The Palestinian BDS Movement And The OECD Tourism Conference

The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement represents an all inclusive mass campaign involving the various sectors of the Palestinian society at home and abroad. By now, many know that this movement is waging a non-violent campaign to realize the following: (1) To end the Israeli colonial occupation of the West Bank (W.B.) and Gaza Strip (G.S.) through a wide venture campaign activity encompassing all economic and political aspects. (2) To attain the Palestinian inalienable rights spelled out loud and clear by UN resolutions and international law; and (3) To establish a viable independent state on the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The real intention behind the move to turn the state of Israel into “a state only for Jews” is to lead to a complete transfer of all Palestinians from ‘Israel’ and from the 1967 occupied Palestinian territories in order to ‘purify’ the Holy Land from any non-Jewish presence. A Jewish state can never be realized with 20% of its population being Arab Palestinians, in addition to two million and a half Palestinians in the occupied W.B. and G.S. Peace negotiations aimed to reach a “just settlement” of the conflict are either stalled or suspended as a result of Israel’s intransigent and colonial policies allowing it time to annex more land without any punishment from the international community. This is why many now fear that nothing is being left in the West Bank to establish a viable Palestinian independent state including Gaza.

Despite all Israeli violations of international law in Palestine that are trying human souls to their extreme limits, the BDS continues to move ahead with its non-violent campaign designed to end the colonial Israeli occupation. A recent important example of such efforts was the campaign to boycott the tourism conference of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Jerusalem. As a result, thirteen countries boycotted the conference held on October 20th, 2010. Among them were Britain, Sweden, Turkey, South Africa, Ireland, Norway, Canada and Iceland. Many other countries sent low-level delegations. Israel’s intent was to use the conference to assert its illegal annexation of Jerusalem as ‘the eternal capital of Israel’ although East Jerusalem is still being considered by the United Nations (that endorsed the establishment of the state of Israel) as “part of the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967”.  The BDS declared the boycott of the OECD conference in Jerusalem “a clear condemnation of Israel’s continued ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem”.

A memorandum with a legal opinion was presented by Professor Guy S. Goodwin-Gill on Israel’s accession to the OECD, entitled “Certain Legal Issues Arising from the Application of Israel to Become a Member of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development”. Another memorandum was presented by Professor Karma Nabulsi to OECD member-states about their legal obligations during Israel’s accession process. On its part, the BDS National Committee (BNC) called for the conference location to be moved, because “organizing this conference in Jerusalem would allow Israel to use its membership in the OECD to whitewash its violation of international law while continuing the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem”.

The BDS has established a section gathering information about Israeli and international companies that invest in or trade with Israel. It details their involvement and its implications on human rights and violations of international law. The BDS is trying to bankrupt the Israeli colonial occupation of Palestine by its boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns. Indeed, the BDS campaign against the OECD conference in Jerusalem proved right as the movement’s statement indicates; “Despite assurance from OECD General Secretary and member-states that delegates attending the controversial OECD conference in Jerusalem would not recognize Israel’s annexation of the city, the BDS activists were extremely shocked to see delegates of member-states arriving on buses owned by “The Meteh Binyamin Regional Council” which has direct jurisdiction over 42 illegal (colonies)/ settlements. This has proved that OECD’s reckless actions confirm an earlier warning that it is impossible to deal with Israel without abetting its colonial occupation of Palestinian territories and violations of international and human rights laws”.

It is absolutely essential for the international community to support, by all means available, this Palestinian grassroots global movement, the BDS, which chose of its own free will to adopt non-violent methods to resist and to end the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands. Failing to do so, the international community would, and in the eyes of many, be telling the Palestinian people loudly and openly that non-violent methods to attain their civil rights is a futile act, thus, giving legitimacy to violent acts to achieve what non-violence failed to attain. It is worth mentioning that a rising number of observers as well as ordinary people seem to be forced to believe that the only course left now is a resort to extreme violence because all peaceful means have all, so far, failed to bring about a halt to the Israeli colonial expansion and apartheid system in Palestine.

The present situation looks extremely bad with the focus no longer on whether the Palestinians would be able to establish their independent state but whether the Palestinians inside Israel would be able to retain their Israeli citizenship. Indeed, international security depends on how the Israeli / Palestinian conflict evolves from its present stalemate.