Quarterly Updates for (16 May 2017 — 15 Aug 2017)

Boycott

“Those who struggle against oppression and for equality will always have our support,” Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) dep. national director David Duhalde said in a press release announcing the DSA’s nr.-unanimous 8/5 vote endorsing the BDS movement at its annual conference in Chicago. “Just as we answered the call to boycott South Africa during Apartheid, we stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people,” he added. The DSA experienced explosive growth in 2016–17, partly on the strength of Sen. Bernie Sanders’s (I-VT) presidential campaign, with membership quadrupling to more than 25,000.

In Spain, where pro-Israel activists were fighting several municipalities’ endorsements of BDS in the courts, the lower house of Spain’s parliament unanimously adopted (6/27) a resolution calling on the govt. to “recognize and defend the right of human rights activists from Palestine, Israel, and other countries, to engage in legal and peaceful activities, protected by the right to freedom of speech and assembly, such as the right to promote BDS campaigns.” The leftwing party Podemos spearheaded the effort.

In Chile, Palestinian solidarity activists and students campaigned against planned events cosponsored by the Israeli Embassy and featuring a speaker from the Israel Antiquities Authority at Alberto Hurtado University and the University of Chile. Both universities ultimately canceled (6/5 and 6/7) the events.

In a blow to the academic boycott of Israel, the Modern Language Association (MLA) approved (6/1) a resolution calling on the professional association’s 24,000-some mbrs. to refrain from boycott activities. The resolution stated that a boycott would contradict “the MLA’s purpose to promote teaching and research on language and literature.”

Divestment

In a major win for the BDS movement in the UK, Judge Ross Cranston of the High Court in London ruled (7/20) that a Conservative minister acted improperly when he attempted to use aspects of pension law to prevent local councils from divesting from companies complicit in the Israeli occupation. According to one of the claimants’ lawyers, Jamie Potter, Cranston reminded “the govt. that it cannot improperly interfere in the exercise of freedom of conscience and protest in order to pursue its own agenda” (Electronic Intifada, 7/22).

The movement to divest was bolstered in the U.S. Christian community as well. With 98% approval, the delegates at the Mennonite Church USA’s annual convention voted (7/6) to divest church holdings in companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. The church had failed to pass a similar resolution in 2015. Separately, the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) urged (7/7) its 225 mbr.-churches around the world to examine their investment relationships with respect to “human rights and the protections of international law” as they pertain to the Palestinian-Israeli relationship.