Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Exchanges over the Apartheid Wall--Real and Imagined

The Israeli cell phone company Cellcom recently released an ad showing Israeli soldiers playing a light-hearted game of soccer with invisible Palestinians over the Apartheid Wall. The ad, which takes a step beyond normalizing the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land to actually portraying it as fun, has been the target of criticism from many groups and individuals who understand the destructive effects that the Wall and the entire infrastructure of the occupation has on Palestinian lives and livelihoods and on chances for a just peace in the region. Last week, the villagers of Bil'in, who have protested weekly against the construction of the Wall on their farmland for several years, lampooned the Cellcom ad by showing what actually happens if a Palestinian tries to kick a soccer ball over the Wall. Check out the original ad and the response of Bil'in village, below: Unfortunately, Cellcom isn't the only company--or even the only cell phone company--cynically trying to make money off of the destruction of Palestinian land and livelihoods. In 2008, the US Campaign brought to the attention of Motorola its complicity in Israel's human rights violations and military occupation and called on the corporation to cease selling equipment to the Israeli military to prevent its involvement in future abuses. The US Campaign launched and is coordinating a national consumer boycott of Motorola cell phones to raise awareness of its profiteering from human rights abuses and to tarnish its corporate image for doing so. This boycott was successful in pressuring Motorola to sell of its department that produced bomb fuzes for the Israeli military; however, Motorola continues to produce the Wide Area Surveillance System, MotoEagle, and other surveillance systems that are used around Israeli settlements, as well as communication equipment used by the Israeli military. Although there's been a lot of noise lately about Motorola selling off its Israeli subsidiary, MIRS, this sale will only divest Motorola from selling consumer products to settlers, not its contracts with the Israeli military. The Cellcom ad reinforces, once again, the important role that corporations and consumer products play in the normalization and support of the Israeli occupation. To counteract this role, the international movement for boycott and divestment continues to come up with new and creative methods of drawing attention to companies that are complicit in the occupation. Recently, US Campaign allies CODEPINK Women for Peace have taken up the boycott and divestment call by targeting Ahava beauty products, which are produced in the Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem. Their "Stolen Beauty" campaign seeks to bring "the struggle for a just peace" to a "store near you." The campaign against Ahava isn't limited to the United States, as attested to in this video from a protest at a Sephora in Paris. As the global BDS movement spreads, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation will continue to explore how we can educate and mobilize the U.S. public about the role of corporations, consumer goods, and institutions in the Israeli occupation, and the role that human rights activists can play in opposing corporate complicity. Want to join the conversation? Join us in Chicago on September 12-13, 2009, at our 8th Annual National Organizers' conference as we discuss how to expand the BDS work of the US Campaign in an newly exciting--and challenging--global and domestic context. Hope to see you in Chicago!