Everyone knows the old words in which the Founding Fathers set forth their ideals of freedom, the ringing terms which sustained our embryo nation through its fight for independence. Which, over the next centuries, inspired those fighting to secure those rights for all citizens. Which urged on new republics worldwide to fight for self-determination. And which still remain as vital as they were when first written.
The conflict between Israel and Palestine is a modern manifestation of that age-old struggle for freedom from exploitation. Transcending politics, it is a question of simple morality and compassion. This is why we at PlanetGreen wish to add our voices to the growing number of activists supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
BDS is a grassroots movement which seeks to achieve the peaceful liberation of Palestine through a course of nonviolent action against the ongoing, brutal Israeli occupation. In fact, the very nation we live in was born of the sentiment that sparked the BDS movement today. The notion that governments can only exercise lawful power over their citizens when human dignity is respected - which triggered our ancestors to combat a tyranny far less severe than the occupation and apartheid BDS seeks to end - is at the heart of this initiative. We cannot stand by while Israel disregards even the most elementary concepts of international law. The parallels between the objectives of the Continental Congress and the goals of BDS emphasize our national obligation to support the Palestinian endeavors for equality. Now as in 1776, "to prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world."
"He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures... For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States." The situation in occupied Palestine is desperate. Each week brings news of another Palestinian civilian killed at a checkpoint - a small child in one recent instance, a teenager in another, a pregnant woman and her brother, a man shot fatally in the head when he was already lying, injured, in the road. Children as young as eleven are held as political prisoners in Israeli jails. To this constant threat is added the looming possibility of another 2014-style assault, in which over 500 children were killed in the Gaza Strip.
"He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people." The indiscriminate destruction of Palestinians' homes is an everyday occurrence. The occupants of these dwellings are often killed in the process - either "accidentally" or in the notorious "pressure cooker" method of extrajudicial execution. Olive trees, which are of special significance because they represent family members, are uprooted along with their owners' existences.
Daily life in the remains of Palestine is almost unimaginable. Gaining an education in these surroundings is nearly impossible, as settlers have beaten children walking to school. 26-foot tall walls keep Palestinians strictly segregated; in many cases, they are banned from driving on major highways or even from leaving their villages. Water supplies are cut off. Occupied Palestine is rendered uninhabitable as the land and water left to this tattered state is silently commandeered by the encroachments of the Zionists.
"To compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation." The Israelis are armed with nuclear bombs, Hellfire missiles, state-of-the-art warplanes, helicopters, assault rifles, and billions of dollars in military aid - yet kill children for hurling stones at the tanks rolling over the rubble of their homes. They constantly violate the United Nations' prohibition against collective punishment. Nearly sixteen times more Palestinian children have been killed than young Israelis in the ongoing conflict. Meanwhile, the world remains purposely ignorant of this genocide.
"For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world." Due to tight blockades and border controls, Palestine lacks access to food, medical supplies, and other simple necessities. Even cows are considered contraband. The restrictions on imports of medicine are responsible for an incalculable loss of life.
Yet, instead of taking action to end these wholesale violations of human rights, U.S. politicians on both sides of the aisle constantly vie with each other for the approval of the Israeli regime and its partisans in this country, delivering obsequious orations at AIPAC conferences, consorting with "one-issue" billionaires like Trump supporter Sheldon Adelson or top Hillary donor Haim Saban, defaming pro-Palestinian activists by labeling them "anti-Semitic," and decrying the BDS movement.
In order to stop these practices, we support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. It calls for Israel to end its occupation and colonization of Palestine. It calls for full equality for all people. Importantly, it moves closer toward a democratic, bi-national state by calling for the right of refugees to return to their homes and lands.
Until these demands are met, we must put economic pressure on Israel's oppressive regime. We must boycott companies complicit in oppression. We must exhort colleges, churches, unions, banks and corporations to divest from injustice. We must use our power, as the foundation of our national democracy, to impose sanctions on the regime committing these abuses.
This strategy is uniquely effective in the long term. Through the early 1990s, South Africa was a similar state, where racial prejudice was entrenched in national law and human rights were blatantly violated. But international pressure and on-the-ground activism prevailed. Today, reconciliation is reality.
Similarly, BDS gives citizens the power to insist on justice for Palestine and achieve a peaceful, pluralistic one-state solution. Much has been written of the moral choice every person must make to stand up for freedom, but perhaps the 1844 words of abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell best sum up the sentiments that sparked BDS. In the past, they were used by Martin Luther King during the Civil Rights movement and even set to music as a hymn. They remain as applicable today, in this new quest for emancipation and equality:
Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side
Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.