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“To say that we are going against the Irsaelis is to try to discredit the most effective formula against the occupation of Palestine”

Mahmoud Nawajaa
  • The boycott, divestment and sanctions strategy against the State of Israel has focused on Spain in motions in the municipalities that are now being sued for it.
  • “The international authorities prefer to give money to the Palestinians instead of freedom and the locals sometimes benefit from this situation,” says the strategy coordinator.

Mahmoud Nawajaa

One hundred town halls – mostly from Andalusia and Catalonia – face the demands that Spanish-Jewish organizations and the Zionist organization ACOM have been presenting for a couple of months for joining the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) against Israel as long as its occupation of Palestine and the apartheid regime persist. Mahmoud Nawajaa is the national coordinator of the BDS committee, currently the most successful Palestinian resistance formula against the occupation, to the point that the State of Israel wanted to teach this movement with the arrest of its founder,  Omar Barghouti.

Why the BDS?

There is an occupation backed in turn by more than 50 laws that discriminate against Palestinians and by a policy of promoting colonialism that has led to an apartheid regime. There is global complicity of the rest of the countries and that is why this type of response is needed. There are three requirements that we put forward: end of the occupation, end of apartheid and end of discrimination. Attempts are being made to isolate this regime so that it collapses since the approval of sanctions that are not effective afterward are useless. 

However, Israel’s response is to accuse them of going against their people …

We do not attack individuals, but institutions. What happens is that for the Government of Israel we are a strategic threat. This is because BDS is successful. It is not a matter of morality or image, but companies are losing money with it. To say that we are going against the Israelis is to try to discredit the most effective formula against the occupation of Palestine. We are already finding that they prevent the entry into Palestine of people who has supported our campaign.

There has been controversy over boycotts of certain artists in which they do go against a specific person …

We do not encourage boycotting the show of all Israeli artists. We do this if that person has openly supported the apartheid regime, for example, or if he receives sponsorship from the Government of Israel for that occasion. 

After 12 years of this movement, what successes would you highlight?

In 2014, for example, our pressure on Soda Stream (Israel’s soda company) led to stores in America and Europe withdrawing the product, just as the company had to move its factory in Mishor Adumim, right next to a colony. In 2015, the withdrawal of the French corporation Veolia from the Jerusalem Light Rail, a system built to facilitate the expansion of the colonies in occupied territory, culminated. In 2016, Orange resigned from Israel. But there are also more than 2,000 academics who have signed the boycott in this area. 

Do you intend to publish some kind of list that serves to know which are those institutions and companies that would be complicit in the suffering of Palestine?

We do not make lists, but we have a selection method and the campaigns are by regions and/or by areas. You cannot ask in Germany, for the obvious reasons of its recent history, the same as in the United Kingdom. That is why the regions are important. For example, in Spain, the focus was on the approval of motions in the consistories, which has led to the demands. The country where more institutions have supported the campaign. 

The demands are based on the fact that discrimination against Israelis is being promoted and that the principles of public procurement are violated. Rocío Ruiz, Councilor of Casares (Málaga), one of the first municipalities to join the campaign, poses the difficulties of these local administrations to face these demands due to the lack of means. 

We are aware of it. In fact, we must try to bet on our organization to have a strong legal apparatus that can be used for these situations. 

What other legal difficulties are you encountering?

The Government of Israel wants to push for a couple of laws that would mean illegalizing the right to boycott in general. If that goes ahead … 

Your most recent campaign is against the HP company, why?

Because it sells software for checkpoints and develops it for the armament of Israel. It plays, therefore, a role in oppression against the Palestinians.

How do you select your goals?

We select each objective carefully, taking into account our principles and the chances of success. I insist: it is not against the Israelis, but against a regime. First, you have to find the reason to decide the boycott in each case. The important thing is justification.

They speak of the passivity of the Palestinian National Authority. What do you think of the possibility of its real involvement in this movement?

It is a waste of time trying to persuade our governments.

Do you have partners in Israel?

Yes, but they are being very threatened. At the moment it is about resistance strategies against this brutal regime and then it will touch the political issue.

Can BDS harm the Palestinians themselves?

It does affect the Palestinians because, for example, they do not let their products enter Israel. But in reality, Israel has already shattered the Palestinian economy, which lives on international donations. They sell us our own water five times more expensive than what an Israeli pays for it. Other times it directly affects them like the 500 Palestinians who worked at the Soda Stream factory that was closed but decided to pay that price for freedom.

But is there an economy in Palestine to deal with this boycott of Israel?

It is very difficult to rebuild our economy under occupation. International authorities prefer to give money to Palestinians instead of freedom and locals sometimes benefit from this situation.

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