by Sherna Berger Gluck
On the heels of several BDS successes, including widening support in the US for the academic boycott following the 2013 American Studies Association (ASA) resolution, there’s a growing sense the tide is turning. More academics are organizing boycott campaigns in their professional organizations – notably anthropologists, historians and Middle East studies scholars. The US Academic and Cultural Boycott (USACBI) Organizing Collective just held a workshop for this year’s ASA on building the boycott beyond the academy.
A new generation of activists is connecting the dots, linking different struggles for social justice. Recent examples in the US are the Palestine-Ferguson rallies around the country and Block the Boat mobilizations in Oakland and Long Beach. This cross-struggle coalition building excited those who attended a recent national conference sponsored by the US Campaign to End Israeli Occupation.
The Hewlett-Packard (HP) consumer boycott campaign is another example of this development in Palestinian solidarity work. US groups had focused primarily on HP shareholder resolutions and appeals to pension funds to divest. The new coalition is taking its message to retail consumers.
At the October 25th launch outside the “Little Tokyo” Office Depot store, activists from a range of social movement groups excoriated Hewlett Packard (HP) for its complicity in Israeli apartheid and in the US prison-industrial complex, deportations of immigrants and surveillance of civilian populations. Surrounded by banners and giant mockups of the blue and green apartheid passbooks – the HP biometric i.d. cards issued to Israelis and Palestinians – they leafleted shoppers when they weren’t participating in a rousing rally. [A video can be viewed at http://www.hpboycott.org]
Coalition member Ahlam Muhtaseb from Al-Awda recounted her recent experience in Palestine. Though her son is a US citizen and could visit family members in Jerusalem, Ahlam, as a native of al-Khalil (Hebron), was prevented by her green passbook (i.d. card) from taking him there; she was confined to the West Bank, despite her own US citizenship. Hamid Khan of Stop LAPD Spying Coalition talked about HP’s role in the “Israelification” of the LAPD.
Hamzah Baig of Critical Resistance, and Jaime Cruz of the National Chicano Moratorium Committee spoke respectively of how HP services the racist US prison-industrial complex and CA’s “prisons within a prison,” and Homeland Security/ICE’s deportation of immigrants. Other coalition member from Jewish Voice for Peace, Code Pink and the Israel Divestment campaign focused on BDS work. A satirical skit and a dramatic reading on family separation highlighted HP’s role in Israeli apartheid, but HP was also denounced as a major supplier to the Israeli military.
Demanding that HP be held accountable, our message to consumers is that they can refuse to be party to the violation of basic human rights in Palestine and the US. As in the UFW grape boycott, we’re urging people to refuse to purchase HP equipment, denying HP one of its major sources of revenue, ink cartridges. We will carry this message during the approaching holiday shopping season, starting with the day after “Thanksgiving” with leafletting at several Costco outlets.
Gluck is with the HP Boycott coalition and co-author of “On the Fallacy of Engaging with the Israeli Academy,” Counterpunch,Sept. 20, 2013: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/09/20/on-the-fallacy-of-engaging-with-the-israeli-academy/