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BDS Co-Founder Omar Barghouti: 'We Lose Some Battles, But We Win Most'

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- 471 days ago -
Omar Barghouti says global campaign to boycott Israel is on track to meet its goals


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fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:05 pm
“Because of Israel's failure to stop the impressive growth of the BDS movement and its winning of hearts and minds around the world, Israel and its lobby groups have resorted to repressive, desperate and possibly illegal measures of legal warfare to stifle the movement,” 53-year-old Barghouti tells Middle East Eye.

The proposed bill is the latest in a raft of motions in Israel, the US and beyond designed to diminish the impact of the BDS movement.

BDS, which defines itself as a movement that "works to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law," has increasingly been in the spotlight as it faces scrutiny from detractors spanning state legislators in the US to student activists in Austria.


That scrutiny, Barghouti says, is a consequence of BDS’s many successes and it has not dented his optimism. If anything, the campaign is on track to meet its goals, the BDS founder maintains.

Campus controversies

While Barghouti was in the UK earlier this month to speak at the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Cambridge, student activists accused both Universities of censoring events featuring the BDS founder.

According to the students, Cambridge University allegedly threatened to ban the event unless the organisers removed its chair, Palestinian academic Ruba Salih, citing concerns over her neutrality. Salih, who teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), was then replaced with Paul Mylrea, the university’s director of communications.

During a separate event on the BDS movement, the LSE told academics hosting the meeting to replace the advertised chairwoman, Ayca Cubukcu, a Turkish academic who specialises in the Middle East, with an "independent" university appointee.

Cubukcu was replaced by Eric Neumayer, a professor from the LSE's geography department.

Barghouti isn’t worried about these and other setbacks. On the contrary, they seem to have strengthened his resolve. “We reject negative selectiveness,” he says, noting that dozens of student government associations on campuses across the UK, Canada, the US, and elsewhere have successfully implemented BDS measures.

Multiple student unions in the UK - including the National Union of Students, an umbrella organisation - have indeed backed BDS-related motions. The student union of London’s SOAS was one of the first in the country to endorse BDS. Student unions at King’s College London, Manchester University, University College London, and Liverpool University have adopted similar resolutions, among others.

As student unions are registered charities in the UK, they have a legal obligation to support the views of their members.

Some universities have distanced themselves from the BDS motions by saying that student unions are distinct entities from the schools themselves. The Charity Commission is reportedly investigating whether the student unions are breaking the law by supporting BDS.

In the US, student councils at UCLA, Stanford, and UC Berkeley have adopted various divestment resolutions against companies affiliated with Israeli military occupation and settlements.

On the other hand, in the past three weeks alone, student leaders at the University of Maryland and the University of Ottawa in Canada have rejected motions to support boycotts of Israel. Activists claim the adoption of BDS would “harm Jews and Israelis” and set a negative precedent for groups facing discrimination in the US and Canada.

Various forms of anti-BDS legislation have also been debated or enacted in the US. For example, Texas Governor Greg Abbott in May passed a bill forbidding state entities from working with firms that boycott Israel.

In October, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against the state of Kansas, arguing that an anti-BDS law breached the first amendment.

The Balfour Declaration

Barghouti's visit to the UK earlier this month coincided with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, the agreement which facilitated the creation of the state of Israel and triggered the Palestinian exodus.

The UK has fallen drastically short of what it owes Palestinians, according to Barghouti.

“The Palestinian people expect the UK to atone for its role in the Zionist destruction of Palestine, ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians,” Barghouti says. “Apologies aside, the UK must end its deep complicity in Israel's crimes and human rights violations against the Palestinian people."

“At the very least, it should stop its arms trade and military research with Israel, ban the import of products from Israeli and international companies implicated in Israel's military occupation and apartheid, and end British companies' and institutions' complicity in these violations.”

The UK’s Department for Communities and Local Government has attempted to ban “inappropriate” boycotts by councils and town halls to prevent them “from introducing restrictions on the companies and countries they use – particularly by introducing boycotts on goods from Israel”. A spokesperson for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn last year described the move as an attack on local democracy. In June, the UK High Court ruled that efforts to restrict "ethical" boycotts of Israel were unlawful.

Meanwhile, on 2 November, Theresa May dined with Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu along with a host of dignitaries to celebrate the anniversary of the Balfour declaration, saying Britain is “proud” of its “pioneering role in the creation of the state of Israel”.

‘Going up’

“BDS, like all human rights and social movements, does not follow a linear progress path,” Barghouti says. “We lose some battles, but we win most, so the general direction is going up.”

Some of the latest wins for BDS include Danish pension fund Sampension’s decision to blacklist four Israeli companies that offer a variety of services in the settlements including banking, construction and telecommunications, in addition to India’s largest farmers’ organisation joining the movement.

British film director Ken Loach is donating proceeds from Israel’s screenings of his award-winning film, I Daniel Blake, to Palestinian grassroots organisations.

