Omar Barghouti, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights

IssueJune 2011
Review by Gill Knight

“Our South Africa moment has finally arrived,” is Omar Barghouti’s rallying call for a global BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement to support the struggle for human rights in Palestine. In this book he eloquently and persuasively sets out the arguments for BDS against Israel in order to end its oppression of the Palestinians that is in defiance of both UN resolutions and international law.

Academic and co-founder of BDS, Barghouti draws on the South African anti-apartheid movement to both describe Israeli oppression and to set an agenda for grassroots action against it. He argues that it is possible to label the Israeli occupation of Palestine “apartheid” as it corresponds to the definition laid down by the UN. Action is needed now because not only is the Israeli occupation worsening – Operation Cast Lead in 2009 clearly illustrated this – but the West continues to collude with Israel to maintain the status quo of colonial oppression and the denial of Palestinian human rights.

BDS is a mechanism for bringing an end to the occupation, the right of refugees to return and full equality for all citizens. Moreover, Barghouti cogently counters the criticisms of BDS, particularly the one that states it is counter-productive, by asserting that only Palestine should decide on its programme of resistance. And, as the majority of Palestinian civil society is in favour of the movement, to argue against it is patronising.

The PACBI call of 2004 (Palestinian campaign for academic and cultural boycott of Israel) initiated the movement and the other elements, boycotting Israeli goods and disinvestment, came after. There are clear guidelines on how activists can direct their campaigning, although he does concentrate more on the cultural and academic boycott than the others.

The book is meticulously referenced and the only (minor) criticism could be that, in some of the chapters, the same arguments and facts are repeated. However, this is because the material is based on articles and essays published over six years and so are included to maintain coherence. To sum up, the book is inspirational for everyone who wants justice for the Palestinians and should convince anyone who has doubts about the validity of BDS. It urges supporters to build on the current successes with Veolia and other corporates investing in the Jerusalem Light Railway who were pressurised to withdraw.

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