“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.” – Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Palestinian boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists have on Wednesday welcomed the statement issued by more than 1,000 African American activists, artists and scholars in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for freedom, justice and equality and in support of BDS.
The statement unequivocally calls for BDS and places an emphasis on the right of Palestinian refugees to “return to their homeland in present-day Israel” as “the most important aspect of justice for Palestinians.”
Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broad Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement, welcomed the declaration by saying, “The statement’s support for BDS against Israel’s regime of occupation, settler colonialism and apartheid is particularly inspiring as it translates principled positions into morally-consistent actions that are capable of righting injustices.”
“The US civil rights movement has always been a key inspiration for us in the BDS movement. We are deeply moved by this powerful proclamation that evokes the spirit of that heroic civil rights struggle and the inspirational Black Lives Matter movement and epitomises speaking truth to power,” Nawajaa added.
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS movement, reacted to the statement, “This deeply moving and noble declaration by our Black brothers and sisters in the US and elsewhere is not just a genuine expression of effective, altruistic international solidarity. It is a poignant testament to the organic links that connect the Palestinian struggle for self-determination with the struggle of the oppressed around the world, including ongoing struggles for racial and economic justice by black people in the US and across the world.”
Barghouti added, “Despite the obvious differences, there are compelling similarities between the forms of oppression that both Palestinians and African-Americans live under. Dehumanization, dispossession, racial injustice and discrimination, state violence, criminalization of entire communities and impunity are all key characteristics are of the oppression faced by black Americans and Palestinians.”
The leading Black activists, scholars and artists’ call for boycotts and divestment against the private security company G4S is especially noteworthy. “G4S harms thousands of Palestinian political prisoners illegally held in Israel and hundreds of Black and brown youth held in its privatized juvenile prisons in the US,” their statement said. It profits from “incarceration and deportation from the US and Palestine, to the UK, South Africa, and Australia,” the statement added, rejecting notions of “security” that “make any of our groups unsafe” and insisting that “no one is free until all of us are.”
In 2012, the BNC was one of several Palestinian human rights and civil society organisations that launched a large international BDS campaign against G4S, the British-Danish private security company that is deeply involved in Israel’s violations of prisoners’ rights and international law.
The boycott campaign has cost G4S many contracts around the world, including in the US, Ireland, Norway, South Africa, among others.
Under this intense pressure from the BDS movement, G4S has announced that it will not renew its contract with the Israeli Prison Service when it lapses in 2017. However, G4S has not yet made any written confirmation of this decision or ended any of its contracts supporting Israeli settlements, prisons, checkpoints and military bases, so Palestinian organisations are calling for the G4S campaign to continue.
BNC secretariat member Rafeef Ziadah said, “The BDS movement joins hands with the 1,000 Black activists that have issued this statement and with communities across the world in calling for the intensification of campaigns against G4S. Let us resist the role the company plays in human rights violations across the world, from Florida to Jerusalem and everywhere in between.”
“The current surge of mass Black activism for justice rekindles the whole world’s hope for a more peaceful, just and dignified world,” Ziadah added.