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Home Article 74 BDS and the Global Anti-Apartheid Movement (Summer 2008 ) In the Belly of the Beast: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaigns in the United States

In the Belly of the Beast: Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Campaigns in the United States

Written by  Abraham Greenhouse

Of all of the countries in which campaigns for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions have been initiated, none is as intimately tied to Israel - economically, politically, and socially - as the United States. Indeed, the United States military-industrial complex forms the umbilical cord that sustains the apartheid state of Israel, and which, if severed, would likely cause the entire Zionist enterprise to wither and perish. Not even the combined economic might of the massive nongovernmental American Zionist establishment is enough to supply the vast military infrastructure that allows Israel to survive as the last colonial state in a post-colonial world.

 From churches and universities, to corporate boardrooms and Federal courts, to the chambers of City Halls and the streets of cities across the country, U.S.-based activists have been waging a relentless campaign to cleave the multilayered lifeline that sustains Israel's brutal oppression of the Palestinian people. Predating the Palestinian Civil Society BDS Call by nearly five years, such campaigns have gradually become a major vehicle, and frequently the dominant vehicle, for the majority of the approximately eight hundred Palestine solidarity organizations active in the United States. By examining their successes, as well as their failures, it is possible to derive lessons to inform and invigorate both existing efforts, and campaigns yet to come - not only within the United States, but throughout the world.

 Fighting City Hall: Divestment Campaigns in Seattle and Somerville

 In the words of one insider, the five-year-old campaign to force the City of Seattle, Washington, to divest from US companies supplying military hardware to Israel is “driving the Zionists bonkers.” The Seattle campaign and a younger effort underway in Somerville, Massachusetts, have received extensive press attention, and have so alarmed opposition groups that national anti-Palestinian organizations have seen fit to embroil themselves in these local struggles. Shaped around long-term strategies tailored to the unique characteristics of each city, the campaigns provide important lessons for activists interested in pursuing similar initiatives in their own municipalities.

 The Seattle City Employees' Retirement System (SCERS) controls over two billion dollars in assets, over half of which is invested in corporate securities in the United States and abroad. Administered by dozens of fund managers, each with the authority to invest a portion of the total funds as they see fit, SCERS' involvement with companies tied to the Israeli military is complex, and can only be quantitatively assessed by examining the quarterly and annual reports of the individual fund managers. Nevertheless, Seattle organizers in 2003 decided to target SCERS, which had previously voted to divest from apartheid South Africa, as the centerpiece of a campaign that would educate city officials and local citizens' groups on the realities of the Israeli regime, stimulate public debate, and potentially effect tangible changes in city policy.

 The City of Somerville, a working-class suburb of Boston with a large immigrant population, currently invests an estimated $1.2 million dollars in companies supplying military equipment and arms to Israel, as well as $250,000 in Israeli government bonds, through its Retirement Board. One year after the inception of the Seattle effort, and partly modeled on it, a divestment campaign was launched. The organizers, the Somerville Divestment Project (SDP), believing that Somerville residents would more readily relate to the suffering of Palestinians than would residents of more affluent communities, broadened the scope of their demands beyond those of the Seattle campaigners to include divestment from Israel Bonds; bonds issued by the Israeli state.

An organizer of the Seattle campaign, Edward Mast, explained that organizers there felt that calling for bond divestment, or for divestment from all companies with ties to Israel, would cause the City Council to dismiss the campaign outright, without any serious consideration. “It's a lot like building a legal case,” says Mast. “You don't always want to start out asking for more and then negotiate down. Sometimes, it's more important to establish a precedent. We were always thinking long-term.”

In its earliest days, the campaign consisted largely of a public call for SCERS to divest from seven specific companies, including Caterpillar, and urging its supporters to lobby city officials in favor of such a move. The campaign's organizers met early on with the head of SCERS, as well as its Board of Directors, who claimed they had no mandate to divest on moral/ethical grounds (although one member privately admitted that in a hypothetical scenario, the involvement of a company in child pornography, would likely cause SCERS to take such an action). Initially, the City Council refused to meet with the organizers at all.

