Philly BDS offers, “Recycle, Hack, Destroy”- a light video at a dark time

July 10, 2014

By Susan Landau

As yet another horrific Israeli military offensive escalates in Gaza, human rights

activists advocating for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel stay

the course. It is not only the Israeli airstrikes on Gaza that are killing Palestinians.

Routinely the unjust, indiscriminate, and systemic Israeli policies of military

occupation and apartheid destroy Palestinian lives. The lure of jobs in illegal Israeli

industrial zones, intended to support the economic base of Israeli settlements, is

a case in point. Palestinians provide a captive workforce with few employment

alternatives to the factory jobs such as in the settlement Ma’aleh Adumim where

Sodastream products are made. Low wages and the absence of worker’s rights

eviscerate any possibility for the development of a viable Palestinian economy and a

just peace.


Today’s release of “Recycle, Hack, Destroy” by The Philadelphia Coalition for

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (Philly BDS) is part of the planned national week

of actions by “We Divest” and supports the local Philadelphia chapter of Jewish

Voice for Peace (JVP-Philly).


In the tradition of Code Pink’s mock weddings and the US Campaign to End the

Occupation’s petitions, demonstrations, and spoof ads, “Recycle, Hack, Destroy”

is the latest in an alternative stream – creative protests staged by BDS activists to

“burst the (Sodastream) bubble.”


Black clouds have no silver linings. The Palestinian call in 2005 to the international

community to develop campaigns of boycott, divestment, and sanctions until Israel

complies with international law offers a nonviolent response to egregious Israeli

crimes against humanity. Because the Israeli government provides economic

incentives, including tax deductions, for businesses operating in West Bank

settlements, BDS activists have made Sodastream a target of an international

consumer boycott.


Once again Israel claims “All options are on the table,” including the call up of

40,000 reserve troops. Take Sodastream off the table and consider a nonviolent

option, BDS. The BDS movement too is prepared for a “long, continuous, and strong


Bubble Trouble, Burst the Bubble

June 15, 2014


IMG_4084The international boycott campaign against SodaStream came to the streets of Philadelphia on June 14, 2014 as Philly BDS and their allies protested stores in center city that stock SodaStream products.   Upwards of a dozen spirited protestors gathered at the flagship Macy’s store located at 13th and Market Streets for two hours of in-store and on-the-street actions.  With signs and informational postcards that read “Occupation isn’t green. Boycott Sodastream,” activists explained to passers-by that Sodastream is profiting from the theft of Palestinian resources and exploitation of Palestinian labor.

The Israeli Film Festival Obscures the Whole Picture

March 11, 2014

IMG_3082The 18th annual Israeli Film Festival, which is being sponsored by the Consulate General of Israel, is currently screening films at the International House in Philadelphia. The film festival, which runs from March 8th until April 6th, claims to be a celebration of Israeli culture aimed at enriching the American vision of Israeli society. Despite its self-portrayal as a purely cultural event, however, the Film Festival—which receives financial support from Israel—is helping to whitewash Israel’s appalling human rights record towards the Palestinian people.

On March 9th, the festival screened Sharon—An Inner Journey from War to Peace. This film, which focuses on Ariel Sharon’s ostensible journey from a military man to a peacemaker, transforms the late leader into a likeable and relatable Israeli nationalist hero. For many Palestinians, however, Sharon is remembered as a war criminal. During his long tenure in the Israeli military and government, he oversaw the bulldozing of homes and the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Jordan, Lebanon, and the occupied territories; helped to instigate the second Intifada; and spearheaded the Israeli settlement drive and the construction of the apartheid wall in Gaza and the West Bank. To counter the Israeli Film Festival’s attempt to rewrite history, the Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) and their allies held a demonstration outside of International House on the day of the Sharon film’s screening. Protesters held signs that read “Free Palestine,” “Sabra,” “Shatila,” and “We will never forget,” and a banner that read “Boycott Israeli Apartheid.” Information was distributed enumerating Ariel Sharon’s history of war crimes against Palestinians.

Prior to the protest, Philly BDS sent a letter to the International House asking them not to screen Sharon, for which we received no response. The International House, however, did not advertise for the film festival nor did International House organizers attend the film screening.


