Leaders in the movement against Israeli Apartheid, Ali Abunimah and Riham Barghouti will be keynote speakers at Israeli Apartheid Week this year. Their panel discussion on “State of the Siege, State of the Struggle: The case for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” takes place this Friday, March 11, at 7:00 p.m. at the University of Toronto.

Riham Barghouti is one of the founders of both the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel. Ali Abunimah is a researcher and writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Ha’aretz, The Jordan Times, and The Chicago Tribune.

Both activists have described Israeli apartheid in stark terms. Commenting on Israel’s attack on Palestinian education, Barghouti described the Israeli military closure in the 1980s on all schools from kindergartens to universities with no specified time limit for the closure. For four years, many schools remained closed. “They made Palestinian education effectively illegal,” he has said. 

During her time in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, “we couldn’t leave our houses for days at a time,” while Israel perpetrated its violent onslaught on the Palestinian population of Jenin, Nablus, Al-Khalil (Hebron), and Ramallah, in the West Bank, as well as in Gaza. 

Israel’s Cast Lead military offensive just over two years ago featured the outright massacre of over 1,400 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian schools, hospitals, homes, places of worship, agricultural fields, flour mills, and businesses reduced to vast rubble during this attack have not been rebuilt, as Israel creates debilitating obstacles to reconstruction efforts. Water resources, police and government buildings, as well as sanitation infrastructure were annihilated, Abunimah writes, according to the Goldstone Report that the UN commissioned. 

Abunimah’s Electronic Intifada provides ongoing coverage, which includes the many Palestinians who have been killed since Cast Lead ended

Day-to-day life grinds on. In June 2000, while on his travels to East Jerusalem and the West Bank, Abunimah noted that with his foreign passport, he was allowed to pass through border checkpoints more easily than Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Homes of Palestinians he had seen on his previous trips were now scenes of destruction, as bulldozers razed them to the ground. The system of racial segregation, or apartheid, extends into many facets of Palestinian life, as Abunimah notes: “Because B. has a car with West Bank license plates he is not allowed to go through Jerusalem to link up with the road to Jericho. We must take the notorious Wadi al-Nar (“Valley of Fire”) road which winds down through the hills from Bethlehem all the way into the Jordan valley, before snaking back up towards Ramallah. Palestinians are required to use this road so as not to inconvenience Israel with their presence in Jerusalem.” 

According to Abunimah’s analysis of the Palestine Papers, the U.S. remains a dishonest broker for peace, and, as such, continues to impede the Palestinian quest for freedom from oppression

Palestinians have been conducting decades-long regular, local, peaceful protests, strikes, and boycotts, in an effort to achieve equal rights, and to end Israel’s illegal occupation and apartheid regime. They ask for our organized support, with the inception of the Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS).

BDS was preceded, in 2001, says Barghouti, by a resolution passed by the Non-Governmental Forum of the UN World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, which declared that “Israel’s special form of apartheid must be met with the same tools that brought down its South African predecessor.”

Learning from their fellows in South Africa, and from their own experience, in 2005 over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations sent out to the international community this Call for BDS against Israel for its breaches and grave breaches of international law.

• Embodied in this call is the demand that Israel comply with international law “by:

• Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;

• Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and

• Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.” 

While the world watched Egypt and Tunisia on Jan. 25, 2011, Abunimah reminded us that the right of return for refugees is an inalienable right enshrined in international law, in his interview on Al Jazeera English. Furthermore, he noted that other refugee communities have returned, while Palestinian refugees remain exiled from their homes and property. Meanwhile, Israel actively attempts to attract a million more Jewish settlers to expand the colonies in the Palestinian Territories.  

What practical measures can the international community take to end their — and others’ — complicity in these violations? Boycotts, such as the one launched by Adalah-NY against Lev Leviev’s complicit companies, are showing success

Divestment — the opposite of investment — from complicit companies is also effective in sending a concrete message to companies involved in violations of international law. Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts, at the behest of Students for Justice in Palestine, divested from a fund that included six companies complicit in Israeli violations, namely, Motorola, GE, Caterpillar, United Technologies, ITT Corp., and Terex. This divestment also impacts the over 100 companies that violate the college’s investment policy regarding social responsibility.  

Consumers, members of civil society in Canada and worldwide, can peacefully pressure companies and institutions to adhere to international law by ending their complicity in the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians

As refusal to provide material support to the maintenance of Israel’s military occupation and apartheid infrastructure and rule over Palestinians grows, and, more importantly, as the BDS Movement highlights Israel’s flagrant violations, which continue to de-legitimize Israel’s apartheid regime, so nears the dawning of a new era where equal rights and human rights for Palestinians, and all people, are respected.

Hebba Fahmy is a writer and a community organizer for IAW and the BDS campaign.