Sunday, July 1, 2012

Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment

TIAA/CREF drops Caterpillar from its investment portfolio because of the specially equipped bulldozers sold to Israel for their construction of an illegal wall, twice as high and four times longer than the Berlin wall, and specially equipped to demolish homes in the occupied territories. Alice Walker refuses to allow her award winning play The Color Purple, to be published in Israel because of apartheid policies and the persecution of the Palestinian people. Friends Fiduciary, a Quakers investment organization holding assets of more than $200 million, is divesting from Caterpillar because of profits derived from selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel.(1) On and on it goes.

The solidarity movement has scored significant success with the organization of a boycott of Israeli products, including the decision by British University and College Union to boycott Israeli academics; the amazing decision of more than 7 million people to join the BDS campaign; the decision taken by Hamshire College and some US churches to refuse to invest in the Israeli occupation; and the decision of Norway and Denmark to divest from Israeli military companies. (2)

Artists by the hundreds, from South Africa to Canada, have pledged support of BDS, especially since the massacre in Gaza in the winter of 2008-09 and the murder of nine humanitarian workers on the flotilla bringing aid to the suffering people of Gaza in 2010. In spite of peace talks, attacks on Palestinians have become even more harsh, with more home demolitions, the building of more and more settlements, an apartheid wall, road blocks, and armed response to nonviolent demonstrations. Meg Ryan and Dustin Hoffman cancelled appearances at the 2010 Film Festival. Dock workers from Sweden to California refused to unload Israeli ships right after Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara. Students at Berkeley have advocated BDS for more than ten years and are influencing students on other campuses to do the same.

For all these reasons, the Church of England several years ago divested from companies profiting from the occupation. Now, this week, even as I write, my church, the Presbyterians, after several years of trying to influence Caterpillar, to no avail, will have the opportunity to uphold DBS or choose the safe and popular position of looking the other way.

I quote Desmond Tutu:

Without a doubt, we South Africans who fought apartheid have been unanimous in finding Israel’s methods of repression and collective punishment far, far worse than anything we saw during our long and difficult liberation struggle. Israel’s indiscriminate, widespread bombing and shelling of populated areas with scant regard for the civilian victims, was absent in South Africa because the apartheid system relied on cheap black labor. Israel rejects outright an entire people, and seeks to eliminate the Palestinian presence entirely, whether by voluntary or enforced “transfer.” It is clearly this that accounts for Israel’s greater degree of sustained brutality in comparison to apartheid South Africa. This provides all the more reason why it is necessary for world opinion and action to assist the beleaguered Palestinian people. (3)

So, the Presbyterians will decide, do we stand up for peace and justice or do we side with the Christian Zionists who are anxious for Armageddon and with the arms industry which seeks more profits derived from conflicts. Some would say that to vote against BDS is to partner with those who promote Israel’s crimes against the men, women and children of Palestine. I would be one of them.

Thomas Are
July 1, 2012

1 - Friends of Sebeel, May 18, 2012.

2 - Mustafa Barghouthi, Freedom in Our Lifetime, Cited in The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, Edited by Audrea Lim, p. 8.
3 - Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Realizing God’s Dream for the Holy Land, Boston Globe, October 26, 2007, Cited by Ronnie Kasrils, Sour Oranges and the Sweet Taste of Freedom in The Case for Sanctions Against Israel, Edited by Audrea Lim,, p. 109.