BDS: The Power of Boycotts
Boycotts, such as those against South Africa in the 1980s, can have a profound effect on a country’s economy and global reputation.
For example, South Africa was invited to participate in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico but this elicited such sharp protests from Black African countries who threatened to withdraw if South Africa participated that the International Olympic Committee [IOC] was obliged to withdraw its invitation.
Furthermore, the IOC said their decision would only be overturned if South Africa renounced racial discrimination in sport, the government was not prepared to permit multi-racial sport, so there was a ban on South Africa’s participation from 1964 – 1992 because of the country’s policy on racial segregation.
In 1992 the Olympic ban on South African participation was lifted prior to the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games.
In 1986, the United States began boycotting South African textiles and agricultural products such as sugar, wine, fruit and coal.
“Apartheid retarded the development of a black consumer market, depressed demand and threatened domestic stability.” The Peterson Institute for International Economics. [1962-1994 Apartheid – Namibia].
Canada in the 1980s assumed a leading role in forcing economic sanctions against South Africa, Canadian business people, activists, and clergy, played parts in bringing about all race elections in South Africa in 1994.
Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said in October 1985, if South Africa did not change its ways it was possible Canada might impose total sanctions and even break off relations with Pretoria.
In July 1985 cabinet ended all government sponsored commercial activities involving South Africa and invited Canadians to impose sanctions in September of that same year.
In June of 1986, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney confronted the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who remained opposed to implementing sanctions against South Africa.
Canada lifted sanctions against South Africa under Prime Minister Kim Campbell in 1993.
“Divestment from South Africa was fought by ordinary people at the grass roots,” write Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Ian Urbina “Faith-based leaders informed their followers, union members pressured their companies’ stockholders and consumers questioned their store owners.
Students played an especially important role by compelling universities to change their portfolios. Eventually, institutions pulled the financial plug, and the South African Government thought twice about its policies.”
The same approach, they argue, can be used to pressure the Israeli government to change its policies.
“If apartheid ended, so can the occupation” they write, “but the moral force and international pressure will have to be just as determined.”
Similiarly, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement has been very successful in targeting companies that benefit from Israeli Apartheid, such as SodaStream.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanction [BDS] movement began in 2005 with the goal to stand up for Human Rights. Anti-racism is a key tenet of BDS, and the movement also strongly opposes anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. BDS also opposes any company that profits from the Israeli occupation, and this includes SodaStream.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, author of The Colour Purple, Naomi Klein, Canadian activist/author of No Logo, acclaimed Folk singer/songwriter Pete Seeger, and social activist/entertainer Harry Belafonte are just a few prominent people who have endorsed the BDS movement.
Specifically, BDS has condemned SodaStream for their illegal manufacturing and Human Rights violations in the West Bank.
They have also been very successful in targeting similar companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
The Ahava Effect
The Ahava Skincare line is another example of a product that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement condemned as illegal West Bank settlement goods. Ahava products were carried at major retailers throughout North America.
Many of those same retailers faced intense pressure from the BDS movement and protests were a regular occurrence outside their stores, and because of that sustained pressure, Ahava Skincare products are no longer sold at major retailers throughout the United States.
Althoug January 2011, The Hudson’s Bay Company and Shopper’s Drug Mart set Canadian precedents when both store chains stopped carrying the Ahava Skincare line at all their stores across Canada and Pharma Plus (Rexall Pharmacies) has also begun to remove the Ahava Skincare line from all of its stores, we recently learned that Sears-Polo Park (Winnipeg) has begun to sell Ahava again. Needless to say, Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes! to Human Rights is VERY disappointed a this decision. Of course, SodaStream is also still sold in all Sears stores.
Yet the protests against Ahava are global. In May South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry mandated Ahava remove all “Made in Israel” labels if it wished to sell its products in that country. Norweigian retailer VITA and Japanese distributor Daito Crea dropped Ahava in early 2012.
Omar Barghouti, co-founder of BDS stated in Washington, DC [February 24, 2012] “Complicity is carrying a heavier price nowadays.” He also informed his audience that many companies are losing contracts because of their participation in Israeli apartheid projects, such as Jerusalem Light Rail.
Also at the global level; church groups have also taken up the cause of the BDS movement and are regularly speaking out against the manufacturing of illegal products in the West Bank settlements.
For example, last July 2012, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States voted to boycott two Israeli settlement products: Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories beauty products and dates grown in the Hadiklaim settllement from the Occupied Jordan Valley.
Operating from settlements, these two companies epitomized the Presbyterian Church’s issue with the settlement movement. According to Marilyn Decker, an elder from Kentucky, the boycott was “a narrow and focused action which clearly states we are opposed to Israeli settlements on the West Bank.”
As well, last August 2012, the United Church of Canada at its 41st. General Council meeting in Ottawa voted to boycott products exported by Israeli settlements on the West Bank.
These victories prove we can make a difference!
Please spread the word about Ahava and tell SodaStream executives, shareholders and franchise owners that YOU say NO to their illegally manufactured products.
Please make the decision to visit our petition page on gopetition.com, and search for Say No to SodaStream and Say Yes to Human Rights. We are requesting businesses and governments cease their relationships with SodaStream.
If you have opportunity, contact the following CEOs/Presidents at the following companies that sell SodaStream:
Mr. Calvin McDonald
President & CEO
Sears Canada Inc
290 Yonge St
(has also begun to sell Ahava again)
Mr. Stephen G. Wetmore
President & CEO
2180 Yonge St.
P.O. Box 770
Ms. Bonnie Brooks,
Hudson’s Bay Corporation
401 Bay St Suite 500
**she has raised more than $17 million for charities like Red Cross & Breast Cancer, in 2011 was one of Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women
Mr. Ron Wilson
President & CEO
8800 Glenway Pkwy.