Holiday shopping-related actions took place around the world this past week as boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists encouraged shoppers not to buy Israeli products. And a group in California calls on the largest US pension fund to investigate its investment ties with Israeli companies and US companies that do business with the Israeli military.
New Yorkers protest Leviev diamonds and the Fashion Institute of Technology
In New York on 17 December, dozens of activists converged in downtown Manhattan for the fifth annual protest against Israeli diamond magnate and settlement supporter Lev Leviev. Adalah-NY, the New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, stated in a press release that 25 protesters “continued on to the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) where they sang, chanted and distributed flyers in front of Daphne Guinness’ clothing exhibition there, which is sponsored by ‘Leviev Extraordinary Diamonds.’”
The press release continued:
Outside Leviev’s high-end Madison Avenue jewelry store, the carolers, many wearing Santa hats, greeted holiday shoppers for the fifth consecutive year with favorites from the Anti-Apartheid Caroling Songbook including, “We Wish You a Loss of Business” (“We Wish You a Merry Christmas”), “Oh, Boycott, Boycott, Boycott” (“Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel”), and “Lev We All Can see the Folly” (“Deck the Halls”). They sang new songs, including “Lev’s Dirty Rocks” (“Jingle Bell Rocks”) and “Diamond Mines” (“Silver Bells”). To the tune of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” they recognized West Bank communities like Bil’in, Jayyous and Nabi Saleh that are protesting Israel’s seizure of their land for settlements, and sang:
“The people of these villages said heed the boycott call,
With international pressure to help Apartheid fall,
Each time we sing here in the cold their courage we recall,
O-oh justice for Palestinian, women and men,
The question is not i-i-f, but when.”
… Organizations including Oxfam America, CARE and UNICEF; governments including Norway and the United Kingdom; major investment firms and Hollywood stars have all sought distance from Leviev’s companies over their human rights record. In November 2010, presumably in response to international pressure, Leviev’s company Africa Israel made ambiguous statements suggesting it would not build more settlements. But a separate Leviev company, Leader Management and Development, continues development of the Zufim settlement on the land of the West Bank village of Jayyous, with devastating consequences.
Over the last two weeks, New York human rights advocates have distributed hundreds of flyers outside the Museum at FIT calling on FIT to “Say No to Leviev.” Londoners staged a protest outside Leviev’s Bond Street jewelry store on December 1st.
Adalah-NY has been at the forefront of protest against Leviev since 2007, when it began an official campaign to boycott Leviev’s companies. More information on their campaign can be found by visiting their website at: http://adalahny.org/category/our-work/land-developer-bds-leviev.
Bay Area activists stage bridal-themed “flash mob” action inside Bed Bath & Beyond
San Francisco Bay Area-based BDS activists, dressed in bridal gowns and accompanied by Christmas carolers, held an action inside a Bed Bath & Beyond store in Marin county over the weekend, encouraging shoppers not to buy AHAVA cosmetics or Sodastream products — both of which are made in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Because the superstore chain is popular with bridal registries across the country, the activists said that as “blushing BDS brides,” they were urging holiday shoppers to not buy AHAVA or Sodastream products.
The manager of the store told the activists that he had “no intention” of deshelving either product, despite repeated calls to the store by customers urging management to do so.
Italian activists deshelve Sodastream products at COOP supermarket in Rome
In Rome, BDS activists recently held a protest inside a busy COOP supermarket chain store, where some explained to shoppers that Sodastream products support Israeli apartheid policies in Palestine, while others took Sodastream drink-makers off the shelves. “We call on all of you to not put the fruits of apartheid under your Christmas tree,” one of the activists stated.
Earlier this year, activists in Sweden were able to pressure COOP supermarket chains across the country to stop carrying Sodastream products. As The Electronic Intifada reported,
This marked another important victory for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, as Sweden is Sodastream’s largest market, with an estimated one in five households owning a Sodastream product (“Coop Sweden stops all purchases of Soda Stream carbonation devices,” 21 July 2011) … Sodastream, whose products are sold in 41 countries, has repeatedly attempted to deflect attention from the factory in the occupied West Bank, claiming that it is just one of many around the world.
A video of the recent action in Rome was posted to YouTube:
5,321 Californians with the Israel Divestment Campaign call on pension fund to investigate companies with ties to Israel and the Israeli army
Meanwhile, a group of BDS activists in California with the Israel Divestment Campaign (IDC) formally submitted a petition to the largest pension fund in the US, the California Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), calling on it to “honor its own policy of responsible investing.”
According to a statement posted on the IDC website, on 12 December several members of the IDC — speaking on behalf of their 5,321 petitioners, including 837 members of PERS and 545 members of the State Teachers Retirement Fund — “gave compelling evidence of how investments in Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Caterpillar, Elbit and Veolia violate PERS’ own policy of corporate responsibility.”
Following IDC’s presentation to PERS, the group said that it “looks forward to conversations with PERS Corporate Governance staff and hopes that PERS will begin its investigation into the five companies after the first of the New Year.”
You can learn more about the IDC campaign at: www.israeldivestmentcampaign.org. Readers can access the full transcripts of the IDC representatives’ presentations to PERS.
The Electronic Intifada will follow developments in this story as they happen.