“Palestinian trees bear a strange fruit
Blood on the leaves
And blood on the root
Bodies swinging in the desert breeze.”
(Adapted from Strange Fruit by Billy Holiday)
With the on-going humanitarian crisis in Gaza having claimed close to 2000 lives in just over a month, the global community has been stirred into a frenzy of reactions. Some of which have proven to be controversial and debate-provoking. Social media, in particular, has erupted with a plethora of impassioned responses to the onslaught against the People of Gaza and Palestine.
Among the many popular movements aiming to make a positive difference to the Palestinian Struggle is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign, an international organization committed to encouraging the financial and economic boycott of Israel and its supporters.
While the BDS Campaign has garnered a huge deal of international support to date, from people of almost every religious, racial, ethnic and political affiliation, it still faces a considerable degree of opposition from other groups, including certain Muslim communities.
In South Africa, the ‘Boycott’ issue has threatened to spill over into an ideological conflict, with many supporting the call to boycott, and an equal amount of others rejecting it. As a result of this confusion, certain sectors of the community may be unaware of how to respond. The purpose of this article is to critically evaluate both arguments, as well as the emotional dynamics surrounding the issue.
In order to understand the impact and implications of a boycott, it is necessary to first understand the term ‘boycott’, in both a linguistic and historical sense.
Linguistically, the word ‘boycott’ refers to the withdrawal of commercial and/or social relations to an organization, as a form of protest or punishment. More specifically, a financial or economic ban, such as the one organized by the BDS, refers to the voluntary act of refusing to buy and/or support goods from a particular organization (Israel in this case).
The concept of boycotting has a long list of historical precedent, with different boycotts, over the ages, achieving varying levels of success. Perhaps the largest and most recent boycott, in terms of international appeal, was the Boycott of Apartheid South African goods. It has been proposed that the boycott of the Apartheid South African economy, on every level conceivable, led to tremendous international pressure being placed on the Apartheid administration.
This contributed, in the long run, to the willingness of the ruling National Party to enter into negotiations with the ANC, and to the eventual downfall of Apartheid in South Africa.
However, it must be remembered that the Apartheid government faced opposition from practically every sector of the international community. This created a situation where millions of people from around the world decided to stop supporting South African businesses.
South Africa’s agricultural sector was especially targeted; the country’s produce, which was initially imported by many nations, was turned back at many ports. The same conditions do not, however, exist with Israel, due to a variety of reasons.
Firstly, Palestine simply does not have the same amount of support from the international community, as the ANC had. In fact, what with Islamophobia being so common, many people, especially those in developed countries, regard Palestine as a rogue state, and Hamas as a terrorist organisation. Most Jews, and also many Christians, for that matter, believe that Israel has a right to exist. It is for this reason that the Boycott movement cannot gain much momentum, argue some.
Secondly, Israel’s exports are not aimed at just everybody: the bulk of it is aimed at a Jewish target market. This can be seen by the fact that most of Israel’s exports are either Kosher-approved or specifically Jewish-related products.
So, despite our many efforts to boycott Israeli products, the drop in sales observable is very minimal. Israeli products continue to be bought by Jewish clientele, and the boycott has no real effect.
Others believe that the call to boycott Israeli goods simply cannot be completely adhered to. Israel is supported, both actively and tacitly, by individuals and businesses around the world.
The BDS Campaign does not encapsulate every single supporter of Israel. Is it not hypocritical, then, to boycott one Israeli product, while simultaneously supporting another?
However, the other, perhaps more common viewpoint, is in support of the boycott. Many people believe that it is imperative that we boycott Israeli goods, if we wish to make some form of difference to the Palestinian struggle.
By doing so, we would be hurting Israel financially, and as an added bonus, we would be raising awareness. It is already possible to observe the rising global awareness of Palestine and Gaza.
Furthermore, it is morally and ethically unjustifiable to knowingly support products, which in turn support and finance the wholesale slaughter of innocent Muslims in Palestine.
Supporting Israeli goods may be seen as tantamount to paying for the spilling of Palestinian blood. How is it possible to sleep at night knowing that your money may well be putting a bullet into a young child’s body?
Now, while I may personally support the boycott, I am also critical of certain issues surrounding it.
Firstly, the fact that there is a difference of opinion must be accepted. If you support the boycott, then, by all means, go ahead and boycott Israeli goods.
Propagate your message and ask others to join the movement. But never begin to disrespect the views of others. Never begin to look down on others for not joining the boycott.
Do not cause disunity in the community.
And, just to clear up a common misconception, unity is not saying, “I am right. Follow me and don’t cause disunity.” Unity is saying, “I think I am right and you think you are right. I’ll do my thing; you do yours.” Unity is not to expect others not to oppose your opinions; unity is to accept others opinions.
Secondly, a common issue is that, in our enthusiasm to propagate the boycott, we sometimes stray from the actual issue at hand. We should never allow our material actions to blind us to the help of Allah. For verily, it is not our actions that will ultimately have any effect, but it is the decision of Allah that will reign Supreme.
Du’a should always be our first priority.
Together with boycotting Israeli goods, we should also boycott all forms of sin. It is ironic that we gather to protest against Israel, but we never pause for a moment to think about why Allah does not grant us victory. We never pause for a moment to consider wearing the Islamic garb, or keeping a beard, or reading Salaah!
How then do we expect the Help of Allah?
That leads me to my final observation.
We witness many people becoming very emotional about Palestine, in general, and about the boycott, in particular. While it is indeed correct to become emotional, that emotion should not be directed to people, and other Muslims, especially, in the form of anger. It should rather be directed, in the form of anguish and sincere tears, to Allah, in the form of Du’a.
Taking it a step further, would it not be wonderful if we could feel that same amount of emotion when the Command of Allah is broken? When the Quran and Sunnah are discarded and disregarded?
To sum up, the BDS Campaign is one way in which we can strike out at Israel. However, boycotting Israeli products should not become the main concern of the Ummah. Nor should it create disunity within the community. Our primary focus should always be Du’a. Nevertheless, if possible, we should try to boycott Israel and its supporters.
And who knows?
Perhaps victory will be OURS!
Written by Hudhaifa Hassen Karolia
First published on :
Posted by TTF team