Sally Campbell September 2, 2015
Boycott is an established, legal, non-violent form of protest, proven effective in many contexts. Think Caesar Chavez and the successful California Grape Boycott (1965), the Montgomery, Alabama, Boycott for Black Civil Rights (1955) and the anti-Apartheid Boycott of South Africa (1985).
The BDS call came from Palestinian civil society in 2005. BDS is an umbrella campaign of international activists saying that Israel should be isolated economically for its ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands and its violation of the human rights of Palestinians.
A few facts about BDS:
- Its core values are freedom, equality and justice.
- It does not target individuals, but rather institutions that profit from Israel’s illegal 48 year occupation of the Palestinians.
- It does not target Jewish people; it targets behaviour- the human rights violations practiced by the State of Israel.
- It is a grassroots movement whose purpose is not to deny people’s rights, but rather, to restore them.
- Unlike the South African Boycott movement, it does not target all of Israel or all Israelis. Its focus is upon those institutions and corporations that benefit from the occupation.
- BDS is gaining headway. Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid recently warned that the increasing boycott campaigns against Israel will have devastating effects on the Israeli economy.
- BDS does not target communication systems or health-related institutions/companies. It carefully chooses targets based in the illegal settlements or profiting directly from the occupation. It focuses to build momentum and achieve success. Settlement product examples are Sodastream, Ahava (beauty products made with Dead Sea ingredients) and “Israeli” produce from the occupied Jordan Valley.
- The divestment aspect of BDS focuses on pension funds, churches and campuses. Major successes have been scored when Trustees of these “pots of money” divest from such companies as Caterpillar (bulldozers for home demolitions), Hewlitt Packard (biometric ID systems for checkpoints), G4S (security systems for interrogation & detention centres), and Boeing (F-15,16 & 35 fighter jets, Apache AH64 helicopters, and Hellfire Missiles – the main weapons used in last summer’s assault on Gaza).
- The Cultural and Academic Boycott – where a growing number of scholars, athletes, writers, artists, and musicians refuse to perform in Israel or collaborate with those academic institutions that benefit from the occupation – is gaining momentum. We know that Universities provide the research, technology and ethical rationale for Israel’s actions against Palestinians since 1948. The boycott challenges their complicity in Israel’s denial of Palestinian human rights as well as widespread denial of Palestinians’ academic freedom.
What does BDS call for?
- Freedom – an end to the occupation of Palestinian territories, the military rule that accompanies it, and dismantling of the Wall.
- Equality – for all Palestinians, including the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (20% of its population) who experience discrimination under more than 50 separate laws.
- Justice – recognition of the right of return of Palestinian refugees who lost their homes, land, businesses, and even the right to visit their homeland, since the 1948 Nakba (the “Catastrophe”), or as Israelis call it, their “War of Independence”. For the 7 million Palestinian refugees worldwide, their right of return comports with International Law and has been the subject of numerous UN resolutions.
Concerns about BDS and responses:
- Won’t BDS jeopardize the “peace process”? There is no peace process. There are no negotiations happening. Prime Minister Netanyahu has promised Israelis there will be no Palestinian state. Throughout the so-called “peace process”, Israel continued to expand its illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, and now has (including East Jerusalem) over 600,000 settlers living in Palestinian territory. As well, it has conducted 3 assaults on Gaza since 2008, killing, wounding and displacing thousands, and it continues to maintain its air, sea and land blockade of Gaza.
- Won’t BDS harm Palestinians? The call for BDS came to the international community from over 175 Palestinian civil organizations. Ask a Palestinian the response to this statement.
- Does BDS target Jewish people? Is it anti-Semitic? BDS targets corporations and institutions profiting from the occupation, not individuals or ethnic groups. Accusations of anti-Semitism are an attempt to discredit BDS and shut down criticism of Israeli policies.
- Why does BDS single out Israel for condemnation while ignoring other countries? Israel claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”. If so, it should be held to democratic standards and expected to abide by the rules of international law.The BDS platform of equal rights for all threatens Israel no more than did the civil rights movements in the US and South Africa.
- How can a small movement like BDS possibly succeed? Propaganda saying BDS is not growing rapidly is intended to discourage involvement in BDS. Retailers across Europe now refuse to stock products made/grown in the illegal settlements. Last year, the Bill Gates Foundation divested its $170 million investment in G4S (Israeli prisons). French transportation systems giant, Veolia, having lost $20 billion in contracts due to the boycott, has divested all its investments in Israel, and the list goes on. Direct Foreign Investment in Israel is down by nearly 50% in 2014, from $10.5 billion to $5.7 billion/year. (UN Report on World Economies, 2015.)
Sources & Resources on BDS
- Mondoweiss (Reliable and accurate reporting on Israel-Palestine) http://Mondoweiss.net
- Canadians for Justice & Peace in the Middle East (Montreal) email@example.com
- US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation www.endtheoccupation.org/bds
- Electronic Intifada http://electronicintifada.ne
- Boycott From Within www.boycottfromwithin.net (Jewish Israeli and Palestinian activists working within Israel-Palestine
- Boycott Israeli Apartheid Campaign (Vancouver) www.boycottisraeliapartheid.org/