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Tel Aviv University
[TAU, Liguistics] Prof' Rachel Giora: Milestones in the history of the Israeli Boycott, Divestment & Sanction (BDS) movement: A brief chronology

Rachel Giora's webpage: http://www.tau.ac.il/~giorar/. Email: giorar@post.tau.ac.il

BRICUP is an organisation of UK based academics, set up in response to the Palestinian Call for Academic Boycott. Its twin missions are:
- to support Palestinian universities, staff and students, and
- to oppose the continued illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands with its concomitant breaches of international conventions of human rights, its refusal to accept UN resolutions or rulings of the International Court, and its persistent suppression of Palestinian academic freedom.

 

http://www.bricup.org.uk/doc'uments/history/IsraeliBDS.pdf

1

Milestones in the history of the Israeli BDS movement: A brief

chronology

Rachel Giora

18 January 2010

The emergence of the Israeli boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement

has been influenced by a number of factors. In essence, however, the movement

in Israel has been basically reactive - a response to (a) international calls

following traumas, and to (b) ideas, primarily those introducing the South African

model into the international and Israeli discourse; and perhaps most significantly,

it has evolved in response to (c) calls by Palestinians to the international

community to boycott Israel, divest and disinvest from it, and sanction it.

Although the history of the BDS movement in Israel is reviewed here

chronologically, the assumption is that all these factors have worked interactively

and in tandem to influence the development of the BDS movement worldwide as

well as in Israel.

The major role of the Israeli BDS movement has been to support international

BDS calls against Israel and legitimize them both as clearly not anti-Semitic, as

not working against Israelis but against Israeli governmental policies, and as

supporting a legitimate nonviolent means by which Palestinian civil society can

reclaim and re-own its people’s rights and freedoms. Alongside solidarity with the

Palestinians, the driving force behind the Israeli BDS movement has been the

realization that the criminal occupation and repression of the Palestinian people,

as practiced by Israeli governments, will not be redressed without significant

international pressure.

1. The awakening

Al-Aqsa Intifada

The first BDS call in Israel was initiated by Gush Shalom. Launched in September

1997, it asked Israelis as well as the U.S., the European countries, and others

having trade treaties with Israel to boycott products of the Jewish settlements in

the occupied Palestinian territory. The call proffered a provisional list in Hebrew,

Arabic, and English of products produced in the settlements.1

However, the first Israeli initiatives supporting international calls for

comprehensive boycott against Israel emerged only following the outbreak of the

second intifada known as the Al-Aqsa Intifada, in September 2000. They were

mostly responses, by a few individuals, to international calls for BDS against

Israel. At the time, support for such calls did not come from Israeli organizations.

On the whole, the Israeli left shunned such initiatives. The first boycott support

1 http://israelipalestinianpeace.org/issues/81toi.htm#Consumers

http://gush-shalom.org.toibillboard.info/boycott_eng.htm

2

action by Israelis that I recall, which again attracted few other Israelis, was the

one initiated by the late Tel Aviv University linguist, Professor Tanya Reinhart,

and myself, in April 2001, demanding that the city of Ann Arbor divest itself of

Israeli investments.2

In April 2001, 35 Israelis published a call for boycotting Israel. The authors of

this appeal are Israeli citizens and Jews of other nationalities whose families

have been victims of racism and genocide in past generations, and who feel they

cannot remain silent:

“We call on the world community to organize and boycott Israeli industrial

and agricultural exports and goods, as well as leisure tourism, in the hope

that it will have the same positive result that the boycott of South Africa

had on Apartheid.

“This boycott should remain in force as long as Israel controls any part of

the territories it occupied in 1967. Those who squash the legitimate

aspirations of the Palestinians must be made to feel the consequences of

their own bitter medicine.

“We urge every recipient of this appeal, irrespective of origin and

nationality, to:

“1. Start practicing the boycott on a personal level immediately, and make

sure that the steps taken are known in the community (for example: tell

your shopkeeper why you will not buy Israeli products; avoid leisure travel

to Israel).

“2. Add your name to the appeal, circulate it to your friends, and do

whatever you can to have it endorsed by groups concerned about human

rights.

“3. Organize activities to put pressure on your government to cut

economic and commercial ties with Israel and to rescind preferential

economic treaties with Israel”.

Original signatures:

2 http://www.think-israel.org/leftists.html ;

(http://209.85.135.132/search?q=cache:QOQqY2MK6UEJ:www.matzpun.com/+%22After+six+months+of+relentless+military+oppression+of+Palestinians+in+the+Israeli+occupied+territories,+the+government+of+Israel+has+made+daily+life+even+more+intolerable+for+the

+Palestinians+by+imposing+a+physical+siege+on+their+villages+and+towns%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=il )

