Posted 5 years ago on March 26, 2012, 1:02 p.m. EST by flip
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AMY GOODMAN: Well, today we’ll host a debate on the wider BDS movement, the call to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is joining us from Washington, D.C. He supports the movement. He’s a member of the Palestinian Parliament. He’s the secretary general of the Palestinian National Initiative. He was also a presidential candidate in the 2005 elections. Rabbi Arthur Waskow is opposed to BDS, founder and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Barghouti, why don’t you start off by explaining what BDS is and why you think this vote in Brooklyn, New York, is so important?
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, BDS is a part of a larger movement of nonviolent resistance in Palestine, civil resistance, very similar to the civil actions and civil activities that were led by Martin Luther King here in the United States against segregation, and very similar to what Gandhi led in India as a nonviolent resistance against foreign dependence of India. What we live in as Palestinians is a situation of apartheid and segregation and occupation that has become the longest in modern history, and this segregation is destroying our life.
The talks, the so-called peace talks, have become a peace process that is a substitute to peace. It’s not producing any results. It has become a cover for Israeli expansionist policy of settlement activity that is destroying the very last opportunity of two-state solution. And there can be no results of talks as long as there is no balance between the two sides, as this, there is no—as long as there is no change in the balance of power. And the whole nonviolent movement is about changing the balance, about producing a new situation which would allow a solution and allow peace to take place.
BDS—Boycott, Divestment, Sanction—campaign is one way of international solidarity with the Palestinian people, as was the case of BDS with the struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid. It’s nonviolent. It’s peaceful. It’s not against Israelis as Israelis; it’s against Israeli occupation, against Israeli apartheid and against Israeli segregation. At the end of the day, we believe this campaign is for the sake of both Palestinians and Israelis, because it would help us liberate ourselves from the last segregation and occupation system in the world. And it would help liberate the Israelis from the last colonial settler system in modern history. Without Palestinians being free, Israelis themselves will not be free. And that’s why a BDS movement in a place like the United States can help also change the United States’ policy, as has happened in the case of the struggle of the people of South Africa against apartheid system.
AMY GOODMAN: Rabbi Arthur Waskow, founder and director of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia, why are you opposed to BDS?
RABBI ARTHUR WASKOW: First, Amy, let me say, shalom, salaam, peace, to you, to Dr. Barghouti. And I want to say, Dr. Barghouti—
DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Shalom to you, too.
RABBI ARTHUR WASKOW: —for me, you are a respected, important and creative leader of the Palestinian people, and I think the BDS movement, as it is presently shaped and framed, is a mistake. It targets all of Israeli society, which is not a way of enacting, in the present, a future in which, as I know you have said you believe, there should be a two-state solution. You mentioned Dr. King. Even when Dr. King clearly, publicly, vigorously opposed the Vietnam War, he did not call for a boycott of all American products and producers. He didn’t do that in Europe or in the United States. He targeted where he was aiming. And I think BDS, as presently framed, doesn’t target. I, myself, don’t buy products made by, produced by Israeli settlers on the West Bank, and I encourage others not to do that. But that’s a laser-beam boycott. That’s a boycott of the oppressive acts of the Israeli government and of settlers on the West Bank. It is not a demonization of Israeli society as a whole. And it seems to me that the present framing of BDS, that it aims at all Israeli institutions and processes and products, and that it talks about not only ending the occupation, but, for example, it seems to be talking about the return of millions of descendants, families, of refugees to within the legitimate boundaries of Israel. I think that is—adds up to an attack on the legitimacy of Israel as a whole. You may not intend that, but I—and I know that you have called for a two-state solution, but the result of the way BDS is framed, on almost everyone I have talked to who feels attracted to it, is that the society, as well as the government, of Israel is wrong, and it must be attacked. That, I think, even using methods that are not outright violence, is not a nonviolent approach.RABBI ARTHUR WASKOW: In the Occupied Territories, the Israeli government’s policies are disgusting and probably analogous to apartheid. But I want to point out that the two hunger strikes were pointed like laser beams at very particular disgusting and vile behavior of the Israeli government. They were not directed at all of Israeli society. I think the hunger strikes, aimed as they were, as I say, like a laser beam, at the illegitimate detention and the illegitimate occupation, they are laudable, praiseworthy, and they were not directed against all of Israeli society.
As for effectiveness, I’m sorry to say that I think, no matter whether the boycotts would be directed like laser beams or broader, none of them are going to be effective. There is only one center of power capable of changing the Israeli government’s behavior by appealing to the desires of the Israeli people, and that’s the government of the United States, which has utterly failed for the last three-and-a-half years to do what many of us hoped, to have said, "This is not acceptable." The Arab League’s proposal for a full peace treaty, a region-wide peace treaty with Israel, with a Palestinian state on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, that is a policy of decent peace. And the United States government has not insisted to the Israeli government that it will bring this about, that it will insist on this happening. I understand why a president of the United States might be so frightened of domestic politics as not to do that. Perhaps after the next election, it will be possible for the next president of the United States to say, "It’s pass nisht! This doesn’t go," to use Yiddish. "This doesn’t go." And the occupation has to end. There has to be an independent Palestinian state at peace with and alongside Israel, in exchange for which Israel gets peace and security with all its neighbors. That probably has to be expanded to include Iran, as well as the Arab states. But that is what effectiveness would be.