I’m just back from the boycott-divestment BDS conference at the University of Pennsylvania, and will have a lot to post on it in days to come. I must begin with Ali Abunimah’s keynote speech Saturday, at which he emphasized the diversity and positive tone of the conference. He spoke to a hall jammed with over 300 people from countless different backgrounds. There was a great feeling of openness in the hall. Abunimah’s report is here.
The conference went off without a hitch and if there was one thing I took away it was Max Blumenthal’s comment that pro-Israel groups had scheduled events at the same time as the conference not so much to smash the conference or counter its message as much as to keep young people from wandering into the conference and getting hooked. The crowds were so big, the mood was so positive, the ideas so uplifting, the spirit of it so large– I sensed that this movement will only be gaining more adherents in months to come.
Apres nous the deluge. It is coming. And the message is inarguable. It is about human rights, human dignity.
Helena Cobban echoes the thought in an email she shared:
This conference was, I think, a turning point for the Palestinian-rights movement in this country and marks its coming together in a clear and focused way that it never has done before. I was so proud to be a part of it.
The conference was an outstanding success! Everyone involved in organizing it– and most of us who spoke at it– have all been extremely busy; so I’m really sorry that we don’t have much more, and richer, reporting on the events out already. But expect more great reporting of the conference to come out over the coming days.
You can see the video of Ali Abunimah’s fabulous keynote address, Saturday night, here. That and Susan Abulhawa’s extremely moving and scrupulously well-documented introductory address were really the two high points of the conference.
I will get Susie Abulhawa’s speech up when I get a hold of it. Meantime, Naomi Zeveloff’s report on Abunimah’s speech in the Forward:
A prominent Palestinian rights activist said Saturday night that the recent fury around the first national conference advocating a boycott of Israel, being held at the University of Pennsylvania, signifies that the Mideast conflict is at an “end game.”
“This insane hysteria about the conference tells us something about the moment we are in,” said Ali Abunimah, a co-founder of the Electronic Intifada news site, in his keynote speech at the conference. “In terms of the battle of ideas, we are in the end game.”