– By Mark Hage, Vermonters for Justice in Palestine

The international BDS movement was launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian unions, political parties, refugee networks, women’s organizations, professional associations, popular resistance committees and other civil society groups.  

Thirteen years later, the movement is still growing, successfully mobilizing activists and institutions across the world, from South Africa to Vermont, in solidarity with the Palestine national liberation struggle.  

Vermonters for Justice in Palestine endorsed the BDS movement at its inception, and has been leading a campaign since 2013 calling on Ben & Jerry’s to stop the sale and catering of its peace & love ice cream by its Israeli franchise in illegal, Jewish-only settlements in Occupied Palestine. 

BDS is “an inclusive, anti-racist human rights movement that is opposed on principle to all forms of discrimination, including anti-semitism and Islamophobia.”  It is calling for sustained, nonviolent pressure on Israel until it complies with three demands enshrined in international law: 

  1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling its Separation Wall; 
  1. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and 
  1. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194. 

Here are 18 BDS organizing highlights from 2018, courtesy of the BDS National Committee: 

  1. Airbnb decided it would no longer profit from most illegal Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land. This followed an international campaign led by the #StolenHomes coalition of organizations affiliated with the BDS movement for Palestinian rights and human rights organizations. 
  1. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib made history by becoming the first sitting U.S. members of Congress to publicly endorse BDS.  Tlaib, the first Palestinian-American woman elected to Congress, has also expressed support for cutting U.S. military aid to Israel. 
  1. Argentina’s national football team, led by Captain Lionel Messi, cancelled its exhibition match with Israel. 
  1. Celebrity singer Lana Del Rey became one of 19 artists to withdraw from Israel’s Meteor Festival, after thousands of fans and activists from around the world urged her to respect the Palestinian picket line. Shakira and Lorde were among other top artists to cancel their concerts in Israel this year. More than 100 DJs and electronic music artists joined the cultural boycott of Israel under #DJsForPalestine. 
  1. Chile’s Congress overwhelmingly voted to ban products from illegal Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land. 
  1. Major organizations from the Indian women’s movement, representing over 10 million women, endorsed the BDS movement and demanded the release of all Palestinian child prisoners. 
  1. Amnesty International called for an arms embargo on Israel. It slammed the United States and the European Union for their military deals with Israel and held them responsible for “fueling mass violations” of Palestinian human rights. 
  1. The UK Labour Party recently voted to freeze arms sales to Israel. In Ireland, a Minister of State and 50 Irish lawmakers called for Ireland to stop arming Israel. Earlier, Dublin became the first European capital to endorse BDS for Palestinian rights. In Scotland, Falkirk Pension Fund divested from Bank Hapoalim, becoming the first local authority pension fund in the UK to divest from a company complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights. 
  1. Parliamentarians from Spain and Portugal took a stand for Palestinian rights and denounced Israel’s war crimes and racist “Jewish Nation-State Law.​” Several cities in Italy and the Spanish state called for an arms embargo on Israel. 
  1. The Movement for Black Lives released a powerful statement of solidarity with the Palestinian people and called for the United States to end its $38 billion in annual military aid to Israel. The city of Northampton and the State of Vermontboth pulled out of a planned training junket for US police to learn from the Israeli military. 
  1. 40 international Jewish social justice organizations recognized that the BDS movement for Palestinian rights has a proven commitment to “fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism and bigotry.” They condemned attempts to stifle criticism of Israel’s policies. 
  1. A 2018 Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry, Professor George P. Smith, expressed support for the BDS movement and for cutting US military aid to Israel. 
  1. Adidas stopped sponsoring the Israel Football Association (IFA), which includes teams based in illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land, after appeals from more than 130 Palestinian sports clubs. 
  1. Trade unionists and human rights activists in Tunisia and across the Arab world forced Israel’s Zim shipping line to suspend its routes to Tunisia. 
  1. The Canadian Federation of Students, representing more than 500,000 students, just voted at their Annual General Meeting to back the BDS movement. 
  1. Leeds became the first UK university to divest from firms involved in Israel’s arms trade, following a BDS campaign by Palestine solidarity activists. The university has divested more than $1.2 million in holdings from corporations that trade military equipment with Israel. 
  1. Quakers became the first church in the UK to say they “will not invest in any company profiting from [Israel’s military] occupation.” Recently, several US churches have also voted to divest from Israeli and international companies complicit in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. 
  1. From South Africa, Nkosi Zwelivelile Mandela, a member of parliament and Nelson Mandela’s grandson, has affirmed the critical role BDS is playing to end Israeli apartheid. 

These achievements from the past year show the strength and creativity of BDS as a non-violent strategy to bring worldwide attention to the plight of Palestinians under occupation and to Israel’s shameful flaunting of international law.  So much so in fact, that the Israeli government is spending millions of dollars annually through pro-Israel Zionist organizations to fight the BDS movement.  Combating BDS includes: 

  • changing the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of Israel and BDS;  
  • passing laws in 27 states and the US Senate penalizing persons or organizations engaging in BDS;   
  • targeting students and faculty on college campuses who speak out for Palestinian human rights; and most recently, 
  • attacking our two newly elected female Muslim Congressional Representatives, Omar and Tlaib, for their open support of BDS.   

S.1 contains The Combating BDS Act of 2019 that recently passed in the U.S. Senate. To their credit, Vermont Senators Leahy and Sanders voted ‘no’ on this bill.  Please let them know that you appreciate their support for our first amendment right to boycott the government of Israel until it complies with international law. 

Senator Patrick Leahy: https://www.leahy.senate.gov/contact/ or 800-642-3193. 

Senator Bernie Sanders: https://www.sanders.senate.gov/contact/comment or 800-339-9834.