From November 20th to the 22nd, hundreds of students from across the United States and Canada converged at Hampshire College for the 2009 Campus Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Conference, their presence sending a clear message about the surging strength of the BDS movement on campuses throughout the two countries.
The conference was hosted by Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine, and throughout the weekend, the sense of energy and enthusiasm was palpable, as seemingly half of the campuses that were present were either engaged in or about to launch divestment campaigns, while the rest were in various stages of planning and developing their campaigns. Attendees took full advantage of the wealth of knowledge and experience that had been brought together. Over 50 schools from the USA and Canada were represented, and each of them certainly came away from the conference having both learned from othersâ experiences, and also contributed to the growth of the campus movement.
Panels and workshops covered issues ranging from how to plan and launch a campaign, to using creative strategies for direct action, to linking campus struggles with the grassroots in Palestine. These gave participants a unique opportunity to build skills, develop and enhance strategies, and link campaigns together in order to strengthen them at a regional level.
The Saturday evening was highlighted by a rousing speech by Ali Abunimah, who spoke about the future of the BDS movement and its great potential to achieve true justice for the Palestinian people.
In February 2009, Hampshire College became the first university to divest from the Occupation, following a two-year campaign in which students were able to lobby the administration into withdrawing its complicity in the Occupationâs crimes. Despite coming under attack from the mainstream media and public figures, Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine remained strong on their principles, and have set an extremely important precedent for other campuses to follow.
There is an emerging groundswell of support for BDS on campuses across the US and Canada, and with campaigns budding throughout both countries, the movement is gaining immense strength. The Campus BDS Conference provided undeniable proof that the student movement, which has been so integral to past struggles for justice and freedom, has once again taken on a leadership role, and is fully committed to supporting the Palestinian struggle for liberation through BDS.