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PACBI-Boycott YaLa-Young Leaders Group and Its Online Normalization Conferences

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25 May 2014

Boycott YaLa-Young Leaders Group and Its Online Normalization Conferences

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), a member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee (BNC) in Palestine, wishes to clarify that the YaLa – Young Leaders Group is a normalization initiative [1] that conflicts with the BDS guidelines related to the cultural boycott of Israel [2].  The Group intends to hold an online conference on Sunday May 25th [3] in which young people from across the Middle East will take part, in violation of the BDS guidelines.   

Yala-Young Leaders not only avoids any mention of the Israeli occupation and denial of basic Palestinian rights as the root causes of the current colonial conflict; it obscures the glaring moral, legal and political differences in this oppressor-oppressed relationship.  Yala-Young Leaders therefore works in the model of co-existence under oppression rather than “co-resistance” to end oppression.  Such normalization projects, while purporting to further some abstract notion of “peace,” in fact pursue an agenda of pacification that is harmful to the realization of a just peace based on realizing comprehensive Palestinian rights under international law.  In other words, rather than end injustice or bring about “peace”, such projects are founded, supported, and promoted by Israelis as another way to pacify the Palestinian and Arab population. The almost complete absence of Palestinian voices in the Yala Academy advisory committee is one indication of who is steering the development of some projects of Yala-Young Leaders [4].
Furthermore, the group’s website notes that the aim of the youth is to fight for social justice across the Middle East. No policies of Israeli occupation, apartheid or colonialism are mentioned or held accountable:   
From the Yasmin and Tahrir revolutions, the struggles in Syria, Libya and Yemen, the struggle for social justice in Israel, the MENA youth has shown its ability to mobilize for greater freedom and equality. With 350,000+ members, YaLa aims to forge the connection between these revolutions and to empower the young people of the Middle East and North Africa to lead the region towards peaceful coexistence based on equality, security, prosperity and social openness [5].
YaLa-Young Leaders collaborates with the Peres Center for Peace [6], another indication of its normalization agenda and logic.  An Israeli writer described this center best when he wrote:
In the activity of the Peres Center for Peace there is no evident effort being made to change the political and socioeconomic status quo in the occupied territories, but just the opposite: Efforts are being made to train the Palestinian population to accept its inferiority and prepare it to survive under the arbitrary constraints imposed by Israel, to guarantee the ethnic superiority of the Jews. With patronizing colonialism, the center presents an olive grower who is discovering the advantages of cooperative marketing; a pediatrician who is receiving professional training in Israeli hospitals; and a Palestinian importer who is learning the secrets of transporting merchandise via Israeli ports, which are famous for their efficiency; and of course soccer competitions and joint orchestras of Israelis and Palestinians, which paint a false picture of coexistence. [7]
To put our objections to YaLa-Young Leaders online conference and similar ventures in perspective, we refer to the PACBI guidelines for the academic and cultural boycott [8] dealing specifically with joint Palestinian-Israeli projects.  According to these guidelines, cultural events and projects involving Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis that promote “balance” between the “two sides” in presenting their respective narratives, as if on par, or are otherwise based on the false premise that the colonizers and the colonized, the oppressors and the oppressed, are equally responsible for the “conflict,” are intentionally deceptive, intellectually dishonest and morally reprehensible.  Such events and projects, often seeking to encourage dialogue or “reconciliation between the two sides” without addressing the requirements of justice, promote the normalization of oppression and injustice.  All such events and projects that bring Palestinians and/or Arabs and Israelis together, unless the Israeli side is explicitly supportive of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people and unless the project/event is framed within the explicit context of joint opposition to occupation and other forms of Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, are strong candidates for boycott.  Other factors that PACBI takes into consideration in evaluating such events and projects are the sources of funding, the design of the program, the objectives of the sponsoring organization(s), the participants, and similar relevant factors.
The BDS movement seeks to reclaim the autonomy and dignity of Palestinians by ensuring that their voices can reach without the political condition of collaborating with Israelis.  It views joint struggle between Palestinians and conscientious Israelis on the basis of recognition of Palestinian rights under international law as the only normal mode of working with any Israelis, given the situation of oppression that exists [9].  
At a time when the BDS movement is growing around the world, we urge activists not to participate in the activities of this group, particularly its online conference, or promote such joint projects that undermine our common struggle for freedom, justice and equality.
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
[7] Meron Benvenisti, A monument to a lost time and lost hopes, Haaretz, 30 October 2008.

Posted on 25-05-2014

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