First Published: 2009-05-01

 
The Israel Boycott is Biting
 

Motorola, Caterpillar, Veolia (light rail makers), the Tesco supermarket chain, and other companies across the world that do business with Israel are suffering losses due to a global boycott in support of Palestinian rights, argues Nadia Hijab.

 

Middle East Online





On May 4, protesters will greet Motorola shareholders, already disgruntled by the company’s losses, as they arrive for their annual meeting at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago, Illinois.



The protest, organized by the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, is part of a drive to “Hang Up On Motorola” until it ends sales of communications and other products that support Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian land.



Inside the meeting, the Presbyterian, United Methodist and other churches will urge shareholders to support their resolution, which calls for corporate standards grounded in international law. Doing the right thing could also reduce the risk of “consumer boycotts, divestment campaigns and lawsuits.”



Although Motorola executives deny it, such risks must have played a part in their decision to sell the department making bomb fuses shortly after Human Rights Watch teams found shrapnel with Motorola serial numbers at some of the civilian sites bombed by Israel in its December-January assault on Gaza.



The US protests are part of a growing global movement that has taken international law into its own hands because governments have not. And, especially since the attacks on Gaza, the boycotts have been biting. There are three reasons why.



First, boycotts enable ordinary citizens to take direct action. For instance, the New York group Adalah decided to target diamond merchant Lev Leviev, whose profits are plowed into colonizing the West Bank. During the Christmas season, they sing carols with the words creatively altered to urge shoppers to boycott his Madison Avenue store.



The British group Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine teamed up with Adalah NY and others to exert public pressure on the British government regarding Leviev. The British Embassy in Tel Aviv recently cancelled plans to rent premises from Leviev’s company Africa-Israel.



There are other results. Activists in Britain have targeted the supermarket chain Tesco to stop the sales of Israeli goods produced in settlements. In a video of one such action -- over 38,000 YouTube views to date -- Welsh activists load up a trolley with settlement products and push it out of the shop without paying.



All the while, they calmly explain to the camera just what they are doing and why. They talk away as they pour red paint over the produce, and as British Bobbies quietly lead them away to a police van.



The result of such consumer boycotts? A fifth of Israeli producers have reported a drop in demand since the assault on Gaza, particularly in Britain and Scandinavia.



The second reason boycotts are more effective is the visible role of Jewish human rights advocates, making it harder for Israel to argue that these actions are anti-Semitic.



For example, British architect Abe Hayeem, an Iraqi Jew, describes in a passionate column in The Guardian exactly how Leviev tramples on Palestinian rights, and warns Israeli architects involved in settlements that they will be held to account by their international peers.



In the United States, Jewish Voice for Peace has led an ongoing campaign to stop Caterpillar from selling bulldozers to Israel, which militarizes them and uses them in home demolitions and building the separation wall.



The third, key, reason for the growing success of this global movement is the determined leadership of Palestinian civil society. The spark was lit at the world conference against racism in Durban in 2001. In 2004, Palestinian civil society launched an academic and cultural boycott that is having an impact.



In 2005, over 170 Palestinian civil society coalitions, organizations, and unions, from the occupied territories, within Israel, and in exile issued a formal call for an international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) until Israel abides by international law. The call sets out clear goals for the movement and provides a framework for action.



In November 2008, Palestinian NGOs helped convene an international BDS conference in Bilbao, Spain, to adopt common actions. This launched a “Derail Veolia” campaign. That French multinational corporation, together with another French company, Alstom, is building a light railway linking East Jerusalem to illegal settlements.



The light rail project was cited by the Swedish national pension fund in its decision to exclude Alstom from its $15 billion portfolio, and by the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council in its decision not to consider further Veolia's bid for a $1.9 billion waste improvement plan. There were active grassroots campaigns in both areas.



Other hits: Veolia lost the contract to operate the city of Stockholm subway and an urban network in Bordeaux. Although these were reportedly “business decisions” there were also activist campaigns in both places. The Galway city council in Ireland decided to follow Stockholm’s example. Meanwhile, Connex, the company that is supposed to operate the light rail, is being targeted by activists in Australia.



The “Derail Veolia” campaign has been the movement’s biggest success to date. Veolia and its subsidiaries are estimated to have lost as much as $7.5 billion.



As one of the BDS movement leaders, Omar Barghouti, put it, “When companies start to lose money, then they listen.” Perhaps governments will too.





Nadia Hijab is a Senior Fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies in Washington D.C.



Copyright © 2009 Nadia Hijab – distributed by Agence Global

 

Erdogan asks Americans: Who’s your partner, Turkey or Kurds?

Algeria parliament adopts Bouteflika’s constitutional reforms

Turkey vows to let in Syria refugees 'if necessary'

UAE ready to send ground troops to Syria

Iran carmaker reveals 427 million euros in Peugeot perks

Tunisia completes construction of Libya border fence

Algeria parliament to vote on constitutional reforms

Egypt returns body of Italian student Giulio Regeni

Iran reverses mass ban on candidates for parliamentary polls

Thousands of Syria refugees brave bad weather at border with Turkey

New photos reveal serious abuse of Iraq prisoners in US facilities

EU reminds Turkey: Keep your border open to Syria refugees

Somalia recaptures key port of Merka from Shebab

Iran warns Saudi Arabia over possible ground action in Syria

Palestinian journalist to keep up hunger strike

Iraq’s Sistani to end weekly political sermons

Shebab fighters recapture key port in Somalia

Syria regime forces close in on Daraa

Israeli leaders slam Arab MPs, refuse to return Palestinian corpses

IS jihadists rise in Libya, drop in Iraq and Syria

World powers pledge $10 billion to help war-hit Syrians

Morocco king inaugurates first solar power plant

Saudi ready to send ground troops to Syria

Israel charges cop for exposing woman's ID

Russia accuses Turkey of preparing to invade Syria

Syria talks were an inevitable failure

Saudi says Iranian pilgrims still welcome

Italy demands truth from Egypt over slain student

Fear stalks Libya's Sirte

US adds $890 million to Syria humanitarian aid effort

Tunisia lifts nationwide curfew

Two Israelis jailed for burning Palestinian teen alive

Sweden expects 100,000 asylum seekers in 2016

Turkey refuses access to Russian flight as Aleppo bombardment continues

40,000 Syrians flee Assad regime's Aleppo offensive

US implicitly blames Russia for collapse of Syria peace talks

Rome summons Egypt’s ambassador over student’s death

Israeli forces lock down West Bank town

Two Algerians 'linked to IS' arrested in Germany

Assad regime accused of undermining Syria peace talks

Top Qaeda chief killed in Yemen drone attack

EU agrees on details of Turkey refugee deal as Italy drops objections

Iraq air force receives second batch of F-16 fighter jets

Syria army secures major battlefield victory as peace push falters

Blast on Somalia airliner ‘points to bomb’