by Amar Ahmad
As the decades-long Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories continues, Israel is once again bombing the Gaza Strip. Both the occupation of Palestine, and the bombing of Gaza, are being done with the support of the US. Indeed, as Israel drops bombs on Gaza, President Biden just approved an additional $735 million in military weapons and funding — mostly “smart” bombs — to Israel. That’s part of the $3.8 billion/year (or over $10 million/day) that US taxpayers spend subsidizing the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
On May 15th and May 18th, thousands showed up to Copley Square in Boston, to protest the occupation. One of the primary calls from the organizers of the rallies is to support BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions). BDS is a form of nonviolent protest, focused on placing economic pressure on Israel and further stigmatizing Israel from the global community. The call for BDS originated from Palestinian civil society, and it is modeled after the movement targeting South African Apartheid in the 1980s.
On May 24th, the Cambridge city council will hold a vote on BDS, Policy order #109. The policy order calls for the Cambridge City Manager to prohibit city purchasing contracts with Hewlett Packard and other companies that are complicit in, or profit from, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people. On the morning of Friday, May 21st, the public can sign up on the Cambridge city website, to offer testimony in favor of the BDS Policy order.
Activists in Western Massachusetts also recently protested outside of Jim McGovern’s Northampton office. There are additional rallies being planned in Western Massachusetts for May 21st and May 28th. Jim McGovern, one of the most progressive members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, has so far failed to co-sponsor H.R.2590 to support Palestinian human rights and condition US “aid” to Israel.
In response to the recent violence, Senator Markey released a statement blaming “both sides,” and saying that “Israel has the right to defend itself.” While Democrats (and Republicans) trip over themselves to make that claim, they never say that Palestinians have a right to self defense. Markey’s statement, essentially endorsing the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians, is a typical statement of Democratic politicians in the US.
Following this, Markey’s former campaign staff, volunteers, endorsing organizations (including Mass. Peace Action), and hundreds of others — many of whom worked tirelessly in 2020 to help Markey fend off a competative primary challenge from then-Congressman Joe Kennedy III — released a statement expressing “dissapointment and hurt” over Markey’s anti-Palestinian position.
Being publicly called out by Markey’s own former campaign staff and supporters generated significant press coverage and forced Markey to modify his original statement. However, even in this response, Markey ignores the four specific calls that activists made. His second statement is somewhat better than his first statement, but is still vastly insufficient. Activists are currently discussing how to escalate the campaign to have Markey come out against US support of Israeli apartheid and occupation.
Massachusetts Peace Action, along with protesting and Congressional lobbying, is also engaging in public education efforts for our members and the broader public. On May 19th, we hosted an event with journalist and Palestine expert, Rania Khalek. On the evening of May 24th, we will host a film screening for the documentary, Gaza Fights For Freedom, and have a post-film discussion with journalist and film-maker, Abby Martin. We also have Palestine-Israel focused events in June with Peter Beinart, Sami Al-Arian, Phil Weiss (the founder of Mondoweiss), and more being developed.