3

1. Meir Amor, Toronto, Canada

2. Yael Arbel, Tel-Aviv, Israel

3. Dita Bitterman, Tel-Aviv, Israel

4. Hagit Borer, Los Angeles, USA

5. Ouzi Dekel, Paris, France

6. Esty Dinur, Arena, USA

7. Aviva Ein-Gil, Tel-Aviv, Israel

8. Ehud Ein-Gil, Tel-Aviv, Israel

9. Arie Finkelstein, Paris, France

10. Rachel Giora, Tel-Aviv, Israel

11. Zamir Havkin, Givataim, Israel

12. Zvi Havkin, Tel-Aviv, Israel

13. Haggai Katriel, Haifa, Israel

14. Irit Katriel, Haifa, Israel

15. Justin Kodner, Princeton Junction, USA

16. Helga Kotthoff, Fulda, Germany

17. Miri Krasin, Tel-Aviv, Israel

18. Debby Lerman, Tel-Aviv, Israel

19. Mely Lerman, Tel-Aviv, Israel

20. Moshe Machover, London, UK

21. Yael Oren Kahn, Warwickshire, UK

22. Akiva Orr, Kfar Shmaryahu, Israel

23. Rachel Ostrowitz, Tel-Aviv, Israel

24. Eran Razgour, Tel-Aviv, Israel

25. Eyal Rozenberg, Haifa, Israel

26. Hilla Rudich, Givataim, Israel

27. Herzl Schubert, Tel-Aviv, Israel

28. Ilan Shalif, Tel-Aviv, Israel

29. Oz Shelach, New York, USA

30. Ur Shlonsky, Geneva, Switzerland

31. Toma Sik, Budapest, Hungary

32. Ehud Sivosh, London, UK

33. Gideon Spiro, Jerusalem, Israel

34. Guy West, Herzliyya, Israel

35. Adeeb Yaffawy, Yaffa, Israel

The 35 original signatories were supported by 994 signatures worldwide.3

Then, in May 2001, as a keynote speaker before a nationwide meeting of Jewish

anti-occupation activists in Chicago, Rela Mazali, an Israeli feminist and writer,

3 http://www.matzpun.com/

4

one of the outstanding founders of New Profile4, called for suspension of US

military aid to Israel.5

Jenin Jenin6

The year 2002, however, may be singled out as a turning point triggered by the

Israeli army’s large-scale assault on cities, towns, villages, and refugee camps in

the West Bank in late March (titled Operation Defensive Shield but often referred

to as the Jenin Massacre). This ferocious attack unleashed a wave of protest in

the Arab world, Europe, the United States, and beyond. At this stage, it looked

like the citizens of the world, including those sheltered in their ivory towers,

could no longer be indifferent to the plight of the Palestinians. “Academics,

artists, and intellectuals launched a number of initiatives, among them a

movement to isolate Israel in the international arena through moratoria,

boycotts, and a divestment campaign”.7 The ferocious assault combined with the

construction of the Apartheid Wall in July, which turned the West Bank into

bantustans, affected some change among Israelis. On the whole, a growing

number of activists protested the occupation, and some also voiced support of

such boycott and divestment campaigns.

In March 2002, supporting the Suspend Aid Campaign of the Jewish Voice for

Peace, the Israeli feminist author, Rela Mazali, wrote: “Arms are the motor of

militarization. Please reciprocate the young people inside Israel saying “NO” to

the deployment of their bodies and souls, in the service of the occupation. Please

join them by saying “NO” to arming it with your dollars”. 8 Her call to suspend

military aid to Israel earned the full support of the members of the feminist

organization New Profile.

In April 2002, a call for a Moratorium on EU and European Science Foundation

support for Israel was launched. The call was initiated by Professor Steven Rose

(Physics, Open University) and Professor Hilary Rose (Bradford University) and

was published in the Guardian on 6 April 2002.9 More than 120 academics signed

this call, among them about 10 Israeli academics: 10 11

4 http://www.newprofile.org/english/

5 Mazali, Rela (2001). “Someone Makes a Killing off War’: Militarization and Occupation in Israel-

Palestine,” Bridges, A Journal for Jewish Feminists and our Friends, Volume 9, Number 1, Fall 2001,

special insert.

6 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jenin,_Jenin

7 (Mona Baker, 2009. Chronology of Boycott. Ms. in preparation).

8 www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org

9 http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4388633,00.html

10 According to Tamara Traubman (2002), over 270 European scientists, including about 10 Israelis signed

this letter. http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-news-0033.html

11 One should note that the idea of an academic boycott against Israel first originated at the "World

Conference against Racism" in Durban, South Africa in 2001.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1059775.html

5

Professor Amit, Daniel, Hebrew University

Bar, Iris, Haifa University

Professor Farjoun, Emmanuel, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem12

Professor Giora, Rachel, Tel-Aviv University

Professor Jablonka, Eva, Tel-Aviv University

Dr Katriel, Haggai, Haifa University

Professor Lavie, Smadar, Tel-Aviv

Dr Pappe, Ilan, Haifa University

Professor Razi, Zvi, Tel-Aviv University

Professor Reinhart, Tanya, Tel-Aviv University

Dr Shlonsky, Tuvia, Hebrew University, Jerusalem13

The letter had an immediate effect. It was soon followed by a unanimous

decision made by the board of directors of the organization for professors and

teachers in higher education in England to call for a more sweeping boycott.

“The decision calls on all the British institutions of higher education to weigh -

with the goal of severing - any future academic connection with Israel. It insists

that such relations should be resumed only after a full withdrawal of all the

Israeli forces, the beginning of negotiations to implement UN resolutions, and

the promise of full access for all Palestinians to institutions of higher learning”.14

In April 2002, an Art boycott petition was launched too, appealing “to all artists

of good conscience around the world to cancel all exhibitions and other cultural

events that are scheduled to occur in Israel, to mobilize immediately and not

allow the continuation of the Israeli offensive to breed complacency”. It was

endorsed by many signatories (more than 180) from Australia, Austria, Belgium,

Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway,

Palestine, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and US, and Israel.15

At the same time, several hundred students and about 100 staff at

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University signed a

divestment petition which was also supported by professors at several Israeli

universities.16

In April 2002, a US-initiated boycott letter called for Boycotting Israeli Academics

and Research.17 In June, Professor Mona Baker of the University of Manchester

Institute of Science and Technology (Umist) dismissed two Israeli linguists from

12 http://www.haaretz.co.il/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=155710&contrassID=2&subContrassID=5&sbSubContrassID=0&listSrc=Y&itemNo=155710    

13 http://www.think-israel.org/leftists.html ; http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-news-0033.html

14 http://www.inminds.co.uk/boycott-news-0033.html

15 http://oznik.com/petitions/020407.html

16 http://www.merip.org/mer/mer223/223_urbina.html

17 http://is.gd/5IG1y

6

the editorial board of the translation journal she edited. Such acts did not go

unnoticed and stirred a heated debate among Israelis, giving the boycott

movement a lot of visibility here.

