As the British government continues to boycott Palestinians by refusing to recognise their democratically elected government, by joining the EU in a blockade of aid and by entertaining Israeli leader Ehud Olmert in London whilst bombs rain down on Gaza, activists around the country have answered a call from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and the Boycott Israeli Goods Campaign (BIG) to join a day of boycott action against Israeli apartheid.
During the day of action on Saturday, 24th June, pickets and demonstrations took place at stores selling Israeli products across the UK: in Liverpool, Brighton, Camden, Hackney, Islington, Southport, Cardiff, Darlington, Brixton, Oxford, Nottingham, Birmingham, Exeter, Halifax, Brent, Durham, Sheffield and Manchester. Concerned individuals took part in creative actions to persuade the public not to buy Israeli goods and demand that retailers do not stock them.
In Brighton campaigners picketed Waitrose calling on the corporation to adhere to its ethical buying policy by not buying goods from apartheid Israel. Another picket was held outside a highstreet store selling CATerpillar goods, who have a contract with the Israeli military for the supply of military bulldozers used in illegal demolitions of Palestinian homes. In the West Midlands activists drove a replica CATerpillar bulldozer through the high street as a creative way of highlighting the way in which CATerpillar fuels the occupation. Across London activist picketed supermarkets selling Israeli goods and delivered letters to store managers informing them of the boycott.
The actions today were part of a concerted campaign calling for boycott, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel. Prevous actions and campaigns include:
Agrexco: Corporate Complicity in the Ethnic Cleansing of the Jordan Valley | Letting Apartheid Bloom | The Uxbridge Seven: Day One | Day Two | Seven Blockaders Acquitted
Caterpillar: Caterpillar Manchester Protest 2005 | Anniversary of Rachel Corries' Death | Film: Caterkiller Shut Down | Anti Caterpillar Motorcade | Rhythms of Resistance Anti Cat Shoes Protest | Caterpillar Trade Fair Action | Caterkiller Awarded Housewrecker of the Year | ESF Florence Action
Supermarket protests: Boycott Van | Marks and Spencers Stencilled | Repression of M&S Protesters
Academic boycott: AUT Boycott | NAFTHE Boycott | CUPE Ontario | COSATU (South Africa).
Sporting boycott campaigns include Stop Arsenal supporting Israeli Apartheid | Scotland Pitch Invasions | Free Jerusalem-Stop Connex and Alstrom.
PSC and BIG aim to build a mass campaign similar to that of a boycott of apartheid South Africa. The campaign focuses on Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel. In addition to its brutal occupation and theft of Palestinian land, the Israeli state also operates an entrenched system of racial discrimination against its own Palestinian civilians which is among the reasons many South African activists label it an apartheid state.
The boycott is aimed at showing that Israeli military actions do not happen in a vacuum and that the Israeli state, corporations and institutions will be penalised by civil society for supporting the occupation of Palestine. PSC and BIG are also calling for divestment from Israel, Ariel Sharon once said that Israel could not carry on its policies without support from foreign corporations.
The boycott is not an attack on Israeli civil society but an attempt to break the isolation of groups in Israel and Palestine who oppose the occupation.
The PSC and the BIG campaigns are responding to calls from Palestine and Israel for a boycott of Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. The call for an international boycott has been signed by 180 civil society organisations in Palestine. Large numbers of trade unions in Palestine spoke out in support of CUPE, a Canadian trade union who had passed a motion calling for a boycott. The Alternative Information Center, a joint Palestinian-Israeli project based in Jerusalem and Beit Sahour, recently published a pamphlet in support of the boycott. Similarly, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) has recently joined the international call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.
In 2004, activists supporting the boycott occupied a factory belonging to Caterpillar, a company supplying Israel with military bulldozers for the destruction of Palestinian civilian homes. Later that year a group of activists shut down Agrexco Ltd.s plant in Middlesex by erecting a blockade around their depot. The company is responsible for exporting 75% of fresh produce grown in illegal Israeli settlements. Last month NAFTHE, a union of university lecturers, voted to support an academic boycott of Israeli universities and academic institutions who supported the occupation. There is small but real support in Israel for the academic boycott. Last month an Israeli professor spoke out in support of the boycott.
Israel occupied the Gaza Strip, Golan Heights, West Bank in 1967 and has been rapidly annexing this occupied territory ever since. The Israeli state has moved 380 000 Jewish settlers into the West Bank as part of this policy of colonisation. The apartheid wall continues to be built, annexing huge swathes of Palestinian land and ghettoising whole communities, despite the advisory ruling of the International Court of Justice in the Hague in 2004. Fifty-five illegal Jewish settlements in the West Bank will be on the Israeli side of the wall separated from the West Bank.
Since 2000, Israel has demolished 628 Palestinian houses, home to 3,983 people, in acts of collective punishment. These demolitions constitute a war crime. 3,808 Palestinians have been killed as a direct result of Israeli military actions and 29,456 injured during the current upraising which began in September 2000 (all figures from B'tselem and Palestine Red Crescent Society).