In Oslo on November 3, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a half-day seminar about business and research cooperation with Israel, inviting Norwegian and Israeli corporations, research institutions in The Research Council of Norway and other representatives of the two countriesâ business and research sectors. The controversial seminar has gotten widespread attention in Norway as the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) in coordination with Palestinian solidarity activists and civil society groups calling for a boycott of the seminar.
In the end, the call for boycott proved to be effective, as only a few companies attended the seminar, and in an effort to avoid scandal, the organizers closed it to the public and the media. Before the seminar began, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs attempted to stonewall critics by refusing to release the list of invitees and participants, and by falsely claiming that no specific corporations were invited.
The participants of the seminar were met by demonstrators demanding that the event be closed, and that boycott, divestment and sanctions be imposed on the Occupation.
A number of Norwegian organizations, representing large segments of Norwayâs civil society, called for a boycott of the seminar due to Occupation’s âbrutal and systematic violations of Palestinian human rights.â
The call for boycott was endorsed by two of the largest national trade unions, The Transport Workers Union and The Electricians and IT Workers Union, as well as the General Confederation of Trade Unions in Oslo (LO), the Norwegian People’s Aid, the Socialist Youth League, the Labour Youth League, the Red Youth and the Red party. The National Student Union (NSU) also spoke out against the seminar, and several high-profile academics endorsed the call as well.
Bilateral cooperation and agreements are part of Israelâs strategy aimed at improving relations with the international community, in particular with Western countries, in order to legitimize its ongoing systematic racial discrimination, occupation and displacement of the Palestinian people and escape its obligations under international law. By giving the deceptive impression of normalcy, this strategy aims to guarantee business as usual
goes on and public criticism Israel is stymied. Israel has recently pursued this strategy with countries such as Brazil, India, Canada, China and several others in Europe. These bilateral ties provide Israel with greater leverage over the Palestinian people, as they effectively demonstrate that it’s regime of apartheid, colonialism and occupation is condoned by countries around the world.
Among the invited participants to the seminar was the Israeli corporation Housing and Construction Company, which operates in illegal settler colonies in the West Bank. One of it’s subsidies, Pereg Industry, is located in the Atarot Industrial Zone, which is built on confiscated Palestinian land next to the Apartheid Wall in Qalandia. Confronted with this information, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had no justification for the Housing and Construction Companyâs participation in the seminar, stating that they “had not checked which companies that were invited.”
Norwegian activists are now demanding an apology from the Foreign Minister, and are arguing that all cooperation with Israel will link corporations to settler colonies in the West Bank due to the nature of the economy of the Occupation. Indeed, Israelâs business community and its economic growth are inextricably linked with the human rights violations and crimes committed by Israel. Israelâs economy is dependent upon the exploitation of the resources of the Palestinian people and it benefits greatly from the system of apartheid, colonialism and occupation it has imposed on the Palestinian people for 60 years.