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Boston-area Divestment Project

This effort brings together activists from nearly a dozen Boston-area groups. After initial research, the project decided to target the military investment made by various municipalities (as the Seattle campaign is doing) as well as investment by municipalities and other organizations, including trade unions, in Israel Bonds.

The Target: Military Investment, Israel Bonds
Like the Seattle Campaign, the Boston-area Divestment Project focuses on seven companies—General Electric, United Technologies, Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Oshkosh Truck Corporation—and asking cities, states, and trade unions to divest from these companies.

In addition, the Boston-area Divestment Project has decided to target Israel Bonds because of the range of state, municipal, trade union, chamber of commerce, banks, educational and other entities that invest in them, and because of their economic and symbolic importance – they can play a similar role to that of Krugerands in the anti-apartheid divestment movement. Money raised through the sale of Israel Bonds goes directly into Israel’s treasury. It is used for infrastructure projects such as highways, bridges, water projects, port and airport expansions, and providing jobs and homes for immigrants. According to James Petras in his April 30, 2002 article “Who Finances the State of Israel?” “The bonds proceeds are used to fund Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Most of the rest of the bond revenues are transferred to the ordinary budget to be spent on the military and the Israeli intelligence agencies.”

In 2001 $700 million in Bonds were sold in the US, and a record-breaking $1.28 billion sold world-wide. The Jewish Ledger for January 31, 2002 stated, “Now, after the years of economic problems Israel has faced due to Palestinian violence and world-wide recession, Israel Bonds is still making a difference.” In 2002, $1.3 billion was raised world-wide, more than the target set by the Minister of Finance.

According to one source, 9,500 pension funds, 3,500 banks, 1,500 labor organizations and 500 insurance companies in the US have invested in Israel Bonds, despite the fact that they pay interest rates below those of other available securities and below what most investor would expect from loans to a foreign government. In addition, they are not easily converted into cash. Institutional Bonds cannot be traded on the open market, unlike most bonds. They can only be sold to pension funds, charities or other non-profit organizations. Furthermore, they carry a high risk and make a poor investment – facts which can give the campaign extra leverage in these difficult economic times.

The Approach: Community-Building
The approach of the Boston-area Divestment Project is not to form a coalition of organizations in the manner of the Seattle campaign, but rather to work at a totally grasssroots level. It has selected a small city for its initial focus, based on research into the investments made by that city’s retirement pension board and the fact that already over a thousand signatures have been collected in that city on a Justice for Palestinians petition. The group wants to increase that support by getting thousands of additional signatures on a Divestment petition. Once it has a strong base of support in the community, it will launch a broad public education campaign, culminating in a demand that the municipality divest from Israel Bonds and from companies that supply Israel with military equipment, and issue a statement opposing Israel’s military occupation.

The Public Statement: Morality and International Law
The public statement of the Boston-area Divestment Project group puts divestment within a framework of morality and international law.

American, Israeli and international human rights organizations have over the years consistently condemned Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights, as have the US State Department’s Annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

In its April 2002 report Shielded from Scrutiny—IDF Violations in Jenin and Nablus, Amnesty International documents serious human rights violations by Israeli forces, including war crimes. It reports that soldiers ‘used excessive force that resulted in the deaths of Palestinians…used civilians as human shields, tortured detainees, prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded and demolished homes without justification,’ sometimes with the residents still inside.

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem states that 149 Palestinian homes were destroyed as collective punishment over a five month period (October 2001 – February 2002). Since 1987 at least 2,450 Palestinian homes have been destroyed for ‘administrative’ purposes, according to B’Tselem, and 10,000 are threatened with destruction in East Jerusalem alone.

Palestinians face numerous other forms of collective punishment, including round-the-clock curfews, checkpoints, denial of medical services, school closings, detention without charge or trial. The Israeli military has destroyed their livelihood, uprooting trees, and instituting closures. Former Israeli general and judge Amnon Strashnov states that ‘all the immoral and illegal deeds done in the checkpoints, the abuse against Palestinians, and the holding of ambulances deserve strong condemnation and criticism’ (Boston Globe, December 29, 2002).

Israel has relentlessly built ‘settlers-only’ roads and unlawful settlements in the occupied lands, and illegally acquired land and water resources. In its comprehensive report of May 2002, Land Grab: Israel’s Settlement Policy in the West Bank, B’Tselem concludes: ‘Israel has created in the occupied territories a regime of separation based on discrimination…this regime is the only one of its kind in the world, and is reminiscent of distasteful regimes from the past, such as the Apartheid regime in South Africa.’

As a response to Israeli’s record of human rights violations, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and others have called for divestment as a way to “build moral pressure to end occupation” (International Herald Tribune, June 2002). We support this call.

The massive support the US gives Israel enables the occupation to continue, and is a violation of our own law. The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 states that no security or economic assistance “may be provided to any country the government of which engages in a consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.”

Israel’s military occupation needs to end NOW. We would not tolerate these actions if they were committed in front of us and we should not support them with any monies either.

We therefore call on cities, towns, states, trade unions, and socially-responsible investors to divest from companies that profit by selling the machinery that is used to commit human rights violations. Specifically, we refer to companies such as General Electric, United Technologies, Boeing, Caterpillar, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, and Oshkosh Truck. We also call for divestment from Israel Bonds. We should not loan money to nations that continually commit human rights violations.

We make these calls as a means of nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. It was John F. Kennedy who said that ‘those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable.’

All roads to peace begin with an end to the conditions created by Israel’s military occupation. Divestment is not only a moral imperative. It is an opportunity to help bring peace and justice to the Middle East.”

Contact Information
For more information on the Boston-area Divestment Project, email info@bcpr.org.