Basics about Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against Israel and Complicit Organizations
Why is there an international movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel?
In 2005 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a historic, rights-based call to
the international community for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) targeting Israel and institutions complicit in its oppressive policies towards Palestinians until it complies with international law and ensures:
- Freedom: End to the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands;
- Equality: Full rights for Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
- Justice: Right of return for Palestinian refugees to their homes and lands
With the publication of the Kairos Palestine Document in December 2009, Palestinian church leaders called on Christians around the world to explore boycott and sanctions against Israel and divestment from companies around the world that profit from the occupation.
Mennonite USA church leaders in, An Open Letter to Mennonite Church USA Congregations (2007), encouraged “exploring ways our investments and our role as investors can be used to provide hope and promote peace in this region.”
Palestinian civic leader Sam Bahour calls BDS a principal nonviolent response to the injustice perpetrated on Palestinians and invites all who seek justice to join this movement.
With the failure of the U.S. government and international community to hold Israel accountable for its actions, BDS promotes time-honored and respected tactics used to achieve justice throughout history, including in the U.S. Civil Rights and South Africa Anti-Apartheid Movements.
- A nonviolent response to Israel’s violence against Palestinians.
- Grounded in universal human rights and international law.
- Aimed at institutions, never individuals.
Boycott targets include consumer goods and complicit academic and cultural institutions. Divestment can be implemented by universities, churches, unions, pension funds and other institutions. Sanctions require ending U.S. military aid to Israel or penalties brought by governmental bodies and courts against Israel.
How are decisions made to boycott certain products or to divest from certain companies?
With literally hundreds of individuals, church denominations, universities and colleges, countries and NGOs participating in the BDS movement there have been efforts to identify possible targets based on moral principles of breaking international law, violating human rights and defying United Nations mandates. Here is an example of BDS principles that were formulated by the American Friends Service Committee and is their current policy:
These beliefs lead AFSC to support divestment from companies that:
- Provide products or services that contribute to violent acts that target either Israeli or Palestinian civilians;
- Provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance of the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
- Provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories;
- Provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance and construction of the Separation Wall.
AFSC may also support boycotts in three primary areas:
- Boycott of goods and services from companies covered by the AFSC investment screen.
- Companies that provide products or services that contribute to violent acts that target either Israeli or Palestinian civilians;
- Companies that provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance of the Israeli military occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem;
- Companies that provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories;
- Companies that provide products or services that contribute to the maintenance and construction of the Separation Wall.
- Boycotts of settlement products, and related activities.
- Companies that produce products or services in facilities/through operations in Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories or using exploited Palestinian resources/labor
- Boycotts of institutions, groups, or events that directly sustain or purposefully obscure the occupation and inequalities between Palestinians and Israelis.
In making decisions regarding support for sanctions, AFSC is led by the guidelines laid out in the 1993 AFSC report titled “Dollars or Bombs: The Search for Justice through International Economic Sanctions”. This report included a series of guidelines developed by an AFSC Working Group on International Economic Sanctions that are designed to assist those considering supporting or opposing the use of sanctions. AFSC supports the cutting of military aid to Israel and cutting security assistance to Palestinian Authority forces responsible for human rights abuses.
In addition to consumer boycotts of products made in the illegal Israeli settlements, there are many other products produced in Israel and Palestine that profit off of the occupation. Besides calling for institutions or individuals to divest from companies that promote and sustain the violence in Palestine, there are ongoing programs for academic boycotts and cultural boycotts against Israeli. So, in order to have an impact it is important that these divestment and boycott campaigns be coordinated among as many groups, institutions, and people as possible.
One of the best sources used to research who the companies and institutions are who profit off the occupation is “Who Profits?” Their website can be found at: http://www.whoprofits.org/
To find information about current BDS campaigns contact the U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation and look at their website on BDS news:
What can I do?
- Educate people in your group and beyond about the issues of Israeli occupation and encourage them to pledge to boycott certain products that are produced in illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
- Participate in activities to exert economic pressure on Israel and U.S. corporations that benefit from the occupation. In addition, urge corporations to move production out of settlements, to be environmentally responsible, and to pay their employees living wages.
- Write and deliver letters to retailers and corporations that sell products made in the settlements asking them to remove such products from their shelves.
- Engage in direct actions and demonstrations at stores that carry products to be boycotted.
- Talk to friends and relatives about BDS efforts and ask them to pledge to participate in the boycotts and demonstrations.
- Ask government entities to stop using products made in the illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
- Contribute reviews on Amazon and other companies dissuading purchasers from buying products made in the settlements.
The Israel/Palestine Mission Network:
Code Pink: Stolen Beauty Campaign (Ahava):
Soda Stream Campaign:
Soda Stream Interfaith Boycott Coalition:
United Methodist Kairos Response:
New: Study guide
With permission, MennoPIN has adapted materials from the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church for use in studying Kairos Palestine. The study guide is available in English and in Spanish.
About the Kairos Document
In December 2009, Palestinian Christian leaders launched the Kairos Palestine Document, a statement that shares their daily realities of life under occupation and calls on Christian sisters and brothers and churches worldwide to be witnesses to these realities, to be in solidarity, and to take action. One way to do this is to “come and see”:
In order to understand our reality, we say to the Churches: Come and see. We will fulfill our role to make known to you the truth of our reality, receiving you as pilgrims coming to us to pray, carrying a message of peace, love and reconciliation. You will know the facts and the people of this land, Palestinians and Israelis alike. At the same time we call on you to say a word of truth and to take a position of truth with regard to Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.
Pilgrimage has brought many people over the years to the “Holy Land”. And although pilgrimage can make us feel closer to our faith story, to truly find an opportunity for engagement and transformation, to truly encounter God today in the suffering of this land, one must see the “living stones.” One must see the living Palestinian Christian communities who hope for a peace born of justice and who seek to tell their stories, to be heard, and to have their stories told to the rest of the world.
As a follow up to the Kairos Palestine Document, a Come and See booklet was drafted by Palestinian Christians to provide suggestions for Christians contemplating pilgrimage to the “Holy Land”. It includes many resources for travelers such as a code of conduct for tourism that aims to promote just and responsible tourism and help visitors take a justice approach that affirms the love of God for all, provides biblical insights for a pilgrimage of transformation and suggestions for meaningful face-to-face encounters with “the living stones.”