The protest was met by hostility by the film attendees, who were a largely non-diverse group who supported a Zionist Israeli state and the maintenance of the current status quo in Israel. A Palestinian member of Philly BDS, Noor, lamented: “I wish they would just talk to me. So that we could have a conversation.” Another supporter of BDS spoke with one of the organizers of the film festival—who reported not supporting the selection of the film Sharon for inclusion in the festival, but who had been outvoted.

Along with efforts like “Brand Israel,” films of this nature help to deflect blame and steer the conversation away from the pressing political issues standing in the way of a just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The goal of the protest was to highlight this form of whitewashing and to focus on the importance of never forgetting events such as the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Sharon’s complicity in these massacres solidified his image as the “Butcher of Beirut.” On the night of September 16, 1982—at the height of the polarizing Lebanese civil war—Israel’s Phalangist allies massacred unarmed Palestinian and Lebanese civilians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. The Israeli Defense Forces, which had earlier violated a ceasefire agreement between the various forces, facilitated the massacre by surrounding the camps, stationing troops at the exits of Sabra and Shatila to prevent camp residents from fleeing, and illuminating the area with flares. An Israeli Commission later concluded that the then Defense Minister, Ariel Sharon, bore personal responsibility for the massacres, which a United Nations Commission referred to as a form of genocide.

In August 2005, Sharon oversaw the forcible eviction of some 8,000 Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip—a decision that some welcomed as a surprising move for the elder statesman and a step towards reconciliation. Yet focusing on the late Prime Minister’s piecemeal decision to disengage from Gaza obscures the reality on the ground. The region—which some have called the world’s largest open-air prison—remains under the effective occupation of the Israeli government, which still controls its airspace, land passages, and coastline.

Many experts also believe that Sharon’s ultimate goal was to derail the roadmap towards peace and foreclose the possibility for a Palestinian state through this relatively small concession to the Palestinian and international communities. By painting an overly rosy picture of the late political and military leader, the Israeli film festival is helping to conceal Sharon’s human rights record and is obscuring the ongoing, lived reality for millions of Palestinians suffering in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) is calling on all those who stand in solidarity with Palestine not to attend the Israeli Film Festival. Due to its support from the Consulate General of Israel and its decision to screen Sharon—An Inner Journey from War to Peace, the Israeli Film Festival cannot be conceptualized as a wholly neutral, apolitical space of cultural expression. In fact, festivals and documentaries of this nature help shift the conversation away from the ongoing plight of the Palestinian people, the need for significant reforms of Israeli state policies, and the U.S. government’s complicity in these actions.

Protest the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF)

November 13, 2013





On Monday, Nov. 18th, the Pennsylvania and South NJ branch of the Friends of the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] will hold their third annual fundraising gala at Vie restaurant at 600 N Broad St. in Philly. Friends of the IDF support the men and women who serve in the Israel Defense Forces.  Former Chief of the IDF General Staff General (Res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, who was the head of the Israel Defense Forces from 2007-11, will deliver the keynote speech at the Gala.

Ashkenazi’s forty year military career included serving as Commander of the Golani Brigade.  Under Ashkenazi’s command, the Israel Defense Forces invaded Gaza and massacred over 1400 Palestinians during Operation Cast Lead over a three week period from December, 2008 –January, 2009. The United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, known as the Goldstone Report, concluded war crimes were committed by the IDF.  Its conclusion was that Israel had engaged in a “deliberately disproportionate attack to punish, humiliate, and terrorize a civilian population.”

The documented war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Operation Cast Lead, emblematic of the Israel Defense Forces, remain uninvestigated.  Today, the Israel Defense Forces continue to implement policies of occupation that include a system of apartheid that discriminates against Palestinians, depriving refugees and non-Jewish residents of Israel and the Occupied Territories rights guaranteed under international law.

The number of children injured by the Israelis since the start of the Second Intifada against Israel’s occupation has now reached 6,000.  1,518 Palestinian children were killed by Israel’s occupation forces from the outbreak of the second Intifada in September 2000 up to April 2013. That’s the equivalent of one Palestinian child killed by Israel every 3 days for almost 13 years.*







March 31, 2013


“Ethnic cleansing is a crime – justice now in Palestine!” Chanting with great energy and exuberance, the Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel (Philly BDS) was once again a colorful and vocal presence in protest at the annual local fundraiser for The Jewish National Fund.