 “If I had it to do over again, I would have made a much greater effort to win over just one ally on the Council, which would have made the rest of our work far easier,” says Mast. Researching the complex social dynamics at work within a given institution is a must for any campaign seeking to influence it, he explains. “You need a solid understanding of their personal relationships, loyalties, spheres of influence, and so on, to the point that you can actually diagram it. We got some help from a former Council member, who offered us advice on how to approach his colleagues. This resulted in our campaign entering a new phase: while still maintaining our call for divestment, we simultaneously pursued a more limited goal of 'constructive engagement.' When asking for what we believed would be the minimum action they could take that would be useful to us -- a letter of concern from Seattle City Council to Caterpillar -- we were able to meet and make some headway with most of the Council members.”

 Mast explains that this phase of the campaign provided the group with valuable lessons. “We spoke with an aid of one of the Council members who had concerns about some of the language in the letter we drafted. Many were about imagery: specific, detailed anecdotes about homes being demolished are useful and important in most contexts, but when trying to get officials to participate, we've sometimes had more success with a less emotional approach. Another important suggestion from the Council aid was to change our language to state that Caterpillar's activities may be illegal [under the United States Arms Control Export Act], rather than saying that they are illegal, because they'd challenge that by asking why the Federal government allows them to continue.”

 Without an ally on the Council who was willing to go beyond tacit support to actually spearhead an effort to produce the letter, the campaign stalled. However, new energy has come recently from endorsing and participating in another local Seattle campaign: a ballot initiative, created by Divest From War, calling for the City of Seattle to divest from US companies that profit from war and occupation throughout the Middle East. Joining this broader campaign was a logical next step for divestment organizers, says Mast. “Our work has always been part of a larger commitment to social justice around the world,” he explains, “and participating in broader campaigns defuses any claim that we're singling out Israel.”

 In Somerville, the emphasis was shifted to a ballot initiative after the council voted down a divestment resolution that a majority of council members had endorsed a month earlier. The campaign succeeded in convincing 35% of the electorate to vote in favor of divestment, and 40% for a separate resolution supporting the Palestinian right of return. SDP focused heavily on door-to-door canvassing, to which they largely attribute the relative success of their campaign, while noting that their limited number of volunteers proved to be a massive obstacle. “Not only were we short on people campaigning throughout the year, but on the day of elections, we didn't have enough people manning election sites,” said one organizer; “people power is key to the success of this work.” To retain volunteers, she explained, it is vital to “make sure people are appreciated and not overworked,” lest they burn out.

 Anti-Palestinian organizations, including the Boston-based David Project, actively opposed both efforts, but were particularly active in combating the Somerville campaign, attending Council meetings, flooding the local press with calls and letters, and posting signs throughout the town urging people to vote against the ballot initiatives. SDP was unable to muster a similar level of support from sympathetic organizers, but performed admirably despite limited resources. Since the last ballot initiative, organizers have shifted their attention to educational work in neighboring communities.

 The experiences of the Seattle and Somerville campaigns demonstrate the importance of meticulous research and planning, and a long-term strategy in which educating officials and members of the public is understood as an end in itself. “Patience is key,” said one SDP member, explaining that a campaign can involve “years of education and counter-education.” Understanding the web of personal relationships among decision-makers and their aids, and adjusting language and tactics accordingly, is also vital. Finally, emphasis must be placed on recruitment and retention, as well as the cultivation of external allies, in order for a campaign to be sustainable. Drawing on the lessons of these two campaigns, it seems likely that future efforts to affect divestment on a municipal level will meet with even greater success.

 Shaking the Foundations of the Ivory Tower: Divestment on Campus

 Predating the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society BDS call by nearly five years, campaigns pressuring colleges and universities to divest from Israel dominated the landscape of Palestine solidarity activism in the United States during the first three years of the second Intifada. A November 2000 speech by international law professor Francis Boyle calling for divestment from Israel as a means of supporting the Palestinian struggle was subsequently published as an open call. The speech was widely read and discussed by student activists, and the campus divestment movement which emerged attracted copious media attention, stimulated massive public debate, and sent anti-Palestinian activists flying into a panic. While the momentum of BDS campaigns in the U.S. eventually began to shift outside of the academy with the growth of divestment efforts by faith-based organizations, the campus-based movement won a number of precedent-setting victories before beginning to wane.

