Our Series: Palestine and the quest for durable solutions

What happened to the S in BDS?

 Written by Amjad Alqasis (Badil Resource Center)

The BDS National Committee website describes BDS as, “[t]he global movement for a campaign of Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005… BDS is a strategy that allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.”
To date, the elements of boycott and divestment have produced successes after only a few years of the official BDS Campaign’s existence. The Academic and Cultural Boycott with offshoots in the USA, the UK, South Africa, India, etc. is able to recruit widespread and prominent supporters from academic and artistic circles. The numbers are increasing and with it the engagement into ending Israel’s non-compliance with international law. The Kairos Palestine initiative for example has resulted in several churches worldwide discussing the possibilities of partial or full divestment of its stocks from the Israeli market or international companies that contribute to Israel’s prolonged occupation of Palestinian territories.
After eight years of successful struggle, the most urgent issue that needs to be raised today is the “S” in the BDS acronym, or the campaigning for Sanctions against Israel. Sanctions are a powerful tool to force a member of the international community to adhere to international laws and principles. The European Union defines sanctions as, “instruments of a diplomatic or economic nature which seek to bring about a change in activities or policies such as violations of international law or human rights, or policies that do not respect the rule of law or democratic principles… Such measures imposed by the EU may target governments of third countries, or non-state entities and individuals.”
Sanctions have been used in several cases and apply in various situations. Sanctions may be applied within bi-national contexts or on the international level. Sanctions are official state policies and could include diplomatic sanctions – withdrawal of diplomatic missions or staff; economic sanctions – full or partial ban on trade goods including arms embargos; and sport sanctions – denying national athletes to compete in international events. Next to these more traditional forms options include the imposition of travel bans or the freezing of assets.
International wrongful acts or crimes might trigger specific state responsibilities. In such a case, third states have a duty to cooperate to bring an end to wrongful acts or crimes, including by not rendering aid or assistance nor recognizing the illegal situation arising from such acts. In addition to that, the United Nations as an international body, and its member states, hold a legal obligation “to take joint and separate action in co-operation with the [United Nations] for the achievement of… universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
Therefore, all states are under an obligation not to recognize the illegal situation resulting from the establishment of the colonial Zionist apartheid regime in Palestine, also referred to as historic or Mandate Palestine (which includes Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory). They are also under an obligation not to render aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by such a regime. In relation to South Africa’s illegal presence in Namibia, the International Court of Justice ruled that states had a duty “to abstain from entering into economic and other forms of relationship or dealings with South Africa on behalf of or concerning Namibia which may entrench its authority over the territory.”
Moreover, the Draft Articles on State Responsibility adopted by the International Law Commission asks third party states, which witness a violation of a preemptory norm such as the practice of apartheid, to not remain passive and indifferent but to bring an end to the illegal situation by lawful means. Additionally, the responsible state must immediately cease the unlawful conduct and make full reparation.
The General Assembly and the Security Council – acting for instance under Chapter VI and VII of the Charter - should strongly consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation resulting from Israel’s colonial Zionist apartheid regime. The functions of the Security Council are set to promote the specific settlement of disputes, based on Chapter VI of the UN Charter, and the exercise of military or non-military enforcement measures under the collective security system, based on Chapter VII. In order to be able to achieve its purpose, the Security Council is endowed with the power to adopt binding decisions which the member states of the UN have to accept and carry out in accordance with the Charter (Article 25). Therefore, it can if necessary take actions (e.g. the imposition of sanctions) that encroach on state sovereignty. Furthermore, the UN Charter itself provides certain sanctions for non-fulfillment of Charter obligations. Article 6 for instance states that a member state which “persistently violated the Principles contained in the Charter” may even be expelled.
The General Assembly has in the past adopted several resolutions recommending to Member States the adoption of economic and diplomatic sanctions, notably in the cases of South Africa and Portuguese territories. More importantly, in 1982 it had called for financial and diplomatic sanctions against Israel in a resolution relating to the Golan Heights. Even though the resolution has not been adopted and/or enforced; calls for sanctions against Israel are increasingly accepted in international forums. The International Court of Justice has emphasized in its 2004 decision on the legal consequences of the construction of a wall in the occupied Palestinian territory the need to refer the situation in Palestine to the relevant bodies, “the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly and the Security Council, should consider what further action is required to bring to an end the illegal situation.”
Debate regarding the European Union guidelines that exclude funding of Israeli entities active in the occupied Palestinian territory or the latest withdrawal of a Dutch corporation from a project in Israel after pressure by the Dutch government are just two examples of this positive development. More and more states, state officials and private companies are aware of the possible legal consequences their corporations with Israel may entail. In order to promote this momentum, the BDS movement and all supporters worldwide must demand the fulfillment of international law by advancing the ‘S’ in BDS.

