Commentary | Learn, boycott, divest, sanction

You too can help fight Israeli apartheid

With the peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority close to failure because Israel has refused to stop expanding its colonization of the West Bank, those of us committed to the human rights of the Palestinian people must look toward the future. I am a member of Tadamon!, a Montreal-based Middle East solidarity collective. Tadamon! aims to take the most effective action possible to support Palestine in its struggle for freedom and self-determination. That is why we are active participants in the movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid and are helping to organize a conference to support and expand the BDS movement this weekend, October 22 to 24 in Montreal.

So, what is BDS and why does Tadamon! support it? Boycotts, divestment, and sanctions are three tactics used to achieve the goal of forcing Israel to respect international law and grant the Palestinians their right to independence, self-determination, and return to their ancestral land. The movement began in 2005 when a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups sent out the call for BDS. The movement models itself on the international non-violent movement that helped end the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The three tactics are largely self-explanatory. The sanctions component aims to pressure governments to sanction Israel, as they would any other country that repeatedly committed war crimes and ignored UN resolutions. The divestment section aims to encourage corporations, unions, universities, and other organizations to cut their ties with Israeli, primarily by selling stock in Israeli companies and cutting off economic relationships with the Israeli government. Tadamon! is most active in the boycott part of the movement. The boycott is multifaceted, and includes everything from supporting a boycott of Israel-made goods, such as Ahava beauty products (which are made in an illegal Israeli settlement near the Dead Sea), to encouraging artists and academics not to perform concerts or attend conferences in Israel.

We hope that these tactics will successfully convince Israel to change its behaviour, and judging by quick expansion of the movement, in Quebec and around the world, it seems to be working quite well.

To help advance the BDS movement in Quebec and across North America, Tadamon!, Students for Palestinian Human Rights, and a number of other Palestine solidarity groups in Montreal are organizing the conference at UQAM this weekend. There will be speakers and presenters coming from across Canada and the world, including union leaders from South Africa and the leaders of the Palestinian popular resistance. The conference opens with a plenary session Friday night, featuring Omar Barghouti, the coordinator of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, and Sidumo Dlamini, the president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions. Saturday and Sunday will be taken up with workshops and strategy sessions. The workshops cover a large number of topics and issues from a variety of perspectives – including queer, environmental, labour, and indigenous angles.

The conference will be powerful and informative, and we hope to see a large number of McGill students there. We encourage everyone who is committed to social justice to attend, learn about the issues, and participate in the BDS movement to help liberate Palestine!

Jon Booth is a U2 Economics & History (Joint Honours) student. You can email him at jonathon.booth@mail.mcgill.ca.

You can find more information about the conference, donate, and register at BDSQuebec.org.


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