BDS only exists because international politicians have failed to implement their own laws regarding Israel
12 November 2015
Boris Johnson has get himself into another pickle, his florid rhetoric casting a pall over his visit to Israel and the occupied territories.
The Mayor of London tore into those who support the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign (BDS). “The supporters of this so-called boycott are really just a bunch of corduroy-jacketed, lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter.”
Aside from offending corduroy jacket wearers globally, many Palestinians expressed outrage including on social media. Consequently, Boris was advised for security reasons not to proceed with various meetings with Palestinians, restricting his sole meeting in the West Bank to the Palestinian Prime Minister.
This is deeply unfortunate. Clearly the Mayor has a great deal to learn about life under occupation in Palestine and who better than young Palestinians to start him on this process. Ideally though, a field trip (something Caabu always focusses on it its delegations) would have been ideal. Ramallah is far from representative of the rest of the West Bank gilded by donor funding. It is the Palestinian ‘Green Zone.’ Visiting politicians have not visited the West Bank in reality with just a trip to this, the de facto capital. It is akin to thinking Mayfair represents London.
Clearly ruffled by the experience, Boris gave a number of interviews after meeting the Prime Minister. He protested that even Prime Minister Hamdallah was not in favour of a boycott. He did not regret his comments.
Or is it?
Rami Hamdallah may not agree with the boycott (Caabu does not support BDS either, though respects those who do) but he would never have verbally insulted its supporters like Boris did. I know this because I too have heard him on the subject of the boycott in a number of meetings I have had with him. Palestinian leaders understand why there is support for BDS amongst Palestinians (I can never recall seeing a Palestinian in a corduroy jacket but I shall look out for them now) and internationally.
Many international politicians have criticised the BDS campaign during their meetings in Israel but still met with Palestinians. This includes the Prime minister, David Cameron last year. The obvious difference is that they were not gratuitously insulting in doing so.
But the biggest issue about the criticism from politicians including Boris Johnson, is whilst attacking the supporters of BDS, they say so little about the actual crimes, even war crimes that are occurring on the ground.
So people who decide not to buy Israeli tomatoes in a supermarket because they object to Israeli government actions are worse than those who take land and water, settle 600,000 civilians in occupied territory, order the demolition of Palestinian homes and property as a collective punishment, who have maintained and intensified a military occupation for nearly half a century.
If Boris had said something about the criminal behaviour and not those who are protesting it he might have some credibility.
The reality is that BDS campaigns only exist because the international community has done little or nothing to stop the routine violations by Israel of the international community’s own laws and to hold Israel accountable to the Fourth Geneva conventions and to International Conventions such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
So on this issue, Boris, if you do not wish to be seen as some toffee-nosed, blonde bombshell buffoon, let’s hear a little bit about how unacceptable Israeli actions are, how you would like to see proper accountability for violations of international law and a full and final end to the occupation.