 The first university community to launch a formal divestment campaign, the University of California - Berkeley, began its efforts within months of Boyle's historic speech. Through a combination of educational outreach, theatrical demonstrations, petition drives, and even building occupations, Berkeley's Students for Justice in Palestine, the first group to employ the name, swiftly ignited a firestorm of controversy, making national and international headlines. By the close of the academic year, dozens of similar campaigns had sprung up on campuses across the U.S., many of which also utilized the 'SJP' moniker as a means of symbolically linking the initiatives.

Modeling itself on the anti-apartheid divestment campaigns of the 1980s, campus divestment rapidly evolved into a national, and soon international, movement. In February 2002, Berkeley convened a forum designated as the “National Student Conference of the Palestine Solidarity Movement.” Postponed from its original date of September, 2001 as a result of the 9/11 attacks, the conference birthed the coalition known as the Palestine Solidarity Movement, which swiftly assumed a leading role in coordinating the activities of Palestine solidarity organizations in the U.S., both on campus and beyond.

 While the majority of campaigns advocated full divestment from all companies doing business with Israel, some limited their calls to specific companies deemed to be directly profiting from the post-1967 occupation. One campaign, at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, pressured the administration to establish an ethical investment committee, similar to entities established at several other universities, providing a mechanism that could subsequently be utilized to press for divestment. Although the availability of information regarding the composition of each university's portfolio varied according to its status as a public or private institution, all campaigns focused on university investment dollars, to the exclusion of the considerable purchasing power wielded through the awarding or denial of vendor contracts.

 Anti-Palestinian organizations were caught off guard by the sudden emergence of such a formidable movement, and were placed immediately on the defensive. Divestment campaigners, most observers agree, held the upper hand throughout the 2001-2002 academic year, buoyed by a groundswell of sympathy for the Palestinian struggle that emerged with the brutal April 2002 reoccupation of the West Bank. By the following September, however, the opposition had taken advantage of the summer lull in organizing to develop new strategies for silencing campus critics of Israel, and had founded several key organizations to help focus their efforts.

 These new groups included the David Project, which initially specialized in attacking 'problematic' faculty; Stand With Us, an uncharacteristically grassroots effort with a substantial campus wing; and the DC-based Israel Project. The latter organization dabbled ineffectually in confronting divestment activists before shifting its focus to media work. Established groups such as American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the United Jewish Communities, Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (which plays a leading role, but largely behind-the-scenes) became increasingly active in the campus arena, and banded together, along with numerous other groups, to form the multi-million dollar Israel on Campus Coalition, which became the central coordinating mechanism for campus anti-Palestinian activism in the U.S.

 Despite mounting opposition on the national level, divestment campaigners succeeded in developing strategies that would enable them to score key victories. In January 2005, activists at the University of Wisconsin - Madison took advantage of the relative absence of opposition on the university's rural Platteville campus to convince the Faculty Senate there to pass the first-ever divestment resolution by an official university body. A month later, a similar resolution was passed by the Student Government Senate of the University of Michigan - Dearborn. In April, organizers in Madison again succeeded in pushing through a divestment resolution, this time by the university's Teaching Assistant Association, the largest and oldest teaching assistants union in the country.

 “We never considered actual divestment to be the primary goal of our campaign,” says one veteran organizer. “Instead, we understood divestment as a framework around which to structure our activities, the major goals of which were to gain media attention and stimulate public debate. Nevertheless, we won some significant symbolic victories that have helped lay the groundwork for achieving actual divestment in the long term. We achieved this by performing months of meticulous research not only into the university's investments, but into how its bureaucracy functioned. We spent nearly a year preparing the campaign before it went public, and we went into every meeting knowing exactly who was going to say what and when. The opposition seemed impotent by comparison.”

