#BDS: Understanding the Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Movement Against Israel
"In the last few years, Palestinians and the solidarity movements in support of Palestinian rights have been successful in drawing attention to Israel as an apartheid state deserving of the same treatment as apartheid South Africa. Prominent individuals such as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Richard Falk and many others, have used the term apartheid at various moments to refer to Israel’s regime of gross violations of international law. But what is apartheid and exactly why is Israel an apartheid state? Most importantly, why should conscientious people across the world join the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, which has been growing over the last six years?
What Is Apartheid?
Apartheid is an Afrikaans term meaning separation or apartness. While it was first used in the South African context and took the form of clear institutionalized and legalized segregation by white settlers over the rest of the population, apartheid later took on an international legal dimension. As a result, the “crime of apartheid” no longer exists as a crime limited to a South African-style apartheid context. Rather, the crime has come to hold a specific legal definition that was adopted by the 2002 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and that has its basis in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
Under the Convention, the crime of apartheid is defined as “a crime against humanity . . . inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as defined in article II of the Convention, are crimes violating the principles of international law.” Article II of the Convention defines the crime as “inhuman acts committed for the purpose of establishing and maintaining domination by one racial group of persons over any other racial group of persons and systematically oppressing them,” and also includes “similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination as practiced in southern Africa.” While South African style apartheid is one benchmark, the real determinant of the crime of apartheid is whether or not policies and practices of oppression fall under the list of violations included in Article II of the Convention.
Of particular significance, the crime speaks in terms of oppressor and oppressed (not majorities and minorities), and prohibits the institutionalization of racist discrimination and oppression in which racism is legally enshrined through state institutions. Racial discrimination is defined in international law as any distinction based on race, color, descent, or national or ethnic origin."