This year’s JNF fundraiser, “March Madness Poker Tournament” was held in Manayunk on Thursday, March 21. Under the banner “STOP THE JNF’s APARTHEID ROYALE,” members of Philly BDS and allies costumed themselves as playing cards bearing the words “Stop the JNF!” Carrying signs reinforcing their message “Land Theft is not Charity,” protesters positioned themselves strategically on both sides of the driveway entrance to the event. Informational postcards and conversation were available to attendees and passers-by.

Each year, the JNF raises over $60 million in the United States alone. The demonstration aimed to call attention to the human rights abuses against Palestinians by the Jewish National Fund and to encourage activists to work to revoke its tax-exempt charitable status.

Founded in 1901 for the purpose of acquiring land in Palestine for Jewish settlement, the JNF has provided the infrastructure for the historic and ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.  The organization’s mandate is the acquisition of land and property rights for the exclusive use of Jews and its charter stipulates that only Jews can buy or lease its land. After 1948, the JNF was re-branded as an environmental organization focused on forestation. One of its major projects was to plant forests over Palestinian villages destroyed in the Nakba, in an attempt to erase any sign of a Palestinian presence in the land. Now, the JNF is the main driver of Israel’s “Greenwashing” campaign to disguise its crimes as progressive environmentalist policies. The JNF claims to be working in the interests of Bedouin living in the Negev, when in fact it works to displace and dispossess them, demolishing their villages and appropriating the land for state forestation projects.

The protest by Philly BDS and its allies contributes to the international “Stop the JNF” campaign that has been gaining ground in the UK, Europe and elsewhere. It also connects directly to Philly BDS’s campaign to boycott Tribe Hummus, which is owned by Osem, a company whose profits contribute to the JNF.

BDS Activists Demand Accountability from G4S: Private Security Corporation Linked with Human Rights Violations against Palestinians

September 12, 2012


Members of Philly Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) coalition arrived at 7:45 am on September 12, 2012 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, current site of the 58th annual seminar and expo by the ASIS International Foundation, a global organization formerly known as the American Society for Industrial Security. Philly BDS activists displayed a banner which read “G4S: Enforcing Israeli Apartheid” to protest and demand accountability from G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law. G 4S helps to maintain and profits from Israel’s prison system.

Palestinian political prisoners face systematic torture and ill-treatment during their arrest and detention at the hands of the Israeli military. The severity of injustice and abuse suffered by Palestinian political prisoners has recently been the drive for many prisoners to use hunger strikes as a protest against harsh prison conditions, torture and ill treatment and Israel’s arbitrary use of administrative detention. Hunger strikes continue today, as Samer al Barq entered his 114th day of hunger strike, Hassan Safadi his 84th, and Ayman Sharawna his 74th.

G4S’s involvement in Israeli apartheid and occupation goes beyond the prison walls. It has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating Gaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements.

In response to pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, the European Union has announced that it has not renewed its contract for security services with G4S.  Edinburgh University Student Association also blocked its contract with G4S.

As part of the global movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law, Philly BDS today calls upon public and civil society institutions and also on private companies to end their relationships with G4S.

Contact:  Matt Graber


World’s Largest Security Conference in Philadelphia

September 10, 2012

By Matt Graber

On September 10 – 13, up to twenty-five thousand private security professionals will gather at the Philadelphia Convention Center for the 58th annual seminar and expo hosted by the ASIS International Foundation – a global organization formerly known as the American Society for Industrial Security. [1]

The seminar brings together private security employees and employers offering surveillance systems and security operations internationally to police forces, militaries, and private corporations. It features more than 200 workshops for security professionals, and closed-door sessions between former government officials and Corporate Security Officers (CSOs). Muhammed El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1997 to 2009 will speak on Tuesday, and Robert Gates, former US Secretary of Defense from 2006 to 2011, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from 1991 to 1993, will speak on Wednesday. *

The lack of public awareness, scrutiny, and participation in the seminar, coupled with the proposed agenda, raises a number of compelling questions.

