From the www.monabaker.com archive (legacy material)
The Boycott Israel Association (BIA) is made up of individuals from across Palestinian society and includes university academics, documentary film-makers, medical doctors and political activists from across the political spectrum. The Boycott Israel Association was formed in the Gaza Strip in late 2006 to spearhead activities in the Gaza Strip. It is not directly linked to any political organisation, but is instead, rooted in civil society.
BIA welcomes membership from all political factions but views itself as a broad-based Palestinian civil society movement whose raison d?etre is to isolate the state of Israel in the manner of the Anti-Apartheid Movement against Apartheid South Africa.
Rationale for a civil society boycott against the state of Israel
The current situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt) has been well-documented elsewhere. The statistics show higher levels of Palestinian deaths, disabilities, home demolitions and poverty than at any other time since the dispossession of Palestinians in 1948. The international siege against the Palestinian people following the democratic election in January 2005 has led to an almost total collapse of all economic activity in the oPt.
At the same time, there is an internal crisis of political leadership, with the Palestinian factions being unable to agree to the terms of a unity government. This has left Palestinian civil society divided at a time when it is imperative that Palestinians show unity against the Israeli occupation. This is why the BIA believes that the example of South Africa has a role to play in the oPt today.
Not only can we learn about Israel by examining apartheid in South Africa, but we can also help to take the Palestinian cause forward by learning from the South African anti-apartheid struggle, the manner in which it framed its objectives and the strategies and tactics that it used. Particularly, the successful campaign by the South African liberation forces in the isolation of the South African apartheid state is an experience we can examine and then adopt from and employ whatever might be useful in the new apartheid context.
Learning from the South African Struggle
The South African struggle against apartheid, it is generally understood, was based on ?four pillars?. These were:
1. International solidarity and international isolation of the apartheid state;
2. The internal resistance;
3. The armed struggle; and
4. The underground movement.
It is also generally accepted that the first two of these pillars were the most significant and effective in bringing about an end to the brutal and racist apartheid state.
There are a number of socio-economic differences between the apartheid context in the oPt and apartheid South Africa and these need to be seriously considered by Palestinian activists. Nevertheless, a Palestinian campaign for the isolation of the apartheid state of Israel needs to be given careful focus in order that it becomes an important ?pillar? in the Palestinian struggle for self-determination and dignity as a people. In the South African context this campaign included a number of focus areas. These included:
· Military sanctions against the apartheid state;
· Political and diplomatic isolation;
· Economic sanctions;
· An academic boycott; and
· A cultural and sporting boycott.
After almost complete isolation through all of the above (together with the internal resistance within South Africa), the South African apartheid regime was finally forced to make certain compromises and the world saw the unbanning of the various liberation movements and the beginning of the negotiations that led to South Africa's first democratic election and the beginning of the attempt to realise 'one person, one vote in a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa'.
All of the above as focus areas are up for consideration in the struggle to isolate apartheid Israel. They need to be examined in terms of their efficacy in the South African struggle and adapted to be used in the Palestinian struggle. Each one of the above will require detailed programmes of action; will have to be resourced with information, material, propaganda and activists; and will need to have its own structures to take it forward in a coordinated and effective manner.
The goal of the BIA is to conduct an ongoing campaign to raise awareness in the oPt about the importance of the boycott of Israel as a means of weakening the state of Israel. The campaign takes the view that the boycott of Israel is a struggle in which every Palestinian can take part and aims to highlight the ways in which this can be done.
The campaign also aims to coordinate with, and lobby, international, Arab and Islamic solidarity movements and boycott campaigns to build the movement against Israel.
BIA activities and achievements
Over the few months of its existence, the BIA has engaged in some of the following activities:
· Met with several Gaza and West Bank-based NGO's and civil society organisations
· Initiated a weekly radio program, called Boycott, in which activists, researchers and politicians discuss the rationale for a boycott of Israel and how Palestinians can participate. Listeners call in to the programme to discuss their ideas.
· Screened documentaries in schools, universities and clubs about the international campaigns to isolate Israel in an attempt to raise an internationalist consciousness in the oPt.
· Published articles in journals and magazines on the topic.
· Lobbied the University Teacher?s Association and other organisations to support the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.
· Lobbied US health conference to boycott Israeli health institutions.
· Built links with Palestinian organisations in the West Bank and abroad
BIA Future Plans
· Issue boycott campaign posters, leaflets, t-shirts and stickers to popularise the boycott campaign
· Run weekly radio program, Boycott, on an ongoing basis
· Screen documentaries about the boycott
· Publish articles locally and internationally
· Lobby Palestinian organisations and civil society to support the boycott
· Compile a list of products to boycott in the oPt
· Build and strengthen links with Palestinian organisations in the West Bank and abroad
· Build and strengthen links with boycott campaigns in the West Bank and abroad
· Host an international conference