Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm Thankful for Campus BDS Organizers

I spent last weekend at Hampshire Students for Justice in Palestine's national campus boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) conference and it made me realize how grateful I am for all of the amazing work done by Hampshire SJP and other campus groups across the country.
The Hampshire conference attracted representatives from about 50 colleges and universities across the U.S. and Canada. While less than a third of these campuses had active BDS campaigns before the conference, at least two thirds of conference attendees committed to launching campaigns after returning home from the conference.
Students and veteran activists participated in panel discussions, cultural presentations, and skill building workshops on a number of topics related to BDS. Conference participants were exposed to ideas about what "forgiveness" means during Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni's presentation and what identity has to do with activism in Palestinian-American poet Remi Kanazi's performance. Trainings in everything from media relations to legal issues around BDS to the role of anti-racism in our campaigns equipped conference participants not only to take on the technical aspects of BDS campaigning, but also the equally important public education components of successful campaigns. The conference also offered an important opportunity to network and share information. Some of the resources that conference participants had the opportunity to take advantage of include Divest Now!, the US Campaign's student divestment handbook, and our other divestment resources, which you can download from our website.
The Hampshire BDS conference both inspired and overwhelmed me. I know that the campaigns sprouting from the fertile ground of the Hampshire conference will bear fruit. I know they will be successful because of the wealth of resources and veteran activists willing to be mentors that was offered up throughout the conference. I know that we will be successful because we are already ahead of the curve when comparing how quickly BDS campaigns to hold Israel accountable have spread in relation to similar campaigns to end South Africa's apartheid regime. I know all of this most of all because of the dedication shown by students participating in the conference. This dedication was apparent not only from the organizers based at Hampshire College, but also from presenters hailing from campuses across the country.
This Thanksgiving, I am thankful to all of the Hampshire conference organizers and participants for enriching my experience and motivating me to move forward on the US Campaign's BDS work with even more gusto than before. I also encourage everyone to check out Hampshire College Students for Justice in Palestine's website for updates, including PowerPoint presentations used during conference workshops, resources distributed to conference participants, and videos of the plenary sessions.