The road from political hustling to government policy can be tortuous. Yet Israel boycotters have travelled it like an express.
Not three months ago they were pressing SA to label “settlement” goods. Now, barely three months later, a deputy minister, Ebrahim Ebrahim, has roundly put off his countrymen from going to Israel.
“Israel is an occupier country which is oppressing Palestine, so it is not proper for South Africans to associate with Israel,” he said. “We discourage people from going there except if it has to do with the peace process.”
The Israeli government, for its part, decodes them together – the product label and the travel advisory. Rightly perhaps, it sees them as a thinly veiled precursor to a full boycott. In that case look out for contagion. Europe seems set to follow SA and Denmark by effectively banning trade with the Middle East’s stand-alone democracy.
“There do not appear to be any [European Commission] laws which could be breached by a member state taking the decision to ban the import of settlement produce…”
In writing thus, a Cambridge professor of international law, James Crawford, gave EU commissars the nod.
So a third part of the Boycott Divestment Sanction SA (BDS) dream is coming true.
How long before the second part follows – a blanket divestment from companies doing business with Israel?
Then only sanctions would stand between the full-house dream and complete isolation.
“Israel-friendly” boycotters like Peter Beinart, or Peace Now, who want only to save Israel from itself, would greet these developments with mixed feelings. Regarding them a popular homily comes to mind: “Be careful what you wish for because it might come true.”
Think of their bemusement as Beinart types watch the boycott snowball gathering mass.
In a different camp, the Israel-boycotters will be cock-a-hoop. Observe how effortlessly they slip from lobbying against “settlement goods” to a total ban on trade: “The government reaffirms its policy to increase support for the Palestinian people and the boycott of Israel,” said a press release from Khotso House, where BDS is quartered.
Remember that the minister handling this policy, Rob Davies, had merely said that he wanted traders to label goods from Israel correctly, honestly.
Goods from the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” (OPT) must be labelled as such; to protect shoppers – what else.
South Africans, in solidarity with the anti-Israel movement, equate the product label issue with a full boycott of Israel.
They want the first to bring about the second. And business, in all probability, will equate the two as well.
But the devil is in the detail – that catch-all phrase “Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT)”.
Now if the BDS faithful bow to one god it would be OPT.
“Label products from the OPT!”, “Boycott products from the OPT!” – and now: “Don’t go to Israel due to the OPT.”
It’s their new Jerusalem, the faith on which the BDS faithful peg their zeal.
What exactly is the end game of the new religion, born in 2001 in Durban, at the first world conference on racism?
The founding fathers were some 1 500 NGOs, united by a fierce desire to prosecute a political war plan that would bring Israel down. They gave the plan three legs, naming them Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. And no one but the founding fathers knew the end game, clothing it in the pristine robes of “Human Rights”.
Ten years passed before one of the founding fathers announced the end game to the world. Norman Finkelstein said: “(BDS supporters)… call it their three-tier. We want the end of the occupation, the right of return, and equal rights for Arabs in Israel. And they think they are very clever because they know the result of implementing all three is what…? You know and I know what the result is. There’s no Israel!”
The message was clear. It’s not possible to campaign for BDS while at the same time acknowledging Israel’s right to exist. The truth, of course, is that settlement goods from the OPT are no more than diplomatic speak. Legally their identity is no firmer than a waterbed, or more real than a dream. And that’s the secret kept in the holy of holies: there simply is no Palestinian territory for Israel to occupy.
There’s the rub of it. The law’s the rub, and even more so are the facts on the ground. In Gaza the freely elected Hamas governs the Palestinians. In the West Bank, the majority live under their elected PLO.
And that adds up to 99 percent of Palestinians who do not live under Israeli occupation. By no stretching of words are they an occupied people.
Not that Gaza and the West Bank belong to the Palestinians, mind. If the territories belong to any member of the UN, that would be Israel.
However much Ebrahim and Davies want the Palestinians to have territory, international law is dead against them.