BDS: The Amazing Things We Achieved In 2014
For Palestinians and people of conscience everywhere, 2014 will be remembered as the year in which Israel carried out its bloodiest ever massacre of Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip.
2014 was also a year of resistance that saw continued resistance and unprecedented international solidarity with Palestine and huge steps forward for the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Here’s our round up of some of the key BDS developments of 2014. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the coalition of Palestinian civil society organisations that works to lead and support the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, warmly thanks each and every person who supported and contributed to the BDS movement this year.
If you can, please consider making a donation to our first ever fundraising appeal. It’ll help us to produce the resources and research our movement needs to make an even greater impact during 2015.
January – Scarlett Johansson helps bring BDS to the mainstream
The year opened with an international controversy over the decision of Hollywood A-lister Scarlett Johansson to become a brand ambassador for SodaStream, the Israeli drinks machine manufacturer that operates a factory in an illegal Israeli settlement.
The move attracted particular attention because the Lost in Translation star was also an ambassador for Oxfam, an international NGO that condemns illegal Israeli settlements. Oxfam faced huge pressure to ditch Johansson and publicly criticised her decision.
Ultimately it was Johansson who brought the saga to a close when she stepped down as an Oxfam representative, but not before social media memes about her support for Israel’s apartheid regime had gone viral and the BDS movement had received unprecedented international media attention. SodaStream’s share price suffered the first of many hits.
Dutch pension giant divests from Israeli banks
In a move that laid the foundation for other European funds to follow suit later in the year, Dutch pension fund PGGM announced it was divesting tens of millions of euros from 5 of Israel’s biggest banks due to their deep involvement in Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. The fund manages the pensions of 2.5 million people.
Veolia loses $4.5bn Boston contract
Campaigners in Boston celebrated after French multinational Veolia lost out on a $4.5bn contract following a vigorous campaign denouncing the company’s provision of infrastructure to illegal Israeli settlements.
Friends of the Earth International joins a growing BDS campaign
January also saw Friends of the Earth International signal its support for the campaign against Israeli state water company Mekorot and other boycott and divestment campaigns.
Norwegian singer Moddi cancels a scheduled gig in Israel
His decision was in direct response to a vigorous social media campaign led by BDS activists in Gaza.
February – Israel panics as more European funds divest
Danish and Luxembourg investors divest from Israel
Luxembourg’s state pension fund FDC excludes nine major Israeli banks and firms and one US company because of their involvement in Israeli settlements and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories. Meanwhile, Denmark’s largest bank Dankse Bank blacklists Israel’s Bank Hapoalim over settlement construction.
Israel and its supporters panic and attack free speech over boycott fears
Following the Scarlett Johansson scandal and a string of high profile divestment decisions by European firms and investors, the Israeli government discusses using legal action and its security services to counter the BDS movement. In the US, legislators in New York and Maryland take ultimately unsuccessful steps towards introducing legislation withdrawing public funds from any institution or academic association that supports BDS.
UK student union cancels G4S contract over role in Israeli prisons
The student union at the University of Kent in the southeast of England votes to cancel its contract with G4S following an “outcry” over its role in human rights abuses in Palestine
March – Israeli water firm loses $170m Argentina contract
The Buenos Aires municipality suspends a $170m water deal with Mekorot following a campaign over its role in Israel’s system of ‘water apartheid’. Mekorot was further targeted in a week of action that began on World Water Day.
Victory in Galway as Irish students’ Uunion votes to join BDS movement
The motion at the National University of Ireland in Galway was passed by an almost 2 to 1 margin and follows on from the Teachers Union of Ireland’s 2013 endorsement of an academic boycott of Israel.
April – More bad news for SodaStream and Mekorot
SodaStream had been a partner of the Earth Day initiative as part of its efforts to greenwash its role in Israeli apartheid until BDS pressure persuaded it to abandon its links with the Israeli exporter. SodaStream attempts to “greenwash” its role in Israeli apartheid by marketing itself as environmentally friendly.
Israeli state water company loses Portugal deal
Mekorot faces second major set back in as many months as Lisbon’s water company EPAL announced that it terminated a technology exchange deal following pressure from Portuguese MPs and campaign groups.
