The first international herbalist conference to ever be held in Israel looks to be in jeopardy after the event's main draw, the American Herbalist Guild has urged its members to cancel their participation in the prestigious event following a campaign organized by a group that seeks to promote all forms of boycott against Israel. A pro-Israeli NGO, however, claims the activist is the AHG employee, making their decision a part of a wider conspiracy.
The Ancient Roots: International Herbal Conference is a "grassroots effort to bring the highest caliber of global talent" in herbal medicine to Israel. It is initiated and organized by five herbal specialist form Israel as well as abroad, and is set to be held in a community settlement of Poria Illit, 6km south of Tiberias, between 9 and 11 of February.
Eleven herbal specialists from around the world had been booked to attend the conference with the most prominent organization in the field of herbal medicine, the American Herbal Guild (AHG), initially inviting all its members to attend the event in Israel. The guild's president even published a video message encouraging the participation of its members in the historic conference.
The prestigious guild, however, decided to pull its support after a BDS activist named Shabina Lafleur-Gangji, posted a Facebook message calling for a boycott of the Ancient Roots conference over Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians.
"As some of you may know, a few prominent herbalists made the decision to endorse and/or lecture at the Ancient Roots herbal medicine conference in Israel," wrote Gangji.
"The conference had no Palestinian or Muslim speakers included in their lineup, yet included a speaker who referred to Palestinians as a non-people who willfully left their ancestral lands. I am someone who absolutely stands behind the BDS movement, not because I hate the Israelis, but because of the love I have for the Palestinians."
Following Gangji's post, two members of the AHG - one from the U.S. and another from Ireland - cancelled their participation in the conference. In addition, the guild's president demanded the conference's organizers remove his support video from their website.
As a result, ticket sales for the conference have dropped drastically.
Rivka Asulin, one of the Ancient Roots organizers, voiced her disappointment over the cancellation. "I was shocked, the BDS' attack on us was highly aggressive," she said. "They must think Tiberias is an illegal settlement for them to call on a boycott of our conference."
"We were shocked a political organization would take a none political conference on herbs, and use it for their own political gains, it was to be a non-political gathering of herbal experts from around the world, all volunteers," added Asulin. "We won't let the BDS win ... this project stems from my love for Israel and my wish for the world to witness Israel's ingenuity in the field of herbal medicine."
In the meantime, Reservists on Duty - an Israeli NGO that works to counter BDS efforts - claims that Gangji is actually the AHG's magazine editor-in chief, and that her efforts to boycott the conference was part of a wider conspiracy within the guild.
If the claims turn out to be accurate, it means the AHG broke its own ethical conduct, which states that the guild will not discriminate against a person or a country over political views.
"It's an impressive feat by the BDS," said the head of the Reservists on Duty, "we have no doubt the BDS infiltrates more and more organizations in order to further its boycott on Israel. The American people need to condemn such a shameful boycott of a U.S.-based organization."