2012/01/03: Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

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Clarifications about the 2012 National BDS Conference

We at PennBDS would like to issue the following clarifications in response to questions raised by two recent press releases (here and here) that mischaracterize our upcoming National BDS Conference:

1. The purpose of the National BDS Conference to be held at the University of Pennsylvania on February 3-5, 2012 is education and advocacy. Like the numerous “pro-Israel” education and advocacy events that take place at Penn and across the country each year, our conference will promote a particular approach to civil society engagement with the Israel-Palestine conflict. The approach we have chosen is the non-violent, Palestinian-initiated “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) movement, which seeks to influence the policies of the Government of Israel towards the Palestinian people through a collective exercise of consumer and investor choice. Needless to say, we the organizers believe BDS to be a moral and democratic tactic for promoting a just resolution to the conflict and peace and security for Jews and Palestinians alike.

2. That said, every topic that will be raised at the conference will be open to respectful debate with time allotted for questions and responses from the audience. We welcome participants who do not support BDS or agree with the organizers’ analysis of the Israel-Palestine conflict. We also wish to emphasize that while the majority of our speakers and panelists are in favor of some form of BDS, this is not the case with all of them, and we have attempted to represent an anti-BDS position on certain panels. We also reached out to representatives of the University of Pennsylvania Hillel and to liberal pro-Israel groups like J Street to gauge their interest in participating in the conference as dissenting voices. One of these invitations is still outstanding.

3. We continue to welcome individuals from Penn Hillel or from the Philadelphia pro-Israel community to attend our conference and ask challenging and respectful questions of our speakers. No courteous voice will be suppressed. We hope the conference will be a welcoming and engaging atmosphere for everyone, regardless of one’s views on Israel or BDS. (Note: the conference entry fee we charge–now $20 for students, $25 for non-students–will go towards covering food, printing and speaker costs. None of that money will be used to launch or support BDS campaigns.)

4. PennBDS is a registered and SAC-recognized student organization at the University of Pennsylvania with around 15 active members. Our conference is solely the initiative of PennBDS members and has received no funding or substantial guidance from any outside organization. Funding for our conference derives almost entirely from individual contributions and registration fees.

5. While it is clearly stated on our website, we nonetheless reiterate that PennBDS categorically and unequivocally condemns any form of racism, including anti-Semitism. We are fundamentally an anti-racist and anti-discrimination organization that seeks to promote non-violent forms of protest against long-standing official Israeli policies that we believe deny civil, political and human rights to Palestinians based on their ethnicity. We make a clear distinction between Israeli policy and the Jewish people. Jews are well represented in the BDS movement worldwide and groups like Jewish Voice for Peace and Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace, both pro-BDS organizations, will be fielding speakers at our conference.

Any further questions can be directed to pennbds@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2014 PennBDS.