The first time I heard about BDS was at the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) in 2018. I attended as an ecumenical delegate representing the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba. It was in the context of a motion presented to the Assembly calling on members of the Presbyterian Church (USA) to boycott and divest from Israeli products and companies because of the increasingly aggressive actions and human rights violations by Israel’s government against Palestinians.
My context is Cuba, a socialist country in which the economy is mainly run by the state. I do not think there are significant trade relations between the Cuban state and Israel’s companies.
As in any country, violations of some human rights occur in Cuba. However, considering that our socioeconomic and political reality differs from many other contexts, human rights initiatives and claims are very different. Many of these claims and initiatives are organized by social groups and political parties not recognized by the government, so they are illegal.
Cuban government’s official political discourse has historically condemned Israel’s violent and colonizing actions against the Palestinian people, including the permanent violation of their human rights. Such a position has been voiced through many communication channels, including Cuba’s media and national education system.
Even though this particular political view is supported by a significant sector of the Cuban population, I think that many people in Cuba still trivialize the tragedy of the Palestinians. I think it is important to keep telling actual stories about real people’s lives and suffering because of unjust situations they have to face every day, rather than explaining the situation in more general and abstract terms. In so doing, I think that people across the world will get a better understanding of what is really happening and why it is so important to get involved in initiatives as BDS.
From a Christian point of view, I think a relevant theological insight to incorporate or emphasize is the covenant between God and Israel as a particular, although not exclusive expression of God’s people. Such a covenant includes, as a central component, the responsibility of being an instrument of God’s gracious (not punitive) justice especially to impoverished and marginalized people. Serious biblical and socio-theological education is necessary in order to dismantle simplistic geo-political views and literalistic readings of the Bible that support actions against Palestinians and other Arabic countries and peoples.
To me it is ironic that most sectors within Israel and the U.S. opposed to BDS strongly support the U.S. government’s embargo against Cuba. In my view, the BDS movement aims to mobilize people to be aware of the continuing violation of Palestinians’ human rights by Israeli authorities and settlers, and gets involved in concrete actions to achieve that goal.
Serious biblical and socio-theological education is necessary in order to dismantle simplistic geo-political views and literalistic readings of the Bible that support actions against Palestinians and other Arabic countries and peoples.
To me it is ironic that most sectors within Israel and the U.S. opposed to BDS strongly support the U.S. government’s embargo against Cuba.