[U of Haifa, Gender studies]
1. Transcript: Dalit Baum on BDS movement
2. Boycott and divestment helped South Africa to end apartheid...These non-violent strategies can do the same for Israel/Palestine
3. Targeting corporations to take down Apartheid – from South Africa to Palestine
Dalit Baum on the BDS movement:
We are supposed to go to a successful campaign. And I think that the first rule about successful campaigns is that they have to be campaigns. And let me explain. In order to judge the success of our action we have to set out goals. And we have to set out achievable goals! Measurable goals! Short-term goals! Long-term goals! We have to do some strategic thinking and that is the basic idea behind Stop the Campaign. So, my claim is that whenever you start a campaign it can be victorious and successful because once you start a campaign if your goals are achievable and measurable you will reach something. And then you declare victory because you have a successful campaign. The importance of having successful campaigns is that it can change completely the image of our movement, both from within and from without. It’s very different to be part of a successful movement than to be part of the Palestine Movement that has been working for so many decades, so many decades, doing the same thing and things on the ground are getting worse and worse and worse.
So, I am going to tell you today that the BDS movement is a very, very successful movement. And it’s extremely refreshing, because we’re not used to being successful so we need to learn how to enjoy being successful. Yes, and how to tell activists to join us because we are being successful, because something really great is happening. We celebrate! We have to learn how to celebrate. And I want to tell you about two of the many many many different global campaigns that focus on corporations. The focus on corporations is not the same as focusing on a product and it’s not the same as focusing on an event that happens and you want to organize around. Focusing on a global corporation means taking the time to do that, doing the research to understand this corporation, let’s say, difficulties or where they are more sensitive to public pressure, who, are their investors, what are their main products, what are their main markets! You have to do a lot of strategic thinking and also analyze, where is your role intact? Maybe you work out of some very small group somewhere, but you can join in on a global campaign that can really benefit from your doing something very small somewhere else in the world.
So, one such campaign, as any body that has heard me speak before heard me speak about it, is the campaign against the company called Veolia, which is a French multi-national and they have a lot of business in the US. I keep hearing from people in Europe that we have never heard about Veolia. Listen, Veolia is here. They are doing a lot of work and their main clients are local municipalities. They provide transportation services, waste disposal services, and water services. That’s a good thing that their clients are municipalities, because it helps us organize at the local level, in your campuses, in your city, in your town. And they provide the same services, water, actually water not, but transportation and waste disposal to settlements in the occupied West Bank. That’s it! They do that with the light rail projects that they were hired to operate in Jerusalem, connecting Jerusalem to settlements around it, and they are providing waste disposal services to a dump that they operate in the occupied Jordan Valley.
The campaign started immediately after the call for BDS that Nasi mentioned in 2005. And I have a list here of all the victories of this campaign, because I can’t remember it by heart any more. It’s just too long. The first victory was already in November 2006, when a Dutch bank decided to divest from this company. And then I have victories from the […] UK, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, Ireland, France, Australia. Cities all around the world have managed to either stop contracts with Veolia or not give them new contracts when they were up for renewal. That includes the Stockholm Underground. It includes the Melbourne Night Rail Transit, the Bordeaux Urban Network, the Galway Underground in Ireland, the contracts. The company has lost something in the vicinity of 15 million dollars in contracts since then. [Applause] None of these contracts were targeted in the US and we have checked. They have a lot of contracts. It has been extremely successful also because if you count down the Euro-city or Euro-campus does not have a contract with Veolia, you can still do something about it. You can declare yourselves Veolia-free. [Audience laughs] This is actually much easier than trying to deport business contracts. So also its Veolia-free, I have another few cities around the world that are Veolia-free on the list here. It’s really hard to remember, but if you go on bdsmovement.net, you can see the list of all these successes.
Veolia has decided to leave the light rail project in Jerusalem. And for the last year and a half, they have been trying to sell their contract to somebody else. No other trans-national wanted it. [Applause] They had to give their contract away to an Israeli company that didn’t really step up to the contract. And their trying to run away from it! This is a big victory. It’s not over yet, because they still operate buses that dock in the West Bank and there is still time for us to join in and have some victories of our own. This is an example of setting out goals. In this goal, I think that the goal is not to leave so quickly, because this is such a good target [Audience laughs], it’s a natural. We wanted to stay there for a little while longer and help us build this global movement.
