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The Cairo Declaration Ignites a Spark: Building a Unified Movement

Mateo Bernal
Date Published: 
January 16, 2010

What has transpired over the past two weeks in Egypt could possibly be the biggest contribution to a global, unified movement that bridges issues of economic, social, and political justice in generations.

Over 1,300 international activists gathered in Cairo to attempt to enter Gaza, break the military siege and show the world the brutal reality of the de facto prison that 1.5 million Palestinians experience as their daily reality. We were forcefully prevented by the Egyptian government from even leaving Cairo to travel to the Egypt-Gaza border, under intense pressure from the United States and Israel. The massive demonstration morphed into a sort of international convergence, and it’s no surprise that when you pen organizers in together, they organize!

Throughout the long days spent in Cairo, powerful and radical
conversations took place among representatives from nearly 40 countries, and an international movement has been reborn, guided by new principles. As in any mass movement, particularly visionary forces emerge; in this case, the most astute vision came from a delegation from South Africa. The document resulting from their vision and the contributions of many others, called the Cairo Declaration, has real potential to give serious political definition to our movement, now focused around “Israeli Apartheid.” The language comes directly from COSATU, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (whose motto is “An injury to one is an injury to all”). Drawing on their long history of struggle in South Africa, they brought the courage and clarity to use very definite language around the fact that the predominant ideology that guides Israeli policies, Zionism, is inherently racist, and is at the root of the conflict, occupation, oppression, and violence in Palestine. According to the declaration, it is through workers, and not just consumers, that we must organize a global campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS). The framers of the declaration believe that a boycott must come at all points of intersection of the economy where Israeli goods are introduced; workers involved in shipping, handling, retail, and advertisement must all be organized for maximum effect.

The Cairo declaration and the movement of which it was born was distinctly influenced by the participation of South African trade unionists, some of whom describe Israeli apartheid in Palestine as even more vile than the Apartheid regime in South Africa. The organizing around this issue, now framed in the new and more appropriate light of racism and apartheid, is a clear plea for international labor solidarity. As global citizens committed to justice around the world our participation is paramount in an international struggle against a hegemonic regime in historic Palestine, which is causing astonishing levels of oppression and suffering. This is an extraordinary opportunity to educate and organize across borders and across industry lines to create ever more profound worldwide connections. Above all, we are compelled to come to the aid of the members of our global community who have requested our assistance.

What can surely be said of this time in Cairo is that a fire has been ignited, and day by day the signatories of this declaration are growing by the thousands. We invite you to join us in signing the Cairo Declaration and standing in solidarity with Palestinians fighting for their liberation and their allies around the world. As Nelson Mandela said, “…our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of Palestinians.” From those of us who were gathered in Cairo last week to activists in Palestine, South Africa, France and around the world, emanates a belief that this is a common struggle and that now is the time to organize. You can sign the document at and together we can organize locally in a globally coordinated effort to end Israeli Apartheid in Palestine.