Among the countries whose politicians have expressed support for BDS, which was founded as a collective in 2005 and is modelled around South Africa’s struggle against Apartheid, are Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela and South Africa, among others.

“This impressive growth of BDS worldwide explains why Israel has a whole ministry dedicated to fighting the movement and is allocating massive financial and human resources in its war” on it, Barghouti says.

‘Remarkable battles’

Israel has indeed been stepping up efforts against BDS. On 14 November, the strategic affairs minister, Gilad Erdan, said that the state is moving from “defence to offence” on the BDS campaign, commenting on Israel’s decision to deny entry to seven members of a delegation of European officials that support the campaign.

The move was rooted in a law enacted this year that imposes a travel ban on anti-Israel boycott activists to Israel.

In October, Amnesty International’s US advocacy director for the Middle East, Raed Jarrar, was forbidden from entering the occupied West Bank via Jordan to visit family members, following his father’s death.

Amnesty had criticised a law passed by the Knesset in 2011 that made it an offence to call for a boycott against Israel or its settlements, saying the legislation would “have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in Israel”.

On his part, Erdan said in 2015 that the BDS campaign is based on “deception and twisting reality. It hopes that by piling lie upon lie in the boardroom, college campus, and church assembly, it will be able to obscure the truth. It is immoral, and it is anti-peace”.

fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:06 pm
In 2016, Netanyahu told a UN summit that “BDS has nothing to do with human rights, nothing to do with justice."

“The reason we should fight BDS is because it’s wrong; it’s a moral outrage," he added.

For anti-BDS activists who have led the push for some of these legislative measures, they often say BDS promotes “hate”.

To these critics, Barghouti responds: “BDS is anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is an inclusive movement that adopts a robust anti-racist platform and promotes freedom, justice, and equality."

“Human rights defenders only ‘hate’ injustice, oppression, apartheid, and other forms of denial of rights," he adds.


According to Barghouti, BDS is, at its core, an intersectional campaign that “reconnects the Palestinian freedom struggle with international struggles for racial, indigenous, economic, gender, social and climate justice”.

“The intersectionality of the Palestinian struggle for justice with other justice struggles around the world in light of the rising xenophobic, racist far-right in the era of Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen, Netanyahu and others," is particularly pertinent and timely, Barghouti says.

BDS supporters are indeed wide-ranging. The campaign lists pension funds, churches, trade unions, academic associations, social movements and LGBTQ groups as supporters or endorsers. In 2016, the Black Lives Matter Movement endorsed BDS on its policy platform, criticising the US for providing military aid to Israel.

BDS supporters and members of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights have in turn expressed solidarity with civil rights struggles in the US.

Both communities came together to make the spoken-word video When I See Them I See Us, which featured Angela Davis, Lauryn Hill and various black and Palestinian artists, and it went viral.

Notable public figures including writers Arundhati Roy, Junot Diaz and Naomi Klein, philosopher Judith Butler and Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu have thrown their celebrity weight and intellectual prowess behind the campaign.

At two very different ends of the cultural boycott debate are Radiohead and Roger Waters of Pink Floyd. When Radiohead performed in Tel Aviv in July, rejecting BDS’s calls to boycott the state, it was met with scrutiny by supporters of the campaign and enthusiasm in Israel.

According to Variety, one Israeli newspaper encouraged concert-goers to wave Israeli flags in a show of support for the state.

Radiohead’s frontman argued at the time that “playing in a country isn’t the same as endorsing its government".

Meanwhile, Waters has consistently maintained support for BDS despite being slammed by some of his peers, saying that “it’s the only thing that I’ve seen that’s had any effect at all”.

A cultural and academic boycott, in addition to an economic one, is necessary, Barghouti says, because it highlights “the pernicious role that Israel's academic and to a lesser extent cultural institutions play in planning, implementing, justifying or whitewashing its egregious crimes against the Palestinian people".

fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:07 pm
Palestinian Solidarity

CCR has long challenged impunity for the Israeli government’s violations of international law related to its illegal occupation of Palestine, U.S. support that enables Israel’s violations, and efforts to punish activists for speaking out in solidarity with Palestine. We have sought transparency and accountability for Israel’s deadly attacks on a 2010 flotilla that sought to break the blockade on Gaza and the U.S. knowledge of and response to the attack; sued Caterpillar for providing bulldozers to Israel, knowing they would be used to unlawfully demolish Palestinian homes; and litigated to hold Israeli officials responsible for war crimes. We have also litigated to protect speech in the U.S. on this critical issue; challenged the selective enforcement of immigration laws in defense of Palestinian activists singled out for deportation because of their political beliefs; and partnered with Palestine Legal to document efforts to silence advocates for Palestinian human rights and provide them with legal support and advocacy. This work fits into the Center’s longstanding commitment to international accountability for human rights abuses wherever they occur; to protecting the right to dissent; and to speaking up for what is right, even before it is popular.

fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:09 pm
Roger Waters comes out fighting for Palestine on North America tour.

