South Africa was once one of the world’s strongest states. Armed to the teeth and led by a government that did not hesitate to jail and kill opponents, South Africa was brought under ANC/Communist Party control by a concerted campaign to isolate and boycott the republic.
Apartheid was South Afica’s weak point. Even many anti-communists found it hard to defend the country, while the republic maintained such an indefensible system.
Israel is the next target for the international left. The Jewish state may be about to suffer a propaganda assault designed to damage Israel economically and turn the country into an isolated and friendless pariah.
Israel has never had Apartheid, but that won’t stop the Marxist-Leninists using that most emotive of terms against her.
Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab American journalist who teaches mass communication at Australia Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus. He recently delivered a keynote speech at the ‘Al-Nakba’ conference, held in Cape Town, South Afica.
In an article published in today’s edition of the Communist Party USA’s online journal Political Affairs, Baroud recounts a conversation he had with communist South African cabinet minister, Ronnie Kasrils;
South Africa’s Minister of Intelligence Ronnie Kasrils whispered to me as I sat down following a most enthusiastic speech I gave at a recent conference in Cape Town: “if you want the world to heed to your call for boycotting Israel, the call has to originate from the Palestinian leadership itself.”
Baroud goes on to say;
Kasrils is obviously right. The call for boycotting the racist Apartheid government was an exclusively South African endeavour, made resonantly and repeatedly by the African National Council (ANC) and backed by the various liberation movements in the country and in exile. It took years for the dedicated campaign to be effective. The message communicated to the international community was clear and simply persuasive: put an end to Apartheid. It was but only a facet of various methods of struggle, notwithstanding the armed struggle which spread to Namibia, Angola and other African countries. Nonetheless it was a committed strategy.
One of the architects of the campaign which boycotted banks involved in investing in South Africa, presented me with an elaborate plan to involve civil societies in holding to account banks that facilitate the Israeli occupation economically and thereby help to facilitate its existence. It comprised a clear strategy, a straightforward plan of action and non-negotiable demands.
Is a similar campaign possible in the Palestinian case? Many people seem to think so. In fact, calls for boycotting Israel have dotted the political landscape of the Arab-Israeli and later Palestinian-Israeli conflict for years. The main obstacle to utilising civil societies in compelling Israel to end its brutal policies against the Palestinians is that these efforts are neither centralised nor do they emanate from a respected Palestinian authority and leadership. Despite their good intentions, and their sincere solidarity, they remain uncoordinated and lack a clear set of objectives.
I called Ahmed Youssef, the chief political advisor to Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to ask him whether such a call for a boycott was feasible, especially prior to the forthcoming mass rallies to be held in London and other major cities on 9 June — on the 40th anniversary of the Israeli occupation. Youssef was clearly distressed; the infighting between Palestinians had taken its toll on his often optimistic attitude. “How can one expect a unified leadership position on a boycott while Palestinians are fighting on two fronts; against one another and against Israel?”
I am certain that large numbers of conscientious people around the world would refuse to purchase Israeli products if they understood exactly how Israel has maintained its illegal occupation of Palestinian land. But how can we ascertain this fact without a professional and well organised boycott which would provide figures and statistics as part of the campaign to pressure companies that do business with Israel?
Should we wait for the Palestinian leadership, some of whom are in the process of complete capitulation, while others are struggling for basic survival and limited to an exclusivist political ideology, to cease their infighting, unify their ranks, rehabilitate their political institutions and only then call for boycott? The wait might be too long and arduous.
One of the main objectives of my frequent travelling has been to try and build a bridge between various proactive organisations, linked to change and liberation, and the Palestinian struggle. In some ways, these efforts have been successful. I believe that by creating a wider, well coordinated platform for the struggle against injustice, with Palestine being one of several central points of focus, civil society can be both effective and relevant. To achieve this, one must not dwell on specifics (in the Palestinian case, the debate of one versus two states, armed struggle versus passive resistance, Hamas verses Fatah, are cases in point) but search for unifying themes, leaving the more divisive issues for Palestinians to sort out.
Will the international left escalate its use of the “Apartheid Israel” slogan?
Given the prominence given to the concept in the CPUSA’s theoretical journal, I suspect they might.