Monday, November 29th marked UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People – while in France, it marked the trial of 12 Palestine solidarity activists for promoting the boycott of Israeli goods. In 2007, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) adopted a resolution that, among other determinations, urged divestment from Israel and boycott of all Israeli products, commercial services and travel to Israel except travel to engage in human rights or other solidarity work, fact-finding, and solidarity delegations. The NLG has been working actively to implement its 2007 resolution.
We take this occasion not only to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in its struggle for self determination, justice and equality, but also to express our solidarity with the French Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activists who are currently facing criminal prosecution on charges of “incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence.” The prosecution of activists promoting the boycott of Israeli products is a cynical attempt by the French government to confuse opposition to the policies of Israel, a state practicing occupation and apartheid, with “hate” and “discrimination” against an ethnic or religious group. The global BDS movement, and the 2005 Palestinian call for BDS, are unambiguously opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Their shared goals include ending Israel’s occupation and legalized racial discrimination.
The National Lawyers Guild urges the French government to immediately cease prosecuting French activists who promote or engage in non-violent boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns against Israel until it complies with international law. Rather than prosecute BDS activists for standing up for the universal principles of human rights, the French government, the largest supplier in the EU of military equipment to Israel, should itself comply with international law by ceasing its militarily support of Israel’s unlawful regime of occupation over the Palestinian people. When governments fail to take positive action to protect human rights, it is incumbent upon civil society to do so.
We are astounded that the French state would bring criminal charges against individuals for exercising their basic democratic right to voice support for and act non-violently on behalf of Palestinian rights. In response to appeals by French activist groups, we join others in the global BDS movement and civil society in general in supporting the French BDS movement. We are convinced that such solidarity is an effective form of resistance against state repression wherever it occurs.
Moreover, we urge the governments of France and the US to utilize the occasion of the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People to condemn Israel’s systematic violation of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including through its denial of equal rights to and its institutionalised racism against its Palestinian citizens, its continued illegal occupation of territory acquired by force and expansion of its colonial enterprise, and the protracted denial of the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties.
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.
12 French activists appeared in court on November 29 to defend against charges of “incitement to discrimination, hatred or violence” for promoting the boycott of Israel. The Palestinian Boycott National Committee has more here on the issue: