Friday, June 26, 2009

Global Boycott Movement Grows

Almost four years ago a coalition of groups, including unions, community groups, NGOs, academics and others representing a large cross-section of Palestinian civil society issued an open call for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) with the aim of forcing an end to Israeli occupation and apartheid practices. In a short time this call-to-action has grown into a global movement.
For years, the US Campaign has answered this call by coordinating boycott and divestment action aimed at Caterpillar and Motorola, two U.S. based corporations that are directly profiting from Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. Now, it seems that much of the U.S. movement to bring peace and human rights to the people of Israel/Palestine have moved beyond these “local” targets directly profiting from Israel’s militarism to boycotting consumer products made in Israel.
One example of this shift toward boycotting Israeli consumer goods is a recently launched campaign against Israeli beauty brand Ahava. CODEPINK’s “Stolen Beauty” campaign targets Ahava’s line of products from the Dead Sea. Ahava not only literally sells stolen Palestinian land (the mud in their products), but also processes all of its products in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank.
Another US Campaign member group that has taken up this broader boycott campaign is the Pittsburgh Palestine Solidarity Committee, which recently started a boycott targeting Trader Joe’s for their sales of Israeli Couscous, Dorot frozen herbs, as well as Pastures of Eden Feta cheese. The Trader Joe’s boycott has spread across the country, with US Campaign member group, South Bay Mobilization (CA) and others participating in “deshelving” actions to commemorate World Refugee Day, on June 20th.
This wave of new BDS campaigns targeting Israeli based corporations could mark a turning point in the global BDS movement. CODEPINK has chosen to target Ahava products, recognizing that without international economic support settlement communities cannot continue to annex Palestinian land and resources. The Trader Joe's boycott targets include Pastures of Eden Cheeses from dairies across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Dorot prepared herbs from a settlement near the Gaza boarder, and ambiguously labeled "Israeli Couscous." While settlement products, especially those that require irrigation, directly support the continued appropriation of Palestinian land and resources there is still a lively debate about the efficacy of boycotting all Israeli products. Of course, without clear labeling requirements from the USDA and Customs and Boarder Patrol it can be impossible to tell the difference between "Israeli products" and "settlement products." Given this regulatory irregularity, and the argument that the entire Israeli economy makes military occupation and apartheid practices possible, it's easy to see why many are making the argument groups are starting to boycott Israeli products writ-large.
While the US Campaign has so far focused on U.S. corporations, many of our member groups and allies are moving toward boycotting Israeli goods. We hope to engage in this debate in Chicago this September at our annual conference. Please let us know what you think about expanding boycott and divestment targets on this blog and at our conference!