BDS Campaign Update (mid-June 2009 – September 2009)

Published in Al Majdal’s Nakba Education on the Path of Return (Autumn 2009)

French activists protest Paris air show
20 June 2009 – A group of French activists from the French BDS campaign held a non- violent protest against Israeli participation in the Paris – Le Bourget Air Show. Le Bourget Air Show is one of the largest weapons and aerospace technology fairs in the world. The protest took place outside the Israeli pavilion, where several Israeli arms companies had come to sell their military technologies to potential European buyers, while French president Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting the air show. Despite forced removals by police, the BDS activists were highly visible, and distributed several thousand informational leaflets to the public.

Toronto Palestine Solidarity Activists Protest Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit
June-July 2009 – The Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid and Women in Solidarity with Palestine conducted a campaign of protest against the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), for their exhibition of the looted Dead Sea Scrolls. For several weeks, BDS activists conducted successful protests and pickets to inform the public about the theft of the Dead Sea Scrolls following the refusal of the museum’s directors to make public the documents it claimed proved the legality of the exhibit, as well as their refusal to seek a UNESCO opinion on the matter. The campaign called on the ROM to recognize the Scrolls are looted Palestinian artifacts and to dissociate itself from the Israeli Antiquities Authority, which has systematically looted millions of Palestinian artifacts.

SOAS Students Mobilize against Normalization with Tel Aviv University
9 July 2009 – The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS – University of London) Student union overwhelmingly passed a motion criticizing a lecture series attempting to whitewash Tel Aviv’s colonial past and present and called for the end of SOAS’s collaboration with Tel Aviv University (TAU) in hosting the series on the grounds of its role in giving key legal, technological and strategic support for maintaining and expanding Israel’s colonial occupation. In response to the director’s failure to acknowledge the serious implications of collaboration with TAU that undermined the reputation, integrity and fundamental ethical principles of SOAS, the SOAS Palestine Society prepared a briefing paper for him and the Governing Body outlining TAU’s intensive, purposive and open institutional contributions to the Israeli military. Fore more and to download the report, visit:

U.K. hits Israel with partial arms embargo over Gaza war
13 July 2009 – Britain slapped a partial arms embargo on Israel, refusing to supply replacement parts and other equipment for Sa’ar 4.5 gunships because they were used in Operation Cast Lead. The embargo followed a government review of all British defense exports to Israel, which was announced in April 2009.

HeidelbergCement tries to sell West Bank mines as BDS pressures grow
13 July 2009 – HeidelbergCement’s subsidiary, Hanson Israel, manufactures ready-made cement, aggregates and asphalt for Israel’s construction industry and operates a quarry in the occupied West Bank. In March 2009, the Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din filed a petition with the Israeli high court demanding a halt to illegal mining activity in West Bank quarries, including Hanson Israel’s Nahal Raba quarry. Attorneys representing Yesh Din called upon the court to put an end to this “clearly illegal activity, which constitutes blunt and ugly colonial exploitation of land we [Israel] had forcefully seized.” In May 2009, Israel ordered a freeze on the expansion of Israeli-run stone and gravel quarries in the occupied West Bank.

EU Opens Investigation into Israeli Settlement Products
14 July 2009 – Hamburg Finance Court opened an investigation to decide whether Soda-Club devices made in Ma’ale Adumim can be imported into the European Union exempt of customs, like all other Israeli industrial products. The Hamburg court has consulted with the European Court of Justice about obtaining a “preliminary ruling” that would settle the issue in a binding manner for all 27 EU member states. If the court decides that a customs duty can be levied, it will be tantamount to handing down a decision against Israel’s settlement policy, in effect an implementation of economic sanctions.

Ken Loach withdraws from the Melbourne International Film Festival over Israeli funding
18 July 2009 – English filmmaker Ken Loach withdrew his film Looking for Eric from the Melbourne International Film Festival because the festival receives funding from the Israeli government. In a letter to festival executive director Richard Moore, he said that “Palestinians, including artists and academics, have called for a boycott of events supported by Israel.” He cited “illegal occupation of Palestinian land, destruction of homes and livelihoods” and “the massacres in Gaza” as reasons for the boycott which is not aimed “at independent Israeli films or filmmakers,” but at “the Israeli state.”

PACBI Issues Guidelines for Applying the International Cultural Boycott of Israel
20 July 2009 – The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued guidelines for applying the cultural boycott. These criteria are mainly intended to help guide cultural workers and organizers around the world in adhering to the Palestinian call for boycott, as a contribution towards establishing a just peace in our region. Read the Guidelines at:

CodePink Launch Campaign to Boycott Ahava
11 August 2009 – Activists from CODEPINK launched the Stolen Beauty campaign to boycott Israeli cosmetics corporation Ahava by staging a protest action at the Hilton Hotel in Tel Aviv. Some put on bikinis, wrote on their bodies with mud NO AHAVA/NO LOVE, while others carried signs with slogans such as “There is no love in occupation.” They chanted, sang and made the Israeli evening news. Visit the campaign website at:

Amnesty International Withdraws from Leonard Cohen”s Israel Concert Fund
18 August 2009 – Amnesty International announced that it will abstain from any involvement in the Leonard Cohen concert in Tel Aviv and will not be party to any fund that benefits from the concert’s proceeds.

