Yesterday marked the commencement of the World Social Forum for a Free Palestine, held in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The global mobilisation is aimed at strengthening solidarity with the Palestinian people through diverse activities which encourage debate and the formulating of effective proposals. Today is the 65th anniversary of the UN General Assembly Palestine Partition Resolution, presided over by Brazil, which led to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their land.
Hosting the forum in Latin America creates a sharp discussion of contrasts. The people are mobilised in favour of the Palestinians, whilst government rhetoric attempts to appease both Palestinians and the Israeli government. There is support for Palestinian autonomy which is marred by the same governments’ interest in commercial and security dealings with Israel. On a political level, the rhetoric of human rights is seriously flawed, with governments amalgamating the protection of human rights with a technology well known for an increasing number of civilian deaths – drones.
The forum focuses on five main aspects of the Palestinian cause: the right of return and self-determination; international law and human rights; colonialism and apartheid; Palestinian popular resistance; and strategies of resistance. The programme is replete with social movement resistance and opposition to practices which further enhance the fragmentation of Palestinians. Whilst the initiatives are commendable, the major obstacle in implementation – Israel’s lack of accountability before any international organisation – needs to be confronted globally and legally.
What seems to be gaining ground is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign. Launched in 2005, the BDS movement’s aim goes beyond creating awareness of human rights violations against Palestinians. By using an approach based on human rights and the ramifications of such direct violations, the BDS campaign insists upon a boycott until international law with regard to Palestinians is respected and implemented. The boycott on products and companies reaches multitudes of people, inventing a new consciousness in which consumers steer clear of buying goods or subscribing to Israeli academic and cultural institutions. Divestment targets corporations whose profits are directly used to finance additional oppression against Palestinians, one of the targets which various NGOs and social movements will be speaking about at the World Social Forum. The implementation of sanctions carries a high significance if the aim is reached; the economic isolation of Israel through diplomatic means would serve to shatter the impression of morality within the framework of international law.
The BDS campaign has garnered the attention of artists, activists and Nobel Prize winners. Besides calling for an international military boycott on Israel, the group has also condemned complicity through the arms trade, describing the sales as “complicity” in the latest offensive against Gaza.
The campaign also highlights the Gaza blockade. Whilst Israel is a major economic player within the international community, Gaza remains under siege, battling problems such as malnutrition and inadequate health care, and deprived of trading opportunities. Fishermen are assaulted and killed routinely by Israeli gunboats prowling in Palestinian territorial waters.
Both campaigns have captured the essential struggle of defining Palestinian identity against a barrage of pro-Israel discourse. Besides a fragmented and occupied country, Israel seems to have embarked on a strategy to split Palestinian identity between Gaza and the West Bank. However, in the aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defence, social movements were adamant in furthering the “cause of Palestinian”. If these events serve as the foundation on which to consolidate a Palestinian identity, the battle against corporate media and Israeli impunity with its glorification of oppression will transcend figurative speech to cultivate a tangible, united reality.