Academic sanctions and global solidarity for Palestinian liberation: A view from South Africa

By Patrick Bond


This panel is not only devoted to considering arguments about implementing the call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, but also about broader problems of progressive political positioning and backlash in the academy. Although I do not deal with the April 2 case of Richard Goldstone’s unprincipled U-turn on the findings of the United Commissions commission into Israel’s 2008-09 Gaza invasion, the incident suggests the extent to which South African commentary on the oppression of Palestinians has become acutely politicized. For if Goldstone’s return to his Zionist past – recalling, too, his past as a minor apartheid-era judge (hence as a human rights ally, his zig-zag unreliability, reliability and now unreliability) – serves any purpose aside from empowering Israeli militarists, it will be to compel us to use South Africa as a base from which critical inquiry into the condition of Palestine must now be intensified. Fortunately, just such an opportunity arises in the case of the University of Johannesburg faculty Senate’s decision on March 23 to support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) struggle by breaking ties with Israel’s Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

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Palestine liberation recalls anti-apartheid tactics, responsibilities and controversies

by Patrick Bond

On a full-day drive through the Jordan Valley late last month, we skirted the earth’s oldest city and the lowest inhabited point, 400 meters below sea level. For 10,000 years, people have lived along the river separating the present-day West Bank and Jordan.

Since 1967 the river has been augmented by Palestinian blood, sweat and tears, ending in the Dead Sea, from which no water flows out, it only evaporates. Conditions degenerated during Israel’s land-grab, when from a peak of more than 300,000 people living on the west side of the river, displacements shoved Palestinian refugees across to Jordan and other parts of the West Bank. The valley has fewer than 60,000 Palestinians today.

But they’re hanging in. “To exist is to resist,” insisted Fathi Ikdeirat, the Save the Jordan Valley network’s most visible advocate (and compiler of an exquisite new book of the same name). At top speed on the bumpy dirt roads, Ikdeirat maneuvered between Israeli checkpoints, through Bedouin outposts in the dusty semi-desert, where oppressed communities eke out a living from the dry soils.

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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.

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