Dr. Ron Paul would generally agree that sanctions are incompatible with free trade. Whether one believes in free trade or not and generally I do not, one can at an objective level admit that government controlled sanctions are anathema to free trade in every sense of the word.
Unlike Dr. Ron Paul, I believe that in certain circumstances tariffs are beneficial to domestic industry and agriculture, but under no circumstances do I believe that sanctions ever do anything other than harm individual economic liberty, the rights of legal corporate entities to trade with one another throughout the world and furthermore, it adds an ideological component to world trade and to basic economics that is a cause of rather than a solution to conflict.
Western sanctions are currently harming Syria as they once starved Iraq even more so. This is augmented by continued ineffective but geo-politically worrisome western sanctions on Russia as well as foolish sanctions on Iran and this is before one talks about North Korea. None of these government authorised restrictions on economic liberty are helping anyone, they are indeed hurting many millions. The fact that the economic might of non-western nations is rising, minimises some of these problems, but it still does not make sanctions any less immoral.
But when it comes to concerned private groups and individuals having the opportunity to vote with their dollar, non-governmental sanctions can be an effective way to make a statement.
This is why it beggars belief that the neo-liberal/neo-con elites who call for sanctions against any nation having ideological differences with the United States, are generally opposed to the Boycott Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement started by private individuals concerned about the rights of Palestinians.
BDS encourages individuals, businesses and artists to refrain from selling products in, performing in or doing trade with Israel, until a peaceful and equitable settlement can be reached with Palestine. It is a noble goal to say the least, but it is one that has been roundly condemned by government’s who think they own a monopoly on sanctions.
The reality is that every individual has the right to promote an idea, including the idea of boycotting Israel, a state which has been more condemned by UN resolution after UN resolution than any other in the world, including UN Resolution 3379 which defined Zionism as a form a racism.
In many ways, the BDS movement has been more dominated by the arts and culture spheres than any others. In this sense, Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters is something of an unofficial spokesman for the movement.
Things have come to a tipping point as the band Radiohead have ignored pleas from Waters to refrain from performing in Israel and consequently profiting from trade in Israel.
Rogers co-signed a letter which contained the following illustration of Radiohead’s apparent hypocrisy,
“We understand you’ve been approached already by Palestinian campaigners. They’ve asked you to respect their call for a cultural boycott of Israel, and you’ve turned them down. Since Radiohead campaigns for freedom for the Tibetans, we’re wondering why you’d turn down a request to stand up for another people under foreign occupation. And since Radiohead fronted a gig for the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we’re wondering why you’d ignore a call to stand against the denial of those rights when it comes to the Palestinians”.
Radiohead member Thom Yorke responded in the following way,
“The kind of dialogue that they want to engage in is one that’s black or white. I have a problem with that. It’s deeply distressing that they choose to, rather than engage with us personally, throw shit at us in public. It’s deeply disrespectful to assume that we’re either being misinformed or that we’re so retarded we can’t make these decisions ourselves. I thought it was patronizing in the extreme. It’s offensive and I just can’t understand why going to play a rock show or going to lecture at a university [is a problem to them]”.
At the end of the day, private boycott and private sanctions movements are a matter of conscience and not of law. Radiohead has every right to play in Israel, although I personally fully agree with Roger Waters in believing that they should not play.
The more overarching matter though is that if a western musician had been invited to Iran, he would be stopped by his own government from doing so in most cases. The same goes for North Korea or Syria. It is impossible to even send a record via regular post to these countries in most cases and this is scandalous.
It is not the job of government to dictate how people peacefully interact with others. Lebanon for example recently banned a film featuring a pro-Israeli actress; this is their country and therefore this is their right. But no country should refrain individuals from conducting trade with other countries with the exceptions of trading in weapons or narcotics.
The double-standards in this belong to the western globalist liberal elite. They will never stop Radiohead from playing in Israel no matter what BDS says. Why then should they stop people from engaging in cultural and peaceful commercial exchange with Iran, Syria, North Korea or even Russia?
The answer is because actual free trade would look very different than the corporatist definition of free trade which is not free at all. It is very unfair and indeed, very expensive.