In May 2002, Professor Tanya Reinhart published an article inYediot Aharonot,

the then most popular Israeli daily, in which she endorsed a boycott of Israeli

academic institutions for being complicit in the Palestinians’ oppression by

turning a blind eye to their plight, not least the plight of Palestinian academic

colleagues: “Never in its history did the senate of any Israeli university pass a

resolution protesting the frequent closure of Palestinian universities, let alone

voice protest over the devastation sowed there during the last uprising”. The

type of academic boycott she endorsed drew on a model used effectively in

South Africa. “The economic pressure on South Africa”, she said, “was combined

with another aspect of pressure -- cultural boycott and social isolation: South

Africa was kicked out of international sports; professional and academic

organizations did not cooperate with South-African organizations; there was a

ban on conferences and cultural events. All these helped. South Africa was

forced to change”.18

A comparison of the occupation with South African Apartheid was also brought

up by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu in October 2002. “If apartheid

ended”, he said, “so can this occupation, but the moral force and international

pressure will have to be just as determined. The current divestment effort is the

first, though certainly not the only, necessary move in that direction”.19 The

analogy to the South African case, made explicit by various thinkers,20 will affect

the minds of many Israeli leftists. Not only will the numbers of Israeli boycott

supporters increase, but more importantly, the Israelis’ attempts to resist the

occupation will be geared towards collaborating with the Palestinian resistance

movement, thus modeling their action after the joint struggle for liberation of

South Africans.

Earlier that autumn, when interviewed in September 2002 for Labournet, Dr. Ilan

Pappe, a renowned historian and boycott supporter at Haifa University, had

expressed his views on his support for boycott, including academic and cultural

boycott: “a cultural and academic boycott can drive the message to good Israelis

that there is a price to be paid for being indifferent. Not only for doing the things

themselves, but even for being silent in Israel itself”. 21

18 http://www.monabaker.com/pMachine/more.php?id=96_0_1_12_M5

19 http://www.counterpunch.org/tutu1017.html

20 “The Israeli left has been discussing this comparison since at least the late 1980s, when Israeli

anthropologist Uri Davis published his famous work, Israel: An Apartheid State. At the September 2001

UN conference on racism in Durban, South Africa, calls to compare occupation with apartheid were

drowned out by the more incendiary claim that "Zionism is racism," and therefore received little

substantive or even-handed coverage in the press”. http://www.merip.org/mer/mer223/223_urbina.html

21 http://www.labournet.net/world/0209/pappe1.html

7

Before the year was out, in December 2002, the administrative council of Marie

Curie University - Paris VI - “demanded that the European Union (EU) not renew

its 1995 Association Agreement with Israel, giving that country commercial

concessions, but also providing funds for infrastructure and research. The

university's motion called on Israeli academics to adopt positions on the

measures being taken against Palestinian universities, whose work has been

rendered impossible, and called on the university's president to foster contacts

with academics from both sides, in order to promote a peaceful solution”.22

In January 2003, this decision was endorsed by Palestinian academics who

issued a letter of support to French colleagues. In the same spirit, in February

2003, Professor Tanya Reinhart also expressed support for this resolution.23

Inspired by the South African resistance movement, Anarchists Against the Wall

(AATW) – an Israeli direct action group - was founded in 2003 to oppose the

Apartheid Wall Israel had started building on Palestinian land in the Occupied

West Bank. The group is essentially Palestinian led. It works in cooperation with

Palestinians in a joint popular struggle against the occupation.24 Many of its

members will later make up the nucleus of BOYCOTT! Supporting

the Palestinian BDS Call from Within25 - an Israeli group of Palestinians, Jews,

Israeli citizens and residents resisting Israeli Apartheid by supporting BDS

initiatives against Israel.

In May 2003, Dr. Ilan Pappe called for divestment, boycott, anti-Apartheid

campaigns against Israel. Expressing his views on the analogy to the South

African case, he declared: “it is difficult to compare Israel’s apartheid system

with the one that existed in South Africa”… “Conditions the Palestinians live

under are much worse than South Africa’s”.26

2. The impact of the Palestinian Civil Society calls for BDS against Israel on the

BDS movement

The Palestinian calls for BDS against Israel affected the BDS movement

worldwide. These calls were a significant milestone, inducing a much more

22 http://209.85.135.132/search?q=cache:X_fMyDQsuOAJ:www.monabaker.com/pMachine/more.php%3Fid%3D155_0_1_0_M5+%22demanded+that+the+European+Union+(EU)+not+renew+its+1995+Associatio

n+Agreement+with+Israel%22&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=il

23 http://www.phrconline.org/articles.php?ArtID=377

http://www.monabaker.com/pMachine/more.php?id=96_0_1_12_M5

24 http://www.awalls.org/

25 http://boycottisrael.info/

26 http://www.washington-report.org/archives/may03/0305063.html

8

sweeping support for BDS against Israel than observed earlier. The most

influential Palestinian calls for BDS against Israel emerged in August 2002 when

a group of Palestinian organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory called

for a comprehensive economic, cultural, and academic boycott of Israel: “For the

sake of freedom and justice in Palestine and the world, we call upon the

solidarity movement, NGOs, academic and cultural institutions, business

companies, political parties and unions, as well as concerned individuals to

strengthen and broaden the global Israel Boycott Campaign”.27 Then, in October

2003, Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in

the Diaspora called for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions. These calls

were later followed by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals who

launched the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of

Israel (PACBI) in Ramallah in April 2004, highlighting the institutional nature of

the boycott.28

These calls mobilized many academics worldwide, including in Israel. In March

2004, an Open Letter addressed to the Israeli academic leadership was released

to the press. Nearly 300 academics from around the world, including Israel,

called for “leaders of Israeli universities to lay their political cards on the table

and reveal whether they support the government's policies on the border

conflict”.29

In January, 2005, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

issued a statement supporting sanctions against Israel.

