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Boycott Calls Against Israel
UN Human Rights Council Draft Resolution on Sanctions - implications for the Israeli Academy
Editorial Note

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) located in Geneva is scheduled to vote on a settlement-boycott resolution.  
The draft proposal posted on UN Watch in Geneva as reported by Haaretz, "that the Israeli settlement enterprise makes Israel responsible for serious violations of international law, and calls on UNHRC member nations not to facilitate the continuation of these violations. The draft states, “the direct or indirect assistance of States and private entities to the settlement enterprise constitute obstacles that have frustrated international efforts for the end of the occupation and fulfillment of the right of self- determination of the Palestinian people.” Invoking the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,“the resolution noted the "probability of liability, including international criminal liability, for corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements,” and expresses satisfaction “that some businesses have withdrawn from settlements due to awareness of these risks.”     

The resolution calls on members to advise on "the financial, reputational and legal risks, as well as the possible abuses of the rights of individuals, of getting involved in settlement-related activities, including economic and financial activities, the provision of services in settlements and the purchasing of property, and to prevent and discourage such involvement.” 

Though the language of the resolution is not different from the one passed by the EU, the UNHRC has significant academic implications. Pro-boycott NGOs will most likely use it to exert pressure on Israeli universities and individual scholars engaged in activities beyond the Green Line, including Ariel University.

The UNHRC may embolden pro-Palestinian scholars to launch their own pro-boycott initiatives by denying Israeli scholars opportunities be it publications, participation in conferences or Sabbatical visits.  Some time ago, Professor Rivka Carmi referred to such efforts as "silent boycott;" they are hard to prove because they can be couched in academic justifications, but she felt that these incidents were on the increase: “People in academia talk discreetly about unproven feelings according to which articles by Israeli researchers are being rejected. Researchers and academics have the feeling that they are not being invited to conventions. No one has proof, but there is a sense that the territory is beginning to burn. And now, with the decision by the American [Studies] Association, it is official — and that is worrisome.”

Finally, the resolution may give academics who nurture anti-Semitic sentiments an opening. Though the BDS movement cannot be defined as anti-Semitic under the EU "Working Definition of anti-Semitism," it is well known that anti-Semitic motives can be found among some BDS supporters.  

In his interview with The Militant publicationAmir Paz Fuchs, the radical activist scholar, former director of the Human Rights Law Clinic at Tel-Aviv University admitted participating in BDS activities. He excused himself for doing it out of "frustration".  Ironically, Paz Fuchs admits to being disillusioned after taking the post in the British university where he discovered that BDS is being used as an anti-Semitic tool, as the article below indicates. Paz Fuchs chagrin definitely belongs in the category of "be careful what you pray for".  


UN rights council plans BDS assault on Israel, but Israeli diplomats are on strike

While Israeli diplomats remain on strike, the 47-nation UN Human Rights Council is planning to launch a massive attack on the Jewish state next week in a series of five resolutions that — expressly citing controversial UN official Richard Falk — include new accusations of racism, along with calls to impose “international criminal liability” on businesses with indirect links amounting to “corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements.”

The following draft resolutions, drafted by Syria and the Palestinian Authority, are scheduled to be adopted on March 27-28, at the end of 25th session of the Human Rights Council:

1. Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan

Analysis: replete with inflammatory and one-sided language including new BDS-themed provisions inspired by Richard Falk’s latest report.


PP23 Recalling that the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights require all business enterprises to respect human rights inter alia by refraining from contributing to human rights abuses arising from conflict, and urge states to provide “adequate assistance to business enterprises to assess and address the heightened risks of abuses” in conflict-affected areas, (NEW LANGUAGE; adapted from HR/PUB/11/04 para. 7(b))

PP24 Noting that Israel’s settlement enterprise and related activities render Israel responsible for serious breaches of peremptory norms of international law, and recalling the implications for all States for such breaches committed by a State, including an obligation to cooperate to bring an end to breaches, and an obligation not to recognise or maintain the illegal situation, (NEW LANGUAGE; adapted from A/HRC/25/67 para. 79)

PP25 Recognizing that the direct or indirect assistance of States and private entities to the settlement enterprise constitute obstacles that have frustrated international efforts for the end of the occupation and fulfilment of the right of self- determination of the Palestinian people by helping to sustain and promote the settlement enterprise, and entail legal, reputational and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, (NEW LANGUAGE)

PP26 Noting the probability of liability, including international criminal liability, for corporate complicity in breaches of international law related to illegal settlements, and encouraged that some businesses have withdrawn from settlements due to awareness of these risks, (NEW LANGUAGE; first part adapted from A/HRC/25/39 para. 15; second part adapted from A/HRC/22/63 para. 98)

OP11 Urges all States: … (b ) To implement the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights in all circumstances, including in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to take appropriate measures to ensure that businesses domiciled in their territory and/or under their jurisdiction, including those owned or controlled by them, that conduct activities in or related to the settlements, respect human rights throughout their operations, by taking all necessary steps— including by terminating their business interests in the settlements—to ensure that their activities do not have an adverse impact on the human rights of the Palestinian people, in conformity with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the United Nations Global Compact and relevant international laws and standards; (NEW LANGUAGE; adapted from A/HRC/22/63 para. 117)

