By Laura Fawaz, Contributing Reporter
Occupied Territories, Palestineâ€“The Palestinian Civil Societyâ€™s official boycott began in 2005, just seven years ago; launching the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
This turned into an international cause, spreading throughout not only the Middle East, but across major European countries, South Africa, Latin America, India, Australia, New Zealand and North America. However, Israelâ€™s violations of international law and Palestinian rights, poses a threat to any freedom of people across the region; whether they are Jewish or Arab, just so long as they are peace activist fighting for the cause of equality.
Inspired by the South African struggle against apartheid, the BDS movement stems from a hundred-year plus institution of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and basic human rights. Incident after incident where there was no reprimanding from the United Nations or the international community to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law, the Palestinian civil society appealed to citizens of the world in 2005. Their appeal was for the moral responsibility of people from every nation to end Israelâ€™s violations of international law. Launched in July of 2005, the BDS call had the endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organizations. The signatories to this call represented the three major groups of the Palestinian people: the refugees in exile, Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the discriminated Palestinian citizens in the Israeli state.
According to the Palestinian Civil Society, what they are asking for is the fundamental rights of the three main factors for the Palestinian people: to live free from Israeli occupation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; to end Israelâ€™s system of institutionalized racial discrimination, and for the Palestinian refugees and internally displaced (the great majority of the Palestinian people), to be granted their UN-sanctioned right of returning to their homelands, and to receive reimbursements.
The efforts to coordinate the BDS campaign began to grow so fast that it surfaced the first Palestinian BDS Conference in November of 2007. Emerged out of this conference was the BDS National Committee (BNC) as the Palestinian coordinating body for the campaign worldwide. The BNCâ€™s main activities include demonstration with BDS activists locally and worldwide and include organizing the annual Global Palestinian Land Day on March 30th, which The Muslim Observer covered.
The BDS call was so successful that several European companies and institutions joined in the boycott efforts. Italian supermarkets COOP and Nordiconad, and British supermarkets Marks and Spencer and Co-operative Group, announced that they ceased to sell produce from illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. The May 2010 Congress of the British University and College Union (UCU) made history by voting to boycott the â€œUniversity Center of Ariel in Samariaâ€ (AUCS), an Israeli colony-college in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Bolivia and Venezuela cut ties with Israel, shutting down Israeli embassies in their countries. Nicaragua suspended its diplomatic relations with Israel following the attack on the Freedom Flotilla, and South Africa recalled its ambassador to Tel Aviv. US basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar cancelled a scheduled public visit to Israel after hearing of the illegal occupation.
Among musicians, filmmakers, and writers, Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, the Pixies, Cat Power, and Zakir Hussain have all refused to perform in Israel, or cancelled scheduled performances following pressure from the BDS movement.
Following a call for concrete solidarity from Palestinian Christians, churches around the world have taken on BDS-related actions. The worldwide United Methodist Church and the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. have both called on their members to boycott produce from illegal Israeli settlements.
In a poll conducted by the Jerusalem Post, as well as â€œsuggested by the BBC news companyâ€, Israel has again been voted the most negatively viewed country in the world. As the Israeli government is rapidly losing support around the world, their attempt to whitewash its system of occupation and apartheid through culture is increasingly eliminated by the visible cultural boycott. Today there are campaigns for the cultural boycott of Israel in the US, Britain, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Australia, Germany, Belgium, Canada, Norway, among others.