European BDS Activists launch Ramadan Campaign targeting Israeli Dates
20 August 2009 – BDS campaign activists launched a broad based consumer boycott campaign targeting Israeli dates that coincided with the beginning of the month of Ramadan in the Hijri (Islamic) calendar. The campaign targeted Israeli agricultural export giant Agrexco, which sells flowers, vegetables and fruit, including dates, produced on both sides of the “green line.” The campaign was launched by solidarity organizations in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

BlackRock Bank Divests from Settlement Construction
20 August 2009 – The British bank BlackRock announced its divestment from Lev Leviev settlement projects in the occupied West Bank. The divestment decision followed pressure by three Norwegian financial institutions (Storebrand, Norwegian-Swedish bank Skandiabanken, and the Norwegian-Danish Danica Pensjon) marketing BlackRock funds. BlackRock was second biggest shareholder in the Israeli firm.

Prominent UK Chef: “Don”t buy West Bank Produce”
25 August 2009 – Joanna Blythman, a top UK chef and popular food journalist, recently called on retailers and importers not to buy goods from settlements in the West Bank. The “fruit and vegetables grown [in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank] amount to stolen goods,” Blythman wrote in an article published in a food magazine.

Norwegian Pension Fund divests from Israeli military giant Elbit
3 September 2009 – The Norwegian Ministry of Finance excluded the Israeli company Elbit Systems Ltd. from the Government Pension Fund – Global, on the basis of the Council on Ethics” recommendation. The Council on Ethics found that investment in Elbit constitutes an unacceptable risk of contribution to serious violations of fundamental ethical norms as a result of the company”s integral involvement in Israel”s construction of a separation barrier on occupied territory. “We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law,” said Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen. The surveillance system that Elbit supplies to the Israeli authorities is one of the main components in the separation barrier and its associated control regime. The surveillance system has been specially designed in close collaboration with the Israzeli military and has no other applications. Furthermore Elbit is clearly aware of exactly where and how the system is intended to be used. While not related to the Council’s decision, it is important to note that Elbit is also involved in the construction of the wall on the U.S. Mexico border that aims to block the passage of refugees from Latin America into the United States.

Ken Loach, Jane Fonda, Danny Glover, Alice Walker, John Greyson, and many others protest Toronto International Film Festival’s complicity in Israel re-branding
3 September 2009 – An international group of more than 50 prominent filmmakers, writers, artists and academics –including Ken Loach, David Byrne, Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, Wallace Shawn, and Danny Glover – signed a letter protesting the Toronto International Film Festival”s decision to spotlight the city of Tel Aviv and the work of 10 Israeli filmmakers. The “Toronto Declaration” had a massive effect in raising the profile of the cultural boycott of Israel, the effect of Israel’s apartheid practices on Palestinian citizens of Israel, and recent Israeli efforts to “re-brand” and whitewash itself as a benign entity within both arts communities and the broad public, particularly in North America.

Legal Action to enforce Human Rights Conditions in EU-Israel Association Agreement
8 September 2009 – British parliamentarian Clare Short and the European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza launched a legal action to require the European Union to uphold the human rights conditions entrenched in the EU-Israel Association Agreement. The action was launched in a letter sent to President Barroso and Javier Solana, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, spelling out the way in which the Treaty conditions are being breached and the way in which international law applies.

IPSC targets Israeli Dead Sea Products in Jervis Shopping Centre
12 September 2009 – As part of the international BDS campaign, the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign launched an action against Dead Sea Products, an Israeli cosmetics firm, which has a stall in Jervis Centre in Dublin. Activists from the IPSC wearing “Boycott Israel” t-shirts surrounded the Dead Sea Products stall on the top floor in Jervis Street shopping center, handing out leaflets and asking people not to buy products from an apartheid country such as Israel.

U.S. pension fund giant divests from Africa-Israel
12 September 2009 – The U.S. pension fund giant, TIAA-CREF, confirmed that it divested from Africa-Israel Investments, owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev. The fund’s investment in Africa Israel amounted to $257,000, so the financial effect of the divestment is minimal, but the news of the divestment came as the Israeli firm announced that it was unable to meet its liabilities to its bondholders.

