Dropping of the last mask of democracy

Omar Barghouti writes:

“You should definitely postpone your book launch in Jerusalem”, warned a close friend who felt that the planned event for launching my recently published book on the Palestinian-led movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. He warned it might be too risky in light of the recently passed Israel law that effectively bans support for the thriving boycott movement. At the packed bookshop-cafe in occupied East Jerusalem last Thursday, however, the engaged and Italian-coffee scented atmosphere was almost jubilant, as if declaring a collective defiance of Israel’s latest draconian measure.

Much controversy has arisen since the Israeli parliament passed legislation that would effectively criminalize support for any boycott against Israel or its institutions, under threat of heavy penalties and worse, without the need to prove “guilt”. Dozens of Israeli civil society organizations and leading legal scholars, including many opposing the boycott, have resolutely opposed this exceptionally authoritarian law on diverse grounds, ranging from the most principled to the downright pragmatic.

Missing in most of the debate is the Palestinian perspective, which is undoubtedly most relevant given that this law was entirely motivated by the spectacular growth in recent years of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which was launched in 2005 and is led by the largest coalition of Palestinian civil society parties, unions, and NGOs: the Boycott National Committee (BNC).

While expressing alarm at this latest repressive attempt by Israel to crush Palestinian peaceful resistance and support for it among conscientious Israelis, a BNC statement conveyed confidence that this law will bolster the spread of BDS even faster among liberal communities the world over. Hind Awwad, coordinator with the BNC, reacted: “This new legislation, which violates international law, is testament to the success of the rapidly growing global BDS movement and a realization within political elites inside Israel that the state is becoming a world pariah in the way that South Africa once was.”

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