By Tom Anderson & Therezia Cooper
The latest Israeli offensive in Gaza claimed the lives of 162 Palestinians. Four Israeli civilians and one Israeli soldier have also died as a result of retaliatory rocket attacks. During the evening of Wednesday 21 November a ceasefire was reached but the Israeli siege of Gaza continues.
Hundreds of demonstrations have been held worldwide in solidarity with Gaza and a national demonstration is planned in London on Saturday 24 November.
Meanwhile, Palestinians have been demonstrating all over the West Bank in solidarity with Gaza. They have been met with brutal repression by the occupying Israeli army. On Saturday, 31-year-old Rushdi Tamimi was shot by an IDF soldier at a protest in the village of Nabi Saleh. He died of his wounds in hospital on Monday around the time news surfaced that Hamdi Mohammad Jawwad Al-Falah, 22, died after being shot four times during a demonstration in the Bir al-Mahjar neighborhood in western Hebron.
On Monday 19 November a 20 month old Palestinian baby, Najib Ahmed Najib, died when an Israeli tear gas canister caused a fire in his home in Qalandia refugee camp in the West Bank.
The occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli state, the siege of Gaza, discriminatory policies against Palestinians within Israel and the ethnic cleansing of communities in the West Bank, Israel and the Israeli-occupied Syrian Golan are carried out with the support of Israeli and international corporations. Arms companies sell the Israeli state the weaponry to commit its war crimes, supermarkets worldwide sell goods grown on land forcibly expropriated from Palestinians, and multinational corporations provide services to facilitate the continuing ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
Many activists in the UK have targeted corporations and organisations complicit in Israeli militarism, apartheid and occupation in response to the attacks over the last week.
In Brighton last Saturday activists locked themselves to the Ecostream store, a shop owned by an Israeli company that has its main manufacturing facility in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim (see here). Later, a hundred strong crowd marched to the store and held a noisy demonstration outside. On Monday, a phone and twitter blockade of the company was held.
The same day in Wrexham, activists picketed Barclays Bank in protest at its investments in companies supplying weapons to Israel and Israeli companies. Barclays is the only major British bank with significant investments in Israeli companies, including Gilat Satellite Networks, an Israeli hi-tech firm that provides antennae for Israeli military checkpoints (See Targeting Israeli Apartheid, page 291) and in Teva, the largest company on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange.
Barclays invests in several companies that supply arms to the Israeli state, including Smiths, Rolls Royce, Meggitt, Raytheon, BAE, Chemring and Ultra Electronics (See Targeting Israeli Apartheid, page 292) as well as providing market maker services to ITT on the New York Stock Exchange.
On Tuesday 20 a group of solidarity activists occupied G4S headquarters in protest at the company’s contracts with the Israeli prison service as well as its work providing equipment and services to military checkpoints and maintaining contracts with businesses working in Israel’s settlements (a video is available here).
Earlier this year, activists demonstrated outside G4S’ AGM and occupied the roof of G4S HQ in solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. In September, a coalition of groups formed the No to G4Scampaign in opposition to G4S’ complicity in Israeli militarism, as well as its involvement in immigration detention and privatisation of public services (Corporate Watch’s comprehensive company profile on G4S is available here).
The ‘Don’t Dance with Israeli Apartheid’ campaign held demonstrations against the Birmingham and London performances of the Israeli state sponsored Batsheva dance troupe at Sadlers Wells on the 13-15 and 19-21 November as part of a coordinated international campaign.
Batsheva is promoted and funded by the Israeli state and has accepted contributions from several Israeli companies including Teva Pharmaceuticals and Bank Hapoalim. Hapoalim owns bank branches in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Syrian Golan and provides loans for settlement construction (see Targeting Israeli Apartheid, page 10-13).
Batsheva also accepts donations from the IDB Group of companies that provide antennae and communications equipment to the Israeli military. Cellcom, part of the IDB group and itself a donor to Batsheva, owns antennae inside Israel’s illegal settlements and provides telecommunications services to the Israeli army (see Targeting Israeli Apartheid, page 58).
Further demonstrations are expected at Batsheva’s final UK performances in Plymouth on 23 and 24 November. So far every night of the dance troupe’s UK tour has been disrupted by demonstrators.
Demonstrations in Brighton and Birmingham have focused on the BBC’s reporting of the attacks on Gaza which has focused on Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel and largely down-played the Israeli attacks on Gaza. Prior to a ‘die-in’ on the steps of the BBC’s Birmingham office, Naeem Malik of West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign said:
“I am amazed at the BBC coverage of the attack on Gaza. The BBC needs to know that it is all about the occupation, the siege, the house demolitions, the checkpoints and the continuous humiliation of the Palestinians for the last six decades and more.”
These actions are in line with the Palestinian call for ‘boycott, divestment and sanctions’, made in 2005 in the wake of Israeli war crimes during ‘Operation Defensive Shield’ and the construction of the illegal Israeli apartheid wall:
“We, representatives of Palestinian civil society, call upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era. We appeal to you to pressure your respective states to impose embargoes and sanctions against Israel. We also invite conscientious Israelis to support this Call, for the sake of justice and genuine peace.”
To find out more about the companies profiting from Israeli state militarism, apartheid and occupation, download ‘Targeting Israeli apartheid: a boycott, divestment and sanctions handbook’ here or buy it here.