Yonatan Shapira's voice came over the airwaves. He, like many activists living in war torn areas, is a hero or a traitor, depending on which side you stand on.
Shapira is a former Israeli pilot and author of the "pilots' letter," signed by 27 IAF pilots in 2003, documenting their refusal to fly over occupied territories.
Now he's a main player in the boycott of Israel-also recently in the news for spray painting "Free all the Ghettos" and "Free Gaza/Palestine" on one of the remaining walls of the Warsaw ghetto. Although I don't agree with his methods, I agree with his message:
"I am not saying there is a comparison with the monstrosity of Nazi death camps, but I am saying we must talk about the silence in Israel and the world when people are confined in a ghetto-like place...
Delegations of young Israelis [come here] to see the history of our people but also are subjected to militaristic and nationalistic brainwashing on a daily basis. Maybe if they see what we wrote here today they will remember that oppression is oppression, occupation is occupation, and crimes against humanity are crimes against humanity, whether they have been committed here in Warsaw or in Gaza."
The boycott of Israel is not a new idea. In the 60s, South Africa called for countries around the world to boycott the government as the people fought to end Apartheid.
20 years later, the US jumped on the bandwagon and Apartheid coincidentally ended soon after.
The sad truth? We still have that power. Our infrastructure hasn't been updated since Johnny came home from "over there," our economy may be more broken than a heroine addict off to a fifth stint in rehab, we may have the diplomatic skills of an embittered ogre, but we still pull our obese weight around the world.
We are still the trend setters for much of the world, and we still dictate, to a certain extent, the tone and flow of global politics.
How is that possible, when as a people, we don't do a damn thing? Again, I don't advocate that we go spray paint monuments of the civil or revolutionary war, but some notion of giving a shit would be nice.
The host of the NPR show remarked (using South Africa as his example) that it takes Americans a while to absorb and react to happenings in the world.
That sounds like a special needs kid not a country of 300 million "great Americans."
But that's just it. We're the best without ever having competed against other cultures. Somehow, throughout our short lifetime, the US has come to the place of power we now hold.
We are where we are due to the actions and ideas of people who lived long before us. Our government is not a product of us anymore, it is a product of production. What we work hard for is turned into dollars and cents and used against us. Nice huh?
Almost makes you wanna boycott those corporate shit heads...hmmm...now I am advocating something...
Just as with Shapira, the choice of what happens with any boycott lies with the people. That's the tricky thing with political activism. It comes about due to the willingness to change the current political environment. Shapira said on NPR that he isn't gonna wait around for things to change, he wants to effect change by forcing Israel to pay attention to their actions and stand accountable.
Here in California, the BDS movement (Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement) has a ballot measure in the works that would require the state's retirement funds to divest from Israel. What would that do if it passed? Unlike with South Africa, the US has an incredibly complex and fragile relationship with Israel. Considering our current cluster fuck status in the middle east, we cling to their bought loyalty like kudzu.
But if that passes, it won't pass silently. Like I said, we have that power. Shapira quite poetically implored Americans to exercise that power and boycott Israeli businesses backed by the government, or "openly upholding the status quo."
My only problem with his call to action: what about us? We don't even have the balls to stand up to our own oppressors, how the fuck can anyone expect us to stand up to theirs?
Or is it easier somehow?
Do we feel that their problems are more pressing because they're wrapped in barbed wire?
As Carl Jung once prophetically wrote, "People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul."
The ills of Israel and Palestine are far more complex than ours. We have two simple enemies: the corporate stronghold and our own apathy. If we can rid of the latter, we can get rid of the former. It's people's choice.