With all the excitement in Washington over Barack Obama's inauguration, it may be tempting to put to one side for a little while the continuing problems in Gaza that so occupied the public and media attention throughout the last month. But one person clerly not watching Obama's swearing-in ceremony was the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon who spent the day visiting the Gaza strip and Southern Israel. As the world's media widely reported, Ban, standing in front of the smoking rubble of a UN building described the scenes as "heartbreaking", and condemned the destruction as "outrageous, shocking and alarming".
|In the US, companies participating in anti-Israel boycotts can even be fined.|
It was an important and symbolic visit by the UN leader who was careful not to take sides in his condemnation of the "excessive force" used by both Israel and Hamas. And it clearly serves to highlight the fragility of the current ceasefire and the need for more determined resolve in finding a lasting solution to the problem. But the burning question, of course, is how can genuine progress to be made in such a complex and volatile political situation?
One suggestion recently put forward by the Canadian activist and author Naomi Klein is that businesses and consumers should take a role in addressing the conflict by actively boycotting Israel. Citing the Palestinian campaign group Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Klein argues that "economic sanctions are the most effective tools in the nonviolent arsenal." And she is not just talking about economic sanctions at the governmental level, but at the level of individual consumers and businesses too.
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