Advocating BDS for Palestinians

Former New York Times correspondent in Israel and Palestinian territories, says Palestinian people have only one hope for achieving justice: BDS movement.

Former New York Times reporter Christopher Hedges

2015/10/09 Issue: 26 Page: 14

The Arab Weekly
Justin Salhani

Washington - Christopher Hedges, a former New York Times correspondent in Israel and the Palestinian territories, says the Palestinian people have only one hope for achieving justice: the BDS movement.

BDS stands for “boycott, divestment and sanction” and is a campaign aimed at applying economic and political pressure on Israel, whose occupation of Palestinian territory is considered illegal by the United Nations and the international community.

The BDS movement picked up steam in recent years even though the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), a pro-Israel lobbying group, has tried to label the BDS movement anti-Semitic.

Hedges addressed the issue at the Palestine Center in Washington, saying it was important for the Palestinian people to be heard but that this has grown increasingly difficult in recent years as the “power elite and neo-liberal forces”, including AIPAC, have fought against BDS.

Hedges lived in Jerusalem in the late 1980s and spent seven years in the Middle East. His experiences there convinced him of certain realities, he said.

“The Israeli lobby doesn’t serve the interests of Israel,” Hedges said. “It serves neo-liberals and neo-cons through austerity and violence.”

Referring to Israel’s siege of Gaza in the summer of 2014, Hedges said that while Hamas had committed war crimes by indiscriminately launching rockets into Israel, he believes the militant group has the right to defend itself.

The campaign against Gaza killed more than 500 children and Israel used “tons of explosives”, Hedges said, whereas almost all the casualties on the Israeli side were soldiers. Hedges has visited the sites of what Israel terms surgical strikes. “I’ve seen ‘surgical strikes’ where entire city blocks are taken out,” he said.

Part of the problem in Israel is that many Israelis no longer have contact with Palestinians, Hedges said. Israelis thus are not able to humanise the Palestinian people. And, Hedges said, Israel has been “very adept” at painting a portrait of the conflict that falls in line with the government’s position. The situation has deteriorated to the extent that Hedges says BDS is the only hope left for Palestinian justice.

“I have no hope left in the politicians and the press to bring justice to the Palestinian people,” Hedges said. He added that “the rise of unfettered, racist and rabidly right-wing” sectors of Israeli society into the mainstream has made the situation worse than ever. “BDS is the last, best hope to save the Palestinian people,” Hedges said. “If it fails, Palestine will be obliterated.”

Justin Salhani is an Arab Weekly correspondent in Washington.

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