In a joyful celebration of the Palestinian peaceful and creative grassroots resistance, 40 New York human rights activists conducted a musical walking tour of businesses complicit in Israeli Apartheid in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The “Off-Off-Broadway BDS Tour” was part of the international commemoration of the fifth anniversary of the Palestinian United Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. “This year we mark five years of hard and fruitful work to achieve peace and equality for all in Palestine-Israel. We are inspired by the growing global boycott movement and with the recent campaigns that range from dockworkers in San Francisco, campaigns in Norway, Sweden, Turkey and India refusing to unload ships to cultural figures like Elvis Costello refusing to perform in Israel,” said Ryvka Zohar of Adalah-NY.
Holding colorful signs that read “Israeli Apartheid, We Don’t Buy It!” and “I Boycott Israel Because It Works!” the activists began their tour in front of Aroma Espresso Bar, an Israeli coffee chain that operates in one of Israel’s many illegal settlements in the West Bank. In a remake of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” performers sang:
Whoa oh oh oh oh oh oh
Don’t get caught in a
I want a coffee with a
scone on the side
but not at the cost of Apartheid
Boycott and take a
The tour stopped at Ricky’s to encourage the store to boycott Ahava cosmetics, which are produced in an illegal Israeli settlement using minerals from the Dead Sea, to which Palestinians are denied access by Israel. The protesters then moved on to Max Brenner, which is owned by Straus Group, an Israeli company that proudly donates to the Israeli army. Finally, the marchers went to Best Buy in Union Square, which sells Motorola products. Motorola has been the target of a boycott for several years because it supplies Israel with equipment that supports its settlements and checkpoints in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The tour ended with songs including “Don’t Buy Israeli” to the tune of “Hava Nagila.” The songs lyrics were outlined in “Adalah-NY’s Musical Boycott Tour,” a booklet given to protesters.
Riham Barghouti of Adalah-NY explained, “the boycott movement is a peaceful and effective form of action aiming to prevent further Israeli war crimes and human rights violations by holding Israel accountable for its crimes. Israel’s continuous violations of international law are demonstrated by its attack last winter on Gaza and the on-going siege, its recent attack on the Gaza Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid, and its arrest of Palestinian political activists.”
The protest today was the third in four days in New York City, following a July 8th protest outside a Manhattan speech by Benjamin Netanyahu, and a Friday July 9th BDS protest in Brooklyn outside Ricky’s, in which organizers from Brooklyn for Peace called on Ricky’s to stop selling Ahava products. The Palestinian Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions was issued on July 9th, 2005, on the anniversary of the 2004 International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on the illegality of the Israeli Wall and settlements being built on occupied Palestinian land. On a July 9, 2010 statement, the Palestinian BDS National Coordinating Committee noted “After five years of BDS, the movement has proven, indisputably, to be the most effective and morally consistent form of solidarity with the people of Palestine in our struggle to end Israel’s occupation, apartheid, and persistent denial of the UN-sanctioned right of return for the Palestinian refugees.”