Despite attempts to silence him, Roger Waters has not curbed his outspoken views in support of Palestinian rights.

fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:10 pm
Short video -- Linda Sarsour

fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:13 pm
URGENT Action Request - Please sign

fly bird (26)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 6:14 pm

Freya H (345)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 7:56 pm
Here are two petitions against a current bill that would ban openly supporting BDS:

MmAway M (522)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 8:00 pm
Thank you Jess and Freya for the petition links I had signed in Sept

Darren Woolsey (218)
Thursday November 30, 2017, 11:04 pm
Shared ALL the articles over social media to raise and spread awareness.

HYPERLINKED petitions Freya posted above to help others sign and share!
ACTION REQUEST: Please stand with Susiya now

Susiya Under Renewed Demolition Threat

Oppose H.R. 1697, the Unconstitutional and Un-American Israel Anti-Boycott Act

Oppose S.720, the Unconstitutional and Un-American Israel Anti-Boycott Act

Doris F (19)
Friday December 1, 2017, 2:45 am
tyfs Jess

Scooby Snacks (95)
Friday December 1, 2017, 4:38 am
Thanks Jess, there was a vote on this with the United Nations, the U.K. Did not want 100,000 Jews coming to Palestine and banned the free movement of them. Unfortunately , USA was against the banning and movement of Jews to Palestine and had a vote, USA voted against and the Phillipines voted against letting Jews in at the last minute.
Israel was formed and I feel sorry for Palestians, who were promised Palestine by the UK for helping fight in the war.

Free Palestine!


Roberto MARINI (88)
Friday December 1, 2017, 7:15 am
thanks for posting this article

Janet B (0)
Friday December 1, 2017, 1:21 pm

fly bird (26)
Friday December 1, 2017, 8:56 pm
video -- Richard Gere visits an Apartheid State

Peggy B (43)
Saturday December 2, 2017, 6:59 am

fly bird (26)
Sunday December 3, 2017, 4:52 pm


Published on Sep 27, 2017

This is Susiya, one of many Palestinian villages suffering ethnic cleansing.

It, along with Khan al-Ahmar are set for immediate destruction and the ethnic cleansing of all village residents.

B'Tselem have filed a letter, stressing to Netanyahu ( who is currently under investigation for corruption allegations) that these such actions constitute a war crime and violate international law.

Will we let the oppressive regime do this?

fly bird (26)
Saturday December 30, 2017, 10:39 am
Palestinians Welcome Resounding Trump & Israel Failure at the UN
December 21, 2017

Palestinian Civil Society Calls For Sanctions on Israel to Stop Far-Right Israeli-Trump Alliance That Undermines Palestinian Rights and International Law.

Any decisions and actions which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded in compliance with relevant resolutions of the Security Council. — UNGA, December 21, 2017

December 21, 2017 — Today, in an emergency session, the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations at the UN General Assembly voted 128-9 in favor of a resolution calling on the United States to overturn its decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

This “collective act of defiance” took place despite threats from Trump’s ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, to “take names” of countries voting against the United States and Israel, and threats by Trump to cut US aid to those countries.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN accused the world body’s members of being “puppets” to the “Palestinian puppet masters”, following Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s description of the UN as a “house of lies.”

The resounding failure by Israel and the US administration to thwart the pro-Palestinian vote at the UN General Assembly follows a similarly embarrassing UN Security Council vote on Monday which also rejected the US-Israeli position 14-1.

Omar Barghouti, speaking on behalf of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society, responded by saying:

This vote is further proof that the far-right Israeli-Trump alliance is more isolated than ever as the overwhelming majority of nations are finally recognizing its fatal attempt to undermine both Palestinian rights and the very rule of international law. Holding Israel accountable for its egregious, decades-old human rights violations is crucial to upholding both.

To defend the UN against this thuggery by Israel and the Trump administration, the BDS movement calls for meaningful sanctions, especially a military embargo and intensified boycott and divestment measures against Israel’s regime of oppression. BDS today is not only crucial for realizing Palestinian freedom, justice and equality. It is also critical to stopping Trump, Netanyahu and other leaders of the international far-right who are threatening world peace and global justice like never before.

All European states, with a few exceptions that abstained, voted in favor of the Palestinian position on occupied Jerusalem, and so did Japan, China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Korea, Russia, and South Africa, among many others.

Favoring concrete sanctions to merely symbolic gestures of solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, South Africa’s ruling African National Congress (ANC) at its general conference yesterday unanimously adopted downgrading diplomatic ties with Israel. "[It] sends a clear message to Israel that there is a price to pay for its human rights abuses and violations of international law," the ANC said in a statement.

The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights. Visit our website and follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BDSmovement.
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