Our Series: Palestine and the quest for durable solutions

What to do about colonial tourism?

 Written by Bisan Mitri (Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative)
A civil society workshop addresses the role of tourism in the occupied Palestinian territory discussing how alternative and socially responsible tourism can be implemented.
All facets of Palestinian life under occupation are exploited. The tourism sector is no exception.
International law recognizes the illegality of prolonged belligerent occupation. Morally, it should be resisted. Like the right of return, the right to self-determination and the right to housing, the right to resistance– interpreted through the right to freedom of opinion and expression – is also guaranteed as a human right. The United Nation’s General Assembly ResolutionA/RES/3246 (XXIX) of 29 November 1974, “[r]eaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation from colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation.” The Palestinian aspiration of independence and freedom will not be achieved without struggle. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS), a rapidly growing one, both on local and international levels, with its various campaigns and initiatives offers available, non-violent means to end Israeli occupation by mobilizing the international community to hold Israel accountable to international law.
In parallel with the Fourth National BDS Conference, which was held on 8 June 2013 at Bethlehem University, the Occupied Palestine and Syrian Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI) organized a workshop titled Responsible Tourism in Palestine in the Context of the BDS Movement. The workshop was held in cooperation with OPGAI’s member organizations, and in coordination with the Palestinian Christian Initiative: Kairos Palestine. The activity was carried out by organizations that work in the field of responsible tourism, be it political, cultural or religious tourism. The workshop was attended by 25 professionals working in tourism-related as well as religious, cultural and human rights organizations located throughout the occupied West Bank including Jerusalem.
The workshop aimed to present and discuss alternative and responsible tourism in Palestine in light of the Israeli occupation and its policies of exploiting the cultural heritage and history of Palestine. Furthermore, the workshop sought to shed light on the practices of the Israeli tourism sector that promotes tourism at the expense of Palestinian culture and economy.
The main objective of the workshop was to discuss the possibilities of implementing BDS practices in tourism. The workshop produced recommendations to pave the way for strategizing and launching awareness raising campaigns. All the participants confirmed the importance of the tourism sector in Palestine at various levels be they political, economic, cultural or social, and how the Israeli occupation is undermining Palestinian development by distorting the facts and manipulating the tourists that come to the region.
Israel’s occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory constitutes control over movement of persons, goods and even money internally and along the de-facto borders of the occupied Palestinian territory. Consequently, every tourist who enters the occupied Palestinian territory must acquire a permit from Israel submitting themselves to Israeli visa regulations. All entry points into the occupied Palestinian territory are controlled by Israel.
The occupation is not limited to military elements, but uses elements including tourism as a political tool to strengthen its position as occupying power and domination over Palestinian land and people. Furthermore, Israel uses tourism as an instrument for disseminating propaganda to millions of tourists including many politicians, leaders and journalists who are offered free of charge first class tours to Israel. These trips are accompanied by well-trained Israeli tourist guides whose role is to communicate the government narrative, which includes silence on crucial contexts such as the occupation and atrocities committed by the occupying forces. The most obvious propaganda practice of government-affiliated guides is to ensure no contact between visitors and the local Palestinian community. Participants of the Bethlehem University workshop stressed the need for collaboration in order to confront tourism that revises biblical stories to confirm Israeli political projects.
Another example is the official website of the Israeli Ministry of Tourism’s reply in the Frequently Asked Questions page. Answering “are tourists allowed to enter areas outside of the Israeli responsibility (Palestinian areas)?,”1 the Ministry states, “it’s wise to check on the political situation before entering the Palestinian Authority.” Additionally, it recommends contacting the Israeli Defense Forces Public Relations office, at least in part, to depict the occupation forces as a protector rather than an aggressor.
The occupied Palestinian territory, including a large sum of touristic sites such as the Dead Sea, came under Israeli military control in 1967. Israel illegally annexed Jerusalem, the most tourist-dense area in the region. Participants of the Bethlehem University workshop discussed whether a boycott of Israel and its institutions, which control and manage tourist sites in the oPt is most beneficial. Perhaps launching awareness-raising campaigns amongst tourists is more tactical, they asked.
The call for boycott accords to international law and calls for, among two other principles, the ending colonization of the oPt that exploits Palestinian touristic, religious, historical and natural sites. Participants of the workshop agreed that the tourism sector is subject to the legal, political, economic and cultural grounds that the BDS movement is based on and, thus, the goal of the boycott also applies to some aspects of the tourism sector. The South African anti-apartheid campaign called on the world to boycott tourism in South Africa until the regime fell, but the Palestinians at the workshop refrained from doing so and framed their project as one of responsible and solidarity tourism.
The outcome of the Bethlehem University workshop contained recommendations to broaden the circle and discuss the practicality of implementing boycott within the tourism sector. The participants of the Responsible Tourism in Palestine in the Context of the BDS Movement Workshop thus formulated the following recommendations for further discussion:
  1. The application of BDS practices in the tourism sector aims to defend the political, economic and cultural rights of the Palestinian people;
  2.  Train tour guides in the politics, culture and history of Palestine. Highlight the situation of guides who are deprived of work permits by the Israeli occupation for discussing politics and/or using the Palestinian narrative in their tours;
  3.  Prepare a manual to be distributed to tourists and pilgrims on What must be avoided and must be supported when visiting religious and tourist sites in Palestine, including usage of services and tourism-products;
  4.  Form a strong lobbying initiative in order to unite the efforts of institutions working in the tourism sector;
  5.  Communicate with the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism regarding its role in the tourism sector and cooperate with other relevant representatives in the sector;
  6.  Determine and list the tourist sites where boycott is applicable in accordance with the BDS movement and raise awareness regarding the rationale for a possible boycott;
  7.  The call for a boycott on the tourism sector must be accompanied by organized work and continued efforts to find and raise the efficiency of Palestinian alternatives to the dominant tourism services and industry;
  8.  Upgrade local market goods;
  9.  In addition to the relatively well-developed religious tourism in the oPt, encourage development of non-religious Palestinian tourism. Collaborate between all sub sectors (cultural, economic and educational) involved in the tourism sector;
  10.  Coordinate with efforts of Palestinians working in the tourism sector of Palestine occupied in 1948 (Israel-proper);
  11.  Promote and give primacy to alternative tourism that highlights Palestinian history and heritage of Jerusalem as well as the political situation;
  12.  Boycott cultural productions (such as musicians) that cooperate with the Municipality of Jerusalem;
  13.  Boycott Israeli services and tourism industries to which Palestinian alternatives exist;
  14.  Conduct and publish research and analysis explaining the politicized use of Israeli tourism.
The Bethlehem University workshop defined the problematic areas of applying BDS within the tourism sector, but it also delivered recommendations to help people working in this field generate a political, legal and moral framework for resisting colonialism while continuing their work. It is vitally important to form a committee involving representatives of the Boycott National Committee and representatives of the tourism sector from governmental, non-governmental and private levels, to follow up on these recommendations as part of the struggle to realize the national aspirations of the Palestinian people.