BDS campaign makes gains, faces fresh attacks

February 21, 2016
As the BDS movement gains momentum, Israel’s supporters in the Western world have ramped up moves to quash it.

There has been plenty of heat this Palestinian winter in the campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel.

There have been some important victories, helped by the increased scrutiny of Israeli state violence since October. And equally, the hysteria from Israeli and Western political establishments over the “threat” posed by the BDS campaign has reached new levels.

Irish building materials firm CRH announced that it would divest its 25% stake in Israeli firm Nesher Cement on January 8. CRH had long been targeted by BDS activists for the equity stake in Nesher, which produces 85% of all cement in Israel and Palestine.

In 2004, CRH management admitted that “in all probability”, Nesher cement had been used in building Israel's apartheid wall in the West Bank. Nesher products have been documented in the construction of illegal West Bank settlements, as well as the Jerusalem Light Rail, which connects settlements with central Jerusalem.

Jamal Juma, general coordinator for Stop the Wall, said: “Thanks to the global BDS movement, we are seeing the strengthening of a trend where major corporations and investors are realising that being associated with Israeli apartheid and settler-colonialism is bad for business.

“We warmly thank and congratulate the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and all those involved in the campaign that through their effective solidarity are strengthening our struggle for justice, equality and freedom.”

CRH's announcement followed the January 7 announcement by French telecommunications giant Orange that its franchise agreement in Israel would be terminated.

The pressure had been mounting on Orange, with a widespread campaign in the Arab world providing the trigger to finally begin terminating the contract. The BDS movement had been targeting Orange for more than six years.

The success of the BDS campaign has provoked a growing backlash. Israeli figures continue to denounce BDS, no doubt noting the movement's role in Israeli exports dropping 7% last year.

As the BDS movement gains momentum, Israel's supporters in the Western world have ramped up moves to quash it, most notably in France and Britain.

On February 17, the Paris City Council passed two non-binding resolutions condemning boycotts of Israel. One resolution each was proposed by the governing Socialists and a centre-right coalition.

The resolutions follow a French court decision in October that declared that BDS was discriminatory and illegal, sentencing a small group of activists to pay a 12,000 Euro fine.

Musician Roger Waters, best known for his role in Pink Floyd, wrote an open letter in response, published by Mondoweis/ on January 28. The long-time BDS supporter said: “The law should serve the oppressed not the oppressors. If your law protects the oppressors, the racists and the discriminators, and punishes the men and women of good heart who man the barricades of freedom, wherever those barricades may exist in our small planet, then your law is an ass.”

In Britain, plans by the Conservative government to ban all public institutions from boycotting Israel — as well as tobacco and arms manufacturers — have sparked a public outcry.

A BDS spokesperson, Palestinian slam poet Rafeef Ziadah, said: “Rather than working to hold Israel to account for its ongoing human rights violations, UK ministers continue the arms trade with Israel and attack local democracy in order to shield it from any criticism.”

Despite these attacks, the movement continues to grow, with a new campaign targeting major musicians who have announced they will be performing concerts in the apartheid state.

The campaign, using the hashtag #CancelTelAviv, has targeted popstars Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, both rumoured to be scheduling gigs in Israel.

As of yet, neither star has made a definitive announcement — making now an ideal time to increase the pressure.

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