More than 50 New Yorkers protested outside the Motorola office in downtown Brooklyn this morning. The protest launched a new city-wide campaign to boycott Motorola over the company’s complicity in the Israeli government’s apartheid practices against Palestinians. In a heavy wind, human rights campaigners from the newly formed group The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel (NYCBI) chanted, sang and passed out a thousand flyers to passersby. The Brooklyn protest coincided with Palestinians’ annual commemoration of Land Day, and was part of the Global Day of Action for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel, which included over 40 events in Europe, the US and worldwide.
Protesters greeted commuters with chants like: “No More Fuses, No More Bombs, Moto’s Killing Kids and Moms,” and “Motorola You Can’t Hide, You’re Supporting Apartheid.” Signs, fluttering in the wind, read “Don’t Cell Out, Boycott Motorola,” “Goodbye Moto! Goodbye Apartheid!,” “Israeli Apartheid, We Don’t Buy It, Boycott Motorola,” and “Friends Don’t Let Friends Ethnically Cleanse.” To the tune of Hava Nagila, participants loudly sang a new boycott song, “Don’t Buy Israeli” that included the lyrics, “Don’t buy Israeli, don’t buy Israeli, Don’t buy Israeli goods today!” and “Motorola, Sabra Hummus, You won’t take our freedom from us. Don’t buy Israeli goods! Stop today!”
Motorola Israel produces fuses used in cluster bombs, “bunker-buster” bombs, and a variety of other bombs. Cluster bombs are specifically condemned by an international consensus of human rights organizations, and banned by many countries. Even the US government has voiced concern over their use. Motorola Israel acquired a $100 million contract to provide a data encrypted cellular network, “Mountain Rose,” to allow the Israeli army, which consistently and severely violates Palestinian human rights, to communicate securely anywhere they operate. Motorola supplies the Israeli military with the Wide Area Surveillance System (WASS) and other high-tech configurations of radar devices and thermal cameras. These surveillance systems are being installed around Israeli settlement/colonies and the apartheid wall, both of which Israel has constructed in the Palestinian West Bank in violation of international law.
Lubna Ka’aabneh of NYCBI and Adalah-NY explained, “The highly effective campaign to boycott diamond mogul and Israeli settlement-builder Lev Leviev set a successful precedent for boycotting Israel in New York. Motorola products are used to help steal Palestinian land in the West Bank, and to kill and oppress Palestinians. Similar support by Motorola for South Africa’s apartheid regime prompted a successful boycott against Motorola. This Land Day, we ask New Yorkers to once again rise to challenge by joining the campaign to boycott Motorola. Let’s do it again!”
Two representatives from the protesters attempted to deliver to the Motorola office a letter that included their demands. However, they were ordered to immediately leave the building. An online boycott pledge supporting the demands has very quickly gained over 160 signatories. The city-wide campaign to boycott Motorola is planned to expand to include creative street actions, education, a grassroots consumer boycott, online activism, and advocacy.
The growing worldwide movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel gained greater support during Israel’s recent attack on the Gaza Strip. In 2005, following 13 years of fruitless negotiations that were accompanied by continued Israeli human rights abuses, hundreds of Palestinian civil society organizations called on the world to implement campaigns of BDS against Israeli institutions and businesses. Supporters of BDS argue that only a moral campaign of non-violent public pressure like that used to topple apartheid in South Africa will pressure Israel to change its treatment of Palestinians.
The New York campaign to boycott Motorola builds on the national “Hang Up on Motorola” campaign initiated by the coalition the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. Activists in Boston have recently taken up the call to boycott Motorola, as have university students, achieving a divestment success at Hampshire College.