British BDS campaigners plan for the future after 'significant' wins

British BDS campaigners plan for the future after 'significant' wins
The Boycott Israel Network has planned a year of grassroot campaigns across the UK to support the global BDS movement.
4 min read
05 March, 2019
BDS is a nonviolent movement [Getty]
After a plethora of wins for the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement across the world, BDS campaign groups across the UK came together over the weekend to strategise for what they hope to be yet another year of successes.

The Boycott Israel Network Weekend Workshop which took place on Saturday and Sunday in Telford aimed to bring activists together to brainstorm ideas, discuss progress of ongoing campaigns, develop new campaigns and to discuss BDS campaigning practices.

"We're very pleased with the successes we had last year after coming together - one of our proudest moments was when HSBC divested from Israeli drones manufacturer Elbit Systems which has four factories across the UK," Adie Mormech, a campaigner from Manchester Palestine Action, told The New Arab.

The workshop has been taking place annually for the past 13 years.

"We had groups from all over the country, such as Palestine Solidarity Campaign, War on Want, Manchester Palestine Action and many more come to the workshop to really think about where BDS campaigning is heading," he added.

With governments around the world doing little for Palestine, even in the case of the Middle East, the need for international grassroots organisations to advocate for the boycott of Israel has surged, according to Aide.

"Governments are doing nothing to protect Palestinains against Israel's brutality; if anything they're helping Israel in violating human rights," he said.

Meanwhile, with grassroots activism inside Palestine and the use of social media to highlight Israel's viscious system, it's becoming difficult for Israel to hide its abysmal treatment of Palestinians - something which is helping push the BDS movement.

"Propaganda can only go so far," Adie explained.

"The reality is, people are in fact waking up to Israel's actions and it is becoming increasingly obvious to the average person that Israel's treatment of Palestinians comes under a brutal system."

Campaigns to look out for

For BDS activists in the UK, Eurovision is high on the agenda over the next few months. London Palestine Action released a song dubbed Cultural Boycott last month, which parodied Making Your Mind Up by Britain's 1981 Eurovision heroes Bucks Fizz.

"Boycott, divest and sanction - 'til Palestine is free. The only course of action to show our solidarity," sing the lyrics.

Other campaigns on the agenda include getting HSBC to divest from Caterpillar, which supplies machinery to demolish Palestinian infrastructure in the occupied West Bank.

Sports brand Puma is another company being targeted by the BDS movement after signing a sponsorship deal with the Israeli Football Association, which not only has seven football teams operating in illegal Israeli settlements, but is complicit in preventing Palestinian footballers and football fans from enjoying their sport in safety and security.

Despite the HSBC victory against Elbit last year, BDS activists in the UK want to continue their work to develop campaigns around the four Elbit factories in the UK.

BDS activists also want to raise awareness of significant anniversaries, with the fifth anniversary of Israel's 2014 Gaza massacre and the one year anniversary of the Great Return March protests on March 30 that have been taking place weekly in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Gazans have gathered on Fridays along the Gaza border fence for mostly non-violent marches to demand an end to the Israeli siege on Gaza and the right for Palestinians to return to their homes lost during Israel's creation in 1948.

At least 248 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since the start of the protests.

Smearing non-violent activism

The nonviolent BDS movement says it is inspired by the campaign that targeted South Africa's apartheid regime and is seeking an end to Israel's brutal occupation.

Israel sees BDS as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists firmly deny, calling it an attempt to discredit them.

But the movement, which adheres to peaceful resistance, aims to pressure Israel to adhere to international law and human rights by lobbying various states, institutions and personas to understand its oppression of Palestinians and take action as a result.

BDS operates by pressuring corporations, artists and academic institutions to sever ties with Israel with supporters saying activities are aimed at promoting a Palestinian statehood.

Follow Diana Alghoul on Twitter: @SuperKnafeh