[News] How the Israel boycott movement struck major blows in 2015
news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 30 13:54:35 EST 2015
How the Israel boycott movement struck major blows in 2015
Ali Abunimah <https://electronicintifada.net/people/ali-abunimah> 30
In September 2014, on the eve of the Jewish new year, Israel’s leading
financial daily named Omar Barghouti
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/omar-barghouti> among the 100
people most likely to influence the country’s economy in the following year.
/Calcalist/, the business supplement of the mass circulation newspaper
/Yediot Ahronot/, said
that the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, which Barghouti
helped found, was “already worrying the government.”
It cited government studies warning that Israel would lose billions of
dollars a year in exports and GDP and thousands of jobs if current
boycott trends continued.
“The credit and honor go to the entire BDS movement, of which I am a
modest part, to each and every BDS activist in Palestine and around the
world who has contributed to making BDS one the most effective forms of
resisting Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and
apartheid,” Barghouti told The Electronic Intifada this week.
And 2015 has proven /Calcalist/ right.
As the year closes, Palestine’s Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
National Committee (BNC) <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/bnc>, the
broad coalition that backs the BDS movement, is pointing out
some of the successes of the last 12 months:
The authors of a United Nations report revealed in June that BDS was
a key factor behind the nearly 50 percent plunge
in foreign direct investment in Israel in 2014.
The World Bank cited consumer boycotts as a key factor behind a 24
in Palestinian imports from Israel in the first quarter of 2015.
The international credit ratings agency Moody’s warned
in October that “the Israeli economy could suffer should BDS gain
greater traction.” Moody’s reports are used by corporations to
assess the risk of doing business in a country.
A major European investor confirmed that BDS was already deterring
companies from entering the Israeli market.
“During general meetings of the leading companies, even if they did
examine investing in Israeli companies, it will be off the agenda
immediately because of the impact of BDS,” Edouard Cukierman, founder of
Catalyst Funds and chair of Cukierman & Co Investment House, told
Running for the exit
In 2015, activists celebrated a major victory as the French
multinational Veolia <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/veolia> sold
off all its investments in Israel.
This followed a seven-year global campaign which cost Veolia billions of
dollars in lost municipal and government contracts. By the end, Veolia
could not find any international buyers for its Israeli businesses.
Perhaps alarmed by Veolia’s fate, the French multinational telecom
company Orange <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/orange> announced in
June that it intended to end its relationship with its Israeli affiliate.
Despite the Israeli government’s outraged reaction, Orange amended its
with Israel’s Partner Communications so it could get out of the country
as soon as 2017, instead of 2025.
The campaign to end Orange’s complicity with Israeli human rights abuses
– it operates extensively in Israel’s West Bank settlements – started in
France several years ago and gathered pace in May
when activists in Egypt called for a boycott of its subsidiary Mobinil
The Electronic Intifada’s April report revealing the extent of Orange’s
in Israel’s summer 2014 attack on Gaza galvanized the campaign.
In November, the European Union finally took the step
of requiring labels clearly marking goods that come from Israeli
settlements built on occupied Palestinian and Syrian land in violation
of international law.
This was a minimalist step taken only after years of dithering and
delay, and has to be seen in the context of massive ongoing EU
complicity with Israel’s war crimes and its deepening apartheid.
But at the time, Mahmoud Nawajaa
coordinator for the BNC, said the move was a “sign that European
governments are reacting to public opinion, civil society campaigning
and Israeli intransigence and are becoming more willing to take some
basic action against Israeli violations of international law.”
Israel’s furious reaction – many politicians compared EU officials to
Nazis – belies its real fear: that this is only the first step of more
action to come.
A sure sign of the mainstreaming of Palestinian rights came in September
with Jeremy Corbyn’s <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/jeremy-corbyn>
landslide victory in the election for leader of the UK’s main opposition
Despite intense Israel lobby smears, Corbyn trounced the establishment
A month earlier, Corbyn, a lifelong champion of Palestinian rights, had
told The Electronic Intifada
he backed the boycott of Israeli universities involved in weapons research.
