When Israeli commandos launched their assault on the unarmed flotilla of ships carrying hundreds of humanitarian aid workers and 10,000 tons of supplies for the besieged Gaza Strip, killing at least nine activists and injuring scores more, part of the operation was “Made in the USA.”
Decades of uncritical U.S. financial, military, and diplomatic support has ensured that Israel’s military power—nuclear and conventional—remains unchallengeable. A U.S. pattern of using UN Security Council vetoes to protect Israel from accountability has ensured that Israel can essentially do whatever it likes with those U.S.-provided weapons, regardless of what U.S. or international laws may be broken.
Israel has long relied on the numerous U.S.-made and U.S.-financed Apache and Blackhawk war helicopters in its arsenal—it’s a good bet those were in use in the May 31st assault in international waters. Use of U.S.-provided weapons is severely limited by our own laws: The Arms Export Control Act (AECA) prohibits any recipient from using U.S. weapons except for security within its own borders, or for direct self-defense. And no amount of Israeli spin can make us believe that an attack by heavily-armed commandos jumping onto the decks of an unarmed civilian ship in international waters has anything to do with self-defense.
So yes—our tax dollars and our politicians’ decisions play a huge part in enabling not only the flotilla attack but Israel’s violations of human rights overall. But increasingly, across the country, people and organizations are standing up to say no to U.S. support for those policies of occupation and apartheid.
The main strategy is known as “BDS”—boycott, divestment, and sanctions. Based on the lessons of theSouth African anti-apartheid movement of the 1980s, BDS brings non-violent economic pressure to bear in order to end Israeli violations of international law. In 2005, a coalition of Palestinian civil society organizations issued a call for a global campaign of BDS. The call was based on the understanding that the Palestinian struggle for human rights, equality, and the enforcement of international law needed international support—and civil society organizations would have to step in, given that the traditional Palestinian leadership hadn’t created a strategy for mobilizing such support.