Montreal Success in Hosting Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Conference Against Israeli Apartheid!

November 13th, 2010 | Posted in Boycott, Canada, Palestine, Quebec
    BDS Quebec conference final statement Nov. 2010


Photo Palestinian flag flying in sky at demonstration against Israeli apartheid.

As part of the growing global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, grassroots organizations in Montréal successfully hosted a conference aimed at moving forward the BDS movement in Québec. The conference, which took place October 22 to 24 at the Université de Québec à Montréal, brought together hundreds of people concerned about social justice and human rights from across Canada and around the world.

Highlights of the BDS Conference

Two days of informational workshops, a sold-out hip-hop concert featuring Detroit MC Invincible, sector strategy sessions, and panel discussions with guest speakers left a crowd of over 600 feeling inspired and energetic to continue struggling for justice and peace in Palestine. The conference’s opening night panel featured Omar Barghouti, a founding member of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) and the Palestinian Civil Society BDS National Committee (BNC), Stephen Faulkner of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), and Areej Ja’fari of the Palestine Freedom Project (West Bank). Each contributed motivating and insightful presentations on the successes and challenges of the BDS movement five years after the initial Palestinian call for BDS.

Conference workshops covered subjects such as Access to Healthcare under Israeli Apartheid, Indigenous Solidarity, Jewish Support for BDS, and many more! The strategy sessions provided space for the members of the academic, community, consumer, cultural, Jewish, labour, and queer sectors to discuss and strategize about ways to move the BDS campaign forward within their communities. Each sector presented specific strategies and campaign ideas at the Conference’s closing plenary on Sunday October 24.

The 2010 BDS Conference was another step forward in Québec and Canada’s response to the call issued in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations for a comprehensive, international BDS campaign against Israeli apartheid.

The Call to Boycott, Divest, and Sanction

The Palestinian BDS call came precisely one year after the International Court of Justice ruled the Israeli apartheid wall illegal under international law. In issuing the BDS call, Palestinian civil society organizations, including unions, women’s groups, cultural oragnizations, and refugee groups, came together to demand that people, organisations, and governments boycott Israel until the Israeli government complies with the following three demands, all based in international law and universal standards of human rights:

1. End the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the wall;
2. Recognize the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respect, protect and promote the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

For more information on the BDS Call, please visit the BDS National Committee website at

The BDS Campaign

The BDS campaign aims to promote the boycott of organizations and institutions that are complicit with the Israeli apartheid regime. As a grassroots movement, BDS sends a clear message to the Israeli regime that international civil society will no longer be complacent in the face of Israel’s regular violations of international law. The BDS movement seeks to empower people, grassroots organisations, and governments around the world in demanding justice for the Palestinian people.

BDS is, above all, a tool to encourage participation and to generate momentum in the fight for Palestinian human rights and self-determination. BDS is an accessible, grassroots strategy designed to allow people of conscience around the world to work against Israeli apartheid in their daily lives. This could be when they put an Israeli product back on the store shelf, when they refuse to attend a film festival sponsored by the Israeli consulate, or when they support their campus’ or their pension fund’s divestment from Israeli companies which are complicit in apartheid.

The BDS call also explicitly calls on Israelis of conscience to work to dismantle the institutionalized racist system known as Israeli apartheid. Grassroots Jewish organizations around the world have also begun to take a stand with their Palestinian brothers and sisters and work for BDS. For more detailed information on the BDS campaign, please visit the PACBI website at

Why Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Israeli Apartheid?

Palestinians, South Africans, and leading figures such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu compare the Israeli apartheid regime with apartheid-era South Africa because they see parallels between the institutionalized discrimination seen in both states. Tutu raised awareness about these similarities in a statement made upon his return from a trip to Israel in 2002, where he stated that seeing the experience of Palestinians in Israel “reminded me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa.”

The international BDS campaign focuses on Israel because it is the only human rights abuser that enjoys consistent and enthusiastic support by all of the liberal democracies of the North. Israel alone is allowed to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity (see the Goldstone Report) and is permitted to repeatedly ignore United Nations resolutions without any opposition from northern governments and major institutions.

The Canadian and Québec governments are complicit in Israel’s human rights violations and disregard for international law, by both supporting Israel when it violates human rights and by supporting the economy of apartheid Israel with the Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement and the Quebec – Israel Accord. This makes it the responsibility of civil society to demand justice.

Finally, international supporters of the BDS call are doing the work that they do because Palestinians themselves chose the BDS strategy when they issued their call for BDS in 2005. Supporters of the BDS movement recognize that solidarity means following the lead of oppressed groups and working with them to fight for justice.

Conference Outcomes

Some of the initiatives resulting from the conference include:

* The continued expansion and increased role of the BDS Québec Committee, as a broad coordinating space in Québec, in pushing forward the momentum generated by this year’s conference

* A follow-up meeting in six months time to further coordinate activities of the BDS movement across Québec and Canada

* An agreement that groups across Québec and Canada will participate in the International BDS days of action, called by the Boycott National Committee in Palestine on March 30, 2011 and July 9, 2011

* The continued expansion of Israeli Apartheid Week on our campuses and in our cities

* The expansion of the Montréal-based Artists Against Apartheid concert series to other cities

* The possibility of making the conference an annual BDS Québec event

How to get involved!

Change is in the hands of those who want it! There are many ways to participate in the BDS movement. If you would like information on how you can get involved, please contact

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