On August 3, 2015 we met with two inspirational activists in Ramallah: Sahar Francis, the director of Addameer and Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in Palestine.
Addameer was founded over 21 years ago and covers issues about Palestinian prisoners. As per their website:
“ADDAMEER (Arabic for conscience) Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association is a Palestinian non-governmental, civil institution that works to support Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli and Palestinian prisons. Established in 1992 by a group of activists interested in human rights, the center offers free legal aid to political prisoners, advocates their rights at the national and international level, and works to end torture and other violations of prisoners’ rights through monitoring, legal procedures and solidarity campaigns.”
During Sahar Francis’ talk and as a running theme we observed in our time meeting with Israeli and Palestinian activists, were numerous human rights’ violations pertaining to who becomes prisoners, how people they become prisoners, and how they are treated as prisoners in life and death.
Some atrocities and statistics that we learned that stick out were as follows: 160 child prisoners (22 of which who are under 16), 400 administrative detainees (being held indefinitely without any charges), 5,700 political prisoners, charging dead people with crimes and then holding their bodies until their sentences are up, and interrogators using methods that don’t leave marks so they cannot prove torture has taken place.
The Jerusalem Center for Legal Aid and Human Rights has a campaign for the prisoners kept after they are dead, referred to as the Graveyard of Numbers.
Meeting Omar Barghouti
As the co-founder of the BDS movement, Omar Barghouti was articulate and passionate in what this strategy stood for. He described BDS as an inclusive, nonviolent, non-racist (including anti-semitism) movement that is only against Israel because it’s an oppressive regime. BDS is entrenched in the resistance against settler colonialism.
To quote Mr. Barghouti about the goals of BDS, “We’re destroying and undermining a system of injustice, not a people. Undermining a racist system? Yes. Destroying a people? No.”
Since February 2014, Israel has adopted a new strategy for fighting BDS. Netanyahu and those to the right of him have increased funding to stop BDS, used infiltrators, and lawfare which have had a delegitimizing and chilling effect.
In 2014, direct foreign investment in Israel dropped 40%, in part to BDS and the war on Gaza. According to Mr. Barghouti, BDS is reaching a tipping point. He reported that approximately 15% of Jewish people in the U.S. support a boycott against Israel. He indicated that Israel right wing and opposition of BDS “looks like the beginning of McCarthyism in the U.S. This is recruiting a mainstream, liberal support of BDS as a result of this and suppressing BDS.”
He also noted that academic boycotts are against institutions (i.e. no joint research, exchange programs, etc.), not individuals.
Last year, 95% of Israelis supported the attack on Gaza. There is a massive resistance to the ideas of equality. There is no “left movement” in Israel at this point. A theme we repeatedly heard both from Palestinian and Israeli human rights’ activists was that Israel is not going to change on its on and that outside pressure, in the form of BDS, is necessary to implement change.
In regards to lawfare and getting our own referendum shot down at our local co-op in regards to deshelving Israeli products until the occupation has ended, Omar Barghouti had this to say:
More can be read to supplement his thoughts in the video in this article.