I can give you one other example of a victory. Just because it just happened! It’s brand new! So this is news from last Tuesday, last Friday, sorry. In Belgium, unfortunately this Belgium bank that was targeted I don’t think has any business here, so this is not a call for action unlike the Veolia, but this is great news that I think all of us should celebrate. So tonight, bus boys and poets [Audience laughs], we’re going to celebrate because we fight it. Umm, the story is about the bank. The bank is called Dexia. It’s a Franco-Belgium bank and two years ago, they were bailed out by the Belgium. [Audience member interrupts Baum] Can you tell us how to spell that? [Baum] D-E-X-I-A, Dexia! Another company that has its main clients as local municipalities! They provide national services to local municipalities. Anyhow, two years ago the bank was bailed out by the French, Belgium, and Luxembourg governments because there was a financial crisis. I don’t know if you remember that. [Audience laughs] So that was great news.
There were activists in Belgium from a group called Ental, that’s the name of the group. It’s a solidarity group. And they contacted us in Israel, in my project called Who Profits from the Occupation. We provide information services and research services for campaigns all around the world. They contacted us and said well, you know the bank is now a governmental bank. It used to be private. We know that they have business in Israel. Do you know if they have any thing in the settlements? Why did they ask about settlements? Because settlements are illegal according to international law! Because settlements are contrary to many European countries own policy and to the US foreign policy! Because the settlements are an easy target! And also because many international corporations are signed onto the UN Global Compact, which makes them, umm, they have to preserve human rights and international law. They are signed onto it! So they can be sued in a court if they break that law. Settlements are an important tool for us. We should look for that. So, just this story and they called us and asked do they have any settlement visas, and we said we don’t know. We don’t know, we’ll check, we don’t know. And it took us a very long time to find the proof that they do provide long-term loans to settlements, with the collateral being the continued existence of the settlement and the future revenues of the settlement. So they really have a stake in it! And the way we found out was really silly. It was because there was someone to the Israeli Parliament, to the Knesset, when the settlers thought that they didn’t give them a loan somewhere, so there was someone in the parliament in order to testify why do they discriminate against settlements, and the Israeli branch CEO stood in the Knesset, in the committee, and said of course not, we don’t discriminate against settlements. We gave long-term loans to these, to that, and then he gave the whole list. So we launched a campaign in Belgium, thanks to him.
And this campaign started from nothing. I mean, this was a leafleting campaign. They leafleted in the entrances to branches and they tried to get meetings with local municipalities, mayors that use the services of this bank and their clients. Educating them about international law, about settlements, about what it means. And then they introduced a share-holder resolution last year, asking the bank to withdraw from all settlement activity. And the president of the bank [….] announced that the bank would no longer give loans to settlements. […] That’s it. It doesn't include Jerusalem, blah blah blah, but you know good face. The Belgium group came back to Who Profits and said, are they telling the truth? So, this time we did some better research and we found the proof that they were lying. That was enough, because once it was proven that they were lying, and also the Israeli press caught onto it and stuff and said it’s impossible, this bank will provide services in Israel but discriminate against settlements. [Audience laughs] Discrimination language here is funny.
Anyhow, why I am telling you this whole boring story about loans is because last week there was another share-holder meeting in Belgium and of the four-hour share-holding meeting last Friday, an hour and a half was dedicated to the process coming up and asking questions about the banks involvement in Palestine. And about what they are going to do about it. And the president of the bank, who was already caught in lying once, announced that they were going to sell their Israeli branch, the Israeli subsidiary and they are going to do it in haste, by this summer. [Applause] And when they were confronted about it and said, by one of our representatives, you know you are selling the branch and still making profit. What about all of the harm that you have contributed to? You are going to take the money and leave. So, the president said that we are going to sell it at a loss, because we have announced that we are going to sell it and by this summer, so we have our restricted time. We are going to lose money on that, but even then we are thinking of taking all of the money from the sale and putting into social projects in Palestine. [Applause] Now, this is an amazing precedent. An amazing precedent because it was very front headlines news in Israel, in the economic press in Israel, that a big international bank is divesting from Israel and this is amazing.
And I would like to say just one last word about this campaign, which is why I think they have to leave by this summer. I just thought about it. Maybe I am wrong but this is my theory. There is a new law on the desk of the Knesset, which is the anti-BDS law. I don’t know if you heard about it or not. [Audience says that they have] It is not law yet, but the Knesset has just returned from recess and unfortunately for all of us, we like it when they are on vacation. [Audience laughs] They have set a date, July 27, is when they are going to pass this new law, the anti-BDS law, and the wording of this law might change more or less since its not law yet. They are still working on it. But its pretty final version that I have here and they added a new section, to the draft that we saw before, and the new section is about corporations that are active in Israel but do not provide services to some part of the country, who participate in boycotts against some parts of the country. In other words, do not provide services in settlements. This is what it means. And it says that any corporation that participates in such a boycott would be banned from governmental contracts, therefore a ban like this, they will not be able to work in Israel, for all of their work is through contracts with the government. So, they are cutting their losses and running. But what it means for us too is that the State of Israel does not allow any more for partial boycotts. Think about it. [Audience laughs] No corporation can continue to work in Israel without also being active in the settlements. And think about that as a tool for us for calling for total divestment. Thank you. [Round of applause]
Haifa U Dalit Baum: Boycott and divestment helped South Africa to end apartheid...These non-violent strategies can do the same for Israel/Palestine
We encourage Co-op members to read the Bylaws and demand that the Board follow them.
