A BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Primer
As the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship discerned whether to endorse the BDS Movement and after endorsing it, hearing from EPF members, we confirmed that as an organization we are all over the map on this issue. To help individuals and chapters in their discernment around next steps, EPF PIN offers this guide to BDS to get you started.
On 9 July 2005, Palestinian Civil Society called for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complied with international law and universal principles of human rights
(http://www.bdsmovement.net). Components of civil society include unions, associations and campaigns, refugee rights organizations and nongovernmental organizations, even Chambers of Commerce. The movement website lists signatories and endorsers. Here is their statement:
One year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal; Israel continues its construction of the colonial Wall with total disregard to the Court’s decision. Thirty-eight years into Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza Strip and the Syrian Golan Heights, Israel continues to expand Jewish colonies. It has unilaterally annexed occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and is now de facto annexing large parts of the West Bank by means of the Wall. Israel is also preparing – in the shadow of its planned redeployment from the Gaza Strip – to build and expand colonies in the West Bank. Fifty- seven years after the state of Israel was built mainly on land ethnically cleansed of its Palestinian owners, a majority of Palestinians are refugees, most of whom are stateless. Moreover, Israel’s entrenched system of racial discrimination against its own Arab-Palestinian citizens remains intact.
In light of Israel’s persistent violations of international law; and
Given that, since 1948, hundreds of UN resolutions have condemned Israel’s colonial and discriminatory policies as illegal and called for immediate, adequate and effective remedies; and
Given that all forms of international intervention and peace-making have until now failed to convince or force Israel to comply with humanitarian law, to respect fundamental human rights and to end its occupation and oppression of the people of Palestine; and
In view of the fact that people of conscience in the international community have historically shouldered the moral responsibility to fight injustice, as exemplified in the struggle to abolish apartheid in South Africa through diverse forms of boycott, divestment and sanctions; and
Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid and in the spirit of international solidarity, moral consistency and resistance to injustice and oppression;
We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.
These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of 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 Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) “was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel issued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.” To learn more about their work see http://www.pacbi.org/.
In December 2009 Kairos Palestine: A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope, and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering (http://www.kairospalestine.ps/) included a statement of support for BDS:
Palestinian civil organizations, as well as international organizations, NGOs and certain religious institutions call on individuals, companies and states to engage in divestment and in an economic and commercial boycott of everything produced by the occupation. We understand this to integrate the logic of peaceful resistance. These advocacy campaigns must be carried out with courage, openly sincerely proclaiming that their object is not revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice. The aim is to free both peoples from extremist positions of the different Israeli governments, bringing both to justice and reconciliation. In this spirit and with this dedication we will eventually reach the longed-for resolution to our problems, as indeed happened in South Africa and with many other liberation movements in the world.
Kairos Palestine authors are a group of Palestinian Christian laypeople and clergy writing from their experience as Palestinian Christians in Israel and Palestine.
In May 2010 the National Executive Council of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship endorsed boycott and divestment in the following statement:
In response to the ongoing cycle of violence – including Palestinian terrorist bombings and the well documented military and economic violence of the government of Israel against Palestinians – that undermines negotiations and hope for an enduring peace- The NEC of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship, in support of the principles of the Kairos Palestinian Document 4.2.6. endorses the application of divestment and an economic and commercial boycott of products linked to oppression of Palestinian people and occupation of their land. As peacemakers committed to nonviolent resolution of deep-seated conflicts, the National Executive Council joins a growing number of international and religious partners, including Jewish, Muslim, and Christian voices, who believe that economic sanctions can inspire a more useful dialog and negotiation towards a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. Respect for the dignity of every human being, alongside a vision to put aside the violence of terrorism, oppression and military force is key to moving negotiations forward for a lasting peace for all involved.
There are many ways to participate in BDS from boycotting products made in Israeli Jewish settlements which are illegal under international law to encouraging entertainers not to perform in Israel to joining a campaign to get pension funds or colleges and universities or your denomination or local congregation to divest from companies which benefit from the Occupation. There are ongoing campaigns whose websites provide solid how-to information so you don’t have to create a campaign yourself.
In addition to http://www.bdsmovement.net here are some places to start:
- David Wildman discusses the relevance of divestment from a faith perspective in “Why Divestment? And Why Now?”, http://www.ameu.org/printer.asp?iid=267&aid=577
- Gush Shalom describes itself as “the hard core of the Israeli peace movement.” Use their list of settlement products to boycott: http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/campaigns/settlements_products
- The Coalition of Women for Peace is “a feminist organization against the occupation of Palestine and for a just peace.” Their campaign Who Profits from the Occupation “is a research project initiated by the Coalition of Women for Peace in 2007, in order to investigate economic involvement in the occupation. By exposing companies and corporations that profit from the occupation, we hope to promote a change in public opinions and corporate policies, leading to an end to the occupation.” This is well-researched information. http://www.whoprofits.org
- For information on active BDS campaigns, the US Campaign to End the Occupation is an excellent place to start. http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?list=type&type=203
- The US Campaign offers the Occupation Free Faith Communities Network http://www.endtheoccupation.org/section.php?id=357. “An Occupation Free Faith Community commits to take specific advocacy steps to bring about a just peace in Israel/Palestine. Occupation Free Congregations can be churches, mosques, synagogues, or temples. Or they can be particular committees, taskforces, or boards within these communities that focus on Israel/Palestine or on peace and social justice issues. They can be Bible study groups, clergy groups, or campus ministries. Or they can be regional groupings of faith communities, or interfaith organizations.” See their website for resources on organizing a group.
- To follow campaigns and track successes see http://youthanormalization.blogspot.com/
- For a comprehensive list of actions to end the Occupation see www.interfaithpeaceinitiative.com/globalactions.pdf