Consider, for example, the workshops that make connections between social media, surveillance, and law enforcement. In this age of surveillance, Smart Phones function as tracking devices [2], the Patriot Act authorizes government surveillance without public scrutiny [3], and social media provides insight into the private details of our lives. With workshops such as, “Using Social Networking Sites, Search Engines, and Web 2.0 to Screen Applicants,” “Trends in Law Enforcement and Private Security Partnerships,” “New School Security Risks and Solutions,” and hundreds of others, what is the relationship between people, private security firms, corporations, and the government?

As new social movements emerge world-wide such as the Occupy Movement, the Arab Spring, and the demonstrations across Europe, how will private security firms and corporations respond to social movements calling for a more equitable distribution of resources [4]? One workshop led by CIKR Protection, a security firm that has been working in New York City, will teach attendees how to predict and prepare for demonstrations utilizing social media, and will present cost-effective measures to alleviate the impacts of protests on business. Do private security firms comply with, support, and/or actively suppress free speech and popular dissent? If so, how?

With droughts ravaging the United States’ corn supply this year, international experts have predicted a forthcoming global food crisis [5]. What are the implications of a workshop between private security companies and corporations in the agriculture industry such as General Mills on defending the global food supply? Is there a contradiction between private security and the equitable distribution of essential resources? With a global food crisis, will the seminar address ways and means of feeding the impoverished among us?

The United States has a prison population of over two million people, the largest in the world [6]. This has proven to be a lucrative market for private security firms, which are able to profit from partnerships with public police departments. For example, in New York, private security firms partner with the New York Police Department [7], which enforces “Stop and Frisk” policies disproportionately targeting Black and Latino youth [8], and has spied on mosques and other Muslim and Arab communities throughout the East Coast [9]. One security firm, Nice Systems, partners with the police department in Maricopa County, Arizona [10], which, according to a Department of Justice investigation, is guilty of flagrant racial profiling [11]. How do private and public programs of surveillance, criminalization, and militarization relate to people on the basis of their racial, ethnic, religious, gender, class, and other identities?

What is the significance of a workshop entitled ‘Corporate Manslaughter. Be prepared!’ which considers the subject of laws in England, Wales, Hong Kong, and elsewhere which hold corporations accountable for homicide [12]? The session description asks attendees, ‘Do you know how corporate manslaughter could affect you and your corporation?’, and the session proposes to teach attendees how to “mitigate” Corporate Criminal Liability. Does this mean that corporations are actively organizing ways of avoiding accountability when they are responsible for homicide? What are the precedents and possibilities for people to hold corporations accountable for homicide and other crimes?

Finally, the global scope of the seminar is breath-taking. One workshop is entitled, “Africa: Open for Business,” and is led by Jeffrey Gruber of The World Bank Group, Charlie Sellens of the US Department of Defense, and others. What implications may this have on the principles of sovereignty and self-determination for the people of Africa? Muhammed El Baradei, the former head of the IAEA who led UN nuclear inspections in the lead-up to the 2003 US-led war in Iraq [13], and who has been a prominent part of the negotiations and inspections of the nuclear energy program of Iran [14][15], will deliver a keynote address on Tuesday morning.

Former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will deliver a keynote address on Wednesday morning providing insight gleaned from his four and a half decades of experience in the United States’ intelligence and defense departments. In 2008, Gates – who was Secretary of Defense under both the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations – fired the top two leaders of the US Air Force in an effort to expand the US drone policy [16]. The United States has killed up to 4,389 people (including up to 1,104 civilians) by drones in Somalia, Pakistan, and Yemen since the inauguration of the program in 2001, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism [17]. In addition to a keynote address, Robert Gates will meet with Corporate Security Officers for a close-door roundtable discussion on Wednesday morning. What may Robert Gates and the leaders of corporate America discuss? Why is the session not open to the press?

This week at the Philadelphia Convention Center, questions must be raised. How will Gates, El Baradei, and executives from major corporations engage with the private security industry?

Moreover, what is the relationship between people, private security firms, corporations, and the government? What impact does public opinion and welfare have on the compelling issues being considered at the seminar?

