The U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, recently rebranded as the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian rights, is one of the most virulently anti-Israel activist groups. Legal Insurrection recently covered how the US Campaign’s plan to hold a seminar on Capitol Hill was canceled when it became known just how extremist it was, Report: Pro-BDS event on Capitol Hill canceled after nature of group exposed.

Last weekend I attended the U.S. Campaign’s Annual Conference. us-campaign-annual-conference-2016-poster

The annual conference was a gathering of approximately 200 anti-Israel activists representing various groups. Centrally located just outside conference hall was a table and big sign honoring and supporting Rasmea Odeh, the Palestinian terrorist convicted of planting a supermarket bomb in Jerusalem that killed two students. Odeh now is on trial for immigration fraud.

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There also was a table selling shirts honoring armed resistance against Israel, including one featuring terrorist leader Leila Khalid, the first female airplane hijacker.

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In my first post, I described how anti-Israel activists plan to try to manipulate black churches and the Black Lives Matter movement in order to extend divestment activism, Anti-Israel church activist agenda unveiled at BDS conference – intersectionality and crowdsourcing.

In this post I address another tactic unveiled at the conference: Targeting municipalities for divestment resolutions through the takeover of committees governing socially responsible investing.

The workshop “Municipal BDS Campaigns” led by Rochelle Gause (Friends of Sabeel-North America) and Garik Ruiz (Palestinian BDS National Committee) outlined the steps to create a municipal BDS campaign to the few dozen gathered in the room.

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Prof. Miriam Elman had a long research post on Sabeel several months ago, Sabeel – The anti-Israel Christian activists you never heard of.

Ruiz stressed that “Palestinians and Palestinian activists are not going to win by themselves.” Instead, he explained that to achieve BDS victories, coalitions must be built. These other movements perceived as potential partners include Black Lives Matter, prison divestment activists, and anti-fossil fuel crusaders.

The discussion took place in what was a divestment circle.

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To achieve success, city councils will be encouraged by coalition members to create a committee whose purpose is to ensure “socially responsible” contract procurement. This committee will follow specific guidelines, including a human rights clause.

Of course, coalition members and allies will staff this committee and create a “do not buy” list for submission to the city council. Once approved by council, a boycott will in effect be waged against particular companies perceived as advancing Israeli interests. These companies typically include HP (technology for travel enforcement), Caterpillar (construction), and G4S (security).

The workshop singled out Occupation Free Portland as an example of progress.

The group has recruited dozens of endorsements, including Portland’s Human Rights Commission, Al-Furqan Islamic Center, the executive director of Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, and several leaders of a prominent Episcopal church. On November 30, the city will review the “do not buy list” recommendations.

According to Peter Miller (one of the leaders), 3 of the 5 council members are on friendly terms with the organization.

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Also working to their benefit is the fact that the Jewish Federation chose to walk out of the council chambers after their own presentation at a prior meeting, leaving the BDS proponents effectively unchallenged for the remainder of the session.

FOSNA (Friends of Sabeel North America) is hoping to expand upon and replicate these municipal divestment efforts by conducting weekly video conference training and support calls. Much planning is required for a campaign, all of which FOSNA assists with. Contracts must be identified along with procurement and/or renewal dates. In addition, a public relations campaign must be waged, the grassroots mobilized, and power centers targeted (called “power mapping”). FOSNA even helps with the “theological messaging.” And four lawyers with Palestine Legal Support are available to help with legal challenges.

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One tactic mentioned was to attach anti-Israel divestment campaigns to unrelated campaigns, like environmental divestment. This is a tactic we already have seen used on campuses.

The irony of BDS attempting to leverage municipalities in the divestment campaign is that recently many states have passed anti-BDS laws. Such laws don’t ban BDS or make BDS illegal, but rather, constitute a divestment from companies engaged in boycotting Israel. It is the flip side of what the U.S. Campaign, Sabeel, Jewish Voice for Peace and others demand of government.

In response to such laws, BDS activists claim that it is inappropriate for government to take a side. Yet forcing government to take a side is exactly what BDS wants, it just doesn’t like the result that government and the America people are taking Israel’s side