Palestine Solidarity Movement- The Way Ahead

By Ruth Tenne

The continued wave of uprising against dictatorial regimes in Arab counties calls for a fresh thinking by the global Palestine solidarity movement. The UK Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) which plays a leading role in the solidarity movement ought to take a forward step by pursuing more effective campaign which is not confined to a limited political pretext. It has to abandon its cautious “playing safe ” approach and be at the forefront of activism that would have much wider appeal to the new and old regimes of Arab states . Instead of submitting to pressures from both Zionists and Jewish anti- Zionist elements within PSC by adopting motions which launch a crusade against alleged Holocaust deniers ( AGM’s Motion 2&9 , January 2012 ) [1],the Palestine solidarity Campaign should abandon its insular approach and enhance its impact by calling for:

  1. Egypt to halt its long-standing collaboration with Israel on political and security matters which harm the Palestinian people and cooperate with the stifling siege of Gaza preventing free movement of goods, labour ,people and trade between Gaza Strip and Egypt [2]

 

  1. Arab countries to impose stringent boycott and terminate contacts and contracts with companies which profit from, or assist, the occupation of Palestine such as Veolia and Alstom .

“In 1945, a year after it was founded, the Arab League started boycotting Zionist goods and services in Palestine. Then in 1948, the boycott was formalized to include three levels: primary, secondary and tertiary boycotts.

  • Primary Boycott: No Arab country should import Israeli goods or export goods to the Israeli market, either directly or indirectly.
  • Secondary Boycott: No Arab country should conduct business with any company already doing business with Israel.
  • Tertiary Boycott: No foreign company should do business with another foreign company that has links to Israel.

Not all Arab countries implemented the boycott against Israel because the Arab League did not enforce it on its members. Therefore, some members did not apply the boycott at all; others ended it and established a trade relation with Israel; and the member countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced in 1994 that they would end the secondary and tertiary boycott but still enforce the primary boycott. Since Veolia is not an Israeli company, it can not be argued that Saudi should stop doing business with it as it is obliged to do under the Arab League. However, the  Arab League Summit held in Khartoum in 2006 condemned the JLR project, called on “the two French companies [Alstom and Veolia] to immediately withdraw from the project,” and demanded that punitive measures be taken against them “if they don’t comply”. The Arab League, including Saudi Arabia, also urged the French government to take the necessary measure in this respect to honor its obligations under international Law”. [3]Yet, Veolia Waterwaste Solutions (VWS) signed multi -contract projects with a number of Arab states since 2007 [4].

 

Alstom which has a multi-million contract with Saudi Arabia holds 20% share (as compared to Veolia’s stake of 5%) of the Jerusalem Light Railway project which consolidates Israel’s grip on the occupied West Bank. [5] On its website Alstom proudly announces that “Across the Middle East, it has helped major energy producers improve plant efficiency with steam tail add-ons”. Projects in the region include Kuwait, Egypt and Dubai. [6]

In UK Alstom holds multi contracts involving major projects such as the West Coast main line link between London and Glasgow, and the Metropolitan, Northern and jubilee lines in London as well as the Eurostar [7]. Alstom’s Head office, which is located in the heart of London, (High Holborn) has never been picketed, or faced any form of protest, while Veolia’s Head office in Islington and its executive staff have faced several protest rallies. (As an activist in the BDS/Veolia campaign I made this point to organisers of the Campaign, but unfortunately it did not get the notice it deserves).

In collaboration with the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) a Black List of major corporations which profit/assist the Occupation, or provide Israel with arms and equipment that used against Palestinians, ought to be published and publicised throughout the mass media and social internet networks such as Facebbok YouTube and Twitter. Such a list should form a base for a global campaign against targeted companies. The campaign would have to include rallying of stock exchanges and financial centres in the West, the Middle East and the Far East as well as share holders in those companies. For the campaign to be a success it has to be coordinated under single umbrella which would include human rights organisations (e.g. Amnesty International, War on Want), Charities (e.g. Oxfam Save the Children); campaigning bodies such as PSC, or Jews for Justice for Palestinians; Boycotting bodies such as BIG, the BDS movement, the Palestinian BNC, the Israeli Boycott from Within, and the Muslim boycotting outfit – Inminds . However, such a campaign would not achieve its desirable impact unless it is supported by grassroots movements in the West and the Middle East including Palestine, Muslim bodies, and Arab countries with the political and possibly financial backing of the Arab league.

