It is apartheid
The boycott, divest, and sanctions (BDS) movement has come under fire recently. It has, along with its supporters, been described as anti-Semitic. This claim is completely inappropriate and untrue. Unfortunately, opponents of the BDS cannot argue the facts, so the resulting reflex becomes name calling. This has created an atmosphere of fear. This is a powerful tool of repression and I expect to catch flack for this article. Why write about this subject if you know you will be called names, or worse? As an answer, please allow me to start with my experience being born a Christian Orthodox, Palestinian, Irish, and a bunch of other ethnic backgrounds in Regina, Canada.
I have felt true discrimination. As a small child, I answered the phone only to have the voice on the other end threaten to murder my parents and then kill me. I was five years old. This was not the last time it would happen to me. In my travels to the occupied Palestinian territories, I have been detained, forced to provide my passport just to cross town, pulled off a bus and interrogated, had my hand broken, and then a machine gun pointed directly in my face – all done to me as a Canadian citizen by the Israeli Army. I cannot even begin to describe the things the indigenous population has to go through every day. I am no stranger to discrimination, and when I see it, I speak up, regardless of how many friends and family tell me not to.
We cannot live in fear. I have had enough. I will not live on my knees in this country or any other. I will not be bullied into submission and I will not tolerate any more half-truths. This is why we need to talk about what is going on in this campus and what the BDS movement really is.
The BDS movement is comprised of many people from all faiths and backgrounds. This includes working groups such as the San Francisco-based Jewish Voice for Peace and Israeli BDS organization Boycott!, just to name two. This is not about race or religion. This is about Israelis, Palestinians, and other peace-focused people who want to create a strong peace by removing the occupation. That is the issue here – occupation. This hardly sounds like an organization that is racist. Do you know why? Because it is not.
The Palestinian people whom are living in Israel are a popular example of how great things are in Israel for Palestinians. It is true; there are some Palestinians who are well off. There are voting rights, a Supreme Court judge, and a very good soccer player. What is the problem?
Well, Arabs make up twenty per cent of the total population in Israel. Approximately 70 per cent live in crippling poverty. They cannot get out to vote as they cannot leave the shanty shacks they are forced to live in.
Why are they in these adverse conditions? They cannot move to a new home because they are not allowed to. In fact, walls are built around these shanty towns so they are not visible. As well, the water infrastructure they are allowed to use is so polluted that to drink it would surely make you sick, if not kill you.
Because of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, the territory resembles Swiss cheese rather than a country. There are two road systems: one is paved, avoids cliffs, and safely gets the settlers around check points to their destination; the other is made up of Palestinian dirt roads, subject to several checks and delays. This makes a 15-minute trip to the store a day-long affair. The roads I traveled on just to go from Bethlehem to Ramallah travelled up and down a mountain road called Fire Road, a name the road earned from all the flamed-out cars that fell off the cliff. From Fire Road, we merged onto Death Road. You can guess why it has this name. My favourite part, however, was when the extremists in the settlement camps would shoot at the house where I was sleeping. I slept on the floor for two weeks as bullets flew through my window.
Gaza is a disaster. It is an open-air prison with limited resources since the Israeli government controls what goes in and out. This is a population that has been aggressively bombed due to air raids that have invoked the response of rockets fired into Israel. This amounts to a sad cycle of violence created by and maintained through occupation and oppression. Though the size constraints of this article will not allow us to explore these themes in more detail, information is readily available through human rights organizations inside and outside Israel, and writings on the history of the region are available from respected authors such as Ilan Pappe, Noam Chomsky, and Edward Said.
These are just some of the reasons that I have chosen to join the BDS movement. It is the most effective tool we have.
How do we know it is working? Take a look around.
There is a reason why the people of this movement are being slandered without proof.
There is a reason our students’ union is denounced in Parliament for not wanting our students’ dollars invested in companies that produce weapons that enable occupation, genocide, oppression, and apartheid to exist.
In the BDS, I can speak for myself without the threat of being labeled and marginalized. This brings me to my final request: please stop telling people you speak for me. You speak for the Israeli government, not for its people. Sixty-five per cent of Israelis – regardless of race and religion – want peace. The BDS movement helps us put pressure on all governments to comply with international law and enter into real discourse about how to fix this mess.