We are a group of Israeli citizens. Many of us have been active for years against our government's policies of racism, occupation and apartheid: We support Israeli soldiers who refuse to participate in oppression, we organize or attend demonstrations which are dispersed brutally by Israel's military forces, we get beaten by the police or by Israeli settlers, and we often get arrested. Some us have paid a personal price for our commitment to this struggle for Palestinian freedom and justice.
(for information on our activists' background, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yesh_Gvul , or http://www.newprofile.org/english/?p=21 , or http://www.awalls.org/ , or
One of the conclusions we have drawn from our experience as activists is that an international campaign of sanctions against Israel's policies is required, if we wish to bring an end to these policies. We believe this campaign should resemble the sanctions campaign against apartheid South Africa a few decades ago.
It has been brought to our attention that a South African provincial delegation (from the KwaZulu Natal province) of mayors and other officials to Israel has been scheduled to visit Israel as guests and potential business partners of the Israeli government.
We believe that such visits should not be conducted at this time.The Israeli government, just like its old South African counterpart, should not profit from its persistent crimesand violation of human rights.
Palestinian civil society has issued a call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel's policies of colonialism, occupation and apartheid towards the Palestinian people. The call is aimed at countering Israel's attempt to maintain a false progressive and democratic image in the eyes of the international community. We believe that people of conscience, especially those who suffered under apartheid in South Africa, should take note of this.
If you would like to get an idea of how racist Israel's policies are, some information follows.
Palestinians have recently challenged Israeli segregated buses which they are not allowed to travel on. These buses carry instead Israeli settlers to and from their homes, illegally built on stolen Palestinian land. The following report documents the Israeli response to this brave act: http://electronicintifada.net/blog/maureen/new-video-shows-israeli-forces-dragging-palestinian-freedom-riders-settler-bus.
Prominent public figures, including South African leaders, musicians and artists, have come here to witness for themselves the treatment of Palestinians living under Israeli rule, and have vowed not to lend their legitimacy to these racist policies. For example, American Author and human Rights activist Alice Walker made the following comments on her visit to Palestine: "Going through Israeli checkpoints is like going back in time to American Civil Rights struggle...I am a big supporter of BDS. I frankly think that it is the best, absolutely the best way." ( http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/resources/interviews/3104-alice-walker-qgoing-through-israeli-checkpoints-is-like-going-back-in-time-to-american-civil-rights-struggleq ).
Professor Robin Kelley [UCLA, California] offers this analysis: “... And so for people of my generation, the Israel-South Africa nexus, dispossession of Palestinians ... these were the key questions for anyone politically active in the 1980s. … [In the occupied Palestinian territories I] witnessed a level of racist violence that I hadn’t even seen growing up as a black person here in the [United] States ... I have to say, and I’ve been beat by the cops. The level of racist violence from the [Israeli] settlers is kind of astounding. … The key thing was the kind of engagement that helped us better understand why the boycott is central... And part of what the boycott does is it delegitimizes the claim that this is a normal situation. It’s not a normal situation, it’s a settler-colonial situation, a situation of oppression." ( http://mondoweiss.net/2012/02/a-level-of-racist-violence-i-have-never-seen-ucla-professor-robin-d-g-kelley-on-palestine-and-the-bds-movement.html ).
Israel's ethnic-discriminatory policies are not restricted to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. We understand that you are scheduled to visit the Southern area of the Negev. The Israeli government is planning to forcibly move entire Bedouin indigenous communities, and put them in townships, which would deprive them of their livelihood and land rights (http://972mag.com/algorithm-of-expropriation-the-plan-to-uproot-30000-bedouin/40202/).
Some of these communities had existed before the state of Israel was established and before the Israeli businesses which you are scheduled to visit were established. The Israeli government is pursuing a policy of Judaization and treats disenfranchised Israel's Bedouin citizens as a demographic threat.
In view of the aforementioned facts, we are calling on you, all representatives of the province and its individual municipalities not to go on the scheduled trip to Israel.
We will gladly address any questions or comments you may have.
Boycott! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within