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Event Report: Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: Lessons from South Africa

On August 19th, over 50 people gathered in the Friends Meeting House to hear three experienced and thoughtful speakers address the topic of “Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions: Lessons from South Africa”.  Gerald Lenoir, a leader from the South African anti-Apartheid movement in the US, kicked off the discussion with his insights on organizing in the 1970’s and 80’s.  Gerald spoke of the decentralized nature of the BDS movement at the time, the need for a wide variety of actions, and the ability to commit to a longterm strategy.  He gave us hope for the Palestine BDS movement, saying he didn’t think he would see an end to Apartheid in his lifetime, but they kept fighting, and they did it!

Jackie Husary, a masters student at SF State and research assistant for the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities in Diaspora program, followed Lenoir with a comparison of similarities and differences in the Apartheid systems of South Africa and Israel.  Husary urged the audience to reexamine our understandings of Palestinian struggles to include an anti-colonial context that links Palestine with not just South Africa, but many nations of the Global South.  Finally, Break the Siege member Ayla Jay Schoenwald closed the panel by emphasizing the importance of getting involved in local boycott campaigns like the Bay Area Campaign to End Israeli Apartheid.

The audience was energized after hearing from Ayla about the many recent international victories, and jumped right into a question and answer session by sharing other campaigns, other victories, questions about strategy and struggle, and ideas for action.  Loubna Qutami, our moderator for the evening, helped guide the conversation and contributed key insights, in particular about the history of co-optation of the Palestinian grassroots resistance by the US government and international NGO’s.  Loubna closed the evening with a call to action: we in the U.S. must begin to see Israel not just as an “occupying force” but as a “colonial Apartheid regime” in order to be in true solidarity with Palestinian liberation.  And BACEIA provided audience members with a first step– sign our pledge to Boycott Israeli Goods!

Thanks to everyone in attendance!  This event was sponsored by Break the Siege, Center for Political Education, and the Arab Resource and Organizing Center.