“Since sanctions are a powerful, non-violent, popular means of resisting the

Occupation, a campaign of sanctions seems to us the next logical step in

international efforts to end the Occupation. While it will develop over time,

ICAHD supports the following elements at this time:

“Sales or transfer of arms to Israel conditional upon their use in ways that do

not perpetuate the Occupation or violate human rights and international

humanitarian law, violations that would end if governments enforced existing

laws and regulations regarding the use of weapons in contravention of

human rights;

27 http://www.badil.org/en/press-releases/55-press-releases-2002/330-press268-02

28 http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=868

http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1051

See also Professor Mona Baker “On the distinction between institutions and individuals in relation to

academic boycott”. On targeting institutions rather than individuals and on how the only joint projects

Palestinians and Israelis can consider are those resisting injustice, see Omar Barghouti

Lisa Taraki April 2005. http://www.guardian.co.uk/israel/comment/0,10551,1463752,00.html

http://www.monabaker.com/BakerLondonConference.htm

29 http://phrconline.org/articles.php?ArtID=808

9

“Trade sanctions on Israel due to its violation of the “Association

Agreements” it has signed with the European Union that prohibit the sale of

settlement products under the “Made in Israel” label, as well as for violations

of their human rights provisions;

“Divestment from companies that profit from involvement in the Occupation.

In this vein ICAHD supports initiatives like that of the Presbyterian Church of

the US which targets companies contributing materially to the Occupation and

certainly the campaign against Caterpillar whose bulldozers demolish

thousands of Palestinian homes;

“Boycott of settlement products and of companies that provide housing to the

settlements or which play a major role in perpetuating the Occupation; and

“Holding individuals, be they policy-makers, military personnel carrying out

orders or others, personally accountable for human rights violations, including

trial before international courts and bans on travel to other countries.

“ICAHD calls on the international community – governments, trade unions,

university communities, faith-based organizations as well as the broad civil

society – to do all that is possible to hold Israel accountable for its

Occupation policies and actions, thereby hastening the end of this tragedy.

While we also call on the Palestinian Authority to adhere to human rights

conventions, our support for selective sanctions against Israel's Occupation

policies focuses properly on Israel which alone has the power to end the

Occupation and is alone the violator of international law regarding the

responsibilities of an Occupying Power”.30

In April 2005, Dr. Ilan Pappe appealed to the British Association of University

Teachers (AUT), expressing support of a prospective resolution to boycott the

Israeli universities, Haifa and Bar-Ilan. Publishing his appeal in the Guardian he

explained that “outside pressure is effective in a country where people want to

be regarded as part of the civilized world, but their government, with their

explicit and implicit help, pursues policies which violate every known human and

civil right. Neither the UN, nor the US and European governments, and societies,

have sent a message to Israel that these policies are unacceptable and have to

be stopped. It is up to the civil societies, through organizations like yours, to

send messages to Israeli academics, businessmen, artists, hi-tech industrialists

and every other section in that society, that there is a price tag attached to such

policies”.31 To Haaretz, Dr. Pappe said that he hoped that his support of the

boycott had contributed to the boycott decision imposed on Haifa and Bar-Ilan

universities by the British Association of University Teachers.32

30 http://www.icahd.org/eng/news.asp?menu=5&submenu=1&item=218

31 http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2005/apr/20/highereducation.uk3

32 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=569361

10

In May 2005, Professor Tanya Reinhart published an article explaining why

Israeli academia deserved to be boycotted.33

In July 2005, the Palestinian United Civil Society (involving about two hundred

organizations) call for BDS was launched, stating:

“We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international

civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to

impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel

similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to

you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and

sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support

this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.

“These non-violent punitive measures should be maintained until Israel

meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people‘s inalienable right

to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international

law by:

“1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and

dismantling the Wall;

“2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of

Israel to full equality; and

“3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian

refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN

resolution 194”. 34

This call for BDS against Israel was endorsed by 171 organizations and

individuals.35

Among the welcoming followers were the British Committee for the Universities

of Palestine (BRICUP), which was formed in 2005 in the UK in response to the

Palestinian Call for an Academic Boycott,36 and Professor Mona Baker, translation

and intercultural studies specialist and ardent British activist and writer,

supporting the BDS movement against Israel.37 These initiatives have been

endorsed by a growing number of Israeli academics and activists.

33 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article3879.shtml

34 http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=66

35 http://www.fosna.org/content/palestinian-civil-society-divestment

36 http://www.bricup.org.uk/

37 http://www.monabaker.com/

11

In August 2005, in their 13th International Conference in Jerusalem under the

title “Women Resist Occupation and War”, Women in Black expressed support for

the Palestinian call on the international community to impose ‘non-violent and

effective measures such as divestment and sanctions on Israel, for as long as

Israel continues to violate international law, and continues the occupation and

the oppression of the Palestinian people’.38 In that conference, at the workshop

on Sanctions, Boycott and Divestment, Dr. Dalit Baum “was emphasizing the

importance of knowledge-building as a condition for such a campaign. Of

compiling a list of institutions and companies to be divested from or boycotted”.

Rela Mazali too raised her voice in support of endorsing BDS against Israel,

asking the international community: “Please, boycott me. Boycott my country.