(c ) To inform individuals and businesses of the financial, reputational and legal risks, as well as the possible abuses of the rights of individuals, of getting involved in settlement-related activities, including economic and financial activities, 6 the provision of services in settlements and the purchasing of property, and to prevent and discourage such involvement (NEW LANGUAGE)

2. Human rights situation in Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem 

Expressing grave concern about… the policies and practices of racial discrimination and segregation that disproportionately affect the Palestinian population in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem; the discriminatory allocation of water resources between Israeli settlers and the Palestinian population of the Occupied Palestinian Territory…

3. Human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan

Deeply concerned at the suffering of the Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan due to the systematic and continuous violation of their fundamental and human rights by Israel since the Israeli military occupation of 1967,

4. Follow-up to the report of the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict  (Goldstone Report)

5. Right of the Palestinian people to self-determination


 The Militant newspaper is a socialist newsweekly published in the interests of working people.

The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 3      January 27, 2014

Israel boycott weakens fights
of Palestinians, workers 
False apartheid analogy distracts from real 
class struggle in Israel, Palestinian territories
The Dec. 15 vote by the American Studies Association to endorse a boycott of Israeli academic institutions has been hailed as a victory by those who see the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign as a way to force the Israeli government to end its occupation of Arab lands, obtain full equality for Palestinians in Israel, and win the right of return for Palestinians who lost their homes in Israel. However, the boycott campaign is an obstacle to these and other fights by working people in Israel and the Palestinian territories.

The Association for Asian American Studies backed the boycott in April and the Modern Language Association debated the question at its Chicago convention this month.

Leaders of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel contend that Israel is the world’s unique pariah nation today, similar to the white-supremacist apartheid state of South Africa that was overthrown in the early 1990s. They say their effort is modeled on the campaign for international sanctions against apartheid but they say nothing about the mass struggle organized by the African National Congress, which was the key to the democratic revolution in South Africa.

While the expression “Israeli apartheid” has become accepted by some who support the Palestinian struggle, the analogy is false.

Both apartheid South Africa and Israel have roots as settler colonies and bulwarks of imperialism in underdeveloped regions of the world. But the two are otherwise quite different in key respects. South African apartheid set out to exploit the labor of the rightless Black majority to create superprofits for the capitalist class. The founders of Israel sought to expel as much of the Arab majority as they could and make their profits by creating an almost all-Jewish working class.

Israel today is the most economically and socially developed capitalist nation-state in the Middle East, with a large proletariat and substantial middle-class layers. Its power is backed by the most formidable military in the region. And despite its original goal of expelling the Palestinians, they make up more than 20 percent of its citizens. Israeli capitalism exploits Jewish, immigrant and Palestinian labor, including from the Palestinian territory of the West Bank.

At the same time Israel is a bourgeois democracy, which affords working people a degree of political rights and space to organize and act in their class interests that for the most part does not exist elsewhere in the region. Like other developed capitalist nations, it is full of class antagonisms and social contradictions.

Apartheid: a state of ‘white race’

Apartheid South Africa was not a nation in any meaningful sense but a state of the “white race.” Less than 20 percent of the population living in the territories under its control — those defined by law as persons “of the white race” — had rights of citizenship. Blacks could not vote, change jobs at will or own land. They had to carry government-issued passes at all times and could not travel from one side of a town to the other without permission.

Anytime the government chose, it could send unruly African workers back to isolated Bantustans, so-called homelands in impoverished rural areas.

Apartheid prevented the formation of a modern nation. It institutionalized racial and tribal differentiations and blocked development of modern classes, including a hereditary working class among Blacks.

Following World War II, South Africa’s rulers were largely successful in implementing their vision of this unique system of capitalist wage slavery under feudal-like forms of subjugation. Its success was its downfall. Such blatant and socially explosive contradictions became impossible to hold together.

The Israeli rulers’ goal was very different: the removal of the Arab inhabitants and the setting up an all-Jewish nation from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. Today they have abandoned this failed vision and instead are looking for ways to adjust their borders and maintain an Israel with a Jewish majority.

In the West Bank, the Israeli government has built a wall between Jewish and Arab areas, and constantly encroaches on Palestinian territory with settlements. It keeps the Gaza Strip blockaded, preventing Palestinians there from working in Israel and from normal trade and travel relations with the rest of the world. This reinforces their dependence on handouts from the United Nations and other agencies, stunting development of the class struggle.

Palestinian citizens of Israel face systematic discrimination in jobs, education, government services, land ownership and housing.

At the same time Jews and Arabs inside Israel can ride the same buses, go to the same universities, work in many of the same factories, belong to the same unions and fight side by side for better wages and conditions. Jewish and Palestinian citizens of Israel were both part of social protests over housing and inflation that swept the country in the summer of 2011.

