In a packed conference room at Egypt's press syndicate on Monday, activists representing a wide range of political parties, groups and syndicates came together in a rare display of unity to launch BDS Egypt.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which has garnered worldwide support and success, now has an Egyptian branch endorsed by ten political parties, 15 student unions and groups, syndicate board members and heads, and a number of civil society organisations, in addition to more than a hundred prominent political and media figures and artists.
Tens of youths wearing t-shirts that read "Be with Palestine," the Palestinian black and white scarves, and badges that read 'BDS Egypt' worked to organise crowds that came to announce their solidarity with Palestine and launch the beginning of the international boycott campaign locally.
"This is a new beginning in confronting the Zionist entity," said activist and organizer Rami Shaath in the opening speech.
"Following years of non-stop [Palestinian] resistance, Palestinians came up with a new tactic which spread worldwide… with each country adopting its own tactics… Egypt will now join this international effort, but building on our long already existing heritage of boycott," he said.
BDS was first launched in 2005 by a large coalition of Palestinian rights and civil society groups. Supporters of BDS worldwide have since persuaded millions to join their boycott of Israel, academically, culturally, and economically, causing companies to lose some of their biggest contracts and forcing them to divest investments.
While there has already been much popular resistance in Egypt to any form of normalisation with Israel, with all of the country's syndicates still maintaining a complete boycott, no group has yet worked under the relatively new BDS banner.
Shaath believes this link to the BDS campaign is much needed to weave local efforts with an organised international movement that has managed to score victories and weaken support for Israel.
"BDS Egypt will be targeting international companies that support Israeli occupation and have investments here in Egypt, but will also has a role in researching which local sectors here use Israeli products.
"While Israeli products might not be found here [in Egypt] in supermarkets, some sectors are believed to be importing and using Israeli products, such as the agricultural sector for example," Shaath told Ahram Online.
Speaking on the panel were also Haitham Mohamadein from the Revolutionary Socialists, Khaled Dawoud from the Constitution Party, Mohamed Arafat from the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, Islam El-Kheshen from the Gas Misr workers independent union and Ahmed Abou-Zeid representing students.
"We repeat it one generation after another…we will not recognise Israel," the crowds echoed the familiar chant, also chanting against the Camp David peace treaty signed by Egypt and Israel in 1978 involving recognition and normalisation of relations.
The event ended with poetry and music from Amin Haddad and Hazem Shahin.
The five main aims of BDS Egypt as written in the launch statement are: brining Palestine back as the central issue, revive the popular boycott of Israel and resist any form of normalisation, reveal Zionist interest networks in Egypt, pressure Egyptian and international companies to withdraw investment from the Zionist entity and legally pursue Israeli leaders that have been involved in crimes against the Arab people.
The undersigned include the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Constitution Party, the Nasserist Karama Party, the Egyptian Popular Current, the Socialist Popular Alliance Party, the Strong Egypt Party, the Revolutionary Socialists, the April 6 Youth Movement, among others, as well as fourteen student unions and groups and six syndicate groups and unions.
A list of prominent figures signed the statement, including syndicate heads and board members, former presidential runners, party leaders, rights activists, media figures and intellectuals.