The global, Palestinian-led BDS movement has achieved inspiring and spectacular success, causing economic damage to companies that support Israel’s crimes, persuading artists not to perform in Israel, winning support from major churches, trade unions and social movements, as well as pressuring governments to take action.
Students often play an important role in driving the growth of progressive movements and the BDS movement is no exception, with a rapidly growing number of student groups working to pressure their universities to end ties with Israeli universities and corporations that are complicit with Israeli human rights violations.
Below are some ideas for taking BDS action on campus:
1 Pass a resolution
Most universities will have student unions or associations that can debate and pass resolutions on issues that students feel strongly about. Passing a resolution condemning Israeli crimes and calling for BDS is a great way to start a debate on campus and win support of the wider student community.
Contact us if you’d like to receive help with writing a resolution. We have model resolutions that can give you a useful start.
2 Companies on campus
Corporations provide the equipment and infrastructure Israel needs to maintain its apartheid system and provide economic support to Israel. Tackling corporate complicity is a central element of the BDS campaign.
Companies that are involved in Israel’s infrastructure of oppression and may be operating on campus include:
Veolia – Veolia is a French multinational companies that helped to build and now assist with the operation of the Jerusalem Light Rail which links illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory with Israel. The tramway is explicitly designed to cement Israel’s grip on the illegal settlements, encourage their expansion and tie them more firmly to the state of Israel. The UN Human Rights Council has condemned the tramway as illegal under international law. Campaigners have successfully pressured municipal authorities all over the world to not contract Veolia s to provide public services. Veolia may provide water, waste or transport services to your university.
G4S - Palestinian organizations have called for action to hold G4S accountable for its contract with the Israeli Prisons Service and its complicity with Israeli human rights violations through its provision of equipment to Israeli checkpoints. Students at Edinburgh University in Scotland voted to block the union’s contract with G4S and students at Oslo university in Norway. G4S could be providing security services to your campus.
Eden Springs – Eden Springs is an Israeli water company that is based in the Golan Heights, which is Syrian territory occupied by Israel. Eden Springs provides water coolers to universities and public buildings all over the world. By campaigning against Eden Springs, we raise awareness about Israeli occupation and colonisation. Campuses across England and Scotland have successfully pressured their universities to remove Eden Springs from campus.
In many countries, you can use freedom of information requests to find out about the companies your university is contracted to. It’s easier to pressure a university to not award a company a new contract than break an existing one.
Many universities will hold investments in companies that participate in and profit from Israel’s crimes against Palestinians. As well as the companies listed above, complicit companies that universities may hold shares in include:
BAE Systems – owns Defense Technology which supplies tear gas to the Israeli police. Supplied components for Lockheed Martin F-16s destined for Israel. Owns Rokar, an Israeli military company involved in the upgrade of Israeli F-16s used in attacks on Gaza.
Caterpillar - who supply bulldozers routinely used to demolish Palestinian homes and in the construction of illegal Israeli settlements and supply unmanned bulldozers specially designed for urban warfare that were used in Operation Cast Lead.
Elbit Systems – Elbit Systems is Israel’s largest arms manufacturer which provides unmanned aerial vehicles used in the massacre of Palestinian civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead and has been integral in the creation of the Apartheid Wall across the West Bank that has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice.
In the US, Hampshire College a student campaign persuaded the university to divest from several companies complicit with Israeli violations of international law and a committee at Brown University has voted to support divestment. Student unions in Canada, the US and the UK have voted to support divestment.
To begin with, you’ll need to conduct research into the investments held by your university and the way in which the university takes decisions about its investments.
4 Academic boycott
Israeli universities play a key role in designing, implementing and whitewashing Israeli violations of international law and are deeply complicit with Israel’s system of apartheid over the Palestinian people. For example:
- Technion, the Israel Institute of Technology, has developed weaponized unmanned bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes and created special technology to detect tunnels that Palestinians used to break the illegal siege on Gaza
- An institute at Tel Aviv University was responsible for developing the so-called “doctrine of disproportionate force” and the targeting of civilian infrastructure that informed military planning in the 2008-09 assault on Gaza during which war crimes were committeed
- One of the Hebrew University’s campuses has participated in the confiscation of Palestinian land as it has expanded into occupied Palestinian territory and some of the university’s student accommodation are located in an illegal Israeli settlement
The Palestinian Students Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) calls for a boycott of all Israeli academic and cultural institutions as a means to hold them accountable for their participation in Israeli violations of international law. The boycott targets participation in any form of academic cooperation, collaboration or joint projects with Israeli academic institutions. Individual Israeli academics are not targeted by the boycott.
In 2011, the University of Johannesburg became the first university to implement a formal academic boycott, voting to sever ties with Ben-Gurion University over its role in planning Palestinians access to water. Students at King’s College London ran an effective campaign against their university’s research collabroation with Ahava, an Israeli settlement company.
Academic boycott campaigns are also motived by and raise awareness of the various ways in which Israel disrupts and denies the Palestinian right to education. You should start by finding out about which Israeli institutions your university is collaborating with. Students in Europe might want to see if their university is taking part in any EU-funded research projects with Israeli universities or companies as this has proved to be one good way to campaign for the academic boycott.
The Alternative Information Centre has produced a booklet detailing the complicity of each Israeli university that you might find useful.
5 Protest and occupations
Demonstrations, banner drops and flashmobs are great ways to raise awareness of the boycott of Israel. You could hold an action on campus aimed at raising awareness about Israel’s attack on Gaza and the need for divestment.
There’s a useful guide to planning a BDS action here. The guide is written specifically for the Ahava campaign, but it’s full of useful ideas for similar campaigns too.
Students have also organised organised occupations of rooms or buildings on campus to create a space for organising events and actions in solidarity with Palestine and to demand that universities take action to condemn Israeli violence and take action to cut ties with Israel.
Signed by student groups and blocs in Gaza:
Fateh Youth Organization
Islamic League of Palestinian Students
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI) Palestinian
Student Labor Front
Progressive Student Union Bloc
Student Unity Bloc
Union of the Palestinian Students struggle committees