Should people boycott Israel? Pt.5 Omar Barghouti
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome back to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay. We’re in Ramallah, Palestine, joined again by Omar Barghouti. He is one of the founding members of the Campaign for Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel. Thanks for joining us again.
OMAR BARGHOUTI, PALESTINE CAMPAIGN FOR THE ACADEMIC AND CULTURAL BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL: Thank you.
JAY: So when we talked earlier about Fatah and Hamas, you said the real problem is they don’t have a program for resistance. And you’ve talked about the boycott campaign. The boycott campaign is not something some of the young people we met in camps in Lebanon or here in the West Bank, this is not something most Palestinians are going to be able to get very involved in. And we talked to some young people at camps in Lebanon, and the anger, fury, despair, especially after watching the attacks on Gaza on television, it’s not even so much about their own life in a refugee camp; it’s more about what they saw and the atrocities they saw, and they want to do something, and they don’t know what to do. So in terms of a program for the Palestinians, what should young people be doing?
BARGHOUTI: I never claimed that boycott is the only form of struggle that Palestinians can engage in. We’re talking about a program of resistance, promoting a culture of resistance in many, many forms, diverse forms, including popular resistance, as we’re seeing in the anti-apartheid wall campaigns all over the occupied West Bank, in East Jerusalem, and so on. So there are many direct-action, popular resistance campaigns, as well as boycott [inaudible]
JAY: Talk a bit about what’s happening, because this gets very little coverage in North America.
BARGHOUTI: In popular resistance, you mean? In many villages that lost the best of their fertile lands to Israel’s apartheid wall and to the settlements, the colonial settlements, there is a real struggle now that’s been going on for years in several villages against that wall. They have weekly demonstrations, especially on Fridays, where it’s a nonviolent form of resistance, and they get solidarity delegations from across the world, including from the Israelis who stand in solidarity with them, and they demonstrate against the wall. They’re raising awareness. They’re adding a lot of pressure against Israel because of its colonization. And it’s working in many places in applying pressure. Have they achieved any concrete results? Very little. Very little.
JAY: So why do you say it’s working?
BARGHOUTI: It’s working in raising awareness. As I said, the program of resistance cannot hope to achieve results right away. You can’t just jump from point A to point B without going through the stages. And, again, it’s not something unique to the Palestinians. The South Africans started their boycott campaign in the 1950s. It started kicking in in the 1970s and ’80s in the part of the world that count the most, in the West. So in comparison, we’re doing much better, we’re going much faster than South Africa, so popular resistance, organizing, democratic organizing among Palestinian communities in the refugee camps and so on, as well as getting engaged in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaign. I disagree with the characterization that this is something that most Palestinians cannot join. I can’t see why not. The boycott campaign can raise awareness not just about Israeli companies. For example, if you’re in a refugee camp in Lebanon, you can join a boycott campaign against Motorola, Coca-Cola, Caterpillar, American, French, Belgian companies, for example, involved in maintaining Israel’s occupation and apartheid. That’s the way the South Africans did it. It’s not just against the companies that belong to Israel that are oppressing us, but also international companies. It’s a global economy. Pressuring Motorola and Caterpillar will certainly apply a lot more pressure on Israel than anything else.
JAY: And what forms of struggle are possible with the growing settlements in the West Bank? The wall keeps going, inching more and more. The settlements are growing.
BARGHOUTI: I think direct action and nonviolent resistance are the most effective in combating Israel’s wall. International law does give people under occupation the right to resist in any way, including armed resistance; however, people doing the resistance must always pick the right form of resistance that has the maximum effect and maintains its moral higher ground, which is extremely important in the Palestinian case, because our quest for freedom, self-determination, is mainly a moral quest, and we should maintain that. In the South Lebanese case, the Lebanese resistance did manage to expel the Israeli occupation army through armed resistance.
BARGHOUTI: Hezbollah. They have the power. They’ve proven it. They can expel Israel. And they defeated Israel militarily in 2006. For the first time in its history, Israel has lost a war against not an Arab army [but] an Arab resistance movement, a couple of thousand fighters who were determined, well equipped, very smart. And they defeated Israel. We cannot emulate that experience in the occupied Palestinian territory, in my opinion. After decades of armed resistance in Palestine, we achieved much less than we should have under conditions of siege, divisions, bantustanization, and complete oppression and isolation of the Palestinians in the occupied territories. I don’t think we have any hope to evolve an effective, powerful armed resistance against Israel that will deter it, let alone liberate, but will deter it from oppressing us and bombing us with F-16s and so on. So I don’t think that’s the best way to combat Israel’s occupation and apartheid. We have to drag Israel into a combat zone, if you will, where we had the upper hand, morally speaking, and that’s in a nonviolent confrontation. The boycott is one very good example of this, where our fight is taken to the world, across the world. That’s where Israel extracts its power. It’s not just here. It’s made in the US, it’s made in the EU, Israel’s power. Academically, financially, culturally, in every field, Israel extracts its power from the Western world. And that’s where we have to take our fight, our nonviolent civil society fight against companies that are complicit in Israel’s occupation, against institutions that are perpetuating Israel’s oppression, and of course against Israeli institutions that are complicit. And I think that’s much more effective. Israel has not yet invented the weapon to counter this nonviolent resistance.
JAY: Well, in the next segment of our interview, let’s talk about the issue of what Palestinians should be and are demanding, and the whole question of one state versus two states. So please join us for the next segment of our interview with Omar Barghouti.
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