The “Combatting BDS Act” is part of the very first bill moving through the United States Senate in 2019. It should be called the “Targeting Exposure of and Enabling Genocidal Crimes by Israel Act.” It aims to silence and criminalize—in the form of official blacklists—exposure of and opposition to genocidal crimes being committed right now by Israel against the Palestinian people, and the role of the U.S. behind those crimes.
How many Americans know, to take just one example of what this act is aimed at covering up, that on January 26 of this year, eight heavily armed Israeli settlers stormed into the small Palestinian village of Al-Mushayyir and opened fire on villagers with live ammunition, injuring dozens and murdering 38-year-old Hamdi Naasan, who was carrying a wounded villager to an ambulance. The Israeli army stood by during the killing, then later joined in the assault on the village by firing teargas at outraged and defiant villagers. The only people arrested were Palestinian protesters. This kind of KKK-style terror is increasingly a daily fact of life—and death—for the Palestinian people. (For an exposure of the nature of the Jewish settlers, see the short Al Jazeera documentary Thou Shalt Not Kill: Israel’s Hilltop Youth.)
And how many people know the real story behind the origin of the state of Israel? That it is a product of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, accomplished through terror, rape, and massacres known as the “Nakba” (catastrophe in Arabic) leading up to, through, and beyond the year 1948? On April 9, 1948, for example, Jewish forces occupied the quiet Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. A 12-year-old survivor described what happened: “They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him—carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breastfeeding her—they shot her too.” Women were raped, then killed. Dozens in this small village were massacred. Jewish terrorist organizations publicly bragged about the massacre to spread terror among the Palestinians, as part of driving the vast majority of them out of Israel. (See The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, by Ilan Pappé, which draws extensively on firsthand accounts of crimes like this by the founders of Israel.)
As a result of the Nakba and the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine, today there are now almost 4.5 million Palestinians living under Israeli military domination in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza (the “occupied territories”), and about 1.5 million Palestinians in Israel itself, where they are officially second-class citizens. The state of Israel now occupies about 78 percent of historic Palestine, and the Israeli settlements in the West Bank continue to grow.
The U.S. has provided essential financial, military, and diplomatic backing for Israel. That is not because of the influence of this or that lobby, but because of the strategic nature of a “special relationship” where Israel—with its massive high-tech military machinery and nuclear arsenal—serves as a contracted hit man for the interests of the U.S. empire in a strategic part of the world.
Targeting Telling the Truth About Israel
In the face of ongoing and escalating horrors, people around the world, including in the U.S., have increasingly come to oppose what the state of Israel has done and is doing to the Palestinian people, especially, but not only, in the “occupied territories.” Among the movements exposing and opposing these crimes, BDS advocates boycotting Israeli institutions, divesting (withdrawing investment in Israel), and sanctions—severing diplomatic and other institutional ties with Israel.
The bill moving through the U.S. Senate puts a formal, federal stamp of approval on a wave of anti-BDS laws that are already in effect in over 25 states, and in the pipeline in many more. Some of these laws have been stayed by courts, and the federal law is aimed at overriding those impediments. Others are in effect with chilling impact. Last year, Bahia Amawi was fired from her job as a contracted speech therapist with a Texas public school district because she would not sign a pledge that she “does not currently boycott Israel” and “will not boycott Israel during the term of [her] contract.” After New York governor Andrew Cuomo issued an anti-BDS executive order, an attorney for a Palestinian rights organization said “[T]he chilling effect is very real. We have received calls from groups who are concerned they would lose state funding if they hosted a speaker in favor of B.D.S.”
The torrent of anti-BDS laws converges with intensifying censorship of any exposure of Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. The organization Students for Justice in Palestine and their activities have been slandered as anti-Semitic, and their activities banned on campuses. (See “Opposing Israel Is NOT Anti-Jewish: Major Fascist Move to Repress Campus Criticism of Israel.”) Last November, author, professor, and activist Marc Lamont Hill was fired by CNN right after he spoke at the UN calling out Israel for “normalizing settler colonialism and its accompanying logics of denial, destruction, displacement, and death.” (See “Professor, Author & Activist, Marc Lamont Hill, Fired by CNN,” by Carl Dix.) And on campuses across the country, academics and student activists who criticize Israel have been threatened, censored, and fired. (See “Major Fascist Move to Repress Campus Criticism of Israel.”) All this, and now the Senate bill adds up to an ominous, coordinated offensive, aimed at suppressing views critical of Israel and ostracizing and blacklisting anyone who dares express even the mildest opposition to Israeli policies.
This vicious attack must be exposed and defeated. Revolutionaries should enter into these battles: targeting and firmly opposing this naked censorship and supporting those who come under attack; exposing the breadth of the crimes of America and its attack dog Israel, and their roots in this system; and fighting for the only solution to that—revolution.
In doing this, we should be guided by HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution, especially the following: “While many people will do positive things in opposing the crimes of this system, we need to approach everything—evaluate every political program and every organized force in society, every kind of culture, values and ways of treating people—according to how it relates to the revolution we need, to end all oppression. We should unite with people whenever we can, and struggle with them whenever we need to, to advance the revolution.”