the gall to say that the EU was starving Palestinians for their own good, because the positions of the [democratically elected] Hamas were supposedly “against the will of the majority of the Palestinians.” The Inquisition, the first transnational European bureaucracy and apparently Solana’s and Voboril’s spiritual model, also claimed that it burned, starved, and humiliated its victims for their own good, allegedly “to save their soul.” Plus ça change…. [1]

 

But in this dispiriting downward spiral of inhumanity and hypocrisy there are beacons of hope. One comes from the UK and one from Canada; not from the governments, but from labor organizations.

 

In the UK, The National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (NATFHE) voted in favor of an academic boycott of Israel. NATFHE’s resolution calls members “to consider the appropriateness of a boycott of those that do not publicly dissociate themselves from” Israel’s apartheid policies.

 

The NATFHE vote does not yet represent a coherent consensus in favor of action. There are many opposed, and many more who have barely begun thinking about the issue. As the resolution clearly states, it is not a binding boycott but an invitation to the members to think through their moral obligation to take a stand against Israeli apartheid. For an explanation of what the boycott means and why it is justified read the letter from Palestinian Academics under Israeli Occupation.

 

At about the same time, the Ontario branch of the largest Canadian public employees union, CUPE, passed a resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli products and a campaign of education regarding Israel Apartheid policies. The CUPE resolution is much stronger than the NATFHE resolution, reflecting a stronger, more radical, and more coherent consensus among the 900 delegates, representing 200,000 workers. CUPE Ontario promises a campaign of education and further advocacy for boycott propositions in the Canadian labor movement.

 

Both resolutions reflect the waning of Israel’s power to masquerade as a beleaguered democracy, and the growing public recognition that its brand of Apartheid, for all its uniqueness and historical specificity, is nevertheless beyond the pale of acceptable political arrangements.

 

That both NATFHE and CUPE are labor unions is of particular importance. Predatory states that routinely trample on human rights are a dime a dozen. But no other such offender has so many corporate billionaires and lackeys shilling for it. Israel wins this love by being a good servant of plutocratic interests. Its government, a world leader in corruption, has always been eager to prostitute itself as well as its workers to every bidder, and not necessarily the highest. With its oversize defense budget, chronic belligerence and 10% of its exports in the military trade, Israel is the natural darling of the poisonous weapons industry. Since the Suez war, Israel has often been the worst regimes’ best friend, training death squads in El Salvador, arming Somoza’s reign of terror in Nicaragua, helping South Africa evade economic sanctions, etc. (Israel Shahak, Israel’s Global Role, 1982.) 

 

But all this pales in comparison to Israel’s most important, although intangible, current global export — the so called “clash of civilizations.” Ethnic tensions, cultural racism and fear of lurking terror, which Israel does all it can to inflame worldwide, are yet again the weapon of choice in the war against working people, and the plutocracy’s global cure for the ailment Samuel Huntington called “excess of democracy.” Surveillance, curtailment of civil rights, intensified repression, and the de-funding of public services other than “security”, are all the rage among economic elites in both the “developed” and the “developing” world. Israel, whose staggering economic inequality and crony capitalism have been built on these “security” pillars, is eager now to market and monetize its accumulated expertise (a couple of examples; the U.S. is now considering a wall on the Mexican border that will be modeled on the Apartheid wall; Israel is training U.S. and British police; American officers implement Israeli “urban warfare” lessons, etc.)

 

Hence, labor movements ought to prioritize the dismantling of Israel’s Apartheid and the establishment of a just peace in the Middle East. In addition to being the moral thing to do, dismantling Israel’s Apartheid is also an act of self-defense, intended to undercut the trend towards more repression and less democracy that is evident in so many countries, including the UK and Canada.

 

In the next few weeks, the Israel juggernaut of propaganda, money and arm-twisting will be clocking a lot of overtime. As Israel’s willing apologists charge apoplectically, one hopes the delegates of CUPE and NATFHE are ready for the onslaught and can buck the pressure. Please write to them and express your support (see details below).

 

Only two years ago, the campaign of divestment against Israel looked moribund. Indeed, one of the major arguments against it was that it was a hopeless cause and a distraction, since, unlike the anti-South Africa movement, the anti Israeli Apartheid movement lacked a broad public consensus.

 

Broad consensus, however, doesn’t materialize fully blown, like Wisdom from Jupiter’s head. It is built step-by-step, through education and campaigning. Since that accusation was made, many religious, civic and political organizations have joined the boycott call, including The Green Party of the United States, The Church of England’s general synod, The regional council of Sor-Trondelag in Norway, The Socialist Left Party of Norway, The city council of Arbizu in the Basque country, The Presbyterian Church (USA), the Anglican Consultative Council in Nottingham, England, The UN International Conference of Civil Society for Peace in the Middle East, and The World Council of Churches. There can be little doubt that there is suddenly a lot more consensus today than a year ago. And that’s good news.

 

Gabriel Ash is an activist and writer who writes because the pen is sometimes mightier than the sword and sometimes not. He welcomes comments at: g.a.evildoer@gmail.com

Information for writing to CUPE Ontario and NATFHE

CUPE Ontario

President: sryan@cupe.on.ca
Executive: akirby@cupe.on.ca
International Solidarity Coordinator: knastov@yahoo.com
Website: www.cupe.on.ca/www/contactus/contact
CUPE Ontario, 305 Milner Avenue, Suite 801, Scarborough, ON, Canada  MIB 3V4
Fax: (416) 299-3480

NATFHE ( now UCU)

General Secretaries: Sally Hunt and Paul Mackney:  jointgeneralsecretaries@ucu.org.uk
Presidents: Dennis Hayes and Steve Wharton: jointpresidents@ucu.org.uk.

In addition to writing to CUPE and NATFHE, please consider contributing to one of the few organizations mobilizing to help Palestinians materially and immediately. Palestinian cities are in a severe crisis. One option is the Israeli-Palestinian group Ta’ayush.  Ta’ayush is organizing a convey of supplies to Nablus.  Details for sending donations can be found here.

Another group calling for donations is Physicians for Human Rights-Israel.

NOTE

 

1) A later version of her boilerplate letter omits this particularly offensive phrase. I assume enough enraged constituents scolded her.  

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