'Boycott Israel' campaign stirs controversy [pg. 6]

Participants will be given information on how to volunteer to support "Palestinian non-violent resistance to the occupation."

Boycotting Israel will be the theme of a Georgetown University conference this weekend. The Palestinian Solidarity Movement, the group organizing the conference, contends that boycotting Israel is "a moral imperative." They argue, "Israel must be characterized as a pariah state." Participants will be given information on how to volunteer to support "Palestinian non-violent resistance to the occupation." The PSM says in its how-to guide to divestment that: "The ultimate goal of a successful divestment campaign...is to cause the isolation of the racist state economically, socially, culturally and diplomatically in the international arena." Confirmed to speak is Sue Blackwell, a British academic who led the Association of University Teachers attempt to boycott Israeli academic institutions last year. The program has drawn strong reactions from some quarters of the American Jewish community. "Georgetown should refuse to host this conference that promotes the hatred of Israel and Jews," said Zionist Organization of America's (ZOA) President Morton Klein. He called on Georgetown to "show that it is not connected or associated with those who hate and seek to harm Jews and the State of Israel." The ZOA said the conference could be in breach of US federal anti-boycott legislation that forbids US firms from boycotting Israel. "By promoting foreign boycott campaigns against Israel and providing information about companies to boycott because of their relationship with Israel, the PSM's conduct seems to fall squarely within the prohibitions of the law," said the ZOA's Center for Law and Justice Director Susan Tuchman. The PSM has threatened to sue its critics in the media for libel. "The PSM is currently documenting libelous statements propagated over the Internet and through the press for the purpose of taking legal action," said the PSM in a statement. "An attorney has been consulted and will be filing suit in due time." The Georgetown conference "will focus primarily upon skills-training for emerging divestment activists and campaign development," said the PSM. In order to be successful, says the PSM, "the divestment from Israel campaign must focus on addressing the deep-rooted issues of Israel's racism and ethno-religious centricity rather than debating facts on the ground that can prove illusive when one attempts to build a case around them." Georgetown officials have upheld the right the PSM to hold the conference but have rejected boycott calls. "Georgetown University does not use its endowment portfolio to pressure governments or create political or social action," said the university.