Grand Rapids BDS Campaign Video

In October, we went public with our campaign to get the City of Grand Rapids to adopt a resolution in support of divestment from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. BDS100Victories

The Grand Rapids BDS Campaign is still going strong and we created this short video to help us promote the campaign and to demonstrate the broad base of support we have around justice for Palestine.

This campaign is modeled on the South African Anti-Apartheid Campaign of the 1980s. The Palestinian BDS Campaign is critical for those of us who live in the US, since the US government provides $3 Billion annually in military aid to Israel, supports the ongoing expansion of Israeli settlements and blocks any effort to enforce United Nations resolutions to against the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

If you want to know more about the growing BDS Campaign, go to this link and please share this video.


Letters Show Community Support for HCC BDS Campaign

A few weeks ago we went public with our campaign to get the City of Grand Rapids to BDSadopt a divestment resolution in support of justice for Palestinians. For those interested in being part of the local BDS campaign, just send us an email and we can let you know how to get involved

At the October 13 Grand Rapids City Commission, 29 people stood before the city officials and either spoke freely about their support or read statements they had written or statements that were from organizations. You can read all the letters in support of the Grand Rapids BDS Campaign, but we wanted to highlight some of those letters here to give readers an idea of the kinds of statements people were making about the importance of this campaign.

David Alvarez – Israeli bombs, bullets, and shells killed over 500 Palestinian children andScreen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.51.39 AM wounded thousands during last summer’s military invasion of Gaza, the third since 2008. My 14-year old son in Grand Rapids leads a normal healthy life. In contrast, his Palestinian counterpart in besieged Gaza has had to endure three major invasions since he was 8, has seen his family members, friends, and neighbors being killed or wounded, and has either been rendered homeless by the bombing or seen whole neighborhoods reduced to rubble by Israel’s weapons, which are often supplied by the United States, while all the while living in a besieged territory the majority of whose people are refugees who are not allowed to return to their homes simply because they are Palestinian. As for his counterpart in the occupied West Bank, he has been prevented from moving about freely all his life, has seen his elders harassed, humiliated, detained, injured, or killed by soldiers, police, or armed Israeli settlers, or has suffered all these things himself as a child.

This is obviously no life for anybody, and to allow it to continue unchecked and indeed to fuel it further as the US government does is to be complicit with a grave injustice. It is also to allow Israelis who support the occupation and those who support them to continue down a path that will not just bring more misery to the Palestinians but will also do profound self-harm to themselves, since oppression dehumanizes not only the oppressed but the oppressor as well. Moreover silence in the face of oppression is a form of complicity with it.

Diane Baum – Jewish supporters of Israel might say that all Jews support Israel. They DSC_0028might say that to be against the discriminatory policies of Israel is to be “antiSemitic.” I say that it is just the opposite that WHAT ISRAEL IS DOING IS AGAINST MY JEWISH RELIGION AND CAUSES ANTISEMITISM. As someone who attends worship regularly in a Jewish synagogue, it is very difficult for me personally to go against what many of my coreligionists advocate. I deeply respect people who sincerely practice my religion, particularly my elders whom I have known all my life. Many Jews want to silence people like me, people who speak up to advocate fairness for the Palestinians. Yet many of the same people loudly accuse the world of NOT SPEAKING UP when Jews were the group undergoing immense suffering at the hands of a government and an occupying power.

I call on the Grand Rapids City Commission to resolve to avoid dealings with companies and other entities that collude with those who profit from the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Chris Yared – For decades the Israeli government has violated international law and the DSC_0023human rights of Palestinians by maintaining an illegal occupation of Palestine, bulldozing Palestinian homes and giving their property away, constantly expanding illegal settlements, building the Wall, maintaining checkpoints which severely limit Palestinian access to basic needs such as work, family, medical treatment and education, severely restricting Palestinian access to water, electricity, food and other basic resources, engaging in illegal detentions, using sophisticated military weapons and technology to kill and permanently injure Palestinian children and families who have neither a military nor a place to run, and engaging in other intentional acts which amount to ethnic cleansing.

I urge you to pass a divestment resolution providing that the City will not hold investments in companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of Palestine and will not spend public money to support companies who profit from the occupation.

Rev. Doug Van Doren – This struggle may seem a long way away from the city of Grand Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.59.43 AMRapids or the business of the City Commission. However, it affects scores of people in our community who have been forced to flee, whose lands have been seized, and whose family and friends have been killed, displaced, or are living under daily threat and oppression. Further, there are times when an injustice is so egregious and when our action can truly make a difference, that we are compelled to act.

I urge you, as the Grand Rapids City Commission to once again stand on the right side of history. Act to cease and refuse to be complicit (and make Grand Rapids residents complicit) in this cycle of violence and retaliation perpetuated by the Israeli Government’s policy toward Palestinians and Palestinian lands. Stand on the right side of justice and a non-violent solution.

Lindsey Disler – The State of Israel continues its violent, militarized occupation and DSC_0030settlement of Gaza, deadly assaults on Palestinian people — including the killing of thousands of children—and practices outright human and civil rights abuses against the people of Gaza.

United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) is the United States’ largest youth-led, student labor campaign organization. Collective liberation is central to the work of USAS, and we oppose the oppression and exploitation of peoples throughout the world.

United Students Against Sweatshops hereby endorses the Healing Children of Conflict campaign to get the Grand Rapids to pass a divestment resolution.


New Video demonstrates Black and Palestinian Solidarity

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Dozens of renowned artists and activists are featured in an explosive new video that makes explicit the connections between black and Palestinian suffering under state violence and oppression.

