Despite the pain, 2016 witnessed impressive gains for BDS!
The 8 most significant indicators of BDS impact in 2016
(1) Three more multinationals were compelled under BDS pressure to end involvement in illegal Israeli projects, indicating a start of a domino effect
Veolia’s precedent-setting exit from Israel in 2015 -- triggered by its 7-year, BDS-induced loss of worldwide tenders worth more than $23 billion -- was followed in 2016 by the exit of Orange, CRH and G4S (to a large extent), all due to intense BDS campaigning.
After suffering what the Financial Times called, “reputational damage,” due to successful BDS campaigns against it, G4S, the world’s largest private security company, decided to end most of its involvement in illegal Israeli business. The BDS campaign against G4S will intensify, however, as the BNC has announced, until the company completely ends its complicity in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
G4S, considered for years a top BDS target due to providing products and services to Israeli prisons, police, military roadblocks and illegal colonies, has lost lucrative contracts or faced prominent divestment decisions especially in Kuwait, Norway, South Africa, Colombia, the European Union, and the US, as well as in Jordan and Lebanon, where the company lost contracts with UN agencies.
A G4S spokesperson confirmed a few weeks ago the sale of almost all of the company’s business in Israel yet admitted that the company will remain invested in a major Israeli police training facility, implicating the company in the Israeli police’s well-documented crimes and serious human rights violations committed against the Palestinian people.
Independent research by the Israeli organization, Who Profits, has revealed that G4S’ investment partner in the infamous police training facility is Shikun & Binui, an Israeli company that is deeply involved in building illegal Israeli settlements. This implicates G4S even further in Israel’s human rights violations.
(2) Israel’s global legal war on BDS suffered fatal setbacks after the EU upheld the right to boycott Israel under freedom of speech
Despite its all-out war of propaganda, espionage, intimidation and legal delegitmization against the BDS movement, and despite its relative success in mobilizing anti-democratic, repressive and McCarthyite measures against BDS in France, the UK, and in US state legislatures, Israel’s “lawfare” on BDS suffered in 2016 fatal and likely irreversible blows.
Almost 200 European legal scholars, including world-renowned jurists, issued a statement defending the right to support BDS for Palestinian rights under international law, dealing a significant legal blow to Israel’s war on the nonviolent, Palestinian-led movement.
The most significant setback for Israel in this respect, though, came when the European Union endorsed the right to BDS as a legitimate form of freedom of expression protected by European human rights conventions.
Leading to this watershed EU decision, support for the right to boycott Israel came earlier in the year from the governments of Sweden, Ireland and Netherlands, as well as from Amnesty International, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Socialist International, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC), and hundreds of political parties, trade unions and social movements across the world.
Around the same time, even the US Department of State indirectly recognized the right to boycott Israel as a matter of free speech.
International Jewish organizations and figures also upheld the right to BDS as a “fundamental civil right” to resist Israel’s occupation and human rights violations.
The parliament of Ontario (Canada) rejected an anti-BDS law promoted by Israel’s lobby.
(3) Israeli Apartheid Free Zones or settlement-free zones declared by tens of municipal councils across Europe
Just before the close of 2016, the municipal council of Valencia (Spain) voted unanimously to declare the city “Free of Israeli Apartheid,” joining dozens of other councils across Spain.
Courageously defying France’s unparalleled anti-BDS repression, the two municipal councils of Clermond-Ferrand and St. Pierre des Corps voted in December to boycott the products of Israeli colonies in the occupied Palestinian territory. The Paris-region municipalities of Bondy and Ivry-sur-Seine had reached similar decisions earlier in 2016.
Also in December, the city council of Tromso, Norway endorsed a boycott of Israeli goods and services produced in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territory, joining the city council of Trondheim.
While the Derry City and Strabane District Council became the first local authority in Northern Ireland to pass a motion boycotting Israeli goods, the City of Portland (Oregon) became the first in the US to endorse divesting from Caterpillar, among other corporations that violate socially responsible investment guidelines.
(4) Israel’s global isolation intensified as the logic of appeasing its regime of oppression started to give way, including at the UN, to the logic of sustained international pressure
Near the end of 2016, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2334, with the US abstaining, reiterating that Israel’s colonies built in the occupied Palestinian territory constitute a “flagrant violation under international law.” While the resolution fails to uphold the UN-stipulated rights of the majority of the Palestinian people, especially the refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel, it was widely viewed as a stark indicator of the growing international isolation of Israel and as a boost for the spreading boycotts against it.
In a similar vein, the UN Human Rights Council decided in its March 2016 meeting to create a database of Israeli and international corporations that are complicit in and profiting from Israel’s occupation regime. This remarkable development has made many companies nervous about their own involvement in Israel’s serious violations of international law.
Across the world, including in countries that have traditionally supported Israel, public support for sanctions against Israel grew significantly in 2016, evoking comparisons with the fast deterioration of apartheid South Africa’s world standing in the 1980s.
