Around the world, surge of BDS in response to Gaza Flotilla massacre (and how you can get involved)

Just a few weeks back, we reported on a renewed wave of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activity against Israeli apartheid and occupation.

That was before the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre.

Now, as calls for governments around the globe to hold the Israeli military accountable for the killing of 8 Turkish citizens and one U.S.-Turkish citizen continue, and as Turkey, Nicaragua, and others have withdrawn ambassadors or suspended diplomatic ties, civil society groups are sending a clear message that accountability is the job of global citizens, not just states.

American Jewish peace activist Anna Balzer writes at her blog:

“Far more significant than protests is the fact that worldwide disapproval has been transforming into concrete rejection of normalization with Israel, including major victories for the Palestinian movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it complies with international law.

This past week, the student body at Evergreen College voted to divest from “Israel’s illegal occupation.” Before she was run over by Israeli soldiers in a US-made Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza, Rachel Corrie had attended Evergreen. Along with divesting, students have voted for a “Caterpillar free” campus. You can support the students by clicking here.

A week before the flotilla, Italy’s largest supermarkets COOP and Nordiconad announced a boycott of the Israeli produce company, Carmel Agrexco. Four days later, Deutsche Bank (Germany’s largest bank, worth more than $1 trillion) announced divestment from Elbit Systems, an Israeli firm that supplies technology for Israel’s military, settlements, and Wall (as well as the Wall between the US and Mexico). Deutsche Bank was one of the company’s largest share-holders.

The next day, it was announced that Sweden’s largest national pension funds were also divesting from Elbit. (Norway did the same more than one year ago.) Going a step further, the Swedish Port Workers Union announced last Wednesday that it would temporarily stop handling Israeli cargo in response to the attacks on the flotilla.

On the same day, Britain’s largest union, Unite, passed a unanimous motion “to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies” and to boycott Israeli goods and services as in “the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid.”

Then yesterday, the Pixies canceled their upcoming concert in Israel in response to Israel’s attack on the flotilla. Musical artists Klaxons and Gorillaz canceled as well. This on the heels of cancelations by Santana, Gil Scott-Heron, Snoop Dog, Sting, and Elvis Costello.

These are but a few of the BDS victories that have happened just in the last month. The movement that officially began in 2005 crossed its first threshold in 2009 (having gained in four years the same momentum it took the BDS movement against South Africa 20 years to achieve), but 2010 has brought it to a new level.”

There’s more. In Norway, Kristin Halvorsen, Norway’s health minister and head of the Socialist Left party, called on Tuesday for the international community to boycott arms trade with Israel, in line with Norway’s existing policy, while 40% of Norwegians were polled in favor of boycotting Israeli products. In Sweden, there was talk of canceling an under-21 soccer game against Israel in response to the massacre, something that Turkey’s under-19 soccer team had already decided. In South Africa, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) agreed to an “escalation of the boycott of Israeli goods and call[ed] upon our fellow trade unionists not to handle them,” as well as declaring that they would “not…allow any Israeli ship to dock or unload in any South African port.” The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) decided “to ‘immediately work towards’ making every municipality in South Africa “an Apartheid Israel free zone’ by ensuring ‘that there are no commercial, academic, cultural, sporting or other linkages whatsoever with the Israeli regime.'”

Poet and 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner Alice Walker has a pro-BDS piece in the Huffington Post. Former US Campaign National Organizer Noura Erakat has a piece in MERIP on BDS in the United States from 2001-2010. And the Nation is running an article on BDS by US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss of the Mondoweiss blog.

Many of these BDS victories are related to campaigns that the US Campaign’s membership has voted to focus on, such as the Caterpillar vote at Evergreen and the Pixie’s decision not to play Tel Aviv.

So how can you get involved in this global movement for accountability and justice?

Here are five quick ways!

1) Support Evergreen College’s divestment and Caterpillar Free Zone votes by clicking here.

Caterpillar bulldozers are responsible for much of the devastation of civilian and agriculture infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The Goldstone Report found numerous instances of the Israeli military using these bulldozers as weapons during Operation Cast Lead. Many of the rebuilding supplies carried by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla could have been used to rebuild this damage. Click here to read more about the Caterpillar campaign.

Recently US Campaign member groups organized an action at the Caterpillar shareholder meeting in Chicago.

Click here to read more, and here to see a video of the protest including an interview with US Campaign Steering Committee member Jennifer Bing-Canar.

2) Sign a “Hang Up on Motorola” boycott pledge by clicking here.

Motorola has the exclusive contract to provide the Israeli military with encrypted mobile phone technology. That means that the Israeli commandos who boarded the Gaza Freedom boats were likely communicating with each other using Motorola technology. Motorola also has close ties with Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), which makes drone aircraft that the Israeli military used during Operation Cast Lead. Click here to read more about the Motorola campaign.

3) Sign a “Stolen Beauty” Ahava boycott pledge by clicking here.

Ahava is a cosmetics company with factories in illegal settlements in the West Bank. These settlements are part of the infrastructure of Israeli occupation and apartheid. Find out more about the Ahava campaign by clicking here.

4) Start a divestment campaign on your campus by clicking here.

Evergreen College’s divestment vote–and the incredible gains made at UC Berkeley and Hampshire college, among others–didn’t come out of the blue. Divestment campaigns take organizing, coalition building, and a lot of hard work! Find our how you can start a divestment campaign when you return to your campus in the fall and download our Campus Divestment handbook by clicking here.

5) Sign up as a local BDS organizer by clicking here.

Already signed a boycott pledge? Want to do more? Get materials and resources to be a local organizer for our BDS campaigns by clicking here.

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