Palestine solidarity: BDS conference set for October

Australian Palestine solidarity activists and supporters of human rights will gather in Melbourne in October for the first national conference in support of the Palestinian-initiated boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.

The campaign, which was inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, was initiated in 2005 by more than 170 Palestinian organisations, including political parties, trade unions and civil and community groups. Conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression, it calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.

The Australian BDS conference, being held from 29 to 31 October, seeks to bring together people from all over Australia who are already active in the Palestine solidarity movement and anyone who is interested in learning more about BDS and the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and justice.

Israel flouts international law

Julia Terreu, one of the organisers of the conference, told Direct Action that the conference is an important initiative because Israel flagrantly flouts international law. “Israel continues to carry out its siege and occupation of Gaza and illegal occupation of East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and more recently we saw the illegal attack on the humanitarian flotilla on its way to Gaza and the murder of nine human rights activists by Israeli commandos.”

“As the BDS campaign continues to grow in leaps and bounds internationally, it is time for supporters of human rights and justice in Australia to come together and develop a national campaign in support of BDS and the Palestinian people”, she said.

“We hope the conference will provide an opportunity for Australian supporters of BDS and the Palestinian struggle for justice and self-determination to come together to discuss and organise a national consistent tactic to take the BDS campaign forward in Australia.”

The two-and-a-half day conference will include sessions that will address the history of civil resistance and boycotts, including an analysis of apartheid in South Africa and Palestine, colonialism in Australia and Palestine and lessons from Palestine solidarity work internationally. There will be workshops and strategy sessions on the development of a national BDS network and campaign in Australia, including sessions on developing the involvement of the union and labour movement, student and campus groups, community and faith-based groups and art and cultural groups; and developing research and media groups to support the campaign.

Wide support

The initial call for the conference has received an overwhelmingly positive reaction, with many individuals and groups endorsing the call. It has so far been endorsed by:

Yousef Alreemawi (advocate for Palestine, academic and refugee rights activist); Leyal Asku (lawyer); Fay Waddington (Palestine Solidarity Queensland); Kim Sattler (secretary Unions ACT): Ginny Adams (organiser, Health and Community Services Union); Kathryn Kelly (former ISM activist); Gareth Smith (organiser, Seminars in the Sand, Byron Bay); Maxine Caron (organiser, Seminars in the Sand, Byron Bay); Friends of Palestine, Western Australia; Palestine Solidarity Campaign (Melbourne); Students for Palestine (Victoria); Action for Palestine (Adelaide); Australian-Palestinian Cultural Centre; Justice for Palestine (Brisbane); Australians for Palestine (Melbourne); Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine (Canberra); Women in Black (Melbourne); Palestine Remembered @ Radio 3CR — Australia’s only radio program in English that is totally dedicated to the Palestinian cause.

To find out more about the conference or to endorse the conference call or to help with organising the conference, please email: ausbds@gmail.com or visit the conference blog at: Australian Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions Campaign for Palestine.