What do you think?


[1] Information on the conference gleaned from the conference websites ASIS2012 and
[2] That’s No Phone. That’s My Tracker. Peter Maass and Megha Rajagopalan, The New York Times, July 13, 2012. Online at
[3] Full text of the American Patriot Act [H.R. 3162] available via
[4] The Arab Spring was sparked in December of 2010 when a poor man in Tunisia, Mohammed Bouazizi, set himself on fire in an act of self-immolation. Bouazizi, who supported his family by selling fruits on the street, had his food cart taken by the police, and thus embodied for millions of people through North Africa and the Middle East the desperate conditions forced upon them by the police and the ruling classes. In Europe, Greece, Great Britain, Spain, and other countries have seen riots and social protest movements demonstrating against similarly deplorable conditions enforced by police and the ruling classes in stark conditions of economic disparity. In the United States, the call of ‘We are the 99%’ of the Occupy Movement highlights the economic disparity in our country.
5] Global Food Crisis May Hit Us ‘Very Soon,’ IFPRI’s Fan Says. Luzi Ann Javier. Bloomberg News, August 13, 2012. Available online at

[6] Correctional Population in the United States, 2010. Lauren E. Glaze. Bulletin by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, in the US Department of Justice. December, 2011. Online at
[7] The NYPD Shield program is the department’s private-public collaboration project. Online at
[8] Report: NYPD Stop-and-Frisk Activity in 2011. Published by the New York Civil Liberties Union, 2012. Online at
[9] Matt Apuzzo and Adam Gold of the Associated Press have a long series of investigative reports detailing the NYPD intelligence program available online at
[10] Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Installs NiceVision in Madison Street Jail. Nice Systems press release, September 12, 2000. Available online at
[11] Re: United States’ Investigation of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Department. Letter from US Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the County Attorney of Mariposa County Bill Montgomery. December 15, 2011. Available as public record online at
[13] El Baradei, who led the UN weapons inspections, testified before the UN that there had been no weapons of mass destruction found in Iraq thirteen days prior to the US-led invasion.
[14] ‘No credible evidence’ of Iranian nuclear weapons, says UN Inspector. Julian Borger and Richard Norton-Taylor. The Guardian, September 30, 2009.
[15] El Baradei Says Iran to Develop Atomic Weapons If Israel Attacks. Albing Guo. Bloomberg News, March 21, 2012. Available online at
[16] Less Ego, More UAVs. Richard Gasperre., July 17, 2008. Available online at
[17] All of the data for the Bureau of Investigative Reporting is available online at

Land Theft is Not Charity: Philadelphia Activists Protest Jewish National Fund’s ‘Tree of Life’ Fundraiser

March 29, 2012

The Philadelphia Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel staged a creative protest outside the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Tree of Life fundraiser at Vie,  600 N Broad St., on Thursday, March 29th from 5pm-7pm.  The gala honored David Cohen, the Executive Vice President of the Comcast Corporation and the chairman of the board of trustees of the University of Pennsylvania.

Carrying signs reading “Land Theft is Not Charity,” about forty protesters, who included members of Philly BDS, students from both Temple Students for Justice in Palestine and Penn BDS, and other activists from the Philadelphia Palestine solidarity community chanted as part of a spirited picket of the event that included puppets and street theater.  The protesters’ “Bulldozing homes, stealing land; it’s all part of the JNF plan!”, called attention to the past and present role of the Jewish National in the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Palestinians from Israel-Palestine.  At issue is the fact that the JNF enjoys tax-exempt status as a charitable organization in the  U.S.

Founded in 1901, the Jewish National Fund originally collected money from Jews throughout the world to “redeem the land of Israel” by purchasing land in historic Palestine.  Since the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, the JNF has raised tens of millions of dollars for planting JNF forests, many of which are built on top of former Palestinian Arab villages.

Penn BDS stands with Philly BDS and Temple SJP, stating “We denounce the actions of the Jewish National Fund, which has been an integral part of the strategy of the State of Israel to evict Palestinian families from their homes, destroy Palestinian and Bedouin villages and remove traces of the Palestinian people. The Jewish National Fund is a full participant in Israel’s system of apartheid by restricting the use of its land to exclusively Jewish settlers, and the JNF should not be allowed to hide behind its current status as a charitable and environmental organization. Land theft is not charity.”

