THE U.S. CAMPAIGN to End the Israeli Occupation held its 6th annual national organizers' conference Sept. 7 to 10 at George Mason University's Arlington, VA campus. Around 100 delegates from 50 member groups attended to assess the current situation in Palestine, review the previous year's work, discuss and decide on future plans, and network with their affiliates. The U.S. Campaign is a nation-wide coalition of more than 200 member organizations working to change U.S. policy to work for an end to the Israeli occupation and to promote a just and lasting peace in Palestine and Israel. It aims to do this by educating, organizing, and mobilizing people in the United States.
The central theme of the conference was the growing focus on boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) aimed at ending Israeli apartheid. The talks and discussions were related to three resolutions to guide the Campaign for the following year. Conference goers agreed to organize a national anti-apartheid speaking tour; to study a national boycott campaign against Motorola for profiting from Israeli occupation; and to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Nakba (the 1948 disaster) through educational campaigns and days of action.
At the opening of the conference, Mark Lance and Amie Fishman, co-chairs of the U.S. Campaign's Steering Committee, highlighted the previous year's work. The U.S. Campaign and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) joined for a national mobilization under the theme "The World Says No to Israeli Occupation." Among the successes of the mobilization were a large mailing and advertising campaign, a June 10 rally of nearly 5,000 at the U.S. Capitol, and a successful grassroots lobbying day on Capitol Hill. During the previous year, the U.S. Campaign also formally adopted anti-apartheid as an educational framework and produced materials to that effect. It also continued developing its BDS strategy and working on grassroots advocacy, legal education, and membership outreach.
Later in the conference, Phyllis Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies made a presentation on apartheid and BDS to help frame questions for small group discussions. "Jimmy Carter's recent book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid was instrumental in introducing the concept of Israeli apartheid to thousands of readers," she said. "But Jimmy Carter was wrong in his analysis that apartheid only exists in Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Apartheid exists within the 1948 borders with Israel's treatment of its Palestinian Arab minority. Apartheid exists among the Palestinian refugees in the Arab states who cannot return to their homeland. Israel stands in violation ofthe international anti-apartheid laws. …