Since 2005, when Palestinian civil society organisations first called for a strategy of ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’ against Israel, there has been a growing focus on these activities by the international Palestine solidarity movement. There are some very good reasons for this. The model is based on that of the anti-Apartheid movement, and provides for lots of very concrete activism and achievable goals.
For instance, earlier this year, I took part in an action War on Want organised at Waitrose. Stopping Waitrose from selling goods produced illegally in the occupied territories at the very least is entirely possible, even if it hasn’t happened yet. Together with divestment from companies involved in maintaining the occupation, and political pressure for sanctions (such as the suspension of the EU-Israel trade agreement), the international movement can start to shift the ground even when governments refuse to act against Israel’s flouting of international law.
But I’ve also seen some enthusiastic but very untargeted calls for boycott – posters that encourage people to target just about every multinational going. Some of these merely operate outlets in Israel rather than having a specific link to the occupation, or being exporters of Israeli goods. Boycotting capitalism entirely might be a worthy goal, but it doesn’t have a tangible benefit for Palestine and it won’t encourage activism.
War on Want’s fantastic new report, Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: Winning justice for the Palestinian people is therefore an important resource in this regard. Alongside succint summaries of various injustices the Palestinian people face, from water grabbing in the Jordan Valley, to the denial of the right to return of Palestinian refugees, to the Apartheid Wall itself, there’s a clear target for campaigning and actions you can take. Not all of these are companies, though many are. Most importantly, a balance is stuck between having a range of targets for campaigning actions and having too many.
This makes it more than just a report, but a toolkit for helping to build the BDS movement in the UK. Palestine solidarity and anti-war groups, trade union branches and student societies might want to order copies or download it from their website. You can also take action online against one of the suggested targets, BT, which gives preferential terms to an Israeli telecommunications company servicing illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.
BDS is a strategic response to the crisis Palestine faces. We can make a real difference if we take it seriously.