Co-op Members Sing for Democracy
Over 50 members of the Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op serenaded shoppers on the public sidewalk next to the Co-op on Friday afternoon, June 3, with back-up guitar, base and tambourines.
Holding colorful balloons and signs, members sang, “This is my coop; This is your Co-op” to the tune of “This Land is Your Land”. Several shoppers stopped and joined in: “We’re member owners, Our voices m-a-t-t-er, This co-op belongs to you and me.”
The group also sang “Co-op Democracy” to the tune of “Personality”. Both songs are expected to be posted on YouTube soon (checkhttp://www.coopdemocracy.org
for an update.)
Rally organizers, part of Sacramento Co-op Owners for Democracy and Free Speech, chose the theme, “Lifting the Spirit of Humanity through Free Speech and Democracy” to coincide with the Co-op’s monthly Anti-Depression Friday.
“We’re here because we care about our Co-op, our community, and our democracy,” said Susan Bush, a Co-op Member since the 1980s. “The Co-op Board claims it supports democracy but it is refusing to let members vote on qualified initiatives as required in the Bylaws. We encourage Co-op members to read the Bylaws and demand that the Board follow them. The Board is trying to censor discussion and take away our right to vote. That’s autocratic, not democratic.”
Co-op Bylaws Section 10.06 mandates the Board to place measures on the ballot once two procedural requirements are met, gathering signatures and proposing the requested action at a Board or Member meeting. Co-op Members met these requirements for the Human Rights initiative in February and the Restore Co-op Democracy initiative in May. The Board has refused to put the Human Rights initiative on the ballot and will address the Restore Co-op Democracy initiative at its June 7, 6pm meeting at 1914 Alhambra. More information athttp://www.coopdemocracy.org
Joining the rally was Israeli activist Dalit Baum, who addressed the proposed Human Rights Initiative that would allow members to vote on whether they want the store to support Palestinian human rights by not carrying Israeli products until Israel stops violating those rights.
“People all over the world, including Jews, Christians, and Muslims, are trying to pressure Israel to obey international laws, protect human rights and be a real democracy,” said Baum. “It is heartening to see you here in Sacramento be part of that effort. Boycott and divestment helped South Africa to end apartheid and move to becoming a real democracy. These non-violent strategies can do the same for Israel/Palestine.”
The Co-op’s General Manager, Paul Cultrera, is allowing a group that opposes the initiatives to table in front of the store, but has prohibited initiative supporters from doing so since the end of January. With the Board’s support, Cultrera has banned any group from tabling in support of Palestinian human rights, including Veterans for Peace.
The Co-op asked the police department to station an officer, presumably paid for by the Co-op, near the front door. Rally organizers were unclear why the Co-op had requested an officer since they had been out on the sidewalk two weeks prior with signs and balloons and had no problems. Organizers chatted with the officer who kindly said he was enjoying the singing. He declined an invitation to join them however, as did a bystander who said she did not sing as a service to the public.
The Bottom Line: film screening and discussion
Targeting corporations to take down Apartheid – from South Africa to Palestine
Thursday, May 19th, 7:00 pm at the Victoria Theater (2961 16th Street, San Francisco)
Tipping Man 6, the Sixth International Anti-Corporate Film Festival, opens this year with The Bottom Line, a blow-by-blow account of the divestment movement against corporations in Apartheid South Africa, a global movement that successfully brought down a regime by targeting the powerful corporations that were profiting from and supporting it. Companies such as Polaroid, Shell, IBM, Ford, Chase, BP, GM, and others that were involved in the South African racist Apartheid economy were targeted by dozens of campaigns around the world, mobilized people to vigil, boycott and divest from these companies. The film uses a wealth of original materials to show how these campaigns grew and how this once-marginalized movement has contributed to the country's financial collapse, the downfall of its white minority government, and the release of imprisoned ANC leader Nelson Mandela.
What can we learn for similar campaigns today against corporations that profit from Apartheid, occupation and war? Two-time Academy Award-nominated director Connie Field will participate in a post-screening Q&A. Activist Dr. Dalit Baum of Who Profits (www.whoprofits.org) and Economic Activism for Palestine (Global Exchange) will discuss ideas for targeting corporations involved in the occupation and exploitation of Palestine..
Tickets are $10 and available through the Festival website: www.countercorp.org or at www.brownpapertickets.com/event/176751
Director, Economic Activism for Palestine
2017 Mission St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94110
Phone: (415) 5755529; Cell: (415) 4009370