BDS Campaign: A Steady Approach to Western Pension Funds

On July, 9th, 2005, a Palestinian grassroots movement launched its ‘Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions’ BDS campaign against Israel until its government complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. The BDS National Committee (BNC) is calling all to join the Global BDS Day of action on Land Day, 30 March 2011, in solidarity with the Palestinian people’s right to self determination on their ancestral land. Land Day symbolizes Palestinian resistance to Israel’s ongoing land expropriation, colonization, occupation and apartheid. In broad terms, the BDS, a non-violent resistance campaign, supported by other world groups, seeks to achieve the following:

1.Ending the Israeli colonial occupation of Arab Lands, including the West Bank, especially East Jerusalem and Gaza.

2.Dismantling the Apartheid Wall which turned the occupied Palestinian territories into a big prison designed to induce the Palestinians to abandon their lands under an Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing similar to that applied by South Africa during its racist regime which put black Africans into enclaves. Such enclaves were turned by Israel into fortified colonies in the heart of the Palestinian lands to kill any chance towards building a viable Palestinian state that can live in peace with a “Hebrew” one.

3.Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab – Palestinians as full citizens of Israel with equal rights.

4.Fulfilling UN resolution 194 which asserted the ‘Right of Return’, according to international law, of Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties.

Palestinian civil societies making up the BDS movement are calling on their international counterparts and conscience people around the world to impose boycott and divestment policies against Israel, similar to those brought against the former South African regime.  They are demanding that the civilized world apply international law, violated on a daily basis by the Israeli colonial forces, for the sake of world peace and international Security. Indeed, the BDS campaigns around the world are making success, causing damage to Israel’s image as ‘the only true democracy in the Middle East’, by revealing its real apartheid essence to the world’s civil societies who are positively responding in droves to the call of boycott. Along this line, BDS activists are intensifying their efforts to enhance sensitivity of Europe’s major funds to human rights issues and to avoid places where international law and human rights are being violated. Such campaigns, for example, succeeded lately to get a major Dutch pension Fund to divest from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio. The Dutch Fund (PFZW) with an investment totaling 97 billion euros has adopted a new guideline for “socially responsible investment in companies which operate in conflict zones”.  This very conscientious Dutch fund has entered into serious discussions with Motorola, Veolia and Alstom companies that are profiting from Israel’s colonial occupation. The Dutch Fund is trying to raise their concern about human rights issues and violations of international law which might legally implicate these companies that are receiving profits from illegally confiscated lands in Palestine. Also, in September 2009, the Norwegian State Pension Fund decided that it would no longer invest in companies that directly contribute to violation of international law. In February 2010, the Largest Dutch Pension Fund (ABP) informed the “Electronic Intifada” that it had divested from the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, in which it held shares worth millions of Euros! On June 14th, 2010, The Old Grorud Borough District of Oslo, Norway, voted to boycott Israel, according to the Norwegian News Service NRK which quoted Turid Thomassen, leader of a major Norwegian political party as saying “this vote could be the start of a wider boycott movement in Norway”. The same news report said that “more municipalities, counties and districts in Norway are submitting proposals to boycott Israel”. Moreover, the German owned mega-store, LIDL, became one of Ireland’s largest chain stores to stop selling Israeli farm products. Along similar lines, one news report said “the Irish public has reacted angrily to the Israeli raid of the Gaza aid flotilla”(in May, 2010) leading many in a mass movement to boycott Israeli products and have advised the Irish public through leaflets and websites to avoid purchasing products with the bar code number 729 which designates the Israeli origin of the product”. On May 22, 2010 two major Italian super-market chains, COOP and Nordiconad, announced the suspension of sales of products from Israel, following intense campaigns waged by BDS and some of their close allies in Italy.

It is only a matter of time, thanks to the BDS ceaseless efforts supported by its global allies, when the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel will grow in mass and economic power. Indeed, Israel must be experiencing the feeling of being under siege by the BDS growing campaigns which is generating an extreme dislike of Israel around the world and seriously contributing to the erosion of its legitimacy as a state.

The Palestinian civil society groups which stand behind the BDS campaigns in world countries are actually inspired by the spirit of India’s great leader Mahatma Gandhi, taking into his footsteps which at the end brought about his country’s liberation from the British colonial rule after launching his non-violent  resistance campaign with a widely supported policy of boycotting British products. Indeed, the BDS movement spares no effort in calling upon organizations and people of conscience in world countries to join its peaceful campaigns, not only for the sake of Palestine, but also for the sake of world peace and justice.