  1. Launching internal boycott by Palestinians of Israeli products which are flooding the West Bank, as was initially declared by Mustafa Barghouti – a member of the Palestinian National Initiative. [8]  . It should be remembered that only when the ANC called for a fully-fledged boycott of the “white regime” by South African blacks did the Apartheid system start to crumble.

“The three pillars mentioned above contributed to the ultimate demise of Apartheid, but by far the most significant pillar was that of mass mobilisation inside the country. Early ANC campaigns such as the defiance campaign against unjust laws of the 1950s were informed by the analysis that it is the masses of the oppressed themselves who will determine the course of their liberation. The height of mass mobilisation was the formation of the Mass Democratic Movement (MDM) in the 1980s. This movement was formed to fill a void that was left by the banning of political activity and political formations, including the ANC. The MDM brought together all formations that were opposed to Apartheid, including trade unions, students’ organisations, women’s organisations, NGOs, civic structures, academic formations, sympathetic business structures, etc. These were all brought together under the banner of the United Democratic Front (UDF)…. Two years later, the largest stay-away in the history of South Africa took place. Other actions included a rent boycott in Soweto and a two day strike to protest the exclusion of Black people from parliamentary elections. These are a few examples of how the MDM maintained an internal boycott campaign, which was the major spur to an overwhelming international response that saw the imposition of a comprehensive embargo against South Africa”. [9]

 

  1. The formation of a “unity government” between Hamas and Fatah which would be based on a drafted democratic constitution/bill of rights and would form the foundation for a Palestinian statehood with the aim of ascending to a UN member-state status. This would enable the internationally-recognised Palestinian state to embark on legal battle against Israel’s occupation – accessing and making use of international courts and law, of UN – associated organisations/outfits and of EU political bodies. [10]

 

  1. Restoring the full civic rights of Palestinian refugees who are locked up in enclosed camps in Palestine and inside “host” Arab countries – being deprived of their basic human rights and full access to jobs, education, housing, and equal citizenship rights.
    ” A right however is an entitlement and not an obligation; in other words states should not misinterpret the right of return, using it as an excuse to force refugees back to heir country of origin or even third country ; it does not mean either that, until this return comes to pass , they should be excluded from integration or entitlement to rights…. The acquisition of Palestinian refugees of the citizenship of the country of first refuge or of a third country may end their status of stateless and even their status as 1951 convention refugees. It will not though end their right to return to the country of origin”. Palestinian Refugees in Arab states: A Right-Based Approach by Khalil Asem- Assistant Professor of the university of Birzeit- faculty of law and Public Administration. (Research report 2009 p.13). [11]

Equally the Palestine solidarity movement should campaign for restoring the full citizenship rights of the thousands internal Palestinian refugees in Israel (Internally Displaced Persons) who were dispossessed of their villages , land, homes, property and assets , and have limited access to public utilities and social services – being ironically regarded by the Israeli authorities as Present Absentees .  (Totalling over 300,000 according to the Palestine -Israel Journal) [12] The above- suggested points for an effective future campaign by the global Palestine solidarity movement may have been regarded in the past as out of bounds, or remit, of its campaign. Yet, as long as the Movement opts to confines its campaign to segmented BDS strategies and limited protest tactics , its impact on achieving freedom, liberation and justice for the Palestinian people may, sadly, prove to have a limited political weight .

 

References

  1. http://english.pnn.ps/index.php/opinion/1314-psc-crusading-against-holocaust-denier-a-step-too-far
  2. 2. http://www.middleeastmonitor.com/articles/middle-east/4097-call-for-disengagement-between-peace-and-complicity-with-israel

http://www.ipsnews.net/2012/07/egypt-opening-doors-to-gaza-slowly/

3.http://www.jadaliyya.com/pages/index/5106/no-boycotts-here_veolias-booming-business-from-opt

4.http://www.desalyearbook.com/reference-directory/veolia-water-solutions-technologies

  1. http://pulsemedia.org/2009/07/02/boycott-veolia-and-alstom/.
  2. http://www.alstom.com/press-centre/2012/7/alstom-to-supply-the-steam-tail-for-the-riyadh-pp12-gas-fired-power-plant-in-saudi-arabia/ .
    7. http://www.alstom.com/uk/products-and-services/transport/
  3. http://www.palestinemonitor.org/?p=2997
  4. http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/914-the-role-of-international-campaigns-for-boycott-divestment-and-sanctions-b
  5. http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=48307
    11. http://cadmus.eui.eu/handle/1814/10792?show=full
    12.http://www.pij.org/details.php?id=1218

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