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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Under pressure, PLO tries to limit damage from Abbas attack on Israel boycott

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US Secretary of State John Kerry (center) shakes hands with PA leader Mahmud Abbas (right) and Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jordan on 26 May 2013.

(Thaer Ganaim / APA images)

Rocked by criticism from Palestinian and international activists, the Palestinian Authority (PA) has backed away from comments made by its de facto leader Mahmoud Abbas repudiating the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

In South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s memorial earlier this month, Abbas said, “No we do not support the boycott of Israel.”

Contrary to the position of the Boycott National Committee – the steering committee of the BDS campaign – Abbas said that any boycott initiatives should be limited only to goods made in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas’ comments were rejected by BDS campaign co-founder Omar Barghouti, speaking in his personal capacity to The Electronic Intifada. The Palestine Solidarity Committee in South Africa said that Abbas’ statements were “shocking” and represented an “attack on the global solidarity movement.”

They were, by contrast, welcomed by Israel advocates keen to undermine and discredit BDS.

PLO Embassy statement

But today, in a joint statement with the campaign group BDS South Africa, the Palestine Liberation Organization embassy in Pretoria, which is loyal to Abbas’ de facto regime, attempted to quiet the furore.

The statement reaffirms the Abbas regime’s call for boycott specifically of settlement goods but adds:

The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine is not opposed to the Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Palestinian officials and leaders respect and uphold the right of Palestinian civil society to initiate and lead local and global BDS campaigns against Israel as a means to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, paramount among which the right to self determination. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership has always deeply appreciated the efforts of international solidarity groups and activists in South Africa and elsewhere, including those involved in the global BDS movement, to uphold international law and universal principles of human rights in supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination. We are keenly cognisant that international solidarity, particularly boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was one of the four pillars of the struggle against apartheid here in South Africa.

The statement does not read as an endorsement of the BDS campaign but specifically aims to counter Israeli propagandists’ efforts to use Abbas’ statements against the solidarity movement.

The joint statement also welcomes “the academic boycott resolution adopted by the American Studies Association [ASA]” as well as various other recent international decisions to boycott specifically settlement-connected activities.

The ASA resolution, notably, does not limit its boycott call only to Israeli institutions within the occupied West Bank.

Moreover, the fact that the Abbas-run PA felt it necessary to issue such a statement demonstrates its political weakness in the face of the growing Palestinian and international support for the BDS campaign.

It should be seen as a clear message to international solidarity activists that the PA cannot stand in the way of or undermine their efforts.

Outbursts

From the perspective of Abbas, the controversy should also be seen in the context of similar damage control efforts following earlier outbursts expressing positions inimical to Palestinian rights and the struggle to achieve them.

Last year, Abbas stoked widespread outrage among Palestinians when he told Israeli television that he renounced the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes.

In subsequent “clarifications,” Abbas attempted to limit the damage and embarrassment and blamed the media for “distorting” his comments.

But the substance of his follow-up statements did not back away from his long-standing willingness to accede to Israeli demands that the vast majority of Palestinians should be permanently excluded from their homeland on the purely racist grounds that they are not Jews.

Similarly, today’s statement should be seen as a sign that the PA understands that it cannot impose its unpopular views on Palestinian civil society. But it does not mean it has renounced such views entirely.

Statement

JOINT STATEMENT FROM “THE EMBASSY OF THE STATE OF PALESTINE TO THE REPUBLIC OF SOUTH AFRICA” AND “BDS SOUTH AFRICA”

Clarification regarding comments made by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas whilst in South Africa on boycott of Israeli settlements and products

Recent comments made in South Africa by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas (and Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation), regarding the boycott of Israeli settlements and products, seem to have been taken out of context and misconstrued by some members of the media and members of the Israeli lobby. Some journalists and Israeli lobbyists have reported that President Abbas, at a South African press conference, said that he is opposed to the international boycott. This is untrue. The Embassy of the State of Palestine to South Africa and BDS South Africa would like to confirm the following positions:

(1) We, together with international bodies including the United Nations, consider the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 illegal and all activities with those settlements in violation of international law;

(2) Israel’s settler colonies violate several UN resolutions and are continue to be the main obstacle to the peace processes;

(3) With the view that the Israeli settlements are illegitimate and an obstruction to a just peace, the Palestinian Authority has accordingly initiated an official boycott of all Israeli settlement products in the occupied Palestinian territory;

(4) In 2010 the Palestinian Authority issued a law, signed by President Mahmoud Abbas, banning Israel’s illegal settlement products, companies, relations and other activities with such illegal entities built in the occupied Palestinian territories occupied in 1967;

(5) The Palestine Liberation Organisation and the State of Palestine is not opposed to the Palestinian civil society-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. Palestinian officials and leaders respect and uphold the right of Palestinian civil society to initiate and lead local and global BDS campaigns against Israel as a means to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, paramount among which the right to self determination. Furthermore, the Palestinian leadership has always deeply appreciated the efforts of international solidarity groups and activists in South Africa and elsewhere, including those involved in the global BDS movement, to uphold international law and universal principles of human rights in supporting the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination. We are keenly cognisant that international solidarity, particularly boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) was one of the four pillars of the struggle against apartheid here in South Africa.

(6) Last year in December 2012, a representative member of the PLO in his speech at the African National Congress (ANC) said: “The [international arm of the] South African struggle began with the boycott campaign of South African grapes and wine, likewise, the illegal Israeli settlements can be defeated by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)”. On the 14th of December Fatah (the organisation leading the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority) wrote an official letter to the South African President, Jacob Zuma, and members of the ANC communicating that “Fatah stands fully behind the BDS movement.”

(7) Whilst the BDS movement is concentrated within civil-society, at a government level, the State of Palestine is calling on all countries to fulfill their obligations under international law by immediately, as a first step, ending all trade and relations with companies from or involved in the illegal Israeli settlements.

(8) We welcome the recent decision by the European Union to ban financial relations with Israeli entities operating in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied 1967 Palestinian territories; the UK government’s recent instruction that no business must operate in East Jerusalem and in any activities related to the illegal Israeli settlements; the academic boycott resolution adopted by the American Studies Association; and the decision last week of the Dutch Water Authority, Vitens, to ends its relations with the Israeli state-operated water company, Mekorot, complicit in the illegal Israeli settlements.

The Palestinian people will overcome, if Nelson Mandela and the South African people defeated apartheid, the Palestinians too will defeat the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

Comments

Abu Mazen, you will see; Palestine will be free!!!

No wonder that the majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas over Abbas and his collaborator kin; no wonder that the US and Israel demonize Hamas, the democratically elected representative head of the government of Palestine, because they can't buy off Hamas. Any peace negotiations are going to have to include Hamas, or the negotiations will never be legitimate.
Abbas: what a poor excuse for a Palestinian.