Below is a message that I posted to the al-Awda USA listserve concerning a proposed al-Awda withdrawal of its endorsement from the statement currently appearing on the BDS website of the BNC, which is not the same statement that it originally signed. Since receiving wider distribution, my message has been misinterpreted and criticised for statements and assertions that were neither made nor intended. Furthermore, since my motives for making the statement have been questioned, as well, I will preface the message with some explanation.
- I have never criticised but rather have encouraged the practice of, and a movement for, boycott, divestment and sanction against Israel. Although some do not wish to apply BDS to all things Israeli, I do not wish to discourage them from their partial application of BDS, because all forms of BDS are helpful.
- I do not wish to cause a split within the movement, nor tell Palestinians what should or should not be their objective or their means. Not all Palestinians agree about such matters, and I consider my role to be that of solidarity with all Palestinians, regardless of their political beliefs or affiliations. I am only responsible for my own beliefs and actions.
- I am in pursuit – as we all are – of truth and justice, although our interpretations of such may be different and our commitment varying. However, I do not abide the avoidance of truth for the sake of expediency, nor hypocrisy or inconsistency with respect to principle. Sadly, some would rather apply principle only when it serves their purpose and abandon it when it is no longer convenient. I believe that the truth sets us free, but that freedom is not gained without sacrifice. However, freedom is an illusion without justice, and no one is free until we all are free. Similarly, justice cannot be gained for some at the cost of injustice to others. This is why none of us should accept a Jewish state, least of all Jews.
- My message was addressed to al-Awda members with respect to al-Awda endorsement of a particular BDS Campaign referenced in the message, and not the idea of a BDS movement nor the BDS tactics and actions that have been applied with success on many occasions. My reference point for what may or may not be acceptable in that context are the al-Awda USA principles of unity (with which I happen to agree).
- This message is specifically addressed to the practice of retroactively revising a statement after it has been endorsed, without the consent of the endorsers. Nothing more. Nothing less. This is the only matter that should be considered. If Al-Awda and other signatories wish to accept the revision or to opt out, that is their business. However, they must be given the choice and an approval procedure must be followed. Please. That is all that I am saying. All the rest is analysis.
- I tried for more than two months prior to this message to gather information and to get questions answered through more private inquiries. A more public message was a last resort.
I hope we can keep these matters in perspective
It is with great sadness that I must propose withdrawal of al-Awda endorsement from the BDS Campaign led by the BNC until the change in its mission statement has been corrected and until a public explanation is provided for the reasons for the change as well as the procedure by which the change was implemented. A more transparent public explanation of BNC finances is also recommended.
Obviously, this is not a proposal to stop boycott, divestment and sanctions. However, BDS actions and practices do not require endorsement of a particular movement. Everything that undermines the racist Zionist state deserves our support. Nevertheless, under no circumstances can we support any statement or action that legitimates such a state, which is the problem with the BNC-led BDS Campaign.
As I reported on July 10, the original BDS mission statement reads:
“1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall”
In fact, it still reads that way on one part of the website: http://www.bdsmovement.net/call. Unfortunately, that part of the website is historical, and reports what the original mission statement was when it was issued in 2005 (when al-Awda endorsed it), and not what it is today, which is found at http://www.bdsmovement.net/bdsintro, which reads:
“1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall” (emphasis added)
When did this wording change? By what procedure was it amended? Were endorsers like al-Awda consulted or even notified about the change? What was the reason for the change?
1. When did the wording change?
Sorry, but I have no idea about this, and I doubt that anyone else on this list does, either. This is problematic. How can a change of this magnitude be made without the permission of its endorsers? How can endorsers be made to say something that they never endorsed? This is deception at its worst.
2. By what procedure was the statement amended?
One would think that such a change would require a proposal to and ratification by the governing committee of the BNC. However, there is no evidence that such a procedure was observed. Lacking evidence to the contrary, we must conclude that it was amended unilaterally by someone with control over the website.
3. Were endorsers like al-Awda consulted or even notified about the change?
Again, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it appears that the change in language was introduced in the most surreptitious way possible, so as to avoid notice. One is reminded of the way the British territory of Gibraltar was enlarged by moving the boundary stones at night.
4. What was the reason for the change?
This is the most troubling part of the problem. A clue may be found in the following video, posted by Gilad Atzmon:
Another clue comes from BDS Campaign founder Omar Barghouti’s book, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. In the introduction, Barghouti describes the goal as “ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands [occupied in 1967] and dismantling the wall” (p. 6). On page 49, Barghouti says that “BDS calls for ending Israel’s 1967 military occupation of Gaza, the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), and other Arab territories in Lebanon and Syria.”
Obviously, Omar Barghouti is entitled to his views. Perhaps he is genuinely convinced that the ‘Zionist colonization’ of ‘all Arab Land’ applies only to land invaded in June 1967. However, is he the one behind the unauthorized changes in the BDS mission statement? This is a question that needs to be answered, and I believe that the similarities between his statements and the amendment of the BDS mission statement justify the asking of that question without prejudice to the possibility that a satisfactory explanation might exist. Justice must presume innocence until proven otherwise.
Finally, according to Gilad Atzmon, some Zionist right wing sources name George Soros and his Open Society Institute as helping to fund BDS and some of its member organizations. We know that Soros is a “soft” Zionist and wants to preserve a Jewish state. Is his funding or that of any other funding organizations a reason for the change in the mission statement? A full disclosure of funding sources and amounts, as well as any and all conditions of funding is needed. In addition, the use of those funds, including line item amounts, is needed in order to demonstrate accountability.
I again wish to express my sorrow at bringing these matters to your attention. I hope that my concerns are unjustified. However, I also hope that you will agree that this is an issue that must be addressed.
Further to this, below is the full current mission statement on the website. Please note that it claims that “The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements” (including al-Awda). The fact is that none of these organizations endorsed the statement as revised, but rather the original statement, without the amendment.
What, then is the meaning of item three in the mission statement? It appears to be a statement of the Right of Return, but where exactly are the refugees going to return if ending the occupation and colonization applies only to territories occupied in June, 1967?
This is clearly an accommodation to Zionists who want to be part of the BDS movement (or, more accurately, want to control it). Fine. Let them have their movement, but let the organizations that do not agree to this amendment opt out of it, in which case all of the endorsers should be contacted and allowed to make their own choice. However, under no circumstances should false claims be made that more than 170 groups endorsed a statement that they plainly did not.
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.