Temple Students for Justice in Palestine add, “We deplore the JNF for ethnically cleansing Palestinians from their land since the organization’s inception. The organization humiliates Palestinians and ultimately supports the ruin of an entire people. Additionally the JNF upholds segregationist’s policies by favoring land ownership for Jewish settlers over the indigenous population!”

“Why are American taxpayers granting tax-exempt status to an organization whose expressed mission is in violation of U.S. foreign policy regarding Israeli settlement expansion and military occupation?   Most conversations about peace in Israel-Palestine overlooks the facts on the ground as well as the role of the United States government in maintaining the status quo,” said Susan Landau, a Jewish member of Philly BDS.   “The JNF wants to be thought of as an environmental organization, but works hand-in-hand with the Israeli government to keep the land available only to Jews.”   The Negev Desert and the Galilee are two current focal points for JNF ‘greenwashing’—the use of environmentalist propaganda and projects to veil efforts in stripping Palestinians of their homes and land.

(Additional information about the Jewish National Fund can be found at, the website of the global Campaign to Stop the JNF.)

CONTACT: Susan Landau


Joseph Dana: Thursday November 3rd, 7pm

October 29, 2011

Joseph Dana (1)

A Year of BDS Achievements and Challenges

October 23, 2011

One year ago, Philly BDS was founded as the first group in Philadelphia focused on advancing the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.  That foundation followed the July 2005 call by 171 Palestinian civil society organizations to implement a global BDS struggle to hold Israel accountable until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights for Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Palestinian refugees.

Now, on our first anniversary, we find ourselves reflecting beyond the milestones in our local consumer boycott of Sabra hummus and Tribe hummus to the remarkable events in the BDS movement over the last year or so globally.  The BDS movement has continued to grow by leaps and bounds, and  significant challenges have presented themselves as well.

Globally, there have been a number of noteworthy concrete successes. To highlight a few:

From November 2007 – 2010 US-based Adalah-NY initiated a global campaign against Israeli billionaire, diamond mogul, and settlement-builder Lev Leviev that  led to his renunciation by UNICEF, denunciation by Oxfam, the removal of a promotional section of his website featuring actors like Salma Hayek, Drew Barrymore, and Halle Berry at some of their requests, and a UK government decision not to rent embassy space from his company. In November 2010, Leviev’s Africa Israel company announced it would no longer be involved in settlement construction.

Responding to appeals from Palestinian civil society after Israel’s attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla to Gaza, in June 2010 dockworkers in Oakland, California, Sweden, and Norway all refused to dock and unload Israeli ships, imposing a blockade so-to-speak on Israeli goods. Similar historic action was taken by South African dockworkers in February of 2009.

Also in the summer of 2010, the Olympia Food Co-op Board of Directors in the Washington State capital decided to boycott Israeli goods.  The OFC has continued the boycott in the face of a storm of opposition, including a recently filed lawsuit in which Israeli government officials have likely been involved, at least behind the scenes.

Major blows have also been dealt to Carmel Agrexco, Israel’s largest exporter of produce, and Veolia, the French multinational company operating in the fields of water, waste management, energy and transport services.  Agrexco markets 60-70% of the agricultural produce of Israeli colonial settlements and plays a key role in the development of large-scale, industrial Israeli agribusiness and has exploited its close relationship with the Israeli occupation authorities in order to secure a monopoly-like status in the export of Palestinian produce from Gaza.  Agrexco faced massive boycott activity in Europe, its main export market, causing it to file  for bankruptcy.  Veolia, involved in a number of Israeli projects, including the infamous light-rail project to link colonial settlements in the West Bank with Jersualem, lost a number of significant public contracts in Europe due to BDS campaigns and has announced surprising declines in profits.

The positive side of the ledger, indicates more groups and initiatives advocating BDS have continued to spring up all around the world, including on campuses.  One example is right here in Philly, where a BDS group at the University of Pennsylvania is now active.  Similar initiatives have garnered attention at DePaul, University of Michigan, Columbia and elsewhere.  While these efforts have had varying degrees of success, their increasing prevalence points to a strong wind at the back of the BDS movement.

