As part of a regular feature, The Electronic Intifada reports on the latest developments of the Palestinian-led global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli violations of human rights and policies of apartheid.
BDS campaigners scored a significant victory this month as the London Borough of Tower Hamlets voted to exclude Veolia, a French firm that has provided services to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, from receiving any contracts with the municipality. Activists have also staged protests and launched campaigns in Ireland, Belgium, Palestine. Meanwhile, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) announced the third annual global day of action to be held on 30 March 2011.
Activists with the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) are calling for a global boycott against Israeli “blood diamonds” on Valentine’s Day, 14 February.
In a statement on the campaign’s website, IPSC activists are urging consumers to make conscious choices in buying jewelry gifts for their loved ones.
“This Valentine’s Day, don’t let dazzling diamonds blind you to the plight of those whose misery and suffering is funded by revenue from the Israeli diamond industry,” IPSC stated (“Global Call to Action - Flashy Stones and Broken Bones,” January 2011).
IPSC has campaigned against the Israeli diamond industry for more than a year, petitioning Irish jewelry associations to stop carrying Israeli gemstones.
Sean Clinton, chairman of the Limerick branch of IPSC, wrote last year for The Electronic Intifada that “The diamond industry is a major pillar of the Israeli economy … No other developed country is so heavily dependent on a single luxury commodity and the goodwill of individual consumers globally.”
Clinton added that Israel holds a “dominant position” in the diamond industry, and the state currently chairs the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, an international regulation and certification program that is tasked with eliminating “blood diamonds” from the industry. Blood diamonds are gemstones mined from areas in the world — mostly in the African and Asian continents — that are involved in, or directly finance, ongoing human rights violations, violence and war.
In its campaign statement, the IPSC added: “[diamonds] are the currency of broken bones and bombed out homes in Gaza. The burning glow of the white phosphorous that rained down on Gaza doesn’t come cheap, but the $1 billion the Israeli military derives from revenue from the Israeli diamond industry each year helps to fill the coffers of the criminal military regime.”
IPSC stated: “Every time someone buys a diamond processed in Israel some of the money goes to funding the Israeli war machine that stands accused of war crimes. Israeli diamonds are blood diamonds.”
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign in the UK is intensifying its efforts to urge local authorities to exclude French urban services corporation Veolia from major public contracts. This comes on the heels of the recent findings of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine that Veolia is liable for serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law because of its numerous contracts with the Israeli government’s settlement industry in the occupied West Bank (“The Boycott VEOLIA Campaign-A Fortnight of Actions In February,” February 2011).
Campaigners around the UK are planning a series of actions, including sit-in protests at two London borough council meetings to protest possible city contracts with Veolia for waste management systems. On 1 February, the group organized a protest at Veolia’s UK headquarters in Islington, North London.
On 2 February, Tower Hamlets, one of the London Borough councils, passed a motion to formally exclude Veolia from its urban waste management contracts, citing that the corporation has “clearly committed acts of grave misconduct in relation to the Palestinian people and the maintenance of illegal settlements …” (“Full text of the Council meeting,”2 February 2011 [PDF]).
Additionally, the council voted to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign “against the pariah state of Israel,” and stated that “urgent steps should be taken to review all contracts with Veolia and not to place any further contracts with the company.”
The council also passed a motion to urge the Mayor of London to write to Veolia to communicate the council’s “determination to terminate any relationship” to the company.
The action by Tower Hamlets is reminiscent of similar actions by many UK local authorities during the 1980s campaigns against apartheid in South Africa.
After the Russell Tribunal, Veolia Environmental Services UK spread the news that the company had pulled out of the operation of the Tovlan landfill site in the Jordan Valley in the occupied West Bank. The landfill serves mainly illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and municipalities in Israel. Meanwhile, Who Profits? (www.whoprofits.org) — a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace — verified the information against facts on the ground. The Israeli environmental protection authority of the settlements in the West Bank told Who Profits? in early February that Veolia is still operating the Tovlan landfill.
Solidarity activists staged a protest inside an international tourism industry exhibition in Brussels on 5 February, encouraging attendees to boycott the Israeli exhibit. Wearing matching T-shirts emblazoned with “Free Palestine” and “Palestine Vivra” (Palestine will live), with “Boycott Israel” on the back, activists formed a human chain around the Israeli tourism tent and chanted in support of boycott.
Palestine-based activists with the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) continued to put pressure on American singer Macy Gray, who has stated she will perform in Tel Aviv despite repeated protests by Palestinian, Israeli and international boycott campaigners.
In its statement on 9 February, PACBI expressed “great dismay” at Gray’s decision to keep her Tel Aviv performance date, and warned her that she would be “electing to serve directly the interests of the [public relations] campaign to Brand Israel” (“Open letter to Macy Gray,” 9 February 2011)
“This is a campaign that has been launched by the Israeli government and promoted by institutions throughout the country and abroad in order to whitewash Israel’s violations of international law and project a false image of normalcy,” PACBI added.
PACBI stated that Gray has promoted this campaign already, by playing at the opening of the Israeli consulate offices in Los Angeles and, more recently, releasing a statement declaring her support for Israel at the request of Israeli diplomats in California.
After Gray announced that she would proceed with her planned performance, she said she would visit Ramallah, the West Bank city where the US-supported Palestinian Authority is based, during her visit, a move which PACBI said is a “a patronizing attempt to dictate the terms of the Palestinian people’s struggle — by wanting to visit Palestinian schools or play a show in Ramallah, as though the Palestinian people need your pity.”
PACBI added: “We have asked, as an occupied people, for the minimum act of solidarity by not playing in Tel Aviv. We have been answered with your dismissal of our struggle in favor of your own way of helping, as though you know better. While we acknowledge there are many ways to help, we ask that people who do so are not directly delegitimizing the popular will of the Palestinian people. By playing in Tel Aviv you will do this and more. Your action will imply support of the occupation and the colonial Israeli state, denial of the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes, and dismissal of a system of apartheid.”
Global boycott, divestment and sanctions day of action
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) announced the third annual global day of action to be held on 30 March 2011, in a call to intensify boycott actions around the world while commemorating an historic day in the Palestinian anti-colonialist movement (“Commemorate Land Day 2011 by Joining the Global BDS Day of Action”).
“Inspired and buoyed by the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia and their unique manifestation of courage, dignity, civility and determination, we stand resolutely with worldwide struggles for self-determination, freedom, democracy, social justice and equality, and we call for intensifying BDS actions globally as the main form of solidarity with Palestinian rights,” the BNC stated.
The BNC said it is calling on people of conscience all over the world to join the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement by launching and supporting local, national and international divestment initiatives; by taking part in consumer boycotts; to pursue legal action against Israeli war criminals and violations of international law by corporations complicit in Israeli military policies; and more.
The date of the global day of action, 30 March, is the annual commemoration of Land Day. In 1976 the Israeli military shot and killed six young Palestinian citizens of Israel during a massive uprising in protest of the Israeli government’s plan to build new Jewish-only colonies and expand existing Jewish cities.
“Today, Land Day symbolizes Palestinian resistance to Israel’s ongoing land expropriation, colonization, occupation and apartheid,” the BNC wrote in its statement.
The first Global BDS Day of Action was announced by Palestinian civil society with overwhelming support at the World Social Forum in 2009.