cc. In response to Israel’s continued action over Gaza, Kali Akuno argues for the intensification of the international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. In a bid to properly contextualise the current developments, the author contends that events must been seen as part of a longer history of assault on the Palestinian people, a history that will only begin to be put to bed through an international solidarity movement aimed at restoring Palestinian rights.
People of conscience all over the world are asking themselves and others, what can we do to stop the genocidal assault on Gaza? Although it sometimes seems that the Israeli military – financed by at least $3 billion a year of US dollars—is unstoppable, there is plenty we can do to weaken the Zionist Project.
We can and must build a genuine anti-imperialist movement that, over the long-term, cuts Israel from its US imperialist benefactor. Until now, in the political mainstream and, indeed, among too many progressives, US political and financial support for Israel has been virtually unquestioned. It is our responsibility to add another 25% to the 41% of people in the US who oppose Israel's genocidal assault on Gaza, and to deepen their understanding so they not only reject the latest Israeli atrocity, but also the entire Zionist project in the shape of the continued colonial occupation of Palestine.
We must intensify the international campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). The central goal of BDS must be to target corporations, investment entities, and other institutions that financially and politically support the Israeli government, especially the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). This movement must also seek to challenge and eventually end all US aid and material support to the IOF and intelligence forces, illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, subsidies to settlers, and the construction and maintenance of the illegal apartheid wall and related infrastructure. Furthermore, it should also seek to isolate a number of African, Arab, Asian, and Latin American governments that are complicit in the dispossession and inhumane deprivation of the Palestinian people, such as the Egyptian, Turkish, and Jordanian governments via their self-serving collaboration with Israel and the US government to negate Palestinian self-determination.
To understand these proposals, we must put this invasion in its proper historic and strategic context. This latest assault on Gaza is not simply an attempt to eliminate Hamas – Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya – or the Islamic Resistance Movement, it is first and foremost an assault on the Palestinian people and the people’s movement for national liberation. It is simultaneously an assault on the other forces of resistance to the Zionist, Western, imperialist, and neoliberal projects of domination and absorption in west Asia and north Africa (that is, the Middle East). These forces include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Islamic Brotherhood, trade unions, and the re-emerging left and civil society in Egypt, the broad array of resistance forces to the US occupation of Iraq, the Ba'athist government in Syria, and the Islamic government in Iran and their varying acts of defiance to US and Israeli domination of the region.
The heroic Iraqi resistance to the US occupation begun in 2003, Hamas's surprising electoral victory in 2006, and Hezbollah's stunning defeat of the Israeli army in July–August 2006 all seriously challenged the domination of the US and Israel in the region. Despite the overwhelming asymmetry that remains between the imperialist forces and the forces of resistance in the region, the forces of resistance, as the record shows, have made some significant gains.
The assault first begun on Saturday 27 December 2008 represents a blatant attempt to permanently erase these gains. The US and Israel aimed to establish the terms of what the US and Israel hope(d) to be the final surrender of the Palestinian people of their right to national self-determination. This, they hope, is the final strategic phase in the 60-year-plus war of Zionist colonial aggression against the Palestinian people. The main Zionist objectives are threefold: 1) To ethnically cleanse Gaza by annihilating its entire infrastructure and rendering it uninhabitable; 2) To achieve ‘politicide’ against Hamas; and 3) To force the Palestinian people to accept terms of surrender which would utterly negate their human rights, specifically the right to return and to national self-determination.
By giving Israel the green light for the Gaza invasion, US imperialism is also seeking to accomplish several additional objectives, which include consolidating a fully compliant Palestinian authority, isolating Hezbollah, tightening the noose on Syria and Iran, fortifying the neocolonial rule of the client Arab regimes – particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and reconsolidating its strategic military positioning relative to Africa (particularly around the Horn region to address fundamental crises in Somalia, Sudan, and the Central African Republic) and central Asia (to address the crises in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the central Asian republics).
The timing of the invasion reveals a great deal about the critical shift in US and Israeli thinking. Two critical factors determined the timing of this invasion, neither of which have anything to do with the bogus claim that Hamas broke what was basically a one-sided ‘truce’ with Israel. The first factor is the relative stabilisation of the Iraqi occupation in 2008. Although the people’s resistance in Iraq is far from being pacified, the surge and buyoff strategies have weakened it considerably. This weakening has created more operational space and capacity for the US to inflict uncalculated pain on non-compliant forces should the need or desire arise. Secondly, the transition in the US chain of military command between President George W. Bush and President-Elect Barack Obama affords US imperialism a considerable degree of flexibility – tactically, legally, and potentially, morally. Although crushing Hamas was to be one of the parting legacies of the Bush regime, the strategic aim was for Obama to finish what Clinton started and Bush advanced in consolidating the process of Palestinian negation initiated with the Oslo Accords. At the time of writing, this may all come undone as a direct result of Hamas's hold-out manoeuvres, coupled with Hezbollah's potential threat of military solidarity and the tremendous pressure exerted by countless international demonstrations against the invasion.
Despite Obama's frequent duck, ‘we only have one president at a time’, he and his administration will soon have to take a public position on Gaza and Israeli aggression. It is our responsibility to put as much pressure as possible on Obama to force him to disavow the ongoing crimes against humanity committed by Israel. Obama, unlike many of his predecessors, has the opportunity to recognise the rights of the Palestinian people to real self-determination. He must start by cutting the US$3 billion in annual aid provided to Israel, or be similarly charged for crimes against humanity for the death and dispossession this aid sponsors against the Palestinian people.
And this is where we come full circle. Although undoubtedly the present situation looks bleak, it is not hopeless. An international solidarity movement, directed by the multifaceted Palestinian movement, built on firm anti-imperialist principles, and focused on a dynamic, but strategic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign can help stem the tide of US and Israeli imperialism and end the ongoing cleansing occurring on our watch.
* Kali Akuno is an organiser with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.
* Visit the following websites for information on how to get involved in the International Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign for Palestine: BDS Movement, Stop the Wall, BADIL Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, and The Electronic Intifada.
* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at http://www.pambazuka.org/