Over October 29-31, Palestinian solidarity activists from around Australia and the world will meet for the first national boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) conference.
The call for a global boycott campaign against Israel was first launched in July 2005. It has become a big part of the movement against the occupation of Palestine.
Globally, the BDS movement has gained steam since Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, which resulted in the death of nine solidarity activists. Several high-profile bands and artists have cancelled gigs in Israel this year as part of the cultural boycott.
The conference will open with a public meeting at the Victorian state library. Speakers will include unionists, an Israeli BDS activist and Palestinian activists.
Trade unions play an important role in the BDS movement. The New South Wales and ACT branches of the Australian Services Union, the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union and the South Coast Labor Council have all endorsed the BDS campaign.
The conference agenda includes several educational sessions and workshops on topics such as “History of civil disobedience movements for boycott, divestment sanctions”, “Countering Israel’s propaganda war and attempts to delegitimise BDS”, and “Solidarity in action” workshops, run by a variety of groups including Students for Palestine and the Gaza Defence Committee.
The conference will feature a Concert for Palestine, with performances by Australian bands Fear of a Brown Planet, The Brothahood, The Conch and Phil Monsour Band, as well as a spoken-word performance by Rafeef Ziadah.
The conference agenda also includes sessions for discussion of national targets for the BDS movement in Australia. Until now, there has been little national co-ordination in the BDS movement. This conference is an opportunity for Palestinian solidarity activists to come together and build unity.