Sanction it till it stops committing these crimes. And sanction as well those

outside it who are profiting”.39

In March 2006, Shir Hever from The Alternative Information Center (AIC)

published an in-depth analysis of the dependence of Israel on the global

economy and its vulnerability to the effect of BDS campaigns against it. The

conclusion of his analysis is straightforward: “International reluctance to buy

Israeli arms or to sell arms to Israel will encourage Israel to find non-violent

ways of dealing with the Palestinians”.40

In May 2006, following the Palestinian call, I expressed support for

comprehensive boycott of Israel including academic boycott (published by Yediot

Acharonot).41

In May 2006, the feminist organization, New Profile, sent a letter of support to

the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA), initiated by New Profile activist Dr.

Dorothy Naor, for contemplating adopting a policy of selective divestment as a

means of bringing peace to Palestinians and Israelis. “We fervently support such

an endeavor, and hope that PCUSA will indeed adopt divestment as a non-violent

means of ending Israel’s Occupation of Palestinians and their lands”.42

In the same month, New Profile also expressed support for selective divestment.

Given that economic pressure is a non-violent means of ending this catastrophic

Occupation, they argued, “New Profile welcomes and supports selective

38 http://gilasvirsky.com/declaration.html

39 http://coalitionofwomen.org/home/english/events/women_in_black_0805/conf_participants/rela_mazali    

40 Shir Hever (2006). The Economy of the Occupation Part 6:

The Question of Sanctions and a Boycott against Israel.

http://www.alternativenews.org:80/publications/econoccupation.html

41 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3257291,00.html

42 http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=14061

12

divestment aimed at divesting from companies that contribute to the

continuation of the Occupation by supplying arms, other equipment, or staff”.43

In June 2006, about 100 Israeli individuals, organizations, and movements

expressed their support of the Ontario wing of Canadian Union of Public

Employees (CUPE)44 who, in May, had voted unanimously to pass a resolution in

support of the “international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions

against Israel until that state recognizes the Palestinian right to selfdetermination”.

Endorsing the July 2005 Palestinian call, the CUPE Ontario

resolution demands the dismantling of the Apartheid wall as well as the right of

return for all Palestinian refugees.45

In June 2006, Reuven Abergel, founder of Israel's Black Panthers, expressed

support for the academic boycott of Israel.46 At the same time, Gideon Levy,

Haaretz journalist, published an op-ed supporting boycott resolutions.47

Also in June 2006, a group of more than 50 Israeli citizens supporting BDS

against the occupation was formed issuing a statement to this effect later on in

June 2007.48

In May 2007, Professor Kenneth Mann of Tel Aviv University, the chairperson of

the advisory council of Gisha, the Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, called

upon Israeli university presidents to protest the government's restrictions

imposed on Palestinian university students in 2000. Only four university

presidents signed the appeal to Defense Minister Amir Perez to lift the ban: Ben-

Gurion University of the Negev President Professor Rivka Carmi, Technion

Institute of Technology President Professor Yitzhak Apeloig, Hebrew University

President Professor Menachem Megidor, Haifa University President Professor

Aharon Ben Zeev.49

In June and July 2008, open letters were issued by Palestinian and Israeli BDS

groups to Snoop Doggy Dog, Branford Marsalis, and Mercedes Sosa, all of whom

were scheduled to perform to Israeli audiences. During that month, over 100

European Organizations, including the Israeli Committee against House

43 http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=14061

44 http://www.cupe.on.ca/aux_file.php?aux_file_id=241

45 http://www.icl-fi.org/english/spc/supplements/cupe.html

46 http://boycott-occupation.mahost.org/?q=node/19

47 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=722611

48 http://www.jai-pal.org/content.php?page=540

49 http://www.inminds.co.uk/article.php?id=10115

13

Demolitions, joined the Palestinian BDS National Campaign (BNC)50 in calling for

suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.51

In September 2008, Dr. Kobi Snitz and Roee Harush published a report about a

working group’s discussions on how to build the BDS campaign by Israeli

citizens.52 They were docu'menting the way the Israeli BDS group, called

BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, was formed during

that year.

In October 2008, Shir Hever from the Alternative Information Center called for

“economic resistance to the occupation through divestment”.53

3. Gaza's Guernica54

Following the Gaza offensive by the Israeli army in December 2008, titled

Operation Cast Lead, over 540 Israelis (backed by more than 5000

internationals) issued a call initiated by the philosopher, Dr. Anat Matar, the

publisher Yael Lerer, and other members of BOYCOTT! Supporting

the Palestinian BDS Call from Within, for “support of the Palestinian human rights

community call for international action”:

“We are calling on the world to stop Israeli violence and not allow the

continuation of the brutal occupation. We call on the world to condemn

and not become an accomplice in Israel's crimes…

“In light of the above, we call on the world to implement the call by

Palestinian human rights organizations which urges:

• “The UN Security Council to call an emergency session and adopt

concrete measures, including the imposition of sanctions, in order to

ensure Israel's fulfillment of its obligations under international

humanitarian law.

• “The High Contracting Parties to the Geneva Conventions to fulfil their

obligation under common Article 1 to ensure respect for the provisions of

the Conventions, taking appropriate measures to compel Israel to abide

by its obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular

placing pivotal importance on the respect and protection of civilians from

the effects of the hostilities.

50 http://www.bdsmovement.net/?q=node/126

51 http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/1250-over-100-european-organizations-join-bnc-in-calling-for-suspension-of-eu-israel-association-agreement  

52 http://www.badil.org/en/al-majdal/item/91-israeli-citizens-for-a-boycott-of-israel

53 http://www.jai-pal.org/content.php?page=757

54 http://www.odsg.org/co/index.php/Statements/1071-gazas-guernica-enough-is-enough.html

14

• “The High Contracting Parties to fulfil their legal obligation under Article

146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention to prosecute those responsible for

grave breaches of the Convention.

