Israel: BDS is winning

Terry Crawford-Browne responds to Mike Berger's recent Zionist criticism of the campaign

As a leader of the Zionist hasbara (propaganda) brigade, Mike Berger inundates Politicsweb readers with unsubstantiated smears of anti-Semitism against anyone who dares to criticise Israeli war crimes and abuses of human rights. Politicsweb is excessively tolerant in publishing his rants, most recently “Understanding the BDS fixation with Israel” (September 25).

Contradicting Berger’s assertion that the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign is ineffective has been the panicked recognition by the Israeli government that BDS poses a dire threat to the survival of the apartheid Jewish state.

Can one assume that Berger’s post-apartheid era education has enlightened him that the 1913 Land Act was the most iniquitous piece of legislation in South African history? Herein, Berger might begin to understand the parallels of apartheid in South Africa with apartheid in Israel-Palestine.

The Land Act followed the Lagden Commission appointed by Lord Alfred Milner in 1903, before which Milner (with Cecil Rhodes) had deliberately instigated the Anglo-Boer War. The primary purpose of the Land Act was to dispossess Africans of their land, and thereby provide cheap migrant labour for the British controlled gold mines in circumstances akin to slavery.

Just four years later but similarly, the British government’s Balfour Declaration in 1917 purported to provide Jews with a homeland in Palestine on the stipulation “that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” Jews then constituted only five percent of the Palestinian population.

Although the declaration bore Balfour’s name, the actual author and architect of British plans to colonise Palestine with European Jews was none other than Milner who, by 1917, was the Secretary for War in the British government. British control of Palestine formed a crucial element of the bizarre Milner/Rhodes vision that Britain and the United States should jointly dominate the world in the cause of peace.

Muslim and Christian Palestinians constituting 95% of the population understandably and rightly objected to the British give-away of their country. Undeterred, Lord Arthur Balfour declared in 1919: “In Palestine we do not propose to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants. The present [British] needs and future hopes are of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land.”

Plainly and simply, the Balfour Declaration was a British land grab to control the Suez Canal and to plunder recently discovered oil in the Middle East. So discredited and dishonourable was the whole Zionist project amongst Jews of conscience that only three percent of Jews emigrating from Europe in the 1920s chose to go to Palestine. Even Milner later recanted and, given the injustices and chaos that he unleashed, told the House of Lords in 1923: “Palestine must never become a Jewish state.”

Now fast-forward to the present. There are 700 000 Israeli settlers illegally living on stolen Palestinian land “beyond the green line” in contravention of the Geneva Conventions and other international laws. All countries in the world, including the US and Britain as well as South Africa, repeatedly confirm that Israeli occupation beyond its 1967 borders is illegal. Even the Israeli Supreme Court acknowledges that transfers of population into the occupied Palestinian territories violate international law.

So what has this to do with Woolworths and Pharrell Williams? European governments last year warned their citizens of the financial and reputational consequences of illegal trade transactions with the Israeli settlements. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in February this year filed criminal charges against Woolworths for receiving and trading in stolen property. The core of the PSC complaint, confirmed by heavily documented research in a 113 page report by the [Israeli] Coalition Of Women For Peace, is that agricultural exports labelled as produce of Israel are deliberately mixed between Israeli, settlement and Palestinian products. The report specifically declares:

“All the fruits and vegetables grown in Israel and in the occupied territories are labelled as products of Israel. This, despite the fact that the international community has never recognised Israeli sovereignty over these areas and the settlements are declared illegal, as an occupying power is prohibited under international law from transferring parts of its civilian population into the occupied territory.”

It is deliberately impossible to distinguish legal from illegal produce. Accordingly, all Israeli agricultural exports must be deemed tainted and contaminated with illegality and fraud.

Williams was brought to South Africa in an effort to blunt the Boycott Woolworths and BDS campaign. The reality is that Williams’s tour has massively backfired. Instead, it has hugely focussed international attention on the parallels of apartheid in South Africa and Israel with the civil rights movement in the US, and the thuggish behaviour of American police in Fergusson, Baltimore and other US cities.

Nearly every major police agency in the US has travelled to Israel for training in counter-terrorism and riot control, a phenomenon dubbed “Israelification of America’s security apparatus.” As the highly acclaimed Israeli documentary film “The Lab” reveals, Israeli officials arrogantly boast how they have “turned Palestinian blood into money.”

Modelled after the anti-apartheid campaign in the 1980s, the BDS campaign in the US in particular is gathering such rapid momentum that increasing numbers of Jewish Americans are disassociating themselves from the Israeli government’s gangster-like behaviour. Having at the behest of Woolworths sold his soul to Israeli apartheid, Williams now faces a major damage control operation to repair his international reputation.

Locally, the Cape Town City Council and Mayor Patricia de Lille have yet to explain why the Council attempted to violate South Africa’s constitutional guarantees of freedom of assembly and of expression. The Cape High Court very emphatically rejected the Council’s attempts to limit BDS protesters on public land outside Grand West to only 150 people, and increased the permit to 16 000 people.

Brilliantly and peacefully organised at only two days notice, the BDS protests outside Grand West drew about 2 000 people -- more than ten times the number that the City Council spuriously claimed would threaten public order. Is the DA controlled City Council and Western Cape province funded by corporate interests, including Woolworths and Sun International/Grand West casino? As the PSC and as a supporter organisation of the BDS movement, we await Mayor De Lille’s clarification whether she has sold her soul to Woolworths and Sun International.

The PSC is a secular association of Christians, Jews, Muslims and people of no faith (in roughly equal proportions), most of us having “cut our teeth” in the struggle against apartheid. Those of us who have served assignments in Palestine as peace monitors with international organisations have no hesitation in describing Israeli apartheid as far, far worse than its South African version.

Meanwhile, the brilliant film Woman In Gold is presently being screened at the Cinema Nouveau and Labia cinemas. The film tells the true story of Nazi looting of Jewish-owned artworks and properties in Austria during the 1930s, and the determined resolve of the lead character, Maria Altmann to overcome obstruction by Austrian authorities to recover the renowned painting of her aunt, Adele Bloch-Bauer by the artist Gustav Klimt.

At issue now in 2015 is whether restitution for war crimes also applies when Israelis are the perpetrators, as is the case in Palestine. Or is there, according to Mike Berger and his band of hasbara propagandists, some exemption from international law for Zionists in Israel to steal Palestinian land and other assets?

Terry Crawford-Browne

For and on behalf of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign