A California church voted on Tuesday to boycott all Hewlett Packard products because of the company’s role in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
The Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz will not purchase HP equipment including printers, computers and ink cartridges. It says it is the first US congregation to take up a consumer boycott of HP products.
“As we did with allies in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa and the grape boycott in California, we act now to show that churches can and do make a difference when we step out of our safe routines and onto the path of courage and justice,” Dave Grishaw-Jones, a senior pastor at the church, stated in a press release.
“This is where we belong, on that path,” he added.
HP boasts of a “massive presence” in Israel, with more than 5,700 employees there, and has been one of the Israeli military’s main information technology suppliers.
The company has long been deeply invested in Israel’s military and security infrastructure, supplying the IT systems for Israel’s defense ministry, supplying and managing the computer servers for the army and administering IT infrastructure for the navy.
EDS Israel, now known as HP Enterprise Services Israel, developed, installed and services the Basel System, a biometric identification system operating at more than 20 Israeli checkpoints throughout the occupied West Bank and around Gaza.
In addition to limiting Palestinian movement and enforcing a regime of segregation, the system collects biometric data as well as personal information on Palestinians.
HP has also provided printers and IT systems for the Israel Prison Service.
The church’s vote signals steady growth in the global campaign to pressure HP and other multinational corporations to end their complicity in Israel’s occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.
In early December, G4S, the world’s largest private security firm, announced it was dumping most of its businesses in Israel following the loss of millions of dollars in contracts amidst expanding boycott pressure.
The vote to boycott HP products at the Peace United church was part of a recent global week of action against the company.
Campaigners in dozens of cities across six continents participated in actions targeting the company and bringing attention to HP’s role in enabling Israel’s rights violations.
HP split into two companies last year – HP Inc. and Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) – and more spinoffs are expected. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) notes that “the various HP companies share certain logistical infrastructure, governance, supply chains and technologies with one another, and they all draw on the HP brand’s long history of close connections with the Israeli military and occupation.”
The Presbyterian Church USA, the Unitarian Universalists, the United Church of Christ, the Mennonite Central Committee, the Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation and the Alliance of Baptists have all taken decisions in recent years to divest their pension or investment funds from HP and other US corporations complicit in Israel’s military occupation and other abuses.
“These organizations represent over 15,000 US congregations and the potential for millions of dollars in buying power,” said Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), a Christian ecumenical group working for Palestinian rights.
“We are inspired by Peace United and hope churches across the country will take the simple action to become HP-free and end their complicity in apartheid,” Rochelle Gause, a national organizer with FOSNA, told The Electronic Intifada.
The group is coordinating with other churches around the country to follow Peace United’s lead.
“So many denominations have divested from HP. This is a powerful opportunity to bring that important stand for justice into our congregations,” Gause added.