Lessons from South Africa: On the Path to Negotiations with Leverage

Solidarity disclaimer: This piece was written about a half a year ago, as I returned excitedly from a workshop in South Africa. These are my (a privileged beneficiary of the Israeli apartheid system) conclusions and analysis, and in no way presume to be an “ultimate truth”, or an attempt at dictation for Palestinian action. I only hope that it’s instructive and serves as yet another window, out of many, for thoughts, debate and input. The word “we” refers to participants of the workshop.

Often when I’m asked what the point of BDS is, I quickly answer “to get the Israeli regime  to the negotiating table with no preconditions” and then I move on to tactics. Sometimes we get so mired in the blood and brutality on our path of resistance, that we need to be yanked out of it, in order to stop and see our golden milestones.

Negotiations and the Death of Liberation Continue reading “Lessons from South Africa: On the Path to Negotiations with Leverage”

Divesting From Injustice

Last week the University of Johannesburg, following a campaign endorsed by over two hundred of South Africa’s most prominent public intellectuals, voted “not to continue a long-standing relationship with Ben Gurion University (BGU) in Israel in its present form” and to set conditions “for the relationship to continue.” Though falling short of an outright boycott of BGU, the UJ Senate set an ultimatum of six months for BGU to comply with two conditions:

(1) that the memorandum of understanding governing the elationship between the two institutions be amended to include Palestinian universities chosen with the direct involvement of UJ;

(2) the UJ will not engage in any activities with BGU that have direct or indirect military implications, this to be monitored by UJ’s senate academic freedom committee

Interestingly, the AP report following the vote, reprinted in both the Jerusalem Post and Haaretz, fails to mention the second condition nor anything pertaining to BGU’s direct complicity with the occupation of Palestine. But as the tireless campaigner for justice, Desmond Tutu , notes: “Israeli Universities are an intimate part of the Israeli regime, by active choice. While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation.” (see Tutu’s full letter below the fold)

How subtle censorhip can be in the Middle East’s only democracy…

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South African Academics Call for Boycott of Ben Gurion University

A long brewing South African campaign at the prestigious University of Johannesburg to cut off academic links with Ben Gurion University due to its complicity and racist practices has won the endorsement of John Dugard, Desmond Tutu, Breyten Breytenbach, Allan Boesak, Mahmoud Mamdani and almost 200 other academics from 22 academic institutions in South Africa.


As members of the academic community of South Africa, a country with a history of brute racism on the one hand and both academic acquiescence and resistance to it on the other, we write to you with deep concern regarding the relationship between the University of Johannesburg (UJ) and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU). The relationship agreement, presented as ‘merely the continuation’ of a ‘purely scientific co-operation’ is currently being reviewed owing to concerns raised by UJ students, academics and staff. For reasons explained below and detailed in the attached Fact Sheet, we wish to add our voices to those calling for the suspension of UJ’s agreement with BGU.

Continue reading “South African Academics Call for Boycott of Ben Gurion University”

Upside Down World Cup

As the corporate-sponsored bonanza that is the football World Cup unfolds into its second week, Raj Patel looks at one of the most overlooked aspects of this year’s tournament: the ongoing struggle of tens of thousands of shack dwellers across the country. Over the past year, shack settlement leaders in Durban, Johannesburg and Cape Town have been chased from their homes by gangs, arrested, detained without hearing, and assaulted. As the World Cup begins, a shack dwellers’ movement known as Abahlali baseMjondolo is mounting what they call an “Upside Down World Cup” campaign to draw attention to their plight.

Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize

The call for academic and cultural boycott is clearly a way to encourage civil society to play a broader political role—that is why it has the support of wide sections of Palestinian civil society. One of the most significant questions that call poses to us is simply this: How could those of us who oppose apartheid, occupation, and colonialism not support such a call?

