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June 18, 2014 1:34 pm

For the First Time, PA Arrests BDS Activists in Ramallah

avatar by Aryeh Savir / Tazpit News Agency

A Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) protest against Israel in Melbourne, Australia, on June 5, 2010. Photo: Mohamed Ouda via Wikimedia Commons.

In an unprecedented first, the Palestinian Authority recently arrested four anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) activists in Ramallah.

The four, Zeid Shuaibi, Abdel Jawad Hamayel, Fadi Quran, and Fajr Harb, were arrested on charges of “provoking riots and the breach of public tranquility.” They had demonstrated against an Indian dance group performing in Ramallah that performed in Tel Aviv as well. The protesters accused the Indian dancers of violating the campaign for boycotting Israel, claiming that their appearance in Tel Aviv was a form of “normalization” with Israel. The incident seriously embarrassed the Palestinian Authority leadership and resulted in a decision to prosecute the four BDS activists.

The four appeared in court on May 28 to face the charges against them. However, the trial was postponed until July 14 because state witnesses, PA policemen, failed to appear in court.

Amnesty International has already called on the PA to drop the charges and has stated that it will investigate alleged police violence. “The reported treatment of the four men once in custody has undermined their right to a fair trial and raises concerns that they are being punished for their political protest,” the statement read.

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Omar Barghouti, one of the leaders of the BDS movement, said that the PA should be put on trial for bringing the four men to court. “If the four men are brought before a court, then we should prosecute the Palestinian Authority for serving the Israeli occupation’s project,” he said. “The decision to prosecute the four men was taken in collusion with the fierce Israeli campaign against the BDS.”

Journalist Khaled Abu Toameh, writing for Gatestone, said that the BDS movement is seen by the PA as trouble-makers and law-breakers. For some PA officials, BDS is a movement that acts against the true interests of the Palestinians. They say that the actions of those promoting BDS make the Palestinians appear as if they are not interested in peace and coexistence with Israel.

The Palestinian Authority is also worried that BDS is harming the Palestinians’ relations with other countries. The disturbance of the Indian dance troupe’s performance is one such example. Toameh believes that the PA move against the BDS activists shows that it considers the movement a threat to Palestinian interests.

Gilad Zwick, an analyst at MIDA, said that the Palestinians are well aware of the extent of the damage that BDS can cause them financially if the boycotters’ ambitions are fully realized. There are 14 Israeli industrial and agricultural parks in Judea and Samaria, including 788 factories and businesses, employing some 11,000 Palestinian workers, alongside 6,000 Israeli workers.

Furthermore, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, workers in industrial zones in Judea and Samaria are paid twice to three times the average Palestinian salary and also receive full social benefits as prescribed by Israeli law. In addition, Palestinian businessmen prefer the Israeli economy’s stability and comparative freedom over the corrupt PA’s economy.

Thus, according to research conducted at Al Quds University, the Palestinian volume of investments in the Israeli economy is two times higher than in the Palestinian economy. Approximately 16,000 Palestinian businessmen with entry visas into Israel choose to invest their money there. Therefore, the struggle to boycott Israel further gravely undermines the Palestinian economy, which is dependent on its neighbor. Israelis can transfer their factories elsewhere, but Palestinians will remain with nothing.

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