 Between February 2002, when it was formed at the Berkeley conference, and 2006, the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM) held four further conferences at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Ohio State University, Duke University, and Georgetown University. The conferences drew huge crowds, but also became magnets for attacks from the opposition, which would regularly pressure host universities to cancel the conference. At its peak, the PSM represented nearly every campus-based Palestine solidarity organization in the United States, several in Canada, and a large number of non-student groups as well. The annual conferences, and the efforts required to mount them, contributed to a level of communication and coordination between solidarity activists in the U.S. that has not been equaled since.

 Ultimately, the PSM collapsed under its own weight. Internal disagreementsover the coalition's political platform, particularly a statement explicitly refusing to condemn Palestinian attacks on civilians, prevented the group from realizing its ambition to develop an elaborate support structure to nurture and sustain ithe broader movement. Further, the Palestine solidarity community in the U.S. has often been divided along sectarian lines, and it was not unheard of for elements within a group to seize control through undemocratic means. After a series of incidents widely perceived within PSM as comprising such an attempted takeover, the coalition,intent on foiling further attempts, became increasingly bureaucratic. Eventually, it became nearly impossible to remain substantially engaged with PSM while continuing to be active in local organizing. This, along with the natural attrition of a student-based movement, and the transfer of momentum into faith-based efforts, eventually led to PSM's demise. “We were a coalition in a community that really needed a network,” says one former PSMer. “If we had defined ourselves more loosely, refusing to get bogged down in ideological minutia, we could have accomplished much more.”

 While the PSM has been effectively defunct for more than two years, divestment campaigns have not disappeared from American universities. They are fewer, numbering around a dozen, and coordination between them is limited. This trend, however, is beginning to show signs of reversing, as an increasing number of campuses in the United States and worldwide have begun participating in an annual coordinated week of action, originally launched in Toronto, called Israeli Apartheid Week. It remains to be seen whether the informal networks forged from this initiative will evolve into a mechanism for year-round coordination on a broader scale, which most observers agree is vitally needed.

 Palestine Solidarity Netwar: the Case of Caterpillar

 Caterpillar, commonly known as CAT, is the world's largest manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines, and industrial gas turbines. It is also the world's leading symbol of corporate profiteering from Palestinian suffering. According to a fact sheet distributed by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the company “has violated international, federal and state law” by supplying bulldozers to the Israeli military, knowing that they would be used to destroy civilian homes and infrastructure. Aided and abetted by Caterpillar, Israel has destroyed over 18,000 homes, uprooted hundreds of thousands of olive trees, and assembled the apartheid infrastructure that has consigned millions to live in misery for the crime of being born Palestinian.

 Human rights organizations began publicly assailing Caterpillar over its complicity in Israeli war crimes in 1989. The first formal campaign against CAT was launched in 2001, and the call for Caterpillar to cease supplying equipment to Israel swiftly became a rallying cry throughout the global Palestine solidarity movement. Dozens of existing organizations took up the call, and new groups were formed specifically to advocate around the issue. The campaign differed from most other initiatives of solidarity activists in that it was, partially by default, and partially by design, almost completely decentralized. Large organizations, such as Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation not only threw themselves into the fray, but along with smaller groups, most notably the Chicago-based Stop CAT Coalition, made a deliberate effort to develop resources that could be utilized by other activists wishing to become involved. By accessing information and materials posted on a variety of web sites, activists anywhere could become autonomous parts of the rapidly expanding campaign.

 This decentralization encouraged activists to adopt a diverse range of tactics. Demonstrations were held outside (and briefly inside) CAT's corporate headquarters. Organizations such as Jewish Voice for Peace purchased nominal amounts of Caterpillar stock, enabling them, in 2004, to introduce the first-ever shareholder resolution in an American corporation to address the Israeli occupation, introducing further resolutions in each subsequent year to date. In a manner reminiscent of the animal rights movement, the locations of CAT distributors, as well as home and business addresses of CAT board members were posted on the internet, making it easier for activists to carry the struggle to a local level. Large institutional investors, such as the Presbyterian Church (USA), while reluctant to divest from Caterpillar immediately, began passing resolutions mandating themselves to pursue the issue through direct engagement with the company. In 2005, the parents of Rachel Corrie, an activist killed by a CAT D9 bulldozer in Gaza, filed suit against the corporation in a United States District court, later joined by four Palestinian families who had lost their homes to Caterpillar equipment.