• “EU institutions and member states to make effective use of the

European Union Guidelines on promoting compliance with international

humanitarian law (2005/C 327/04) to ensure Israel complies with

international humanitarian law under paragraph 16 (b), (c) and (d) of

these guidelines, including the adoption of immediate restrictive measures

and sanctions, as well as cessation of all upgrade dialogue with Israel“.55

In January 2009, members of BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS Call

from Within, including Prof. Yoram Carmeli, Dr. Anat Matar, Jonathan Pollak, Dr.

Kobi Snitz, myself, and another 17 members published a call in The Guardian

appealing to EU leaders to “use sanctions against Israel's brutal policies and join

the active protests of Bolivia and Venezuela”. We also appealed to the citizens of

Europe: “please attend to the Palestinian Human Rights Organisation's call,

supported by more than 540 Israeli citizens (www.freegaza.org/en/home/658-acall-

from-within-signed-by-israeli-citizens): boycott Israeli goods and Israeli

institutions; follow resolutions such as those made by the cities of Athens,

Birmingham and Cambridge (US). This is the only road left. Help us all, please!”56

In April 2009, BOYCOTT! called on musician Leonard Cohen to cancel his

planned concert in Israel: “We see our society becoming more and more

calloused and racist and given your longstanding, vocal commitment to justice,

we cannot envision you cooperating with continued Israeli defiance of justice and

morality; we cannot envision you playing a part in the Israeli charade of selfrighteousness.

We appeal to you to add your voice to those brave people the

world over who boycott Israel. We urge you to cancel your planned performance

in Israel”.57

In May 2009, I sent a letter of support to BRICUP’s pre University and College

Union (UCU) Congress 2009 meeting, which said, in part:

“in spite of the growing plight of their Palestinians colleagues,

universities’ senates and heads have never spoken up against the Israeli

occupation of the Palestinian territory or against the oppression of the

Palestinians; nor have they protested the destructive damage inflicted on

Palestinian academic institutions by the Israeli military; nor have they

shown any concern for or solidarity with their Palestinian colleagues. And

when given the chance to protest “the policy of the Israeli government

which is causing restrictions of freedom of movement, study and

55 http://www.petitiononline.com/freegaza/petition.html

56 www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/17/gaza-israelandthepalestinians1

57 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10493.shtml

15

instruction, and […] call upon the government to allow students and

lecturers free access to all the campuses in the Territories, and to allow

lecturers and students who hold foreign passports to teach and study

without being threatened with withdrawal of residence visas”, only very

few (407 out of over 5000) faculty have chosen to sign this petition.58 Is

“academic freedom” only the prerogative of the powerful?

These are only shreds of evidence testifying to the complicity of Israeli

academic institutions in the state's apartheid policies against the

Palestinians”. 59

Also in May 2009, BOYCOTT! appealed to the European Union via its embassies

in Israel to suspend existing trade agreements with Israel and to “implement the

human rights clause that is part of your trade agreement with Israel and suspend

the existing trade agreements with Israel until it upholds international and

humanitarian law”.60

In the same month, BOYCOTT! sent a message to Madonna asking her to cancel

her planned performance in Israel: "A performance here would imply that Israel

is behaving in an acceptable manner, and would be interpreted by Israelis as

moral support for the illegal and inhumane policies, described by many as war

crimes and crimes against humanity".61

Also, during May 2009 BOYCOTT! joined the Coalition of Women for Peace in

calling on Norway to divest from the Israeli occupation. Twenty Israeli

organizations urged the Norwegian pension fund to “remove from the fund’s

investment portfolio all corporations that support and maintain the Israeli

occupation of the Palestinian territory”.62

In the same month, BOYCOTT! sent a message to the Barcelona Department for

International Cooperation wondering if Barcelona is still cooperating with Tel

Aviv, even after the Gaza massacres. The letter reminded Barcelona that

“keeping up the business as usual charade will only encourage Israel to proceed

with its illegal, atrocious, and unjust practices that have been going on for the

past 42 years without much interference from the international community”.63

58 http://academic-access.weebly.com/

59 http://www.bricup.org.uk/doc'uments/israel_unis/Giora.pdf

60 http://www.israel-academia-monitor.com/index.php?type=large_advic&advice_id=7065&page_data%5Bid%5D=174&cookie_lang=en 

61 http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1249418563695&pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull

62 http://boycottisrael.info/content/israeli-organizations-call-norway-divest-israeli-occupation

63 http://boycottisrael.info/content/barcelona-still-cooperating-tel-aviv-even-after-gaza-massacres

16

In July, 2009 BOYCOTT! sent a message to UNICEF on the issue of their

partnering with Motorola, letting them know that we consider it “is immoral for

UNICEF to partner with a company which undermines UNICEF’s efforts by its

actions. We ask that UNICEF end its partnership with Motorola until Motorola

stops selling equipment used by the Israeli army to violate the rights of

Palestinian children along with those of many others”.64

In the same month, BOYCOTT! joined PACBI’s call on Amnesty to follow their

appeal to boycott all Israeli academic and cultural institutions and withdraw their

support from Cohen’s concert in Israel.65

In July 2009, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Israel decided on joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions

Campaign against Israel: “Taking into account that up till now our calls for

significant international pressure on Israeli policy have not been answered, and

in spite of having utilized all the means we have had available to us, these

actions have not brought about change in Israeli policies, we, therefore join the

call for BDS on Israel.66

In August 2009, Dr. Neve Gordon, a longtime peace activist and head of the

political science department at Ben-Gurion University, published an op-ed in the

Lost Angeles Times, endorsing the Palestinian call for BDS against Israel.67

In September 2009, BOYCOTT! also joined the Toronto declaration68 supporting

the call to protest the Toronto International Film Festival's City-to-City Spotlight

on Tel Aviv. Filmmaker, writer, and visual artist, Udi Aloni and the artist David

