We are students of your school who have hereby signed this letter. We ask for your permission to give us the chance to express our point of view concerning a very crucial and important subject which is our campaign for Boycotting Israeli products. We ask that our school supports our campaign by also boycotting all Israeli products.
By doing so, we hope that we can help to put an end to dominance and Occupation and to have our Palestine full of development, prosperity, and above all, freedom.”
The above text is part of a letter written by a group of children from Lajee Center, a group of children who are employing strategic tactics to defend their rights and their country. Whilst bombs were being rained down on Gaza, these 14 and 15 year old children decided they must work together in defence of Palestinian rights. They decided that active participation in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign against Israel (BDS) was the path they must follow.
The Headmaster of the UN Basic Boys School in Aida Camp, Mr Ahmad Swaylem, had already over 12 months previously taken the decision to ban Israeli products from his school, but he received the request from his students with pleasure and respect and applauded them for their stance.
The letter was then taken by students from the UN Basic Girls School in Aida to their headmistress, before other children who attend schools outside of the camp followed this lead. The children of Aida Camp were taking a moral and principled stand…
The first week in March was marked as “Israeli Apartheid Week” both in Palestine and internationally, and saw Lajee”s children continue to work proactively in defence of their rights. Over the past year, 20 children have been participating in a course implemented by Lajee volunteer and Human Rights expert Amal Abu Srour studying refugee history, rights, and law, as part of a national project being implemented by BADIL – Resource Centre for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights. Amal is passionate and dedicated in her work and in her beliefs for the necessity of such projects in Palestine:
“We need to build a new generation who know about Palestine, our history, and refugee rights. We are also talking about solutions and ways forward to create a free Palestine, such as through boycotts. By boycotting Israeli products we can build the Palestinian economy and we can help employees build factories. We can work to stop Israel violating Human Rights and Palestinian Rights. When Israel reaches a stage that the Israeli economy is really suffering they will begin to think about this. If we buy Israeli products we are supporting the building of settlements, the colonisation of Palestine, and the weapons Israel uses against us.”
One week previously the project participants successfully completed this course and on March 3rd they invited their parents and assorted guests to a graduation ceremony at Lajee, although the event was of wider significance than just presentation of certificates of graduation. Lajee”s children decided that the graduation ceremony was an ideal opportunity to stage their event as part of “Israeli Apartheid Week”, and they did so with gusto.
The reception at Lajee was filled with tables laden with an array of Palestinian products generously donated to the event by the Al-Juneidi Company from Hebron and Sinokrot Company from Ramallah; chocolates, biscuits, and a range of juices were all available for guests. The 70 chairs laid out in Lajee”s activities hall proved vastly insufficient to host the hoards of guests who arrived for the 3pm start including a small number of welcome internationals. Extra chairs were swiftly crammed into the hall, and once these were filled people began to stand in any available space they could find.
Each of the 20 project participants made a short presentation about a particular issue relating to their rights. Several project participants spoke about their original villages, the contemporary realities in their villages, and their inalienable “Right of Return”. Shoruk spoke passionately about the Al Quds neighbourhood of Silwan in which 88 houses have recently been issued demolition orders by the Israeli authorities who continue their practices of ethnic cleansing that began well over 60 years ago in Palestine. A short play was performed by a group of children keen to demonstrate the needs and practice of boycotting Israeli products, and short films were shown that had been made about the project accompanied by traditional music. The range of styles incorporated into the event including film, theatre, music, and oral presentation highlighted the progressive methods of education that Lajee practices, as Amal explained:
“These issues aren”t studied in school so it is very important to study this although not necessarily in a traditional way. We are looking for contemporary and creative methods such as through art, acting, discussions about feelings, and interviews with the children”s grandparents to talk about life in the villages.”
Nahed Freij from the NGO “Intajona” (“Our Products”) gave a rousing and passionate speech about the necessity to build the Palestinian economy and labour force whilst boycotting Israel, and also the responsibilities of both consumers and traders to follow this route.
Following the various presentations each project participant was presented with a certificate for their successful completion of the 12 month course, participants and guests then enjoyed sampling the delicious assortment of Palestinian products supplied by Al-Juneidi and Sinokrot.
The BDS campaign is developing strongly around the world, and on the ground in Palestine the recent massacres in Gaza saw many people take up the call who previously had been reluctant. Lajee Center signed up to the original call for BDS several years ago but not all members initially saw the value in this action, Mohammad is another Lajee Center volunteer who although at first reluctant now fully participates in boycott:
“In the past I heard about boycott and that it was important but personally I wasn”t involved. When the war in Gaza started I saw on the TV the Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces and I felt that when I eat Israeli products I pay for the bullets which kill my people. I saw a photograph of a dead child in Gaza, when I looked at him he was smiling with open eyes and he looked so strong. It seemed the bullets didn”t kill him, he was like stone, he was smiling and I felt that this was the spirit of Palestinian resistance. I felt then that I had bought products the profits of which bought the bullets that killed him…”
Lajee Center would like to express our solidarity and thanks to the Al-Juneidi and Sinokrot companies, BADIL, Nahed Freij and all at “Intajona”, and all guests who attended this event. We would also like to express our support to all people of the world who partake in BDS, and to those who don”t we would like to ask you to think again before supporting the actions of Israeli colonisation, Occupation, and denial of Human Rights: “Boycott Israel and Support the Struggle for Justice”.