One participant called it a sign that the Palestinian minority was slowly emerging from the law’s “reign of terror”.
The dangers of promoting BDS inside Israel were highlighted by the difficulties of finding a venue. A private cinema in Nazareth agreed to host the event after several public venues in Haifa backed out, apparently fearful that they risked being punished by the Israeli government.
The question of how feasible it is for Israel’s 1.6 million Palestinian citizens to promote BDS was high on the conference agenda, with speakers addressing issues of legality and strategy.
In a sign of a tentative shift towards political support for BDS by the Palestinian leadership in Israel, the opening statement was made by Mohammed Barakeh, head of the High Follow-Up Committee, an umbrella body representing all the political factions.
Barakeh said BDS was “an important form of solidarity with Palestinians” and was causing increasing panic among the Israeli leadership.
He said there was a link between “support for BDS and our survival in the current conditions” of rising Israeli racism, the killing of Palestinians by security forces, the expansion of the settlements and entrenchment of the occupation.
He noted arguments, echoing those of apartheid’s supporters in South Africa, that BDS would chiefly hurt Palestinian workers. “The anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa had a simple retort: ‘Apartheid hurts us more’.