Image Credit: Gulf News

On July 9, 2005, a Palestinian grassroots movement launched its Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel until its government complied with international law and universal principles of human rights.

The BDS National Committee (BNC) is calling all people to join the Global BDS ‘day of action' on Land Day — March 30 — in solidarity with the Palestinian people's right to self-determination on their ancestral land.

Land Day symbolises Palestinian resistance to Israel's land expropriation, colonisation, occupation and apartheid. In broad terms, the BDS, a non-violent resistance campaign, seeks to achieve the following:

1. End Israeli occupation of Arab lands, including the West Bank, especially occupied east Jerusalem and Gaza.

2. Dismantle the apartheid wall which turned the Occupied Territories into a big prison designed to induce the Palestinians to abandon their lands under an Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing similar to that applied by South Africa during its racist regime which put black Africans into enclaves. Israel has turned such enclaves into fortified colonies in the heart of the Palestinian lands to kill any chance towards building a viable Palestinian state that can live in peace with a ‘Hebrew' one.

3. Recognise Arab Palestinians as full citizens of Israel with equal rights.

4. Fulfil UN resolution 194 which assures the ‘right of return' of Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties.

Palestinian civil societies making up the BDS movement are calling on their international counterparts and people around the world to adopt boycott and divestment policies against Israel, similar to those brought against the former South African regime.

The BDS campaigns around the world have damaged Israel's image as ‘the only true democracy in the Middle East', by revealing its real apartheid essence to the world's civil societies, who are responding in droves to the boycott call.

Pension funds

Along this lines, BDS activists are intensifying their efforts to get Europe's major funds to avoid places where international law and human rights are violated. The campaign recently succeeded in getting a major Dutch pension fund to divest from almost all the Israeli companies in its portfolio.

The Dutch fund PFZW, with an investment of ¤97 billion (Dh483.63 billion), has adopted a new guideline called ‘socially responsible investment in companies which operate in conflict zones'. This Dutch fund has entered into serious discussions with Motorola, Veolia and Alstom to warn them that their investments in Israel might cause them legal complications because their profits come from illegally confiscated lands in Palestine.

In September 2009, the Norwegian State Pension Fund decided that it would no longer invest in companies that directly contribute to violation of international law.

In February 2010, the largest Dutch pension fund ABP informed the ‘electronic intifada' that it had divested from the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, in which it held shares worth millions of euros!

On June 14, 2010, the Old Grorud Borough district of Oslo, Norway, voted to boycott Israel, according to the Norwegian News Service NRK which quoted Turid Thomassen, leader of a major Norwegian political party as saying "this vote could be the start of a wider boycott movement in Norway".

The German-owned megastore LIDL has become one of Ireland's largest chain stores to stop selling Israeli farm products. Along similar lines, one news report said: "The Irish public has reacted angrily to the Israeli raid of the Gaza aid flotilla" in May 2010 leading many in a mass movement to boycott Israeli products. They have advised the Irish public through leaflets and websites to avoid purchasing products with the barcode number 729 which designates the Israeli origin of the product.

On May 22, 2010, two major Italian supermarket chains, COOP and Nordiconad, announced the suspension of sales of products from Israel, following intense campaigns waged by BDS and some of their close allies in Italy.

It is only a matter of time, thanks to ceaseless BDS efforts, for the campaign against Israel to grow into massive power. Indeed, Israel must be experiencing the feeling of being under siege by the growing clout of BDS campaigns which is generating an extreme dislike of Israel around the world and seriously contributing to the erosion of its legitimacy as a state.

The Palestinian civil society groups, which stand behind the BDS campaigns in different countries, are inspired by India's great leader Mahatma Gandhi and are following in his footsteps. His non-violent resistance campaign of boycotting British products brought about his country's liberation from British colonial rule.

Indeed, the BDS movement spares no effort in calling upon organisations and people of conscience in world countries to join its peaceful campaign, not just for the sake of Palestine, but also for the sake of world peace and justice. 

Professor As'ad Abdul Rahman is the Chairman of the Palestinian Encyclopaedia.