by Stephanie Westbrook on May 10, 2010
On Saturday, May 8 a protest organized by the “Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network”(comprised of numerous associations and committees who stand with the Palestinian struggle for freedom) was held at the entrance to Rome’s exhibition center during COSMOFARMA, a pharmaceuticals expo attended by thousands of health professionals. The Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network, which endorses the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) on the Israeli economy, aimed at raising awareness of the BDS campaign, calling on physicians, pharmacists and health workers not to purchase or prescribe products from the Israeli pharmaceutical company TEVA, the leading global manufacturer of generic drugs, or from L’Oréal, which through its substantial investments in Israel is helping to strengthen the Israeli war economy.
It is this economy, as denounced by the activists present at the Expo with Palestinian flags, banners and flyers, which continues to enrich itself through the occupation policies of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, through policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing that continue to oppress the Palestinian people, through land confiscation, military violence and the illegal siege of the Gaza Strip. All taking place with the complicit silence of international community. While the protest was taking place outside, activists entered Hall 11 of the Expo to distribute leaflets at the TEVA stand, informing and engaging attendees on the reasoning and objectives of the Boycott Campaign. For more than 15 minutes, activists of the Rome Palestinian Solidarity Network attracted the attention of thousands of visitors through chants, conversations and leafleting while waving the Palestinian flag. The protest was cut short as the police arrived, taking five activists to the police office within the fairgrounds, where they were detained for over two hours in custody, and then charged with “unauthorized demonstration.” The police confiscated a megaphone, a Palestinian flag, the t-shirts worn by the activists reading “Free Palestine” and “Boycott Israel” and the video camera used to film the action.
The BDS campaign is expanding and intensifying throughout the world, and continues to have an impact on the image of a country, Israel, which despite the occupation of Palestine and the policies of apartheid still refers to itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East”. A country that uses opportunities such as that offered by COSMOFARMA to show its more “attractive” side. The effectiveness of the BDS campaign is in its ability to unmask this unacceptable hypocrisy, and just as activists standing with the Palestinian liberation struggle were present for COSMOFARMA on Saturday, tomorrow we will continue to exert political pressure through the BDS campaign, which is beginning to produce significant results.