 “The fact that Caterpillar has been hit on all of these fronts simultaneously has been key to our success,” said one longtime organizer on the campaign. “However, we're limited in what we can achieve based on the size of our movement, and so growing it needs to be a top priority. I don't mean just growing our own organizations either; we need to be encouraging other groups to make the campaign a part of their overall work. If we can convince a huge organization like the Presbyterian Church to dedicate even two percent of its time to working on this, the impact of that alone could be enormous.”

 “In addition to trying to enforce the law, this litigation can be used as an organizing tool,” says Maria LaHood, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and among the chief counsel for the plaintiffs in Corrie et al. v. Caterpillar. “We've obtained evidence that [Caterpillar CEO] Jim Owens isn't telling the full story when he claims that Caterpillar has no control over the sales to Israel because they are indirect. Caterpillar has sold its D9 bulldozers directly to Israel, although there's evidence that the United States government has paid for some of them.” While the case was dismissed by the District Court, a decision later affirmed by a Court of Appeals because the U.S. paid for the sales, LaHood and her colleagues continue to press forward. “Even if we don't win, the litigation has obtained information that wouldn't otherwise be available. There's also a tremendous benefit in using the litigation to raise awareness about the victims of Caterpillar's complicity and to keep the issue alive by providing activists with continuing opportunities to mobilize around. So it's important for activists to keep up the pressure now, but even more so if the litigation doesn't succeed: It's up to the people to hold corporations accountable if the courts won't.”

 As a target, Caterpillar combines a number of unique strengths. Documentation of the company's equipment being utilized in the destruction of Palestinian infrastructure has been compiled by human rights organizations for two decades. Although the company derives a very limited portion of its revenue from consumer goods, such as toys and apparel featuring the company logo, it boasts an extremely well-developed brand identity. In the minds of the American public, the Caterpillar brand is firmly cemented, partly due to CAT equipment being a ubiquitous sight at construction sites throughout the country. Activists on other campaigns, particularly the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in their boycott of Taco Bell and other subsidiaries of Yum! Brands, have clearly demonstrated the value of incorporating a target company's own brand motifs into its messaging, effectively turning multi-billion dollar advertising campaigns back against themselves.

 The most commonly cited weakness of Caterpillar as a target is its limited involvement in consumer goods markets. As the overwhelming majority of the global population has no role in rental or purchase of heavy equipment, possibilities for a consumer boycott are limited. However, institutions are able to exert considerable pressure by threatening divestment, as well as by denying contracts to vendors utilizing CAT equipment. To date, no organization involved in the Caterpillar campaign has targeted such contracts. Further, divestment efforts have been limited to churches, universities, and municipalities, and have not yet expanded their focus to include commercial investors such as mutual funds, which have recently been targeted by activists campaigning for divestment from Sudan.

 Although the overall campaign against Caterpillar has lost some degree of momentum since its peak in approximately 2005, attributable to the cumulative effect of small setbacks such as the dismissal of the Corrie case and general activist burnout, the trend show signs of reversing itself. At CAT's 2008 shareholders meeting, activists held their first-ever face-to-face meetings with the company's CEO and Board of Directors. “It's actually a very exciting time for the campaign,” says StopCAT organizer Matt Gaines. Suha Dabbouseh, National Organizer for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, adds that “after [the meeting], I think we have renewed energy.”

