UN CEIRPP “50 Years of Occupation” Event: BDS, Antisemitism, and Demonization
On June 29-30, 2017, the UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP) held a forum to “mark fifty years of Israeli occupation.” As anticipated, the event “Ending the Occupation: Creating the Space for Human Rights, Development and a Just Peace,” featured antisemitic rhetoric, calls for BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), and demonization campaigns against Israel’s existence.
The event’s participants included NGO officials and activists, some of whom are known proponents of BDS and lawfare campaigns, and ‘48 agendas. Crucially, their economic and legal warfare campaigns target Israel as a whole, and not simply policies concerning the West Bank and Gaza.
As shown in the quotes below, many of the speakers repeatedly used the language of the infamous 2001 Durban NGO Forum, denying the rights of the Jewish nation to self-determination and calling for BDS against Israel.
Panel 1: “The Gaza Strip: an integral part of the State of Palestine”
Speakers included Noura Erakat (BADIL), Tania Hary (Gisha), Mohammed Azaiza (Gisha), Nuriya Oswald (Al Mezan), and Majeda Alsaqqa (Culture and Free Thought Association). The panel was moderated by Robert Becher (International Crisis Group).
- “The fact-finding mission to the Gaza Strip in 2009 was shelved and seems to be irrelevant but within it are still recommendations that any state can pursue, including applying sanctions for arms to Israel. There is no reason not to apply those sanctions which have been recommended.” (emphasis added)
- “Israel is today is administering a one-state reality. It maintains sole jurisdiction…it actually increases the onus on civil society to pick up the mantle where governments have failed…one of those mechanisms have been boycotts, divestments, and sanctions which the international community continues to participate in.” (emphasis added)
Panel 2: “Enforcement of international law and accountability: How to make a difference?”
Speakers included: Wesam Ahmad (Al-Haq), Dalit Baum (American Friends Service Committee), Muna Haddad (Adalah), Hagai El-Ad (B’Tselem), and Omar Shakir (Human Rights Watch). The panel was moderated by Mona Khalil (Independent Diplomat/ former Senior Legal Officer at the United Nations).
- “This opportunity of 50 years now of the current colonization of occupied Palestinian territory allows us to appreciate the root causes and remember that this was a colonial project from the very beginning and in fact Israel has been able to benefit from the historical colonial practices to develop what I call ‘best business practice model of colonization’ and diverting the costs of this colonial enterprise.” (emphasis added)
- “What we have today with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement is a new step. The idea is that instead of waiting for states to take action using, let’s say, Resolution 2334, as we discussed before, we can try and influence politics from the grassroots up. We can try and educate people about noncooperation by tracking our own complicity in what is going on the ground.” (emphasis added)
- “And part of what we’re trying to do through the complaints I’m involved in, usually labeled as boycott, divestment, sanctions, is to really track lines of accountability everywhere and try to make the price higher by creating a higher risk for any kind of continued support and normalization of the occupation…the occupation continues because it really enjoys this ongoing tremendous support and impunity from every other country of the world, including individuals in the world that normalize the situation and treat it as nothing…people of the world are obliged to stop that support. To practice noncooperation, in other words BDS.” (emphasis added)
- “[T]his accusation [of antisemitism] is a propaganda line by the Israeli government is…Now it’s-I’m saying this with bitter cynicism, but this is very real. And this is being deployed systematically as a silencing tool with a very clear agenda. The clear agenda is to successfully perpetuate the occupation while continuing to minimize international consequences.” (emphasis added)
- “This is an injustice of historical proportions but without similarly appropriate consequences. The world’s conscience rejected slavery. The world’s conscience rejected apartheid. The world’s conscience has yet to reject the occupation.”
- “It [Israel] has effectively turned Gaza into an open air prison.”
Panel 3: “Beyond occupation: in search of a just and lasting peace”
Speakers included: Mustafa Barghouthi (Palestinian National Initiative), Jessica Nevo (Coalition of Women for Peace/Zochrot), Rebecca Vilkomerson (Jewish Voice for Peace), David Wildman (United Methodist Church, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights), Diego Khamis (Club Palestino Santiago de Chile). The panel was moderated by Helena Cobban (Just World Educational).
- “Do people have the right to resist that? If they don’t resist this intolerable injustice they would simply be behaving as slaves…this is the exact reality of the situation today. The reality is that Israel and most Israeli people unfortunately don’t consider Palestinians as equal human beings, and that’s why all these policies are justified and this will not be corrected by going and dealing with one individual case…the real question is why are people who have been living under occupation for 50 years are being punished…while the occupier itself is not punished and when we ask for punishment of the occupier we are accused of being antisemitic…one country has violated every international law, which is Israel. One country, which is Israel, is allowed to be impunitive to international law and this country will not stop behaving in this manner unless it is sanctioned and boycott, and unless it is forced to pay for the occupation it has been conducting for 50 years.” (emphasis added)
- “What we have today is not only occupation. What we have today is a combination of the longest occupation in modern history with a very profound system of apartheid. A much worse apartheid system then what prevailed in South Africa.” (emphasis added)
- “The entry point is to change the balance of power, and that can be achieved, in my humble opinion, through five ways, or five pillars, the first of which is resistance…The second pillar is boycott, divestment, sanctions: BDS. The Israelis don’t like it. It’s their problem. They will fight against it. It’s their problem. But it is the one of the most effective methods because it first of all allows Palestinians in the diaspora to participate in the Palestinian struggle.” (emphasis added)
- “They can use intellectual terror. They can use psychological terror. They can try to frighten you so that you won’t support the Palestinian cause. They can use NGO Monitor and other instruments but this will not stop the struggle for justice.” (emphasis added)
- “…definitely put every effort you can in contribution to the strengthening of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions. BDS is the most powerful instrument, and it should be used, and it is effective, and that’s why the Israeli government is so crazy and mad about it.” (emphasis added)
- “In the last 50 years, we have an entire body of occupation law…that has emerged. And it is the role of grassroots movement organizing to look beyond just fighting those laws, specifically, but rather to resist the entire framework itself and to envision new frameworks… So for example, without the occupation at all. With right of return for refugees and for equal rights for Palestinian civilians of Israel.
- “It’s very important to be able to talk about full boycott because again, we’re talking about-when we talked about the boycott of South Africa-people did not boycott the Bantustans. They boycotted the government of South Africa, which were allowing-which were imposing apartheid throughout the country…People can choose to boycott different kinds of things within that, but the framework is the same. You can’t stop-you cannot stop the-the conditions on which the boycott movement is based, do not end on the settlements. They are the responsibility of the Israeli government.” (emphasis added)
- “So it makes sense that civil society, in the anti-apartheid movement and in relation to Palestine and Israel, have turned to boycott, divestment, and sanctions as nonviolent actions. And so I wanted to say that’s a natural progression. We’d be-love to defer and give that right back to the member states as they join us in taking up Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions. So we hope that… Many of us in the churches have worked on divestment and we’re nervous about boycott, then we worked on the boycott of settlement products. Netanyahu single-handedly got 10% of the US Congress to boycott Israel by refusing to listen to his speech. Now can we just thank him for that?”