Omar Barghouti - BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights
inminds 13 March 2011
On 7th March 2011 the London Review Bookshop hosted the launch of Omar Barghouti's book "BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions - The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights". Omar Barghouti is a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestinian Civil Society Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
The evening started with Victoria Brittain, who chaired the evening, and Omar Barghouti both speaking for about 10 minutes and was followed by an electrifying 40 minutes of questions and answers. Full video of the event is provided below. Victoria Brittain introduced the book and commented on some of the glowing reviews it has received (see box below). Omar Barghouti read out a personal message of solidarity for the peoples of the Arab world who are rising up to break the shackles of neo-colonialism.
Victoria Brittain chaired the event
The jewel of the evening was the last section - the question and answer session, in particular the lucid answers Omar Barghouti gave. Omar Barghouti's approach is always very rational which means that unless someone is being dishonest with themselves they will have no choice but to accept the arguments Omar Barghouti puts forward in support of BDS. A great example of this was his reply to a Zionist in the the audience:
Zionist: Omar, you are living in Israel, you are doing a PhD, you are studying in an Israeli university. How does that equate with your boycott campaign, isn't that hypocritical to live in Israel and consume everything Israeli, then call for a boycott of Israel?
And secondly, if God forbid, you ever needed a life saving medicine, or a member of your family.. in Israel, would you accept that medicine or would you reject that life saving medicine?
Omar Barghouti: I think Mandela went to an apartheid university, when you are living under apartheid you have no choice. You pay taxes to the apartheid regime, you accept services from the apartheid regime, how else can you survive? You go to hospitals, you go to universities, you go to the post office, you go to government offices in the apartheid regime. You are a 'subject' of that colonial system, there is no other way. Gandhi studied at a British university as well.
The point is that when you are under occupation, when you are under apartheid, no have no moral choice. There is no choice. We ask people from outside to boycott because they have a moral choice. Responsibility comes with choice.
Germans under Nazi rule who couldn't open their mouths were cowards but we can perhaps forgive them for not opening their mouths when you think you would be shot by the Nazi genocidal regime if they opened their mouths. Israelis that stay silent are far more cowardly because they do have a choice and they wont get shot if they stand up against the occupation. So we measure this with how much choice you have. When you have no choice what do you do?
So there is absolutely no double standard for people under oppression to call on people who are not under oppression, standing in solidarity with them, to oppose and boycott completely the oppressive regime. What we cannot do, you can do in the UK.
Omar Barghouti slicing through the Zionist arguments
The second part of your question.. of course we do not boycott Israeli medicines in Israel. What else can we buy? We are not irrational. I don't know your view of the Arabs.. but you know we are not suicidal..
Zionist [interrupts]: Why do you live there if you dont like it there?
Omar Barghouti: Its my country, I'm a Palestinian.
Zionist: You were brought up in Egypt
Omar Barghouti: I'm a refugee. Refugee's have a right to go home. I'm a Palestinian.
