by Zora Djenohan
With the bittersweet passing of the 2011 Peace Works conference, Solidarity in Action, we continue to celebrate the growth and success of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement. Born July 9, 2005 out of Palestinian civil society’s call for worldwide solidarity, BDS has since wedged its way into mainstream success as people from all sects of society stand up for human rights. This year’s conference welcomed organizers from across the nation to share their stories of struggle and success, and inspire attendees to join the movement by providing social, economic and political methods of action.
Solidarity in Action boasted two diverse BDS panels addressing opportunities for cross-movement building and the future trajectory of the movement. Moving Forward featured Israeli co-founder of Who Profits?, Dr. Dalit Baum; Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and UC Berkeley divestment organizer, Dalia Marina; and Palestinian attorney/activist heavily involved with the Berkeley campaign, Noura Erakat.
The second panel, aptly named BDS and Opportunities for Cross-Movement Building, featured Indigenous Youth Delegation coordinator, Melissa Franklin; Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) member, Mahdi; and Estria Foundation muralist, Nancy Hernandez. These organizers have been shoring up the potential for cross-movement building by incorporating BDS into their respective struggles for Native American, queer, and immigrants’ rights. Explaining why PQBDS has taken a stand for solidarity Mahdi stated,
… the human rights of a certain group should not be more important than others’. We, as Palestinian queers, cannot ignore the struggle and the right of the Palestinian people. To us, the two struggles go side by side.
Locally, the BDS movement has experienced significant victories as well as challenges. This past year the Olympia Food Co-op became the first in the nation to boycott Israeli products. Panelist Noura Erakat commended the effort and illustrated the effectiveness of BDS by using hummus as an example,
…as students and community members are boycotting hummus, it’s just chickpeas; it’s not a problem if we want to de-shelve it, and yet it carries weight because the accusation, the assumption, the allegation, of the crime against humanity is maintained in the strategy and in the tactic of BDS.
- Another local 2010 victory saw 79.5% of the Evergreen State College student body, and 100% of the college’s Student Union, vote for divestment. Nearly 72% of the student body also voted to remove Caterpillar Inc. equipment from campus, boycotting the company for supplying militarized bulldozers to the Israeli army to be used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, in the construction of the separation wall and settlements, and in military incursions as weapons. Despite this overwhelming outcome, the college’s Board of Trustees continually refuses to honor the student voice.
Now, it is the responsibility of people everywhere to exercise a range of nonviolent tactics to end Israeli apartheid. As panelist Dalit Baum said,
We must become experts. We should be engaged much more in what’s going on in Israel/Palestine and our accountability for it.
Through education, we can trace these lines of accountability and examine and utilize them to create solidarity. As individuals, we have power of agency and collectively that is greater than any bureaucratic force. If we employ and celebrate BDS as a tactic to apply social, political, and economic pressure, together we can push our way towards peace and justice.
Zora interned for RCF in the Spring of 2011.