The following press release appeared on 4 November:
From October 29-31 more than 150 Palestine solidarity activists and supporters of human rights gathered in Melbourne for Australia’s first national Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) conference. The conference represents a watershed moment in the Palestinian solidarity movement in Australia with activists across various campaigns coming together and addressing the way forward in the global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
The conference was launched with a public meeting on October 29 at the Victorian State Library, chaired by the ABC’s Bryan Dawe and addressed by Palestinian artist and activist Rafeef Ziadah speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC). Also speaking was Palestinian academic and radio presenter, Yousef Alreemawi, Jerusalem based Israeli activist Ofer Neiman from “BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within” and Kim Sattler, the Secretary of Unions ACT in Canberra.
Keynote speaker Rafeef Ziadah, a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, explained “this conference is an important step in coordinating a national BDS campaign across Australia to put pressure on Israel to simply abide by international law”.
Other guest speakers included prominent American Jewish activist Anna Baltzer and Australian-Palestinian author and activist Samah Sabawi.
One of the conference highlights was a concert on the Saturday that formally launched Australian Artists Against Apartheid (AAAA).
On the labour movement front, the conference helped to bring together unionists who are members of twenty different unions across Australia, with five Australian unions sending official delegations to the conference to discuss practical implementation of BDS resolutions.
The conference unanimously adopted a calendar of BDS actions to be carried out over the next 12 months. Conference organizers urged all attendees ”to build on the momentum of the conference and work together to build the strongest possible grassroots campaign to hold Israel accountable for its actions.”
The conference was organized in response to the call by 171 Palestinian civil-society organizations in July 2005 for the international community to implement a comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) strategy against apartheid Israel as the focal point of solidarity efforts with the Palestinian people.
Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.