Freedom Walking for Palestine and BDS

Stephen Lendman
RINF Alternative News

In the 1960s, US Freedom Riders challenged racist injustice and related human rights abuses. Their activism made a difference.

They rode interstate buses across segregated southern states. They risked life and limb at times doing so.

They endured arrests for trespassing, unlawful assembly, as well as violating state and local Jim Crow laws.

They highlighted racial injustice. They did so because it matters.

They provoked violent reactions. They bolstered civil rights activism.

They gave the Movement more credibility. More meaning when it was needed most.

They were special. They’re history’s heroes. They’ll long be remembered.

They included Stokely Carmichael, Rev. William Sloane Coffin and Freedom Rider initiator/organizer James L. Farmer, Jr.

In 1942, he co-founded the Committee on Racial Equality. It later became the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE).

It sought to end segregation in America nonviolently. The struggle for racial justice continues.

Australia-based activist/academic Marcelo Svirsky is a modern-day civil rights champion. He’s a Middle East expert. His interests include decolonization.

His books include Collaborative Struggles in Australia and Israel-Palestine, After Israel: Towards Cultural Transformation, and Arab-Jewish Activism in Israel-Palestine.

He asks: “Should we boycott Israel?” Its genocidal Operation Protective Edge raised disturbing concerns on how the international community should respond to horrific high crimes against peace.

Repeating them whenever it wishes. Violating core international humanitarian laws. Irresponsibly blaming Palestinians for its wrongdoing.

Ignoring dozens of UN resolutions condemning its actions. Censuring them. Deploring them. Demanding they end. Calling for accountability. It remains nowhere in sight.

From October 2 – 10, Svirsky walked 178 miles from Sidney to Canberra. He did so for Palestinian rights.

Urging support for a petition to Australia’s parliament. Promoting discussion of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel.

Asking Australia’s government to obey its obligations under international law. Ones pertaining to longstanding Israeli militarized occupation, colonialism, and institutionalized racism.

According to Svirsky:

“I am using my love of walking for one of the world’s most socially just causes. Only international pressure by civil society, based on nonviolent means of Boycott can change the balance of power and eventually bring Israel to compromise.”

“Along my route I’ve had an opportunity to educate about the BDS movement. At University of Wollongong (where he teaches), a large student meeting unanimously resolved that all students, staff and relevant trade unions be asked to support the BDS movement.”

“Thousands of motorists have seen my banner. Conversations with passers by have given me the chance to explain my purpose, and along the way I’ve collected many more signatures.”

Svirsky is a Jewish/Israeli academic expat. He believes activism works. He’s appalled at what Palestinians endure.

He’s walking for long denied justice. Because it matters. To enlist others to get involved responsibly.

He was born in Israel. He experienced inequality in childhood. Doing so focused him on social justice later on.

“As a Sergeant in the Israeli Combat Engineering Corps, I had seen so many abuses of Palestinians’ basic human rights that I decided I should not continue support for the military and I signed a ‘Courage to Refuse; letter,” he said.

He respects the rights of all people, cultures, ethnicities, genders and racial backgrounds.

Ahead of his walk, he obtained permission from the Land Councils of La Perouse, Tharawal, Illawarra, Pejar and Ngambri to walk on their land.

Doing so showed respect. Concern for other peoples’ rights. He’s appalled at how Israel abuses them. Its self-righteous exceptionalism rubbish.

Its might over right ideology. Its outrageous treatment of Palestinians. Persecuting them for not being Jews.

Its belligerence. Its preemptive wars of choice. Its high crimes against peace.

Its contempt for rule of law principles. Its longstanding unaccountability.

He left Israel six years ago. He believes subjugating Palestinians under militarized rule must end.

He supports BDS efforts to do so. In Australia, it’s not easy. Its government supports Israel’s worst crimes.

Criticizing its policies is verboten. Doing so risks censure and/or public ostracism. Much like in America, Canada and many European countries.

Former UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights Richard Falk urges civil society “to join the growing global solidarity movement to resist the prolonged Israeli occupation and creeping annexation of Palestine.”

He did so in the wake of collapsed Israeli/Palestinian peace talks. They were dead on arrival.

They reflect the greatest hoax in modern times. Israel deplores peace and stability. Conflict, belligerence and daily violence serve its agenda.

“Both Israelis and Palestinians deserve a just resolution to (longstanding) conflict with human rights at its core,” said Falk.

“The best prospect for realizing Palestinian self-determination now is by way of pressures exerted through grassroots mobilization.”

