Open letter in defence of the right to boycott Israel
Tuesday, 09 March 2010
We, the undersigned, condemn the attempt by Scottish prosecutors to criminalise the growing international campaign to boycott Israel until Israel comes into line with international law.
In July 2005, working in close co-operation with partners in South Africa, hundreds of civil society organisations across Palestine produced a call for an international campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions “against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era”.
The boycott did not emerge out of nowhere: according to the recent UN Goldstone report, “The prolonged situation of [Israeli] impunity has created a justice crisis in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that warrants action.” In the historic absence of any genuine attempt by state actors to hold Israel to account, ordinary people of conscience around the world must exert the pressure that political leaders are unwilling to.
The boycott is focussed on Israeli state institutions; companies (Israeli or not) which profit from the occupation of Palestine; Israeli ambassadors of all kinds (political, cultural, sporting etc.) whose job it is to promote Israeli interests; as well, of course, as all Israeli goods.
In Aug 2008, five members of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) were arrested after protesting a concert performance by the Jerusalem Quartet, who enjoy the official status of cultural ambassadors of the State of Israel.
After standing up during the concert and making statements such as “End the Siege of Gaza”, “Boycott Israel”, “Stand up for human rights”, the campaigners were arrested and later charged with “breach of the peace”.
At the time of the concert, Gaza had already been under a brutal Israeli siege for 2 years. In June 2006, Israeli official, Dov Weisglass, explained that the idea behind the siege was not to starve them to death, just to “put the Palestinians on a diet”.
In Dec 2008 / Jan 2009, Israel massacred 1400 Palestinians in Gaza.
As the massacres began, the President of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann reminded “all member states of the United Nations that the UN continues to be bound to an independent obligation to protect any civilian population facing massive violations of international humanitarian law – regardless of what country may be responsible for those violations.
I call on all Member States, as well as officials and every relevant organ of the United Nations system, to move expeditiously not only to condemn Israel’s serious violations, but to develop new approaches to providing real protection for the Palestinian people.”
In Scotland, rather than meet these obligations, authorities there decided instead to show solidarity with Israel: the Crown levelled new charges of “racially aggravated conduct” at the SPSC campaigners.
It is no more anti-Semitic to boycott Israel to end the occupation of Palestine than it was anti-white to boycott South Africa to end apartheid. Israel has a long history of deflecting criticism of its policies by calling its critics anti-semitic — a tactic typical of those who defend the indefensible. Whilst this is expected from Israel, it is unacceptable that the Scottish Courts should allow themselves to be politicised in this way.
Boycott is a legitimate non-violent means to pressure Israel to end its crimes; the right to boycott must be protected.
We call on Scottish prosecutors to drop the case against the SPSC members and issue a full apology.
John Pilger, Journalist
Haidar Eid, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies at Al-Aqsa University, Gaza
Ronnie Kasrils, former South African government minister and anti-apartheid activist
Omar Barghouti, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Tam Dean Burn, actor
Dr Sue Blackwell, BRICUP
Ismael Patel, Friends of Al Aqsa
Yvonne Ridley, journalist and author
Musheir Al Farra, Sheffield PSC
Zahid Ali, Edinburgh Radio Ramadhan
International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network
American Jews for a Just Peace
Moshe Machover, mathematician & philosopher
Mike Marquesee, writer
Richard Haley, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities
Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Prof Haim Bresheeth
Janet Green, Camden PSC
Mike Cushman, Convenor, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods
Coalition contre Agrexco, France
Mike Arnott, Secretary, Dundee TUC
Betty Hunter, General Secretary, Palestine Solidarity Campaign