Major success has been experienced in the Academic and Cultural Boycott as wellIn March 2011 The University of Johannesburg voted to sever its relationship with Israel’s Ben Gurion University as a result of the university’s role in the Israeli occupation.

The growing list of recognized public figures endorsing BDS, includes music legend Roger Waters of Pink Floyd.  In 2006, Waters was scheduled to perform in Tel Aviv but was asked not to by Palestinians and rights activists around the world.  In response he traveled to Palestine, an experience he described as transformative.  He cancelled his Tel Aviv show and eventually came out fully in support of the boycott, writing, “[w]here governments refuse to act people must, with whatever peaceful means are at their disposal.”  Other notables who have chosen to observe the boycott and not perform in Israel include: The Pixies, Elvis Costello, the late Gil Scott-Heron, guitarist Santana, and rapper Snoop Dog. Also, The Yes Men withdrew their film from the Jerusalem Film Festival  and film director, screen writer, and critic Jean-Luc Godard canceled plans to attend a Tel Aviv film festival.

There are significant divestment successes that also merit attention, more than will be documented here,  To name a few:  In February 2009 Hampshire College, a pioneer in the 1970s by becoming the first U.S. university to divest from apartheid South Africa, decided to divest from some 200 companies that “violated the college’s standards for social responsibility,” including six companies with close connections to Israel’s occupation.  In June 2010: Students at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, voted to divest the college foundation’s funds from companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation  And in July 2010, Jewish Voice for Peace activists presented over 15,000 petitions and postcard signatures to one of the world’s largest retirement funds, TIAA-CREF, asking them to divest from companies documented as profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

These developments have shown that people all around the world, including  the United States, are growing more aware of the need for genuine, grassroots pressure on Israel to end its Apartheid policies, and are standing up to do something about it.  Considering that the full-fledged BDS movement is barely half a dozen years old, the achievements thus far have been remarkable and encouraging.  And the trend points toward greater action in the future.

There is no better indication of the increasing relevance and success of the global BDS movement than all the attention and attacks directed at it. Yet still, the movement faces significant challenges in coming years.  The Israeli government and pro-Israeli groups and institutions around the world have stepped up efforts to combat BDS.  Garnering the biggest headlines recently is the passage by the Israeli parliament of an anti-BDS law.  The bill was introduced by Likud MK Ze’ev Elkin and passed on July 11, 2011.

The law allows citizens to bring civil suits against persons and organizations that call for economic, cultural or academic boycotts against Israel and Israeli institutions—including corporations and universities.  It also prevents the government from doing business with companies that initiate or comply with such boycotts.  According to Elkin, the final version of the bill that passed was “vegetarian,” because provisions criminalizing the boycott had been stripped out.  The law caused a great row both inside and outside Israel.  It has been denounced far and wide.  Indeed, even a large number of Israeli parliamentarians spoke out openly against it.

Nor was the law the only example of a BDS “backlash.”  The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC, has become increasingly outspoken on the issue of BDS.  So has the Anti-Defamation League.  In March of this year, news organizations announced that Israel’s Military Intelligence has established a new unit responsible for tracking groups abroad, and in the West Bank and Gaza aimed at “delegitimizing the State of Israel.”  The unit will monitor, among a seemingly endless array of possible targets, BDS activists.

Perhaps most ominously, just last month, 11 students from the University of California, Irvine, the “Irvine 11,” were convicted of conspiracy to disrupt and of disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.

Some may see this backlash as a frightening omen of what is to come in this country and abroad.  Others, including Philly BDS, see it as something else – an unequivocal sign that the BDS movement is on the map can no longer be ignored.  It is going mainstream.

Israel’s leadership has signaled its fear of the BDS movement in the clearest language possible—by outlawing it.  And while we e do not minimize  the genuine hardship endured by our courageous allies , like the Irvine 11 and the numerous BDS activists in Palestine who have been jailed for their activism  we prefer to view  this backlash as an affirmation that we are making a difference, building an unstoppable and  sustainable movement for justice in Israel-Palestine.