 Asked to comment on visions for the campaign's future, one longtime organizer stated, “I think we need to get more local. We should identify a handful of key company executives or board members who are based in the areas in which we have strength, and research everything about them: where do they live, what groups do they belong to, what relationships do they have with other key CAT personnel, and so on. We need to leverage that information to place as much pressure as possible on these few specific people until they feel compelled to ask the company to act on our demands. Beyond that, I think it's important that people learn to be patient. We've made incredible gains in this campaign, and while the immense size of the company makes it difficult to see at times, there are cracks emerging in the façade. Now more than ever, we need to keep up the pressure.

 Breaking the Heads of Leviathan: The Campaign Against Lev Leviev

 Of all profiteers of Israeli settlement construction, few have faced as varied and sustained resistance as Lev Leviev. Primarily known as the world's largest cutter and polisher of diamonds (mined in large part in Angola, where his companies have been accused of multiple human rights violations), Leviev is heavily invested in real estate and construction through his investment and holding company 'Africa-Israel.' His major settlement projects include Zufim, built on land confiscated from the West Bank village of Jayyous, and Matityahu East, which is being constructed on the land of Bil'in, as well as portions of the larger settlements of Har Homa and Ma'ale Adumim. Leviev is also a major donor to the ultra-right-wing Land Redemption Fund, which uses its financial might, deceit, and strong-arm tactics to secure Palestinian land for settlement expansion.

 The companies have faced regular protests against their activities by affected Palestinians in Jayyous and Bil'in, often accompanied by anti-Zionist Jewish Israelis and internationals, for the past six years. The protests have been met with overwhelming force by the Israeli military, resulting in hundreds of injuries and tens of arrests. In late 2007, the campaign against the gradual destruction of Jayyous and Bil'in began to take on a new dimension.

 Adalah-NY, a New York-based coalition that first emerged in the wake of Israel's 2006 attacks on Lebanon, was asked to develop a campaign around Leviev's partner, Shaya Boymelgreen, by Palestinian and Israeli activists who were aware of Boymelgreen's Mattityahu East project, and numerous commercial and residential real estate ventures in and around New York City. Many of these New York projects, until a recent split, were developed in partnership with Leviev. Already under fire from local activists accusing him of a litany of labor infractions and dangerously substandard construction, Boymelgreen was a strong and generally unpopular presence in New York. With more research, it became evident that Leviev was involved in more settlement activity than Boymelgreen. When Leviev announced plans to open a new luxury diamond store on Manhattan's Upper-East Side in late 2007, the stage was set for a multi-pronged campaign that would pit activists on three continents against the billionaire and his global business empire.

 Leviev and Boymelgreen were selected from a group of several potential targets for Adalah-NY's BDS campaign, in part due to the organization's strong relationships with Palestinian and Israeli activists organizing in Jayyous and Bil'in. In addition to the close ties of Leviev and Boymelgreen to New York City, where the organization is based, the variety of transgressions of which Leviev had been accused presented Adalah-NY with an opportunity to cultivate allies active within a broad range of issue areas. In particular, the organization sought to link the dispossession of Palestinians in the West Bank to issues related to housing and gentrification in local New York communities.

 The desire for a strong New York grounding eliminated one of the other targets Adalah-NY was considering. A second target was removed from consideration because it would have necessitated a lengthy and intensive engagement with local government, which Adalah-NY believed would exceed its capacity at that time. Another contender, a local membership-based entity active in a limited geographical area, was eliminated because Adalah-NY members did not possess, and felt they could not reasonably develop, a substantial presence within that entity's membership.

 Until this point, Leviev had completely escaped any public relations backlash from his destructive activities. While Africa-Israel and its chairman were ill-prepared to respond to public rebuke, Adalah-NY was well-positioned to deliver it in spades. Members of the group, a majority of whom are longtime solidarity activists, had well-established ties with civil society institutions in Palestine, particularly in Jayyous and Bil'in. Further, they were equipped with a broad array of local, national, and international media contacts, cultivated over years of activist involvement. The campaign's ability to make judicious and effective use of these resources in synergy with its other activities has been a critical factor in its success to date.

