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Mandela's S. Africa boycott success sparks Israel debate
Published Monday 16/12/2013 (updated) 18/12/2013 10:23
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JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Recent successes in the campaign to boycott illegal Jewish settlements have given fresh impetus to calls for sanctions against Israel like those that brought down apartheid in South Africa.

Since the European Union said it would block grants and funding for any Israeli entity operating over the 1967 lines, a growing number of international bodies have taken similar steps to cut ties, in a move that has sparked alarm in Israel.

"This has happened in recent days," commentator Chemi Shalev wrote in the newspaper Haaretz, listing a series of steps as proof that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement was gaining ground.

"The Dutch water company Vitens severed its ties with Israeli counterpart Mekorot, Canada's largest Protestant church decided to boycott three Israeli companies; the Romanian government refused to send any more construction workers; and American Studies Association academics are voting on a measure to sever links with Israeli universities," he wrote.

The boycott debate has been further stoked by the death on December 5 of Nelson Mandela as the world remembered his life's work in pushing for a global boycott that contributed to bringing down the minority white government of Pretoria.

"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the BDS movement is picking up speed. And the writing on the wall, if anyone missed it, only got clearer and sharper in the wake of the death of Nelson Mandela," Shalev argued.

And global scrutiny of Israel's ties with the apartheid regime in the 1970s and 1980s only served to give "valuable ammunition to those who would equate the two.

"More ominously, from an Israeli point of view, the analogy between today's Israel and yesterday's South Africa could also stoke a belief that the former can be brought to its knees in much the same way as the latter was in the late 1970s and early 1980s," he added.

The BDS movement has never shied away from using language equating Israel's rule over the Palestinians with the former regime in South Africa, and a recent statement denounced the Israel's "system of colonization, occupation and apartheid over the Palestinian people".

Also this month, Britain toughened its stance on trading with Israeli entities over the Green Line which separated Israel from Arab-held territory up until the 1967 war, warning investors not to get involved.

"There are therefore clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements, and we do not encourage or offer support to such activity," said a statement on the UK trade and investment website, warning of potential "reputational implications" and advising businesses to first seek legal advice.

Although the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is not identical to that which existed in South Africa, critics say there are many similarities, pointing to the systems existing in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the BDS, said that "despite the obvious differences between apartheid South Africa and Israel's multi-tiered regime of oppression of the Palestinian people, there are ample family resemblances. Israel's reign over the Palestinians constitutes occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

"Regardless how we define Israel's regime of oppression, a main lesson we have learned from Mandela and our South African comrades and colleagues is that internal resistance must be coupled with sustained, effective international solidarity, particularly in the form of BDS, to isolate the oppressive state and compel it to respect its obligations under international law," he told AFP.

Israeli political sources quoted Friday in the newspaper Maariv said the new EU guidelines, which come into force on January 1, were only the beginning of a sustained European campaign to single out Israel.

"In the spring, they will present to Israel the policy of marking goods that were produced in the settlements and are marketed to Europe," the paper said.

Earlier this month, Andreas Reinicke, the EU's representative to the peace process, warned that if the ongoing peace talks failed, the campaign to clearly label products as made in the settlements would gain pace.

He said the number of countries supporting such a move had leapt to 14 from two in February 2012.

Another Haaretz commentator said the absence of Israeli officials at Mandela's memorial "was no accident," saying it was astounding that Israel was "unrepresented at the world's moral summit".

"This was a vital summit... Israel isn't facing any conventional military threats; no one threatens its warplanes. The danger it faces is the loss of legitimacy," wrote Ari Shavit.

"To survive in a tough Middle East, we need the West's support, and therefore, we must be an inseparable part of the West."

Israel's growing isolation is also worrying its main ally, Washington.

"The wholesale effort to delegitimise Israel is the most concentrated that I have seen in the 40 years I have served," US Vice President Joe Biden was quoted as saying on December 10.

"It is the most serious threat in my view to Israel's long-term security and viability."
1 ) Maureen / Australia
16/12/2013 12:00
I sincerely hope the Arabs fare better economically, than the South Africa’s blacks have done under their African National Congress since 1994.