Divestment movement continues to sweep across US campuses
Students at the University of New Mexico, Wesleyan University in Connecticut, and University of California Riverside vote to support divestment from companies that help Israel violate international law. Meanwhile, the largest student petition in Florida’s history calls for divestment.
Europe’s largest teachers’ union endorses Israel boycott call
The UK’s National Union of Teachers votes to back the UK Trade Union Congress boycott policy.
May – Bill Gates Foundation divests from G4S over role in Israeli prisons
The Bill Gates Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the world, divests from G4S. A petition signed by more than 14,000 people and demonstrations outside Gates Foundation offices in London, Johannesburg and Seattle called on the the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S because of its role in providing equipment and services to prisons where Israel holds and tortures Palestinian political prisoners.
EU bans poultry exports from illegal Israeli settlements
The decision was an implementation of the EU’s commitment not to recognise Israeli sovereignty over occupied Palestinian territory, which came as a result of grassroots pressure and advocacy.
June – US Presbyterians divest and G4S announces prison pull out
Years of grassroots organising pays off as the Presbyterian Church (USA) general assembly in Detroit votes to divest its holdings from three US corporations – Hewlett Packard (HP), Motorola Solutions and Caterpillar – on the basis of their well-documented record of complicity in the oppression and denial of human rights of Palestinians.
BDS pressure forces G4S to announce prison pull out
As more than 100 heroic Palestinian political prisoners continued their hunger strike for the 55th day, their longest ever, British security company G4S announces it will end its role in Israel’s prison system, albeit not until 2017. The decision resulted from the BDS campaign that has cost the company millions of dollars in contracts and compelled the Bill Gates Foundation and the US United Methodist Church, the largest US protestant church, to divest from the company.
However, the campaign against G4S is set to continue until the prison pull out takes place and it ends its role in Israel’s settlements and military.
UK victories for SodaStream campaign
Major UK retail chain John Lewis stopped stocking SodaStream and a SodaStream shop in Brighton closed following high profile campaigns over SodaStream’s role in illegal settlements in the West Bank and ethnic cleansing in the Naqab desert inside Israel.
Dutch pension giant ABP divests from two Israeli arms companies
Aryt Industries Ltd. and Ashot Ashkelon were blacklisted for their role in producing cluster munitions
July – Israel’s massacre in Gaza prompts international sanctions and boycott action
As Israel began its massacre of Palestinians in Gaza, governments and people of conscience across the world take action to pressure Israel to comply with international law and human rights. Key developments includes:
- The Chilean parliament votes to suspend negotiations on a new trade deal with Israel, and Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador and Peru withdraw their ambassadors.
- A call for a military embargo on Israel launched by 6 Nobel laureates and dozens of celebrities is signed by more than 60,000 people.
- Hundreds of thousands of people participate in demonstrations calling for an end to the siege on Gaza and for governments to impose arms embargoes and sanctions on Israel.
- Dublin city council passes a resolution calling for a military embargo and the suspension of the EU-Israel Association Agreement.
- In Turkey, at least 12 local municipalities, a number of major business associations and a major trade union issue calls for a boycott of Israeli products
17 EU members take action against corporate complicity with Israeli crimes
Before Israel’s attack on Gaza had begun, more than 17 European governments had published online guidance warning firms of the risks involved in trade and other economic links with illegal Israeli settlements. The policy announcements followed grassroots campaigning and advocacy on the issue.
August – Hundreds of thousands take to the streets and Israeli ships blocked in US
On August 9, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets as part of an international Day of Rage initiated by groups in Gaza. Anti-apartheid hero Desmond Tutu called the day one of the biggest ever international mobilisations on a single issue.
Thousands of supporters of Palestinian rights in the San Francisco Bay take part in pickets and demonstrations that have prevented an Israeli ship from docking at the port in Oakland for four consecutive days. By the end of August, the unloading of Israeli ships has been prevented or disrupted at ports in Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle and Long Beach.
