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The Lessons of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) - The Lessons of Boycott

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The Lessons of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)
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Its statement of principles read:

-- "to comprehensively and consistently boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions until Israel withdraws from all lands occupied in 1967, including East Jerusalem;

-- removes all its colonies in those lands;

-- agrees to United Nations resolutions relevant to the restitution of Palestinian refugee rights; and

-- dismantles its system of apartheid."

PACBI's call got wide support from Palestinian academia and civil society.

Church Divestment

Christian churches in America, the UK, Canada, and elsewhere have begun to call for boycotting and divesting from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. Examples include:

-- in 2005, the United Church of Christ (UCC) endorsed divestment, not as yet implemented;

-- in 2005, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) adopted a "positive investment" policy to foster regional peace and cooperation;

-- in 2006, the United Church of Canada's Toronto branch began boycotting Israeli products and companies doing business with its military;

-- in 2006, the US Presbyterian Church urged various companies, including Caterpillar, ITT, Motorola, and others to invest in West Bank and Gaza companies;

-- in 2008, the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire passed a resolution for divesting in companies supporting and/or profiting from the Occupation; and

-- in 2009, the Church of England divested from Caterpillar stocks, the company whose bulldozers and equipment is used to demolish Palestinian homes.

Student Campaigns

Students led international protests against Operation Cast Lead. On January 13, 2009, they occupied a University of London building, igniting student occupations at 29 US and UK universities in solidarity with Gaza. They called for:

-- condemning the attack;

-- divestment in companies doing business with Israel, especially ones providing military weapons, munitions, and equipment;

-- sending computers and books to Gaza students and providing scholarships; and

-- arranging lectures and debates about the Occupation.

Other civil society initiatives included participants at a July 2005 UN International Civil Society Conference in support of Middle East peace unanimously adopting the Palestinian Call for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions). In November 2007, the first BDS conference was held, and the Boycott National Committee (BNC) formed in the same year to build and spread boycotts as a central form of resistance.

Targeting Israeli Companies with Colonial Operations

Agrexco is the most prominent, a 50% state owned company exporting fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs from Israel and its West Bank locations. It's one of the three largest Israeli companies exporting from Occupied Palestine while labeling their products "made in Israel."

The campaign began in 2005 when activists blockaded the company's depot in Middlesex, UK, stopping all deliveries for over eight hours. Other actions followed and continue. Protestors accuse Agrexco of complicity with crimes of war and against humanity and cite the destroyed Palestinian economy forcing West Bank workers, including children, to survive on 30 shekels a day with no unions or benefits.

Lev Leviev was also targeted, the Israeli diamond mogul and real estate baron who finances Israeli colonies in the West Bank. In November 2007, a surprise protest was held at his Manhattan boutique. Others followed in different countries against his real estate partner Shaya Boymelgreen's company Green Park, including a Bi'lin village $2 million suit for building and selling settlement housing on village land in violation of international law.

"Key to the success so far has been the level of coordination and the involvement of Palestinian villages and organizations in the campaign" to:

-- engage the press;

-- attract Hollywood celebrity endorsers;

-- get the UK government to boycott Leviev over his West Bank construction ;

-- have UNICEF cut ties with him;

-- Oxfam International and the US Carousel of Hope charity to refuse his donations;

-- get the Arab League's Damascus Boycott Office to consider adding his companies to its boycott list; and

-- have Dubai refuse to let him open new stores there under his name.

Economic Isolation Works

Western governments supported South African apartheid until civil society group actions got corporations to divest, paving the way for government boycotts and sanctions. "The timeline of action "during the Gaza massacre suggests a similar pattern:"

-- on January 13, 2009, the Greek government announced that a ship with munitions for Israel wasn't welcome; students at 29 US and UK universities protested for divestment and severing cultural and academic ties with Israel;

-- on January 14, Amnesty International (AI) called for a global arms embargo against Israel; the EU and European Commission announced a freeze in upgrading relations with Israel;

-- on January 16, Qatar closed Israel's trade office in Doha and gave Israeli officials a week to leave the country; Mauritania suspended trade relations as well;

-- on January 20, the Stockholm community council announced that the French company, Veolia, lost a future eight-year contract to build and maintain a railway through East Jerusalem that connects Israeli settlements in the West Bank;

-- on February 1, Belgium ended arms exports to Israel;

-- on February 5, South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) dockworkers refused to offfload a ship carrying Israeli goods;

-- on February 9, 23 vicars encouraged the Church of England to divest;

-- on February 12, Hampshire College became the first US university to divest from companies involved with the Occupation;

-- on February 26, UK-based Cardiff University divested all shares from BAE Systems and GE's aerospace arm over their IDF dealings;

-- on April 2, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the New York Campaign to Boycott Israel and others got Motorola to sell its Government Electronics Department, a unit that supplied military-related items to Israel;

-- on April 13, the Dutch Labor Party sought sanctions against Israel;

-- on April 14, French corporation Veolia's transportation branch lost a Bordeaux contract worth 750 million euros; it's lost business now totals over $7.5 billion.

Israel's Tarnished Brand Name

When sustained with enough pressure, economic boycott works. In February 2009, the Israeli Export Institute reported that 10% of 400 exporters got order cancellations over Operation Cast Lead. In March, the Israel Manufacturers Association said 21% of 90 local exporters questioned reported a drop in demand due to boycotts, mostly in UK and Scandinavian counties.

In Europe, supermarkets are re-labeling Israeli products made in Cyprus or Spain because "made in Israel" no longer sells.

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