The Italian Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel Gains Strength
Over the weekend of January 21-22, the third national meeting of the BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) against Israel was held in Bologna, Italy. Roughly 80 activists from over 20 Italian cities representing groups, associations and political parties throughout Italy participated. The scope of the meeting was to evaluate the progress of ongoing campaigns, establish strategic objectives and shared work methods, exchange information between the various Italian groups working on BDS and reassess organizational aspects of the BDS movement in Italy.
The atmosphere of the two-day meeting was one of enthusiasm and collaboration, where information and practices were shared and future strategies and objectives of the movement were outlined. The four most prevalent national campaigns, Stop Agrexco, Stop Sodastream, Stop That Train and academic and cultural boycotts, were examined. For each campaign, material, strategies, legal implications and a specific action plan were identified. It was decided to temporarily suspend the campaign against Agrexco pending clarification on the future of the company, which was ordered into liquidation in 2011. In the months ahead, work will be carried out nationally on the three remaining campaigns, for which a clear action plan was detailed, to be launched in parallel on both the local and national level.
A fourth workshop sought to identify new campaigns to be developed in the coming months, based on work already being carried out by local groups. Three potential areas in which to concentrate efforts were selected, with three respective working groups tasked with furthering research and laying out a plan of action to be launched in September 2012:
- The arms industry and military research (weapons, technologies related to systems of repression and control and military agreements and training exercises);
- The Israeli pharmaceuticals industry, with specific reference to Teva, the world leader in generic drugs;
- Tourism and cultural propaganda used to promote the image of Israel, with particular reference to initiatives aimed at the LGBT community (pinkwashing) and schools (educational trips to Israel).
In addition, a series of events were identified in which the Italian BDS movement will be present in order to denounce Israeli violations of human rights and international law.
Sunday’s session was opened by Hind Awwad of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), who presented an assessment of BDS campaigns around the world, describing winning practices and strategies, and successes as well as weaknesses that have emerged. Hind Awwad underlined that identifying a limited number of strategic campaigns with clear and concrete objectives, developing a long-term action plan and the ability of each campaign to work within a broad base of partners and alliances were fundamental aspects of the victories to date. The Arab Spring and the proliferation of movements struggling for greater social justice and equality around the world (Occupy Wall Street in the US as well as similar Italian movements such as the NoTav and October 15) have made clear the need and opportunity to create new alliances, highlighting the ideals and principles that link the BDS movement with these struggles. In conclusion, the priorities of BNC for the coming year were presented to Italian activists: participation at the World Social Forum Free Palestine to be held next November in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and support and improvement of the network of collaboration among European activists. And congratulations were expressed for the progress on the Stop Sodastream campaign and the victories against Agrexco.
In the afternoon, solutions to enhance both internal and external communication as well as garner visibility at the local and national levels and attention from the media were identified. In particular, a new web site will be created for the Italian BDS movement, integrating information on the various campaigns and initiatives.
The meeting concluded with a commitment to further intensify the BDS movement in Italy, linking with movements in Europe and around the world. We call on all Italian activists and people who hold dear issues of justice and peace to join us in the struggle for civil, political and human rights of all the Palestinian people.
Bologna, January 27, 2012
The BDS movement
In 2005, Palestinian civil society, inspired by the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa, adopted a unified proposal for international solidarity movements: determine ways to boycott Israeli goods, disinvest from commercial activities in Israel, place sanctions on the State of Israel and apply an academic and cultural boycott of Israelis who do not take a stand against the occupation and apartheid. All these requests were articulately formulated in the BDS campaign ( www.bdsmovement.org). The BDS movement has already chalked up many successes (eg against Agrexco, Deutsche Bahn, Veolia, Alstom, Motorola) and has gained endorsements by organizations of civil society, academia and trade unions around the world, Israel included. The very same trade unions representing the Palestinian workers exploited as cheap labor in the Israeli settlements and plantations are among the promoters of the BDS campaign.
Websites with more information on ongoing campaigns in Italy:
Stop Agrexco – http://stopagrexcoitalia.org/
Stop That Train – http://stopthattrain.org/
Stop Sodastream – http://stopagrexcoitalia.org/iniziative/online/273-sodastream.html
Academic and Cultural Boycott – http://www.ism-italia.org/category/campagna-di-boicottaggio/