The BDS movement will continue to grow as long as Israel avoids accountability

on 26 Comments

Above is Tuesday’s episode of Laura Flanders’s show Grit TV discussing the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. Remember when Ali Abunimah was on Grit TV and had to beg the other guests to even mention Gaza immediately after the fighting? Well times are changing and the protests in Toronto, the success of Adalah-NY’s campaign against Lev Leviev, Code Pink’s Stolen Beauty campaign against Ahava, ongoing campaigns against Motorola and Caterpillar as well as growing calls in support for BDS like the one from Israeli professor Neve Gordon show that BDS is squarely on the Left’s agenda.

And people are starting to take notice. Gal Beckerman has a great overview of the BDS movement in this week’s Forward. Beckerman quotes Omar Barghouti – “Our South Africa moment has finally arrived." The connections to apartheid and South Africa are inescapable. Neve Gordon repeatedly references Israeli apartheid above when discussing his decision to support BDS. Jay Michaelson’s wonderful piece in the Forward also gives a snapshot of how Israel is increasingly perceived in the liberal and progressive community:

in my social circles, supporting Israel is like supporting segregation, apartheid or worse. I know this is a sign of weakness of will on my part, and I hope that the Times-magazine-sanctioned rise of J Street changes things, but I don’t think advocates of Israel understand exactly how bad the situation is on college campuses, in Europe, and in liberal or leftist social-political circles. Supporting Israel in these contexts is like supporting repression, or the war in Iraq, or George W. Bush. It’s gotten so bad, I don’t mention Israel in certain conversations anymore, and no longer defend it when it’s lumped in with South Africa and China by my friends.

This growing perception is being met by a total unwillingness in the international community to hold Israel accountable. In that void, the BDS movement has flourished.

Beckerman makes another important observation in his article that the war in Gaza served as an important tipping point in the growth of the BDS movement:

According to David Hosey, national media coordinator for the [US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation], the group resolved at the conference to extend its activities for the first time to the more sensitive cultural and academic boycott. Like many other pro-Palestinian activists, Hosey dated this willingness to increase boycott activity to the Gaza incursion of this past winter.

“It was a big shock to the system, and it caused a big sea change in what people were willing to do,” said Rebecca Vilkomerson, the national director of Jewish Voice for Peace.

The carnage in Gaza moved Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin and other leaders on the left who had been reticent to engage with Israel/Palestine to jump in full force. The fact that the Goldstone report has coincidentally been released as the debate in Toronto rages over Israeli attempts to "re-brand" itself after the Gaza war serves as a perfect microcosm of the moment. Israel has yet to be held accountable for the incredible carnage in Gaza, and has already announced that it rejects the Goldstone report’s recommendation for an independent investigation of war crimes committed in the fighting. Although a report like this might have been ignored in the past, protests like the one in Toronto are making this more difficult to do, and in turn the Goldstone report is a chilling reminder of why such protest is unfortunately necessary.

The BDS movement is a nonviolent grassroots attempt to hold Israel accountable while the international community refuses to. After Gaza, Israel will face increasing criticism and rebuke whenever it tries to avoid the issue or change the subject. Although world leaders may not want to sanction Israel quite yet for its ongoing abuse of human rights and international law, it’s becoming clear that there is a growing global movement willing to take up the challenge.

Update: This just in –

17 September 2009

Britain’s unions commit to a mass boycott movement of Israeli goods

In a landmark decision, Britain’s trade unions have voted overwhelmingly to commit to build a mass boycott movement, disinvestment and sanctions on Israel for a negotiated settlement based on justice for Palestinians.

The motion was passed at the 2009 TUC Annual Congress in Liverpool today (17 September), by unions representing 6.5 million workers across the UK.

Hugh Lanning, chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: ‘This motion is the culmination of a wave of motions passed at union conferences this year, following outrage at Israel’s brutal war on Gaza, and reflects the massive growth in support for Palestinian rights. We will be working with the TUC to develop a mass campaign to boycott Israeli goods, especially agricultural products that have been produced in illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank.’

The motion additionally called for the TUC General Council to put pressure on the British government to end all arms trading with Israel and support moves to suspend the EU-Israel trade agreement. Unions are also encouraged to disinvest from companies which profit from Israel’s illegal 42-year occupation of Gaza and the West Bank.

The motion was tabled by the Fire Brigades Union. The biggest unions in the UK, including Unite, the public sector union, and UNISON, which represents health service workers, voted in favour of the motion.

The motion also condemned the Israeli trade union Histadrut’s statement supporting Israel’s war on Gaza, which killed 1,450 Palestinians in three weeks, and called for a review of the TUC’s relationship with Histadrut.

