Furious at Israel’s horrific siege of Gaza and inspired by the courageous people of Gaza, workers, students and progressive activists are organizing sit-ins, demonstrations and other acts of solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Many groups are getting on board and endorsing the Palestinian-led call for an international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
From South Africa, where union dockworkers heroically refused to unload an Israeli ship, to Irish activists, Basque unionists and students in Britain and the United States, momentum is growing in the struggle to cut ties to Israel.
Students across Britain, including Palestinian and Arab youth, have taken direct action and occupied 21 campuses to protest Israel’s military assaults on Gaza and to demand their schools end links to the Zionist state and to the British weapons maker BAE Systems, which arms Israel.
In London, students held sit-ins at Goldsmith University and the London School of Economics, among others. Similar protests spread through England to Birmingham, Sussex, Norwich, Warwick, Oxford, Leeds, Cambridge and elsewhere. Some protests have won concessions from university officials.
At Manchester University, 1,000 students equated Israel with apartheid-era South Africa and called on the administration and student union to boycott Israeli companies and support Gaza and the BDS movement. The student union agreed.
Strong sit-ins have been held in Scotland at the universities of Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh and at Strathclyde.
Other solidarity actions continue. British MP George Galloway and 300 volunteers left Ramsgate Feb. 14 in a 110-vehicle caravan, whose vans, fire truck and ambulances were filled with community-donated food, medicine, clothes and toys to be donated in Gaza. Viva Palestine, Stop the War Coalition, Muslim groups and trade unions organized this 5,000-mile journey.
Irish organizations join BDS campaign
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, with 600,000 members in 55 unions, is prepared to start a boycott of Israeli goods. The Jan. 31 Irish Times carried a full-page ad, headlined “Irish Call for Justice for Palestine,” sponsored by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Its 350 signers called for the Irish government and people to boycott Israeli products and to support the BDS campaign.
When thousands of Irish marchers in Derry commemorated the 37th anniversary of Bloody Sunday—when British soldiers killed 14 unarmed people in 1972—they carried 1,000 Palestinian flags in tribute to the Palestinians killed by Israeli bombs in Gaza. The names of children killed were posted at the Children’s Wall. Sinn Fein’s banner read, “Solidarity with People of Gaza, Stop the Blockade.”
Welsh activists were arrested in Swansea at a Tesco’s grocery store after they seized produce grown on illegally occupied Palestinian land. The media reported their message calling on Wales’ people to support a countrywide boycott of Israeli goods.
Demonstrations in more than 30 cities in Basque Country, with 30,000 participants, have called for BDS and linked the Basque and Palestinian struggles. Trade unions joined a Bilbao demonstration calling for a boycott of Israel. Ten municipalities called for breaking ties to Israel.
In Catalonia, protesters leapt onto a basketball court to disrupt a Barcelona-Maccabi (Tel Aviv) game, waving Palestinian flags and signs saying “Boycott Israel.”
Professors and university employees in Quebec also endorsed the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees’ call to boycott Israel.
The BDS campaign is growing in the U.S. As Hampshire College students successfully campaigned for school divestment from Israel, a University of Rochester sit-in was organized by Students for a Democratic Society. They demanded no school ties to U.S. and Israeli militarism in the Middle East and aid for Gaza schools. Iraq Veterans against the War and Rochester Against War took part.
Macalester College students occupied the Minnesota Trade Office in St. Paul last month, then picketed there on Feb. 6, demanding that the state end all trade with Israel.
And New York University students began a divestment campaign at their school.
A 24-hour demonstration outside the World Zionist Organization’s New York office, from Feb. 12-13, drew 900 Jewish activists. Jews Say No targeted Israel’s blockade of Gaza and the ongoing occupation and demanded justice for the Palestinians.
Meanwhile, thousands of e-mail endorsements from the U.S., Canada and worldwide have poured in to the Jews in Solidarity with Palestine campaign. (See IACenter.org)
A cultural boycott is also underway. Chicago protesters wearing bandages stained with red paint, symbolizing Palestinian casualties, recently picketed the Israeli Batsheva Dance Company. The International Solidarity Movement and the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel plan protests wherever the dance company performs.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee has issued an international call for a Global Day of Action in Solidarity with the Palestinian people and for concrete and bold BDS actions on March 30 to make this mobilization “a historic step forward in the new movement.”
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