Letter from the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, Secretariat in support of
Letter from internationally acclaimed citizens in support of Marrickville Council
April 19 2011
Dear Marrickville councillors,
We the undersigned would firstly like to congratulate the Marrickville Council in Sydney’s Inner West, Australia for their courageous motion (dated December 14, 2010) in support of the Palestinian-led global movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law. The BDS campaign is deeply inspired by the South African anti-apartheid boycott and divestment campaign for freedom and equality. We understand the Marrickville councilors have come under immense pressure to reverse their decision. After concerted political attacks laden with misinformation about BDS and its alleged costs to the council, a vote is being held on Tuesday April 19 to attempt a reversal. As supporters of universal principles of human rights, we are writing today to appeal to all Marrickville councilors to uphold their principled motion in support of BDS.
Supporting BDS means first and foremost upholding universal human rights and the just and fair application of international law to end Israel’s occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights. It does not in any way entail or necessitate adopting sweeping boycott or divestment measures that may have a disproportionately negative economic impact on Marrickville or any other council. BDS is not a one-size-fits-all formula; its endorsers around the world converge on the rights-based approach of the Call but apply context-sensitive measures that best fit their own reality and particular circumstances. Some boycott campaigns, such as the CodePink-led “Stolen Beauty,” focus on one specific company that is implicated in Israel’s occupation or war crimes, while others, like “Derail Veolia and Alstom,” target a number of complicit institutions, companies or products.
The smear and intimidation campaign waged against the brave Marrickville motion and its supporters has neglected to mention that in 2005, an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society called upon conscientious citizens and civil society groups around the world to implement diverse, creative Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign based on the principles of human rights, justice, freedom and equality for all, irrespective of their identity . The BDS movement appeals to people around the world to heed the call until Israel withdraws from all the lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem, and removes all its colonies and walls in those lands; implements United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugees rights; and recognizes the right of its Palestinian citizens to full equality . On this last dimension, it is worth noting that the U.S. Department of State in its annual human rights reports has persistently condemned Israel’s “institutional, legal, and societal discrimination” against its Palestinian citizens.  These three demands are firmly based in international law; by supporting this movement the Marrickville Council is expressing its solid commitment to human rights locally and internationally.
In light of the hundreds of UN resolutions condemning Israel’s colonial and discriminatory policies as illegal, and considering the failure of all forms of international intervention and peace-making to oblige Israel to comply with international law, respect fundamental human rights and end its occupation and oppression of the Palestinian people, BDS has become the most urgent form of morally-consistent solidarity that can effectively further the demand for implementing Palestinian rights in accordance with international law. Marrickville Council is not alone in taking this moral stand, it has joined a long list of councils, civil society organizations, prominent artists and intellectuals around the world who have taken initiatives to hold Israel accountable similar to those used to end apartheid in South Africa .
We understand that some defenders of Israel’s occupation and racial discrimination system have argued that it would be costly and difficult for Marrickville to implement its BDS policy. This is a little more than a cynical diversion by those who wish to protect Israel from being held accountable for its gross violations of international law. BDS need not be unduly costly – councils across the world have taken action in support of Palestinian rights at little or no cost. By being focused, nuanced, and tactical, Marrickville Council can implement BDS in a way that best suits the local context in which it operates while still making an important contribution towards just peace and respect for the rule of international law.
We warmly welcome your solidarity with Palestinians struggling for their inalienable rights. We believe that the time has come to apply BDS as a minimal, non-violent, yet clearly effective form of pressure on Israel, as was done successfully in the struggle against the apartheid regime in South Africa. Please uphold your boycott policy and stand firm in your commitment to human rights.
