As Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian lands grinds on, economics and commerce are becoming new battle lines, an embargo being the latest weapon of resistance for Gaza and the West Bank.
A small demonstration in the Palestinian city of Ramallah in March 2015 might not have seemed like much – with a symbolic mound of Israeli-sourced groceries being dumped in the street – but it marked the moment when Palestinians began to officially boycott Israeli products for the first time in two decades.
The idea of a boycott is not new, of course. For over ten years activists around the world have been urging an embargo of Israeli and foreign companies which profit from the occupation. But the ferocity of last summer’s Israeli assault on Gaza, which attracted widespread international condemnation, has helped galvanise the movement known as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). The BDS campaign is internationally supported and wants to emulate the success of the comprehensive international embargo that helped end apartheid in South Africa.
For the campaign to have that degree of impact both supporters and sceptics in the international community have to be convinced that collective economic pressure will bring results. With the Israelis so implacable that clearly is not going to happen overnight, but BDS has always appreciated the importance of Palestinians themselves participating in any embargo; even if – as filmmakers Mariam Shahin and George Azar found out for People & Power – their capacity to take part has long since been limited by the very occupation they want brought to an end.