Britain’s trade unions join those of South Africa and Ireland in voting to use a mass boycott campaign as a tool to bring Israel into line with international law, and pressure it to comply with UN resolutions that encourage justice and equality for the Palestinian people.

26 Responses

  1. Kathleen
    September 17, 2009, 10:48 am

    Just keep refusing to freeze those settlements…and the anger keeps building. Has been interesting to watch the resistance to the BDS movement ove r the last 10 or 15 years on campuses. Daniel Pipes Campus Watch along with other efforts have been successful at blocking this movement on college campuses. No such concerted effort during the late 70’s into the 80’s against the anti apartheid movements on campuses.

    The movement is starting to grow due to folks persistent and co-ordinated efforts.

    Phillip you folks are adding to those efforts in a huge way. Thanks for your commitment to justice for the Palestinians and the Israeli’s

    I think Israel continues to do themselves harm

  2. potsherd
    September 17, 2009, 11:12 am

    The tradeoff was supposed to be a settlement freeze for greater pressure on Iran. But Netanyahu played Obama for the sucker he is, now finds himself calling for Obama’s veto in the UN.

    Now we see Obama finally striking back by canceling the European missile defense program, an anti-Russian program under the ridiculous guise of protecting eastern Europe from Iranian rockets. “since the threat of long-range missiles from Iran is no longer believed to be as imminent.”

    link to

    This sticks it in the eye of Israel as much as it mollifies Russia.

    • Kathleen
      September 17, 2009, 11:17 am

      Interesting take…..makes sense…hope you are right

    • Oscar
      September 17, 2009, 3:41 pm

      Potsherd – not sure I agree. Could Obama’s pulling-the-plug be part of a quid-pro-quo with the Russians? The US cancels its missile defense shield in Eastern Europe . . . and will the Russians then cancel the sale of their own missile defense weapons to Iran, thereby clearing a path for an Israeli strike on Natanz?

      It’s difficult to comprehend everything happening behind the scenes, but Netanyahu’s top secret visit to Russia last week could be part of a more complicated triumvirate deal that is to the detriment of the Iranians.

  3. Kathleen
    September 17, 2009, 11:14 am

    Laura Flanders doing some great interviews and work on this issue
    link to

    International pressure is mounting on Israel to end the occupation. More than 1,000 filmmakers, actors, and writers recently called for a protest of the Toronto Film Festival’s spotlight on Tel-Aviv. You can read the Toronto Declaration here. Meanwhile an international boycott is growing. Neve Gordon, in a recent editorial, explains why it is time to boycott Israel. Since then he has received harsh criticism from within Israel but also a great deal of support. He says that The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctionscampaign is the only way to save Israel from itself. Launched by Palestinian activists in 2005 the BDS movement has now become a global effort.

    Diana Buttu, a former spokesperson for the Palestine Liberation Organization, Gordon, a senior lecturer at Ben-Gurion Univesity and the author of Israel’s Occupationir?t=lauraflanders-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0520255313, and Phyllis Bennis, Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies on organizing to end the occupation. To find out more about what you can do visit


    Obviously off limits or is it their choice not to mention this report

  4. Ed_Frias
    September 17, 2009, 11:17 am

    Britain’s unions commit to a mass boycott movement of Israeli goods

    The Nazis would be so proud.

  5. Ed_Frias
    September 17, 2009, 11:33 am

    Beckerman quotes Omar Barghouti – “Our South Africa moment has finally arrived.” The connections to apartheid and South Africa are inescapable.

    This guy must be a comedian.
    Israel offers the Palestinians a state, something no Arab or Islamic country ever did.
    Barak and Olmert did this even though their was never in history any state called Palestine governed by Palestinians.
    The Palestinians reject Barak’s offer and start a terrorist war blowing up buses, shopping malls, disco’s, pizzeria’s, hotels and any other area the Palestinians can commit their genocidal acts.
    To understand more about Arab racism, please go to this site.
    link to

    • Kathleen
      September 17, 2009, 12:05 pm

      barak never signed the deal this is a myth. the right wing zionist spun this as Arafats fault. From what I read…no water deal, no right of return and no compensation for stolen lands. Not as good of deal as it was spun.

      But what else is new?

      All failings were blamed ton Arafat

      In Carter’s “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” Carter reminds us that Barak had not signed the deal either.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 1:41 pm

      You’re the comedian. Nobody sane would regard what Israel offered the Palestinans as a sovereign state like any other. As far as the jews getting a sovereign state of their own, why not also give one to the Palestinians? The jews had no state either, just a religion for thousands of years.

  6. James
    September 17, 2009, 11:34 am

    this is good news… if it’s a choice between fox news and this site, i am siding with this site! i know folks like witty probably choose the former, lol…. any chance that rupert murdoch will have a change of heart? probably not as it would affect his pocket book too much!

