Established in 2007, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) coordinates what it terms “the global movement” to inflict economic hardship on Israel in retribution for its alleged human-rights abuses. BNC grew out of an earlier call for “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) which had been founded in July 2005 by some 170 Palestinian civil-society organizations, including the Al-Awda, Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights, the Alternative Tourism Group, the Arab Association for Human Rights, the Association for the Defense of the Rights of the Internally Displaced, the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights, the Holy Land Trust, Ittijah, MIFTAH, and the YWCA-Palestine.
(To see more members of the BDS National Committee, click here.)
One of BNC’s member entities is the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, an alliance of “resistance” movements that includes Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Referring to Israel’s creation in 1948 as the “Nakba,” or “Catastrophe,” BNC contends that “for decades, the Jewish state has denied Palestinians their fundamental rights of freedom, equality, and self-determination.” In 2008 the Committee adopted a strategic position paper that accused Israel of practicing “ethnic cleansing” against the Palestinian people, and of presiding over a political system whose hallmarks were “apartheid,” “occupation,” “colonialism,” and egregious violations of “international human rights and humanitarian law.”
Inspired by “the struggle of South Africans against apartheid,” BNC’s consumer boycotts exhort people not to buy any products or services from “companies (Israeli and international) that profit from the violation of Palestinian rights.” Further, BNC helps coordinate a cultural and academic boycott encouraging filmmakers, artists, writers, entertainers, and university professors to refrain from plying their trades in any manner that might benefit Israel. Among the prominent celebrities to have heeded BNC’s call are Naomi Klein, Alice Walker, Elvis Costello, Carlos Santana, Bono, Snoop Dogg, and the band U2.
Complementing the boycott campaigns is BNC’s divestment initiative, which exhorts individuals as well as universities to withdraw, from their investment portfolios and pension funds, whatever stocks and assets are tied to “corporations complicit in the violation of international law and Palestinian rights.” For instance, BNC urges divestment from Carmel Agrexco, a partially state-owned Israeli company that exports most of the agricultural produce grown in what the Committee identifies as “Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories.” BNC also calls for divestment from Veolia and Alstom, two French multinational companies helping to “build and operate the Jerusalem Light Rail which links illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory” with Israel. The tramway, says BNC, is “designed to literally cement Israel’s grip on the illegal settlements and tie them more firmly into the state of Israel.” A third target of BNC divestment efforts is the Jewish National Fund (JNF), a charity that, according to the Committee, not only “was instrumental in the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in the 1948 Nakba,” but also continues to “play a central role in maintaining Israel’s regime of apartheid.”
Yet another means by which BNC seeks to “demonstrat[e] disapproval” vis à vis Israeli policies is the use of sanctions applied to: “economic links, including trade, co-operation, forums, agreements, and joint research initiatives”; “diplomatic links, including relations on an official level, participation in international institutions, external forums and networks and meetings between state representatives”; and “military links, including partnerships, agreements and joint operations.” With regard to the latter, BNC demands that the United States cut off all military aid to Israel and discontinue its cooperative ventures with the Israeli Defense Forces.
BNC’s main day-to-day activities include: campaigning and coordinating with BDS activists locally and worldwide; preparing and disseminating statements on newsworthy issues; dispatching public speakers to address topics of concern; organizing the annual Global BDS Action Day (which is held each year on March 30);â€¨ engaging in political advocacy by briefing and lobbying policymakers;â€¨ and issuing rapid responses to discredit “projects and initiatives which amount to recognition of or cooperation with Israel’s regime of apartheid, colonialism and occupation.”
In October 2011, BNC claimed solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the United States. “Our oppressors,” said BNC, “whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rights, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace.” Further, BNC described Palestinians as “part of the 99% around the world that suffer at the hands of the 1% whose greed and ruthless quest for hegemony have led to unspeakable suffering and endless war.”