Video: Omar Barghouti - BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights
Duration: 55 mins
00:00 Victoria Brittain - Introduction
09:30 Omar Barghouti - Short speech
18:50 Question and Answer session
Reviews of "BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights"
“No one has done more to build the intellectual, legal, and moral case for BDS than Omar Barghouti. The global Palestinian solidarity movement has been transformed and is on the cusp of major breakthroughs.” Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine
“Barghouti explains with lucidity, passion, and unrivaled intelligence…that bringing an end to apartheid in Palestine and seeing justice and equality for all the people who live there is not a distant dream but a reality we can bring about in the next few years using BDS.” Ali Abunimah, author of One Country and cofounder of the Electronic Intifada
“I have been to Palestine where I’ve witnessed the racially segregated housing and the humiliation of Palestinians at military roadblocks. I can’t help but remember the conditions we experienced in South Africa under apartheid. We could not have achieved our freedom without the help of people around the world using the nonviolent means of boycotts and divestment to compel governments and institutions to withdraw their support for the apartheid regime. Omar Barghouti’s lucid and morally compelling book is perfectly timed to make a major contribution to this urgently needed global campaign for justice, freedom and peace.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu
“Those who think they are free to disregard international law because they are powerful… are dead wrong. At the same time it is the tolerance of such behavior that has led Israel to believe that they can literally get away with murder.… Omar Barghouti’s book…is timely and responsibly written by a man who understands that creative and relentless nonviolence is the only way out of the dire situation in which Palestine, and our entire world for that matter, finds itself.” Father Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, M.M., former president of the UN General Assembly
“For the first time, we have in front of us a succinct and poignant case made for the BDS strategy vis-à-vis Israel. There is no
one better placed to make this case than Omar Barghouti, as this book shows clearly…. This is a must read for anyone interested in, and committed to, the Palestine cause, regardless of their particular stance on the BDS strategy.” Ilan Pappé, University of Exeter, and coauthor of Gaza in Crisis
“Barghouti reminds us what public responsibility entails, and we are lucky to have his re lentless and intelligent analysis and
argument. There is no more comprehensive and persuasive case than his for boycott, divestment, and sanctions to end the Israeli occupation and establish the ethical claim of Palestinian rights.” Judith Butler, University of California at Berkeley
“Barghouti is the future. He is intelligent, empowered, and nonviolent. He is completely impressive. It would help Americans to see such a picture of Palestinian political engagement when they have such a distorted image of who Palestinians are. Some day they will know him.” Phillip Weiss, cofounder of Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East
“The ABC for internationalist support for Palestine is BDS. And the boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign against Israeli cruelty and injustice is gaining in significance and scope. Like the anti-apartheid movement against racist South Africa, BDS is helping to make a tremendous difference in what has been a most difficult struggle for human rights and the right of a colonized and dispossessed people to national self-determination. This inspiring book is a weapon in a noble struggle in which all right-thinking people can play a part.” Ronne Kasrils, author, activist, and former South African government minister
“I commend this excellent book by Omar Barghouti.…It challenges the international community to support the BDS campaign until the entire Palestinian people can exercise their inalienable rights to freedom and self-determination and until Israel fully complies with its obligations under international law. BDS is a call to refuse to be silent in the face of military occupation of the Palestinian people by the Israeli regime, apartheid, and colonialism. BDS is a nonviolent way in which each of us and our governments can follow our conscience and rightful moral and legal responsibility and act now to save Palestinian lives by demanding that the Israeli apartheid regime give justice and equality to all.” Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate
“When powerful governments will not act, ordinary people must take the lead…. Essential reading for all who care about justice and the plight of an oppressed people.” Ken Loach, filmmaker
“This is a book about the political actions necessary to hinder and finally to stop the Israeli state machine that is operating every day to eliminate the Palestinian people. It is like an engineer’s report, not a sermon. Read it, decide, and then act.” John Berger, author
The book "BDS: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights" is available from Haymarket Books
"Its important to choose a strategy that doesn't end up diverting attention from the issue.. the other side wants nothing more than to divert attention from what the record shows, what the human rights record shows, what the UN record and so forth - they don't want to talk about that because once they start talking about that they loose. They'd rather talk about anti-Semitism, the Nazi holocaust - anything accept Israel and Palestine. With that in mind you have to be careful that you don't embark on a tactic which is going to end up diverting people from Israel-Palestine.. You don't' want to choose grey areas, you always want to choose black and white areas where there is no room for discussion, where there is no room for debate. This is black and white: World Court decision [wall and settlements illegal] 14 to 1. Human rights issues - Amnesty says Israel tortures, Human Rights Watch says Israel tortures, B'Tselem says Israel tortures, everyone says it - its black and white. And the other side has to end up with some ridiculous proposition as Professor Dershowitz put it 'they're all lying'."