Palestine solidarity activists demonstrated outside the home of London Mayor Boris Johnson Thursday morning to protest his recent trade visit to Israel and his dismissal of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Activists dumped symbolic sacks of rubbish on Johnson’s doorstep, blocking his door. Slogans on the bin bags read “Trade with Israel stinks,” “Apartheid is rubbish” and “Bin your support for racist Israel.”
The action was in response to Johnson’s comments during a trade visit to Israel last week, when he claimed a boycott of Israel was “completely crazy.”
The Conservative mayor told reporters on 9 November: “I cannot think of anything more foolish than to say you want to have any kind of divestment or sanctions or boycott against a country that, when all is said and done, is the only democracy in the region, is the only place that has, in my view, a pluralist open society.”
He also suggested that supporters of the boycott were “a very small minority” and mostly “a bunch of corduroy-jacketed academics” with “no real standing in the matter.”
As a result, the mayor’s visit was cut short after a Palestinian women’s business forum and a youth group withdrew their invitations. The Sharek Youth Forum issued a statement noting that Johnson’s stance “fails to acknowledge our very existence as Palestinians.”
The Palestinian group said: “Following Johnson’s inaccurate, misinformed and disrespectful statement regarding the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, it is our conclusion, supported by the Palestinian youth that we represent, that he consciously denies the reality of the occupation that continues to oppress all Palestinians.
“As Palestinians and supporters of BDS, we cannot in good conscience host Johnson. In Johnson’s own words, the ‘only democracy in the region … a pluralist, open society’ is one that oppresses citizens, confiscates land, demolishes homes, detains children and violates international humanitarian and human rights law on a daily basis.”
Nasra Yousef, one of the boycott activists who doorstepped the mayor, said: “Boris’ visit to Israel last week, and his attempts to discredit the international movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions, are frankly offensive to a population that knows the reality of Israeli occupation and colonial violence. We came here today to call on Boris to end his support for the apartheid state of Israel, and use his voice to call for Israel to abide by international law. Israel’s racist policies make Palestinian lives a misery.”
Israel has recently ramped up its violence against the Palestinian people. In October, Israeli military forces injured more than 7,300 Palestinians with tear gas, rubber-coated bullets and live ammunition in the West Bank alone.
The call for BDS against Israel was launched by a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups in 2005. Ten years since the call, the movement has grown rapidly and today has widespread support from groups across the world.
Last month, more than 300 UK-based academics signed a public pledge to boycott Israeli universities.
This is not the first time Johnson has opposed the BDS movement. In February 2014 he stated that he condemned “any one-sided boycott” against “vibrant, democratic” Israel, comments which were used by Israel lobby group StandWithUs to undermine student support for a boycott at King’s College London.
Correction: this article previously misidentified the Sharek Youth Forum as the “Shaked Youth Forum.”