The BDS movement in relation to Israel provides a peaceful means to help end the power of Israel in the Middle East and a means to pressure Israel to either make room for a Palestinian state or accept a unitary state for all people, a democratic state. Israel is a well-fortified target, supplied with materials and money through its U.S. associations – religious, political, military – that it will not truly suffer a large economic impact as had threatened South Africa under its apartheid regime. Boycotting, divesting, and sanctioning the U.S. is perhaps an idea whose time has come.
Unfortunately the U.S. empire is global in spread and has all too many sycophants and minions in much of the global south. Europe of course is a set of pure vassal states to U.S. imperial desires so applying BDS to them as well would be required.
As much as I entertain the idea I also see many large obstacles to its implementation.
For the most part, the obstacles are several broad categories: those countries who try to play both sides of the fence (balancing the “west” with the “south”); those countries that utilize Israeli created cyber security systems; and the elites in each of those areas who use their ill-gotten gains (grift, kickbacks, nepotism, bribery et al) to purchase their luxury goods and maintain power.
First off I look at countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and India who are the major fence sitters, attempting to enjoy the fruits of being sort of outside the empire and maybe within the rising global south, and also looking to have increased internal cyber security.
Saudi Arabia alone could probably finance the U.S. military industrial complex with its large purchases of military equipment in the financial roundabout of the petrodollar. It also seems that, while the Saudis now sell oil to China for yuan, they cannot steel themselves to break with the petrodollar as it finances much of the luxury the royal princes and other elites enjoy. As much as they complain about Israeli actions against Gaza/Palestinians, it appears to be mostly hot air and while I do not expect military action, breaking away from the US$ spigot would certainly help. Fortunately for the Saudis, they are very slowly and cautiously checking out the effects of oil purchases in yuan; a small sign, but the most popular car sales are the Toyota Camry and the Hyundai Elantra, avoiding the western luxury cars made in the EU or the U.S.
Turkey is somewhat in the same position, minus the oil, and a bit more vociferous in its condemnation of Israeli actions. At the same time Turkey is part of NATO, attempting to be part of the EU, wanting the riches of the empire without being perceived as a U.S. lackey. In spite of its NATO association – which ironically might be beneficial to the “south” if they can use that to block NATO intentions around the world – and the EU desire, Turkey should also stop buying U.S. military ordinance, and as they have done a bit of, buy it elsewhere – better quality and less expensive. Their own desire for regional power vis a vis the Caucasus, northern Syria, and the elimination of Kurdish power in Iraq complicates their balancing act between west and south.
India is an interesting case. It has no oil, is not in NATO nor other regional military power structure, yet wants to be a powerhouse nation. It has engaged with Israel in its desire for more cyber security for internal use, embarking “on a shared mission to enhance their bilateral strategic cyber partnership, while also forming alliances with common collaborators, such as the United States, Japan, and the United Kingdom;” and “to further deepen defence cooperation “in a manner that harnesses Israel’s ‘technological and operational experience’.” Most of that “operational experience” is against Palestinians, and Gaza in particular. For the political elites of India, those in power, it is unlikely they would want to give up their desire for more control over Kashmir and their domestic population just because Gaza is being destroyed.
These countries are not alone as most Latin American countries have deals with Israel for cyber security infrastructure. Much of Latin America is controlled by powerful elements whose wealth and prosperity are tied into U.S. corporate interests as well as U.S. military interests. Cyber infrastructure deals have been made or are in the works for Mexico, San Salvador, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and others. Again many of these countries are protesting Israel’s slaughter in Gaza, but underneath that, they are probably not willing to give up control of their own domestic security.
One of the main obstacles to BDS actions against the U.S. empire is the spread of corporate power throughout the “south”. Many bilateral trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries contain clauses that clearly favor the corporate enterprises of the U.S. (and with mining companies, many in Canada), allowing the investing corporation to sue the government for perceived losses due to some regulatory law for the environment or business or health or worker’s safety or whatever might affect their profit line.
The corporate power is supported by the Washington consensus of the IMF, World Bank, SWIFT, BIS and other U.S. controlled institutions. Most of Latin America and most of the African nations are or have been subject to the financial power of these organizations, held in bondage from financial arrangements that impoverish the citizens, enrich the local oligarchs, and feed wealth and resources to the U.S. corporations.
The obstacle is the unwillingness of those in control to withdraw from the trade deals in protest against the U.S. empire and its global militarization. The U.S. backs up these trade deals with financial benefits accruing mainly to the oligarchs, along with covert interference from NGOs, the CIA, and overt interference from U.S. military actions. While the U.S. is agreement incapable as it desires, it will certainly attempt to enforce these trade deals, even if the countries unilaterally abrogate them.
The U.S. is the main benefactor of Israel with military, political (propaganda), and financial support. Most of Europe follows as befitting the vassal relationship they have with the U.S. But as argued above, its reach moves slime mold like (in the dark, damp underworld) throughout the world, occasionally surfacing with “free” trade deals, and applying BDS to such a widespread configuration is nigh impossible.
China is the main manufacturing center in the world today, and is fully entangled with the U.S. for manufacturing and finances. It could act precipitously by selling its U.S. owned debt, or applying pressure on U.S. firms located in China, and while that would cause great harm to U.S. interests, it would also greatly affect China’s financial stability (…still I wonder with their gold holdings, ever-broadening global trade and infrastructure development…).
The majority of the citizens of the world are highly vociferous in their protests against Israeli actions in Gaza. It is the powerful elites in many countries, wanting to maintain power and afraid to lose it to the street, that are keeping Israel’s regional dominance ongoing, supported fully by the U.S. Protests are being allowed – no visible actions are being taken – and Palestinians continue to be ethnically cleansed under Israel’s genocide.
…and yet…perhaps it is already occurring, very slowly and cautiously as more and more countries express interest in and align themselves with the BRICS, the SCO, the New Development Bank and other financial structures. It would be a daunting task, but perhaps the global south, already consolidating against U.S. domination, will undertake more powerful actions to limit/constrain/prevent the financial/military power of the U.S. and its outpost in Israel.
 See among many others: “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. John Perkins. Plume Publishing, 2005.”; Bamford, James. Body of Secrets – Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency. Anchor Books (Random House), New York, 2002.; Cockburn, Alexander and Jeffrey St. Clair. Whiteout – The CIA, Drugs, and the Press. Verso, London, 1998.; Grandin, Greg. Empire’s Workshop – Latin America, the United States, and the Rise of the New Imperialism. Metropolitan (Henry Holt & Co.), New York, 2006.; Johnson, Chalmers. The Sorrows of Empire – Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic. Metropolitan Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2004.; Cynthia McKinney (Ed.) How the US Creates “Sh*thole” Countries. Clarity Press, Inc., Atlanta, Georgia, 2018.; Ha-Joon Chang. Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism. Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2008.
Jim Miles is a Canadian educator