Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Corporate accountability suits: bad news for companies, good news for BDS movement

The global movement for boycott of and divestment from companies complicit in Israel's illegal occupation of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem has been getting a boost lately from a growing number of corporate accountability lawsuits that are being heard in U.S. and international courts. A New York district judge recently ruled that suits can go ahead against companies that supplied equipment to aid and abet the crimes of the apartheid South African government. The companies include IBM, Ford, and General Motors. Commenting on this decision on the Foreign Policy in Focus blog, South African journalist Khadije Sharife argues that "this landmark decision sets a global precedent for corporate accountability and transparency. By finally laying to rest the ghosts of apartheid, the lawsuit may well usher in similar moves targeting the economic systems of global apartheid." Companies that profit off of Israeli apartheid, take note! New York courts are also the center of human rights suits filed against Royal Dutch Shell for their complicity in the assassination of Nigerian activists by the Nigerian government. Suits targeting both Shell Oil international and its Nigerian subsidiary are scheduled to be heard in U.S. courts. Corporate accountability suits have also been brought on behalf of Palestinians in Bil'in against Canadian companies building settlements on their land, as well as on the companies involved in the illegal light rail project in East Jerusalem that would connect West Jerusalem to the settlement blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Check out this great report from Al Jazeera on these cases: As the June 10 Caterpillar Shareholder Meeting approaches, and member organizations of the US Campaign once again make the case that Caterpillar's sales to the Israeli government enables the destruction of Palestinian land and homes, the building of the apartheid Wall, and the extrajudicial assassination of innocent civilians, these cases serve as a key indication to companies that they can and will be held accountable for the effect that their operations have on people suffering from government injustices and violence. CAT and Motorola beware--history is catching up to the corporate perpetrators of apartheid and human rights abuses, and it will catch up to you too!