Is BDS Headed Towards Criminalization in Canada?
Activists: Criminalization of Activism in the West Against Israeli Occupation in Palestine is a Threat to Free Speech
The worldwide campaign against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories, known as Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS), is gaining a momentum and support from many nations across the world.
As the BDS pressure continues to mount, Israel is now feeling the heat from the movement’s growth. But because Israel is not ready to discontinue occupying the territories which are officially recognized internationally as lands belonging to the Palestinian people, Israel is now using different tactics to make sure that the momentum BDS has gathered, weakens.
This is not the first time BDS has been used by activists and countries to compel a nation to do what is generally accepted. In the 1980s, similar measures were instituted against the then apartheid government in South Africa. It ended up that the apartheid regime could not stand the worldwide pressure, allowing for political reforms in the country. Note that Israel was a strong supporter of the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Therefore, knowing what happened to the apartheid regime in South Africa, Israel is determined not to allow the BDS to continue functioning. To accomplish this goal, activists say Israel has resorted to the use of clandestine methods to ensure that it continue occupying the territories of the Palestinian people.
In 2015, an Israeli website +972 reported that there is pending bill in Israel, which“would ban entry to foreigners who promote the BDS movement that aims to pressure Israel to comply with international law and respect Palestinian rights.”
Already, there is a law in Israel that effectively banned any public call for a boycott:economic, cultural, or academic, against Israel or its West Bank settlements. This law was passed in 2011. Anybody who goes against this law is punished severely in Israel.
However, according to activists, what is more worrying about Israel’s actions against the BDS is the fact that pro-Israeli groups in the West are using their influence and money to manipulate politicians to pass laws. These laws will criminalize the BDS movement.
We are all aware that the UK recently announced that it will be illegal for “local city councils, public bodies, and even some university student unions … to refuse to buy goods and services from companies involved in the arms trade, fossil fuels, tobacco products, or Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.”
This announcement by the UK government means any entities that support or participate in the global boycott of Israeli settlements, will face severe penalties.
According to the Intercept, the United States also have similar bills like what the UK have passed; pending before congress and aimed at outlawing the BDS movement. In June 2015, the Washington Post reported that “A wave of anti-BDS legislation is sweeping across the US.”
An article that also appeared on the New York Times in 2015, mentioned that under a Customs Bill passed by both houses of Congress and headed to the White House, “American officials will be obligated to treat the settlements as part of Israel in future trade negotiations,” a provision specifically designed “to combat the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, a grass-roots campaign.”
Pro-Israeli groups in the United States are targeting people in academia who support the rights of the Palestinian people. The firing of Professor Steven Salaita by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (UIUC) over his critical views on Israel is one example. As it was later revealed through a court order that pro-Israeli groups were behind his dismissal, UIUC ended up compensating Mr Salaita for close to $1 million.
Also, a pro-Israeli law firm Milbank, Tweed, Hadely & McCloy, recently pulled its annual grant of $250,000 from the graduate law school of Harvard University, simply because the school held a pro-Palestine event to discuss the abuses Palestinians have suffered at the hands of Israelis who are illegally occupying their lands.
In October 2015, 12 people were convicted in France for advocating sanctions and a boycott against Israel as a means of ending the country’s occupation of Palestine. Canadian authorities also issued a threat in 2015 that organizations and individuals in Canada who will support boycotts against Israel, are likely to face criminal prosecution.
Judging from all these developments in the West, activists conclude that Israel is using all ways and means to ensure that political dissent and free speech, which are core tenets of democracy are suppressed. Continuation of this act is to grossly abuse the rights of the Palestinian people.
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