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Sep 13, 2009 at 12:09 PM

Le Monde Diplomatique                                                                               

September 2009

Can we enforce international law?

Economic retaliation against Tel Aviv

This month the UN will publish the findings of its inquiry into Israel’s possible war crimes in Gaza in 2008-9. These are unlikely to lead to legal proceedings, so there are calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions to force Israel to comply with international law

by Willy Jackson

The boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel (1) has gained momentum after four years of near silence. It was launched on 9 July 2005 by a group of Palestinian organisations, a year after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled, in an advisory opinion, that the wall built in the occupied Palestinian territories was illegal (2). It is a protest against Israel’s failure to honour its international obligations.

The Israeli army’s latest operation in the Gaza Strip (27 December 2008-18 January 2009), which aimed to annihilate the military potential of the Islamist movement Hamas and end the firing of rockets at Israeli civilian targets, was important to this resurgence. Media images created the impression that this war was meant to annihilate an entire people. Palestinian solidarity organisations, and many others around the world, immediately felt a moral obligation to take action and make up for the failings of the international community. A huge civil movement grew up around the Palestinian cause. Its weapon was the boycott, which had helped to dismantle the structures of racial discrimination in South Africa (3). Political figures and opinion leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Jimmy Carter have compared the plight of the Palestinian people to that of black South Africans under apartheid.

On 30 March 2008 the BDS movement organised a global day of action, a move decided a few weeks earlier at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil. Calls to support this day of action were heard from Jewish communities everywhere and even from within Israel.

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A Statement to the Press from the Free Gaza Movement
Forty-six international human rights workers are now sailing to Gaza through international waters with one overriding goal: to break the Israeli siege that Israel has imposed on the civilian population of Gaza.  Any action designed to harm civilians constitutes collective punishment (in the Palestinians’ case, for voting the “wrong” way) and is both illegal under international law and profoundly immoral.  Our mission is to expose the illegality of Israel’s actions, and to break through the siege in order to express our solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza (and of the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole) and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world.
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