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August 11, 2016 3

Tunisian BDS Conference Raises Questions About Qatari Involvement

On August 4th, the Qatar-based Arab Cen­ter for Research and Pol­icy Stud­ies (ACRPS) launched a three-day aca­d­e­mic con­fer­ence in Tunisia titled “Boy­cott as a Strat­egy to Counter Israel’s Occu­pa­tion and Apartheid: Present-day Real­i­ties and Aspi­ra­tions.” The con­fer­ence served as a reminder of BDS activists’ efforts to expand their agenda and fur­ther their goal of dele­git­imiz­ing the state of Israel, but also illu­mi­nated poten­tial rifts within the movement.

Panelists at the BDS conference in Tunisia

Pan­elists at the BDS con­fer­ence in Tunisia

While ACRPS claims to be an inde­pen­dent research insti­tute, it appears to have strong ties to the Qatari gov­ern­ment. This could sug­gest that indi­vid­u­als closely affil­i­ated to the Qatari gov­ern­ment may be inter­ested in play­ing a big­ger role in advanc­ing the BDS movement.

ACRPS reg­is­tra­tion doc­u­ments list Sul­tan Ghanim Al Kuwari, a promi­nent Qatari busi­ness­man, as the founder of the Cen­ter. Report­edly, Al Kuwari, who is closely affil­i­ated with Qatar’s royal fam­ily, is also listed as the direc­tor of sev­eral Qatari inter­na­tional media out­lets. He is also described as the per­son in charge of extend­ing the reach of the Qatari soft diplo­matic power under the lead­er­ship of the Emir of Qatar. Fur­ther­more, reports from pre­vi­ous ACRPS events present the Emir of Qatar Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani as a reg­u­lar guest of honor at many of the group’s events.

The Qatari con­nec­tion could raise the hack­les of BDS activists who are skep­ti­cal of Qatar’s for­eign pol­icy posi­tions, and are con­cerned that the country’s involve­ment would trans­form the grass­roots move­ment into a ‘state brand­ing’ project. On the first day of the con­fer­ence, mem­bers of the Tunisian BDS chap­ter dis­rupted the ses­sion and protested against what they con­sider as the Qatari government’s con­nec­tion. They also protested against the direc­tor of the ACRPS, Azmi Beshara, because he served as a mem­ber of the Israeli Knes­set in the past, which the activists con­sider as an act of trea­son. An ear­lier state­ment on the offi­cial Face­book page of the Tunisian chap­ter of the BDS move­ment called fora boy­cott of the con­fer­ence because the ACRPS and the con­fer­ence itself “are spon­sored by the Qatari gov­ern­ment” which, accord­ing to the Tunisian chap­ter, is “one of the Arab gov­ern­ments most active in nor­mal­iza­tion with Israel.”

This BDS con­fer­ence was built on a series of pre­vi­ous events hosted by the ACRPS and focused on ques­tions about the objec­tives of the BDS move­ment and the role of the Arab states, émi­gré com­mu­ni­ties, and Pales­tini­ans. One speaker, Osama Abu Irshaid, the National Pol­icy Direc­tor of Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine, said “it is a must to trans­form the BDS move­ment into a sys­tem and a frame­work that will go beyond only boy­cotting cor­po­ra­tions that sup­port Israel to the de-legitimization of Israel as well.” ACRPS issued a paper sup­port­ing Irshaid’s goals.

Other speak­ers at the con­fer­ence included Max Blu­men­thal, a promi­nent anti-Israel blog­ger, Peter Slezak, the co– founder of the Australian-based Inde­pen­dent Aus­tralian Jew­ish Voices, and Richard Falk, the for­mer United Nations Spe­cial Rap­por­teur on Pales­tin­ian human rights.

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June 7, 2012 2

Anti-Israel Group Increases Outreach to High School Students

Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine (AMP), a Chicago-based anti-Israel orga­ni­za­tion, is plan­ning to host a joint con­fer­ence on “Pales­tine activism” with the High School Mus­lim Stu­dent Asso­ci­a­tion of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia (HSMSA), an inter-high school net­work of Mus­lim stu­dent organizations.

The con­fer­ence is sched­uled to take place on June 24 at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, a cen­ter for vir­u­lently anti-Israel cam­pus activ­ity in recent years. It is part of AMP’s 7th annual cam­paign to com­mem­o­rate the “Nakba,” an Ara­bic term that means “cat­a­stro­phe” and is used by Pales­tini­ans and their sup­port­ers to describe Israel’s Dec­la­ra­tion of Independence.

AMP orga­niz­ers say the con­fer­ence is designed to help “train high school, col­lege, and non-student activists on issues per­ti­nent to Pales­tine activism.” The list of speak­ers invited to “edu­cate” stu­dents on the Israeli-Palestinian con­flict include sev­eral anti-Israel activists known for their use of rhetoric to dele­git­imize Israel.

Speak­ers include Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the anti-Israel Elec­tronic Intifada blog; Taher Herza­l­lah, AMP’s National Cam­pus Coor­di­na­tor and one of the 11 stu­dents arrested for shout­ing down Israeli Ambas­sador Michael Oren dur­ing a 2010 speech at UC Irvine; and Osama Abu Irshaid, an AMP board mem­ber who has pre­vi­ously expressed sup­port for Hezbol­lah and con­spir­a­to­ri­ally alleged that the U.S. gov­ern­ment makes deci­sions based on the “influ­en­tial Jew­ish community.”

AMP tar­geted high school stu­dents ear­lier this year when it held its first high school train­ing ses­sion in Villa Park, Illi­nois. The work­shop was sim­i­larly orga­nized to the upcom­ing con­fer­ence at UC Irvine and included work­shops on sub­jects such as the Islamic sig­nif­i­cance of Pales­tine, activism, and how to uti­lize the media.

This year’s AMP Nakba cam­paign con­sists pri­mar­ily of edu­ca­tional and train­ing ses­sions designed to “raise aware­ness about the occu­pa­tion” and to “help bring jus­tice and lib­erty to the Holy Land.” These events will be held through­out the month of June across the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia region, which include the cities of Hawthorne, Corona-Narco, Ana­heim, Temec­ula, and Lomita.

AMP has increas­ingly made an effort to engage in facil­i­tat­ing stu­dent activism on col­lege cam­puses and high schools nation­wide. The impor­tance of encour­ag­ing AMP’s pres­ence among stu­dents was the cen­tral theme of the organization’s 2011 national con­fer­ence, where a num­ber of ses­sions were ded­i­cated to how stu­dents can dis­cuss the issue of Pales­tine in schools and on cam­puses. AMP’s con­certed effort to engage with stu­dents has led to increased col­lab­o­ra­tion with on cam­pus anti-Israel groups, such as Stu­dents for Jus­tice in Pales­tine (SJP).

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