John Berger, writer, UK
Victoria Brittain, journalist and playwright, London
Judith Butler, Professor, University of California, Berkeley
Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor and peace activist, US
Chris Hedges, award-winning American journalist and author, US
Ronnie Kasrils, former South African government minister and African National Congress executive member
Naomi Klein, author and social activist, Toronto
Paul Laverty, writer, UK
Mike Leigh OBE, Director, Palm D’Or Laureate
Ken Loach, filmmaker, UK
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Belfast
Miriam Margolyes, actress, London
Joseph Massad, Professor, Columbia University, New York
Cynthia McKinney, former Member of US Congress and 2008 Green Party Presidential Nominee
China Miéville, writer, UK
John Pilger, journalist and documentary maker
Sarah Schulman, Distinguished Professor of the Humanities, City University of New York
Clare Short, former UK government minister, London
Baroness Jenny Tonge, life peer and former UK member parliament, London
Salim Vally, lecturer, University of Johannesburg
Robin Yassin-Kassab, novelist and writer, UK
South African Municipal Workers Union
COSATU-led Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP)
 <http://www.bdsmovement.net/call> http://www.bdsmovement.net/call
 <http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/nea/154463.htm> http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2010/nea/154463.htm
On Mon, Apr 18, 2011 at 14:34, Palestinian BDS National Committee <<mailto:email@example.com>firstname.lastname@example.org<mailto:email@example.com>> wrote:
Letter of Support from the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee, Johannesburg
We, the Wits Palestine Solidarity Committee (Wits PSC), espouse and fully support the Marrickville Municipal Council in their decision to publicly endorse BDS. Please sign us on to the open letter.
The WitsPSC was formed in 2005 at the University of the Witwatersrand (Johannesburg). We are a secular student initiative in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle – one that in many ways resembles our own struggle against Apartheid in South Africa.
“I would love it if you could add my name to your open letter, am an Israeli/Jew who lives in Toronto and support wholeheartedly BDS. It’s one of the only non violent ways to change the unbearable occupation which Palestinians are living under. Please let me know if there is anything else I could help with and lots of good luck with it all,
Smadar Carmon, Toronto, Canada.”
Worldwide, the recognition of the repression of the Palestinians and Israels arrogance is being exposed. It takes a very special citizen who will stand against abuses suffered by people in a remote country, and Australia needs to value very highly its citizens and councillors who choose to live an ethical existence and stand up against these abuses, at the risk of beign labelled anti-semitic, a label used conveniently to prevent any discussion on this matter.
Rubinah Chowdhary UK
As an American Jew who has done human rights work in Palestine, I support any efforts to Boycott, Divest & Sanction Israel. It’s outrageous that your local Council has been harrassed since making a conscientious decision to endorse BDS.
Paula Silbey, Women in Black, International Women’s Peace Service Volunteer
Please convey my support to Marrickville Council. It is necessary to stand in solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians. It is necessary to stand up to those who would silence our voices of solidarity. I live in Toronto, Canada. Six years ago, a public employees union — CUPE-Ontario — passed a resolution in support of the BDS call issued by Palestinian civil society organizations. CUPE-Ontario faced a firestorm of abuse, denunciation, and calumny. The community stood steadfast in solidarity with this democratically-decided expression of solidarity. Steadfastness has paid off. Major cultural figures are coming on board. Most recently, the iconic American folk singer, Pete Seeger. This week, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. The false accusation of “anti-semitism” has been exposed as the manipulative lie that it was meant to be.
Even Israeli diplomats are breaking down under the pressure of the false positions that they are being asked to defend.
(http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4036889,00.html) I salute the brave and principled stand taken by the members of Marrickville Council. Solidarity with the Palestinians oppressed by Israel is an affirmation of our common humanity, part of our struggle for a better, freer, more just world.
Henry Lowi, Toronto, Canada
I strongly support Marrickville Council’s decision to support the call by Palestinian civil society for people to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel until such time as it abides by international humanitarian law and ends its discriminatory practices against the indigenous people of Palestine .
Anne Clinton, Co. Limerick Ireland.
We heard about the Marrickville BDS initiative and we are thrilled. I am a member of Holy Land Awareness and Action task group, which is related to the United Church of Canada. (We are part of Toronto’s SW Presbytery, which in part of the largest of the UCC’s 13 conferences.) Our church has had a long history of working for justice through BDS (see the attached article); in fact, we were the first faith-based group in the world, we believe, to vote for boycott and divestment of Israel as a way to work for a just peace. We are in the process of putting together a new campaign for boycott and divestment ourselves; we believe that it is the only ethical action that we can take in the face of the criminal treatment of Palestinians — and of our own country’s complicity.
Karin Brothers, Toronto ON M5R 2R6 Canada