2 ) Outsider / EU
16/12/2013 15:11
"The wholesale effort to delegitimise Israel is the most concentrated that I have seen in the 40 years I have served," US Vice President Joe Biden Or put in another way, Israel's foreign affairs has been unable to prettify the ongoing colonisation and stalling tactics over finding a solution. Depends on your perspective, I suppose. But you can't blame Cast Lead or the people killed in the floatilla on delegitimization. They used US-supplied arms, in fact.

3 ) Jack / Oregon
16/12/2013 15:51
Israel was accomplice in the crimes committed against the South Africans during the Aparthied and now is direct perpetrator of crimes against the palestinians. the oppressor and its allies will concede defeat in the end. All that the palestinians need is more sincere free people in this world to defeat colonial Aparthied Israel.

4 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
16/12/2013 17:46
Come on, Maan. Let's see this comment, please. In Israel Arabs have the right to citizenship, to vote, they serve in parliament, they go to all universities, shop in all shopping malls, and can own land. In Palestine Jews have no rights to citizenship, cannot vote, there are no Jews in the PA, there are no Jews in the universities or malls, and there is a death penalty for selling land to a Jew. Palestine=Apartheid.

5 ) Brian Cohen / US
16/12/2013 18:57
"Any Jew who wants to live in our community, following the rules which this entails, must be free to do so. It’s quite a different story, however, to request that the settlers who arrived here by force and in defiance of international law can ipso facto be entitled to see their actions justified. In other words, those who want to live in a future Palestinian state must do so under the law and not as colonialist". http://972mag.com/colonizing-west-bank-in-the-name-of-security-and-religion/27965/

6 ) Johnny benson / USA
16/12/2013 19:29
Those who choose to boycott Israel do it for other reasons then apartheid,that may be the excuse, ..the real reason is hatred for Israel and the Jewish people...so what else is new?..in reality all this means is that the right in Israel can build and build and over time there will be nothing left for the Palestinians except Jordan...which is where they need to be anyway

7 ) Giacomo / USA
16/12/2013 21:31
One more time... apartheid is racial segregation and peoples are not segregated within Israel or the Palestinian territories by race; they're segregated as enemy combatants due to an Arab war on Jews that has raged for over a century (and beyond). A war wherein the Arab Khartoum Agreement is now poised to finally be counteracted by hopes of "an historic peace" (Netanyahu). Embrace peace not rhetoric.

8 ) Julie / USA
16/12/2013 22:49
comment #4 is pure hasbara and #6 is pure lies. comment #5 is correct, ANY citizen of ANY country must live by the law of that land. #5 is upset because Palestine will NOT allow the zionazis to live in violation of international & national law in Palestine (like all countries), so boo hoo...LEAVE! there's uninhabited islands, somewhere...izrael sure doesn't want the squatters, they've wrecked izrael's image! izrael is so good at delegitimizing itself & booting itself off world stage. BRAVO!!!

9 ) Bronwen / USA
16/12/2013 23:51
Any Israeli that cannot acknowledge the obvious Israeli apartheid system, it's detail, it's brutality, it's dehumanizing, is living in a mythical world which will disappear. The truth will set Israel free but it will break the hearts and minds of believers in the Israeli mythology.

10 ) deb / uk
17/12/2013 00:56
Even Jews are boycotting Israel because they know the country doesn't represent them, only uses them.

11 ) ian / australia
17/12/2013 08:03
#4 "Palestine=Apartheid." Recycling I see, Brian. 1 Palestine is under siege and occupation and suffering a great humanitarian crisis. The current "policies" you find so abhorrent are unlikely to remain the policies when Israel has withdrawn to its legal border and sovereign Palestine is a concrete and stable reality. 2 How is it relevant to modern Israel that an Arab neighbour is backward? Surely, Israel aspires to a higher standard for its own sake. And Palestinian failings don't mitigate

12 ) ian / australia
17/12/2013 08:04
(contd.) Israeli crimes in the occupied territories or Gaza...where NONE of the features of the Israeli Utopia you describe apply. 3 Merry Christmas.
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