Today, Kairos Palestine in Bethlehem released a statement on the Buy Israel activities of “an assortment of anti-Palestinian conglomerates” in the United Kingdom and the United States. The activities are organized in response to the increasing strength of the BDS movement. The full statement is published below.
Saturday, 26 November has been declared a national BDS Day of Action in the United Kingdom. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is calling on supporters to focus action on supermarket chain Tesco. The company sells a wide range of Israeli goods and is the only supermarket in the UK that is openly selling illegal settlement goods. PSC states:
We are calling on all supporters of Palestinian human rights to get involved through a variety of actions – from street protests, e-lobbying, networking and social media sites – to get more people involved in the boycott movement and help bring an end to Israel’s occupation, just like the movement against Apartheid in South Africa.
This has prompted the Israel lobby in the UK to go on the defensive.
Luke Akehurst, Director of We Believe in Israel — which is supported by the Israeli Embassy in London, the Jewish National Fund and StandWithUs UK — has circulated a letter in response to the national BDS day in which he calls for two “BUYcott” days sponsored by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and StandWithUs UK, “to counter the Boycott of Israeli goods.” He shows his fear for BDS activism in the last sentence of his letter:
You are asked by the organisers not to promote this campaign on public forums, which would alert the Boycotters in advance and give publicity to the Boycott itself.
Akehurst invites people to challenge BDS day “by making an extra special effort to BUY Israeli goods, particularly in the days running up to Boycott day (26 November). Please play your part by encouraging others to buy Israeli products. Speak to branch managers to point out how valued Israeli products are.”
In the United States, StandWithUs has put out a similar call on its website about the Buy Israel Week. Just like in the UK, the activity is planned in response to successful BDS activism in the US. Frances Zelazny, who came up with the idea, expressed her concerns by the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against apartheid Israel. The initiative is co-sponsored by nine Jewish newspapers throughout the country, including the New York Jewish Week. The Jewish National Fund signed on to take part in the Buy Israel Week campaign. Ahava and El Al are sponsors of the campaign.
The organizers are attempting to lure people into buying Israeli products with discount coupons from more than a hundred local merchants and Israeli retailers.
Kairos Palestine calls to increase BDS efforts
Meanwhile, Kairos Palestine released today a powerful statement on the Buy Israel actions:
Anything but subtle – that sums up the desperate campaign recently launched by an assortment of anti-Palestinian conglomerates. Buy Israel Week, to be held from November 28 to December 4, is an apparent attempt to hijack Christmas shoppers and divert attention from the success of the ongoing BDS campaigns around the world.
This is a moment when the BDS movement is claiming colossal successes in many countries around the globe, with an impact that has encouraged its initiators to dare the hope that political change will come sooner rather than later.
Indeed, the Buy Israel Week is rooted in a frantic attempt to sidetrack attention from the deteriorating international tolerance for the crimes being perpetrated by the Israeli military forces in the Occupied Territories. Buy Israel Week’s initiators claim that those who work to undermine Israel do so by boycotting its very right to exist. They call on shoppers to ‘counteract this movement’ by ‘buying Israel’.
The call to ‘Buy Israel’ has a sense of hysteria about it. Rather than come to terms with the illegality of the occupation, the architects of the campaign remain defensive. The initiators are frustrated by their inability to “shape decisions made at the United Nations or on Capitol Hill” and wary of the possible acceptance of Palestine in an increasing number of UN fora in the coming months. They are unleashing ‘Buy Israel’ as a diversionary tactic from the international gaze strengthened by the UN bid and subsequent actions in UNESCO.
Kairos Palestine remains steadfast in its call for boycott, divestment, and sanctions. In our document “A Moment of Truth,” Kairos endorses the 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. We understand that the object of our BDS stance is not one of revenge but rather to put an end to the existing evil, liberating both the perpetrators and the victims of injustice”.
Indeed, the BDS movement itself does not seek to punish Israel, nor is it an end-goal unto itself. Rather, it is a means: a measure of non-violent protest in line with democratic rights and responsibilities that we seek to implement until Israel complies with international law and concedes Palestinian rights.
Kairos Palestine strongly urges people who seek justice for Palestine — and those who seek peace for all — to see anxiety of the ‘Buy Israel’ campaign for exactly what it is: a flagrant attempt to distract the world from a powerful non-violent movement that is actually working. Accordingly, Kairos Palestine also urges people to maintain their unwavering support for BDS. BDS is visibly hurting the apparatus of Israeli interests; with solidarity and persistence, we know we will succeed in making Israel accountable to its obligations under international law rather than to the oppression it implements to uphold its own illegal occupation.”