Whether they’re abstaining from riding the city buses in Montgomery, Alabama, after a woman refused to give up her seat or declining to buy lettuce and grapes picked by anti-union scabs in California, boycotts raise awareness of an issue and exert economic pressure in order to force changes.
From the Boston Tea Party to Gandhi’s Salt march to the isolation of apartheid South Africa, boycotts are effective tools for organizing around a cause.
Which is why the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is gaining traction worldwide. This nonviolent, grassroots campaign calls for the economic isolation of Israel until it ceases to violate international law and human rights.
Israel is a settler-colonial state, occupying Palestinian land while denying the humanity of its indigenous people.
From waging one-sided wars against the defenseless residents of Gaza, to bulldozing entire villages, to bombing schools and hospitals, to using white phosphorus against civilians, to encouraging its military to execute Palestinians in the streets, to holding nationalist rallies featuring chants of “Death to the Arabs,” to beating, tear gassing and even killing children on their way to school, to sinking fishing boats, ravaging crops and sabotaging the Palestinian economy, to erecting apartheid walls, to continuing a system of brutality and mass incarceration, Israel has committed grave and ongoing crimes.
As Americans, we are singularly complicit in these crimes.
For decades, Republicans and Democrats have united in a remarkable display of bipartisanship to ensure that foreign aid to Israel reaches ever-higher levels with each passing year, most recently upping the total amount to $38 billion dollars over the next decade.
This money entirely consists of military aid (after all, Israelis enjoy many benefits Americans don’t have, such as universal healthcare), like new planes, helicopters, tanks, bombs and weapons. The bullets killing Palestinian children were purchased with our tax dollars.
BDS gives us a way to oppose this injustice constructively. Through consumer boycotts, avoiding products made by companies profiting from the occupation and by advocating divestment, the withdrawal of investments made in Israel by our colleges, banks and other institutions, and urging sanctions, such as those levied by the United States against South Africa in 1986, we can work to end this inhumanity.
This movement has gained the solidarity of countless individuals and organizations. Cultural figures, from Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett and his hero Muhammad Ali, to Mississippi author Alice Walker and philosopher Cornel West, to human rights activist Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to actor Danny Glover and the members of the band Pink Floyd, have signed on.
So have churches, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, the United Methodist Church, the Unitarian Universalists and the Alliance of Baptists.
Student governments at universities across the country, such as the University of California, Brown, Stanford, University of Chicago, DePaul, Northwestern, Rutgers, Princeton and Tufts, to name just a few, have voted to divest. Numerous labor unions, political parties, academic associations and other groups have added their voices to the call.
It’s time for the University of Mississippi to follow suit. Sabra hummus and HP printers, Caterpillar construction equipment, Coca-Cola products and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream are all created by companies involved in illegal and unethical practices in occupied Palestine.
It’s time for us as students, and for the University of Mississippi, to adopt a movement that countless other groups have already endorsed. It’s time for us to stop supporting companies complicit in illegal occupation and oppression.
Jaz Brisack is a junior general studies major from Oxford.