Israel boycott in the spotlight as Tunisia conference opens

Israel boycott in the spotlight as Tunisia conference opens
Organisers reject claims conference indicates official Qatari bid to isolate Israel.
3 min read
04 August, 2016
The boycott campaign has found support - and critics - around the world [Getty]

A leading Arab think-tank has hit back at what it has called "far-fetched assumptions" in the British media over its organising of a conference studying the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies has rejected insinuations made by the conservative-leaning Daily Telegraph newspaper that its conference, which opens today in the Tunisian resort town of Hammamet, represents an effort by the Qatari state to isolate Israel on the global stage.

The Doha-based institute's conference itself, Boycott as a Strategy against Israeli Occupation and Apartheid: Present-day Realities and Aspirations aims to study parallels between the emerging Israeli boycott movement and past campaigns against apartheid South Africa.

"We believe that social and political scientists should not remain neutral in addressing and studying human rights, democracy, self-determination and racial separation issues," writes the centre's Mohammad Almasri in a letter to the Telegraph's editor, seen by The New Arab.

"We maintain our academic independence and integrity by not adopting or representing any government's perspective."

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With its roots in Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, the BDS campaign describes itself as a global movement of citizens that advocates for non-violent boycotts, divestment and sanctions as a means to increase pressure on the Israeli government to end its military occupation of Palestinian land, and the removal of "colonialist" settlements in the occupied territories - deemed illegal under international law.

Read more: Tunisia to host key BDS event

The group calls for divestment initiatives and sanctions against Israel until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law, and has been endorsed by more than 170 Palestinian political parties, NGOs and trade unions, representing Palestinians in the occupied territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinian refugees in the global diaspora.

"This growing movement allows the Palestinians to take the reins of their national struggle, and to rebuild alliances with progressive forces around the world," states the conference's background paper.

The Israeli government, the target of the campaign, says the movement aims to "demonise" and "delegitimise" Israel within the international community. A request for comment from the government had not received a reply by time of publication.

The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, which fiercely defends its independence, was established in 2010, and has since published more than 150 academic titles and organised conferences in the Gulf state and across the Arab world - covering topics including democratic transition, human rights, authoritarianism, sectarianism, and Middle East relations with the rest of the world.