Edition 2: No. 50
Israel’s Gaza escapade must instigate an ample BDS effort
There is relentless pressure on Palestinians to keep their resistance to the occupation non-violent. At the same time, this call is accompanied by a stubborn and hypocritical in some western circles refusal to countenance measures such as Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions. At best, western activists accept partial BDS measures such as boycotting settlement products. Palestinians take in such a course of action as partial in scope. In fact, many argue that the impact of boycotting settlement products does not really harm the occupation. In any case, the settlement is a subsidized (mis)adventure which is paid for by Israel’s benefactors- the USA and European Union. Boycotting settlement products may actually have the effect of creating a false reading of what solidarity really demands. Israel is not seen aggressively contesting the right to boycotting settlement products because they know full well that settlements are illegal under international law and to contest the boycott of settlement products is not worth their while. At the same time, Israel is exceedingly alert to the BDS campaign and has, in fact, framed legislation that delegitimizes the advocates of BDS. It hurts where it matters and there lies the issue. European countries, institutions, and even individuals from progressive quarters are wary of providing unequivocal support to the BDS campaign. They would find some portions of Boycott and Divestment palatable. But an across-the-board BDS with sanctions thrown in as a non-negotiable factor is a hard sell. Hope seems to be around the corner with leading international voices making the case for Sanctions against Israel and changing public perception on the issue.
In July 2011, Israel passed legislation outlawing the public support of boycott activities against the state, corporations, and settlements, adding a crackdown on free speech to its continuing blockade of Gaza and the expansion of illegal settlements. This very suppression may well be the reason why the campaign for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) continues to grow in strength within Israel and Palestine, as well as in Europe and the US, and in many other parts of the world. In the Global South, activists who side with the Palestinian claim for freedom and justice are active in cultural, academic, and sports boycotts.
The recent attack on Gaza is a foolhardy act that demonstrates that Israel believes that it can as it pleases and the world will not react. It is time to isolate an Israel that refuses to act within the framework of international law and abide by UN resolutions. This is not a call for permanent exclusion of Israel from the community of nations. It is a call to prohibit Israel from pursuing the unlawful occupation and hand over to the Palestinians land that is theirs in line with the partition plan. A comprehensive solution to the unresolved multiple and inter-linked questions of the status of Jerusalem, the separation wall, check points and settlements, the issue of natural resources notably water, prisoners, and the right of return of refugees who were expelled in 1948 must serve as the only basis for the withdrawal of sanctions and the roll back of the BDS campaign. Until then, nations and groups of people, academics, activists, must persist with the seclusion of Israel.
BDS worked in the case of South Africa and hastened the end of apartheid. That alone is reason enough for a similar effort against Israel.
In the context of the Israel’s Gaza assault which is relentless and barbarous in scope, the world must react by showing Israel that its action will be treated with seclusion.
The BDS movement has suggested five concrete ways in which civil society can act to isolate Israel – not just to stop the blockade and ongoing military warfare in Gaza – but also go beyond the current crisis and see a speedy and just conclusion to the occupation.
Five ways to effectively support Gaza through Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions*
As this new aggression on the people of Gaza shows, Israel will continue its belligerence and state terrorism unless it is made to pay a heavy price for its crimes against the Palestinian, Lebanese and other Arab peoples.
Palestinian civil society has called for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as the most effective way for international civil society and people of conscience around the world to show solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and hold Israel – and all complicit institutions — accountable for its occupation, colonization and apartheid. The global, Palestinian-led BDS movement has achieved inspiring and spectacular success, causing economic damage to companies that support Israel’s crimes, persuading artists not to perform in Israel, winning support from major churches, trade unions and social movements, as well as pressuring governments to take action.
Here are five BDS ways to effectively express solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza and elsewhere:
1. Boycott Israel! Don’t buy Israeli goods!
Profits from exports from Israel help to fund the Israeli government and its crimes against the Palestinian people. Refuse to buy Israeli goods and tell retailers that you are doing it. Persuade friends and family to stop buying any Israeli products too!
Brands to avoid include Ahava, Jaffa oranges, Sabra and Tribe hummus and SodaStream.
2. Join an active BDS campaign or start a new one
Initiate action in your institution, union, group, etc., against the companies and organisations that support and profit from Israel’s system of oppression over the Palestinian people.
For example, in the US, campaigners have pressured major pension funds to divest from Caterpillar, a company that provides bulldozers used to destroy Palestinian homes.
Public bodies across the world have been successfully pressured to stop awarding contracts for public services to Veolia, a company that provides infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements. Veolia has lost contracts worth more than $14bn following BDS campaigns.
Campaigners recently persuaded a major bank to divest from G4S, a private security firm involved in Israel’s crimes against Palestinian prisoners, including children.
You can find out more about campaigns taking place in your area by contacting your local Palestine solidarity organisation. There’s a great online database of Palestine solidarity groupshere or contact us for advice on whom to contact or on how to start a new BDS campaign.
3. Organise a BDS protest action
Demonstrations, banner drops and flashmobs are great ways to raise awareness of the boycott of Israel. Some actions target particular products, like the actions against Israeli cosmetics companyAhava, while others take place in supermarkets and remind shoppers not to buy Israeli goods or to target complicit companies.
There’s a useful guide to planning a BDS action here. The guide is written specifically for the Ahava campaign, but it’s full of useful ideas for similar campaigns too.
4. Urge organisations that you are a member of to divest from Israel
Trade unions, student unions, faith groups and other organisations all over the world have passed BDS-related resolutions calling for divesting from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
The US Quakers’ investment entity recently sold its shares in Hewlett Packard and Veolia, two companies supporting and profiting from Israeli violations of international law, after having divested from Caterpillar a few months ago for the same reasons.
Student unions around the world have voted to support divestment and have successfully campaigned to have companies like Sabra Hummus and Eden Springs removed from their campuses.
Trade unions can participate in BDS campaigns and sell any investments they may hold in Israeli companies or raise rank-and-file awareness about Israeli products to boycott.
Ask organisations that you’re a member of to hold a meeting to discuss education about and support for the BDS campaign, and find out if it’s possible to pass a resolution to support BDS when the time is right.
5. Pressure your elected officials to impose a military embargo on Israel
Military ties with Israel feed and encourage further Israeli violence. Israel wouldn’t be able to maintain its occupation and apartheid system over the Palestinian people if it wasn’t for the military aid it receives from the US or the military trade it conducts with countries around the world. Urge your government and elected representatives to support a military embargo on Israel.