Operation Protective Edge led to the death of more than 2,200 Palestinians and the injury of approximately 11,000. People around the world watched the atrocious attacks on a defenseless population, horrified by scenes of death and destruction. The call for organized action against the occupation resonated with many Jordanians, and as a result, a group of 15 women came together and planted the Jordan Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) seed. Their aim was to engage in direct action against Israel’s brutal regime of apartheid and settler colonialism, and the dispossession Palestinians are subjected to. The movement has attracted people from all walks of life who believe that boycott is one form of resistance that can be used to fight Israel’s illegal military occupation and supports Palestinians steadfastness in their struggle to achieve self-determination. “My outrage at the crimes Israel committed against the Palestinians during last year’s aggression on Gaza reinstated my beliefs that now more than ever, we have to assume a proactive role in resisting Israel’s human rights violations,” Kefah Adnan, a community organizer and member of Jordan BDS, explains. “Boycott is one very effective and peaceful form of resistance. As a Jordanian, it is my duty to refuse any economic ties with Israel as long as they are infringing on the rights of Palestinians and disregarding international law.”
For The People, By The People
Upon its establishment in September 2014, Jordan BDS started with four teams: the products team focuses on cleansing the Jordanian market of Israeli products; the divestment team targets companies complicit in the Israeli occupation, violating international law and human rights; the civil society team urges Jordanian civil society organizations to join the BDS call for boycott and partake in its campaigns; and the media team disseminates information related to BDS, its campaigns and raises awareness about the importance of boycotting Israeli products and companies as a form of holding it accountable for its human rights violations.
Jordan BDS’s strategy is largely determined by the degree of sustainability of any campaign it embarks on and the urgency of the issue. As such, when the Jordanian Electric Power Company (NEPCO) signed a letter of intent to import gas from Israel’s Leviathan fields, Jordan BDS immediately took action and formed a fifth team: the gas team. Challenging the government’s narrative that Jordan has no other option, the team’s focus was to pressure the government to cancel the letter of intent and bring the talks with Israeli government to a halt. If signed, the deal would cost Jordanians $15 billion over 15 years.
To achieve this goal, Jordan BDS lobbied members of parliament (MPs) to vote against the gas deal through phone banking sessions. In addition, the BDS conducted one-on-one meetings with MPs and held informational sessions to elaborate on the dangers of tying Jordan’s energy future with Israel.
The efforts did not go in vain, and the movement saw its first success in December 2014, when over 70% of parliamentarians voted against the gas deal in a non-binding resolution. The work done by BDS members was unparalleled. Many had initially insisted that the deal was inevitable and that Jordan has no choice but to sign, that it was pointless to fight. However, BDS members dismissed these voices and motivated Jordanians to speak their minds and object to a deal that would ultimately make every Jordanian a "normalizer."
The gas team continues to work against the deal as part of the Jordanian National Campaign against the Gas Deal and will not stop its advocacy work until the Jordanian government cancels the letter of intent.
Launched in commemoration of the 67th year of the Palestinian Nakba, the Jordan BDS products team created the popular “What's the Origin?” (Ayna Al Mansha’a) campaign, and called on Jordanians to exercise their right to know the country of origin of all produce displayed on retail shelves. During their research, team members found that under Jordanian law, importers and wholesalers are legally obliged to label every imported item to indicate its country of origin. Failure to do so puts them at risk of financial penalties or imprisonment. However, the law isn’t strictly enforced and the majority of products, particularly those imported from Israel, are not labeled, including produce such as carrots, persimmons, avocadoes and mangoes.
In 2014, Jordan's imports from Israel reached $107 million, 2% of which were fruits and vegetables. While the number might seem meager, the importance of this campaign lies in the fact that fruits and vegetables are the only Israeli products on the shelves that can be boycotted directly by the consumer. The rest of the imports come in the form of machinery, equipment, seeds, cereals, cardboard and other raw products used in manufacturing. Sadly, despite the Ministry of Agriculture’s claim that imports from Israel came to a halt after the invasion of Gaza last summer, the team found carrots imported from Israel in the Jordanian Central Market in June 2015. The activists are currently working on finding viable legal measures that ensure labels are placed on products originating from Israel and that the law is enforced.
The Importance Of Divestment
Divestment is an integral part of the BDS movements, as it targets companies that are complicit in the Israeli occupation and its infringement on human rights. The divestment team launched its first campaign against complicit companies that operate in Jordan, targeting G4S, a UK-based security company, for its complicit involvement in Israel’s military occupation and its role in abetting Israel’s human rights violations.
The decision to target G4S is due to the fact that the company continues to supply and maintain equipment used at military checkpoints and along the separation wall. The firm also built and will co-manage the new police academy in Jerusalem that will train 35,000 police officers. The checkpoints, separation wall and the police academy are all directly involved in subjugating and oppressing Palestinians, violating their basic rights. The Jordanian campaign is part of the global movement “StopG4S Campaign,” that aims to end the company's complicity in the occupation.
On June 10, Jordan BDS represented the global movement in a meeting with Makarimo Wibisono, the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territories, and urged the UN to abide by international laws and its own human rights and business resolutions by ending its existing contracts with G4S. The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR in Jordan recently decided not to renew its contract with G4S, although no public announcement was made to link the actions of the activists with the organization's decision. Many other important successes have been achieved globally by the campaign, with major companies such as Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, King’s College, South Hampton and Kent universities, the BBC and the European Union all divesting from G4S.
Jordan Adheres The Call For Boycott
So far, the Jordan BDS call for boycott has been signed by 62 civil society institutions including women’s associations, labor and trade unions, human rights organizations, cultural and charitable societies, sports clubs and business associations. The civil society team continues to expand the Jordan BDS network by collaborating with new organizations and reaching out to university students.
The business community has also been a keen supporter of the BDS movement in Jordan. Prominent businessman and board member of the Amman Chamber of Industry Musa Saket says that BDS has provided “a platform for me and people who want to help the Palestinians regain some of their basic rights, by exerting economic pressure on the Israeli government through boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
Jordan BDS operates as part of a global movement that celebrated its tenth anniversary in July 2015. The successes are massive; some of the world’s most influential corporations such as Orange, Veolia and G4S gradually withdrew/suspended their operations in Israel. Universities, churches and private banks have also responded to the call for BDS. Singers (most recently Lauryn Hill), artists, academics and performers have canceled shows in Israel in protest against the injustices faced by Palestinians daily.
In 2014, foreign direct investment into Israel dropped by 46%. One of the reasons attributed to this fall are boycotts from the United States, Europe and Latin America. Predictions indicate that BDS activities around the world may cost Israel approximately $47 billion over 10 years, according to the RAND Institute.