In the Netherlands, two political parties, D66 and Green Left called for meaningful sanctions against Israel.
In the US, 46% of the public, and 60% of Democrats, supported imposing sanctions or taking more drastic measures against Israel to compel it to end its colonization of Palestinian land, according to a recent Brookings Institution public opinion poll.
The government of Portugal withdrew from a controversial police-training project with Israeli police.
The Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO) withdrew from an Israeli propaganda event in Osaka involving illegal settlements’ wineries.
The Green Party of Canada called for “economic measures such as government sanctions, consumer boycotts, institutional divestment, economic sanctions and arms embargoes” to nonviolently pressure Israel to end its occupation, afford its Palestinian citizens equal rights, and respect the UN-stipulated right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The Movement for Black Lives in the US adopted BDS measures against Israel’s occupation and apartheid regime.
(5) More mainstream churches adopted BDS-related measures in support of Palestinian human rights
In 2016, the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa (UCCSA) adopted BDS, while the United Methodist Church divested from Israeli banks financing the occupation, following similar bank divestment in recent years by the second largest Dutch pension fund, PGGM, and the Luxembourg sovereign fund, among others.
Also in the US, the Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men called for boycotting Israeli illegal settlements, and the Presbyterian Church USA assembly voted to study the BDS Call and engage with its authors, calling on the US government to reconsider its military aid to Israel.
The Alliance of Baptists divested from companies profiting from Israel’s occupation, and the Peace United Church of Christ in Santa Cruz voted to boycott all Hewlett Packard (HP) products because of the company’s role in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.
Also in 2016, the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly (US) endorsed divestment from companies complicit in Israeli apartheid.
(6) BDS campaign against occupation- and apartheid- profiteer Hewlett Packard (HP) went viral globally
A global BDS Week of Action was organized around 29 November, the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, to hold Hewlett Packard (HP) accountable for providing technology that enables Israel's system of occupation, racial segregation and denial of Palestinian human rights. The spread of the HP-boycott actions exceeded all expectation.
Over 150 activities were organized in 101 cities across 30 countries, sending a strong message to HP companies that if they continue providing technology used by Israel to violate Palestinian rights they will be met with boycotts and divestment by people of conscience and progressive institutions across the globe.
(7) BDS reached the Oscars and the Olympics, as the academic and cultural boycott of Israel spread even further among student unions, academics, artists and writers, especially in the global South; and Israeli Apartheid Week set a new record
In 2016, BDS reached the Oscars, calling on nominees to forgo an Israeli propaganda trip. Several Oscar winners said they would not take the trip. BDS also left its mark at the Rio Olympics, triggering mainstream debates about the crucial role of the academic and cultural boycott of Israel to end its system of injustice.
The 2016 edition of Israeli Apartheid Week was the largest yet, with groups in over 225 cities and university campuses registering their participation. The growth of Israeli Apartheid Week in Latin America and the Arab world was particularly inspiring.
Pharrell Williams, a ten-time Grammy Award winner, cancelled his Tel Aviv concert without explanation, and according to Israeli media reports, Beyoncé also cancelled her scheduled gigs in Tel Aviv without connecting the decision to Palestinian appeals.
Hundreds of academics in Brazil, Italy and Arab Gulf states joined the academic boycott of Israel in 2016.
Students at the University of Chile’s Law Faculty voted overwhelmingly for BDS as did the University of Qatar Students’ Union, the University of Manchester (UK) student senate and the University College London Union.
Similarly, the student union at Halifax (Canada), the University of Chicago undergraduate student government, and the Portland State University student senate voted, separately, in favor of divestment from companies profiting from Israel’s human rights violations.
South Africa’s Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation withdrew from a genocide studies conference in Israel, following appeals from Palestinian and South African human rights campaigners, and dozens of Columbia University (New York) faculty called for divestment from Israel’s system of subjugation.
The Listowel Writers’ Week Festival in Ireland rejected funding from the Israeli Embassy in Dublin.
(8) International trade unions intensified support for BDS measures in solidarity with the Palestinian people and Palestinian workers, in particular
The Human Rights Secretariat of the Uruguayan Federation of Workers of Services and Commerce endorsed in 2016 the boycott of Israeli products and called on companies in Uruguay to break their ties with Israel’s apartheid.
The French General Confederation of Labour ‐ National Institute for Agricultural Research (CGT‐INRA) adopted BDS, despite state repression against the movement.
The New York University graduate students union, part of United Auto Workers Local 2110, voted by a large margin to join BDS, while the Teaching Assistants’ Association (TAA/AFT Local 3220) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the oldest graduate student labor union in the United States, voted overwhelmingly for divestment.
The largest trade unions in the UK urged G4S to stop profiting from Israel’s occupation.
The US National Labor Relations Board upholds the right of the United Electrical (UE) workers union to support BDS.