Whilst intense diplomatic efforts to construct a long-term arrangement between Israel and Hamas are continuing action is being taken in the West Bank and across the world to apply pressure on Israel to end its siege on Gaza, occupation of the West Bank and stop Israel from taking the lives of innocent civilians in the future.
At the forefront of this decisive action is the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) movement. Over the past month awareness and importance of BDS’s cause has been raised as a result of Israel’s 'Operation Protective Edge’ in Gaza and the high Palestinian death toll caused by the offensive on the Strip.
“If scenes from the Gaza concentration camp reveal an Israeli-made tsunami, a counter tidal wave of BDS campaigning is crucially needed to end Israel’s habitual brutalities and massacres...It has never been as urgent to isolate Israel as a world pariah as it is right now,” said Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee,
The BDS movement, established in 2005, was created after a call from Palestinian civil society for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. Over 170 Palestinian organizations, endorse the movement. The BDS movement has a wealth of support internationally with a number of international trade unions and a network of international civil society organizations supporting and promoting the boycott of Israel.
BDS took inspiration from the South African anti-apartheid movement and seeks to redress the power imbalance against the Palestinian people and make Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories economically unfeasible.
A common BDS strategy to guarantee sustainability
In the West Bank, several grassroots initiatives to boycott Israeli goods in supermarkets have been galvanized through social media and young local volunteers, BDS spokesperson Omar Barghouti told Palestine Monitor.
“The popular proliferation of boycotting Israeli products in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as a minimal form of resistance, is unprecedented since BDS was launched in 2005. Even among Palestinians in the 1948 areas, boycott has become one tool of activism directed against companies producing in illegal colonies,” according to Barghouti.
Word of mouth is also playing an integral role. Boycott activists in Nablus, northern West Bank, “are going door to door, talking with women to convince them to observe the boycott by changing their consumption style and asserting their commitment to this minimal form of standing with our people in Gaza facing the brunt of Israel's crimes,” commented Barghouti.
In Bethlehem a 'Pledge of Honor’ has been produced in Bethlehem to boycott Israeli goods, whereby the public “was invited to go and sign their names on the pledge, morally committing themselves to the boycott,” said Barghouti.
Activists in the Jordan Valley, West Bank, have reported that European retailers have contacted Palestinian farmers in efforts to clarify that they are Palestinian and not Israeli.
In addition to increasing efforts to boycott Israel domestically calls for action in the internaional arena are being heeded. There is mounting evidence of a “silent boycott” against Israel by European businesses that are unwilling to be associated with Israel. Priniv, a major Israeli fruit juice exporter, has revealed a large deal has collapsed as a result of Israel’s offensive in Gaza. Priniv director, Ido Yaniv has recognized a drop in sales since Israel’s operation began in Gaza.
The BDS movement, with the support of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, has called “on trade unions internationally to take immediate action to stop the Israeli massacre in Gaza,” which has been set out in a five step guide.
“The BDS movement encourages consumers worldwide to boycott any product with a 972 barcode”
In efforts to amplify the boycott to the wider world the BDS movement has published a nine-step guide, which includes boycotting Israeli goods in supermarkets around the world, raising awareness of Israel’s disregard of international law and getting involved with grassroots BDS organizations around the globe.
“The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), which leads the global BDS movement, is currently trying to coordinate with the various initiatives and bodies to reach a common strategy, which would guarantee sustainability well after the current brutal phase of Israeli aggression,” said Barghouti.
The barcode 972 is associated with all Israeli products, including those from illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories. “The BDS movement encourages consumers worldwide to boycott any product with a 972 barcode” said Barghouti.
“It’s shameful, it’s sickening and it’s revolting”
In addition to encouraging the boycott of Israeli goods the BDS movement has called for the application of pressure on international governments to cease trading arms with Israel. BDS deems these governments complicit in Israel’s killing of innocent civilians.
“It’s shameful, it’s sickening and it’s revolting that Britain sells components to Israel for its weapons. It’s shameful that weapons that Israel has field tested on the Palestinians are brought by Britain. The arms trade with Israel has to end now,” stated Sarah Colborne of Palestine Solidarity Campaign at a demonstration in London, July 26th.
A petition from the BDS movement has called on the UN and governments around the globe to implement a comprehensive and legally binding military embargo on Israel. The petition will be presented to the new UN High Commissioner for Human rights when they take up their post in September 2014.
“Israel must be made to pay a heavy economic and political price for its crimes against the people of Gaza…people are echoing the call from Palestinian civil society for a full military embargo on Israel as the most urgent measure of accountability,” said Shuaibi, the BDS movement’s spokesperson.
In addition to a military embargo, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, six Nobel laureates and other prominent figures have written an open letter to the United Nations and national governments expressing concern regarding Israel’s military arsenal and the impunity with which it’s military conducts itself.
“Israel’s ability to launch such devastating offensives with impunity largely stems from the vast international military cooperation and trade that it maintains with complicit governments,” states the letter, which more than 45,000 people have signed.
'Field tested’ equipment and technology
Calls for a military embargo come due to Israel’s position at the forefront of the arms business. The technology it uses is marketed as “field tested.” “Revenue from exports of military equipment and technology provides a vital revenue source for the Israeli government and military,” according to BDS.
According to many commentators, Israel’s edge in the global arms market is based chiefly on its military occupation of the Palestinian territories and grim escalations like we’ve recently seen in Gaza.
Israeli military companies market their military exports as “field tested,” said Yotam Feldman, director of The Lab, a documentary about Israel using Palestinians as guinea pigs for military experiments to enrich a new elite of arms dealers.
“Israel has turned the occupied territories into a laboratory for refining, testing and showcasing its weapons systems,” argued Feldman.
Israel’s economic and military prestige is ostensibly bound together by the high death toll in Gaza. Israel’s unwillingness to comply with international law and the impunity with which it often conducts itself, allow these crimes to continue. Boycotting Israeli goods and pressuring governments to cease trading arms with Israel could have serious economic implications.
International outcry and anger over the slaughter of innocent civilians in Gaza has now been turned into concrete action. As Palestinian human rights activist associated with the BDS movement Rafeef Ziadah argues, when the talk of international community is cheap, “We must step up our boycott, divestment and sanctions, campaigning internationally to end Israel’s impunity.”
Over the past month more than a million people have demonstrated around the world in solidarity with Gaza.