Introducing the BDS Movement
Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), was launched in 2005 and is now a global Movement to get individuals and institutions to withdraw their money and support from Israel with the aim to pressure Israel to end its illegal occupation, settlement building and attacks on Palestinians.
BDS is a strategy that allows people, companies and institutions of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice.
2014 has been a strong year for BDS and the support has been growing especially in the US, who are seen as Israel’s closest and most important ally.
Andrew Hammond, a Middle East analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations said “The whole movement is picking up not so much because the BDS movement is so powerful, but because people want Israel to come to a peace agreement.”
Bill Gates Foundations G4S
The Gates Foundation Asset Trust, which manages investments for the $40bn Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said in June that it sold its stake in the UK security services firm G4S, one of the companies targeted by BDS.
In January this year, Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund decided to ban Africa Israel Investments (AFI Group) and its subsidiary Danya Cebus from its portfolio because of their involvement in building settlements in the West Bank.
Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, has blacklisted Israeli Bank Hapoalim because it finances construction of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.
Citing its corporate accountability rules, the bank said that Bank Hapoalim was acting against the rules of international law.
The Danish bank had already withdrawn its investments from Africa Israel Investments Limited and Danya Cebus for the same reasons.
Swedens Nordea bank, the largest in Scandinavia followed in the footsteps of the Danish bank and has taken steps against Israeli banks involved in construction in the settlements.
We also witnessed the withdrawal by Dutch pension fund PGGM of tens of millions of euros from Israeli banks. Dutch pension fund PGGM pulled its investment from five Israeli banks in January over concerns that they are financing illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. The settlements contravene several human rights treaties.
Co Op UK / Europe
The largest Co-operative in Europe, the Co-Operative Group which is the 5th largest supermarket chain in the UK, introduced a policy to end trade with companies that source products from Israel’s illegal settlements, following a determined campaign by Co-Op members. Campaigners are working to pressure other supermarkets to adopt a similarly comprehensive position. Many supermarkets across Europe already claim not to sell produce from illegal settlements.
Unite in UK and Ireland
Unite, the biggest union in the UK and Ireland, issued a statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people, on Friday 11 July:
“Unite unreservedly condemns the continuing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and calls for the military strikes and the military build up to be halted immediately.
“Unite further calls on the UK government to demand the Israeli government halt its military action and to make it clear that should it fail to do so then a move for international sanctions will be launched within the United Nations Security Council and the European Union.
U.S. Presbyterian Church, with 12-million members worldwide, divested an estimated $21 million from HP, Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar.
The Presbyterian Church on in June became the most prominent religious group in the US to endorse divestment as a protest against Israeli policies toward Palestinians.
The Group voted 310-303 to sell stock in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions – three companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories.
Russell Brand calls for Boycott
Russell Brand in his Trews E122 13th August urged banks, pension funds and other big businesses to sever investment ties with Israel, or any deals that “facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza”.
Brand citing Barlcays bank as an example, stated they manage “the portfolios of an Israeli defence company called Elbit, which makes the drones that bomb Gaza.”
“The message they give us is the exact opposite of the reality, they’re acting like they’re part of our community,” he said during his new episode of The Trews, which you can watch below.
“But if we’re aware of the reality of what they do, then we have the power to influence them.
Which Companies Invest In Gaza Violence? Russell Brand The Trews (E122)
Individuals as well as companies
Individuals with MONEY are also taking action – Soros Fund Management – billionaire investor George Soros recently sold 24.3 million dollars in shares of Sodastream.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) – the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society that has been leading the global BDS movement, called for a boycott of the Soros Fund Management back in May saying “George Soros funds and foundationsmust be held accountable for investments in Israeli violations of international law”
The BNC went on to say “George Soros’s alleged respect for human rights and the Open Society Foundation’s actual support for various educational, human rights and cultural projects in the occupied Palestinian territory and the region are incompatible with his investment in companies, like Teva and SodaStream, that consistently violate human rights and international law and profit from the Israeli occupation and colonization.
17 EU members take action against corporate complicity with Israeli crimes
Currently, 17 European governments have published online guidance warning their citizens and businesses about risks involved in trade and other economic links with illegal Israeli settlements
Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BNC said: “European governments are starting to respond to civil society lobbying and public opinion by taking welcome steps to end corporate complicity with Israel’s settlement regime.”
Fears for Israel
Israel fears that the growing support for BDS actions and measures in South Africa, which encompass academic, cultural as well as economic boycott, may have a domino effect internationally, given what is seen by many as South Africa’s moral leadership on the world stage.
Most crucially, Israel is alarmed that the boycott is spreading in Israel’s second largest export market, the European Union.
Last month, Israel’s finance minister also acknowledged the impact that a European-wide boycott could have on the country. The economy could lose a potential $5.7billion and put almost 10,000 people out of work immediately. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has also acknowledged the threat posed by BDS. In a March speech in the US, Mr Netanyahu launched an attack on the movement, branding them as racists.
The british security firm G4S in June announced that it does not intend to renew its contract with the Israeli Prison Service when it expires in 2017.
This follows more than 2 years of campaigning that has seen the company lose millions of dollars of contracts and mainstream investors such as the Bill Gates Foundation and the US United Methodist Church – an example of the BDS movement taking effect.
The Archbishop Desmond Tutu, in an exclusive article for Haaretz on 14th August, calls for a global boycott of Israel and urges Israelis and Palestinians to look beyond their leaders for a sustainable solution to the crisis in the Holy Land.
The BDS movement ultimately seeks to emulate the South Africa boycott in the economic, academic, sports and cultural fields, ostracising Israel—and its complicit institutions—until it fully complies with its obligations under international law by ending its occupation, apartheid and denial of the right of Palestinian refugees (69% of the total Palestinian population) to return to their homes of origin from which they were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 Nakba.
The movement for BDS against Israel until it complies with international law is proving to be a truly effective form of action in support of Palestinian rights.
As we can clearly see, BDS is a movement that is gathering pace and it seems it is beginning to bite.