Opens door to anti-Semitism’

Israeli law professor Amir Paz-Fuchs told the Militant by phone from Oxford, England, Dec. 30 that he supported the boycott movement when he lived in Israel out of “frustration.”

“I felt like we had worked over the last 30 years to get the government to stop its most flagrant violations and have failed miserably,” he said. “We thought anything you can do to get the Israeli government to change, we thank you for it.”

But after taking a post at the University of Oxford he has begun to question the tactic. “A physics professor here refused to accept a doctoral student because he came from Israel,” he said. “I’m probably one of the last people to bring up anti-Semitism, but it reeks of that.”

Paz-Fuchs raises an important point. The Jewish question does not go away and capitalism remains a death trap for the Jewish people. Anti-Semitism, Jew-hatred and conspiracy theories, dredged up from the past, seek to get working people to scapegoat Jews for the crisis of capitalism and divert their attention from the real enemy: the bosses and their system of exploitation. Bending to anti-Semitism poses a danger to the working class and to the Palestinian struggle.

Joining debate ‘more powerful’

In 2011 British novelist Ian McEwan was invited to Israel to accept the Jerusalem prize for literature. He refused to heed calls to boycott the invitation. Instead, in a speech widely reported on in Israel, McEwan denounced the Israeli government for the “continued evictions and relentless purchases of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, the process of the right of return granted to Jews but not to Arabs” as well as for turning Gaza into “a long-term prison camp.” He also criticized Hamas for embracing “the nihilism of the suicide bomber, of rockets fired blindly into towns, and the nihilism of the extinctionist policy towards Israel.”

“What he did was so much more powerful and took more courage than refusing to come,” Paz-Fuchs said.

The boycott campaign is based on “the logic of pressure, not diplomacy, persuasion, or dialogue,” Lisa Taraki, a leader of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said in an August 2011 interview in al Jazeera. “No amount of ‘education’ of Israelis about the horrors of occupation and other forms of oppression seems to have turned the tide.”

But just as there are two Americas — the America of the wealthy capitalist property owners and the America of the working class — there are two Israels. Similar class divisions exist within the Palestinian territories.

Viewing all Israelis — and Taraki means Israeli Jews — as enemies and Israel as a special apartheid state that must be destroyed, blocks Palestinians from winning potential allies among working people of all nationalities and religious beliefs. It can also provide cover for Jew-hatred to hide and fester, whatever the intentions of boycott supporters.

This can be seen in the boycott campaign against the G4S private security firm for equipping Israeli prisons in the West Bank. But G4S also equips prisons in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt and in the United States. Are U.S. prisons, or those in Saudi Arabia for that matter, a better model for their treatment of workers and oppressed people behind bars than Israel?

The Israel boycott campaign stands in contrast to the revolutionary course followed during the fight against apartheid. The African National Congress won leadership of the vast majority of Africans in struggle on the basis of the 1955 Freedom Charter, which called for a South Africa that “belongs to all who live in it, Black and white.” And they meant it. That course ensured victory by winning support among all nationalities, including a substantial number of Caucasians, to the side of the ANC.

But there is no revolutionary leadership in Israel or the Palestinian territories today. Hamas and Fatah, which claim to speak in the name of Palestinians, are bourgeois organizations that are obstacles to the struggle. They don’t have a program that offers a way forward for the Palestinians, much less one that can attract allies among Jewish, African immigrants and other workers in Israel.

This doesn’t mean the fights for Palestinian rights and against national oppression should wait for other developments in the class struggle. But it will not succeed in the long run unless it wins allies among working people inside Israel. And any advance in the Palestinian struggle must be championed by the labor movement in Israel if workers there are to break down divisions fostered by the bosses that keep them hamstrung.

Palestinian working people, not the Palestinian bourgeoisie, are the motor force for the liberation struggle and the fights for Palestinian rights that are going on today: from fights against job and housing discrimination inside Israel to the fight by Bedouins in the Negev to remain on the land they have lived on for decades, to fights against the West Bank wall and the economic embargo of Gaza, for water rights and to win freedom for Palestinian political prisoners in Israel’s jails.

Because Israel is the most developed capitalist country in the region, with a powerful multinational working class, there are more opportunities than ever for advancing these fights.

But the boycott campaign’s schema of Israeli apartheid leaves its supporters disoriented and unable to embrace real developments in the class struggle in Israel, like the ongoing fight of Sudanese and Eritrean immigrants for refugee status.

The road forward for working people is not the “destruction of Israel” — anymore than the “destruction” of the U.S. or Russia — but the forging of a revolutionary movement and a communist leadership of Jewish, Arab and immigrant workers and farmers that will advance the fight for Palestinian national rights and lead working people to take power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers in Israel and the region.

A revolutionary government will invite Palestinians scattered throughout the world to return to their homeland. And in the face of rising rightist movements as capitalism’s crisis of production and trade deepens, it will open its doors to Jews fleeing reaction anywhere in the world. 

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