Boycott and divestment gets mainstream attention in church, on campus

Thursday, February 4, 2010

It’s good news to see that boycott and divestment campaigns against companies profiting from Israeli occupation and apartheid are becoming increasingly mainstream.

Here’s a couple of recent examples.

The National Catholic Reporter ran a great article about the Kairos Document produced by the Palestinian Christian community, calling for churches around the world to intervene for justice and peace in Israel/Palestine via boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaigns:

“The leaders of the thirteen Christian communities serving in the Palestinian territories — including Latin and Orthodox patriarchs — have declared the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories a “sin against God and humanity” and urged Christians everywhere to nonviolently intervene to end its injustices….Such a response, the authors wrote, includes civil disobedience, boycotts, and divestment campaigns. “Resistance is a right and duty for Christians. But it is resistance with love as its logic,” they said….The national committee for the Palestinian Boycott and Divestment and Sanctions campaign said it “saluted the moral clarity, courage, and principled position conveyed in this new document which emphasizes that resisting injustice should “concern the church.” “

The article quotes US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey in regards to U.S. church involvement with divestment campaigns:

“David Hosey, media coordinator for the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a missionary with the United Methodist Church, said members of the New England conference of that church are in correspondence with the targeted companies, the first step in “phased divestment.” The Methodists adopted a resolution in 2004 opposing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories. Various regional conferences are now debating whether or not to express that opposition with divestment campaigns….

As for action from the Roman Catholic Church, Hosey said members of the Sisters of Loretto, a U.S. order of Catholic women religious, were pushing for shareholder resolutions urging Caterpillar to stop its sale of militarized bulldozers to Israel.

Christian calls for divestment have sparked criticism from various Jewish organizations and, at times, strained inter-religious dialogue. But Hosey thinks that could change as more Jewish and Israeli groups endorse using economic pressure to change Israeli action in the Occupied Territories.”

Divestment is becoming part of the mainstream discourse on U.S. campuses as well. The University of Arizona Daily Wildcat now includes a weekly column on corporate involvement in the Israeli occupation. This week’s column notes the connections between corporate accountability work against sweat shops, the BDS campaign against South African apartheid, and the BDS movement against Israeli occupation, as well as highlighting the University’s investments in human rights abusers Caterpillar and Motorola:

“After an intensive anti-sweatshop campaign last spring led by students in the Sweatshop-Free Coalition and University Community for Human Rights, President Robert Shelton had the UA divest our financial holdings in the Russell Corporation due to the company”s singularly cruel labor abuses in its factories in Honduras. Now, while all eyes are on Shelton as he continues to sit on the UA”s illegal business contracts with Caterpillar and Motorola, it”s worth noting that divestment activism on campus stretches back far beyond Shelton”s tenure and probably beyond everything else on campus except for the oldest of UA”s buildings……..Motorola and Caterpillar, two companies perpetuating grisly crimes upon mostly Palestinian civilians in the occupied West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, are so unspeakable as to have prompted Jewish South African politician Ronnie Kasrils, who was quoted in the United Kingdom”s Guardian in a 2006 article, to denounce the U.S.-backed Israeli occupation as “much worse than apartheid” of the sort under which Kasrils and others survived for so many long, bloody years. A rich history has proven that UA students have risen to the occasion of doing everything they can to disassociate themselves and their universities from such atrocities. One doesn”t have to look far to see that such a time has come again.”

Check out the US Campaign’s website for resources on starting your own boycott and divestment campaign on campus and/or organizing against Caterpillar and Motorola in your community.

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