BDS Movement Against Israel

Written by Muhammad Hamza Tanvir 11:47 am

What is the BDS Movement Against Israel?

Palestinians and their supporters have realized that the most effective way of fighting against Israel is the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement. By boycotting Israeli products and pushing for divestment and sanctions on Israel, the movement aims to exert international pressure on Israel, the world governments, and international institutions to dismantle Israel’s apartheid wall, ensure the rights of the Palestinians, end the colonization of Arab lands, and impose the UN Resolution 194. The author, Muhammad Hamza Tanvir, explains that since the drive is a threat to Israel and its allies, the western media, has labelled the movement as “racist”. He further explains that supporting the movement will not only benefit the suffering Palestinians but also the people of the countries backing it.

Countering Israel’s Terrorism

Modern times have rendered conventional ways of war and confrontation obsolete. Nuclear proliferation and inequality among states have changed the modes of vanquishing the foe. Since modern problems require modern solutions, the Palestinians have developed a novel way of fighting Israeli settler colonialism. This new method to counter Israel is designated the name “Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement (BDS)”.

After the recent terrorism of Israel, many Muslims and pro-Palestinian people were perturbed about how to help out the innocent Palestinians with their limited resources. For them, the most viable way to play their role in support of the indigenous people of Palestine is to participate in the BDS movement. Although some of the Western philosophers and Israeli sympathizers label this movement as anti-Semitic or anti-Jewish, due to their biased opinion, there are still scores of people in the West – including celebrities and scientists – who are actively a part of the BDS movement.

The partiality of the Western media, which has also been revealed by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi in his recent interview with CNN, and the United States’ claim of being the so-called torchbearer of liberal values and democracy has been badly exposed to the world in the recent barbaric attacks of the Israeli army on the defenseless people of Palestine.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has labeled the movement as one of “bigotry, dishonesty and shame”, which seems more appropriate as a label for his own personality. This movement is, basically, a non-violent struggle against Israel’s illegal occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. It seeks the termination of Israel’s illegal apartheid wall and settlements, demands full equality of the Palestinian people, and calls for the rights of the Palestinians to be upheld as per the International Law.

The Preamble to the BDS Movement

The movement calls for economic pressure on Israel against its policies of violence and military rule over the Palestinians. It began with a coalition of 170 Palestinian civil society groups. They issued a call to the “people of conscience” around the world to stand up for the rights of the Palestinians on the 9th of July, 2005.

The movement is inspired by the South-African anti-apartheid movement and urges action to pressure Israel into complying with international law, as the United Nations have passed many resolutions in favor of Palestine and to resolve the issue peacefully; however, Israel has ignored all of these resolutions.

Israel is discriminating against the aboriginal Palestinian citizens of Israel and denying Palestinian refugees the right to return their homes—which is a sheer violation of UN Resolution 194. In response to this, the BDS movement urges the religious, educational, and business organizations to abstain from all sorts of activities in Israel until it complies with international law and fulfills the demands of the movement. The actions of the movement involve:

  • Boycotts

Boycotts involve the withdrawal of support from Israel’s apartheid regime, complicit Israeli sporting, cultural and academic institutions, and from all Israeli and international companies engaged in violating the fundamental human rights of the Palestinians. Thousands of universities and academics in the UK, South Africa, India, Sweden, Italy, Belgium, and many other countries have signed statements in support of the institutional academic boycott of Israel.

  • Divestment

The divestment campaign urges churches, local councils, pension funds, banks, and universities to withdraw all their investments from Israel and all of the Israeli and international companies that support apartheid and terrorism.

  • Sanctions

The rudimentary aim of sanction campaigns is to pressurize international governments to fulfill their legal obligations to end Israel’s apartheid and not assist in its maintenance, by ending military trade and free-trade agreements, putting a business embargo on Israel’s illegal settlements, and suspending the membership of Israel in international forums as well.

A similar sort of boycott movement was also seen in the recent past in Pakistan and all the Muslim countries against France, over the blasphemy issue, but it did not succeed because of the non-cooperation of people and being unorganized.

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The Demands of the Movement

The BDS movement has three fundamental aims or demands which are the right of every human on the planet earth.

Ending the Colonization of All Arab Lands and Dismantling the Apartheid Wall

As per the International Law, the occupation of East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Syrian Golan Heights by the Israeli forces is illegal. Palestinians living in these areas especially in Gaza city are treated inhumanly and are surrounded by several security checkpoints, watchtowers, and an illegal apartheid wall. Imagine yourself getting checked each time you go out of your home for some sort of business in a market nearby but you have to pass many check posts where you will be harassed by the occupying force. This has made the life of the Palestinians hell.

The recent terrorist attacks and war crimes of the Israeli forces in Gaza city depict the attitude of the Zionist state of Israel towards the innocent and defenseless people of Palestine—the original sons of the soil. Hence, the first aim of the movement is to end the illegal occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantle the apartheid wall

Acknowledging the Rudimentary Rights of the Palestinians of Israel

One-fifth of the population of Israel faces racial discrimination on daily basis as a result of discriminatory laws. Israel’s government officials and military routinely incite racial violence against the Palestinian population of their illegitimate state. The recent verdict of Israel’s supreme court regarding the displacement of the citizens of Sheikh Jarrah evinces how all the state institutions collaborate to displace the native netizens of Palestine. The BDS movement calls for an end to this discriminatory and inhuman act and demands that the rudimentary rights of the Palestinians of Israel be granted.

Complete Action on the Stipulation of Resolution 194

Since the illegal establishment of the state of Israel in 1948, it has uprooted and displaced as many people as it could by the use of force. This culminated in 7 million Palestinian refugees. Israel spurns their right to return to their homes just because of their religion. The United Nations Resolution 194 binds Israel to let the refugees return to their homes and also to pay compensation for their loss but Israel has never acted upon any such resolution.

The BDS movement is a call to stir all the people around the world to imagine someone coming from outside and ousting you from your home and treating you like an animal just because of your religion. Ostensibly, the governments of the powerful countries of the world are either incompetent or indifferent when it comes to the plight of the Palestinians. So, the responsibility to support the Palestinians now falls upon the shoulders of the common people of the world, through this peaceful movement regardless of their caste, color, or creed.

Is the BDS Movement Racist or Anti-Semitic?

The response of the western media and pro-Israelis on the recent interview of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, on CNN and his comment on the deep pocket connections between the western media and Israel, is the utter substantiation of the real pain and agenda behind labeling any and everything anti-Israel as “anti-Semitic”. This response itself vividly speaks volumes about the reality of western prejudices.

Similarly, the pro-Israeli people claim that the BDS movement is anti-Semitic or racist but almost every conscious person on Earth knows that it is at odds with reality. The BDS drive only targets the institutions on the grounds of complicity in human rights violations and never targets any individual merely because of his/her ethnicity or nationality.

The BDS campaign has never been found involved in any kind of racial or religious discrimination. So, calling the movement “racist” is merely an act of hypocrisy and propaganda to damage the Palestine cause. The claim of being racist could be right but only if it is in regards to Israel, and not the BDS movement.

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Companies That BDS Asks Consumers to Boycott

The UN Human Rights Council Report of 2020 has enlisted 112 companies that have ties to illegal Israeli settlements. The below-mentioned companies are only those that are relevant to Pakistani consumers. There are many other multi-national companies, including Nestle, Unilever, Marks and Spencer, Hyundai, Barclays, Volvo, L’Oreal, etc, that have behemoth investments in Israel and are complicit in Israeli terrorism but the BDS guidelines ask the consumers to stick to a targeted boycott for maximum impact. This also depicts that the allegation of the pro-Israeli people on the BDS movement of being racist is erroneous.

Hewlett Packard (HP)

HP plays a significant role in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians. They not only provide computer hardware to the Israeli army but the data centers of Israel’s police are also managed through the HP servers. The computerized database of the Aviv system, which contains data of Israel’s population and immigration authority, is also operated by the Itanium servers provided by HP. This makes the backbone of Israel’s racism.

AHAVA

Ahava cosmetics has established its production site, visitor center, and main store in an illegal Israeli settlement.

SodaStream and Sabra Hummus (PepsiCo)

PepsiCo purchased SodaStream, an Israeli company, in 2018. This company is still actively complicit in Israel’s policy of displacing the native Bedouin-Palestinian citizens of Israel in Naqab. The company has a long history of maltreatment and discrimination against Palestinian workers. Similarly, Sabra Hummus, an Israeli food company involved in providing financial assistance to the Israeli army, is a joint venture between PepsiCo and the Strauss Group.

