Die Linke Protecting Israel’s Occupation and Apartheid?
Occupied Palestine, 21 June 2011
Dear Die Linke Executive Board members,
It has come to the attention of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass civil society organizations, that the German left political party, Die Linke, has equated calls for the boycott of Israeli goods with anti-Semitism. Such inflammatory accusations are patently false, intellectually and morally dishonest, and serve to discredit and silence any form of criticism directed against Israel's violations of human rights and international law. The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, led by the BNC, which upholds as its ultimate objectives freedom, justice and equality for all, unequivocally condemns all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Attempts to muzzle all criticism of the State of Israel with the intimidating and suppressive epithet of anti-Jewish racism lend tacit support to Israel’s numerous violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and thus betray the most cherished principles of any movement that counts itself on the left.
The 2005 BDS Call, endorsed by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society organizations, adopts a rights-based approach that focuses on Israel's violations of human rights and international law, namely, its continued colonization and occupation of Palestinian land occupied since 1967, its institutionalized system of discrimination against its own Palestinian citizens, and its denial of the UN-sanctioned right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, from which they were forcibly displaced in 1948. In this historic Call, Palestinian civil society called for imposing broad boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel as forms of non-violent, effective pressure on Israel until it abides by its obligations under international law. This civil form of resisting Israel’s occupation, colonization and apartheid was reached by Palestinians after Israel's violations of hundreds of UN resolutions condemning its occupation and discriminatory policies and calling for immediate, effective remedies and after all forms of international intervention and peace-making have failed to convince or compel Israel to respect international law and Palestinian rights.
Since 2005, the BDS movement has grown significantly on an international scale, and has included students, trade unions, academics, artists, and investors, many of whom are prominent Jewish thinkers, such as Judith Butler, Naomi Klein and Ilan Pappe. It is also important to note that the Palestinian BDS Call has been answered by a number of respected Israeli groups, such as the Coalition of Women for Peace, BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian call from within, and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). All aforementioned groups, whose members include students, workers, academics, intellectuals, feminists, LGBT advocates, human rights activists, among others, have united in their conviction that Israel will only respect international law through sustained international pressure, especially in the form of BDS. Israel’s complete disregard of international law and human rights is only growing, as is clear from its 2008/2009 illegal assault on Gaza and its lethal attack on the Freedom Flotilla. In light of the complicity of western governments, including Germany's, in Israel’s multi-faceted oppression of the Palestinian people, BDS has become a moral imperative for ending Israel’s impunity.
The characterization of a boycott of Israel as anti-Semitic is clearly deceptive, since it conflates legitimate criticism and opposition to Israel’s policies with racism against all Jews, thus equating Israel and world Jewry, reducing the latter to a monolithic sum that all thinks the same. That equation is itself anti-Semitic. The BDS movement calls for the three fundamental, UN-stipulated rights of the Palestinian people to be implemented, and targets Israel because of its denial of those rights, not because of the religious identity of most of its citizens. Calls for the international boycott of apartheid South Africa were directed against the white-only, racist character of the state, not against whites for their color per se. Likewise, calls for the boycott of Israel are not directed against Israeli Jews qua Jews, but against occupation and apartheid.
The BNC urges Die Linke to rise above unfounded slander and to fairly examine the BDS Call, which is rooted in universal principles of international law. "Never again," the main lesson of one of the most horrific genocidal crimes in history, the Holocaust, should apply to all human beings, after all, and should lead every conscientious person to reject attempts by any state to adopt and enforce racist laws, as Israel does, against any part of the population under its control, based on their ethnic or national identity. The imperative for Germany to respect and ensure other states’ compliance with international law should be valid irrespective of religious or ethnic considerations. Israel, with its massive nuclear weapons arsenal, record of aggression against neighboring states, and system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid, should not be exempted.
Given the above and the fact that the founding principles of Die Linke include commitment to peace, demilitarization, opposition to weapons of mass destruction and the rejection of war for political objectives, the BNC wonders how consistently Die Linke applies these principles in dealing with German policies towards Israel with its persistent violations of international law and daunting threat to world peace. What is Die Linke’s stand on the latest sale of German submarines with nuclear capacity to a “conflict zone”, such as the one created by Israel, a country with nuclear war heads, the use of Israeli Heron drones in the German participation in the war in Afghanistan (drones that have been effectively “battle tested” in operation “Cast Lead” against the besieged Gaza Strip), and the cooperation between Rheinmetall AG with Israeli Aircraft Industry for a further developed version of the Heron drone? Where do you stand on the millions of EU tax money currently channeled through the European Union FP7 funding scheme to Israeli companies involved in grave violations of international law, such as the illegal Wall and colonies, not to mention the Israeli arms industry? We look forward to receiving your clarifications.
 Even the US State Department's annual human rights reports have consistently condemned Israel's "institutional, legal and societal discrimination against [its] Arab citizens." See, for instance, the 2010 Report: