BETHLEHEM, Palestinian Territories: Leaders of a growing Palestinian movement to boycott Israel oppose any peace talks, even if they include a long-demanded freeze of Jewish settlements on Palestinian land.
“We have no faith… in the so-called negotiations,” said Omar Barghouti, head of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which lobbies worldwide for the economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel.
Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of the fourth annual BDS conference at Bethlehem University at the weekend, Barghouti said the talks were “absolutely useless, just another smokescreen to allow Israel to continue its colonisation—its building of settlements.”
The Palestinians have demanded not only a freeze on settlement building but also a return to lines that existed before Israel seized the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Six Day War.
But Barghouti said that, even if these key demands were met, negotiations would still be unacceptable.
The only way to ensure the Palestinians secured all their rights is through the non-violent “resistance” of a full boycott of Israel.
Barghouti said that for there to be peace, the Israelis must guarantee the right of return for Palestinian refugees everywhere and equal rights for Arab Israelis, as well as a complete end to the occupation of Palestinian territories.
At the conference, local BDS leaders called in impassioned speeches on the Palestinian leadership not to “play the role of mediator between us and Israel,” demanding instead that they focus their energies on sanctioning the Jewish state.
The movement says it is inspired by the non-violent South African civil rights movement and deplores what it calls Israel’s own “apartheid” against Palestinians.
One of its more celebrated backers is South African anti-apartheid icon Desmond Tutu, who addressed delegates by video conference.
“This is a universe where right will ultimately prevail, and you are on the side of right,” he said, to thunderous applause.
Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters also sent a message, urging fellow musicians to refuse to perform in Israel as part of the cultural boycott.