“We must strengthen the global solidarity movement, which includes the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) initiative in relation to businesses that profit from the settlements, as well as other forms of non-violent resistance.”

“Third party (UN) Member States…have an important responsibility to ensure they are not complicit in human rights violations in Occupied Palestine,” he stressed.

“The facts on the ground speak for themselves.”

Jewish Voice for Peace “focuses…on (BDS) campaigns that directly target Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem and its blockade of the Gaza Strip.”

It believes it’s “the most effective way for JVP to help bring about the aims we share with the Palestinian BDS call.”

In September, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu said if he and others hadn’t “struggled so hard in the anti apartheid movement, Nelson Mandela would have died in jail.”

“The Boycott Divestment Sanctions Movement is as important as the anti apartheid struggle. I urge you all to support it.”

Svirsky forthrightly does so, saying:

“I’m an Israeli Jew who rejects Israel’s continuing subjugation of the Palestinians. I am fully committed to the principles of the BDS movement, and I encourage others to join this nonviolent action.”

According to Sydney Peace Foundation founder Professor Stuart Rees:

“Amid the current political preoccupation with war and with the threat of terrorist attacks, the sight of one individual trekking for 10 days on behalf of another people’s human rights signifies the value of non-violent protest and shows what humanity can mean.”

He hopes Australian politicians will take time to read Svirsky’s petition. Reflect on its principles “inherent in the BDS movement and summon courage to support it.”

It requires a giant leap of faith to believe Western politicians anywhere (with rare exceptions) intend supporting right over wrong.

Washington isn’t known for profiles in courage. Or Canada, Australia or European countries.

Svirsky is a modern-day Don Quixote. Regardless of long odds against him, he forthrightly supports right over wrong.

Ending Israeli occupation harshness. Universally recognizing Palestinian self-determination.

Holding Israel accountable. Justice denied for so long. What better way than by BDS. It’s more vital now than ever.

Israel waged genocidal war on Palestine for decades. Millions of Palestinian corpses, wounded, disabled and displaced bear testimony to its barbarism.

Accountability is long overdue. BDS initiatives for equity, justice and fundamental rights work.

Years earlier, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called apartheid’s end “one of the crowning accomplishments of the past century, but we would not have succeeded without the help of international pressure – in particular the divestment movement of the 1980s.”

“Over the past six months, a similar movement has taken shape, this time aiming at an end to the Israeli occupation.”

Western and despotic Middle East leaders won’t hold Israel accountable. Grassroots movements must do it.

In July 2005, a coalition of 171 Palestinian Civil Society organizations created the Global BDS movement.

It did so for “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel Until it Complies with International Law and Universal Principles of Human Rights” for Occupied Palestinians, Israeli Arabs, and diaspora Palestinian refugees.

Since 1948, dozens condemned Israel’s militarized occupation. Its decades of discriminatory harshness.

Its contempt for rule of law principles. It illegal land seizures and settlements. Its preemptive wars of choice.

Its horrendous human rights violations. A previous article discussed what warrants repeating.

It said growing numbers of activists “call upon international civil society organizations and (supporters everywhere) to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to (apartheid) South Africa.”

“Pressure is needed for ’embargoes and sanctions…for the sake of justice and genuine peace.’ ”

Nonviolent punitive measures should continue until Israel:

recognizes Palestinian self-determination rights;

respects international laws, norms and standards;

ends its illegal occupation unconditionally;

ends Gaza’s siege unconditionally;

ends illegal aggression and other hostilities in all forms;

dismantles its Separation Wall;

frees all Palestinian political prisoners unconditionally;

grants Israeli Arabs equal rights as Jews;

end its racist apartheid system;

complies with UN Resolution 194 affirming the right of diaspora Palestinians to return to their homes and property or be fully compensate for loss or damage if they prefer;

recognizes East Jerusalem as Palestine’s exclusive capital within June 1967 borders; and
gives Palestinians control over their land, borders, air space, coastal waters and resources.

Sustainable peace, equity and justice are long overdue. Payback time is now. Boycott Israeli products and services.

Shun international companies operating there. Ones complicit in its human rights abuses. Those exploiting Palestinians in the process.

Spread the word. Urge others to act responsibly. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said earlier:

“Those who choose not to act to stop Israel’s massacre, especially those whose governments are implicated in Israeli war crimes, are choosing the ‘side of the oppressor.’ ”

Committed activism works. It makes a difference. Doing the right thing is its own reward.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at

His new book as editor and contributor is titled “Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.”

Visit his blog site at

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