An ad campaign of sorts ran in Berkeley and San Francisco at the end of 2009 drawing attention to Pacific Gas & Electric’s relationship with the Israeli company Solel and the growing BDS movement. Several of PG&E’s “Solar Power” bus shelter billboards were modified to read “Making planets orbit and bagels toast … and fueling Israeli apartheid.” PG&E has a 25-year contract with Solel to develop the Mojave Solar Park in California’s Mojave Desert.
The modified ads were rehung in bus shelters in downtown Berkeley and San Francisco’s Union Square, and stayed up for several weeks through November and December.
Street artist K.R., one of the creators of the ad, explained in a press release, “Every person in California has a stake in what PG&E does, because we are all forced to buy power from them. I don’t want to be funding apartheid every time I turn on a light, and I don’t think most of my neighbors do either.”
The release continues, “Our desire for new energy sources has always led us to partner with repressive regimes. The demand for oil led to the Vietnam War and the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Nigerian activists. Uranium mining was one of the reasons for apartheid in South Africa and theft of Native American land in the last century. Our conversion to clean and renewable energy should not replicate the exploitative conditions under which earlier technologies were developed.”
I looked into Solel and it did not appear that they are operating in the occupied territories. Most companies which have been targeted by the BDS movement in the US so far have a direct connection to the occupation so I asked K.R. – why target Solel? K.R. responded by email:
Every large Israeli company finances the Israeli government through taxes, and thus its wars and aggression, and its apartheid system, are financed by the money that comes into the country through its manufacturing and exports. In 2008, the company’s CEO received an Outstanding Exporter Award from President Shimon Peres. It is one of the leading solar thermal producers in the world. At the time divestment from South Africa was being debated, divestment was definitely not limited to companies that were "doing bad things" directly for the South African government; it was understood that in order to affect the South African state, we needed to hurt its economy.
In addition, K.R. made an important point about the role projects like this play in Israeli hasbara:
The Israel lobby and its public relations people here use its development of "green" technology to promote the image of Israel as a progressive country that is doing so much to preserve the land, while in fact, it is destroying the environment in order to establish control over the land and its resources. Companies like Solel are very important in that cultural war.
Detail from the "redesigned" ad: