Open letter to UK student activist participants in propaganda tour of Israel from Palestinian students and youth
We, Palestinian students and youth organisations, were shocked and disappointed to learn of your all expenses paid junket to Israel, involving prominent Labour party student activists and organised by the Union of Jewish Students. By being involved in this propaganda tour, you have crossed a picket line established by the entirety of the Palestinian civil society.
The 2005 Palestinian civil society call for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is a call for supporters of Palestinian rights to actualise their support with concrete and effective actions of solidarity. Boycotting official Israeli state institutions is probably the easiest and most basic form that such support could take. By choosing instead to engage with official Israeli state institutions, you have created a false impression that Israel is a state like any other, rather than one that practices occupation, colonisation and apartheid over the indigenous Palestinian population.
In recent weeks, Palestinians have been commemorating the third anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, the 2008-09 Gaza massacre during which Israel committed crimes against humanity, a UN Fact Finding Mission established. Meeting with Mark Regev, the public face of that massacre and the chief spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, is a grave insult to the memories of the more than 1,400 Palestinians that lost their lives during the 22 days of unrelenting aerial bombardment and ground incursions.
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territory are recognised as illegal under law by the entirety of the international community, including the UK government. Your visit to Gush Etzion is precisely the kind of emboldening support on which the continued colonisation of our territory depends.
Also understand that your decision to meet with OneVoice only places you more firmly on the side of the oppressor. When they are not grounded in a mutual and active opposition to Israeli violations of international law, such dialogue initiatives constitute a form of normalisation that seek to equate the oppressor with the oppressed and are deeply damaging to the realisation of our rights. As Palestinian youth and student organisations, we have been engaged in many successful campaigns against such initiatives in recent months.
The effective forms of solidarity currently being shown in the UK have inspired Palestinian students and youth. The National Union of Students should be applauded for initiating campaigns against Veolia and Eden Springs over their complicity with Israeli violations of international law, and for supporting the fantastic campaign being waged by students at King’s College London against their university’s collaboration with Ahava, the Israeli settlement enterprise. The motions passed at student unions across the UK in support of BDS initiatives have been equally impressive, and we look forward to hearing how Israeli Apartheid Week will contribute to the further growth of the student movement in support of Palestine. Your fellow students have shown that concrete and effective solidarity, rather than all expenses paid pro-Israel junkets, is the way to contribute to a just and lasting peace.
Al-Quds Open University Student Councils
Al-Quds University Student Council
An-Najah University Student Council
Arab American University in Jenin Student Council
Bethlehem University Student Council
Birzeit University Student Council
Hebron Polytechnic University Student Council
Association of Youth in Jerusalem
Fateh Youth Movement
Herak Shababi, and other youth groups participating in the March 15th demonstrations and actions against normalization
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel
Right to Education Campaign
Youth Against the Settlements
(www.bdsmovement.net / 26.01.2012)