Stéphane Frédéric Hessel is a diplomat, former ambassador, French resistance fighter and participant in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948:
The Freedom Flotilla brings to mind the kind of civil society solidarity initiatives which brought an end to segregation laws in the US and apartheid in South Africa, an analogy impossible to ignore. Like the apartheid regime of South Africa, Israel’s reaction has been to label this non-violent act an “intentional provocation.” As in the case of South Africa, the call for international solidarity, in the form of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) came from an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society unions and organizations in 2005, and is being embraced by citizens of conscience and social movements worldwide. The BDS initiative calls for effectively isolating Israel, its complicit business, academic and cultural institutions, as well as companies profiting from its human rights violations and illegal policies, as long as these policies continue.
I believe that the BDS initiative is a moral strategy which has demonstrated its potential for success. Most recently, German Deutsche Bank became the latest of several European financial institutions and major pension funds to divest from Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems. Last week, two main Italian supermarket chains announced a boycott of produce from illegal Israeli settlements. Last month, performers Elvis Costello and Gil Scott-Heron cancelled appearances in Israel. Reminiscent of the South African anti-apartheid popular struggle, the current generation of students across university campuses is actively calling upon their administrations to adopt divestment policies.
I endorse the heartfelt words of Scottish writer Iain Banks, who in reaction to Israel’s atrocious attack on the Freedom Flotilla suggested that the best way for international artists, writers and academics to “convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation” is “simply by having nothing more to do with this criminal government.”