Dear Amitav Ghosh,

We wish to express our deep disappointment in your decision to accept the Dan David prize, administered by Tel Aviv University and to be awarded by the President of Israel. As a writer whose work has dwelled consistently on histories of colonialism and displacement, your refusal to take stance on the colonial question in the case of Israel and the occupation of Palestine has provoked deep dismay, frustration, and puzzlement among readers and fans of your work around the world. Many admired your principled stand, and respected your decision not to accept the Commonwealth Writers Prize in rejection of the colonialist framework it represented.

Continue reading “Boycott Israel? Amitav Ghosh & the Dan David Prize”

Kick Up the Volume: This Is No Time for More ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ with Israel

By Joshua Brollier

A favorite professor of mine once told me that the more you learn about history, the more you realize how little you really know, and how much you still have to learn.  Last night, I was both moved and angered to further learn about the ongoing destruction and blockade of the Gaza strip. The award winning Palestinian journalist, Mohammed Omer, showed photographs and told us many moving stories about his life and experiences in Gaza.  These stories included the demolition of Mohammed’s home and loss of his brother and neighbors.

Many of the tragic experiences Mohammed shared occurred before the election of the Hamas government, the siege of Gaza and last year’s Israeli offensive, Operation Cast Lead.  Mohammed described a major shift in Israeli military policy after Israeli settlements in Gaza were closed, in 2005.  Following the “disengagement,” Israeli air strikes increased and carried out house demolitions. Prior to 2005, Israel had primarily used bulldozers.  Before, the military would not have wanted to risk affecting Israeli settlers and their children, perhaps frightening the Israeli settlers’ children who would hear the sonic booms or, worse yet, catching Israeli settlers and their children in the cross-fire.

He also described how expert the children in Gaza are in identifying the different bullets and shells being used to destroy their neighborhoods and families. Many of these munitions are manufactured in America and given to the Israeli military.

Continue reading “Kick Up the Volume: This Is No Time for More ‘Quiet Diplomacy’ with Israel”

South Africa: Balance shifts left, anger grows

Patrick Bond, South Africa’s leading  analyst and author of a number of excellent books on the country’s post-Apartheid neoliberal transformation, reports about rising class polarisation and the prospect of mass social unrest in the wake of the global economic recession.

(Durban, 28 June 2009) — With high-volume class strife heard in the rumbling of wage demands and the friction of township “service delivery protests”, rhetorical and real conflicts are bursting open in every nook and cranny of South Africa.
The big splits in society are clearer now. The 2005-09 dispute within the ruling African National Congress (ANC) between camps allied to former president Thabo Mbeki and President Jacob Zuma has resolved itself largely in Zuma’s favour.

Continue reading “South Africa: Balance shifts left, anger grows”

Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid

For those who refuse to accept the brutal reality on the ground, the Human Sciences Research Council of South https://i0.wp.com/sabbah.biz/mt/wp-content/uploads/2007/04/4_9Mirror_on_Apartheid_Wall.jpgAfrica has produced a new detailed legal report which confirms “that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).” The study was commissioned to “test the hypothesis posed by Professor John Dugard in the report he presented to the UN Human Rights Council in January 2007, in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in the OPT:

Israel is clearly in military occupation of the OPT. At the same time, elements of the occupation constitute forms of colonialism and of apartheid, which are contrary to international law. What are the legal consequences of a regime of prolonged occupation with features of colonialism and apartheid for the occupied people, the Occupying Power and third States?

On the specific question of colonialism the report unambiguously states that:

“Five issues, which are unlawful in themselves, taken together make it evident that Israel’s rule in the OPT has assumed such a colonial character: namely, violations of the territorial integrity of occupied territory; depriving the population of occupied territory of the capacity for selfgovernance; integrating the economy of occupied territory into that of the occupant; breaching the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources in relation to the occupied territory; and denying the population of occupied territory the right freely to express, develop and practice its culture” (pp. 15-16). Furthermore, “Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is manifestly an act based on colonial intent” (ibid.).

Concerning the charge of apartheid, the report states:

By examining Israel’s practices in the light of Article 2 of the Apartheid Convention, this study concludes that Israel has introduced a system of apartheid in the OPT (p. 17)

Continue reading “Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid”

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