Boycott group claims victory as Bellamy fails to appear at Israeli “greenwash”

British Committee for the Universities of Palestine released the following statement on 15 February:

The British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP) declared that their campaign against the Zionist Federation’s annual seminar on the environment had once again been a success, after celebrity botanist David Bellamy did not show up to deliver his lecture. BRICUP had sent Bellamy a letter signed by a Nobel Peace Prize winner, members of Parliament and the House of Lords, and numerous academics from Israel and the UK, urging him not to attend the “Israel: Blue White and Green” event on 9th February which the organisation accused of “greenwashing the occupation”.

Professor Jonathan Rosenhead of BRICUP wrote to all the signatories: “As yet we have had no statement from him as to his reasons for this [his non-appearance] ”¦ In the meantime it is a reasonable inference that his withdrawal is related to our letter to him asking him to do so.” Although the hall at the Institute of Education has a capacity of over 900, the audience only reached double figures. Meanwhile a lively demonstration of about 35 pro-Palestine campaigners took place outside. Protesters mobilised by BRICUP, Jews for Boycotting Israeli Goods (J-BIG) and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) handed out leaflets and displayed placards with slogans which included: “Israel Pollutes Palestinian Land”, “Israel destroys Palestinian trees”, “Israel Steals Palestinian Water” and “Israel: Blue, White and Toxic”.

Inside the hall, three leading Israeli scientists gave presentations about the importance of underground aquifers in desert regions, the impact of aerosol emissions on rainfall, and the environmental challenges facing Israel and its neighbours. Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, a BRICUP member and secretary of J-BIG who had bought a ticket for the event, said afterwards, “The explanations about how Israel uses its technology to benefit communities in developing countries were particularly galling given the gross contrast with the treatment of Palestinians, but we were not given the opportunity to point out the irony.”

During questions, a second J-BIG activist asked about Israel’s role in depleting the Mountain Aquifer which is the main source of water for Palestinians in the Occupied West Bank, effluent discharged from Israeli settlements onto occupied Palestinian land and the disastrous impact of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Strip in December 2008/Jan 2009 on sewage treatment plants and drinking water resources. He was prevented from continuing by the chair and then carried out bodily by members of the Community Security Trust (CST) and denied re-entry.

When the chair refused to allow Ms. Wimborne-Idrissi to put a question to the panel, she called on the meeting to consider Israel’s denial of fair access to water for Palestinians, as outlined in Amnesty International’s 2009 report from the Israel-Occupied Palestinian Territories. She too was physically dragged out of the meeting: “I was frog-marched up the stairs”, she said afterwards. Ms. Wimborne-Idrissi later telephoned the Institute of Education to complain about the treatment she and her fellow activist had received, and received an apology. “From the reports the IoE have received from their own staff, they seem to feel that the level of restraint used by the CST was inappropriate for the situation”, she said. The two ejected activists are now considering taking legal advice.