 The campaign was publicly launched with a demonstration outside the Leviev retail location in New York during its gala opening event on 13 November 2007. Members of Adalah-NY were surprised to see actress Susan Sarandon, well-known for her outspoken support of numerous progressive causes, among the celebrity attendees. Following the event, the organization drafted an open letter to Sarandon, asking her to sever all ties with Leviev. Due to the massive public appetite for celebrity news, the letter generated substantial media coverage.

 Shortly afterwards, Adalah-NY contacted the international charity, Oxfam, to which, in an effort to bolster his image, Leviev publicly claimed to support. The group sent Oxfam a detailed backgrounder on Leviev's various infractions, urging them to refuse further donations. Adalah-NY arranged for similar requests to be sent by Palestinian civil society groups. The response from Oxfam was a bombshell: not only would the organization refuse future donations from Leviev, but it had never received the support Leviev had claimed. This gaffe received widespread press attention, particularly within the diamond industry. Behind the scenes, Adalah-NY lobbied UNICEF with which Leviev had also been associated, to cease accepting the billionare's support. After months of letter writing and meetings, which included UNICEF officials personally touring affected communities in the West Bank, the organization publicly severed all ties with Leviev. A new flurry of media attention ensued, as well as a rebuke from the Anti-Defamation League which claimed that UNICEF's decision amounted to “selective political discrimination.”

 Leviev's global web of business interests provided Adalah-NY and its allies with the opportunity to engage him on multiple geographic fronts. In New York, the group has paid repeated visits to residential properties owned by Leviev, building relationships with concerned tenants. Demonstrations outside Leviev's Manhattan store have been designed to coincide, and thematically connect with, the three busiest jewelry retail periods: Christmas, Valentine's Day, and Mother's Day. On 9 February 2008, simultaneous demonstrations were held by Adalah-NY in New York, and the UK-based Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine, and Jews for a Just Peace at Leviev's London location. On 9 July 2008, the Village of Bil'in announced that it had filed suit for war crimes in a Canadian court against two Canada-based companies whose murky ownership trails point to Leviev's frequent partner, Shaya Boymelgreen.

 When Leviev announced plans to open two new retail locations in Dubai, Adalah-NY and its Palestine-based allies publicized this news, leading to several articles in local and international media. Shortly thereafter, they contacted officials in the United Arab Emirates in a bid to have Leviev's plans blocked. Concerned with their image in the Arab world and abroad, officials publicly stated that Leviev would not be permitted to open his stores as planned. Adalah-NY continues to engage Emirati authorities in an effort to ensure this ban is enforced. Most recently on 23 June 2008, UNICEF has responded to the call by Adalah-NY and others working on the Leviev campaign by announcing that it will no longer accept donations from Lev Leviev.

 By all measures, the campaign against Lev Leviev has been a runaway success. While there are still areas in which Adalah-NY's efforts have fallen short, such as its failure, so far, to take the fight to the more far-flung corners of Leviev's empire, the campaign's list of achievements to date is remarkable for such a young effort. Most of these accomplishments would not have been possible without the close involvement of Palestine-based allies, underscoring the importance for solidarity groups to cultivate and maintain such relationships.

 Although the space allotted to this article has not allowed an exhaustive analysis of any of the campaigns discussed, nor the acknowledgment of countless other individual initiatives equally worthy of inclusion, this overview contains much of the accumulated wisdom of the U.S.-based BDS movement. Readers are urged to educate themselves about other efforts that could not be discussed here, such as the Rainbow BIG Campaign, and the political process that resulted in the passage of a BDS resolution by the Green Party of the United States. It is only by drawing upon the hard-learned lessons of our fellow activists, bypassing the reinvention of the wheel that has dogged so many campaigns to date, that the global movement for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions, as called for by the Palestinian people themselves, can realize its goal of ending over half a century of injustice and oppression.

 

Abraham Greenhouse

Abraham Greenhouse

Abraham Greenhouse is founder of the Palestine Freedom Project (palestinefreedom.org), which specializes in studying and providing support for the work of grassroots Palestine solidarity activists worldwide. A former member of the Palestine Solidarity Movement, he remains active at a local level as a member of Adalah-NY (adalahny.org).