Others key developments in August include:
- Major Israeli food exporters report an unprecedented wave of cancellations in orders from Europe as the popular boycott of Israel intensifies.
- In the West Bank, sales of Israeli products drop by 50% due to the growth of boycott.
- Bolivian President Evo Morales, Fidel Castro and a series of other high-profile figures from central and Latin America call for BDS action and government sanctions.
- The executive of the UK National Union of Students, representing 7 million British students, passed a motion in support of BDS campaigns, as did unions across Latin America.
- Soros Fund Management, the family office of the billionaire investor George Soros, sells its stake in SodaStream following pressure by its Middle East partners.
September – Veolia announces Israel exit as Kuwait authorities exclude it $750m contract
Authorities in Kuwait announce they are excluding Veolia from $750m contract following campaigning by Kuwaiti groups and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).
Veolia announces sale of Israeli businesses
It also emerged in September that French multinational Veolia, which has lost billions of dollars of contracts as a result of campaigns over its construction of infrastructure for illegal Israeli settlements, intends to “step back from Israel as a market place” and sell most parts of its Israeli interests during 2015.
The campaign against Veolia must continue until it actually ends all aspects of its participation in Israeli violations of international law, including its involvement in illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project.
Walden Bello gives speech in Philippines congress calling for Elbit deal cancellation
Filipino Congressman, author and academic Walden Bello adds his voice to the campaign calling on the Philippines government to cancel its deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems
ANC joins call for complete boycott of Israel, including travel bans, in solidarity with Palestine
ANC members and leaders should not travel to Israel as the party is in solidarity with the people of Palestine, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said on Monday.
UEFA decides against Jerusalem tournament bid
The Union of European Football Associations rejects an Israeli bid to host games during the 2020 European Championships following a campaign by Palestinian sports teams and campaign groups and activists across Europe.
October – SodaStream announces closure of illegal settlement factory
SodaStream announces it is to close its factory in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mishor Adumim following a high profile boycott campaign against the company that saw retailers and investors across the world cut links with the company.
However, SodaStream reveals it is to benefit from Israel’s displacement of Palestinians in Naqab, and states that the factory shall remain open until some time during 2015. The campaign against SodaStream continues.
Kuwait boycotts 50 companies over role in illegal Israeli settlements
The blacklisted companies include some of the top corporate targets of the BDS movement, such as Veolia, Volvo, Heidelberg Cement, Dexia, Pizzarotti and Alstom.
G4S loses out on Irish government contract
Palestine activists campaigned against G4S being awarded the contract over its role in Israeli prisons and checkpoints.
Los Angeles activists block unloading of Israeli cargo ship for two days
The Block the Boat coalition of Los Angeles claimed another victory, delaying an Israeli cargo ship for more than 34 hours.
Israel excluded from Italy military exercises after protests
Public pressure forces the Italian government to exclude the Israeli military from joint military exercises it was due to take part in.
November – Leading European unions and parties call for end to EU-Israel trade pact
More than 300 political parties, trade unions and campaign groups call for the suspension of a the EU-Israel Association agreement that facilitates largely unrestricted trade between the EU and Israel and allows Israel to participate in a wide range of the Union’s programs.
Signatories to the call include Podemos, the leftist party currently leading the polls in Spain, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and other major national trade union bodies from Spain, Denmark, France and Belgium.
More US and UK campuses vote to join divestment movement
The University of California at Los Angeles becomes the sixth of nine undergraduate campuses in the UC system to call for divestment, while the biggest ever student referendum at the University of Exeter calls for the student union to join the BDS movement.
Major campaign success against G4S in the US
Durham has become the first U.S. municipality to boycott a company because of its role in Israeli violations of international law.
December – Elbit Systems loses key Brazil deal
The Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul cancels a major collaboration deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems in the wake of protests over the firm’s role in oppression of Palestinians.
US student workers’ union becomes first US labor union to back BDS
Student workers at the University of California have voted by a landslide to support the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
Olive Declaration of UN conference calls for action
The UN-backed International Conference of Governments and Civil Society Organizations in Support of Palestinian Rights has called for municipalities to take action in support of Palestinian rights.