The Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement has come to Egypt. Finally, some would say, about the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with Israel. The 2005 call by over 170 Palestinian civil organizations to create a global movement urging various forms of boycott against Israel until it upholds its obligations to international law. The official BDS movement website (www.bdsmovement.net) states these obligations as follows:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;
3. and Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
With countries across Europe, North America, South America, and Africa answering the boycott call, the Arab region is still lagging far behind. Drawing on the anti-apartheid boycott movement in South Africa, the BDS idea is starting to transform the Arab mentalities, however, and bring about a refocusing on the real and tangible issues in the Middle East and its long history of Arab-Israeli strife.
Jordan, Morocco, Qatar and Kuwait have all established BDS movements, and Egypt is now the fifth Arab country to do so.
Starting to formally organize about five months ago, a coalition of eleven political parties, four revolutionary movements, six unions, six student movements, and a large number of individuals, came together to start up the BDS Egypt movement.
Speaking to Ramy Shaath, a founding member of the BDS Egypt movement and member of the Gabhet Sowar political party, he told al-Araby al-Jadeed that the launch aims to achieve two main points: to explain to the public who they are and what they're doing, and to explain to Egyptians how this boycott movement is different from the other types of boycott movements which have existed in Egypt's history.
With the establishment of the state of Israel, almost all Arab countries formally refused to either recognize or naturalize relations with the new state in their midst. However, things quickly changed after the 1978 Camp David Accords were signed between Anwar al Sadat and Menachem Begin, which effectively ended all formal boycotts by Egyptian authorities and encouraged a naturalized relationship between the two countries.
With the additional signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995, Arab regimes soon took to not only removing all formal boycotting of Israel, but also promoted peaceful cooperation – much to the dismay of many of their populations.
Formed almost primarily of politically leftist parties and movements, the BDS Egypt movement will officially launch on April 20th at the Syndicate of Journalists in Cairo. It will be an event open to the public, in which the intellectual framework of the movement will be discussed and future activities and campaigns announced.
Shaath explained that one of the most difficult challenges the group was faced with was the state of political polarization which makes it difficult to create strong coalitions around any one topic.
While Egypt can be coined a classic police state at the moment, the various political parties and movements involved were able to cross over this chasm to come together around one topic. However, Shaath still has his concerns: "We're still in our initial launch phase, but I know that once we start our activities and campaigns, we will have to face the security restrictions and political repression."
His team will face not only challenges from the Cairo regime, but will also have to convince the Egyptian people that their BDS movement is not only a show of support for the Palestinian cause, but that it is also in the interest of Egypt's national security - no small feat within the heated framework of the nation's ongoing systematic smear campaign against Palestinians in Gaza.
Shaath noted, "We will empower and enable individuals to boycott on a large scale directly. The movement will show the Egyptian public that not only is a boycott of Israel a conscientious and necessary idea, but that it is doable, and that we can successfully achieve it."
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.
Posted on 16-05-2015