Amongst the components of any serious campaign is the use of slogans. A slogan may serve a range of purposes, but it must always identify against what practices and what group of people it is targeted. A slogan should, where possible be framed in a manner that rallies the broadest possible group of people in its support. For that reason the international anti-apartheid movement tried to win over all states while isolating the apartheid regime. That is why the United Democratic Front adopted the slogan ‘UDF unites, apartheid divides’. The ANC always made it clear that it was not against whites, but white domination. It was not against Afrikaners per se, even when it used slogans referring to ‘boere’, for the word ‘boer’ referred to prison warders, police and others wielding repressive authority, some of whom were English speaking.
A slogan must detach from the ‘enemy’ all those who may perceive themselves as being targeted. The End Conscription Campaign in South Africa was aimed at addressing that section of the white population who did not want to be drafted into service in military attacks on the townships and neighbouring states. It was crucial in such a campaign that whites knew they were not all damned as supporters of apartheid. They had a way of joining with the oppressed.
Likewise, the campaign to isolate apartheid Israel depends on achieving broadness, eroding the support for Israeli aggression, within Israel itself and around the world. One of the strategies adopted by Zionism over the decades has been to suggest that an attack on the actions of Israel is an attack on all Jews. The recent success of campaigns against apartheid Israel has been to detach more and more Jews, including many, many in Israel itself, from the practices of the Israeli military, against the Palestinian people.
Clearly Muhammed Desai of BDS in defending singing ‘Kill the Jew’ at a recent BDS protest at Wits University has not understood that he is not only practising and condoning racism, in the form of anti-Semitism. More than that, he is playing into the hands of apartheid Israel, which wants to paint Jewish people, all over the world as being under attack. A call to kill Jews is precisely the type of evidence Zionists have wanted.
Clearly people like Desai are discrediting the BDS and compromising the campaign against apartheid Israel more broadly. Those of us who want to see an end to the aggression against the Palestinian people and peace in the Middle East need to redouble efforts for a broad, unified and inclusive campaign to end apartheid aggression practised by the Israeli forces.