Reeb69 were also among the supporters of the declaration.70

In October 2009, Michel (Mikado) Warschawski a prominent member of The

Alternative Information Center, published a reply to Uri Avnery titled “YES to

BDS!” in which he states:

“For us Zionism is not a national liberation movement but a colonial

movement, and the State of Israel is and has always been a settler's

colonial state. Peace, or, better, justice, cannot be achieved without a

total decolonization (one can say de-Zionisation) of the Israeli State; it is a

precondition for the fulfillment of the legitimate rights of the Palestinians –

64 http://boycottisrael.info/content/unicef-and-motorola-partnership

65 http://boycottisrael.info/content/entertaining-apartheid-israel-deserves-no-amnesty

66 www.wilpf.int.ch/PDF/Statement%20on%20BDS%20Movement.pdf

67 http://articles.latimes.com/2009/aug/20/opinion/oe-gordon20

68 http://torontodeclaration.blogspot.com/

69 http://opedisrael.blogspot.com/2009/10/attacking-conscience-corporate-owned.html

70 http://www.counterpunch.org:80/aloni08282009.html

http://www.haaretz.com:80/hasen/spages/1116151.html

17

whether refugees, living under military occupation or second-class citizens

of Israel… any attempt for reconciliation before the fulfillment of rights

strengthens the continuation of the colonial domination relationship.

Without a price to be paid, why should the Israelis stop colonization, why

should they risk a deep internal crisis?

“This is where the BDS campaign is so relevant: it offers an international

framework to act in order to help the Palestinian people achieving its

legitimate rights, both on the institutional level (states and international

institutions) and the civil society's one… The BDS campaign was initiated

by a broad coalition of Palestinian political and social movements. No

Israeli who claims to support the national rights of the Palestinian people

can, decently, turn his or her back to that campaign”.71

In the same month, Uri Yacobi Keller from The Alternative Information Center

published a docu'ment justifying the academic boycott of Israeli universities titled

“The Economy of the Occupation: Academic Boycott of Israel”. He further argues

that “An academic boycott of Israel represents a threat that could damage one of

the most important cultural connections between Israel and the western

world”.72

In November 2009, The Coalition of Women for Peace73 passed a motion to join

the BDS movement in Israel. It’s the first such endorsement by a major Israeli

organization, representing thousands of activists. This initiative has been

preceded by a three year long project it had run (initiated in November 2006),

titled Who Profits: Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry, coordinated by Dr.

Dalit Baum, Merav Amir and other members of the Coalition. Who Profits aims to

expose Israeli and international corporations which are involved in the

construction of Israeli colonies and infrastructure in the occupied territories, in

the settlements’ economy, in building walls and checkpoints, and in the supply

of specific equipment used in the control and repression of the civilian population

under occupation. The question Who Profits investigates is not the traditional

complaint about the costs incurred by the occupation but the extent to which

those involved in it benefit: Who profits from Control of Population, Economic

Exploitation, and The Settlement Industry.74 The Who Profits data base has

become a mainstay of the international BDS movement, providing much of the

71 http://www.internationalviewpoint.org/spip.php?article1733

http://toibillboard.info/144boyc.html

72 http://kanan48.wordpress.com/2009/10/23/the-economy-of-the-occupation-academic-boycott-of-israel-by-uri-yacobi-keller/  

73 http://coalitionofwomen.org/home/english

74 http://www.whoprofits.org/

18

research and information that is vital for worldwide economic activism against

companies and corporations benefitting directly from Israel's occupation.

In the same month, BOYCOTT! sent an Open Letter to the Board of Governors of

Trondheim University, asking them to follow the Palestinian call to boycott the

Israeli academy. “Indeed, it has to be recognized by academics the world over

that Israeli universities are part and parcel of the structures of domination and

oppression of the Palestinian people. They have played a direct and indirect role

in promoting, justifying, developing or supporting the state‘s racist

policies and persistent violations of human rights and international law”.75

BOYCOTT! also joined Adalah-NY’s call on others to tell the New York Mets that

they should refrain from supporting Hebron’s settlers.76

In December 2009, members of BOYCOTT!, “including Emmanuel Farjoun,

Hebrew University; Rachel Giora, Tel Aviv University; Anat Matar, Tel Aviv

University; Kobi Snitz, Technion; and Ilan Pappe now at Exeter” supported the

US campaign for academic boycott against Israel who issued a statement calling

for a boycott of Israeli academic and cultural institutions.77

In January 2010, ICAHD issued a renewed statement titled “in support of a

campaign of BDS based upon the fundamental principles of the Palestinian civil

society call:

“Ending Israel’s occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and

dismantling the Wall;

“Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of

Israel to full equality; and

“Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees

to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution

194”.

It then goes on to give details about ICHAD’s support of BDS not mentioned in

the original statement, such as:

“Boycott of Israeli academic institutions, which have not fulfilled their

responsibility of upholding the academic freedoms of their Palestinian

counterparts. Our call for an academic boycott of Israeli universities is

targeted at the institutions, opposing, for example, the holding of

international academic conferences in Israel or funding joint research

75 http://usacbi.wordpress.com/category/israeli-organizing/

76 http://boycottisrael.info/content/tell-new-york-mets-say-no-hebron%E2%80%99s-racist-violent-settlers  

77 http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article10967.shtml

19

ventures. It does not call for boycotting individual scholars or researchers in

any way”.78

In the same month, filmmaker and artist Udi Aloni published an article in Ynet,

explaining why BDS is the right tool to level against the occupation:

“[W]e must try to create the preconditions for non-violent resistance to

emerge, in order to render violent resistance unnecessary.