  7. Ed_Frias
    September 17, 2009, 11:48 am

    Who should be shocked by this.
    The Brits just freed the Lockerbie bomber for an oil deal with the Arabs.
    They will do anything to appease the Arabs.
    The Brits are trying to give out another White Paper.
    Any fool can see this.

    • jimby
      September 17, 2009, 1:05 pm

      I guess you would have to be one of those fools Ed.

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 1:43 pm

      And fool can see the Brits foolishly gave out land not their own to Rothschild, and that’s why the Brits need to make amends.

  8. Ed_Frias
    September 17, 2009, 12:08 pm

    Kathleen, this will answer all your questions.
    Arafat’s grand strategy.
    link to

  9. MRW
    September 17, 2009, 12:39 pm

    In the interest of assisting any newbie to this site and clarifying a refrain from the hasbara zonk, Ed_Frias, who insists over and over again that Palestine didn’t exist until Israel created it for them, I will give you some history. First, Ed_Frias’ lying refrain: Israel offers the Palestinians a state, something no Arab or Islamic country ever did. Barak and Olmert did this even though their was never in history any state called Palestine governed by Palestinians.

    Here’s the truth of it, should you not want to peruse a map of ancient Palestine here link to, 1948 Palestine maps here link to, or the map of the first Jewish colony in Palestine in 1878 here link to The Zionism-Israel Information Center ( site writes about Theodor Herzl:

    Herzl became convinced that the Jews needed a country of their own. … Herzl proposed to collect funds from Jews around the world by a company which would work toward settling Jews in Palestine. and securing a state. Eventually this idea was transformed into the Zionist Organization, the Jewish National Fund and other organizations. The Jewish State and Herzl’s novel, Altneuland (Old New Land) published in 1902, pictured a Jewish social utopia in Palestine. … Herzl then appealed to the people, organizing the First Zionist Congress in Basle, Switzerland, on August 29 31, 1897. … At Basle, the Zionist movement resolved to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law.

    Again, see the map of Palestine in 1878 above.

  10. Richard Witty
    September 17, 2009, 12:46 pm

    Interesting interview.

    Laura Flanders was not entirely sold from my read, even as she had the three guests on.

    I kept thinking, “She should have me on.”

    • David
      September 17, 2009, 1:59 pm


      Ok, blatantly self-promotional tone aside (and hey, who of us here in the blogsphere isn’t engaged in constant acts of self-promotion?), who supports Richard Witty’s call for Richard Witty to be featured on GRITtv? I actually think a conversation between Richard Witty, Omar Barghouti, and Phyllis Bennis would be fascinating. Takers?

      Hell, for good self-promotional measure, she should have me on, too!

    • Citizen
      September 17, 2009, 2:04 pm

      Yeah, right Richard. You’d be as helpful there as you are here. If Laura had you on
      it would increase awareness of how both the average Israeli and the average American
      are kept blissfully ignorant of what’s been going on in the OT in both our names. Your boring cloudy and pedantic and obviously bigoted blanket over reality would ignite more passion for a unified BDS across the world. Boycot Motorola and Caterpillar!

      • Richard Witty
        September 17, 2009, 2:50 pm

        I was joking, sort of. But, your response to my joke is more interesting.

        I know that some appreciate my comments here as I get e-mails periodically from individuals that haven’t posted.

        In any case, my perspective is very close to J Street’s politically, so represents a perspective that you’d be most more effective to find an intersection with, than to condemn thoughtlessly.

      • VR
        September 17, 2009, 5:19 pm

        What do you mean Richard? I put plenty of thought into my condemnations hehe

        I do not have much to say for J Street either, except more of the same – like it is useless to argue from silence and the lack thereof. Also, when you produce so many compromises you just end up like you’re opponent only with a painted face. What I hope is that people do not jump the gun on J Street and shoe it in carelessly as the new AIPAC. This is because Israel also has a left as well as a right, and right now I do not see any difference between the long winded left I Israel that allows atrocities to continue, and J Street.

      • Richard Witty
        September 18, 2009, 4:54 am

        I know V, you are skillful at condemnation.

  11. Chu
    September 17, 2009, 2:29 pm

    I watched this yesterday and it’s great to know that this is a growing phenomena. BDS will likely become a familiar concept to the US. I believe that this is going to keep rolling on, because the people are talking about how unjust Israel is. That doesn’t sit well with the historical narrative and people are becoming disgusted. The Huffington Post comments section is riddled with comments against the Israel’s gov’t. It is a big turn around from last year.

    • eljay
      September 17, 2009, 2:53 pm

      It’s hard to root for the underdog once he’s become the face-smashing bully…

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