Hard questions about where to take the BDS movement

June 10, 2013
Sarah Benton

All photos taken from the BDS movement‘s report on the week of international action last February.

On February 9 2013, 300 farmers and activists in Gaza marched towards the buffer zone near the border with Israel to demand boycott of Israeli agriculture firms. A rally was held and olive trees were planted. A rally was held at Gaza Port on February 6. A conference on boycotting Israeli agriculture firms was held in Salfit on February 11.

BDS Conference at Bethlehem University

From Palestine Solidarity Project
June 09, 2013

The Fourth National BDS Conference hosted by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) took place today at Bethlehem University. The conference lasted from 9am until 5pm and began with recorded messages of Solidarity from Roger Waters and Desmond Tutu. From there, the packed conference room featured interesting and sometimes heated question and answer session with speakers from a wide range of organizations, universities and governmental bodies including the PLO, PACBI, Kairos Palestine, BDS48, Berziet and Al-Najah Universities.

Major topics discussed included how to eradicate and appropriately deal with the problem of normalization both on a popular and administrative level, as well as how to increase the effectiveness of boycotting settlement products both here locally in the Palestinian economy as well as abroad. Questions from attendees spanned from the general, such concern for the “unity of Palestine” against the threats posed by “normalization organizations” to the specific such as a call for a workable 3-4 year plan for BDS in the complicated and entangled economy of Jerusalem.

UK February 2013, campaigners picket more than 35 stores of Sainsbury’s as part of a new campaign aimed at pressuring it to cut its ties with Mehadrin and EDOM, another Israeli company operating in settlements.

One theme reiterated by a few speakers was the immediate need to label Israel not as a Occupying Power but as an Apartheid state. An occupying power is someone that the international community will urge you to go into negotiations with, an Apartheid state is unacceptable; something to be Boycotted, Sanctioned, and Divested from.

The conference came to a head with questions of normalization and security coordination directed at Jawad Naji the Palestinian Minister of the National Economy. He responded saying “Whether you’re angry or not this is the Palestinian government. I’ve never heard of these joint Israeli Palestinian projects. There are none… Our oversight campaign has arrested many people involved with the settlement products.”

Not long after this Naji walked out/was expelled from the conference (a short video and description can be found here). The Hebron activist Nazir Banat who asked the final questions is reported to have been attacked and sent to the hospital after the conference.

After the question and answer portion, the conference broke into smaller sections offering workshops on a wide variety of BDS related topics including Youth, Women, Agriculture, Internationals, Tourism, Civil Society and other specialized sectors. Taking the broad discussion and targeting specific avenues and how to successfully implement BDS techniques within them.

While the speakers were careful to point out the successes of the movement so far, and the attendance of this years gathering was an impressively full and diverse room, it is clear the the movement has much to overcome to develop into the kind of international force that was seen in South Africa. As Omar Barghouti of BNC noted “we have no fancy hotels no red carpet. We are working with almost no budget. If you have practical plans to implement for BDS please step forward. We have the right to resist. We must take it now.”

This conference and the plans for a larger scale international conference sometime in the near future are important steps in attaining that goal.

*quotations taken from the Simultaneous English Translation offered by the conference organizers.

The Fourth National BDS Conference rejects normalisation with Israel

By International Solidarity Movement, Ramallah Team
June 08, 2013

Beginning in the early morning, with buses coming from all over the West Bank full of eager participants, the Fourth National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) conference, hosted at Bethlehem University got off to an amazing start with a fully packed auditorium.

As the day progressed, a plethora of agenda items on how to further BDS against Israel were discussed by a wide range of speakers who emphasised rejecting normalisation with Israel.

The goal of this event was not only to promote the BDS campaign within Palestine and to give an introduction to newcomers but also to:
• Share all of the successes and initiatives that the movement has had since its inception, whether they are local, from Arab nations or international. One example of a triumph is the recent termination of certain G4S contracts in illegal settlements.

• Share vibrant, new ideas that could be implemented across Palestine and in the Palestinian Diaspora. One idea from the city of Salfit was door-to-door operation allowing information to spread quickly through neighbourhoods.

• Give an outline of what normalisation is and how it can be combated in culture, academia, and economics.

Allow the public to question Palestinian officials and civil society representatives about how to strengthen boycott and counter normalisation.

During the conference, there was a dispute between the Palestinian Minister of Economy Jawad Al-Naji, and an audience member, resulting in the Minister walking out of the room. The argument was triggered by the audience member’s opinion on Mahmoud Abbas and his tactic of normalisation with Israel. The activist who questioned the Economy Minister was reportedly later attacked and injured by seven people, presumably related to the PA forces, needing to be taken to hospital.

Campaigners in Switzerland hold a demonstration outside the offices of Mehadrin, February 2013

After this incident, there were nine separate workshops to attend, ranging from Youth and Students, to Women, Trade and Professional Unions to International BDS campaigns. Information was shared in order for the BDS movement to continue gaining international momentum.

This is the fourth of a series of national BDS conference held in Palestine since the 2005 Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions against Israel.

PA official leaves BDS talk after heckler insults Abbas

By Ma’an news
June 08/10, 2013

BETHLEHEM  — The Palestinian Authority minister of national economy withdrew from a BDS conference in Bethlehem on Saturday after a heckler in the crowd criticized President Abbas and the PLO.

Jawad Naji was speaking at the “Fourth National Conference for the boycott of Israeli goods,” held at Bethlehem University, when a member of the audience, Nizar Banat, shouted insults at the president and the PLO.

Naji stormed out of the hall following the comments, and Banat was quickly set upon by seven audience members, including security personnel working for Naji.

Banat told Ma’an that he received bruising to his head and legs following the incident, and went to hospital for treatment.

Activists in Berlin hand out information outside Fruit Logistica, one of Europe’s biggest fresh produce trade shows. Many of Israel’s agricultural export companies including Mehadrin were present and seemed startled by the presence of activists highlighting their role in the destruction of Palestinian agriculture.

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