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Activists voice support for BDS movement

The Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement spreads through Vancouver

Itrath Syed talks with audience members on-stage after the Roger Waters by-donation event on Oct. 26 at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church. Photo by Myra Dionne
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Reported by Myra Dionne

Roger Waters, former Pink Floyd bassist, clarified his support for the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions movement against Israel at St. Andrew’s-Wesley United Church last week, as roughly two dozen protesters called for the end of the controversial campaign.

Reaching the last days of his North American tour, Waters sat down before an audience of roughly 1,000 with Langara College instructor Itrath Syed and Martha Roth, of Independent Jewish Voices, for an interview in downtown Vancouver on Oct. 26.

Highlighting the oppressed

By supporting BDS, Waters said he wants to shine a light on the Israeli and United States governments which, he claimed, legitimize oppression of Israel’s Palestinian population, denying them basic human rights and subjecting them to colonization.

“Lots of people will deny that’s what the fighting’s all about,” Waters said. “They believe it’s about religion or extremism or something. It’s not. It’s about having stuff and not having stuff.”

The BDS campaign, launched in 2005 by Palestinian civil groups, has been accused of anti-Semitism by Jewish organizations the world over. Aidan Fishman, the interim national director of human rights for B’nai Brith Canada, said the BDS movement is hypocritical because it is based on nationality, which also violates human rights, but then portrays Israel as the only violator of these rights.

“It’s very hard to see how a productive way to end the conflict could be totally excommunicating and not talking to one side of it,” Fishman said. “It’s hard to imagine how that could possibly make things better.”

Activism sparks conversation

For Rabbi David Mivasair, activist with the Centre for Jewish Nonviolence, the movement is economic in nature and a last resort.

“After years of negotiations, elections, violent military revolt bombs on busses, they have come
up with this tactic,” Mivasair said. “It’s just a tactic of asking people around the world to boycott, divest, sanction certain parts of the Israeli economy in order to put pressure on Israel.”

Waters ended with words of hope.

“Hope resides in the fact that human beings are beautiful, interesting, capable of
philosophizing, of love, of thought, of connection and community,” he said.

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