The following commentary by Robert Kosuth (Twin Ports Break the Bonds Campaign) was published in the Hillsider Duluth Community Newspaper (Volume 14 Issue 1, January, 2014).
Since his death, Nelson Mandela has been rightfully praised for his leading role in the ending of apartheid in South Africa. No less important were the many thousands of activists in the struggle as well as the millions around the world who participated in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the notorious all white regime.
Since 2005 there has been a call by Palestinian civil society groups for a BDS movement against the state of Israel along the lines of the successful 1980s movement against apartheid South Africa. Physicist Stephen Hawking has boycotted conferences in Israel and author Alice Walker has said that conditions for Palestinians are far worse than what she experienced in the segregated South. Archbishop Desmond Tutu says the same about the conditions of Black South Africans under apartheid there.
With the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, upwards of a million Arab Palestinians were forced off their land by Jewish settlers primarily from Europe. The political doctrine of Zionism sought to establish a state exclusively for Jews in historical Palestine. Western guilt for having done almost nothing to save European Jews from Nazi gas chambers facilitated the process. In time, desire to control Mid East oil and politics led the US to become a staunch supporter of Israel. Under the US umbrella, Israel acts with near total impunity demolishing Palestinian homes, appropriating land, and maintaining an apartheid system similar to the one that existed in white-ruled South Africa.
The US-Israel relationship is both a linchpin and weak point for the US empire. To ask hard questions about this relationship and the treatment of Palestinians is to ask hard questions about the true nature of US policy goals. It also echoes similar US government appropriation of Native American lands and denial of human rights of African American slaves.
In Minnesota, we are especially focused on the divestment of our state’s $23 million in Israel bonds, which were bought with taxpayer money and used in a host of ways to maintain Israel’s apartheid state. A statewide group, Minnesota Break the Bonds, is working on divestment and we have a local affiliate as well. (http://mn.breakthebonds.org/; http://twinportsbbc.blogspot.com/). We are also involved in a wide range of education and outreach activities. Currently, there is a worldwide boycott aimed at SodaStream home carbonation systems, which are sold at Target and many other chains. These products are made by an Israeli company in illegally occupied Palestinian territory, where local Palestinian workers are paid bare minimum wages. Like the workers on Soweto in the past, Palestinians are subjected to constant security checks and have to commute to homes in restricted areas because they are not permitted to live in exclusively Jewish settlement areas.