While in South Africa this week for the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas stunned reporters and Palestinian activists alike when he stated that the Palestinians do not support a boycott of Israel.
Abbas did advocate boycotting Israeli products made in the West Bank, on territory that the Palestinians envision as part of their future state.
“No, we do not support the boycott of Israel,” the Palestinian leader told a group of South African reporters on Monday. “But we ask everyone to boycott the products of the settlements. Because the settlements are in our territories. It is illegal.
“And the Israelis should first of all stop building in our territories, should stop everything in our territories,” he stated, according to South African media outlet The Star.
“But we do not ask anyone to boycott Israel itself,” he reiterated. “We have relations with Israel, we have mutual recognition of Israel.”
His comments drew condemnation from some Palestinian activists, who said Abbas was out of touch with the Palestinian people.
The PA president’s comments conflict “with the Palestinian national consensus that has strongly supported BDS against Israel since 2005,” one of the founders of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Omar Barghouti, told the Electronic Intifada website.
“There is no Palestinian political party, trade union, NGO network or mass organization that does not strongly support BDS. Any Palestinian official who lacks a democratic mandate and any real public support, therefore, cannot claim to speak on behalf of the Palestinian people when it comes to deciding our strategies of resistance to Israel’s regime of occupation, colonization and apartheid,” Barghouti said.
The BDS movement calls for blanket boycotts of Israel, not just Israeli settlements, with the stated goal of ending the Israeli occupation of Arab lands and granting a right of return to all Palestinian refugees.
“Any Palestinian official who today explicitly speaks against boycotting Israel — particularly in a country like South Africa, where the ruling party, leading trade unions, churches and other civil society groups have warmly endorsed BDS — only shows how aloof he is from his own people’s aspirations for freedom, justice and equality, and how oblivious he is to our struggle for their inalienable rights,” Barghouti added.