Faith and labor
In 2014, after a decade-long campaign, the Presbyterian Church USA voted
by a narrow margin
to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s military occupation
of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
This prompted Israel and its lobby groups to step up their efforts to
co-opt or intimidate church activists.
But in June this year a resounding answer came from the United Church of
Christ. The one million-strong US denomination’s assembly voted by a
to divest as well.
Where churches are going, labor is following. Several major labor
federations in North America joined the dozens of unions, especially in
Europe, that already support the movement.
In August, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America –
known as UE – voted to back BDS
becoming the second US national union to do so.
“We reached a breaking point when Israel launched the war on Gaza in
2014, killing over 2,000 people, including 500 children,” Carl Rosen, a
member of UE’s national executive board, explained.
In November, the Connecticut branch of the AFL-CIO, representing 200,000
to back key elements of the Palestinian call for BDS.
And Quebec’s confederation of trade unions, representing 325,000 workers
in the Canadian province, also backed BDS
including the cultural boycott and a boycott of all Israeli goods.
It pledged to work with civil society groups to organize campaigns to
turn this support into action in coming months.
This year Israel also suffered from a sustained and deepening decline
in tourism, especially from Europe.
There is no direct evidence that the sharp decline, which began during
the 2014 attack on Gaza, is due to boycotts.
But the fact that the BDS movement – especially the cultural boycott
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/cultural-boycott> – has been so
strong in Europe undoubtedly makes it harder for Israel to market itself
as a carefree destination for sunseekers.
This was the year when “Lauryn Hill and Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth
said they won’t perform in Israel, and more than 1,000 artists across
Ireland, the UK, the US and Belgium have said they support the cultural
boycott of Israel,” the BNC notes
that the campaign is gaining ground everywhere.
“Israeli universities play a key role in planning and whitewashing
Israel’s crimes but now academics across the world are taking effective
action,” the BNC states.
Examples from 2015 include landslide votes to back the academic boycott
of these complicit institutions by the American Anthropological
and the National Women’s Studies Association
In 2015, Israel and its lobby groups intensified their counterattack
against the growing global movement for Palestinian rights.
This included crackdowns and intimidation on campuses
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/campus-activism> and efforts to
legislate and litigate <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/lawfare>
against BDS in North America and Europe.
They had plenty of help from complicit governments and lawmakers,
including in France
the United Kingdom
and the US
But the BNC even sees this backlash as a sign of success, as an
increasingly desperate Israel resorts to “exporting its mentality of
repression and getting its allies in the west to run McCarthyite attacks
on free speech.”
“Israel knows it is losing the argument and is throwing everything it
has at sabotaging our movement, dedicating money, government staff and
apparently even its security services to undermining BDS,” the BNC says.
There’s no doubt Israel’s efforts to obstruct and sabotage campaigns for
justice will continue and, flush with new cash
With dozens of student bodies on US campuses having voted to back
divestment in recent years, we can expect campaigns to shift
toward pressuring administrations to implement those demands. They will
face determined opposition, but that will only help keep Palestine front
There’s also every sign that BDS could become a big issue in the 2016 US
presidential campaign – already Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton
<https://electronicintifada.net/tags/hillary-clinton> and Republican
hopeful Jeb Bush <https://electronicintifada.net/tags/jeb-bush> have
launched attacks on the movement
But that might only serve to educate more people that BDS exists and is
an option for them too.
The passing year, which also marked the 10th anniversary of the
Palestinian civil society call for BDS <http://bdsmovement.net/call>,
shows clearly that this diverse and decentralized movement founded and
led by Palestinians is a growing match for Israel.
Amid so much difficult news from Palestine and the region, that’s a
bright ray of hope for 2016.
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