The immense damage that the pro-Palestinian people can cause around the world by simply boycotting the products of PepsiCo is no secret. PepsiCo has a wide range of products not only in Pakistan but also around the globe. Its famous products in Pakistan include Lays, Wavy, Cheetos, Knorr, Magnum, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, 7up, Aquafina, Lipton Tea, Quaker, Sting, Walkers, Brisk, Ruffles, Tropicana, and Doritos.

Pillsbury/ General Mills

General Mills, the parent company of brands like Nature Valley, Betty Crocker, and Haagen Dazs, has its factory in Atarot Industrial Zone, which Israel illegally annexed after the 1967 war. It is involved in exploiting the resources that belong to the Palestinians. In a 2020 report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights highlighted General Mills as one of the seven American companies involved in Israel’s illegal settlement activities.

Motorolla

The 2020 UN Human Rights Council Report has also listed Motorolla as one of the companies involved in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. Motorolla provides surveillance equipment used around Israeli settlements, along the Israeli-built separation barrier, and along the Gaza border. It signed a $100 million deal with Israel in January 2014 for encrypted smartphones for its soldiers and security personnel.

It acts as the technology arm of the Israeli Defense Force (IDF). The company assists the IDF to carry out its oppressive policies towards the Palestinians by supporting three key areas: weapon components (bomb fuses), military surveillance systems, and military communication systems.

Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Expedia, and Booking.com

These companies provide services that assist the maintenance and existence of illegal settlements. They list illegitimately occupied settlements as part of Israel which promotes settler-colonialist businesses and actively detriments the Palestinians in the West Bank.

Fiverr

Fiverr is an Israeli digital platform that is being used all around the globe by freelancers to offer their services to consumers. Its headquarter is in Tel Aviv. Every freelancer has to share 20 percent of his earnings to Fiverr which benefits the Israeli economy. This way, it contributes to the Israeli violence and oppression of Palestinians.

Achievements of the BDS movement and Israel’s Deterring Attempts

The BDS drive has achieved many successes in a little more than a decade. It has caused a seminal daunting effect on Israel’s economy. As per some, Israel faced an almost 46% drop in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the year 2014 due to the BDS movement. A report from Israel’s media agency states that the BDS movement can cost a loss of $10.5 billion per year and thousands of people could face unemployment.

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South Africa has also downgraded its relations with Tel Aviv and announced its support for the rights of the Palestinians. Similarly, several major European trade unions have supported the BDS campaign and held the state of Israel responsible for the violation of human rights in Palestine. UK’s Trades Union Congress voted in favor of ending the arms trade with Israel.

Many artists and famous personalities, including scientists and educationists, have also supported the BDS movement and have signed to boycott Israel. One of the major achievements of this drive is the 15th Annual Israeli Apartheid Week held in 2019. It featured more than 200 events, across 30 countries, in five continents of the world. All these events were under the theme “Stop Arming the Colonialism”.  

To counter the daunting effects of the BDS drive, Israel’s government and its allies are fighting tooth and nail. In 2011, the Knesset—the Israeli parliament—passed a draconian law against the participants and sympathizers of the movement. In the USA, 20 states have passed a bill against the boycott movement. Similarly, many BDS activists have been prosecuted from Australia to France. Despite these actions and its media connections, Israel seems to be losing against the BDS movement.

Why Pakistan Should Support the Movement

The drive is growing rapidly all across the world. In Pakistan, people must also participate actively in the BDS campaign against Israel and the boycott drive against French companies. Grass root boycott of both the aforementioned countries can be lucrative for the people of Pakistan. Supporting the campaigns will allow the whole world to pressurize these governments and warn other countries to refrain from such activities.

If the people of Pakistan support the BDS movement against Israel, It will not only help in assisting their Palestinian brothers but will also become a source to supplement Pakistan’s economy by increasing the demand for national products. The burgeoning demand for national products will also curb unemployment which is a fundamental issue in the country.

The successes achieved by the BDS movement till now evinces that the movement holds a bright future and can change the course of war and animosity forever. Terrorism and the barbaric activities perpetrated by Israel may stop for the time being. Nonetheless, the state is never going to abandon its Zionist agenda of a greater Israel and uprooting the Muslims from its illegally occupied territory. The only way to abstain from this terrorism is to participate in the economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel and its allies, and support the BDS movement.


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About the Author(s)

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Mr Muhammad Hamza Tanvir graduated from COMSATS University. He has a keen interest in international relations and regional politics.

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