Young Palestinians active with AFSC’s Palestine Youth: Together for Change project have been pro-actively advocating for their right of free access and movement and issues of Palestinian identity under the name Mutaharakeen (movers). One campaign being run as a part of this advocacy involves calling for Palestinians to support the international boycott Hewlett Packard (HP).
On 2 June, in Gaza, the group set up a mock Israeli checkpoint in the streets to reflect the suffering of their compatriots in the West Bank and to bring attention to the HP Boycott campaign. Since Israeli redeployed its troops around Gaza in 2005, many youth in Gaza are unfamiliar with Israeli checkpoints and Hewlett-Packard’s contribution to restricting Palestinian movement. This action helped both raise awareness and promoted the campaign.
The youth are having an impact. Thanks to the awareness raised by the youth, one university in the West Bank decided not to buy Hewlett-Packard products for its computer lab.
Monther, 27, lives in Jerusalem, and is the current media coordinator for the Mutaharkeen campaign. He explains how this campaign has gained momentum among Palestinian students.
When did the Mutaharkeen HP campaign start? What is its purpose?
The campaign started in March 201 and will continue until the end of June 2015. It aims to increase the awareness of the young people about HP’s contribution to fragmenting the Palestinian population and hindering free access and movement. The aim is also to affect the balance of power and try to hinder any contributions toward the checkpoints, settlements, etc.
Are there one or two stories that highlight for you what the boycott was about and what it was able to accomplish?
Al Quds University in Jerusalem floated a tender to purchase computers for their computer lab. The campaign has helped them understand how important it is not to support any companies that profit from the occupation. The department excluded HP products from its bid.
Why did you want to be part of this campaign on the personal level?
I strongly believe in this campaign, it means a lot to me. The youth today think a lot based on their geographic borders. The first meeting held through the Palestine Youth: Together for Change project was incomplete. This was due to the absence of our fellow Gazans, who reside under siege, as a collective punishment that the whole population endures.
My motive is to work together with youth from Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. When you look at the work of other organizations, you realize they operate in one or two geographic areas, maximum. In this project, we are trying to assemble all three areas, together. This is very strategic and helps put forward the issue of identity. The challenge remains how to move forward now.
What are the messages that you hope to convey?
It is important to change the balance of power, especially so that change comes from the people for the people. I go by the motto “put your occupation under siege.” We should boycott Israeli goods and think of the South African model. We are working closely with the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement in Palestine.
In addition to the success with Al Quds University, what has the campaign achieved so far?
Students have become more aware of HP’s technology through the mock checkpoint and understand how it fragments us further. There are many organizations and social/political groups have adopted our pledge to boycott HP. We are thinking now about how to move this pledge to a higher level. It might be worthwhile to organize an e-petition, or a message to the media.
The pledge was a result of the Mutaharkeen campaign that was unforeseen and this is a positive outcome.
We need to think of how the boycott might affect the occupation. The occupation’s policies are clear and are not meant to build peace. They are discriminatory and the issue of denied access and movement is unethical and immoral and of course violates basic International Human Law (IHL) regulations.
We deserve the right to free movement in the occupied areas while Palestinians residing inside historic Palestine [Israel] also have a right to connect with their compatriots in West Bank and Gaza. The siege is illegal and hence we are calling for this boycott. We are seeking to change the balance of power and put pressure on other companies to build peace in this region.