Defending the Defensible: Jewish and Palestinian Boycotts
‘The Boycott is a Moral Substitute for War’ – Bertha V Corets
Israel has officially recognized BDS as a ‘strategic threat’ to its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Those who support the BDS movement are maligned and dubbed as ‘anti-Semitic’ and viewed as enemies of Israel.
BDS is a non-violent, anti-racist human rights movement which has now mobilized friends and supporters worldwide through grassroots movements. In a variety of ways these groups are applying valuable pressure on major banks, pension funds, corporations and academic associations to boycott Israel as was done to South Africa’s apartheid regime. They are claiming the inalienable rights of Palestinians under international law.
In this article Defending the Defensible: Jewish and Palestinian Boycotts; Dr. Vacy Vlazna recalls the historical moments when the world was called to boycott Nazi goods at a time when Hitler declared a war of extermination against the Jews. Today, Palestinians face the very same threat under Israeli occupation – being de-peopled, blockaded, stripped of their dignity, their lands, and their elementary rights. They cannot hope to match Israel’s military might. What they can do is to appeal to the moral conscience of people who believe and subscribe to the ideals of justice everywhere and compel Israel to come to the table to talk about a real peace – one in which Palestinians will have an independent state in which they can develop politically, socially, culturally, and economically prosper within a just framework for all its citizens. If the international community is mobilized in large numbers in strategic ways, then one can expect Israel can force Israel to accept the ethical goals of the BDS campaign – to end the occupation and colonization of Palestinian lands and acknowledge the right of return of all Palestinian refugees.
We hope readers of Palestine Update will join these campaigns for BDS in their respective countries and seek to advance the day when Palestinians win their freedom with justice.
Article by Vacy Vlanza
Defending the Defensible: Jewish and Palestinian Boycotts*
‘The Boycott is a Moral Substitute for War’ – Bertha V Corets
Oh dear, poor Israel. Poor Israel – the world’s 4th largest nuclear military power. Poor Israel – the serial war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of aggression violator. Poor barbaric Israel is being picked on by the non-violent Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement which champions, out of simple human decency, Palestinian inalienable rights under international law.
As BDS gradually gains moral momentum the Zionists, in desperate retaliation, shamefully exploit the spectre of the holocaust and tediously daub (over and over and over ad nauseum) the pro-Palestine BDS efforts with the slanderous smear of a Nazi menace:
“On April 1, 1933, 81 years ago, the Nazis carried out their first nationwide, coordinated action against the Jews: a boycott of Jewish businesses – today these activities are commonly known as BDS: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions…And even today, that Nazi-inspired BDS tactic continues, directed at the Jewish state of Israel.” – (Jewish Press)
However, the Zionist insinuation that the Jews are eternal victims is false and dishonorable. The Jewish people in America rose heroically against the barbarism of Nazism with literally Nazi-inspired BDS tactics.
BDS tactics? Shock! Horror! Really? Oh yes. The proof is tucked away in the American Jewish Archives..let’s shake off the dust and take a look in Box 1 . Mmmm, what have we here? A veritable trove of folders of the detailed 1933-1943 documents of Bertha Vera Corets, an American-Jewish business-woman and tireless advocate and activist of the boycott of the importation and sale of German and Austrian goods prior to WWII.
The feisty Bertha eventually became National Boycott Chairman of the mens and ladies auxiliaries of the Jewish War Veterans of the US (JWV).
Seemingly unaware of their plunge into Nazi skullduggery, the JWV proudly stated in 1938, “The Boycott is the American individual’s form of protest.” and in 1939, “The world is starting to realize that the boycott is the only remaining weapon we can use against the Nazi beasts.”
In a September 10, 1937 letter, Bertha sets out the motivation for the JWV anti-Nazi boycott campaign: “The Boycott of Nazi-made goods and services is vitally imperative because Hitler has declared a war of extermination against the Jews. Starting in Germany it has branded the Jews as a corrupt inferior people, it has boycotted and confiscated their business and closed all avenues of economic livelihood. Jews have been ousted from the free practice of all professions in Germany. The schools of education are denied’ them; -they are expelled from citizenship, participation in sports” and even denied the right to reside in some towns…The Jews in Germany are in a trap and slowly being driven to suicide or slow starvation.”
Sound familiar? Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine, its racist and apartheid policies and practices (e.g. segregated schools), the ousting of Palestinian families from their lands and homes, the systematic economic impoverishment of Palestinians, denial of the Palestinian right of return to their confiscated towns and villages, a ‘trap’? – the debilitating siege of Gaza – instantly come to mind.
From 1933 to 1941, led by the highly respected Samuel Untermeyer, the JWV energetically organized posts in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Boston, and Philadelphia that were instructed to locate American businesses that imported or sold German and Austrian merchandise which were added to blacklists that were publicly circulated to the press, unions, church and interested organizations.
Well organized strategies, like those used by the Palestinian BDS, included letters and visits to businesses and politicians, conferences, exhibitions, questionnaires, fundraisers, lectures, dissemination of bulletins, posters and pamphlets, blocking of student exchanges between Germany and the US, picketing German cultural events, the prevention of ‘the floating of all loans to Germany’, discouraging holidays in Germany and the use of German vessels for shipping and travel. There was also a quasi-academic boycott by “more than 100 prominent scientists of Harvard, MIT, and neighbouring colleges and industrial institutions announced yesterday they would boycott German-made scientific apparatus and supplies.”
On June 27, 1937, all groups came under the Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League [NSANL] established as the ‘national clearing house for the boycott of all Nazi-made goods and services and all other anti-Nazi work.”
As with BDS today, Moshe Gottleib outlines the opposition by the powerful American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith and the American Jewish Congress (which eventually joined up) as well as howling complaints of “It is unfair and an injustice.” Popular targets were chain and 5 &10c. stores such as Woolworths, Macys, Sears Roebuck. By 1937, Macys stopped importing German goods and closed its Berlin office. Boycott shirkers were duly punished such as the Well Known Glove Co. that was fined $300 for removing “Made in Germany’ from its gloves.
The German and Austrian products on the blacklists grew to include coal, yeast, candy, candy wrappers, mineral oil refined in Germany, Staedtler pencils, chemicals used in sugar and oil refineries, peat moss, Kayser and Max Mayer gloves, toys, embroidery machinery, onyx cameos, semi-precious stones, canaries, fancy metal foil, perfume, beauty supplies, photographic equipment, German securities and bonds, Sterling and Bayer drugs, Vicks Vaporub, Ipana toothpaste, beverages, books, Christmas decorations, bicycle parts, leather, hardware, cutlery, glassware and chinaware, musical supplies, and machinery.
In practical terms, the JWV and its Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi League led the American non-violent fight against Nazism with the support of the majority of American Jews. Moshe Gottlieb concludes in his ‘The Anti-Nazi Boycott Movement in the United States: An Ideological and Sociological Appreciation,’ with: “one is tempted to speculate that a global air-tight boycott, if applied early enough, would have averted World War II, or even have toppled the Hitler regime. But while this shall always remain an imponderable of history, it must be said that the boycott forms the prologue of the resistance movement against a tyranny that was to produce the greatest catastrophe that the world and the Jews had ever experienced.”
For the Palestinians who are still ensnared in the trap of 66-plus years of ongoing Nakba (catastrophe), the global BDS movement is for them, the non-violent “prologue of the resistance movement against a tyranny” of daily cruelty and degenerate inhumanity that, inconceivably and monstrously, is executed by some descendants of the victims of the Shoah, by the Zionist exploiters of the holocaust and with the complicity of the same nations that fought Nazism.
– Dr. Vacy Vlazna is Coordinator of Justice for Palestine Matters. She was Human Rights Advisor to the GAM team in the second round of the Acheh peace talks, Helsinki, February 2005 then withdrew on principle. Vacy was coordinator of the East Timor Justice Lobby as well as serving in East Timor with UNAMET and UNTAET from 1999-2001. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.