BDS is 10-years-old, keeps growing worldwide
Ten years ago, the Palestinian civil society—comprised of Palestinian refugees, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Palestinians living under occupation—issued a formal call for Boycotts, Divestments and Sanctions against Israel. 171 Palestinian civic organizations, ranging from teachers unions to refugee organizations, endorsed the international call for BDS.
In the past ten years, people of conscious have upheld the call, engaging in broad boycotts, divestment campaigns, as well as pressuring their respective state governments to impose sanctions against Israel until the apartheid state fully complies with international law by:
Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
The strategy for widespread civic action emulates the international movement that dismantled South African apartheid in 1994. The success of international boycotts of companies that profited off of apartheid in South Africa—using divestment campaigns, and massive demonstrations to pressure states to impose sanctions on South Africa and demanding an end to apartheid—inspired the Palestinian call for BDS.
In the past ten years, the movement has grown significantly in the United States. Organized consumer boycotts of corporations that profit off of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land have become stronger and grown larger.
The intention behind consumer boycotts is not to deplete production; rather, the goal is twofold: first, to raise awareness about Israeli apartheid, and second to hold U.S. corporations accountable and pressure them to engage in socially responsible business.
In recent years, the Interfaith Boycott Coalition, a group of individuals from faith-based organizations and institutions organized a consumer boycott of SodaStream drinking machine products. SodaStream manufactures its products on an illegal Israeli settlement, Mishor Edomim.
Participants engaging in consumer boycotts urged stores that carry the product to end their contract with SodaStream until the corporation acknowledges its complicity in the occupation and confiscation of Palestinian land.
Last fall, Macy’s department stores removed SodaStream from its shelves. The SodaStream boycott is one of many successful consumer boycotts.
Boycotts extend to Israeli academic and cultural institutions as well. This past year, the American Studies Association voted in favor of boycotting Israeli academic institutions and standing in solidarity with Palestinian students and scholars that are deprived of their academic freedom, as a result of the ongoing Israeli occupation and discrimination against the Palestinians.
In the past decade the list of major boycott threats have grown. AIPAC lobbyists and Netanyahu himself have stated that the BDS movement, coupled with of course Iran’s potential nuclear program, pose as major threats to Israel’s security.
Divestment campaigns have frequented university campuses in the United States. Students across the nation have organized campaigns, pressuring their universities to withdraw their investments from corporations that profit off of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.
Students from the West Coast, Midwest, and East Coast have launched divestment campaigns at their respective universities. Successful divestment resolutions and referendums have passed at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Stanford University, UC campuses of Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Cruz and San Diego, DePaul, Loyola, and Northwestern Universities in Chicago, and Oberlin College in Ohio.
Last summer, the USA Presbyterian Church voted in favor of divesting from corporations, such as Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar because they contribute to the demolition and surveillance of Palestinian homes and persons.
BDS success rests in the accessibility of participation in BDS actions. There is no top-down hierarchical structure that dictates who can and cannot participate. In addition to the growing participation, the movement is popular for its inherently nonviolent nature. These two aspects have made it more difficult for the opposition to demonize the movement –though they have gone to extreme lengths to do so.
In light of recent BDS victories, pro-Israel lobbyists have not only pressured students not to engage in BDS, but politicians as well. The pro-Israel lobby, a billion dollar powerhouse, is not only responsible for funding Hillels and other pro-Israel student groups on college campuses, but for using dollar signs to pressure politicians to restrict the BDS actions.
This spring, the pro-Israel lobby continued its efforts to deplete BDS and introduced anti-BDS legislation to Illinois state senators which demanded the state pension fund not invest in corporations that uphold the Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS.
With each BDS victory comes a new restriction of individual civil liberties. For every successful consumer boycott, an anti-BDS legislation is introduced to state senators. Similarly, every successful divestment campaign on a college campus is followed by a pro-Israel lobby sponsored campaign that criminalizes students that exercise their First Amendment right to free speech.
The mere fact that words such as “occupation” have replaced the normalizing rhetoric of “conflict” is symbolic; Palestine solidarity activists are unapologetic in saying that occupation, apartheid, and collective punishment are not okay, and they are doing something about it.