Geneva conference looks to future with boycott of Israel on agenda
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Geneva conference looks to future with boycott of Israel on agenda

An international conference organised by the Swiss committees of “Collectifs Urgence Palestine” and the European Coordination for Palestine (ECCP) took place in Geneva on May 26-28 with a wide array of speakers and activists in attendance. The conference declaration stated support for the Palestinian call for boycotts, sanctions and divestment (BDS) against Apartheid Israel as campaigners looked to the future and strengthening solidarity with Palestinians struggling under Occupation.

Organizers stated how “the recent sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the E.U. to punish Palestinians for the legislative elections outcome add to the abdication by the international community of its obligations in the face of violations of international law, the Geneva Conventions, the refusal to comply with the International Court of Justice advisory opinion concerning the wall as well as with dozens of UN resolutions.” In the weeks leading up to the conference this was seen as an impetus for a period of “unprecedented mobilization of the international movement of solidarity with the Palestinian people.”

A special boycott workshop at the conference drew broad interest with some 70 participants. Speakers from Palestine, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, UK and the US addressed the crowd and in the ensuing debate it became clear that any efficient campaign to put pressure on Israel and enforce international law needed to incorporate all three elements of the BDS-campaign.

Boycotts were cited as instruments that allow broad popular mobilisation, while concurrently creating the conditions for effective pressure by governments and institutions to implement sanctions against Israel. The South-African anti-apartheid struggle was invoked during the meeting, as comprehensive BDS-campaign were viewed as not limited to boycotts but importantly not excluding them as an effective tool to enforce international law.

The final declaration stated “We support the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) call signed by 170 Palestinian organizations and associations and we support the civil society demonstrations aimed at bringing pressure on governments and the international community to compel Israel to obey international law” (For the full final declaration, see below).

It became clear that with the exception of just a few countries the BDS-campaign as a comprehensive unified campaign is in its infancy but with strong potential. Its impact will be felt if based on efforts to broaden and deepen existing initiatives and if it is open to link up with other forces which for the moment do not support all elements or demands of the BDS-call but do not openly contradict them.

A central demand of many speakers and participants of this workshop was to work on a better coordination of activists, committees and organisations supporting the Palestinian call. With this the Conference in Geneva may have reinvigorated European solidarity and set in motion further actions which strengthen coordination amongst different actors in their support of Palestinians struggling for their liberation.