Brazilian Parliament Calls for the Freeze of the Israel – Mercosur Free Trade Agreement
13 September 2009 – The Brazilian Parliamentary Commission on Foreign Relations and National Defense has recommended that the parliament should not ratify the Free Trade Agreement between Mercosur (the trading bloc of the Latin American countries) and the State of Israel until “Israel accepts the creation of the Palestinian state on the 1967 borders.” This decision is an explicit act of pressure on Israel to comply with international law, and a rejection of years of incessant Israeli lobbying, pressuring for a vote to ratify the agreement. The decision is an enormous blow for Israel”s economy and foreign relations as it poses a massive stumbling block for the enactment of the agreement, which since its signing in 2007, has been stalled due to a lack of ratification by Mercosur member countries. The Mercosur is one of the world”s most quickly expanding markets and the fifth largest economy in the world. Israeli exports to the Mercosur amounted nearly 600 million dollars in 2006. It is important to also note that Brazil alone, even without a Free Trade Agreement, is Israel”s third largest export destination.

Britain”s unions commit to a mass boycott movement of Israeli goods
17 September 2009 – British trade unions representing 6.5 million workers overwhelmingly passed a resolution voting to commit its members to participate in and build a campaign involving boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against Israel. The motion was passed at the 2009 annual Trades Union Congress (TUC) held in Liverpool after being submitted by the Fire Brigades” Union. The TUC is a coalition of 60 different unions representing the vast majority of organized British workers. The congress voted to condemn “Israeli military aggression and end the blockade on Gaza” and calls for an end on all arms trade with Israel, the imposition of a ban on the importing of goods produced in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and to support moves to suspend the E.U.-Israel Association Agreement. It also calls for the TUC”s main leadership body, the General Council, to affiliate with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), to push for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel. The PSC is a major Palestinian solidarity organization in the U.K. that has worked with British trade unionists in different capacities to advance their work on Palestinian-related causes.

Spain boycotts Ariel College for being on occupied territory
16 September 2009 – The “University Center of Ariel in Samaria” (AUCS) was excluded from a prestigious university competition about sustainable architecture that was held in Spain. “Ariel University Centre of Samaria” was one out of 21 teams selected last April to compete for the Solar Decathlon-Madrid 2010, the most prestigious competition for sustainable architecture in the world, organized by the Spanish Ministry of Housing together with the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Selected teams, formed by architects and engineering students are asked to design and build a real house entirely driven by solar energy. Every house should be built in one of the 20 sites in the “Solar Villa” planned in Madrid to host them. To facilitate participation of the various teams, the Spanish Ministry of Housing allocated a sum of 100,000 Euros to every project. The decision to exclude AUCS represents the first case of sanctions against an Israeli academic institution in Spain.

Bilbao Cooperation Council Adopts BDS
18 September 2009 – Members of the Municipal Council for Cooperation of Bilbao voted to join the BDS Campaign against the State of Israel. The Municipal Council for Cooperation of Bilbao is an official advisory body to the city’s municipal government representing the different social agencies working in the field of aid and development in Bilbao. It is currently made up of forty-five NGOs and representatives of the four political parties represented in the municipality. Its purpose is to unite efforts and promote improved management in the work of solidarity and cooperation.

BDS Activists Occupy Ahava for a Second Time
19 September 2009 – In coordinated actions in Code Pink in Washington DC, Jews for Justice for Palestinians in London and the Bathrobe Brigade in Amsterdam conducted a coordinated action to confront Ahava. Ahava”s cosmetic products are manufactured in the illegal settlement of Mizpe Shalem. Based inside Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Israeli Settlement has stolen land and natural resources away from Palestinians. Furthermore, the sale of these products acts to finance and support war crimes committed by the Israel. For more on the campaign against Ahava, visit

Large French Trade Union joins the BDS Campaign
22 September 2009 – The Union “Solidaires Industry” joined the international campaign for Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions through a decision of its general membership. In the BDS resolution, the union delegates stated: “The rights of Palestinian workers in the 1948 borders or in those of 1967 are not equal to those of other Israeli citizens. Discrimination is evident, 50,000 Palestinian laborers working in the settlements and the Jordan Valley without rights, with wages less than half the minimum wage in Israel…[French company Alstom continues with] the construction of the tramway in Jerusalem which will increase discrimination against Palestinians. In Languedoc Roussillon our fellow workers in Solidaires thirty-four are struggling against the Israeli company Agrexco, which does not respect the rights of Palestinians. Industrial action is possible.” Read the full text of the resolution (in French) at:

PACBI Issues Guidelines for Applying the International Academic Boycott of Israel
1 October 2009 – The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) issued guidelines for applying the academic boycott. These criteria are mainly intended to help guide cultural workers and organizers around the world in adhering to the Palestinian call for boycott, as a contribution towards establishing a just peace in our region. Read the Guidelines at:

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