Monday, September 25, 2017

ĎGlobal Week of Actioní shows growing impact of BDS

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By The Palestine Monitor - December 05, 2016
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Section: [Main News] [In Pictures] [BDS] [Features]
Tags: [BDS] [trade and diplomatic relations]

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement’s call for a Global Week of Action against HP companies in support of Palestinians’ rights (November 25 – December 3) was answered widely around the world.

The movement’s main goal is to pressure Israel into complying with international law via a boycott of Israeli institutions, products and organizations seen as directly or indirectly complicit. Earlier in November, a bill to allow banning BDS activists from entering Israel passed its first reading in the Knesset.
 
But support for the movement is growing. For the first edition of this global event, activists and organizations supporting BDS actions organized the movement’s “biggest-ever campaign”, targeting Hewlett-Packard and its sister companies. 99 events were organised in 18 countries, from street protests to explain connections between HP and the Israeli occupation, to demonstrations in front of HP stores, or calls to boycott Black Friday sales on HP products.
 
According a press release published by the movement, Hewlett Packard is “providing key services and technology infrastructure that enable the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands and suppression of Palestinian human rights. This includes specialized technology made by HP companies that is used to support Israel’s military checkpoints, segregated ID system, illegal settlements, prison system, and naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.”
 
November 29 also marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. A number of countries released statements to reiterate the importance of finding a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Peter Thomson, currently serving as President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, wore a scarf featuring a Palestinian flag during a meeting of the UN's Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People (CEIRPP).
 
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon immediately stated that “it's unacceptable for the General Assembly President, whose position symbolizes neutrality, to don a Palestinian flag.”
 
The Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot also reported previous statements by Thomson in which he accused Israel of ethnic cleansing and other crimes against Palestinians. Editors argued the CEIRPP is known for giving space to anti-Semitic voices.
 
A number of other initiatives reinforced the impact of the BDS movement’s actions.
 
A year after the European Union published guidelines for labeling Israeli settlement products, France published its own regulations requiring importers and retailers to label all goods originating in the settlements. In France, where any form of boycott of Israel is considered illegal, this paradox was at the heart of a Twitter controversy.
 
"France is labeling Israeli products from Judea, Samaria, and the Golan. Israelis should think twice before buying French products," wrote Michael Oren, the Kulanu (center) deputy minister on Twitter. Oren had already protested against the EU guidelines on labeling Israeli settlement products last November, notably by going into a supermarket in Jerusalem and labeling European products himself.
 
French Ambassador to Israel, Helene Le Gal, replied on the same social network: "so you are calling for boycotting French products when in France boycotting Israel is punished by law?"
 
Ahead of the Global Week of Action, another campaign launched to petition for the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement signed in 1995. Called “Enough is enough”, the campaign was kick-started by a wide coalition of French organizations supporting Palestinians’ rights.
 
The treaty is the main trade agreement between the EU and Israel. It designs a framework for free trade arrangements for goods which means, among other things, that no tax is levied on goods Israel exports to EU countries. It has considerable impact, taking into account that in 2015, a third of Israeli exports were actually towards EU countries (a total of almost 19 million Euros).
 
Activists, along with some members of the European Parliament, demand for the Association Agreement to be suspended as they argue Israel does not comply with Article 2 of the agreement, which states that “relations between the Parties, as well as all the provisions of the Agreement itself, shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement.” Petitioners say that illegal settlements in the Palestinian territories, the Separation Wall, as well as the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip and all forms of violence against Palestinians are obvious infringements of human rights and democratic principles.
 
Campaigners also list Israel’s violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention, saying that the European Union, as a signatory, has an obligation to push for other countries to uphold its principles.
 
It is not the first time activists in Europe demand the suspension of this agreement. The first campaign started in March 2004, only 4 years after its implementation. The European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) – which includes 42 organizations from 19 countries and supports the current campaign - has been raising awareness on the issue for years.
 
On November 29, some Palestinian columnists regretted that solidarity campaigns are struggling to transform words into action, but these initiatives may be a sign of hope. In Mid-October, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini reaffirmed the right of European citizens to freedom of expression and association - including through participation in the global BDS movement.
 
The BDS Week of Action was the last of a series of victories activists have been celebrating in the past few months. Last summer, after an awareness campaign led by civil society organizations, Portugal left the LAW-TRAIN program, a joint EU-funded project with the Israeli Ministry of Public Security, Bar Ilan University and the Israeli National Police, which sees Israel and EU countries sharing knowledge and training for police interrogation techniques.
 
In the global BDS community, there’s hope that grassroots organizations can pressure governments and corporations into taking action. And with the Global Week of Action against HP hailed a success, many believe the movement’s impact looks set to grow.
 
 

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