The video is just weeks after a powerful statement of Solidarity signed by 1,000 Black activists, intellectuals and organizers. The statement, begins by stating:

On the anniversary of last summer’s Gaza massacre, in the 48th year of Israeli occupation, the 67th year of Palestinians’ ongoing Nakba (the Arabic word for Israel’s ethnic cleansing)–and in the fourth century of Black oppression in the present-day United States–we, the undersigned Black activists, artists, scholars, writers, and political prisoners offer this letter of reaffirmed solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.

Such a statement of solidarity not only demonstrates a strong intersectional analysis of state violence that Blacks in the US and Palestinians under occupation have endured, it is an example of the best kind of real world solidarity we need to achieve justice.

Grand Rapids BDS Campaign kicks off by asking City of Grand Rapids to pass a resolution to Divest from companies or financial institutions profiting from the Israeli occupation and Israeli repression

Last night about 75 people attended the Grand Rapids City Commission meeting in support of a divestment campaign initiated by the local group Healing Children of Conflict (HCC). 

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The divestment proposal is part of the 10 year long Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign begun by Palestinian civil society and modeled after the South African Anti-Apartheid campaign.

Nineteen people spoke on behalf of the divestment proposal, with the organizers from Healing Children of Conflict going first. Those who spoke covered of broad range of issues related to why the BDS campaign was vital for Palestinian justice. Some speakers addressed the level of suffering that Palestinians endure on a daily basis by the Israeli occupation. The most powerful statements came from Palestinians themselves, some of which have families that lost land and suffered loss of family members due to the Israeli occupation.080814_abd_00_3

Other speakers addressed the violence and repression caused by the most recent Israeli assault on Gaza, where civilians (particularly children) were the target of bombing. Nearly 500 Palestinian children died from the Israeli missile attacks in 2014 and thousands more were displaced and left homeless. One speaker even talked about how kindergarden schools were targeted by the Israeli assault on Gaza.

In addition, there were speakers who talked about the connection between the Palestinian BDS campaign and the South African Anti-Apartheid Divestment Campaign. One of the strongest voices for BDS today are Black South Africans who see a direct correlation between what they experienced under South African Apartheid and what Palestinians are experiencing under Israeli Apartheid. The most visible South African voice is Archbishop Desmund Tutu who states:

“I have witnessed the systemic humiliation of Palestinian men, women and children by members of the Israeli security forces.Their humiliation is familiar to all black South Africans who were corralled and harassed and insulted and assaulted by the security forces of the apartheid government.

In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime. The same issues of inequality and injustice today motivate the divestment movement trying to end Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory and the unfair and prejudicial treatment of the Palestinian people by the Israeli government ruling over them.”

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Several speakers addressed how the City of Grand Rapids was asked to pass a similar resolution against South African Apartheid in 1982, a campaign that involved some of the same people who addressed the City Commission last night. The City of Grand Rapids did pass a divestment resolution in 1982and then divested a few years later.  You can read all of the letters sent to the City Commission in 1982 and the resolution language by going to the Grand Rapids People’s History Project

There were several clergy who also addressed the City Commission last night, invoking strong words on standing with victims and standing up for justice. In fact, several congregations sent letters of endorsement, including Plymouth UCC and St. John’s UCC.

There were also a few speakers who identified as Jewish and spoke about how Israeli’s treatment of Palestinians is not a reflection of true Judaism. Other spoke about how even though the Israel/Palestine issue is often framed as a religious conflict that it was really about state repression by the Israelis against a mostly civilian Palestinian population. boycottbloodshed-divest3

Local non-profit groups also addressed the City Commission in support of the divestment resolution proposal. A representative from GVSU’s United Students Against Sweatshops spoke and told the commission that their membership endorses the campaign and urged the them to adopt a resolution of divestment to take a stand against exploitation. Other non-profit and grassroots groups that had members speak were the Institute for Global Education and the Society for Economic Equality.

Towards the end the commission heard from one young Palestinian woman who during her comments became quite emotional. It was hard not to be moved by how deeply this issue impacted her, her family and her community. Her comments made it clear to the commission that this issue is not just about something happening half way around the globe, but that it impacts people right here in West Michigan.

Healing Children of Conlfict provided each of the commissioners a packet with background information about the BDS campaign, the Israeli occupation, copies of letters of support for the HCC campaign, information about the 1982 City Commission’s Divestment Resolution and information about companies and financial institutions the city may have an economic relationship with.Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.40.07 AM

The HCC campaign was going to involve asking the city of Grand Rapids to end its contract with the French multi-national corporation Veolia, but because of the international BDS campaign, Veolia ended all business contracts within Israel just weeks ago. This speaks to the power of the BDS campaign.

It was noted in the packet of information provided by HCC that there are several known connections to Israeli companies in West Michigan or companies doing business with Israel. Cascade Engineering has a partnership with Dolav Plastic Products, a company based in Israel. There are also two Israeli military contractors with factories in West Michigan, Elbit Systems of America and Plasan, which was recruited by The Right Place Inc. to come to the area. Lastly, the global private security company G4S, operates in Grand Rapids and is a major target of the international BDS campaign. So, as you can see there are lots of BDS connections in Grand Rapids and West Michigan.Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 10.40.14 AM

Healing Children of Conflict will be meeting with Grand Rapids City officials soon to further discuss a divestment resolution and if you want to support this effort, you can contact the Grand Rapids City Commissioners here. If you are interested in attending a Grand Rapids BDS meeting or want to be on an update list for local BDS organizing, send Healing Children of Conflict an e-mail