“The most provably-effective form of pressure known to us so far is BDS.

Thus, BDS action does not amount to negative, counter-productive action,

as many propagandists try to portray it. On the contrary, BDS action is a

life-saving antidote to violence. It is an action of solidarity, partnership

and joint progress. BDS action serves to preempt, in a non-violent

manner, justified violent resistance aimed at attaining the same goals of

justice, peace and equality.79

4. Impact: Israel is losing its legitimacy

The BDS movement against Israel is growing worldwide. The Israeli public and

policy-makers, including military officers, cannot ignore it any longer.80 Israelis

are witnessing the loss of Israel’s legitimacy and beginning to grasp the cost of

continued Israeli disregard of international law.

In September 2009, in his article, “The third threat”, Gabriel Siboni registers the

impact of the BDS movement against Israel:

“In recent years, however, an additional threat has been developing. Its main

thrust: attempts by pro-Arab organizations to destroy Israel's legitimacy

as a political entity. There are many examples of this such as accusations of

an apartheid policy, Holocaust denial and the claim that the state's

establishment was an illegal act, as well as accusations that Israel has

committed war crimes. These lead to boycotts of Israeli companies and

products, academic and cultural boycotts and ultimately calls to destroy the

Zionist entity” (emphasis added, R.G.).81

In October 2009, Aluf Benn, Haaretz correspondent testifies:

78 http://www.icahd.org/eng/

79 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3829694,00.html

80 http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2010/0106/1224261731116.html

81 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1117739.html

20

“Only one thing does bother the Israelis, according to the polls: fear of a

diplomatic embargo and an international boycott. The Goldstone Report

and the International Court of Justice in The Hague are arousing concern

and interest, far more than Obama's peace speeches. However, as long

as relations with the rest of the world are satisfactory, Israelis

see no reason to emerge from indifference and listen to the

president of the United States” (emphasis added, R.G.).82

During the same month, in his article “Israel needs legitimacy to wage war and

peace”, Haaretz mainstream journalist, Ari Shavit, counts the threats to Israel’s

loss of legitimacy, including the BDS movement against Israel:

“But things are not all right - they really are not. Why? Because

underneath those still waters on which Israel's ship is sailing lurks an

iceberg. The Goldstone report marked the iceberg's first appearance.

Turkey turning its back on Israel was the second. Attempts by European

courts to try Israel Defense Forces officers were the third; the boycott of

Israeli products and companies in various places round the world was the

fourth”.83

In November 2009, mainstream journalist, Sever Plocker, admits that

“Israel’s image has hit a nadir; it is isolated, unwanted, and perceived as

bad. The world is telling us that should we continue along the same

contemptible path, we will lose our legitimacy” (emphasis added,

R.G.).84

In the same month, in his article titled “How we became a night unto the

nations”, Haaretz mainstream columnist Yoel Marcus laments Israel’s loss of

legitimacy:

“Israel is … described as a strong country, aggressive and domineering, as

Charles de Gaulle once said. President Shimon Peres was recently greeted by

angry demonstrations in Argentina and Brazil. Many countries boycott Israeli

products, and Israeli lecturers on college campuses throughout the West

endure catcalls. During Ehud Olmert's recent lecture tour of the United

States, he was greeted almost everywhere he went with cries such as ’child

killers!’

“Ever since Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, officers in the Israel Defense

Forces have been at risk every time they land in an international airport. … it

82 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1116923.html

83 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1121263.html

84 http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3798761,00.html

21

would be preferable for our government to discuss how we got to where we

are - no longer a light unto the nations - and what needs to be done to stop

the freefall in our international image before it's too late” (emphasis

added, R.G.).85

Still, in the same month, Yoav Karny writes in Globes:

“Israel will not continue to exist if the educated middle class of the West

turns against it. The experience of South Africa has taught all the

boycotters in the world that there isn’t a more effective tool to

weaken a society's stamina than the withdrawal of foreign

investments” (emphasis added, R.G.).86

In January 2010, Gidi Grinstein, the founder and president of the Reut Institute,

a policy group designed to provide real-time long-term strategic decision-making

support to the Government of Israel, 87 acknowledges the de-legitimization

threat:

“And so, our politicians and military personnel are threatened with

lawsuits and arrest when they travel abroad, campaigns to boycott our

products gain traction, and our very existence is challenged in academic

institutions and intellectual circles. The country is increasingly isolated”. 88

The BDS movement against Israel, supported by a growing number of

Israelis, is biting. It threatens to undermine Israel’s position in the civilized

world. It holds up a mirror to the ugly face of Israel as Oppressor. Sooner or

later, mainstream Israelis will have to acknowledge the face in the mirror as

their own. The sooner they do, the sooner they will press for a drastic course

correction in partnership with Palestinians that will bring justice for all and will

set the country on the path to regaining its legitimacy.

Acknowledgements

I am really grateful to anyone who sent me comments and helped in shaping

up this docu'ment. I am most indebted to Reuven Abergel, Mona Baker, Dalit

Baum, Jeff Halper, Shir Hever, Ingrid Jaradat Gassner, Debby Lerman, Rela

Mazali, Dorothy Naor, Ofer Neiman, Ilan Pappe, Deb Reich, Aliyah Strauss,

Gila Svirsky, Mikado Warschawski, and Beate Zilversmidt.

85 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1130262.html

86 http://www.globes.co.il/news/article.aspx?QUID=1056,U1259349558910&did=1000517467  

87 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reut_Institute

88 http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1142739.html

 

 
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