The World Social Forum Free Palestine in Porto Alegre, Brazil

With the final event at the assembly hall of the University of Porto Alegre on December 1st 2012 it became abundantly clear: The call of Palestinian civil society from 2005 to boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until Israel will comply with its obligation to grant the Palestinians their inalienable right to self determination and with the standards of international law (see the call1), will be the central global instrument of the international Palestine solidarity movement.

The 4 day forum was unique. For the very first time in the history of world social forums there was one single issue: International solidarity for a free Palestine.

In the long history of Palestine solidarity this was unique also: Never before did so many people (over 3000 registered participants from all 5 continents) from so many different parts of society (trade unions, groups of faith, human rights organizations, lgbt-groups, and Palestine solidarity groups and organizations) from all over the world convene at one single place. Their stated objective: to structurally strengthen solidarity with Palestine, to promote activities for the realization of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians, and to bring Israel and its allies to justice before international courts.

At 5 partly simultaneous panel sessions different issues were discussed in different languages, e.g.: international law, human rights, prosecution of war criminals, BDS as an example for a strategy of resistance and solidarity, a world without walls, siege, racist discrimination and male predomination, nonviolent resistance in Palestine, the right to return for all Palestinian refugees, and the right to self determination for all Palestinians.

Furthermore a large number of other issues were discussed in around 150 workshops, e.g. the Kairos document, gender and resistance, Palestinian political prisoners, anti-Arabian racism, Zionism, academic and cultural boycott of state funded Israeli institutions, apartheid, pink-washing and the Jewish National Fund.2

The kick-off for the opening of the forum on the ‘International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People‘ was very moving: a large and lively demonstration through Porto Alegre, mobilized for by the Brazilian movement of rural workers without land (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) and the Brazilian central trade union organization CUT (Central Unica dos Trabalhadores).

The events of the WSF FP took place at different locations in the centre of Porto Alegre. On the one hand, this made it difficult to get a general idea of the whole forum. On the other hand it made visible, that the WSF FP was supported by numerous associations, organizations, and the city council. As it’s always the case at events like this, the off-the-record tea-break and after-hour meetings and discussions created such an important exchange for the international solidarity movement.

This short report is based on our own experiences and the accounts of others we met during the forum. Our focus of our participation was the reappraisal, reflection and advancement of the international BDS campaign. To fully comprehend the wealth of incidents will become possible when more reports and summaries will be published.

The delegation from South Africa made a lasting impression when they underlined the international relevance of the BDS campaign against the apartheid system in Israel. They brought to memory the international campaign against apartheid in South Africa, and the importance of the global support from civil society for themselves.
The delegation from Scotland impressed us with their successful work on different key aspects of the BDS campaign (e.g. Stop the JNF Campaign, Eden Springs, Batsheva Dance Company) at various meetings and workshops.

Young activists from Gaza and the West Bank appeared refreshing. Supported by young Palestinians, mainly from Brazil, Canada and the US, they represent a new generation of Palestinian activists, who resemble the protest movements of the Arab spring. (their rally-slogan: the Westbank doesn’t belong to Abbas and Gaza doesn’t belong to Haniyeh)

Young Brazilian activists felt reassured by the WSF FP and their meetings with activists from other countries, to advance their BDS-campaign at Brazilian universities.

The WSF FP gave new momentum to the global Palestine solidarity movement. Mutual interest and the desire to learn from each other were present in every workshop. If possible, the round of introductions took up plenty of space. Future strategies were discussed at follow-up meetings during the forum.

Mailing-lists, telephone, skype, facebook and twitter are important instruments for a common discussion and the development of new strategies within international Palestine solidarity. Nevertheless, the immediate face-to-face encounters with activists from the solidarity movement are essential factors to create an international cooperation based in equality, solidarity and mutual trust.

For us activists from Germany it became apparent, that we’d be well advised to tie in more with international campaigns. In the last couple of years, especially those campaigns were successful that were in advance discussed and prepared internationally (e.g. Veolia, Agrexco, G4S).

The strongest support for and the widest agreement on future Palestine solidarity work manifested itself in the endorsement of the international BDS campaign at the final session. The importance of institutional cultural and academic boycott of Israel was emphasized. An increase of these aspects of the campaign was declared (e.g. the U-21 European Championship 2013 in Israel).

You’ll find further information about the World Social Forum Free Palestine, audio-recordings, video-clips and pictures from events and the demonstration here:

Porto Alegre, Dec 2, 2012

BDS Berlin




2 for all topics of the WSF FP see: