“It’s about institutional connections to the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
Anna Baltzer has been working with the US campaign to end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands by building up the BDS campaign (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) around the US. The BDS movement is modeled on the boycott campaign that was very effectively used to end apartheid in South Africa.
Baltzer, a national leader in the 10 year old BDS movement says the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions has fundamentally transformed the solidarity movement with Palestine and has given a tool to everyday people around the country, to look at their own complicity with Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.
“In what ways are we purchasing products that are made in illegal Israeli settlements, in which ways are we invested in companies, US corporations often, that are involved in violating the fundamental rights of Palestinians? How is our government of course first and foremost, implicated in providing Israel with the diplomatic and financial protection and assistance that it requires to oppress the Palestinians every day?”
The consumer boycott includes campaigns against companies like Soda Stream, which until recently was being produced in an Israeli settlement. Baltzer said as a result of the campaign, Soda Stream closed its factory in the West Bank. The company has now moved onto land taken from the Bedouins in the Negev desert, so Baltzer said the boycott campaign continues.
Baltzer says the BDS campaign is strategic in choosing targets. “What is a target that is clearly implicated in the oppression of the Palestinian people…it’s about institutional connections to the oppression of the Palestinian people.”
The BDS campaign has targeted multi-national companies that do business in the occupied lands as well as doing business with cities and municipalities around the US, for example, Veolia a French multi-national company, which until recently provided transportation services within Israel. RTD has had contracts with Veolia. “People have looked at contracts within their own municipalities…we can focus in on these contracts and try to end them as a way of ending our own complicity with the oppression of Palestinians.”
Baltzer says there is an explicit policy within Israel to enlist Israeli artists and performers to be global ambassadors for the state, which she says is a deliberate policy to divert attention from the occupation of Palestinian lands “Israeli cultural performers are actually enlisted by Israel to put a pretty face on apartheid Israel.”
Baltzer says the BDS movement has been successful by transforming the discourse around Palestine and how institutions are severing links to the Israeli occupation. “Eventually we believe that it will force the US and Israel to change its ways.”
For more information on the BDS movement: